Perpetual motion contraption stumps MIT professor

Picture 9-20

Last week, Thane Heins of Ottawa took his perpetual motion device (the Perepiteia) to Boston to show it to Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Markus Zahn at MIT's Laboratory for Electromagentic and Electonic Systems.

Zahn says the device's performance was "unexpected and new."

It's now Jan. 28 – D Day. Heins has modified his test so the effects observed are difficult to deny. He holds a permanent magnet a few centimetres away from the driveshaft of an electric motor, and the magnetic field it creates causes the motor to accelerate. It went well.

Contacted by phone a few hours after the test, Zahn is genuinely stumped -- and surprised. He said the magnet shouldn't cause acceleration. "It's an unusual phenomena I wouldn't have predicted in advance. But I saw it. It's real. Now I'm just trying to figure it out."

There's no talk of perpetual motion. No whisper of broken scientific laws or free energy. Zahn would never go there -– at least not yet. But he does see the potential for making electric motors more efficient, and this itself is no small feat.

"To my mind this is unexpected and new, and it's worth exploring all the possible advantages once you're convinced it's a real effect," he added. "There are an infinite number of induction machines in people's homes and everywhere around the world. If you could make them more efficient, cumulatively, it could make a big difference."

Link | Videos of the Perepitea

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  1. Don’t ask an engineering professor to review these things. Get a magician, a good one. The purpose is to figure out how the scam artist is pulling off the deception.

  2. here we go again (anyone cut the little water boiler ball open yet? OK, rather than do the legitimate work of trying to understand all the physics of it; on with the assumption of guilt. He rebuilt the motor frame to conceal a magnetic reed switch inside it and has hidden secondary source of power.

  3. Re: “If you could make them more efficient, cumulatively, it could make a big difference.”

    Except that 1) modern small electric motors are generally designed to be considerably more efficient than they were just a few years ago and 2) the best ones are awfully efficient by now.

    There just isn’t that much headroom left. Going from 5% efficiency to 10% efficiency is a huge improvement; going from 90% efficiency to 95% efficiency is extremely minor. Bigger savings are likely to lie elsewhere, at that point.

    I agree that a magician — or even a reformed perpetual motion machine builder — would be a better choice to evaluate these things.

  4. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. It is too bad that physics professors don’t have any special ability to detect frauds. Mainly they do honest physics.

    If he’s not a con man, self-deluded, or shilling for James Randi, this guy is coincidentally giving a story very similar to those used by conmen.

    I’d guess the odds are a bit lower than a real nigerian millionaire writing you a letter in ALL CAPS.

  5. At the risk of being an asshole…

    Even I, NOT a professor at MIT, know that anything utilizing magnets is not perpetual motion.

    You are simply using the stored magnetic charge, that will eventually* run out, just like a battery.

    Even a permanent magnet can lose it’s charge.

    (* even if ‘eventually’ is years).

  6. @#9: I’m pretty sure that the magnetic field of a permanent magnet does not store a particularly large amount of energy. So you can’t really power anything with permanent magnets.

    That’s not to say this guy has a perpetual motion machine. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof, and bamboozling a physics professor is not extraordinary proof.

  7. the little I read about back EMF being somehow utilized for acceleration makes me ask why the engineers that built the Prius didn’t use it

  8. Fools can ask more questions than the wise can answer.

    It can be very, very hard to find the error in the analysis of an unusual device or crazy theory. For gadgets like this it’s hard to make sure you’ve properly accounted for all the energy inputs and outputs. But every scientist knows that when you see something out of the ordinary, the odds are overwhelming that what you have is a mistake.

    For this reason, no experimentalist in history has ever observed a novel phenomenon and said, “Eureka!” What we say is, “I wonder where I screwed up?” Sometimes, after carefully proving that all the other explanations are non-viable, we reluctantly conclude that we have a new phenomenon. That discipline is central to the practice of experimental science.

    So the natural and entirely expected arc of analysis of every machine of this type is:

    1) Inventor creates a novel configuration and makes a mistake analysing it so it appears to give anomalously high output per input.

    2) Inventor makes various more-or-less wild claims that frequently aren’t even expressible in the language of ordinary physics.

    3) Scientist gets involved and has a hard time understanding the device. This is the point at which there is a great deal of press reporting preliminary statements that they are seeing some unusual phenomena.

    4) Scientist eventually figures out what the problem with the initial experimental setup is, and realizes the results are completely uninteresting. The silence at this point is deafening.

    5) Inventor goes home and capitalizes on the preliminary statements.

    Wasting time analysing a machine that everyone believes to be almost certainly uninteresting is a source of embarrassment. The claim, “Has found a more efficient way to do X” is the common face-saving statement made by the scientist in these cases. It was made with regard to Joe Newman’s motor as well.

  9. Re: “You are simply using the stored magnetic charge, that will eventually run out, just like a battery.”

    A magnetic field is, in this sense at least, more like a spring than like a battery. Energy may be stored to and released from springs and magnetic fields. The objects that embody springs and magnetic fields may deteriorate in time — as so many objects do — but not because of the depletion of some intrinsic store of energy in them.

  10. I think the best part of the entire article is at the end:
    “Driving home – he can’t afford to fly – Heins is exhausted but encouraged. He says Zahn will, and must, evaluate what he saw on his own terms and time. What’s preventing the engineer from grasping it right away, he says, is his education, his scientific training.”

    Yes, clearly the poor engineer has been educated stupid.

    Really. How the journalist kept a straight face during the interview I’ll never know.

  11. @#12: Engineers are humans too.
    I’m guessing that Zahn, fed up with being constantly bombarded with crank claims, agreed to meet Heins in order to tear him and his silly idea a new assh*le.
    But when confronted with the reality; an unemployed, divorced, broke man, an utter failure with all his remaining hopes, dignity and money tied up in a clearly idiotic last-ditch bid for salvation, I think Zahn lost his nerve.
    He simply couldn’t be the one to squash the only think Heins has left, even if it might have been the kindest thing in the long run.

  12. To paraphrase Feynman, I’ll believe in teleportation, metempsychosis or time travel before I believe in perpetual motion.
    Postion this kind of crap is a waste of time.

  13. “There are an infinite number of induction machines in people’s homes and everywhere around the world.”

    No, there aren’t.

  14. The law that entropy always increases, holds, I think, the supreme position among the laws of Nature. If someone points out to you that your pet theory of the universe is in disagreement with Maxwell’s equations — then so much the worse for Maxwell’s equations. If it is found to be contradicted by observation — well, these experimentalists do bungle things sometimes. But if your theory is found to be against the second law of thermodynamics I can give you no hope; there is nothing for it but to collapse in deepest humiliation.
    — Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington, The Nature of the Physical World (1927)

  15. Wild-assed guess out of second field:

    The changes he made increase the speed of the rotor while reducing the torque output. I’ll bet it’s a three-phase (or polyphase) induction motor and that whatever changes he made set up a harmonic of the original three-phase (or polyphase) wave. Twice (or three, or four, or five) times the number of magnetic repulsion/attraction impulses but for shorter periods of time.

  16. Wow, these people must be geniuses. They have figured out the machine and it’s creator are fakes just from an article. That is impressive, I am sure the current producers of energy would be proud.

  17. I propose a simple test for any perpetual motion machine especially this one, its called the box test. You simple put this machine in a perfectly isolated box like a safe, and let it run while monitoring it with a camera. No one is allowed to open the box at all for any reason what so ever. Any machines that stop moving are not perpetual motion machines and do not violate the conservation of energy. If the inventor of the perpetual motion machine claims that mechanical breakdown occurred they are allowed to repair the machine under careful video surveillance.

  18. I think that for testing perpetual motion machines we should come up with a higher stakes test. I say we build a reasonable sized lab, say 4m square, put in a wide selection of hand tools and whatever materials might be necessary to repair the device.

    We then seal the device, the inventor, and a minimal supply of food into the box with an electric powered device that converts CO2 into oxygen. If the inventor can walk out on his own after we open the room in 12 weeks we’ll take a closer look at the machine.

  19. Hold the printing press! I have just proved all of mathematics wrong! These stupid people living on only one side of the magnetic timecube do not understand the essence of identity because they have been taught by their science to think apart! But I can show you:

    * Step 1: Let a=b.
    * Step 2: Then a^2 = ab ,
    * Step 3: a^2 + a^2 = a^2 + ab ,
    * Step 4: 2a^2 = a^2 + ab ,
    * Step 5: 2a^2 – 2ab = a^2 + ab – 2ab ,
    * Step 6: and 2a^2 – 2ab = a^2 – ab.

    * Step 7: This can be written as 2(a^2 – ab) = a^2 – ab ,
    * Step 8: and cancelling the (a^2 – ab) from both sides gives 1=2.

    I’ll explain this in a youtube video soon!!!!

    (credit goes here: http://www.math.toronto.edu/mathnet/falseProofs/first1eq2.html)

  20. JUST the kind of utter gullibility I’d expect from an Electromagentic Lab. Big purple SHAME on MIT.

  21. My guess: assuming he’s not dishonest, I’d like to see what happens when the coils are taken off and away from the device, and possibly the magnets exchanged for something of equal weight.

  22. The speed of the motor is not important. Its power consumption is. I bet that motor is drawing more power when the magnet is there.

    The magnet is interfering with the rotating
    field of the motor which accounts for the
    change of motor speed. Possibly loading the
    motor will return it to a normal near
    synchronous speed.

    Anyone with a kill-a-watt, a sacrificable vacuum cleaner, a big rare earth magnet and a stroboscope can probably verify this.

  23. the video isn’t sharp but it looks like a meter with two readings (volts and amps?) is not changing. Easy to rig though.

  24. This demonstrates a huge problem with science reporting– the tendency of reporters to give credence to every statement everybody tells them, even cranks.

    Here’s a particularly shiny bit of feces: “There’s no talk of perpetual motion. No whisper of broken scientific laws or free energy. Zahn would never go there -– at least not yet.” Talk about dividing by zero…

  25. I know a source of perpetual energy. We just hook a battery up to takuan’s keyboard, and harness the joules expended by responding multiple times to every single boingboing post.

  26. Magentic? Electonic?

    I’m not familiar with these new fields of study, so I spoze perpetual immotion must be entirely prepoparable.

  27. One of the things you are taught in grad school is how to handle cranks. You feign interest, don’t disagree, announce that it isn’t really your field of expertise and refer him to the next victim.

    Generally, most of these perpetual motion/net energy producing results come from the limitations of cheap meters. Odd waveforms and short duty cycle pulses wreak havoc with cheap meters designed for DC or sine waves. Getting an accurate measurement requires a high end “True RMS” meter or precision calorimeter .

  28. “I propose a simple test for any perpetual motion machine especially this one, its called the box test. You simple put this machine in a perfectly isolated box like a safe, and let it run while monitoring it with a camera…”

    But the camera will break the quantum division between universes, the one that this magic trick works upon, namely, it sucks energy from another universe, just like a quantum computer, in theory, is so fast because it uses an infinite number of parallel universes to create an infinitely powerful parallel computer that can then factor primes and break kiddie porn and drug dealer encrypted hard drives.

    Actually, without a LOAD on the motor, with the same amps and volts, and an OLD world single phase (vs. speed-determined triple phase) motor that uses brushes might just be, uh, expected to speed up when you use a bigger magnet, just like the science project motor you made out of paper clips in grade school?! Move magnet close. Motor fast. Move magnet far. Motor fast. Dad built it for you, but you still got the Blue Ribbon for knowing the word “electromagnetic” in 3rd grade.

  29. Gosh, I just love it when learned folk make pronouncements on what’s possible in the universe, even our little backwater of it. Reminds me of the time when I told my physicist friend about John Horgan’s The End of Science, wherein it is written that we’ve pretty much figured it all out–all that’s left is to tweak our masterful understanding a bit here & there. After my friend, a guy who’s in the vanguard of nanomaterials research got his laughter-induced choking under control, he put on his best professorial face and told me that if such things were quantifiable, he’d have to estimate that we knew less than 1% of how nature really works.

    Similar sentiments can be found among many scientists not unduly attached to their paradigms…okay, maybe not “many,” but at least a few, those guys who realize that paradigms are subject to change, anyway.

    I guess it all gets back to the all too infrequently considered question of contingent and incontingent universes. Here’s a thumbnail from Cantor’s Concept of Infinity (Implications of Infinity for Contingence):

    Modern science regards the universe as complex, subtle, and as far more open and free than did classical science.

    These differences may be summarized using the word contingent. An incontingent world view regards the universe as closed, self-contained, and self-explanatory, that is, not requiring any explanation beyond itself. Such a universe would be deterministic, that is, all that occurs must necessarily have happened according to a system of fixed laws. Such a universe even taken as a whole must necessarily be the way it is, and not otherwise. As such a universe can be explained according to a system of fixed laws, it is essentially simple.

    In contrast, a contingent world view regards the universe as open, as ultimately not explainable in terms of itself alone. On this view, no scientific theory can account for all phenomena. Such a universe need not necessarily be the way it is. One cannot understand phenomena through a priori reasoning alone, but must study the phenomenon itself. A contingent world view regards the universe as essentially complex, subtle, and mysterious. It believes that an order may be found underlying diverse phenomena, but that this order is itself contingent, that is, always subject to further modification to embrace yet more diverse phenomena. In contrast to classical science’s veneration of Newtonian mechanics, modern science regards its theories more tentatively, however beautifully they may now order known phenomena.

    Most scientists today readily admit the contingence of scientific theories, and increasingly more of them will admit to the contingence of the universe itself.

    Now that was some wishful thinking, eh?

  30. IC,

    I don’t know who you are, but will you marry me? Skepticism, which should be a useful tool for knowledge, is treated as a religion with dogma, aggressive proselytizing and excommunication for apostasy. Unfortunately, a lot of scientists still believe that nothing can exist except that which has already been defined. Fortunately, some don’t.

  31. Absolutely. Open mind to the extent appropriate for the situation. High school science class – stick to the book. Theoretical physics – let’er rip. Eh?

  32. Dear lord. My local paper had a half-page on this at the front of the BUSINESS section, and another full page inside!

