Rube Goldberg Machines | Pitagora Suichi

I assume many of you would have been forwarded clips like the one above – where elaborate and yet delightfully simple motions and mechanisms are activated as a ball (or something else) rolls along etc. This clip, however, is the grandma of all – a compilation of the best mechanisms, and it’s deliciously 12:54 long!

It was only recently, however, that I learned that these machines are known as “Rube Goldberg Machines“.

A Rube Goldberg machine or device is any exceedingly complex apparatus that performs a very simple task in a very indirect and convoluted way. Rube devised such pataphysical devices. A Rube Goldberg machine usually has at least ten steps. The best examples of his machines have an anticipation factor: the fact that something so wacky is happening can only be topped by it happening in a suspenseful manner.

While the namesake goes to an American, I’d venture that the masters of these crafts are the Japanese. The classic Honda ad (where the car parts form a Rube Goldberg sequence) was a popular example, as it wow-ed and charmed many.

But for me, the “ピタゴラスイッ” (Pitagora Suitchi, Pythagorean Device) series from Japan beats Honda hands down in the variety and imagination in the mechanisms involved. Pitagora Suichi is actually a Japanese educational TV program aimed at kids. In between segments, a small clip of an Rube Goldberg device is shown (Heh, these clips are the best parts of the show! A typical show is like this.)

What a great way to keep the child’s attention, while expanding their imagination! I’m sure I’d be sitting through the whole program just to make sure I catch all the fantastic sequences.

Zen – Pebble Sofa


Carefully aligned, smooth pebbles are virtually synonymous to Zen interiors. A professor once told me that the pebbles are actually a form of abstraction of water. As one can’t afford to bring a stream into the living, the Zen-enlightened masters extracted the symbolism of pebbles in the stream.

This line of Livingstones products mimics these pebbles – but instead of stone, it is cleverly made of fabric and are soft. So you get the cool Zen feel while still being able to laze and lounge around these things.

Call Blocker


While I’d stop short of calling it a disgrace to logic and design, this device purports to shield you from evil salesmen and telemarketers by announcing this message to all incoming calls:

“You have reached CallBlocker™ and not an answering machine. All commercial sales calls and fund raising requests are not accepted, place this number on your do not call list. Personal and invited callers press 5 on your touch phone to proceed.”

Right. That REALLY makes sense huh?

Inner Life of the Cell


An amazing video, “The Inner Life of the Cell“, was produced for Harvard University’s Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, that “takes undergrads beyond textbooks and vividly illustrates the mechanisms that allow a white blood cell to sense its surroundings and respond to an external stimulus”. In a dream-like, fantasy setting, this video really does make one marvel at beauty – not only of the beautifully-rendered video, but of the ingenuity of our very own biological system.

The press release.

Virtual Architecture


Zozo Town is a concept retailing environment that mimics real life retail environment – it has virtual shopfronts whose architecture is somewhat reflective of the brand (or so I assume). Given that these virtual architecture are not going to be limited by real-life constraints like costs, municipal rules (perhaps there are some in ZoZo, not sure), the virtual architects could really express what the shop brand’s essence and vision through daring and creative architecture.

And so I envisioned myself zipping in and out of these virtual shops – but alas, beauty is skin deep in this site. While you do enter a “lobby” or shop space (a beautiful space indeed!), you can’t move around in that. To browse/buy any items, you revert to the standard boring style where grids of products are lined up, prices underneath. What a letdown after the anticipation!

And that brings me to wonder, now that architecture, industrial design, interior design etc. all uses 3D CAD models, I’m sure it’d be a rather interesting project to create a virtual city based on such 3d virtual files. An architecture professor may commission a zone to be developed, while individual students chooses a site/building within that master plan. At the end of semester when work is completed, all the 3d models are imported into the grand master plan site – mmm. A city built with raw vision. Ambitious indeed, but certainly not impossible, especially since we see the possibility of immerse experiences in virtual architecture enabled by gaming engines like Half-Life – Walkthrough of Fallingwater.

Graffiti through Cleaning


Paul Curtis is a graffiti artist who uses dust and dirt (or rather, the lack of) to his advantage. Dirty walls as canvas, he selectively cleans off parts of the wall to reveal his messages in tunnels, floors and walls. It is controversial in some ways – is this a crime? While you can easily charge someone for spraying paint onto public walls, can you really charge people for cleaning up public spaces? If you do, does that mean that you can technically be charged for picking up banana skins off the floor? And sometimes, it is uplifting to see some surprise in the daily life – where people like Curtis leave behind an “Aha” moment and inspiration.

However, public “feel good” graffiti messages like the one shown above (Go Gently) isn’t just the only genre that Colev engages in. He accepts corporate assignments as well – for example, creating images of “X”s on the floor for Microsoft’s Xbox. While generally people are much more accomodating with the public message graffiti, patience runs thin much faster when yet another corporate marketing gimmick invades the already-plastered public domain. It does not help when the first line in their website removes all benefits of the doubt by defining the activity as “innovative forms of advertising”.

Personally, I’m delighted to see a creative means of expression that deviates from the routine – the dreary urban landscape do need some freshening-up. But when it encroaches into commercial exploits, please just leave my space – or rather, our space – alone.

[via neatorama]