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Rube Goldberg and his machines rock geek style

What do you get when you mix indie rock music, brains, and Rube Goldberg in a video? You get some pure geek fun that's what.

I don't follow many people on Twitter because the last thing I need in my life is more information overload. However, I do follow Felicia Day, writer, producer, and star of the award-winning Web series, The Guild. One of the main reasons I follow Felicia, besides the fact that following her on Twitter gives me the hubris to think I can call her by her first name as if we are friends, is that she finds such interesting things on the Internet.

This morning Felicia sent a link to a music video by an indie band I had not heard of called OK Go. The video featured a fantastic Rube Goldberg machine. For the non-geek that may wander by this blog and not know the meaning of that term, Wikipedia has a good definition of a Rube Goldberg machine:

A Rube Goldberg machine is a deliberately over engineered machine that performs a very simple task in a very complex fashion, usually including a chain reaction. The expression is named after American cartoonist and inventor Rube Goldberg.

The machine in the video was built by members of OK Go and Synlabs in a warehouse in Los Angeles. There are also four videos about the making of the machine on the YouTube channel associated with the band. (By the way, the tune is kind of catchy too.)

I am not sure how many times they had to run the machine to get the video, but some of pieces are "altered" during the run so I can't imagine they wanted to run it very often.

I have always been a big fan of Rube Goldberg machines (the videos found in the search are darn cool) and whenever I see one I invariably think of Warner Brothers Classic Cartoons and the old Mousetrap Game. Have you ever made one of these machines? Tell us about it.

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About

Mark Kaelin is a CBS Interactive Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He is the host for the Microsoft Windows and Office blog, the Google in the Enterprise blog, the Five Apps blog and the Big Data Analytics blog.

17 comments
JordC
JordC

In my senior year in high school, we had a group science lab project to build a Rube Goldberg machine. Ours illuminated a light bulb when you lowered one of the blinds in the lab. I don't remember all the details, but I recall that it involved two turntables, a track and miniature car, some balls, and more. I believe the grading was based on the number of energy transfers, and we had something like fifteen, easily the most of any of the groups. But most important to me, it was a heck of a lot of fun to design and build, and, amazingly enough, it WORKED!

Tig2
Tig2

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lCYg_gz4fDo I don't keep a ton of video on my Touch but I have this entire episode. They built this Rube Goldberg device to be shot in a single take, but it took a dozen (if memory serves) to get there. I actually OWNED Mousetrap. I loved that game!

pgit
pgit

A friend of mine sent me this link a few days ago, I hadn't checked it out yet... thanks for the nudge. Way cool. Don't necessarily like the music, but if that is indeed all one uninterrupted take, I'd have to say the Guinness world book folks oughtta have a look at this one.

Tank252ca
Tank252ca

I'm surprised that you've never heard of OK Go. They may not be big on radio, but their treadmill video for Here It Goes Again has almost 50 MILLION page views: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pv5zWaTEVkI

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

Once I found their YouTube channel I ended up watching all the videos - very clever. (Don't tell Jason) I am not sure how I missed them, but I highly recommend that people check them out.

g01d4
g01d4

In both videos when you come to think of it.

Kkaren50
Kkaren50

Yeah, that's what surprised me too, that you were not familiar with Here It Goes Again.

drzaius
drzaius

Remember the Honda Accord commercial with a Rube Goldberg machine made entirely of a disassembled Accord? Superb!

donnydo77
donnydo77

Thanks. I've designed them. The repetitive ones are more challenging, like turning the pages of a book at a predetermined period. Anything goes.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

The only problem is finding the space to make a good one...and the time to design it. I settle for the next-best thing. Back in the 90s, Sierra Entertainment released a series of games titled The Incredible Machine (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Incredible_Machine). These games made RGMs available to the masses. When I was teaching, The Incredible Machine was a staple in my classroom for those students who finished the self-paced curriculum before the others. Kept them occupied (and thinking) and, from my observations, even helped some improve their analytical skills. (Although I like to think it was my influence as a teacher, I'm fairly certain the game did more than I.) You can purchase a combined pack of many of the later games in the series (rewritten to run under XP) from Good Old Games (www.gog.com) for $9.99. It's addictive and worth every penny; keeps my brain busy.

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

Have you ever built a Rube Goldberg machine? Do you have a favorite machine example?

Geek3001
Geek3001

I had an architectural design class where we had to subject a ping pong ball to the greatest variety of experiences within a cube that was sixteen inches on a side. The ping pong ball had to start and end the run at the same elevation. I created one that had a 'randomizer' which could send the ping pong ball through one of the three routes. When the ping pong ball reached the bottom, a catapult then sent it back up to the 'randomizer'. A small counterweight for the catapult would send the ping pong ball through the exit route. Some electronic engineering students were intrigued by the project and created the catapult trigger mechanism, which involved a solenoid, a capacitor, a light bulb and a power cable. It worked pretty good, considering that the rest of the structure was balsa wood and poster board.

waptug
waptug

Your born, then you die. The inbetween stuff is all real complicated.

cawwilsontx
cawwilsontx

(My Indiana friend told me about this.) Colleges compete annually to design Rube Goldberg machines, performing the same task as creatively as they can over-engineer it. National competition is always at Purdue, and happens this month, 27 March. http://www.purdue.edu/newsroom/rubegoldberg/index.html This year's task is "dispense an appropriate amount of hand sanitizer in someone's hand." From the Purdue fraternity that sponsors it (Theta Tau): http://www.rubemachine.com/ Sometimes they set a minimum of how many steps it must take to perform the task. Love it all. Too cool.

alahoski
alahoski

I haven't built one, but for the past few years I've been a judge a judge for the Connecticut Pre-Engineering Program (CPEP). CPEP day is the culmination of the year's program, encouraging middle- and high-school students to participate in math and the sciences. Among the events (such as MagLev, solar cars, rollercoasters, egg drops and bridge design and building) is a Rube Goldberg Machine event. Each year has a theme, and the machines are to be build within a limited space, and are required to have a minimum of 10 steps to complete the task. This is a video of one of the machines from two years ago. We don't get many entrants, but the ones we get are pretty outstanding. http://www.cpep.org/media/rubegoldberg.html

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