Today in useless inventions: Rube Goldberg machines



I've come across some really entertaining Rube Goldberg inventions in the last few months—first a page-turning device by computer programmer Joseph Herscher, who's also come up with several other contraptions (including one that squishes a Cadbury creme egg). More recently, I saw a video of a 2011 demo of Rob Higgs's enormous wine opener and pourer. I'm not sure whether the latter really qualifies as a Rube Goldberg machine: while its cogs and gears are incredibly complicated, it doesn't involve nearly as many steps as, say, Purdue University's 300-step machine that inflates and pops a balloon. The contraption was demonstrated several days ago at the annual Rube Goldberg Machine Contest and breaks Purdue's own Guinness World Record for the Rube Goldberg machine involving the most steps—which it set last year with a 244-step machine. Videos after the jump.

Joseph Herscher's page turner. The New York Times has a step-by-step explanation, but watching the video is more fun than reading it.

Rob Higg's steampunk-looking wine opener and pourer is as much a work of art as a machine.

In addition to inflating and popping a balloon, Purdue's machine completes all the assigned tasks from the 25-year history of the Rube Goldberg Machine Contest, including assembling a hamburger, unlocking a combination padlock, and sharpening a pencil.

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