10:30 AM

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Unworkable Devices

Perpetual Motion, fooey!

In these petrol-hungry days, the notion of 'alternative energy' comes back into our consciousness once again. Solar, Nuclear, Wind, Hydrogen, Grain Alchohol, French Fry Vat oil are all being given the gimlet eye as we try to come up with a Life After Oil (which will, I think, occur in my lifetime). The recent issue of MAKE (one of my favorite periodicals) was on bizarre "edge" science, and featured a series of vignettes on that old hoary chestnut, perpetual motion.

We all like getting something for nothing, hell, I know I do-- and some amazing concepts have been developed in the pursuit of "free energy." The waterwheel comes to mind, and the wind generator. But the fact is they aren't 'free energy'.. there is a substantial amount of loss involved no matter how smart you make the mousetrap.

But we continue to dream.. a machine that could run by itself, into perpetuity..

Thanks to the miracles of the Internet, Donald Simanek has collected a rather extensive collection of images and devices and blueprints of machines that attempt to cheat the laws of energy conservation, and it can be found at The Museum of Unworkable Devices. I strongly recommend a trip there if you are a fan of the absurd and the unworkable.

The first thing you notice when you look at some of these drawings is the elegance and sophistication that went into the building and design.

My particular favorite category is the shifting-mass overbalanced wheel, which can be viewed above.. there are many varieties of this concept in Mr. Simanek's museum. Well worth a visit!!