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MIT student blogger Melis A. '08

Spending the F.A.T. with Arthur Ganson by Melis A. '08

A missed opportunity to build kinetic sculptures with artist Arthur Ganson.

News flash: Thanksgiving vacation is over. I spent my three days at home eating, ice skating, eating, shopping, eating, and watching movies. At the time, I knew that two actions were notably absent from my list of activities — “studying” and “sleeping.” Unfortunately, I have a test tomorrow and I had two problem sets due yesterday, so my so-called fun-filled holiday was slightly marred by the stress that I knew I should have been working…and catching up on sleep.

Up until this morning, I had only regretted not spending more time doing work. That is, until I scanned the front page of The Tech, MIT’s major newspaper, and saw a picture from an event called Friday After Thanksgiving (F.A.T.), sponsored by the MIT Museum. Here’s the photo and caption:

“A graduate from Emmanuel College, Dave Kemp sets up his Rube Goldberg-like ‘Toy Land’ contraption for the MIT Museum sponsored Friday After Thanksgiving (F.A.T.) ‘Chain Reaction’ event. MIT students and Arthur Ganson, a kinetic sculptor and renowned chain reaction creator, connected all the devices together into one grand chain reaction. The event was held in Rockwell Cage on Friday, Nov. 24.”

I can’t believe I missed an opportunity to build something that would grace the presence of Arthur Ganson! (http://www.arthurganson.com/) Arthur Ganson is an “artist-in-residence” at MIT and some of his pieces are on display at the MIT Museum. His machines are incredible feats of creativity that combine art, engineering, and comedy. I’m a huge fan, I even joined MIT’s Hobby Shop to try my hand at kinetic sculpture, but I haven’t gotten past the design phase yet. =(

Here were the guidelines for the event:
* Your link in the chain reaction should be no wider that 2′, no taller than 4′, and no longer than 6′, should use no chemicals (baking soda and vinegar OK), no plug-in electricity (batteries and low-power DC OK), or use more than a cup of water.
* Your link must BEGIN and END by a string pull. Be sure that it takes no more force than the hanging weight of a golf ball moving 1″ to start your link and ends by pulling a string AT LEAST 1″ with enough force to lift a golf ball.
* Your link must be repeatable.
* Test your chain reaction before bringing it to the event.
* Make your event last AT LEAST 30 seconds and end in LESS THAN three minutes. Give your audience time to enjoy your event, be it funny, playful, clever, whimsical, or elegant.

To watch some videos of his creations, go to: http://www.ebaumsworld.com/tags/arthur-ganson/. His website has a lot of great pictures as well. I’d encourage all of you to visit the MIT Museum and see his work in person.

Here’s one of his inventions (taken from his website):

6 responses to “Spending the F.A.T. with Arthur Ganson”

  1. Ana says:

    awesome — i went to the tinguely museum when i was in basel, and it was absolutely breathtaking

  2. Adam says:

    I actually went to the MIT museum when I visited over the summer.. Amazing stuff! I don’t remember which things were built by Mr. Ganson, but I did see the “machine with 11 scraps of paper” running, as well as a self-oiling machine, and a set of step-down gears with the last one embedded in a piece of concrete.. Apparently it will make 1 revolution in a few trillion years. grin

    There is a large set of very good holograms in the MIT museum as well. If you ever hapen to be in Boston/Cambridge, I HIGHLY recommend seeing the museum!

    On another note, I’m on our schools Rube Goldberg team, so we get to make machines like that all of the time! The rules this year are build a machine to juice an orange into a pitcher, and then pour the orange juice into a glass, using 20-25 steps. Should be quite fun; I always love working on this stuff.

    -Adam

  3. Peter says:

    The machines, though curiously and apparently useless, is nonetheless creative, amusing and hilariously entertaining. I especially enjoyed the Machine With Wishbone on http://www.ebaumsworld.com/tags/arthur-ganson/. Having both seen these curiosities and what Adam wrote really made me feel sorry about never having had the chance to visit the MIT museum.

  4. Christianna says:

    That artwork sounds amazing!! My Latin teacher, we call her Frau, because she’s actually German, always told me I would grow up to be a famous artist or scientist… I like to aim for both! Reading about Arthur Ganson in your article has instantly inspired me! I, too, am interested in art that is made according to a science! I hope to see his work in the future!!

  5. Anonymous says:

    That’s pretty cool. I was amused by the heavily stressed starting and finishing requirements. We had to do a Rube-Goldberg-ish project for a class. The point was to learn about simple machines. Each team had to use all six simple machines “and make sure it connects with the team before and after yours.” The whole thing was a disaster, because no one knew how theirs was supposed to start/end, and most machines ran out of energy half way through (no springs or rubberbands!). It was fun, though.

  6. Rachel says:

    That’s pretty cool. I was amused by the heavily stressed starting and finishing requirements. We had to do a Rube-Goldberg-ish project for a class. The point was to learn about simple machines. Each team had to use all six simple machines “and make sure it connects with the team before and after yours.” The whole thing was a disaster, because no one knew how theirs was supposed to start/end, and most machines ran out of energy half way through (no springs or rubberbands!). It was fun, though.