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Sep 20 2013

Perpetual motion machines? How quaint

People are still trying to make machines that produce energy for free, so it’s still relevant. Steve Watson explains why one proposed machine fails.

24 comments

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  1. 1
    raven

    LOL.

    I once saw someone trying to trade a cold fusion powerplant for a perpetual motion machine. Not sure who was getting the better deal.

    There is a whole subculture dedicated to free energy machines. They even have their own journal, Infinite Energy, which unfortunately, I’ve been too busy to read.

    And needless to say, some of these companies are run by crackpots but others are run by criminal scammers.

  2. 2
    raven

    GMC Holding discloses continuing SEC investigation – Stockwatch …
    www. stockwatch. com/…/newsit_newsit.aspx?bid=B…GMCC…GMCC…‎

    Apr 10, 2006 – GMC Holding Corp., a retooled perpetual motion promotion that had its stock … The company’s touted “cold motor” technology as well as its former perpetual motion promotion is reportedly underpinned by REMAT, an acronym for GMC Holding’s esoteric Rare Earth Magnetic … A perpetual motion machine?

    Missed your chance to invest in this OTC company. They seem to have run into some legal problems.

    But I’m sure there are others. There always is.

  3. 3
    Daz: Experiencing A Slight Gravitas Shortfall

    For future consideration:

    Darwin’s coffin—–Rotary generator—–Ken Ham’s coffin

    One of them’s bound to be spinning.

  4. 4
    Olav

    If you want a laugh, there are a lot of hobbyist “inventors” of free energy devices on Youtube. I have an interest in mechanics, machining, steam/heat/electric/human powered generators and vehicles and such, so they turn up often in my searches there. Some of them are really hilarious. There are quite a few who appear to spend serious money on rare-earth magnets, which they all seem to believe in very much.

  5. 5
    Trebuchet

    In related news, I’m very pleased that FTB has apparently dropped the adserve outfit that was bombarding us with “free energy” scams (the red box thing) and fake testosterone scams (complete with photoshopped pictures of womens’ breasts and butts.) Thank you very much, Ed and PZ.

  6. 6
    Bronze Dog

    I’m reminded of an 80′s episode of Battlestar Galactica that involved a Cylon recharging itself with a hand-cranked generator.

    If you want a laugh, there are a lot of hobbyist “inventors” of free energy devices on Youtube. ….There are quite a few who appear to spend serious money on rare-earth magnets, which they all seem to believe in very much.

    I can believe it. My basic physics classes never got around to electromagnetism, so it’s still pretty mysterious to me. If it’s mysterious to laypeople, there’s going to be woo built around not understanding it. Shouting ‘quantum!’ is another crowd pleaser.

    Still, from what I’ve seen, it’s like there’s a fetish about magnetism in particular. Gyroscopes are another I’ve seen, though I think they come up in levitation/anti-gravity stuff more than free energy. The whole feel is anachronistic, like looking back on really old sci-fi. That’s probably where they get a lot of their ideas, along with the very old crank gurus of yesteryear.

  7. 7
    sojourner

    There is perpetual motion!! Right wing blather with no sign of stopping!!

  8. 8
    blf

    There is perpetual motion!! Right wing blather with no sign of stopping!!

    That is perpetual hot air, laced with religion (poison) and immune to irony. Sadly, it doesn’t make a very good source of energy since (1) Wingnuts typically don’t go near windfarms or other sources of “clean” energy; (2) They pivot around in all directions (it isn’t a constant gale but a series of random blasts at different targets); and (3) Requires investment and innovation to harvest, both of which are anathema to wingnuts, who prefer taking money from the poor, government, anything / everything they don’t like or are told to take it from, and give it to their own überwealthy puppetmasters.

    Also, whilst the hot air itself may not contribute much to AGW, the generating wingnuts certainly do.

  9. 9
    busterggi

    I have a working perpetual motion machine its just that it literally takes forever to wind up.

  10. 10
    Rey Fox

    In this house* we obey the laws of thermodynamics!

    * Universe

  11. 11
    george gonzalez

    Reminds me of all the videos on the YouTube where some guy takes power from his car alternator at 50% efficiency, puts it into an electrolysis tupperware cell with maybe 3% efficiency, generates a little bit of Hydrogen and Oxygen gas, let’s see, at 40 amps, that’s about 22cc’s per second, while the engine needs at 3,600 RPM, 30 liters per second. Then the gas burns at maybe 30% efficiency in the engine. Not only is the gas produced a drop in the ocean, but 99.5% of the energy gets lost in the cycle. Not exactly perpetual Motion.

