Dumping a huge bag of plastic balls onto an escalator


1 Like


1 Like

It was nice seeing them cleaning up at the end. I must admit that tempered my enjoyment because I kept wondering if they were just going to wander off and leave it for someone else to clean up after.


I think this is the appropriate soundtrack still.


Awesome! Perhaps I’m dim, but I don’t see how it’s like a perpetual motion machine. Is the idea that the balls falling down the steps makes the steps go up? Sorry - low IQ here…

What are those pedestals to either side?

It’s really not even in the ballpark (ballstair?) - no one would ever think that the escalator was powered by the balls. But like many of those desk-toy “perpetual motion” machines, it’s very fun to look at - I assume that’s where Cory was going.


Simply because the balls travel to the top, are then pushed downward, and up and down again, seemingly in perpetual motion.


I used to work at a toy company, maybe even the one that sold these balls. It’s not as much fun as it sounds. Try coming in on a Monday morning, sitting down at your computer and reaching up to open your overhead file cabinet only to have an entire bag of these spill down on to your head. Dammit, Mike. Again? I learned to keep the balls rather than making him clean them up, storing them in the lower drawer of my other file cabinet, which I would carefully check each morning. I got him back though. After almost 5 years there, I was a crack shot with the foam dart guns given to all the new hires. It made the most satisfying {snap!} sound when it connected with an unsuspecting cheek.


Rosslyn, VA is home to the longest escalator in the world. Just sayin’…


Currently the speed of the escalator is too fast – the balls all pile up at the top.

If you tweak the speed, you could probably get the speed too slow, all of the balls piling at the bottom.

I don’t know, but I’d be willing to bet that the chaotic effects here make this like trying to balance a pencil on its point: that there is no point where you could tweak the escalator’s speed so that the balls remain continuously distributed down the escalator.

(I’m willing to call this SamSam’s Conjecture if anyone wants to start publishing papers on this.)


I was wondering about tweeking the bounciness of the balls…Balls that were slightly bouncier would be closer to equilibrium…Easier to adjust the speed on the escalator, though.


I was thinking more like a makeshift dam at the top just before the steps level off. The continual cascade of balls falling on top of the other balls on the step immediately below might provide enough energy for visual excitement and mayhem.


If someone did that on the DC metro, I think there’d be a riot. On the other hand, half the escalators are out of service anyway, so what’s one more?


Once upon a worknight dreary, I sat eating my food court rations attempting to find a suitable person to watch. From the left I saw the tip of a shopping cart ascend the elevator. I expected some grunts and moans as the exhausted shopper struggled to force the cart over the lip. Yet the cart contained none of its traditional consumer accoutrements. The cart sat patiently as the stairs propelled it to the top. Only the escalator lacked the force to nudge the cart those last few crucial steps. The ground slid from the shopping cart’s front wheels and the back wheels dropped a step. clunk The escalator pushed it back to the top. The back wheels dropped another step. clunk Again, back to the top. The back wheel fell another step. clunk This last tumble carried a little extra momentum and the cart stood up on its back axle. The stairs underneath moved the shopping cart’s rotation point under its center of gravity, and for a few fleeting moments, the shopping cart stood upright. Then tipped back. I could only hear the carnage. Metal on metal clanging, artificially prolonged by the relentless upward force. The entire food court turned to look, but saw nothing. I saw, in my mind’s eye. I could envision the shopping cart stuck in an infinite loop, like a stuntman having another one of those dreams again. I tried to calculate the angular rate of the cart versus the linear velocity of the escalator. Could they, perhaps, be in sync? Could I sit for the rest of my dinner break, letting this unique mall cacophony roll over me? Alas, no. The clanging stopped. I stood up and tip-toed to the edge of the escalator. At the foot, with one wheel brushing the lips of endless stairs, I saw the cart lay triumphant, flanked by two angry mall cops. I ducked away before they could see me. Perhaps they would interpret my enjoyment as complicity. I walked back to my table and ate my food, smiling all the while, slowly drawing up house plans to include a regulation-length escalator.


A word-picture well painted :slight_smile:

1 Like

““Repent, Harlequin!” Said the Ticktockman”

(jellybeans, bouncy balls, close enough)


“…perpetual motion machine…”

Pedantic BoingBoing readers are working hard on the self-control necessary not to respond to this because we know that you know already that (a) there’s no such thing as … oh wait… must. not. respond… must. RESIST.


Balls aren’t the only mischief you could get up to,

N.b., at 70m the escalator at the DC Metro Wheaton stop is merely the longest single-span escalator in the western hemisphere. The longest in the world is the 126m escalator at the Park Pobedy station in the Moscow Metro. The longest system is the outdoor commuter escalator (yes, really) that goes up Mt. Victoria in Hong Kong.


I’m … going to use that to teach a statistics lecture on the (Poisson, maybe?) Distribution.

1 Like