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Photos: MIT's Chain Reaction—The Epic, Madcap, Jury-Rigged Physics Fair

Friday After Thanksgiving Chain Reaction at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. (Greg Cook)

experiences

“It started 16 years ago in the hallways of the MIT Museum,” artist and inventor Arthur Ganson said to a crowd of hundreds gathered for this year’s annual Friday After Thanksgiving Chain Reaction at Massachusetts Institute of Technology this afternoon.

It’s part science fair, part epic, community feat of madcap physics and jury-rigged tinkering. Dozens of participants set up contraptions involving dominoes, mouse traps, toy trains, chutes, winches, sand, tubes, balloons and maple syrup on tables that wrapped around the center of the Rockwell Cage Gymnasium in Cambridge. After a countdown, one machine triggered the next with the pull of a string or the passing of a golf ball to form a giant Rube Goldberg device.

“Occasionally something won’t go quite as expected and we’ll need to intervene,” Ganson said. “So if you see somebody reaching in, that’s the Hand of God. And it still means everything is working perfectly.”

Altogether it took about 20 minutes for the linked contraptions to wind down.

“We have no idea what people are going to build,” said Ganson, who co-hosted with Jeff Lieberman. “This is the first time this chain reaction has been put together. And the only time we’ll see it.”

Dozens of mousetraps catapult ping-pong balls during the Friday After Thanksgiving Chain Reaction at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. (Greg Cook)

Dozens of mousetraps catapult ping-pong balls during the Friday After Thanksgiving Chain Reaction at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. (Greg Cook)

The Friday After Thanksgiving Chain Reaction at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. (Greg Cook)

The Friday After Thanksgiving Chain Reaction at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. (Greg Cook)

Friday After Thanksgiving Chain Reaction at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. (Greg Cook)

Friday After Thanksgiving Chain Reaction at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. (Greg Cook)

Balloons fly into the air during the Friday After Thanksgiving Chain Reaction at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. (Greg Cook)

Balloons fly into the air during the Friday After Thanksgiving Chain Reaction at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. (Greg Cook)

Friday After Thanksgiving Chain Reaction at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. (Greg Cook)

Friday After Thanksgiving Chain Reaction at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. (Greg Cook)