  12. 12
    twas brillig (stevem)

    So many people (ignorants) [way too many] think [that's what they call it, I don't] there is some disconnect between Science and Technology.

    “”Perpetual energy is just a Machine [i.e. Technology] and it is just our existing Technology that won’t let “them” build a Perpetual motion machine. But I am not “blinded” by current technology, so I can overcome that paper-wall “they” built around a true Perpetual motion machine.””

    These people need to learn that Science is just a method used to understand how the universe works and Technology is just using *that* information to build useful things for us. I lament every time I see one of these redacted “poor souls” who refuse to see how stuff *really* works.

  13. 13
    JohnnieCanuck

    One of the staff at the R&D division of a telecom firm I used to work at had a subscription to the US Patent Office quarterly publication of recent patents granted. A long time ago the Patent Office refused to consider any application claiming to be a perpetual motion machine, however…

    One time, he found a patent that had been granted for a ‘Gravity Pump’. In it, hollow metal cylinders would apply force upward on a drive chain while in a tank of water. Once they reached the surface they would be moved over the side of the tank where their weight would do work while riding down on another drive chain.

    All that remained was to insert each cylinder through a port at the bottom of the tank so it could begin pushing up on the drive chain and begin another cycle.

    Power extracted while the cylinders are rising, plus power extracted when they descend. Eureka, no?

  14. 14
    stevewatson

    @13: The USPTO files their PMM applications here: http://appft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO2&Sect2=HITOFF&p=1&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPTO%2Fsearch-adv.html&r=0&f=S&l=50&d=PG01&Query=CCL%2F%2274%22%2FDIG.9

    Some of them make for interesting reading (and some of them are unreadable on account of illiteracy).

  15. 15
    Kevin Schelley

    I hope they never develop a perpetual motion machine, It would be tiring just looking at it.

  16. 16
    stever

    A few of the “HHO” articles don’t claim perpetual motion, but make the much weaker claim that oxyhydrogen is useful as a fuel additive in internal-combustion engines. This might be worth some research. There’s also the “watertorch”, which uses an electrolytic cell to drive an oxyhydrogen torch. That gives an oxyhydrogen flame without the expense and hazard of dealing with high-pressure hydrogen. But the rest of the HHO and “magnet motor” videos out there are jokes or frauds. In the nineteenth century, perpetual-motion frauds usually involved clever use of compressed air and hollow table legs. With electric power, it’s just too easy.

  17. 17
    Lofty

    “Perpetual motion” describes the incessant trips to Walmart to buy the boxes of cheap AA batteries that power your demonstration model.

  18. 18
    Amphiox

    There is perpetual motion!! Right wing blather with no sign of stopping!!

    I believe that is actually allowed, since it clearly does not do any useful work….

  19. 19
    zetopan

    “One time, he found a patent that had been granted for a ‘Gravity Pump’. In it,
    hollow metal cylinders would apply force upward on a drive chain while in a tank of
    water. Once they reached the surface they would be moved over the side of the
    tank where their weight would do work while riding down on another drive chain.”

    On average, about a half dozen patents get granted each year by the US Patent Office
    and this has been true for decades (retired physicist Bob Park has commented on this
    more than once). There is apparently no shortage of Patent examiners who lack even
    sufficient scientific literacy to see through even the most obvious Perpetual Motion
    machine applications. One former examiner even wanted to increase the number of
    “new age” patents that were granted. I should also point out that there are perhaps
    a few dozen variants on the exact scheme that you have described.

    I have collected copies of some of the silliest ones (obviously a subjective category).
    Only loosely related to your example, one patent claim showed that while it was not
    possible to siphon water uphill with a single tall pipe to fill a water tank, it could be done
    with a number of shorter pipes filling smaller water tanks, and the resulting water falling
    from the topmost tank was then used to operate a generator. Since the water exiting
    the generator was also being siphoned all over again, the applicant had also carefully put
    into place a mechanism to control the siphoning rate so that the generator would not
    over speed due to too much falling water. Sorry but I do not recall the patent number,
    but if there is interest I can dive into my boxes of papers to find it.

