Tuesday, 10 July 2007

Perpetual Motion

I'm feeling inspired to indulge in some nerdy ranting . . . all because some guys popped up last week promoting a public demonstration of their new perpetual motion machine, The Orbo.

High hopes and a great name, but sadly the demonstration didn't eventuate.

Not that I'm accusing them of plagiarism or anything, but it looks similar to the Bessler Wheel. That particular device has a fascinating history. At almost 300 years, this thing is the centre of one of the oldest conspiracy theories still under serious discussion.

The idea of getting free energy from a mechanical device has fascinated inventors for thousands of years. The general idea is that you start your machine running, and the energy produced by the machine's motion is enough to (a) keep the machine running and (b) have a bit left over to do something useful.

The problem is that a true perpetual motion machine would violate the first law of thermodynamics. To work, the machine would have to create (out of nowhere) more energy than it uses. The first law of thermodynamics states that energy cannot be created or destroyed . . . it can only change form. And violation of the law carries a sentence of Universal implosion.

Attempts at perpetual motion machines have usually involved magnets or gravity, partly because these are two of the most obvious action-at-a-distance forces around, but mainly because people looking to invent perpetual motion machines are fundamentally lazy. Which makes sense, if you think about it.

Unfortunately, the motion of machines running on magnets or gravity is invariably at a right angle to the magnetic or gravitational force, so friction ends up running the machine down.

It was way back in 1775 that the Royal Academy of Sciences in Paris got fed up and issued a statement saying that they would "no longer accept or deal with proposals concerning perpetual motion". In a similar vein, the US Patent Office refuses to grant patents for perpetual motion machines without a working model. Interestingly, Australia has no such restriction.

As is often the case, all this has been best articulated by Homer Simpson, when Lisa makes a perpetual motion machine under extreme stress at Springfield Elementary's closure:

You said it.


josh said...

I was looking at the Joe Cell thing and trying to figure it out. I hypothesized that most of the stuff you hear about it now is just disinfo. I assumed that it was an electrolysis device as it appears rather than some esoteric etheric device which shoots secret energy into your carburetor and restructures the air so that it burns.

If one looks at a Joe Cell, one sees that it appears to work as if a number of electrolysis cells were connected in series. [Each ring in the Joe cell acts as both anode on one surface and cathode on the
other.] I decided to test gas production from electrolysis cells in series.

For the same amount of power, I produced approximately 300% more hydrogen when six electrolysis cells were connected in series than the single cell control. It works. Try it yourself with test tubes and straight DC power. I was using 16 V DC.

The single cell ran at 16V 70milliamps for 10 minutes and filled 3.4 cm of the test tube with hydrogen.

6 electrolysis cells were set in series and ran at 16V, 10milliamps for 60 minutes and each test tube was filled with 2.4cm of hydrogen.

The results conservatively showed 300-400% higher H2 production than standard DC electrolysis. Check it out, do the experiment. Took me just a few minutes to set up.


Joshua Gulick

P.S. check out my new website http://alchemicals.com and let me know what you think or get a free ebook about alchemy. Or order my magnetite pills which might make you psychic! Add a link to me on your website and tell me about it and I'll give you a big discount!

Bianca said...

ooh magnetite pills!

good rant. did you see the mythbusters test the perpetual motion machines?

Matt said...

Thanks, Josh.

The Joe Cell apparently relies on the generation of a static charge, rather than a chemical charge which would imply electrolysis.

Besides, electrolysis requires the presence of a complete charged circuit, which as far as I can see the Joe Cell doesn't provide. It uses pure water, which would act as an insulator (unless I've missed something).

I'm a bit sceptical about the Joe Cell, to be honest. There seem to be a lot of comments around it like "experimenters have found . . .", without naming the experimenters or providing any details of the experiments conducted.

Having said that, I like the idea of getting power from static charges. People like Tesla and Benjamin Franklin played around with the idea, and it's been used in some cool science fiction novels, like James Blish's A Case of Conscience.

What I would question about the Joe Cell is the assertion that the fuel (water) is not used up in the process. The static charge requires splitting the water atoms into H30+ and OH-, which then presumably get rejoined at some point. All this takes energy, which the initial charge would be unable to provide. If the water isn't used up somehow, then it must need some sort of external power source to keep it running.

And Bianca . . . (Hi) Yes, saw that one. They were awesome, as always.

Spoon said...

Magnetite Pills? I'm reminded, if only through the tenuous link of "Spurious Science" of a web banner ad I once followed out of curiosity which offered magnetic rings you could either buy, or buy the designs for, which, if you wore them on your fingers or toes, would allow you to live forever.
The cool thing was, though, that they had a 30 day money back guarantee. So presumably if you got hit by a bus after 3 weeks you weren't out of pocket.