In my twenties I designed a perpetual motion device that works perfectly . . . in the future.

And by that I mean the device requires in one of its parts a type of material that did not yet exist but I imagined someday would. That imagined material would have three properties:
  1. Thin (perhaps 1/16 of an inch, or anywhere in that range.)
  2. Must block or substantially reduce a magnetic field
  3. Must not itself be attracted or repelled by a natural magnet
The third point is the hard one. There are "shielding" materials for magnetic fields but the shields themselves are influenced by magnets.

Every few years I like to check in with my smarter-than-me readers and ask if some new development in materials science has gotten us there yet.

You don't need to tell me perpetual motion violates the rules of physics. I know that. No lectures needed.

But if the rules of physics disallow perpetual motion, they also disallow any future discovery of the material I described, because having that material would allow me to build my device.

So I'm just checking in to see if anyone knows of a newly developed material that meets my criteria. If you do, you are about to change the world.

(Regular readers know I like to use irrational optimism as a feel-good strategy for the moist robot container that you refer to as Scott. That's what this is.)


Scott Adams

Co-Founder of CalendarTree (the simple way to add lengthy schedules to your calendar)

Author of the best graduation gift ever
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Apr 4, 2014
Much as I believe in thermo, I think Kingfisher's comment is also misinformed. Perpetual motion machines are forbidden by the laws of thermo, yeah. But those laws aren't really fundamental in the sense of being derived from quantum mechanics or something -- they're just fundamental in the sense of being earthy and observational. There;s not really a theory behind them. Why is energy conserved? Well, because it _is_. Why does entropy increase? Because, in every physical process we've been able to observe, it _does_, and, man, we've observed an awful lot of stuff on an awful lot of scales. Now, to me that makes them even more solid, and that's why Einstein said that he felt like those laws alone would never be overthrown -- they aren't _derived_ from anything (let alone "inferred"), they just _are_ (now, there are statistical arguments why they might be the way they are, but those arguments hinge on other physics, and in some ways on thermo itself). So I mean, you _could_ find something that just sort of overthrows them. You won't, but you _could_. It's not magical thinking, anmd if you design a perpetual motion machine then you've upset a lot. Me, I don't think you can do it, and I would be disinclined to waste my time on it.
Apr 4, 2014
Kieselguhr_Kid: ****ing magnets. How do THEY work?
Apr 4, 2014
Firstly, every wackadoodle perpetual motion machine design I've ever seen involves magnets for the reason that it can be tricky to rally understand or calculate their forces. So there's nothing new.

Secondly, I don't get Telnis' comment, which seems to be wrong. Most dielectrics, like say wood sitting on your desk, don't feel any net charge from a magnetic field. _Currents_ are affected by magnets. But a moving idelectric has no net current.

Lastly, the material you propose is sort of obviously not possible. Look; imagine a wall made of the material. On the one side there's all kinds of magnetic field. On the other side, because the material kills it by condition (2), there is none. Well, we know magnetic fields have energy. So the wall gets pulled into the field. Anything that meets condition (2) fails condition (3).
Apr 4, 2014
Did you listen to yourself?

[But if the rules of physics disallow perpetual motion, they also disallow any future discovery of the material I described, because having that material would allow me to build my device.]

That's really all you need to know. The rule against perpetual motion is directly inferred from the fundamental laws of physics. The discovery of such a material would shake the foundations of everything we think we know about the universe. To say it would be revolutionary would be an understatement.

The notion that such a material could possibly exist is an example of magical thinking that you so often deride here. Stop it.

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Apr 4, 2014
Scott, whether made of matter or antimatter, all materials are composed of electrons/positions and protons/whatever-the-opposite-of-positrons-are. Those have electric charges, which means they are affected by magnetism. It is impossible for the material you describe to exist.
Apr 4, 2014
I have no problem accepting the idea that something like a perpetual motion machine may somehow be possible. I am sceptical of anyone claiming to have actually made one, but cant help thinking that some clever application of what is known about the laws of nature could be found to make something that looks like it on the surface but gets its energy from something clever. Like these guys who made a light that emits more light than the power put into it: http://www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/2012-03/09/230-percent-efficient-leds ; that may turn out to be wrong on further examination but it seems like it could be possible.

Nevertheless, Scott, I think you're on the wrong track here. I just dont see a material that blocks magnetic fields and is unaffected by them being possible.
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