Yesterday I made the mistake of entering the search term "perpetual motion" at youtube.com. Then I lost an hour of my life looking at videos claiming to make perpetual motion engines out of natural magnets. These videos fascinate me because I presume they are all fake. It seems to me that if any of these devices worked I wouldn't have to hunt around on youtube to find them. I'd already have one in the garage charging my electric car. So what is up with these videos?

One theory is that all of the inventors started out seriously trying to build perpetual motion machines, realized at some point they couldn't do it, and decided to salvage something out of the effort by making fake videos and getting some attention.

Another theory is that the so-called inventors never intended to do anything but create fake videos. But it sure seems like a lot of work for that. That option seems unlikely to me.

Lastly, we must entertain the possibility that the laws of physics have some sort of loophole, inventors sometimes find it, and the big corporations send around hit men every time it happens. That's why you never see the invention beyond youtube.com or some local news show. But that seems unlikely too. So it remains a mystery.

As I was googling around on this topic, I discovered that there is an element called gadolinium that is attracted to magnets up to about room temperature, then it abruptly loses its attraction . It seems to me you could build a generator using that principle. All you need is an external source of heat, and not much of it, to power the thing. A natural magnet could attract the gadolinium, which creates some mechanical energy, and some portion of that energy could be used to introduce heat from the outside that makes the gadolinium non-magnetic and puts the device back to its original position. Some of that energy from the return trip would turn off the outside heat source and the process repeats forever. It would only operate at about room temperature, but that's still pretty nifty. The inside of my house, for example, is always at about room temperature, so there is no shortage of that environment.

Yeah, I know, someone probably already invented it.
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May 30, 2008
The problem with a matrix-like device is that for those animals to generate energy, you have to feed them. That's a big flaw with the matrix. You spend a lot of energy feeding these people. People can eat other people, sure, but they reproduce a lot slower than they eat, and it takes the energy of several dead people to create one new person, because creating a new person isn't perfectly efficient.

You could try this thing with the atom that loses attraction, but it wouldn't really be perpetual motion unless you can absorb every last bit of heat and use it as electricity, which is not physically possible for reasons I don't quite understand.
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May 22, 2008
Well, I went through the bother of registering, so I might as well comment.

Seems to me the Matrix witers gave us a good solution. Only we can't use people (that would be wrong) but what's the problem with hooking millions of, say, chickens or wolverines up to the grid and tapping their bio-electrical energy. Now that cloning seems to be a simple matter (seems there's a new headline every day on the Drudge Report about a new breakthrough) we just set up a system like the AI world had in the movie and plug in our air conditioners.

It would be much simpler because the virtual world we would need to generate for the chickens would need only to include a nice virtual baryard, some virtual chicken feed and a virtual studly rooster or two.
+3 Rank Up Rank Down
May 22, 2008
not that your saving-the-world blogs are bad...but its been long since u wrote something with turd in it :(
-1 Rank Up Rank Down
May 22, 2008
sorry thermodynamics (I told you I wasn't a physicist!)
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
May 22, 2008
As others have mentioned, the sun is an external source of energy that is usually the explanation for "perpetual motion". I once read an article that claimed the evolution did not conform to the third law of thermal dynamics (i.e. it demonstrated negative entropy). I'm not a physicist, but I discussed this with a a friend who is and he thought for a bit an then gave the explanation that the sun was providing the external source of power and so the claim was false.
May 22, 2008
You could use the collected hot air created by people coming up with creative responses to your blogs. Like someone mentioned, it's not free energy, but we (I include myself in this obviously as I am responding) have an excess we can share. Cartoonists/bloggers can then bask in the warmth created by his readers, stimulating more blog's that will create more hot air, that will warm the cartoonist. and so on, so forth...perpetual!
-1 Rank Up Rank Down
May 21, 2008
There's an interesting thread running here at http://www.overunity.com/index.php?topic=4540.0
Lots of rhetoric and personal abuse but the underlying premise and ideas are very interesting.
Suceed or fail, it's great reading.
May 21, 2008
It should be noted that (at least according to Wikipedia) Scott has misrepresented the properties of Gadolinium.

Gadolinium is attracted to magnets at all temperatures. Below room temperature it is ferromagnetic - that is, it will become magnetic itself in the presence of a magnetic field. At room temperature it is paramagnetic, which means it won't become magnetic itself but will still be attracted to the magnet.

The Wikipedia article doesn't say whether the strength of the attraction varies significantly as it changes from ferromagnetic to paramagnetic, but on the grounds of conservation of energy I'd guess that it doesn't.

The other fact that would mess with the machine proposed is that Gadolinium heats up when exposed to a magnetic field, and cools when removed from one. I can't quite figure out off the top of my head what this does to Scott's design, but it's probably significant.
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
May 21, 2008
I agree with acmorton's comment, which says:

"You missed one possible (if not likely) explanation for the number of people who claim to have invented perpetual motion machines: They don't understand their system (or the environment, or the underlying physics) well enough to actually know if it's doing what they think it is."

