Saturday, June 30, 2007

Rube Goldberg Machinations

When you slip on ice, your foot kicks paddle (A), lowering finger (B), snapping turtle (C) extends neck to bite finger, opening ice tongs (D) and dropping pillow (E), thus allowing you to fall on something soft.

A comic artist in the 1930'2 Rube Goldberg illustrated devices that achieved extraordinary results in the most convoluted means. The term Rube Goldberg Machine is now used to describe the elaborate devices in Nick Park's Wallace and Gromit, the tear drop that triggers a chain of events resulting in a shipwreck in 'A City of Lost Children' (my all time favourite film). The concept is used as an emotional and metaphysical theme in films such as 'Amelie'.

In the 1968 movie Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (based on Ian Fleming's novel of the same name), an inventor named Caractacus Potts (played by Dick Van Dyke) has several Rube Goldberg machines in his house. One that is shown several times is a machine that makes breakfast (fried eggs and bacon) and delivers it on wheeled plates on the table. The machine seems to work fine, but it malfunctions once or twice.

There are a number of Rube Goldberg Machine competitions and challenges throughout the globe (mostly at science fairs). The myth busters made one a few years ago. I wonder if Leonardo Da Vinci was the first artist to draw one, some of his designs are pretty crazy.

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