Yesterday I discovered an online game that has consumed my every free moment, plus maybe a few not-so-free moments that should have been spent working instead. "Fantastic Contraption" is the perfect pastime for any former (or current) science-ish nerd whose imagination was fired by Tinkertoys and Erector Sets--in other words, me.
The game provides basic components--wheels that spin clockwise and counterclockwise, a couple of different types of connecting rods--that you use to construct all the ramps, bridges, cars, tanks, crawlers and trebuchets needed to convey a small pink object to a target. The online version has a good tutorial and 21 levels that get pretty tough. Luckily, when you get frustrated with a level, you can see how hundreds of other people solved it. The range of really clever solutions that work for each level is astounding. It's fun to see how someone else invented a way to make these simple pieces operate in ways you'd never imagine and then adapt it for yourself.
Of course, once I got through the game once, I found myself going back and redoing favorite levels, trying to find either easier solutions or ridiculously more complicated ones. The thumbnails below link to two of my favorite creations so far, both levels I completed relatively easily at first and then returned to repeat with style. (After clicking the link, hit "Play" then "Continue" and "Start." In testing the links, I noticed that the connection is a little iffy. If it doesn't work, try it later.) I like the first one for its simplicity and the second for its completely unnecessary complexity.
If you find your will as weak as mine and the next several days pass in a haze of levers, pulleys and cams, I apologize.