"scissor bucket"

Underwater Basket Weaving: the real story

We've all heard "Underwater Basket Weaving" used as a synonym for easy, impractical college courses. Turns out that underwater basket weaving is challenging, rewarding, and offered by at least two American universities: UCSD, and Saint Joseph's College Indiana. So whence the joke about UBW?
The earliest reference to the term that I could find, searching on Newspaper Archive, was May 9, 1960. The author of a Pasadena Independent trivia column noted that "Son Herbert reports that underwater basket weaving is all the rage among college students who want to spare the brain cells." So evidently the joke had been well established by 1960. I would guess the origin of the term dates to the late 1950s. Did the joke start after a college actually began offering this course? I don't know, but it seems possible.
Underwater Basket Weaving (via Making Light)

(Image: Soaking_reeds_for_basket_weaving.gif, Wikimedia Commons/Charlotte Coats) Hiaasen's BASKET CASE: hilarious mystery novel about the *last ... iBasket: laundry basket of the future also washes ... Rigged carny game: The Scissor Bucket Basket Case Insurer Gets $170 Billion from Taxpayers, Still Pays ... How the "scissor bucket" (a rigged carny game) works Armadillo armored bread-basket Read the rest

How the "scissor bucket" (a rigged carny game) works

Every once in a while I get an angry email from someone who stumbles across this old Boing Boing post about the scissor bucket carny game. The emailer tells me that carny games aren't rigged and that the games are purely skill-based. When I reply with photos from MAKE that show the fraudulent gimmick inside the scissor bucket, they sometimes write back again with a foul-mouthed diatribe about how I ought to be ashamed of myself for revealing the secrets of carnivals. (The emails died down somewhat after I updated my post with photos of the hidden gimmick).

Here's the article, from MAKE Vol. 13 (our magic tricks issue) which was published a couple of years ago. You can still buy a copy from makezine.com.

(I was reminded of this when Matthew Gryczan, author of a cool book called Carnival Secrets, got in touch with me about an how-to for Make he is writing. It's not a carnival game, but it is something really nifty involving a gyroscope.)

Scissor bucket carnival game exposed in MAKE Read the rest

Rigged carny game -- Scissor Bucket secret revealed! (with videos)

Yesterday I posted some photos of an old carnival game that belongs to a woman named Marsee who works at O'Reilly. She inherited it from her grandfather, who was a carny and owned the recieved the game as a gift, but never used it. (He was an honest carny, like most are.)

About 200 people emailed me with their ideas on how this game was rigged. Today, one of Make's interns, Ty Nowotny, took the game apart and revealed its secret: a cylinder with damping material.

(Click on thumbnail for enlargement) When the carny wants to demonstrate how easy it is to throw a ball into the basket and have it drop through the hole, he reaches into the catching apron and pushes the green fabric tacked to the backboard, which makes the cylinder flush against the backboard. Then he tosses the ball into the basket. The cylinder absorbs the ball's energy, so the ball does not bounce out of the basket, but instead drops through the hole.

(Click on thumbnail for enlargement) The very act of throwing the ball against the backboard causes the damping cylinder drop away. Now, when it's the rube's turn, the ball bounces right out of the basket. Here's a photo of the game (the real name is a "Scissors Box") with the back panel removed, revealing the mechanism.

Here are two videos of the thing in action. The first one shows balls bouncing out of it like crazy; the second one shows how the mechanism operates. Read the rest

Rigged carny game: The Scissor Bucket

This weekend I looked at a ball toss carnival game from the 1930s. It belongs to a woman who works at O'Reilly (publishers of Make). She got it from her grandfather who used it in carnivals in the 1930s and 1940s.

It's a rigged game, because there is some kind of mechanism in it that the operator can secretly activate, which all but ensures the ball will bounce out of the bucket when the mark tosses it in. We were going to take the thing apart to see if we could discover the mechanism, but this was during O'Reilly's annual Foo Camp and so there were so many other exciting things happening that we forgot to disassemble it.

Carnys call these "alibi games," because the operator uses a long litany of excuses to keep the mark from giving up in disgust, and encouraging him to dig more money out of his wallet and try "just one more time" to win a stuffed animal that his girlfriend doesn't even really want.

Does anyone know how this game works? I'm wondering if there might not even be a mechanism -- maybe the carny just secretly switched between different balls: a soft one that thudded against the backboard and dropped through the win hole, and a hard one that bounced off the backboard.

UPDATE: SECRET REVEALED! We took the machine apart and took photos and a video of the mechanism. I also wrote about it in Make magazine. Email me if you know the answer and I'll post it here. Read the rest