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Perpetual Exercise Machine

Thanks to Micah, I got slightly hooked on a little Flash app he supplied a link to. The program allows you to draw various lines. When your drawing or course is complete, you press "Play", and a small character on a sled glides down the lined path you drew, with pathetically entertaining results.

Rather by accident I discovered that the physics, while they look mostly convincing, are rather flawed, even buggy. It is quite easy to create situations that cause the character to randomly jump or reverse direction in a nonsensical fashion. I found this far more entertaining than wasting my life away trying to perfect a course that would keep the rider on his sled.

My new game or challenge then became to see how long I could keep both the sled and the figure hopping and flipping about - in the smallest possible space. At first I drew a few lines, saw where the objects flew; drew more lines to catch the objects again and send them elsewhere; etc. This became a rather complex collection of various patches of messy globs of lines and slides. So in the end I decided to draw a little apparatus that would keep both bouncing objects in a captive area while keeping them in perpetual motion. I watched my model for several minutes and made slight adjustments to keep the figures captive and moving. I came up with a structure that appeared would keep both objects bouncing forever and left it going, recording the first 23 minutes or so. When I came back later, both figures had managed - against all odds - to find a resting place. So my model is not perfect, but I'd estimate it kept both objects in motion for a minimum of 30 to 40 minutes.

If anyone else wishes to try this challenge, draw a structure with the fewest possible lines that keeps both the rider and the sled bouncing around for as long as possible. If one or both stops moving or flies off the track, make an adjustment to keep it going. Note: small crevices and the "ends" of lines are what make the figure jump around randomly. I also found it more entertaining to leave small openings in my slides to create suspense. Several times the figures almost fly through the gaps, but they never seem to quite make it!

See my Line Rider video here

imperfect structure
Here's where my hopeful perpetual motion machine ended up after 30 or 40 minutes and many hundreds of bounces, slides and flips. It is still possible that either or both figures jump up again. I have seen movement after extended periods of time before. But alas this model is imperfect.

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