Friday Sprog Blogging: a forceful film.

Sep 29 2006 Published by under Kids and science

The elder Free-Ride offspring has been learning about forces ("pushes and pulls") in second grade science class. Meanwhile, at home both the sprogs found a new favorite film, The Way Things Go. It's about 30 minutes of nearly continuous Rube Goldberg machinery. There are a few visible cuts in the film, which seem to be pauses to let chemical reactions proceed (although it would be completely understandable to me if cuts had been required to get some of the more complicated mechanical interactions to work). The progress of the apparatus is presented without narration, which is just as well, since it would be drowned out by the giggles and belly-laughs. Here are the sprogs' viewing notes:


Dr. Free-Ride: How would you describe this movie to a kid who hasn't seen it?
Younger offspring: It's about tires and fire and foam and flammable liquids.
Elder offspring: There are lots of forces in the movie -- things that push and things that pull. My favorite pushes were from the rocket car and the rocket boat.
Younger offspring: Rolling tires pushed a lot of things. Also, candles lit strings to break them.
Elder offspring: And they lit fuses to launch things.
Younger offspring: Some of the liquids put fires out and some of the liquids were flammable, so they caught on fire.
Elder offspring: Other parts of the machine poured liquids in or out, and used the weight of the liquids to make things move.
Younger offspring: Some of the tires rolled down hill, and some of them rolled up hill.
Elder offspring: And some of the tires had candles on them that got lit.
Dr. Free-Ride: I'm amazed that the tires themselves didn't catch on fire.
Younger offspring: My favorite was the flaming tether-bag.
Elder offspring: Yeah, that was cool.
Dr. Free-Ride: Some of the parts looked like they almost weren't going to roll or swing or seep far enough to get the next part of the process going. How many times do you think they had to practice it to get all the parts to work just right?
Younger offspring: Twenty times!
Elder offspring: One hundred times!
Dr. Free-Ride: They used a lot of tires and wooden ramps and ladders and candles and fizzy chemical reactions. If you were going to make one of these -- and I'm not saying you can do this in the house -- is there other stuff you would use?
Younger offspring: Soccer balls and plastic bottles and tape.
Elder offspring: Maybe worn out pajamas, or these Homer [Simpson] slippers, and rubber bands.
Younger offspring: Why can't we do this in the house?
Elder offspring: Because we'll want to use fire!

Comments are off for this post

  • skookumchick says:

    Your kids might like to see this this Honda ad, called "Cog" which apparently was filmed in one take. After 605 other tries. (See this article about the filming.)

  • WiseWoman says:

    Indeed, this is a great film for young and old - and because there is no commentary, it works in any language. It is really amazing how much suspense you can have waiting for something to explode into flames. Is the film available in the States now? It has long been a favorite cult film here in Europe.

  • Lab Cat says:

    I remember watching this movie, or something very like it, with my nephew (he was 9 at the time) at the Franklin Science Institue in Philadelphia. We were both mesmerized. I think it was the best thing we saw at the museum.

  • Richard Zach says:

    I love Fischli and Weiss!

  • CV Rick says:

    Thanks for recommending this video . . . fortunately, Netflix has it (although, unless they have more than one copy, you'll have to wait.)
    My own version of sprogs (Small, Medium, and Large) are going to love it.