Posts Tagged ‘rube Goldberg’


Illustration: Rube Goldberg
From 1914 to 1964, cartoonist Rube Goldberg ran a series called The Inventions of Professor Lucifer Gorgonzola Butts. This one involves postage stamps. (1929, ink on paper)

Rube Goldberg was a cartoonist known for his fanciful designs for machines, many of which inspired admirers to try to build a “Rube Goldberg” chain reaction. I myself at age 12 partnered with Joanna Pousette-Dart to make a contraption we called an “egg-breaking machine.” It was loads of fun, but my 7th grade science teacher, though genuinely amused by my demonstration, wasn’t thrilled that I forgot the egg in the classroom for days.

Recently Nadja Sayej reported at The Guardian about a new Rube Goldberg show in Queens, New York. You can catch it before February 9, 2020.

“There’s a cartoon hanging in the Queens Museum in New York – a drawing of a man with a shovel, digging through piles of paper.

“The papers symbolize government corruption, but they wind up in the dump. The caption explains: ‘Senate investigating committee digs up huge mass of evidence which passes before startled eyes of indignant but apathetic public, and then slides into obscurity, making room for next investigation.’ …

“The cartoon is from the 1940s, by the New York cartoonist Rube Goldberg. … The pioneering 20th-century artist created more than 50,000 cartoons in a career that spanned seven decades. This is the first retrospective in 49 years to look at Goldberg’s work. It also highlights his overlooked career as a Pulitzer prize-winning political satirist. …

“Goldberg wasn’t primarily a satirist but made a significant impact with his political cartoons. He received a Pulitzer prize in 1948 for a drawing called Peace Today, showing an atomic bomb teetering towards the brink of destruction.

“Goldberg … got a job at the Evening Mail in 1908 with a cartoon series called Foolish Questions. It was based on the premise: ‘Ask a stupid question, get a stupid answer.’

“In one cartoon, a woman asks her husband, who just came in from the rain: ‘Why, dearie, did you get wet?’ He answers: ‘Of course not – the rain is dry today.’ The series was so popular, readers started mailing in their own foolish questions for Goldberg to answer. …

“From 1914 to 1964, he ran a series called The Inventions of Professor Lucifer Gorgonzola Butts. Before becoming a cartoonist, Goldberg studied engineering, and here put his knowledge to work. He turned seemingly useless tasks into complicated chain reaction invention machines (in one, a car gets a windshield wiper from a dog’s wagging tail; in another, there’s a 20-step way to brush your teeth).

“It didn’t stop on paper, either. Goldberg’s invention machines made it to Hollywood. He created a feeding machine that allowed Charlie Chaplin to sip on soup without raising his arms in the 1936 film Modern Times.

“Much later, his breakfast machines were featured in blockbuster films, including Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, where a toy train pushes plates along a kitchen, while in Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, a statue of Abraham Lincoln flips pancakes (which end up stuck to the ceiling).”

More here.

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Photo: Ronald van der Meijs
In January, this candle organ was on exhibit in the Netherlands. 

You may recall my January 2014 post about zebra finches playing instruments at a museum (here) and a December 2016 post on Croatia’s sea organ (here). The sea organ harnessed the tides to push water through narrow passages leading to organ pipes under marble stairs.

How many ways there are to make music! So much need for music!

Today’s post is about an artist who created a candle pipe organ. Lauren Young at Atlas Obscura explains.

“There’s a curious low industrial hum emanating from what used to be a fish market built in 1769. At De Vishal gallery in Haarlem, Netherlands, a large nine-pipe organ operated by burning candles purrs a continuous concert.

“In the video, Dutch artist Ronald van der Meijs shows his elaborate musical mechanism. Inspired by the Muller Organ housed at Grote Kerk church next to the gallery, the series of pipes looks like a massive artillery weapon connected to wooden beam air ducts. The intricate system requires careful maintenance — van der Meijs changes out the candles multiple times a day as they burn.

“For the pipe organ, ‘the candles are the musicians,’ van der Meijs explains. The candles vary in size. As the wax melts, the pitch of each pipe shifts slowly and irregularly. The shortening of the candles causes a vertical movement in each mechanism, pulling a wheel connected to a brass valve at the front end of each pipe. Opening the valves allows for different toned pitches.” More.

The mechanical kookiness makes me smile and reminds me of Rube-Goldberg-esque egg-breaking machines I have known. (See this February 2013 post.)


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Photo: http://www.honeywellfirstresponder.com

Mike’s wife, Tresa Baldas, has just posted a great article and video at the Detroit Free Press.

Did you think the saga of Detroit’s bankruptcy couldn’t get more bizarre (you know, charitable Canadians sending water to the poor because the city cut them off)? Well, get this.

Baldas writes, “Detroit is so broke that firefighters get emergency alerts through pop cans, coins, door hinges, pipes and doorbells.

“And they make these gizmos themselves — one involving a pop can that gets tipped over by an incoming fax. The clink of the can means there’s an emergency. Then there’s the chain-reaction gadget: a fax hits a door hinge, which then tugs on a wire, which then sets off a doorbell.

“ ‘It sounds unbelievable, but it’s truly what the guys have been doing and dealing with for a long, long time,’ said Detroit Deputy Fire Commissioner John Berlin, adding that technological upgrades are long overdue. ‘We’re in desperate need. We’re probably 30 years behind.’

“Berlin’s comments confirmed [Friday’s] testimony of a recovery consultant for the city of Detroit, who said at the bankruptcy trial that technological upgrades are long overdue in the city.

“The witness, Charles Moore, talked about how the city plans to spend $1.4 billion on services when it emerges from bankruptcy….

“Due to budget constraints, none of the city’s 38 firehouses have the modern-day emergency alert systems that most other cities use. …

“Berlin said they make the alert systems themselves, buying simple materials like wire and doorbells and hinges from the hardware store or Radio Shack. Or, they just set an empty pop can by a fax machine, sometimes filling it with coins. Some, he said, set a pipe that sounds like a wind chime near a printer, where the paper alert comes out.” More here.

You’ve got to give Detroit firefighters points for creativity. Their Rube Golberg contraptions actually seem to work, unlike the one I made with Joanna Pousette-Dart when I was 12.

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Stop me if I already told you this.

When I was 12 and Joanna Pousette-Dart was 9, we created a Rube Goldberg contraption one weekend, the Amazing Egg Breaking machine. (After demonstrating the ingenious mechanism in science class, I forgot about it — until the teacher pointed out that there was a rotten-egg odor emanating from his supply closet.)

Now Jamie Condliffe at Gizmodo announces that the 2.0 version has arrived. Well, he didn’t exactly say that. I’m using poetic license.

The new version, the Pancake-omatic, not only breaks eggs, using technology very similar to my own (and Joanna’s) innovation, but it also makes pancakes.

“Dreamt up by a team of four design engineers, it took over 200 hours to construct and a further 100 to test. [Joanna and I worked much faster.] The result seems worth the effort, though: from the moment a hen lays an egg sat upon the throne, its journey to the frying pan is both seamless and entertaining.

“Watch as the egg wobbles its way toward a hoist, to be cracked by a knife [WE had a knife!] and whisked up, before finally being deposited into the frying pan where it belongs. The machine will be on display in London’s Design Museum later this month.” More.

Be sure to “like” project sponsor the Happy Egg Company on Facebook, here.


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