I would go one step further and say that most of this group is simply deluded, and, moreover, that this constitutes the majority of perpetual motion claims out there. This is consistent with Hanlon's razor: "Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity"

May 21, 2008
Perpetual motion sounds like more trouble than it's worth. Just put on a sweater. Or open a window. And enjoy the room temperature. :)
May 21, 2008
A water-wheel is an example of a "perpetual energy" machine. The water-wheel sits in the river. Water moving downhill moves the wheel which can power a generator. Eventually the water reaches the ocean, where some of it is evaporates, floats back to the mountain-top, rains, and returns to the river.

As long as the sun continues to function and the river continues to exist, the water-wheel will generate perpetual energy.
May 21, 2008
There are without question various devices which can be made to carry on in a seemingly continuous fashion. The issue isn't whether they aren't continuous motion devices (they aren't)- if they'll continue to operate for a long perios of time, perhaps they can still be useful- it's a laundry list of other issues.

cost of special materials such as "gadolinium" or special ceramic magnets (which tend to shatter a lot)- not only does the cost to purchase these count, the energy that went into producing them does, too.

negligible amount of energy created by such a device

inconsistent results, maintenance costs, etc

Wikipedia and several other sources have mind-bendingly long and uninteresting articles on perpetual motion and why they don't work and never will, but these are the reasons I took away from what I read.
-1 Rank Up Rank Down
May 21, 2008
Did anyone else ever notice something odd being filtered/flagged? M i l e s, !$%*!$ mile (singular) seems to have had its characters changed to !$%*!. 5280 feet. 1.6 km. That was just odd.
+3 Rank Up Rank Down
May 21, 2008
What is bad are actual inventions that WORK and get ignored!!!

The only link I can still find on it:

Where 2 high school students align an array of peltier coolers to use in a car's air conditioner. Non pollutant AC, requires LESS gasoline (alternator & electricity rather than a compressor which taps energy directly from the engine).

When the article was written in 2005...."...the country stands to save 3.9 billion gallons of fuel annually, or about $10 billion based on current gas prices." That is now more like $15.6 billion (at our new $4/gallon prices). That was also in 2005 and the estimates of gasoline consumption are likely much larger now.

The fun part is that such a device does work -- many high end computers use them. When the first auto AC's were developed, peltier technology was not practical nor available (we didn't even have computers back then).

Someone needs to invest in this thing and improve our !$%*! per gallon!

Can you imagine how efficient it would be if it were modified for a house!?
May 21, 2008
Obviously you have not seen the dozen dunking birds attached to a crankshaft, or you wouldn't still be searching for a source of free power. Mad Magazine had a blueprint long ago.

A harnessed Crookes radiometer is always a good bet as well. These actually run but unfortunately turn the wrong way, as far as the theory is concerned. They're kept off the market out of embarrassment. They look scientific but run backwards.

The dunking birds however are obviously just toys, and need no theoretical justification.
May 21, 2008
I'm an experimental physicist, so let me explain how these things work, Scott:

Your device sounds brilliant on the surface. If I weren't familiar with the laws of conservation of energy, and if I'd never delved into perpetual motion machines, I'd be more than willing to give it a shot.

But, if you tried to invent it, you'd find that it actually took more energy to heat up gadolinium when it's magnetized than when it's not. As a matter of fact, the extra energy it would require would probably end up being exactly the amount you got out when it moved from its far-away position to its close-to-the-magnet position.

I don't know anything about gadolinium, but here's how I'd imagine it works: let's construct a gadolinium model that's basically a grid of 100 bar magnets, 10x10, each of them able to pivot around their position on the grid. When they're all not moving (ie, low temperature), they tend to align. When they are all moving (high temperature = high kinetic energy), they're just spinning around at random.

Unfortunately, when you add an additional, strong, external field, you'll have to add that much MORE kinetic energy just to get them to break free from being all aligned so that you can pull them away without having to fight the external magnetic field as much.

I realize I'm all old and cynical, but I'm still bitter that my perpetual motion machine I designed as an undergrad didn't work. It involved warming the air inside of a balloon, turning a turbine as it rose, waiting for it to cool, letting it drop, and repeating the process.

+4 Rank Up Rank Down
May 21, 2008
Scott - Can we get a stripped down, fully texty version of this blog. Some of us need to pretend we're working for a living, you know. I'll look at the comic ads and whatnot at home - promise.
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
May 21, 2008
Perpetual motion can't have a sustaining energy source. This machine is relying on temperature differential; provided by either an energy source used to cool or heat the room, or the sun warming the outside air. The planets revolving around the sun are not a perpetual motion machine, but our solar system seems to be one. Increasing the efficiency of some source of energy is as good as it will get. You may call this a perpetual motion machine, just as you may call a spade a diamond.
May 21, 2008
TripleBee beat me to it. Any room I''ve ever been in has always been room temperature. Case closed.

Rita Mae
May 21, 2008
You missed one possible (if not likely) explanation for the number of people who claim to have invented perpetual motion machines: They don't understand their system (or the environment, or the underlying physics) well enough to actually know if it's doing what they think it is. A lot of the so-called "free energy" devices are really just harnessing less-than-obvious sources, usually background heat. Not that there's anything inherently wrong with that; just don't claim it's free.
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