A 730 ton tuned mass damper helped to save one of the world's tallest buildings during the recent earthquake in China. Taipei 101 is just six hundred feet from a fault line; take a look at the video below to watch it help stabilize the building.
(Taipei 101 tuned mass damper video)
Check out the 3.5 inch steel cables and massive shocks holding it in place around the 90th floor of the building. It acts like a pendulum to counter the movement of the building; as the building sways in one direction, it moves in the other, damping the vibration. It is able to move five feet in any given direction and is the world's heaviest tuned mass damper (TMD).
That's one massive ball. Which got me to thinking.
Remember the bizarre disruption and whale communication technology ball used by the aliens in the 1986 movie Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home? It spun and moved in and out of the alien craft on some sort of light ray.
(From Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home)
And what about the beryllium sphere, so essential to the space drive in the alien vessel, in the 1999 film Galaxy Quest?
(The cast obtains a beryllium sphere in Galaxy Quest)
And don't forget that weird timespace travel machine that had Jodi Foster climbing into a huge pinball-shaped travel capsule in the film Contact.
(Jodi Foster confronts unknown in Contact)
Perhaps readers can cite more instances of massive balls in science fiction; I am at a loss to explain the frequent use of this motif.
Seabreacher, H.G. Winter's 1939 Torpoon
'Ken lay full-length in the padded body compartment, his feet resting on the controlling bars of the directional planes, hands on the torpoon's engine levers.' - HG Winters, 1939.