Marbles and Magnets


If you think that marbles, magnets, and wooden building blocks made for children sounds like a list of materials that would be used for an incredibly crappy homework project for fourth grade science, then you’re probably right, because it totally is. But it’s also the recipe for an incredibly intricate Rube Goldberg machine, like the one in the above video. The machine was built by YouTuber Kaplamino, and displays some of the fundamental laws of physics surprisingly well.

This latest project by Kaplamino, which was recently reported on by Colossal, is a bit of a departure from his previous setups because they usually utilized Kaplan blocks (children’s building blocks) in order to execute their extensive chain reactions, whereas this one uses marbles and spherical magnets. Kaplamino explains, in his admittedly rough English, that “the reasons why [he] made a project with marbles, [is because] in a small room it’s easier than dominoes, even when you have a long table!”

From start to finish, the series of reactions lasts for nearly four minutes, and includes dozens and dozens of diminutive yet vivid physical interactions that all had to go off perfectly to keep the process going. “I’m lazy and perfectionnist [sic], [and] with those two things it’s hard to finish a project, because I have this idea in my mind since 3 months maybe, and I work really hard for only 4 minutes at the end…” Kaplan says, adding, “But trust me there is more work in this project than you can see in this video, because of how many times I start from scratch.”

Once Kaplamino sets the fully functioning machine in motion however, all we can do is sit back and watch as the interplay between gravity and magnetism unfolds. One could easily imagine Sir Isaac Newton, sitting on the sidelines, cheering on the little marbles as they drop from one Kaplan plane to the next, ramming into each other, showing how force equals mass times acceleration or how actions have equal and opposite reactions. James Clerk Maxwell would probably enjoy the magnets, too.

And many of the sequences are downright dazzling for anybody, like this one from around 1:33 in the video, which shows off just how beautiful the cross section of a meaninglessly convoluted physical process can be: