“World’s Greatest Billiards Shot” is actually a feat of puzzly engineering!

I stumbled upon this video recently, and the bombastic headline caught my eye: “World’s greatest billiard shot spanned two floors and nine tables.”

As someone who enjoys pool and trick shots, I clicked on it. But, as it turns out, this isn’t the world’s greatest billiard shot.

It is, however, one heck of a Rube Goldberg machine made out of billiards gear.

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!)

This video fits nicely into that grand tradition of overly complicated mechanical devices that accomplish something simple.

So, without further ado, I give you the Allstars Sports Bar Rube Goldberg device:


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5 Questions for Domino Artist and YouTuber Hevesh5!

Welcome to 5 Questions, our recurring interview series where we reach out to puzzle constructors, game designers, writers, filmmakers, musicians, artists, and puzzle enthusiasts from all walks of life!

It’s all about exploring the vast and intriguing puzzle community by talking to those who make puzzles and those who enjoy them! (Click here to check out previous editions of 5 Questions!)

And I’m excited to continue this series with Lily Hevesh (aka Hevesh5) as our latest 5 Questions interviewee!

[Image courtesy of Eagle Tribune.com.]

Lily Hevesh, better known as Hevesh5 on YouTube, is a professional domino artist, a Rube Goldberg machine master, and an advertising whiz who uses skill, patience, and creativity to design wonderfully transfixing works of kinetic art.

She has appeared on The Today Show (auditioning for America’s Got Talent), helped set Guinness World Records — setting up 200,000 dominoes in group displays, as well as 22,000 dominoes on her own for certain projects — and her videos have accumulated over 200 million views on YouTube.

Hevesh5 was gracious enough to take some time out to talk to us, so without further ado, let’s get to the interview!


5 Questions for Hevesh5

1. What is your process when creating one of these ambitious works of kinetic art? How much planning goes into them before the first domino is laid? How do you know if you’re heading in the right direction or if you need to stop, reassess, and try something else?

Planning time varies a lot depending on the type of project. Sometimes I do absolutely zero planning and just start building and see where things go. I think of ideas while building which keeps me going. Other times (especially for live events) I have to plan out the whole setup by digitally drawing out the domino path from start to finish.

[A video thank you posted when Lily reached 2,000,000 views on YouTube.]

First I have to decide what I am going to build — whether that be a logo, an image of something, some sort of text, etc. Then I have to figure out the best way to build this as a domino trick. Dominoes can be built in many ways: lines, domino fields, walls, 3D structures, and other creative tricks, so I have to decide which technique is best for each individual project. Then it’s a matter of connecting every trick with domino lines and figuring out the position on the floor.

If I’m heading in the wrong direction, I’ll usually realize something is wrong — maybe it doesn’t look like what I envisioned, the structure looks risky or is becoming too difficult to build, it looks sloppy, etc. In those cases, I will make the best of the situation and try to correct the mistakes, sometimes even knocking it down and starting over if I feel like it doesn’t live up to what I’m picturing.

[Lily and several other domino artists craft a 30,000 domino masterpiece at the
Brattleboro Museum and Art Center for the 9th annual Domino Toppling Extravaganza!]

2. On your YouTube page, you answer the question “How did I get into dominoes?” with “I searched ‘dominoes’ on YouTube.” Was that the spark of all of your kinetic art (like your Rube Goldberg devices) or were you into mechanical puzzles before that?

The reason I searched dominoes was because I loved to play with the classic dotted dominoes and set them up for fun. I was intrigued by the knock down and wanted to find out if there were others who set up dominoes like I did as a kid. Searching dominoes certainly fueled my love for kinetic art an extraordinary amount though.

3. You have helped set world records and amassed over 200 million views on YouTube. Amongst all those awesome, mind-blowing projects, which are some of your favorites? And what’s the best part of collaborating with fellow domino artists and kinetic sculptors?

Amongst all the projects I’ve been involved with, 2 stand out: “The Incredible Science Machine” (new American domino record with 250,000 dominoes and world record for most dominoes in a circle field) and working on a domino segment for the upcoming feature film Collateral Beauty starring Will Smith.

The best part about collaborating with other domino artists is finally being able to talk to someone who understands your “domino language”. Meeting new people is always exciting, but it’s even more exciting when they share the same passion for such a unique art form. It’s always fun learning from other builders and seeing different styles of building.

[A stick-bomb chain reaction.]

4. What’s next for Hevesh5?

Right now I am just starting my gap year to do dominoes and YouTube full time. I plan to make as many domino videos as possible and create an inventory so that I can post them periodically when I go to college (I won’t have time to make videos in college, so I’m making a lot now to save up for the future).

