What is a Rube Goldberg Machine? ~ Kwentology


Inventions change the way we live. It's hard to imagine our world without earmuffs or ice-cream cone. In some articles, you'll discover the amazing stories behind these inventions—and more!

What is a Rube Goldberg Machine?

Rube Goldberg machines—or contraptions—are designed to perform simple task in the most complicated, ridiculous, and hilarious way possible. Today, any needlessly complicated machine is called a Rube Goldberg, after its inventor, the cartoonist Reuben Goldberg.

The machines often begin with a simple action that sets off chain reaction, a shown in these cartoons.

Reuben Lucius Goldberg (1883-1979), was an award-winning political cartoonist. Although Goldberg drew several cartoon series, he became most famous for Professor Lucifer Gorgonzola Butts. Butts was the cartoon inventor of such machines as one that showed how to remove cotton from a bottle of aspirin. Goldberg spent hours designing each machine to make sure that it would actually work. Even though Goldberg drew the zany machines, he never built one.

Image of Goldberg's Drawings and Comics

What's More About Goldberg Machine?

The 1931 Merriam-Webster dictionary included the term "Rube Goldberg" as an adjective. The meaning: "Accomplishing by complex means what seemingly could be done simply."

How Zany Can You Get?

Many schools hold contests for students who want to design Rube Goldberg machines. One of the best known is a national event for college students held each year at Purdue University in Indiana. All contestants are assigned a specific task, such as "Sharpen a Pencil," "Shut Off an Alarm Clock," or "Water a Plant." Each machine is judged on how it performs, the number of steps needed to complete the task, and how well it keeps to the spirit of a Rube Goldberg machine.

This video of Purdue Rube Goldberg Machine claims Guinness World Record. Entry by Purdue University.
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