Rube Goldberg Overload!

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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PuzzleNation Product Reviews: Collide-O-Cube and Rudenko’s Disk

The folks at Brainwright specialize in puzzles intended for younger solvers, but with enough challenge and style to keep older solvers busy as well. From curiously cut jigsaws to color-based deduction puzzles, they take classic puzzle concepts and add their own curious spin to create new puzzle experiences.

They offered us the chance to try out two of their puzzles for the younger puzzling set, and we put them to the full PuzzleNation Blog test.

Collide-O-Cube looks simple — after all, it’s just eight identical multicolored blocks — but plenty of great puzzles appear simple, yet offer seemingly endless variation and challenges the more you tinker with them.

You see, the eight Collide-O-Cube blocks aren’t quite identical. Each one contains a unique pattern of magnets inside that offers another level to the solving process as you try to recreate the several dozen cube patterns in the challenge booklet included. This makes for a curious solving experience that combines pattern recognition, deduction, and patience as you play around with blocks until the solution snaps into place.

Although designed for kids ages 8 and up, adults will certainly enjoy fiddling with Collide-O-Cube, and I suspect kids will spend as much time creating their own puzzly patterns and shapes with the blocks as they will solving the various cube puzzles.

Rudenko’s Disk, on the other hand, is more in the vein of a sliding tile game; a marvelous, colorful, self-contained version of the classic Tower of Hanoi puzzle, Rudenko’s Disk challenges the solver to move various colored posts along the track in order to recreate the color pattern along the side of the disk.

Again, this seems simple enough, but Rudenko’s Disk includes a crafty wrinkle to the solving process: each colored post clicks into place when in a spot with a matching color.

So, for instance, the orange post can only go as far to the left, right, or center as the orange circle, and no further. You can’t place the orange post on the yellow, the green, the blues, or the purple. But you can place the dark blue post on any circle between dark blue and red. (Only the purple is off-limits for the dark blue post.) A strategic chain-solving puzzle lurks within the simple sliding mechanic.

Rudenko’s Disk could be a little off-putting or frustrating for the youngest solvers among us — similar to another color-based puzzle of some renown, Rubik’s Cube, but not nearly as daunting.

These are two intriguing examples of color-based puzzles, but they’re very different solving experiences. Collide-O-Cube’s hidden magnets add a delightful bit of unexpected randomness and chaos to what would otherwise be a simple pattern-matching game — making for a puzzle that encourages fiddling around the blocks in open play — while Rudenko’s Disk’s rigid mechanics require solvers to be a bit more tactical.

But both puzzles are immensely satisfying when the solution clicks into place.

I think Brainwright‘s formula of familiar puzzles with new touches and complications is a recipe for continued success and puzzly fun.

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