Tuesday, December 27, 2005
Not long ago, I walked by the desk of software engineer JJ Furman, and saw that he had made an interesting addition to his desk: a large blob of Silly Putty, about the size of a grapefruit. Intrigued, I asked how he'd gotten so much of the stuff. The answer? A bulk order directly from the manufacturer! Of course.
I knew then that I wanted some, and it dawned on me that I probably wasn't the only one. So I set out to place a really, really big bulk order. An email went out to cohorts. Their orders came in. Three weeks later, I had an eighth of a ton of Silly Putty delivered to my desk.
Naturally, we were all curious to see what 250 pounds of Silly Putty would look like, so before distributing the stuff, we put it all in a single pile to see. Huge mistake.
The problem was that once together, Silly Putty doesn't like to come apart, and none of us had any idea of how to deal with this effect. We tried everything: very strong people (didn't work), scissors (stabbing worked, slicing didn't), 28-gauge steel wire (broke), 22-gauge steel wire (broke), 16-gauge steel wire (too thick), and twisting and breaking (worked well for "smaller" pieces -- under five pounds, that is.)
Two hours later, with the help of more than a dozen enthusiastic Googlers, everyone was finally able to walk away with a giant piece of Silly Putty.
And then what? Some people are giving it for holiday gifts. Others are using it to exercise their arms, play basketball (rebounds are tough), and of course, imprint entire newspaper pages.
Any regrets? Absolutely not.