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Incredible Rube Goldberg machine uses light instead of a ball

A Rube Goldberg-style contraption uses a powerful, focused beam of light, prisms, and magnifying glasses to activate its various mechanisms.

Screenshot by Michelle Starr/CNET

This video, called "The Power of Optics", was created in Japan for high-speed optical internet service provider au Hikari. To make its point, a creative team has built a Rube Goldberg-style machine -- that is, a contraption that is unnecessarily complicated, navigating through a number of manoeuvres in order to complete a relatively simple task -- in this case, refract through a prism to make a spectrum (of course -- it is light, is it not?).

But light is intangible -- it would not be able to trip the more traditional Rube Goldberg mechanisms. Therefore, the team chose mechanisms that required heat -- focus a beam of light tightly enough through a magnifying glass and you end up with a very hot focal point. As the beam travels, bounced through prisms and mirrors, we see it used to burn string, pop a balloon, melt ice, before arriving at its destination point.

It's fiendishly clever -- and, as an added bonus, you can watch a how-to video detailing how the team set the machine up and filmed it.