NASA engineers join forces with rock band OK Go

OK Go bassist Timothy Nordwind, after being thoroughly slimed by NASA

OK Go bassist Timothy Nordwind, after being thoroughly slimed by NASA

You may have seen the music video for OK Go’s song “This Too Shall Pass.” But what you probably don’t know is that the amazing, extended Rube Goldberg device that is its centerpiece was partly designed by a few engineers and staffers at NASA’ Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

JPL engineers Mike Pauken and Heather Knight, planetary scientist Eldar Noe Dobrea, and intern Chris Becker joined forces with Syyn Labs, a group of engineers who “twist together art and technology” and were tapped to build OK Go’s machine. The results — featuring dominos, a falling piano, a Mars rover, and a TV showing the band’s “treadmill” video, all perfectly synchronized with the catchy song — took months to design and build, and required more than 60 takes to go off without a hitch.

NASA posted a great interview with the four earlier this week, in which they go into some of the behind-the-scenes shenanigans and challenges. (For instance, the small items were some of the hardest to pull off correctly, because even dust can throw off the timing of their chain reactions.) Their creativity and sense of humor helps show why NASA continually ranks among the best places to work in the government.

Oh, and don’t listen to the trolls griping on the NASA page about it being a waste of tax dollars. The engineers did it all on their own time and with materials provided by the band, or collected from junkyards and thrift stores. Anyone who finds something to criticize in this video has no soul.



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