SCIENCE
01/11/2012 10:29 am ET | Updated Jan 11, 2012

Rube Goldberg Machine: Joseph Herscher's 'The Page Turner' (VIDEO)

Joseph Herscher takes 19 steps to turn a page of his newspaper, but it all starts with a sip of coffee. This triggers a zany chain reaction that involves boiling water, a broken laptop and a hamster named Chester. If that sounds inefficient, that's the whole point.

Herscher's rig is a Rube Goldberg machine - a device that performs a simple task in a complex way. Called "The Page Turner," it was featured in the New York Times after his previous creations went viral.

According to the Times, his next machine - which will turn off the lights when he leaves the room - will be even more ambitious:

"I'm trying to make it as absurd and useless as possible," said Herscher. The upcoming device will be the first in a series he calls Ecomachines, which will perform simple, energy-saving tasks in elaborately wasteful ways.

Herscher, a computer programmer from Brooklyn, N.Y., started making these machines from scratch four years ago, after he was inspired by some Japanese Rube Goldberg machines.

Where does he find the parts to build his zany devices? Mostly at Ikea.

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