The Rube Goldberg Machine Is A Complicated Machine That Does Simple Tasks
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You may have heard a convoluted concept described as a "Rube Goldberg" before...then wondered what in the world that meant. The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines Rube Goldberg as "doing something simple in a very complicated way that is not necessary." Rube Goldberg was also a Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist, who made some pretty complicated machines.The cartoon in the image below, called "Professor Butts and the Self-Operating Napkin," is one of the most famous Rube Goldberg machines. As Wonderopolis explains, this cartoon "sums up what Rube Goldberg machines are all about: creating a machine (or contraption or invention or device or apparatus) that uses a chain reaction to accomplish a very simple task in a very complicated manner." Through a convoluted series of events, the self-operating napkin accomplishes the simple task of wiping his chin.
The Trans-Siberian Railway Is The World's Longest, And It Started A War
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You may have never heard of the Trans-Siberian railway, but it is considered one of the most impressive feats of engineering in modern history. The railway stretched 5,772 miles to connect Moscow, Russia to the Pacific port of Vladivostok. Construction on the world's longest railway line began in 1891 and was completed in 1916. And while this is all impressive and magnificent, let's cut straight to the drama: The Trans-Siberian Railway is what sparked the Russo-Japanese War. So how did a train do that?
This Elevated Bus In China Travels Right Over Cars
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Instead of adding more lanes to widen a road, what about adding more lanes above the road? That's the idea behind the Transit Elevated Bus (TEB) in China. The TEB travels above car traffic, with the wheels of the bus hitting the ground on the outer edges of the car lanes. A test version of the TEB hit the road in Qinhuangdao City on August 2, 2016. The bus, designed to ease traffic congestion, is a massive structure. It stretches just over 72 feet in length, over 25 feet in width, and almost 16 feet above road level. The TEB is powered by electricity and can carry 300 passengers. Although August 2016 saw TEB in its test phase, the developers are hoping the bus will reach max speeds of 40mph when it hits the road for mainstream use. See the video below of the TEB in action.
The Movie Screen That Makes Annoying 3D Glasses Unnecessary
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Wearing those 3D glasses in a movie theater can be an annoying pain. Engineers at MIT are looking to solve that issue with Cinema 3D, a prototype movie theater screen that allows viewers to experience movies in 3D without having to wear the dreaded glasses. Though similar technology does exist, the Cinema 3D prototype is the first technology that would bring three dimensions to every viewer in a theater's audience, regardless of where they are seated.The MIT Computers Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL) teamed up with Israel's Weiszmann Institute of Science to create the prototype. The technology works similar to Venetian blinds—the screen uses "a complex arrangement of lenses and mirrors to create a set number of parallax barriers," according to TechCrunch. Check out the video below to get a look at how it works.
The First Tobacco-Powered Plane Took Off In 2016
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Tobacco use has declined big time in the last 40 years, which is good news for public health. Unfortunately, it's bad news for tobacco farmers, and anyone who lives in a place where the crop still plays a large role in the economy. That's why many are looking for alternative uses for tobacco that could keep the crop in business without keeping people addicted. One of those uses addresses another global problem: oil production. Among the toxic ingredients in tobacco is tar, which is made of hydrocarbon compounds just like those in petroleum. This makes it a prime candidate for creating biofuels. Cultivated in South Africa, Solaris tobacco is genetically engineered to be very low in nicotine but high in oil, making it perfect for producing fuel. In July 2016, the first biofuel-powered commercial planes in Africa carried 300 passengers from Johannesburg to Cape Town, partially powered by Solaris tobacco plants. Boeing has said it plans to use biofuel in routine flights soon.