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

| 20 Apr 2011 22:23

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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