32" x 18" x 8-1/2" H (2008)
Mouse-powered chopper motorcycle may inspire future low-carbon personal transportation.
Composition: 1/4" copper tubing, rolls of tape, Altoid tin, watches, Tanquery cap, toy mouse, fake (balsa) cheese, sheet plastic, button, leather, clock gears, chain.
For those of you who are mechanically ignorant, I'll go over the transmission of power in this mean motor scooter. 1. Mouse sees the cheese. 2. Mouse wants the cheese. 3. Mouse runs after the cheese, spinning the Rodent Reactive Rotator (RRR). 4. RRR turns the drive gear, pulling the drive chain around the driven gear. 5. Driven gear turns the rear tire in an explosion of anti-social fury and smoke. 6. Machine heads out on the highway.
I built the frame of this from 1/4" soft copper tubing, for bendability and ease of soldering. This was one of those deals where all the engineering was interdependent and the overall form couldn't be determined until all the pieces were in place. This means that I was working from nothing but a sketch and constantly wondering where to put the bends, where to put the struts, how much rake would this give me, how much room that would give me. Then there was the problem of building symmetrical pairs (left side, right side), knowing that 1/8" deviation would make the whole frame cattywampus and the wheels wouldn't go on straight. So I went through a lot of copper tubing.
The mouse was the determining element in this piece. Everything flowed from the mouse. The rotator had to be mouse size. The driving gear had to be rotator size. (Like most people, I have a footlocker full of antique wind-up clock parts and gears, nearly all of which are prettier than mechanically required. See ANT FARM 220.127.116.11. sub-head WHY BOTHER for a fascinating and soul-enriching diatribe on this very subject.) The rear tire had to be driven gear size. The frame... you get the idea.
If you go looking for these fake mice you will find that they are all over, in many stores where you wouldn't expect them. There is also great variation in color and quality. So there must be many fake mouse factories in foreign countries or a very big factory with different product lines. It may be useful (in appreciation of global diversity) to imagine a conversation between a couple of sweatshop employees in this field.
People's Heroic Worker #1: Do you ever wonder what happens to all these fake mice we assemble?
People's Heroic Worker #2: No. I just try to make my quota.
People's Heroic Worker #1: Yes, me too, but where do all the mice go?
People's Heroic Worker #2: (after glancing left and right) Our Gallant Supervisor Dieu Wakka Dieu says the Americans buy them to give to their capitalistic cats.
People's Heroic Worker #1: Ah so. Confucius say a plump cat is more desirable than a skinny one (smacks lips) but how can the feeding of fake mice achieve this achievement? (Note: some translations may appear redundant to the Western mind.)
People's Heroic Worker #2: Surely this is an American mystery. They are inscrutable.
People's Heroic Worker #1: Indeed so. And don't call me Shirley.