05 May 2008

rube goldberg

Rube Goldberg was awesome. A real outside-of-the-box thinker. And he died in 1970, but he still fascinates weirdos like me. Now, that's a shelf life even Twinkies could be proud of.

He invented things. Well, to be more accurate, he thought of creative ways to do everyday tasks. Ok fine...he thought of the most complicated possible way to do everyday tasks. As a trained engineer and avid cartoonist, he let his imagination run wild. Hard to explain. See this picture (below) - it is his, The Self-Operating Napkin... His wondrous ideas were so popular, and so pervasive, that he got an official entry in Merriam & Websters dictionary.
Rube Goldberg - "accomplishing by extremely complex roundabout means what actually or seemingly could be done simply."

Use it in a sentence this week.

Anyway, Rube lives on in people like me who love his fanciful ways and in the annual Rube Goldberg Machine Contest, where universities compete against each other to create the best Rube Goldberg-inspired device. For one contest, teams had to invent a contraption that could make a simple hamburger (one patty, 2 pickle slices, bun, and ketchup) in 20 steps or more. Or something like that.

Creativity is beautiful.

The "Self-Operating Napkin" is activated when the soup spoon (A) is raised to mouth, pulling string (B) and thereby jerking ladle (C) which throws cracker (D) past parrot (E). Parrot jumps after cracker and perch (F) tilts, upsetting seeds (G) into pail (H). Extra weight in pail pulls cord (I), which opens and lights automatic cigar lighter (J), setting off skyrocket (K) which causes sickle (L) to cut string (M) and allow pendulum with attached napkin to swing back and forth, thereby wiping chin. After-dinner entertainment can be supplied with the simple substitution of a harmonica for the napkin

1 comment:

  1. Funny. I have some Rube in me.

    When I was 12 I was fascinated with physics and practical sciences. I was terribly intrigued by the seemingly limitless energy of magnets - they never drain! Surely there must be something to be done with this energy. So, being a verbose and altogether odd kid, I spent 6 weeks one summer writing a "fun research paper" on the subject.

    The conclusion was a paper with very cool diagrams called "Vehicular Propulsion from the Harnessing of Electromagnetic Repulsion." That means making your car run by the push effect of magnets - but I liked the cooler words. In my concluded state I was convinced I had just stumbled upon the secret key to the next industrial revolution - "The Age of Electromagnetism," the ultimate green solution to societies' needs!

    I took my research paper to an industrial engineer at our church who was some uppity-up with a major oil (Kyle would say "Energy") firm. He read it and smiled. Sitting on the edge of my seat in anticipation I figured he didn't get the full implication of my thesis. He then went, "This is great work, Mike. Very elegant way of connecting the dots and making something of electromagnetism. What you just discovered round aboutly and very comlexly is the original, most simple engine ever invented: the solenoid motor. About 200 years ago it really rocked the world and is now a key component of just about every vehicle and propulsion system in the world."

    My heart sank. I had just reinvented the wheel, with the Rube Goldberg style of non-simplicity. D'oh!