Thursday, August 6, 2009

Rube Goldberg Was Not from Altadena

I've been up at the Altadena Historical Society a couple of times recently. Pasadena, too (yes, I've got a photo or two). When I asked Altadena archivist Sherry Cavallo if I could post a picture of this contraption she said "Please. Maybe someone can tell us what it is."

It looks scientific, and after all, plenty of scientists live in or have lived in Altadena. Richard Feynman, for one. The host of pie night, for another.

Isn't it gorgeous? Wouldn't you love to have it in your living room? Your parties would always be exciting.

What is it? Any guesses?

26 comments:

Cafe Observer said...

An interesting Zen Thursday posting.

Vanda said...

Distillery?

J+P said...

"No," retorted Dr. Bunsen, "that's an involute
Kleinian
alembic."

Susan C said...

"Shaken but not stirred"

Shell Sherree said...

Illegal in five states?

Katie said...

Looks like Beaker's crazy uncle.

Petrea said...

Hee hee, Cafe.

I tend to believe John, but then again, none of those things look quite right. If you put them all together they might be a distillery. Then Vanda and Susan would both be right (Shell, too, for that matter).

I wish I knew the answer, but so far my money's on Katie.

Italo said...

Yes, I know what it is. It's easy: my gran grand father had one in his bed room. Then when invented pampers he didn't use anymore.

arabesque said...

what a post! you got us all thinking...! ^-^

Pascal Jim said...

Is this a prop from that dreadful movie "Waterworld" with that great thespian K. Costner...the opening scene, showing the conversion of urine to potable water??

Altadenablogmaster said...

I know! It's the first prototype of a bong!

J+P said...

Octopus's hookah.




pensel

Trish said...

I'd lean towards a still or other less than legal mood altering contraption creator. The bottle on our right seems to have a lot of clamps---assuming some fairly high pressure---boiling or something similar. Perhaps a mini home still---with tubing overhead missing? Or making crack way back?

TheChieftess said...

My first thought was..."it makes Margarita's"!!! Maybe, now that I read the other's as well, it not only makes the Margarita, it distills the tequila too!!!

Saretta said...

Yes! It's a thingamajig! Everyone needs one!

AmyR said...

It almost looks like an old-school IV drip. It is so cool; it makes me want to have a mad science lab them in my living room. :D

Margaret said...

I always to defer to the witty Shell.

marley said...

Its a cocktail mixing machine, surely!

Kris said...

A very early model IUD?

Petrea said...

Kris, you Tasmanian devil, you.

Our resident geologist, Becca, had an interesting idea, so let me post it here (she emailed from the wilds up upstate New York):
"...that contraption you posted today reminded me of Stanley Miller's apparatus from the 50s that modeled how life is thought to have started on Earth. In a nutshell:
(1) Stanley Miller, genius, put some water in a glass container (to simulate the ocean) and heated it to create evaporation.
(2) The "ocean" water evaporated into another container containing gases like water vapor, ammonia, and methane (to simulate one of Earth's early atmospheres).
(3) An electrical current was sent through a couple of electrodes attached to the "atmosphere" container, initiating a spark (to simulate lightning).
(4) Finally, the "atmosphere" was cooled to force the water vapor to condense and fall back into its original container (simulating precipitation).
(5) Amazingly, these conditions created a bunch of amino acids in the "ocean"--the building blocks of proteins, the building blocks of cells, building blocks of life, etc.

And there you have it!

The lower left container in your photo could be the ocean container and the upper left container could be the atmosphere container.

There are several fatal flaws in my hypothesis, including no electrodes, no heat source, what the heck all of the stuff on the right side of the setup is for, and the fact that this is one of probably thousands of experiments whose setup look similar to Miller's. But I think it's an awesome experiment, and since I'm getting back into work mode and this is one of the first topics that I teach in oceanography, I thought I'd share..."

Stanley Miller's on Wikipedia, and there are cool pics if you google.

Ms M said...

Love all the responses! It looks like a distillery of some sort to me, too.

Alexa said...

I'm with Altadenablogmaster—the world's most complicated bong! Wish my dad was still around to see this. Believe he concocted something similar to brew moonshine back in the day! (My word verification is peryNOG!)

Nikki Beaumont said...

Love the contraption and love everyone's comments, especially Katie's "Beaker's crazy uncle", so off-the-cuff funny!

Petrea said...

I know, this one's been like a Zen Monday.

Lori Lynn said...

The guessing posts are really fun! Looking forward to more!
LL

.NUVES. said...

its a bong.

i know one when i see one

lol

=]