I plan to post a video on my channel (YouTube.com/hevesh5) every week while also doing side projects for companies, ad agencies, and others who may need domino art.

5. If you could give the readers, writers, puzzle fans, aspiring YouTubers, and kinetic art enthusiasts in the audience one piece of advice, what would it be?

Don’t give up on what you love. Patience and perseverance are key, even in the most challenging times.


A huge thank you to Hevesh5 for her time. Be sure to visit her YouTube page for new videos and updates on her latest projects. I cannot wait to see what she has in store for us next!

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It’s Follow-Up Friday: LEG-OH NO WAY edition!

Welcome to Follow-Up Friday!

By this time, you know the drill. Follow-Up Friday is a chance for us to revisit the subjects of previous posts and bring the PuzzleNation audience up to speed on all things puzzly.

It’s been quite a week here at PuzzleNation Blog!

After posts that ran the gamut from Comic-Con encryption puzzles and new puzzle sets for the Penny Dell Crosswords app to becoming a sharper Hangman or Guess Who? player and enjoying the puzzly chain reactions known as Rube Goldberg devices, I was left with quite a conundrum: How do I close out such an eclectic week?

This will be my sixth post in six days after all. What would be an appropriate capper?

Well, I think I found the perfect Friday post idea: some visual LEGO puzzle wizardry.

Specifically, it’s a moving piece of puzzle art that combines the visual wonder of the pop-up book with the puzzly skill of a LEGO master builder.

I give you the LEGO Pop-Up Himeji Castle:

I’ve watched the video over and over, and I have no idea how the castle fits together OR compresses itself flat enough to fit between the “covers.” This is mind-blowing LEGO skill and puzzly three-dimensional manipulation of space.

And apparently, this sort of next-level three-dimensional spatial reasoning is second-nature to YouTuber Talapz, since he also managed to create this multi-dimensional sculpture that allows a ball to traverse it in three different arrangements:

I first stumbled across Talapz’s works on this site (written in French, no less!), and quickly followed his work on his YouTube page. Be sure to click the link for more brain-melting works of puzzly LEGO art.


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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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It’s Follow-Up Friday: Subway Time Travel edition!

Welcome to Follow-Up Friday!

By this time, you know the drill. Follow-Up Friday is a chance for us to revisit the subjects of previous posts and bring the PuzzleNation audience up to speed on all things puzzly.

And today, I’d like to return to the subject of puzzly events!

I’m a huge fan of events where puzzly-minded people get together and create something new. Whether it’s a festival of indie games or a Rube Goldberg machine about Passover, a prom-themed puzzle tournament or a crossword contest about a crossword contest, anything is possible when folks with a mind for puzzle fun collaborate.

The team at Improv Everywhere know this better than most, as they’ve put together some terrific live experiences to entertain unsuspecting strangers.

In the past, they’ve staged a repeating time loop at a coffee shop, recreated the opening of Star Wars on a subway, and (my personal favorite) made a cabbie the hero of a reunion right out of a romantic comedy.

This time around, they faked time travel with four sets of twins. Check it out!

You can explore the full details of the prank/performance here, as well as many other “missions” from their past, but sufficed to say, it took a fair amount of puzzly skills and improvisational style to pull this off!

I wonder what delightful trickery they’ll attempt next.


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It’s Follow-Up Friday: Passover Puzzling edition!

Welcome to Follow-Up Friday!

By this time, you know the drill. Follow-Up Friday is a chance for us to revisit the subjects of previous posts and bring the PuzzleNation audience up to speed on all things puzzly.

And in today’s post, I’m returning to the subject of Rube Goldberg machines.

[Click here or on the image for a larger version.]

For the uninitiated, a Rube Goldberg machine is an intentionally overcomplicated device that uses multiple steps to accomplish a simple task. It’s an exercise in creative inefficiency, and a delightful one at that.

But some Rube Goldberg machines are designed to give those odd intermediate steps greater meaning, so that instead of an elaborate series of domino-style mechanical events leading to one minor accomplishment, several things are accomplished along the way.

And every once in a while, a Rube Goldberg machine tells a story, using those intermediate steps to depict meaningful events along the way. It’s a colorful and inventive way to teach, one that definitely grabs your attention.

The Jewish festival of Passover begins tonight, and I recently stumbled across a Rube Goldberg device that presents the story of Passover, including the liberation from slavery in Egypt, the plagues, and Moses leading the Exodus.

Enjoy:

You know, if other important historical events were told in Rube Goldberg fashion, I think history classes would be far more popular. Just saying.


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