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YouTube / Jimmy Kimmel Live

A Rube Goldberg Zipper-Zipping Machine

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YouTube / Jimmy Kimmel Live

Since the late 1980s, Purdue University has invited students to make Rube Goldberg machines accomplishing simple tasks in absurdly complex ways. Each machine has to occupy at least a 6-foot cube, perform at least 20 steps, and achieve a stupidly simple task. This year the winners made a charmingly goofy machine to zip a zipper. Here they are walking us through the process (the action starts around 3:05):

This may leave you wondering what YKK stands for. Find it and many others in our list of 56 Acronyms and Initials All Spelled Out.

And according to Wikipedia, here's the list of previous tasks set out for the Purdue contest:

2014 Zip a zipper

2013 Hammer a nail

2012 Inflate a balloon and pop it

2011 Water a Plant

2010 Dispense an Appropriate Amount of Hand Sanitizer into a Hand

2009 LittleBigPlanet Contraption Challenge 6

2009 Replace an Incandescent Light Bulb with a More Energy Efficient Light Emitting Design

2008 Assemble a Hamburger

2007 Squeeze the Juice from an Orange

2006 Shred 5 Sheets of Paper

2005 Change Batteries and Turn on a 2-battery Flashlight

2004 Select, Mark and Cast an Election Ballot

2003 Select, Crush and Recycle an Empty Soft Drink Can

2002 Select, Raise and Wave a U.S. Flag

2001 Select, Clean and Peel an Apple

2000 Fill and Seal a Time Capsule with 20th-century Inventions

1999 Set a Golf Tee and Tee Up a Golf Ball

1998 Shut Off An Alarm Clock

1997 Insert and Then Play a CD Disc

1996 Put Coins in a Bank

1995 Turn on a Radio

1994 Make Cup of Coffee

1993 Screw a Light Bulb into a Socket

1992 Unlock a Combination Padlock

1991 Toast a Slice of Bread

1990 Put the Lid on a Ball Jar

1989 Sharpen a Pencil

1988 Adhere a Stamp to a Letter

1987 Put Toothpaste on a Toothbrush

(Via Devour.)

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20 Facts About The Muppets (Featuring The Muppets!)
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In this very special List Show, Kermit and Miss Piggy (and other surprise guests) helped Elliott Morgan run through Muppet history.

See Also...

Why Do Things Taste Bad After You Brush Your Teeth? (With Bunsen and Beaker!)
80 Facts About the '80s
The Origins of 62 Last Names

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Watch How Jigsaw Puzzles are Made
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iStock // ThomasVogel

Traditionally, jigsaw puzzles have been made by using, wait for it, a jigsaw—though it's also called a scroll saw. If you've never seen one, a scroll saw has a fine, straight blade that's usually mounted vertically a little bit like the needle in a sewing machine. By running the blade up and down (hooray, power tools) and moving wood through it, you can cut fine patterns into wood. Note that the term "jigsaw" can also refer to a coping saw, which is a handheld power tool with a straight blade sticking out—great for cutting holes in walls, but perhaps not puzzles.

So that's great. But how do people make jigsaw puzzles today?

The short answer is: It's complicated. There are still high-end handmade puzzles on the market today, but commercial makers have typically moved on to other methods. Below, let's examine a few of the most popular methods.

1. METAL TEMPLATE GRIDS

Mass-produced commercial jigsaw puzzles are made of cardboard. Nobody hand-cuts cardboard with a jigsaw. So the game is all about making a cutting die (a sharp metal outline) that emulates that jigsaw cut. Once you have a cutting die, it can be used to stamp out countless cardboard puzzles.

In this video, starting at about 1:30, Ravensburger artisans show how they create their jigsaw puzzles using a "ribbon cut" grid system and a series of jigsaw-style edges. The metal template allows safety-gloved employees to snap in the edges of each piece, allowing for a unique pattern for each puzzle design.

2. SCROLL SAWS

For woodworkers, the only game in town is a real jigsaw. In this video, George Vondriska makes an elk jigsaw puzzle using some plywood, a computer print-out, and a scroll saw.

(Note: If you want to get into this, watch this 100-minute class.)

3. PSYCHOLOGICAL TORMENT

Steve Richardson says "they pay me to drive them crazy," describing the way he designs incredibly challenging jigsaw puzzles using an X-ACTO knife (which are then actually cut by hand). Calling himself Tormenter-in-Chief, Richardson has some famous clients, including the Gates family, the Bush family, and the royal family of Great Britain, among others.

Richardson's company only sells about 3,600 puzzles per year, all handmade. Every puzzle contains a single "clown" piece, the company's logo—though sometimes he doesn't actually fit in.

4. LASERS

In this video, a laser cutter uses the Force on a Star Wars poster. It's fascinating to watch how it accomplishes the cuts, doing all the vertical cuts first (with little oscillations to get the wiggles in), then the horizontal cuts. Watch as, during the horizontal cutting stage, the pieces pop out!

5. RANDOM CUTS

In this video, Allegra Vernon walks us through all the steps that happen before the actual cutting. She discusses how images are selected, photographed/scanned, edited, and generally optimized to become good images for a jigsaw puzzle. Then she gets into the "random cut" process starting around 2:20. Both sections are fascinating. Vernon also explains the "ribbon cut" method employed above by Ravensburger.

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