Escher's impossible waterfall as Rube Goldberg device

This mysterious video from YouTube user McWolles showcases a Rube Goldberg device that replicates MC Escher's famous self-replenishing waterfall. Forced perspective at its finest!



  1. That is completely awesome. It reminded me of Inception, except there was no one explaining how it worked while dodging machine gun fire.

  2. Very cool. I’d love to know how it was done. But I wouldn’t really call it a “Rube Goldberg device”.

    1. Maybe we could get the guy to do another video, explaining how it worked? Preferably while dodging machine gun fire.

  3. Clearly the wheel is not truly mounted where it appears to be mounted.

    It makes me wonder if I could replicate it with legos.

  4. Half the YouTube comments are declaring it CGI, on the basis of the shadows looking wrong. Given this is an ‘impossible’ structure, I’m more inclined to see the odd shadows as a hint of how the thing is actually built.

  5. This is a Penrose Stair illusion. Probably done like the box in this video:

    Also, the wheel and water flow sure looks like it was altered (cgi?). And there might be some looping of the clip to make the water appear to continue flowing.

  6. “A Rube Goldberg machine or device is a deliberately over-engineered machine that performs a very simple task in a very complex fashion, usually including a chain reaction”

    Just sayin.

  7. It’s all done in camera. The ramps recede to the back of the garage, then disappear into a pump that outputs it up the columns in the foreground and over a lip above the wheel. The lip lines up perfectly with the wheel below.

    Watch him walk past it and see which parts fall behind his shadow and which don’t.

    Case closed. No magic, no CGI or Photoshop (lol). Just great manufacturing and forced perspective.

    1. I actually think that the break is at the third turn. At about 0:50 you can see his shadow passing in front of the right tower and NOT over the ramp betweet the third and fourth turn.

  8. when he walks across in front of the contraption his shadow only covers part of it – it may be CGI but it also has a lot to do with the angle of the camera and the design of the Escher thingy-do

  9. I have no idea how it was done, but that won’t stop me from wildly speculating that it was CGI-rendered forced perspective magnetised goldfish!

  10. Something about the way he looks into the camera at the beginning, and the way he sits and watches it — not to mention the impossibility — makes me think that it’s all completely bogus.

  11. My guess is that the water pouring down onto the wheel isn’t falling off the end of the ramp, they just have some device to start water coming down from a position that looks the same (from our perspective) as the end of the ramp at the same moment the water reaches the end of the ramp (and drains off somewhere we don’t see). i.e. basically what judonerd said, although I suspect there’s no need for a pump going from the end of the ramp to a position above the wheel, it’d be easier just to have water pumped from a separate hidden source (and someone could use a remote to start the pump just as the water is reaching the end of the ramp).

  12. I’m a fan of Penn & Teller’s version of the 3 cups magic trick; they use clear plastic cups and tell you how the trick is done, and I’m still amazed at just how good they are. It’s not the mystery that makes their act great. It’s the skill.

    So I don’t understand why someone who clearly did a lot of work to set up this illusion wouldn’t show off their work. The side view wouldn’t make me love it any less. And would probably make others (cough CGI cough) like it more.

    1. I’ve always been this way too. Knowing how someone decived me is far more intriguing than not knowing yet knowing i am being deceived.

  13. Because of the thrill they get of creating a mystery that others can solve? The point of painting is not to highlight the tiny methods you use to make a scene belivable in colour and form (its just color on a canvas, a flat shape that your brain turns into a pciture of reality after all). Same here perhaps. His interest was to build and show it, what other thinks or not is not as important.

  14. A YouTube commenter points out that the 3rd pole from the left is clearly not vertical. If you focus on this for a minute, the construction starts to make a lot more sense.

  15. the phrase “a rube goldberg machine” automatically puts me off reading or seeing anything preceded/announced by it. Not because I think these contraptions aren’t interesting, but because the sheer laziness of not even trying to think of a better term just pisses me off.

  16. I’m sure this is all practical, without CGI. This guy is riffing on a Japanese professor’s work, Kokichi Sugahara at the Meiji institute. He’s got a couple of videos posted that show how these illusions are produced, and was profiled on NPR not long ago. This video is fairly short: but this one is 13 minutes long and has a mind-blowing number of different illusions:

  17. There is clearly a cut at 46 seconds in. THis is when the liquid hits the back of the forced perspective and gets pumped back to the front of the device. The pump probably takes a second to catch up after a liquid arrives at the resevour in the back. and the probably cut out a few seconds when it might have looked obvious that the water was pooling up at that corner.

    I think that is the only trick other than the forced perspective

  18. Neat. My take is that:
    1.) The surface that the water flow upon zig zags along the floor to the far corner where it flow into a hidden resevoir along the diagonal hidden by the middle pole of the left tower.
    2.) The left tower consists to the left two pillars the forward wall of the channel where the water moves to the left, and left triangle and spout of the highest level (fed from a hidden pump, and timed to coincide with the arrival of the poured water) Notice how his shadow passes over the front of the channel, but NOT the surface that the water passes over (since it is in the distance) Notice also how the water moves more quickly OUT from behind the middle pilar of the left tower than it was flowing behind it.
    3. I THINK that the right tower ALSO has the forward wall of the channel. I’m pretty sure that the left pillar of the second level of the right tower is NOT part of the tower but is instead attached to the trough as is receeds to the far corner of the room.

    Figuring out how it is done isn’t meant to diminsh the acheivment in any way. I’m surprised that it could be done this well.

  19. watch the bucket in the foreground. the water sloshes around a lot longer than it should. it seems to slow and then just keeps sloshing. I have no idea what this means but it looks a little odd to me.

  20. Wait, there is digital editing. Around 50 seconds if you watch his shadow accross the back wall, it never moves through the pillars of the right hand tower. They must be obsruring something at that interstection. Probably a second sources of liquid.

  21. There are no pumps or CGI in place here, there is a terrific use of forced perspective. This has more to do with the dual nuts illusion than anything else.

    The first ramp is almost coming right at you, the second ramp is tilted somewhere around 30 degrees, and so it the third.

    What actually makes the water appear to be coming down is the force built up as it travels the ramps. Eventually, that water is just going to pool at the ‘top’ and stop pouring.

    The real tell is the amount of water he puts into the container and the time spent viewing it. If he were to put more in there, it would be splashing over the top and destroy the illusion. You would be able to see it coming through the pillars at odd angles, which would also show the rigging for the illusion.

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