The impossible tutorial for perpetual motion
Published 26 April 2016 by Nicolas Barrial
Science amateurs have been fantasizing about perpetual motion machines for centuries. In theory, they should keep running until the end of time. In practice, not one of them does. DIY projects (doomed to fail) in review.
Theoretically, a perpetual motion machine should keep running until the Big Freeze. By that time, the expanding universe will have consumed all its thermodynamic energy, and what’s more, it will be freezing cold. But in order to succeed, the machine should be free of friction, run in a vacuum chamber and be totally silent (as sound equates to energy loss). The idea has inspired and boggled many budding scientists—from 1860 to 2000, no less than 1,800 perpetual motion patents were filed worldwide. And the list goes on! Here are a few DIY machines in review (for inspiration?).
Designed in 1150 by the Indian mathematician Bhāskara II, who wanted to build an abstraction, this wheel has inspired all the attempts that have followed. Its friendly look, comeplete with test tube extremities, attracts tinkerers, especially those who make the Meccano version.
Leonardo da Vinci’s Overbalanced Wheel
Leonardo da Vinci tried his hand at perpetual motion, and without losing his genius status (he wanted to prove that it was impossible). His overbalanced wheel remains THE most popular perpetual motion machine on DIY and 3D printing sites.
The Visual Education Project website, launched by a Canadian professor “for tomorrow’s engineers, inventors and scientists” offers a well-documented section on perpetual motion.
He presents this tilting tray, built based on a U.S. patent filed in 1868:
First seen in 2016 on YouTube, this see-saw balance and its golf-ball weights has made its way around the Web. Also signed Visual Education Project, the video lasts only 1.5 minutes. Apparently buzz and perpetuity go hand-in-hand.
Robert Boyle’s Self-Filling Flask
Designed in the 17th century by the Irish scientist Robert Boyle, this closed circuit through a flask and a tube should refill till eternity! Except that it doesn’t. Parody channel Munchausen TV, dedicated to “pseudo science” and “non-patented inventions” offers a variant… with beer.
Other perpetual motion machines built based on old patents on Visual Education Project