November 18, 2005

Blue Balls Machine

Writing about web page

The Blue Balls Machine is a wonderful Rube Goldberg contraption that serves no purpose except to move, well, blue balls from one place to another. It's not a game, and not exactly a work of art; I don't know what I'd call it, exactly, except that it's mesmerising.

A quick look at how it's done reveals that the whole thing is one large (2.4MB) animated GIF, which is impressive enough by itself, but it's even more impressive when you realise that (a) it tiles (try resizing your browser window as big as it will go), and (b) the movement of the balls wraps around the image like asteriods in the old arcade game. The effect is to make a seamless, infinitely big machine, and if you can look long and close enough to see where every ball starts and ends up, then I don't believe you. (Pop quiz: how many balls are there?)

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  1. Mathew Mannion

    I think all balls are eventually annhialated by the laser, but I can't for the life of me work out where they're created…

    18 Nov 2005, 15:08

  2. A nice contradiction here: symbols of constraint (marble race  \to treadmill  \to rat-race) from someone leading a sufficiently untrammelled existence to have time to create such a delightful, whimsical folly.

    18 Nov 2005, 16:50

  3. Frankie Roberto

    Wow, it's bloody amazing. I wasted about 10 minutes just staring at it.


    P.S a few balls just go around in circles…

    18 Nov 2005, 19:06

  4. Trevor Hawkes

    1. I didn't know about the Youre [sic] the man dog genre until I saw this. It seems head and shoulders above the typical examples; altogether in a class of its own. (The Wikipedia link doesn't work for some reason. Typing YTMND into Wikipedia's search box will take you to the relevant page and the same URL!)

    2. The Blue Balls Machine tiles the plane with rectangles. Can cascading style sheets cope with more complicated tessellations, even with Penrose tilings? Here are some elegant examples.

    20 Nov 2005, 17:58

  5. naz

    Now I know what (another) god must feel like :) There is a quite a bit of creation/destruction going on though.

    30 Nov 2005, 18:06

  6. groumpf

    The balls are created right of the laser that destroys them. Simple.

    17 Aug 2007, 07:28

  7. Banquo

    I see several balls that never leave the system and 3 places where they are destroyed (burning in the test tube, into the iris, and the laser gun) but I still don’t see where they are created,..the light bars near the laser gun are transmat/teleportation beams, so thats the same ball moving through 2 beams.

    what I really can’t believe is how badly I want to know now that I’ve looked at this for like 10 minutes solid

    14 Sep 2007, 21:57

  8. Banquo

    And then as soon as I posted I saw it lol right above the burning test tube there’s a box that creates the balls (unless its a condenser for the “ball vapor” created below, but if that were the case I’d imagine it would be DIRECTLY above as opposed to being off to the left a bit..

    whew,..I feel better now

    14 Sep 2007, 22:03

  9. Foundation

    This is a closed loop, this image is repeated to all sides.
    If a ball falls out to the bottom, it falls back in from the top, the same with left and right, that way there can’t be any balls destroyed, they’re simply moved to another area of that picture.

    27 Nov 2007, 21:53

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