RUBE GOLDBERG LIVES. Robert Crease had a recent article in the Wall Street Journal about the pleasure he and his son have had over the years at the FAT (Friday After Thanksgiving) Chain Reaction at MIT. The contest participants are teams, usually families, who construct Rube Goldberg type contraptions to accomplish the goal set for that year. Google informed me that there are a number of such contests. Rube Goldberg was one of my favorites in the “funny papers” over 50 years ago. Here is an illustration by Rube Goldberg of his “Automatic Back Scratcher”, which works as follows: “Flame from lamp (A) catches on curtain (B) and fire department sends stream of water (C) through window. Dwarf (D) thinks it is raining and reaches for umbrella (E), pulling string (F) and lifting end of platform (G). Iron ball (H) falls and pulls string (I), causing hammer (J) to hit plate of glass (K). Crash of glass wakes up pup (L) and mother dog (M) rocks him to sleep in cradle (N), causing attached wooden hand (O) to move up and down along your back.” The link is to an Argonne National Labs site with links to its Rube Goldberg contest. The contest for 2004 required contestants to devise a machine for casting a ballot using 20 or more steps. Here is the link to the official Rube Goldberg Machine Contest sponsored by Purdue University. The 2010 contest assignment is to “Dispense an Appropriate Amount of Hand Sanitizer into a Hand.”

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