World Record Rube Goldberg Machine Traces All of History in 244 Steps

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World Record Rube Goldberg Machine Traces All of History in 244 Steps

A team of students built a 244-step Rube Goldberg machine that starts with the Big Bang, follows human evolution, and ends with a flower growing after an apocalypse.

Who doesn't love a complicated machine whose sole purpose of entertaining the masses with its elaborate but ultimately pointless steps? The idea for such a machine began with one Rube Goldberg, a cartoonist famous for drawing complex inventions to produce a simple effect such as the "Self-Operating Napkin." After depictions of such inventions were featured in movies like Back to the Futrue and Edward Scissorhands, the concept has morphed into amazingly complex chain reactions such as the band OK GO's video for "This Too Shall Pass." Since 1988, the National Rube Goldberg Machine Contest has been held at Purdue University with teams given a specific task to accomplish with a machine that utilizes at least a certain amount of steps. Even though it wasn't chosen as the winning entry in 2011, a team from the Purdue Society of Professional Engineers created the "Time Machine" which is now recognized by Guinness World Records as the most complex working Rube Goldberg machine with 244 distinct steps.

The added bonus for this machine is that it tells the story of everything from the Big Bang, to dinosaurs evolving, to the pyramids, to World War II and the apocalypse before a single flower grows from the ashes. Seriously, it's amazing. You have to see it to believe it.

The funny thing is that the team didn't know how complex the machine was until right before the competition. "We never do step counts," team captain Zach Umperovitch said. "It just kind of happened."

The team of 17 students from Purdue poured over 3,500 man hours into completing the Time Machine, including a last minute fix to rewire the whole thing. "The machine is not overall electronic, but the power has to run through every switch in order to keep the machine linear," Umperovitch said. "If one switch is busted, or one wire is not connected, the whole machine won't run."

All that work totally paid dividends in a creation that's one part sculpture, one part motion picture, one part engineering feat and all parts awesome.

Here's a video that shows more closeups of the actual steps involved.

Source: Popular Mechanics

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That is soo friggen cool.

That is so fucking awesome. I love Rube Goldberg Machines. Still, bit of a long gap from the Middle Ages to WWII... but other than that, awesome.

Hm. A little more "black box" than many I've seen. Nice artistry I suppose, although it was a very... strange retelling of the history of the universe. I imagine the effort was monumental but I can't really say much more than "meh" at the end.

Yeah FLIP THAT RECORD!
I lol'ed at the three horsemen.

So bad, made me very... sad.

Damn, that was impressive. Sure, it cut out a lot of key historical moments, but they did well with what they included.

I recommend watching 2nd video shows far more and every thing seems to work.

I couldn't tell very well what was going on in the video. But that's the video, not the machine, and the machine is particularly awesome.

i guess ive been spoiled by the ones that flow across a room and end in something laughably simple, but for a world record it wasnt all that impressive. i guess fitting it all in such a small space is an accomplishment in and of itself, but can this really even be considered a rube goldberg machine? isnt the definition something along the lines of a needlessly complicated way to do something simple? every step is supposed to be ridiculously impractical and over-the-top, and end in something like flicking a lightswitch or pressing a button; this thing was just an engineered story-telling device, that while creative and impressive, really doesnt fit the bill. if it ended with the reaper's scythe circling down and opening a history book or something....

great, but the one that makes you breakfast and feeds your dog from Back to the Future still wins!

There was a game back in the 90's called The Incredible Machine. Let you do stuff like what that video shows. They should make another game like that, was hella fun.

Lol. The apocalypse was caused by a blue screen of death.

It may not be a record, but I maintain that this is and always will be the greatest rube goldberg machine every made.

Biblical flood?
What is that doing in there? :P

It was like.
Big bang-evolution-ice age-fiction-egyptians-romans, nnnnnnnnniiiiiiiiineteeeeeeeeeeeeenhuuuuuuuuuuuuuundreeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeds, hypothetical ending.

VERY cool, though! I'd like to see a non-commentated version.

Like this is anymore useless than the minecraft inside of minecraft.

