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This Extremely Slow Rube Goldberg Device Lasts More Than Six Weeks

The whimsical invention uses molasses, a tortoise, and sprouting grass to move a golf ball

smithsonian.com

Rube Goldberg devices are designed to perform a simple task in the most roundabout way possible. In the video above, inventor Bob Partington took this idea to a whole new level. He built what might be the world's slowest Rube Goldberg device, which takes more than six weeks to complete its task.

Over the course of the video, Partington's device ferries a golf ball through a roundabout course using melting popsicles, a tortoise, a stream of molasses and even the slow push of growing grass. The entire process took six weeks, three days, seven hours and two minutes.

"Going into this, I think I was like, 'It would be really funny if grass would grow and push a ball," Partington says in a behind-the-scenes video, which explains how he built his device. It's an impressive invention: to get the grass to push the ball, Partington designed a method to water a chamber of soil and seeds every 12 hours. The project, which was produced as part of YouTube's "Field Day" series, required meticulous planning. Any mistake could delay everything for weeks at a time.

Rube Goldberg devices get their name from Reuben Garrett Lucius "Rube" Goldberg, an engineer and cartoonist who designed extremely complicated machines to perform simple tasks, such as turning off a light or watering a plant. Goldberg's cartoons were so popular in the early 20th century, Merriam-Webster's dictionary adopted his name as an adjective meaning "doing something simple in a very complicated way that is not necessary." Even now, decades later, his namesake machines have inspired similar devices in Pee Wee's Big AdventureBack to the FutureWallace and Gromit and a music video by OK Go. Nevertheless, Partington's device is slower than them all.

"The idea of getting something from A to B, I would love to continue to explore because there's a million things you can do," he says in the video. For a glimpse at how the world's slowest Rube Goldberg machine was made, check out the video below.

h/t Motherboard

About Danny Lewis

Danny Lewis is a multimedia journalist working in print, radio, and illustration. He focuses on stories with a health/science bent and has reported some of his favorite pieces from the prow of a canoe. Danny is based in Brooklyn, NY.

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