    I’m not averse to believing extraordinary improvements can be made to a motor by uneducated obsessed auto-didacts; sure, why not. Unlikely, but not impossible. Maybe it draws its energy from Earth’s own magnetic field or solar flares or the collective credulity of journalists, all near-inexhaustible resources. But to publish this flim-flam in a reputable newspaper before it’s been in any way tested, and all with breathless wonder and not one mention of Newton? Why don’t they just add some pictures of high school science teachers being shat on by weasels? This stuff’s as noxious to the scientific education of the masses as any course in Creationism.

  33. To me it only looks like the Back EMF re-introduced some energy back into the system, making the motor a little more efficient, sort of like routing the air from a fan in a tube back to the input side of a fan. The RPMs go up because it is easier to turn the fan blades when the air entering is already at speed. So the motor operates more efficiently, but what’s the point? Now the fan isn’t a fan, it’s a spinning blade in a tube, not doing its job.

    So his motor is more efficient as a spinning thing, but is useless. The second you try to harness the electricity produced by those coils, there is no more Back EMF being re-introduced into the system, the efficiency boost is lost, and you are back to square one.

    Isn’t this obvious? Or am I missing something?

    (posted by romzburg)

  34. To me it only looks like the Back EMF re-introduced some energy back into the system, making the motor a little more efficient, sort of like routing the air from a fan in a tube back to the input side of a fan. The RPMs go up because it is easier to turn the fan blades when the air entering is already at speed. So the motor operates more efficiently, but what’s the point? Now the fan isn’t a fan, it’s a spinning blade in a tube, not doing its job.

    So his motor is more efficient as a spinning thing, but is useless. The second you try to harness the electricity produced by those coils, there is no more Back EMF being re-introduced into the system, the efficiency boost is lost, and you are back to square one.

    Isn’t this obvious? Or am I missing something?

    (posted by romzburg)

  35. What a bunch of negative unimaginative people you are to do nothing more than ridicule and berate this man and his invention. Most of you could not even put a good scam together let alone invent some thing new that actually works. From the sounds of it this invention is where I was four years ago. There are only two differences between him and me. He has had some capitol backing and he is at the begining while I have actually tested my machine and am almost ready for market.

    Steve Carew

  36. OK Steve, come back in a little while and laugh at us from your Rolls Royce, or conversely, come back and apologize.

    Either way, everyone looks forward to hearing from you.

  37. Just to add to some of the second law banter above:

    >>”entropy always increases, holds, I think, the
    >> supreme position among the laws of Nature.”

    Actually the second law isn’t a physical or natural law, it’s statistical. So it’s possible to observe ‘violations’ of the second law in some instances. But whenever the size of the system is large enough, the chances of such violations are ridiculously high. So this guy’s machine still won’t violate the second law, it’s crap.

  38. When the inventor shorts the coils it creates an “impedance mismatch” between the source and the load. This is important because it significantly impacts the amount of power transferred to the load. In fact shorting the coils would result in the load (ie: the coils) reflecting virtually all of the power right back into the source.

    I suspect that the effect can be explained by the mismatched load reflecting virtually all the power received from the source right back into the source which is able to channel it back to the motor via the ferrous material in the coupler – creating a positive feedback effect which induces the acceleration. In effect the spinning wheel becomes an energy STORAGE device (ie: a fly wheel) storing more and more kinetic energy as it spins faster and faster with no way to dissipate it. It will continue to do so until it spins so fast that centrifugal forces tear it apart.

    Key point is that the inventor has created an interesting variation of the common fly wheel. This device is not PRODUCING energy… it is STORING it. The only energy going into the system is the electrical energy powering the motor. There is no effective load since the coil is shorted. Therefore the system has to store ever increasing amounts of energy going in and the only way that can happen is to continuously accelerate the wheel which stores the input energy as kinetic energy. It is most certainly not a perpetual motion machine and the law of conservation of energy lives to see another day. The world physics community can thank me later…

    On a side note while I’ve never met the inventor but I would like to express (sincerely) my respect for people who are not afraid to experiment like this. A lot of interesting and very useful technologies have been invented in basements and other unlikely places by people just like this fellow.

    My two cents… Cheers – Peter

  39. But whenever the size of the system is large enough, the chances of such violations are ridiculously high.

    I would say that nothing is impossible, but some things are infinitely improbable. The laws of physics aren’t so much laws as guidelines that are constantly being renegotiated.

  40. the laws of thermodynamics has been violated many times on the atomistic level and has been verified by physicist all over the world.

    The rivers and oceans , Atoms in rocks , and the planets themselves are in perpetual motion, WHY IS IT SO HARD TO BELIEVE? Feynman was a great teacher but grossly misled by the wrong instruction books , those who were taught by the wrong instruction books are not educated they are misled

  41. As he holds the magnet, he is inserting energy into the system, as the magnet is pushing back on his hand.

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