Need an extra finger to tie a knot on that Christmas package? This Rube Goldberg device allows the motion of your arm to operate a crane that presses down an extra digit with just the right touch.
The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines "rube goldberg" as an adjective: "Doing something simple in a very complicated way that is not necessary." But Rube Goldberg was very much a noun - a cartoonist who always found simple humor in the extremely complicated.
A new book, "The Art of Rube Goldberg" (Abrams), celebrates the cartoonist who became an inspiration for engineers the world over, and a source of mirth for everyone else.
By CBSNews.com senior producer David Morgan
Born in San Francisco, Reuben Lucius Goldberg (1883-1970) graduated from the University of California Berkeley with a degree in engineering. He later entered journalism and moved to New York, where he became a syndicated cartoonist.
His whimsical and overly-complex machines designed to solve the travails of modern life (such as how to get the cotton out of an aspirin bottle) endeared him to generations of engineers, scientists, and everyone else who encounters the wonders and headaches of modern technology.
Goldberg won a Pulitzer Prize for political cartooning with this very serious drawing of an atomic bomb on a precipice, which appeared in the New York Sun on July 22, 1947. But it was his comics of inefficent inventions that made him a household name.
As you raise spoon of soup (A) to your mouth it pulls string (B), thereby jerking ladle (C) which throws cracker (D) past parrot (E). Parrot jumps after cracker and perch (F) tilts, upsetting seeds (G) into pail (H). Extra weight in pail pulls cord (I) which opens and lights automatic cigar lighter (J), setting off sky-rocket (K), which causes sickle (L) to cut string (M) and allow pendulum with attached napkin to swing back and forth thereby wiping off your chin.After the meal, substitute a harmonica for the napkin and you'll be able to entertain the guests with a little music.
New York writer Adam Gopnik, who penned the preface of "The Art of Rube Goldberg," argues that Goldberg was a great artist who really understood the modern world.
"I think he had a central insight, that is, we're all fascinated by complicated machines," Gopnick told correspondent Mo Rocca. "We love the idea of mechanisms. One thing touches another thing, which touches another thing, which boots something else, which makes something else jump."
Handy For Election Day
Some Rube Goldberg devices to help citizens survive
an election campaign: A mail-box-chopper that turns useless election ads into
confetti; an armored baby carriage to protect infants from being kissed by candidates;
and a microphone that will send a message to particularly windy orators.
PETA might have something to say about Rube
Goldberg's device that catapults a commuter onto a moving train, after scalding
water is sprayed onto a polar bear.
Just For Wall Streeters
No more stepping off the ledge of a Wall Street skyscraper; Rube Goldberg proposed his "Automatic suicide device for unlucky stock speculators":
When Phone (A) rings, it is probably a message from your broker saying you are wiped out. Phone bell wakes up office manager (B) who stretches, hitting lever (C) and starting toy glider (D) which nosedives and hits head of dwarf (D). He jumps up and down from pain, working handle of jack (F), lifting pig (G) to level of potato (H) on end of bookkeeper's collar button (I). Pig eats potato and motion of collar button annoys bookkeeper who moves head forward with sudden jerk, causing string (J) to shoot off gun (K) and end your troubles.If telephone call is not from broker, you'll never find out the mistake because you'll be dead anyway.
Love Is ComplicatedA "Telescope-Sofa" for timid suitors.
No More Unlucky Fisherman
After fishing all day without a bite, you shed
tears of chagrin; midget rowboat captain (A), thinking it is raining, lifts
umbrella (B), upsetting can of sneeze-powder (C); parrot (D) sneezes, blowing
pool ball (E) into pocket (F); string (G) pulls trigger of attached steel aquarium
(H), shooting fish (I) onto hook (J).
"In 300 Feet Turn ...Left"No more getting lost while trying to find friend's home in the country. When friend invites you for weekend, ask him to mail you his glove to give bloodhound proper scent. Arrow points way as bloodhound's nose picks up trail.
The mosquito enters window at (A) and walks
along board, which is strewn with small chunks of rare steak. After munching
steak as he walks, he is overcome by fumes coming from sponge (B) which is
soaked in chloroform, and falls on platform (C). When he regains consciousness,
he looks through telescope (D) and spies reflection of bald head (E) in mirror.
He mistakes this for the real thing, jumps off spring-board (C) through (D) and
dashes his brains out against the mirror, falling lifeless in can (F).
Bottles of scent, recordings of nature sounds, and even a tethered mosquito give the stay-at-home vacationer all the thrills of the great outdoors.
Rube Goldberg's "simple" device for taking your own picture: As you sit on pneumatic cushion (A), you force air through tube (B), which starts ice-boat (C), causing lighted cigar butt (D) to explode balloon (E). Dictator (F), hearing loud report, thinks he's been shot and falls over backward on bulb (G), snapping picture.
Below: Goldberg's device actually works!
Postage StampA Rube Goldberg device even made its way onto a U.S. postage stamp.
Rube Goldberg in the 21st Century
Rube Goldberg-like contraptions have turned up in commercials for Honda (upper left) GoldiBlox (upper right) and Target (lower left), and in a music video for OK Go.
The enduring popularity of such devices proves the point of Jennifer George, Rube Goldberg's granddaughter, who says Grandpa Rube is just as cool today as he was a century ago.
"Any Rube Goldberg machine these days that's worth its salt goes viral," she told correspondent Mo Rocca. "And so we're experiencing this amazing rebirth, or reinvention, of Rube."
"The Art of Rube Goldberg"
For more info:
"The Art of Rube Goldberg: (A) Inventive (B) Cartoon (C) Genius" - Edited by Jennifer George, introduction by Adam Gopnik (Abrams Books); Also available in eBook format for iPhone, iPad, iPod touch and Mac
rubegoldberg.com (Official site)
Rube Works game (iTunes)
The Rube Goldberg Machine Contest, Columbus, Ohio (2014 Rules)
By CBSNews.com senior producer David Morgan