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Eli Anderson
Eli Anderson

Mousetrap (Original)

Mouse Trap (originally Mouse Trap Game) is a board game first published by Ideal in 1963 for two to four players. It is one of the first mass-produced three-dimensional board games.[1] Players at first cooperate to build a working mouse trap in the style of a Rube Goldberg machine. Then, players turn against each other to trap opponents' mouse-shaped game pieces.

Mousetrap (Original)

How: This is the most complex of the "better" mousetraps. The idea is to lure an animal in and then put a bell around its neck. Then when the rat returns to its nest, it will scare away its fellow rats, effectively "exterminating" them.

That truth about invention is why business thinker Clayton Christensen's gospel about disruption rings true for a wide range of businesses, as well as plain old mousetraps: "Build a worse mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door."

To illustrate the concept of irreducibly complexity, Behe uses the common snap mousetrap. "If any one of the components of the mousetrap (the base, hammer, spring, catch, or holding bar) is removed, then the trap does not function. In other words, the simple little mousetrap has no ability to trap a mouse until several separate parts are all assembled. Because the mousetrap is necessarily composed of several parts, it is irreducibly complex." (Behe, 1996).

It is not my purpose here to point out all of the philosophical flaws in Behe's argument; this has been done thoroughly in many of the resources collected on John Catalano's excellent web page, "Behe's Empty Box." Instead, I wish to point out that the mousetrap that Behe uses as an analogy CAN be reduced in complexity and still function as a mousetrap. The mousetrap illustrates one of the fundamental flaws in the intelligent design argument: the fact that one person can't imagine somethingdoesn't mean it is impossible, it may just mean that the person has a limited imagination. Behe's evidence that biochemicalpathways are intelligently designed is that Behe can't imagine how theycould function without all of their parts, but given how easy it is toreduce the complexity of a mousetrap, I'm not convinced. (Of course,the reduced-complexity mousetraps shown below are intended to pointout the logical flaw in the intelligent design argument; they're notintended as an analogy of how evolution works.)

A five-part mousetrap. This is a snap mousetrap, shown ready tocatch a mouse. It has five main parts: a hammer, which kills the mouse; a spring, which snaps the hammer down on to the mouse; a hold-down bar, which holds the hammer in the cocked position; a catch, which holds the end of the hold-down bar and releases it when the mouse jiggles the catch; and a platform, to which everything else is attached. (The bait is not one of the "irreducible" parts of the mousetrap, since an unbaited trap will catch the occasional mouse that stumbles into the catch.)

A four-part mousetrap. The first step in reducing the complexityof a mousetrap is to remove the catch. The hold-down bar is then bent a little so that it will catch on the end of the hammer that protrudes out from the spring; this end of the hammer might need a little filing to make the action nice and delicate. I've made one of these by modifying aregular mousetrap, and just like the five-part mousetrap, it snaps withmouse-killing force when I jiggle thebait with a pencil.

A three-part mousetrap. The next step is to remove the hold-downbar and bend the hammer so that one end is resting right at the edge of the platform, holding the hammer up in the cocked position. This is not as good a mousetrap as the four-part mousetrap. It is difficult to put the hammer exactly on the edgeof the base, so a mouse-sized jiggle will cause it to snap. When itdoes snap the hammer hits the floor and sends the trap flying, possibly tossing the mouse to safety.But I've made one by modifying a regular mousetrap, and it snaps justas hard as a five-part trap.

A two-part mousetrap. The next step is to remove the hammer andbend the straight part of the spring to resemble the hammer of the three-part mousetrap. When I madeone of these, I didn't straighten any coils, so the gap is just big enoughfor a mouse'spaw or tail. A mouse would have to be pretty unlucky to get caught bythis trap. If you could straighten out a few coils of the spring (which is easier said than done--mousetrap springs are pretty tough), you could make a two-part trap that was basically the same as the three-part trap.

A one-part mousetrap. I can think of at least a couple ways to make a one-part mousetrap from the two-part mousetrap. One would be to remove the spring and spread glue on theplatform; you'd then have one of those barbaric glue traps that holds the mouse in place until it dies of thirst. The other way would be to straighten out afew coils of each end of the spring. One straight piece of the wire would thenbe bent so the end points up; the other piece of wire would come across andrestdelicately on the upraised point. I don't have the wire-bending skillsto make one of these, but if I did, I think the unlucky mouse that wasstanding under the top wire when it jiggled the trap would be just as dead as if it were killed by the much more complex five-part mousetrap.

There are several points at which the mousetrap can commonly fail. If not built level, or if kicked too hard, the marble can fall off the incline; it can also miss the chute if not properly aligned; the contact of the marble with the pole may fail to dislodge the ball above; the ball may fail to propel the diver into the tub; the movement of the tub may be insufficient to dislodge the cage; or the cage may get stuck on the barbed pole partway down.

In 2006, the game was re-released in the United Kingdom with a completely new design. There are now three mousetraps: the board and plastic components are completely different. The most obvious change is the addition of a model toilet at the top of the tallest part of the game. Another key difference is that all of the mousetrap is set up in advance of the game.

Innovators and inventors are often encouraged by the age-old axiom, "If you build a better mousetrap, the world will beat a path to your door." In 1882, before the modern spring-loaded mousetrap was invented, a man from Texas attempted to solve the world's pest problems with a pistol and a patent:

A description of how Williams' animal trap worked can be found on Google Patents. But thanks to Shawn Woods, a YouTuber who has been seeking out the world's best mousetraps for years, we can see this 1882 invention in action:

Unfortunately for Williams, another inventor found a way to "build a better mousetrap" a few years later. In 1894, a spring-loaded mousetrap resembling the traps used today was patented by William C. Hooker of Abingdon, Illinois.

Changing the length of a mouse trap's snapper (or lever arm) is how you control a mousetrap vehicle's acceleration and/or travel distance. Different lengths of lever arms can be used to increase and/or decrease the pulling force and change the amount of string that can be pulled off the drive axle. Changing the length of the lever arm does not change the total energy and/or the torque produced by the mouse trap but it does change the pulling force applied to the drive axle. Longer lever arms have less pulling force than shorter lever arm but longer lever arm pull more string from the drive axle than shorter lever arm. Changing the length of the mouse trap's lever arm is the number one way to control a mousetrap vehicles performance.

When selecting a lever arm it is important to think about the strength of the material you are selecting. Some materials are not strong enough to be used for long lever arms and will bend under the tension of the mouse trap's spring. If a lever arm bends under the tension of the mouse trap's spring valuable energy will be wasted long before the mousetrap vehicle even starts moving. If you look carefully at the mouse trap of a full wound mousetrap vehicle that has a bending lever arm you will notice that the mouse trap's spring is not fully compressed and therefore is not starting with all it's possible potential energy. In most cases brass tubing and brass brazing rods make excellent lever arms because of their high-strength and light-weight. Wood can also make for a very strong and light-weight lever arm if it is used properly (see making a super long lever arm). Coat hangers make poor lever arms because they tend to bend easily under tension and should be avoided. Some times you may discover after you have assembled your mousetrap vehicle that the lever arm is bending under tension in which case you should try to replace it with a different material.

bonus tip: a weak lever arm will bend under tension causing the mouse trap's spring to not fully compress. A weak lever arm will prevent a mousetrap car from starting with it's maximum possible energy. 041b061a72


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