Tuesday, December 11, 2007

What Do a Live Duck, a Jar of Honey, and a Baseball Have in Common?

They were all links in the MIT Museum's Friday After Thanksgiving (FAT) Chain Reaction.

The FAT Chain Reaction is the idea of artist/inventor Arthur Ganson. Arthur realized there is not much to do on the Friday after Thankgiving, besides shop. He wanted to create a family-friendly event that would actively engage participants.

“Every year there are ingenious new creations so it is particularly interesting to see what people come up with,” said Ganson in an interview in 2006. “I also like the spontaneous drama and performance art nature of the event. Where else can you find 1,500 people rooting for a piece of wet paper towel? It is quirky, simple, and grand all at the same time.”

I first saw the FAT Chain Reaction in 2006, when my boyfriend created a link in the chain. I was hooked as soon as I entered the room. I decided then that I would help create a link in the 2007 chain.

The rules of the reaction are simple:

“Your link in the chain reaction should be no wider that 2', no taller than 4', and no longer than 6', should use no chemicals (baking soda and vinegar OK), no plug-in electricity (batteries and low-power DC OK), or use more than a cup of water.

Your link must begin and end by a string pull. Be sure that it takes no more force than the hanging weight of a golf ball moving 1" to start your link and ends by pulling a string at least 1" with enough force to lift a golf ball.

Your link must be repeatable.

Test your chain reaction before bringing it to the event.

Make your event last at least 30 seconds and end in less than three minutes. Give your audience time to enjoy your event, be it funny, playful, clever, whimsical, or elegant.”

This year, I showed my influence by suggesting that our link in the chain be Red Sox themed. All five people on our team loved the theme and came up with many over the top ideas.

Below is a picture of us setting up the creation.

The device started with a fan knocking a cup over, which triggered a bat to swing and hit a baseball. The baseball then hit the paper glove which triggered a picture of Coco Crisp to slide forward and catch a baseball. As the baseball fell, it pulled the water bottles that hit chimes under the sign, “bullpen band.” Then, Wally the Green Monster rode on a fire truck to pull the trigger on a bunch of baseballs going down a ramp. The final baseball triggered whiffle balls filled with pennies to go down a ramp where paper people popped up to do the wave as the balls passed by. This then made 2 liter bottles filled with water drop to pop up Red Sox pennants and turn the merry go round at the top of our machine. Bobble head players shook under pictures from the rolling rally. The merry go round pulled a trigger to make a picture of Jacoby Ellsbury chasing a taco zoom down a slanted metal pole. Finally, a dancing Papelbon figure pulled the string for the next device.

Once we were set up, the rest of the team asked me to explain our reactions to curious onlookers. Children telling me our device, “was the coolest” made my day.

Of course, while everything worked the numerous times we tried the device at home, during the reaction, some triggers needed to be manually pulled. As Arthur joked before the reaction, “Some devices get stage fright.”

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