I feel these videos need something. Ah yes, here it is... The proper theme.

Interesting, but way too western centric.

Too much was going on behind the scenes for my tastes. I understand that's a necessary evil given the confined space they were working with, but there are still a lot of moments (even watching the up-close video) where it's entirely unclear how the motion carried from one thing to the next. The OK GO video, for example, has almost everything up front and on display. You don't see exactly how the next step got activated in each instance, but you can imagine it easily enough. In the record-setting one, far too often it seems like a ball hits the end of a track on one side, and then in a completely different place another ball is released, with no obvious connection between them. I wouldn't go so far as to say they're "cheating" by having electric motors activating the next step, as I'm hoping that's against the rules of the contest, but other than that hope there's little proof that it isn't happening. There's also at least a few motions that seem purely decorative, in that they're not actually contributing to moving the chain forward. The point is to make it ridiculously complicated, yeah, but as someone else said every link is supposed to be forming a chain that eventually accomplishes some preselected goal. Anyway, I enjoyed watching it, but I would have really liked to see this done out in a much less cramped, more visible environment where the exact mechanics of what's going on are readily visible.

Also, I'd be really curious to know what exactly constituted a "step" by the record's definition.

Well hot damn that was something. Gotta hand it to them, that's a pretty cool machine they've got there.

I didn't like it. I mean, it didn't even do a mundane task like wiping anyones ass or lighting a doobie.

Oh it watered a magical mechanical flower that didn't require watering I guess.

I feel like I should be listening to the big bang theory theme song while the video plays.

I really dislike that they ended it with a 2012 apocalypse.

Very good feat of engineering there, all those connecting parts, telling a story. Woeful and highly limited understanding of history though. Yeah yeah, I know a lot is going to be left out.

In sum, it was far too American. But Americans never seem to realise that. Biblical flood? Fuck off, what about the spread of Islam, or the Greek world, or the Renaissance, or the great schism of the Roman world or the Protestant and Catholic split?

Or yeah, put in the rise of America and its contributions, but what about the other great empires and their contributions. It got Columbus, but skipped centuries of Colonialism.

ShadowKatt:
It may not be a record, but I maintain that this is and always will be the greatest rube goldberg machine every made.

I second that opinion.

wow pretty neat! for the small confined space it definitely had quite a bit going on.

i lol'd at the fact they included god in there (supposedly), i'm surprised no one has commented on that yet

Second video is certainly better.
I couldn't tell what was going on in the first one.

008Zulu:
There was a game back in the 90's called The Incredible Machine. Let you do stuff like what that video shows. They should make another game like that, was hella fun.

Oh my god I remember playing that game so much. I was amazed they never made a sequel or anything.

ShadowKatt:
It may not be a record, but I maintain that this is and always will be the greatest rube goldberg machine every made.

Agree wholeheartedly.

I guess they don't qualify as they move around to able some of the switches? I saw that blue guy move and hold up a target which set off something else, and then he moved away again.

Bags159:

008Zulu:
There was a game back in the 90's called The Incredible Machine. Let you do stuff like what that video shows. They should make another game like that, was hella fun.

Oh my god I remember playing that game so much. I was amazed they never made a sequel or anything.

If I knew how to code for the Android platform, I would make it myself.

I say old chap:
Very good feat of engineering there, all those connecting parts, telling a story. Woeful and highly limited understanding of history though. Yeah yeah, I know a lot is going to be left out.

In sum, it was far too American. But Americans never seem to realise that. Biblical flood? Fuck off, what about the spread of Islam, or the Greek world, or the Renaissance, or the great schism of the Roman world or the Protestant and Catholic split?

Or yeah, put in the rise of America and its contributions, but what about the other great empires and their contributions. It got Columbus, but skipped centuries of Colonialism.

Someone's a bit grumpy. It's a machine built for a novelty contest, not a textbook being given out to school children.

Sindre1:
Biblical flood?
What is that doing in there? :P

I was thinking exactly the same.

Kinda boring since you can't really see whats going on half the time.

None is as beautiful as The Way Things Go.

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