Reuben Garrett Lucius Goldberg was born in 1883 in San Francisco, California. He worked as a sculptor, engineer, author and inventor but nothing made him more famous than his cartoons. His political illustrations made during the second world war won him a Pulitzer Prize in 1948, but he owes much of his fame to another interest.
Rube Goldberg also drew cartoons of overtly complex contraptions, made using every day materials, designed to perform a simple task. He was never responsible for constructing his inventions, though the bold concept was enough to make the name stick.
These days the internet is full of complex-yet-pointless Rube Goldberg machines in action, and here are a selection of the best.
Honda – Cog
Maybe you’ve seen this one already – but did you take a second to think of the logistics, effort and financial requirements from such a beautiful 120 seconds of film? The advert, made from bits of the then-new Honda Accord, had a budget of £1 million for its production alone (that’s around £8300 for every second) not including the £6 million Honda set aside for campaign costs.
The result is 2 minutes of Rube Golberg machine goodness, made from two separate shots that were edited together in post-production. It took the team who shot the advert 4 days to acquire those 120 seconds worth of footage, though the effort paid off and the finished product won multiple awards and is considered an overwhelming success as far as advertising campaigns go.
Baynham Tyers – The Contraption II
This particular contraption just keeps on going and while there are a few jump-cuts in the video, I’m going to ignore them and focus on the pure awesomeness contained within. Featuring cricket balls, a magnetic chess set (yes, chess is played) and a self-returning golf ball putter, this is one sophisticated Rube Goldberg machine.
There’s no fancy location or setup – it’s just a bog-standard house with inventive use of general items. The guys behind this video released another shorter Rube Goldberg video entitled The Contraption I, and you can.
Ford – Active Park Assist (French Advert)
So it turns out there are quite a few corporate efforts on this list, and the latest is from Ford’s French TV spot for Active Park Assist (yes, your car will probably not need you at all soon). This one is particularly special not necessarily for it’s technical merits but for the stars of the show – dogs.
Rube Goldberg machines (and adverts) are probably hard enough to set-up and control without the added unpredictability of a dog, so I’m guessing this was a tough commercial to shoot. You’ll have to pretend not to notice the few obvious cuts, but I’m happy to let it slide for a dog in goggles.
eMretsiM – A Garry’s Mod Rube Goldberg Machine
Garry’s Mod for Half-Life 2 provides a sandbox in which to do whatever you please using the Half-Life 2 engine and an assortment of props, maps, objects and so on from various Valve releases. Here, Garry’s Mod has been used to excellent effect to create a Rube Goldberg machine that lasts nearly 4 minutes.
YouTube member eMretsiM posted the video along with the comment “I’ve wasted a good portion of my life making this, so it better be worth it” – trust me, it was worth it.
Google Science Fair Experiment – Extended
Probably the geekiest of all the videos here is Google’s advert for its first-ever online science fair. It’s only a short 1 minute 29 seconds in length, but each part of this particular effort is designed with a particular aspect of science in mind, be it magnets, chemical reactions or simply gravity.
You can find out more about next the Google Science Fair here.
OK Go – This Too Shall Pass
How could this list exist without this video? It’s had more than 30 million views on YouTube and is undoubtedly one of the best videos of its kind on the net. If you’ve not seen it then you’re in for a treat – and if you have seen it then you’ll probably end up watching it again anyway.
What follows is a 4 minute tour-de-force of Rube Goldberg wizardry that involves bowling balls, massive props and the destruction of a television. Enjoy!
There’s not much that can be said about these contraptions other than the fact that they’re technically very impressive when done properly (by an individual) and make great advertising material otherwise. There are only 6 here on this list, so please feel free to add to the collection with suggestions in the comments below.
Did you enjoy these videos? Any favorites? Any other Rube Goldberg machines? Let us know by adding a comment.