I can’t think of a way to relate this to physics, but it’s just too cool not to share. In New York City there is an artist named Kacie Kinzer. She created small cardboard robots that can do precisely one thing – roll forward continuously. Well, that and look cute.
Attached to these robots is a flag saying “Help me!” and a description of these robots’ predicament. They’re trying to get to a particular destination but can’t, by virtue of the fact that they have no brains or steering. And they were successful:
Over the course of the following months, throughout numerous missions, the Tweenbots were successful in rolling from their start point to their far-away destination assisted only by strangers. Every time the robot got caught under a park bench, ground futilely against a curb, or became trapped in a pothole, some passerby would always rescue it and send it toward its goal. Never once was a Tweenbot lost or damaged. Often, people would ignore the instructions to aim the Tweenbot in the “right” direction, if that direction meant sending the robot into a perilous situation. One man turned the robot back in the direction from which it had just come, saying out loud to the Tweenbot, “You can’t go that way, it’s toward the road.”
I don’t have a tremendous amount of faith in people, but it’s pretty heartwarming to know that people will stop to help a little lost cardboard robot.
There’s plenty of social science implications one could draw. Would they stop to help a lost homeless man? Or a lost child? Or a lost dog? Maybe. If I had to guess, the robots had such success because there’s no ambiguity. A lost person may react unpredictably or not want help in the first place. But with the robots there’s no question. Either you help or the poor thing will sit there and bang against an obstacle forever. Well, that and the fact that the darn things are so cute.
It’s a clever and charming experiment, and certainly one of the most interesting I’ve seen recently in the world of “unofficial” science.