  20. 20
    blf

    A long time ago the Patent Office refused to consider any application claiming to be a perpetual motion machine

    Not quite true. The USAlienstan Patent Office rejects any application claiming to be a perpetual motion machine unless it is accompained by an actual working model. The policy is summarized in Ye Pfffft! of All Knowledge as:

    Proposals for such inoperable machines have become so common that the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has made an official policy of refusing to grant patents for perpetual motion machines without a working model. The USPTO Manual of Patent Examining Practice states:

    With the exception of cases involving perpetual motion, a model is not ordinarily required by the Office to demonstrate the operability of a device. …

    And, further, that:

    A rejection [of a patent application] on the ground of lack of utility includes the more specific grounds of inoperativeness, involving perpetual motion. …

    The filing of a patent application is a clerical task, and the USPTO will not refuse filings for perpetual motion machines; the application will be filed and then most probably rejected by the patent examiner, after he has done a formal examination.

    As far as I am aware — and the above excerpts seem to confirm this — perpetual motion machines are the only thing which requires a working model to be patented.

  21. 21
    zetopan

    “As far as I am aware — and the above excerpts seem to confirm this — perpetual
    motion machines are the only thing which requires a working model to be patented.”

    While that is the stated claim of the Patent Office, about a half dozen or so still get
    patented every single year by simply not stating anywhere within the actual patent
    application that it is a perpetual motion machine. Hence you’ll see vague language
    like “over unity” or better yet, no obvious statement of the fact that it produces more
    energy output than input, etc. I lost count of how many times I have heard people
    repeat the Patent Office “official policy” without realizing that it is so simply trivial to
    circumvent, and this is why perpetual motion machines still get patented. Two things
    are required for this to continue: (1) Do not clearly state anywhere within the patent
    that it is a perpetual motion machine, and (2) get a patent examiner with low scientific
    literacy.

    Here are just a few examples:
    Patent #6,960,975 (2005) Space Vehicle Propelled by the Pressure of Inflationary Vacuum State
    Patent #6,362,718 (2002) Motionless Electromagnetic Generator
    Patent #6,359,347 (2002) Siphon Hydroelectric Generator
    Patent #6,024,935 (2000) Lower-energy hydrogen methods and structures
    Patent #4,151,431 (1979) Permanent Magnet Motor
    Patent #3,934,964 (1976) Gravity Actuated Fluid Displacement Power Generator
    Patent #3,626,605 (1971) Method and Apparatus for Generating a Secondary Gravitational Force Field

    There are also lots of patents that violate reality in ways other than perpetual motion.
    Here are a few examples:
    Patent # 8,523,754 (2013) Multi-polar magnetic devices for treating patients and methods therefor (medical quackery)
    Patent #6,686,842 (2004) Animate entity’s line-of-bearing location device and method linking species-specific non-uniform-electric field pattern of heart’s ECG to dielectrophoresis (dowsing rod with lights)
    Patent #6,025,810 (2000) Hyper-light-speed antenna (faster than light communication)
    Patent #5,748,088 (1998) Device and method using dielectrokinesis to locate entities (dowsing rod with lights)
    Patent #5,533,051 (1996) Method for data compression (recursive data compression without limits)
    Patent #5,188,107 (1993) Bi-digital O-ring test for imaging and diagnosis of internal organs of a patient (medical quackery)

    Note that you can search these patent numbers at either:
    http://patft.uspto.gov/netahtml/PTO/srchnum.htm
    or
    http://www.google.com/advanced_patent_search

  22. 22
    zetopan

    I previously stated:
    “On average, about a half dozen patents get granted each year by the US Patent Office …”

    That should have stated:
    “On average, about a half dozen perpetual motion machine patents get granted each year by the US Patent Office …”

    The unaltered statement is grossly incorrect since more than 100 thousand patents get granted every tear. I was actually referencing perpetual motion patents, sorry about that.

  23. 23
    blf

    zetopan@21, Correct. And I am well aware of how easy it is to sneak silliness past the examiners. That is why I said in @20 (adding emphasis), “The USAlienstan Patent Office rejects any application claiming to be a perpetual motion machine…”.

    Thank you for providing examples of the undisputed and acknowledged fact.

  24. 24
    stevewatson

    @21: Thanks for the Google link. Searching on “thane heins” turns up his (International?) 2007 application for “Power device for improving the efficiency of an induction motor” (as you note, a “sleeper” title). And of course at the bottom:

    Dec 2, 2009 32PN Free format text: NOTING OF LOSS OF RIGHTS PURSUANT TO RULE 112(1) EPC

    For all his patents, Heins seems to have filed the application and then neglected them and allowed them to expire for lack of action. Only one of them (I think this one, in its International version) was even partially examined (by — and this tickles my free-associative sense of humour — a Swiss patent clerk).

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