Sunday, February 12, 2012

Mindwrap: Perpetual Motion Machinism

Introducing the Mindwrap!
The part where Sam tries to wrap his mind around something exotic and possibly impossible!
In this edition, the Perpetual Motion Machine!

The quest for perpetual motion has plagued engineers for millenia. Physicists, tinkerers, theorists, mechanics, and everyone who is connected to science of some sort have at least theorized about perpetual motion.

Many scientists have risen up to the challenge. Leonardo Da Vinci has reportedly sketched some wheels. But like many of his sketches of tanks and helicopters, it never became reality. At the dawn of the twentieth century, Nikola Tesla, inventor of the alternating current, claimed that a perpetual motion machine could be built if it took energy from the medium it resides in.

Rumors of some perpetual motion machines exist throughout history. As early as the eighth century, there are stories of a "magic wheel" that spun endlessly. In observation, it did rotate for a long time, but the rotation was not endless. One wheel in the Tower of London was reported to have endlessly turned. Proposals range from a "self-blowing windmill" to a "perpetual vase".

The history of perpetual motion seems overly concerned with wheels. Many are designed by using a unbalanced wheel to be propelled by gravity. Magnets are also popular with inventors. Also, the buoyancy is another phenomenon used to create such devices. More recently, proponents of free energy promote research in fields of cold fusion and zero-point energy.

The death blow to this adventure may be the Laws of Thermodynamics, particularly the second law. To echo your science class of days gone by, the first law states that energy and matter is neither created nor destroyed. The second law, in one interpretation, says that energy is always converted to a more less-usable form.

There three types of perpetual motion machinery. The first one violates the Law of Conservation by creating work without any energy being added to it. The second violates the Law of Entropy by converting heat to work, but without any cooling side effects. The third type of perpetual motion is motion that has reduced friction and other opposing forces to zero.

More recently, physicists have discovered time crystals. Unlike other perpetual motion theories, time crystals obey the laws of physics. Unfortunately, time crystals have no useful and practical application, yet. Physicists are working to create experimental versions of these curiosities.

Whether perpetual motion is impossible or not, it touches our sense of longing for something infinite and unstoppable.

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