A Rube Goldberg machine, for the uninitiated, is a device designed to accomplish a simple task in as many unnecessary, ludicrous steps as possible. The name comes, appropriately enough, from Rube Goldberg, a cartoonist and inventor most famous for his cartoons featuring singularly silly and elaborate machines like the one pictured below.
We’ve posted videos of Rube Goldberg machines in the past, because they’re a perfect example of a mechanical puzzle in action. Only when things happen in a precise order does the machine complete its task.
And they’ve been around long enough that we’re starting to see fun variations on the concept. Beyond simply accomplishing a task, many Rube Goldberg devices tell stories or center around a given theme. (We even featured one that was designed to take weeks to complete!)
And today, I’ve got four videos of Goldbergian goodness to share with you.
First off, another terrific entry from Purdue University. The school has really made a name for itself in the Rube Goldberg field over the last few years, and perhaps my favorite device of theirs is this record-setting machine charting the progression of human history:
From human history to racing history, we now turn our attention to this car part-themed device from the team at Arrow FiveYearsOut, complete with an unexpectedly zippy finale:
When it comes to devices with many moving parts in complex interactions, it’s hard to top watches with their myriad of miniature gears, wheels, and other intricate details.
So it should come as no surprise that Seiko has gotten into the Rube Goldberg spirit with their own timepiece-themed device, “The Art of Time.” Involving over 1,200 individual watch pieces, this might be the smallest, most elegant Rube Goldberg device I’ve ever seen:
And finally, we have my favorite of my recent discoveries. This video from YouTuber Kaplamino has been making the rounds on Facebook — uncredited, unfortunately — and it’s a marvel. It’s entitled “Magnets and Marbles,” but should really be called “Magnets and Marbles and Momentum and a Metric Buttload of Patience.”
Built on a tilted table, “Magnets and Marbles” is not a true Rube Goldberg device — there was never one complete uninterrupted run — but it remains a thoroughly impressive design.
According to the creator, “Each screen was recorded separately, and even like that, some of them only work 10% of the time. I can’t give you a number because I didn’t count the fails, but I think it’s over 100.”
Nonetheless, the clever use of magnets makes this one of the most dynamic and creative machines I’ve seen in quite a while:
Rube Goldberg devices are only growing more ambitious, audacious, and creative, and I cannot wait to see what people come up with next.
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