People all over the world been trying to come up with perpetual motion machines for millennia. If it could be done, it would certainly be a huge benefit to society, and certain designs almost seem like they could work. Unfortunately, the second law of thermodynamics tends to rule out these would-be inventions, but that doesn’t stop people from trying!

Villard’s Wheel

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Here’s an interesting device (seen here with several other designs) that on first glance seems like it could work. As a weight reaches the top of its rotation, it flips over, “adding” momentum to the system. Unfortunately, the weight also have to be lifted and everything tends to slow down with friction eventually.

Bhāskara’s Wheel and Overbalanced Chain

This video features a wheel invented in 1150, with test tubes that accomplish a similar function as Villard’s, except using a liquid. Fast forward to around 1:25 to see an “overbalanced chain” device, that uses a series of pulleys to make one side of a chain longer than the other. This difference in weight is supposed to make the chain rotate continuously, though I “suspect” the fact that the longer side pulls at different angles will cancel this benefit out in practice.

Capillary Action Perpetual Motion

As a mechanical engineer, this concept seems intriguing. Water inside a straw naturally “climbs” on the sides due to surface tension, which, if a drain could be attached, would mean that a tiny amount of energy could, in theory, be harvested over and over. This explanation from Quora claims that in this situation the water would eventually become cooler as it cycles, and that surface tension when draining might also be an issue.

Perpetual Beer, or Boyle’s Flask

In a variation of the capillary action device described above, Boyle’s Flask is supposed to continuously circulate a liquid. For better or worse, this appears to only work with beer, preferably Budweiser. As explained in the video, this effect appears to be due to foam generated being less dense than the beer filling a glass.

[via Floda31]

Paul Sheerbart’s Wheel

Like many “perpetual” devices, this wheel assembly appears to work, but unfortunately requires a human to hold one end up. Perhaps this is what Atlas actually accomplished in Greek mythology!

Perpetual Motion See-Saw

This interesting device uses two golf balls to continuously change the center of gravity of a structure. Perhaps in the future we will not have solar farms, but giant fields of golf balls clicking along to provide the world with power! Perhaps not, but it does make for a fun visual!

Perpetual Pump

According to this video, the pump is “one year on and still turning.” It’s a very clever device, and a great build, but ultimately it appears that it’s simply using flowing water to accomplish the task.