Tim Fort's work fell somewhere between science and art. Appropriately, he sometimes introduced it while wearing a lab coat and safety goggles — encrusted with little plastic jewels.
Working with objects as simple as colored popsicle sticks and plastic cups, Fort rigged up intricate Rube Goldberg installations with each carefully laid piece triggering the next element's movement. They took hours to design and build, and were destroyed, beautifully, in a matter of seconds.
Fort held, and then broke, Guinness World records that previously had not even existed. His videos were watched millions of times online, and in 2011, he made a run to the semifinals of the NBC show America's Got Talent.
Fort died earlier this month at age 51, according to the Pioneer Press, which reports that he'd suffered a series of strokes. The paper's obituary notes Fort's circuitous career path, from aerospace engineering student at the University of Minnesota to an unrelated data-entry job with the state.
His art pieces were occasionally featured in local gallery and museum exhibits. But now — and, with his sudden passing, forever — his work can be appreciated online. Here are 10 great videos from Fort's long, peacefully destructive career of setting stuff up and making it fall down.
1.) Guinness World Record for stick-bomb. Fort perfected the art of the "stick bomb," wedging slightly bent Popsicle sticks against one another so they don't just fall. They "explode." Here, he sets the new world record, breaking his own, for the biggest stick bomb ever set in motion.
2.) The beginning. This lengthy, often grainy film reel was Fort's first upload to Youtube, some nine years ago.
3.) Fort auditions for America's Got Talent.
4.) Fort flames out in the quarterfinals. Note the self-deprecating title he himself gave the video, calling it the worst fail EVER on the show.
5.) ...and his triumphant return that same season.
6.) How to do a 'herringbone.'
7.) "Frenetic Kinetics!": a four-and-a-half minute epic. Watch for the suspenseful, ingenious transition at around 1:25.
8.) Bomb-O-Rama. Sometimes, Fort used his sticks, cups, and dominoes to enact some sort of plot. This video ain't that. In this highlight reel, Fort compiles a series of quick-hitter "stick bombs" exploding, and taking everything with them. Some videos are sped up for effect, others are run in slow motion. All are mesmerizing.
9.) Home movies. In a sad twist, Fort's YouTube page had recently taken a personal and nostalgic turn, as he began uploading a series of movies that seem to have been filmed by the young Fort. This one, which features childhood scenes of his family and friends, also shows an interest in a kind of choreographed stop-motion action, and was uploaded just two weeks ago.
10.) At the Family Museum in Iowa. This collection of tricks is far from the most complex, or most visually spectacular things Fort ever did. But it's a fitting close for this collection, as it shows the effect his spellbinding works had on their target audience: kids, and the lucky adults who never grew out of their fascination with putting things together and taking them apart. No one's enjoying it more than Fort himself.