When It Comes To Invention, This Guy Was No Rube

Reply Thu 5 Jul, 2012 09:07 am
When It Comes To Invention, This Guy Was No Rube
by Jessica Stoller-Conrad
July 4, 2012

As we celebrate all things American on the Fourth of July, we often remember the great minds that have shaped our nation's history.

But this afternoon, as you're devising new techniques to get slow-moving ketchup from the bottle to your hot dog, you're also celebrating the birthday of another innovative American: Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Rube Goldberg.

Born on July 4, 1883, in San Francisco, Goldberg began his career as an engineer for the City of San Francisco Water and Sewers Department. But plumbing clearly wasn't enough.

When he pursued his artistic passions and became a newspaper cartoonist, Goldberg used his practical understanding of mechanics to craft "inventions" that used a comically complex series of steps to accomplish a seemingly simple task.

Goldberg gave up life as a sewer engineer to dream big.

"A Rube Goldberg machine is in its essence a trial-and-error thing," Adam Sadowsky, the president of Syyn Labs, an arts and technology organization, told Wired magazine in 2010. Syyn Labs was responsible for the design of a Rube Goldberg-inspired 2010 music video by the group OK GO, which has received more than 35 million hits on YouTube.

The impact of Goldberg's outlandish drawings extend beyond mere entertainment, and have inspired an annual contest for engineering students, held at Purdue University. This year's winners, a team from St. Olaf College, developed a 191-step apparatus to inflate and pop a balloon.

Goldberg's name has even become synonymous with using a complex solution to attack a simple problem.

In the spirit of Goldberg, America's inventors are more prolific than ever. Last April, the United States Patent and Trademark Office celebrated patent application No. 8,000,000, and in 2011 alone, the office received more than 500,000 utility patent applications. Nearly half of these "patents for invention" were submitted by American inventors.

So, back to that ketchup problem at the family picnic: Before you break out the gears and levers, rest assured, innovative MIT researchers are working on a food-grade ketchup bottle lubricant that may soon be coming to a refrigerator near you.

What do you think will be the next everyday inconvenience to inspire an unconventional solution?


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Reply Thu 5 Jul, 2012 10:27 am
As an erstwhile inventor myself,, Bee, I propose a cap for the tube of glue. Imagine same with conventional cap. Now insert a nail, head first so that when you replace the cap the nail projects down into the glue beyond the rim

Of course the projection would be integral and plastic not metal, making it possible to so mold

True, the Retail Community after 171 years making the roll-up finally devised a protuberance of sorts but it’s not nearly long enough. Maybe in another 200 years it will occur to them to lengthen it

Reply Thu 5 Jul, 2012 11:55 am
Here is another one for you:

Clogged Ketchup No More With MIT's 'LiquiGlide'
All Things Considered - NPR
May 28, 2012

On Memorial Day, many of us flip burgers, spear hot dogs, and whack a ketchup bottle trying to coax a stubborn glob of the stuff out and onto the bun. Now, a team of scientists at MIT has decided that this ketchup-to-bottle adhesion is a problem that must be fixed. Melissa Block talks with doctoral MIT student Adam Paxson about a solution some researchers have developed.

Copyright © 2012 National Public Radio. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.


This being Memorial Day, many of you have been flipping burgers, spearing hot dogs and then whacking a ketchup bottle to try to coax that stubborn glob of red stuff out onto the bun.

Well, a team of scientists at MIT has decided that this ketchup-to-bottle adhesion is a problem that must be fixed and they've come up with a solution. Adam Paxson, what's the solution called?

ADAM PAXSON: We are calling it LiquiGlide.

BLOCK: LiquiGlide. And, Adam, you're a doctoral student in mechanical engineering at MIT. You're part of this team. Why don't you explain how it works?

PAXSON: Yeah. It's a super slippery surface coating. I guess the technical jargon would be an ultra-low adhesion surface. You can make it out of a bunch of different materials, as long as they satisfy certain requirements in, like, viscosity and surface energy, but we did this huge exhaustive search to find out a way to actually make it out of food materials.

BLOCK: Food materials? What kind of food materials are we talking about and are they things that I would want to be consuming along with my ketchup?

PAXSON: Well, if you wanted to scratch this off and eat it, it would actually be completely fine. Yeah, this is stuff that is edible.

BLOCK: And can you tell me what's in it or is that a trade secret?

PAXSON: What exactly it's made of, I'm afraid I can't, actually. We're still doing some IP filings, but imagine you're chewing gum and you want to throw it out and, if you grab your gum with dry fingers, it's going to stick, but if you lick your fingers, it'll just slide right off, so that's sort of how it works.

BLOCK: Aha. Now, IP filing - you're talking about intellectual property?

PAXSON: Right.

BLOCK: You know, Adam, there's a whole mystique around the Heinz ketchup brand that was built around that excruciatingly slow slide of ketchup out of the bottle. There's a famous ad campaign from the 1970s.


CARLY SIMON: (Singing) Anticipation.

BLOCK: It's all built around this famous Carly Simon song, "Anticipation."


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Thick, rich Heinz ketchup. The taste is worth the wait.

BLOCK: And then that tag line, the taste is worth the wait. You really are, I think, upending a whole culture here of slowness being a good thing.

PAXSON: Yeah. This is something really interesting that we found out in our market research was - they have, like, this speed gate that they run ketchup down with a little stopwatch and, if it's too fast, they, like, throw the batch away.

BLOCK: No way. Really?

PAXSON: Well, I guess it's something they stuck to for the past decades or so, so it's not our concern to upend it, but I'd rather have ketchup flow out easily than stay stuck. I don't know.

BLOCK: Well, who wants this, Adam? Who wants the ketchup to be sliding more smoothly out of the bottle?

PAXSON: So we've gotten a lot of interest from a bunch of food companies. Any time you have a really thick sauce that's hard to get out of the bottle, this helps to let it slide. So, in food mechanics, you'd call it a no-slip boundary condition.

BLOCK: A no-slip boundary condition?

PAXSON: And we can get rid of that.

BLOCK: Wow, I like that. How much bottle pounding and experimenting have you been doing along the way for this project?

PAXSON: Well, it's funny. If you open up our chemical closet and there's just a bunch of mustard and ketchup and honey spread everywhere. They have us put not for consumption labels on the food just because we're working on it in a laboratory.

BLOCK: And other uses for this substance you've come up with?

PAXSON: So my research is looking at applying it to condensers in power plants, so it's a little bit different from ketchup. I've built a little miniature power plant to test this new coating out on these surfaces.

BLOCK: But, for some reason, people seem to be more interested in hearing about the ketchup bottles.

PAXSON: They are much more interested in the ketchup. That's true.

BLOCK: Well, Adam Paxson, thanks so much for talking to us about LiquiGlide, designed to get ketchup out of the bottle faster.

PAXSON: Thank you.
Reply Thu 5 Jul, 2012 12:03 pm

Reply Thu 5 Jul, 2012 12:07 pm
Here is the Purdue University Rube Goldberg contest for 2013.

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