The Norwegian perpetual motion machine that could
Just outside Oslo, Norway, an artist named Reidar Finsrud has created what he claims to be a perpetual motion machine. Though not truly perpetual, his creation comes about as close as one can get, and is a marvelous piece of engineering.
Within the physics community, most would agree that a perpetual motion machine would be extremely difficult, if not impossible to create. However, in a small fishing village just outside of Oslo, Norway, an artist and mathematician named Reidar Finsrud, claims to have created just that. The machine, a sculpture he has aptly named "Moving Sculpture" is sealed in a vault in his gallery's basement, to protect it from harm.
Reidar Finsrud, creator of the machine
A perpetual motion machine is able to extract exactly the same amount of energy as is used to power it. The machine could then, if used to power itself, run indefinitely. The difficulty with this is that just about every physical interaction involves some form of energy loss: When two surfaces rub against each other, energy is lost in friction; when an object becomes hot, energy is lost in heat dissipation, etc. Creating a machine with zero net loss is thus largely considered something which can't be done.
Finsrud's machine however, makes a good case for perpetual motion being possible: It is built around the concept of interacting forces between pendulums and magnets. A metal ball on a circular track is driven forward by the attracting force of several horseshoe magnets, which in turn are connected to three pendulums. The pendulums ensure that the magnets are never close enough to the ball to disturb it's motion. A set of three springs in the middle of the track keep the pendulums moving as the ball rolls over them. A final set of magnets above the track are attracted by the ball on every lap, slightly disturbing a series of springs and internal mechanisms, which in turn move a larger, central pendulum. This pendulum moves the track so that it is always angled slightly downwards in front of the ball, further ensuring that motion is maintained. It all works very well, as the ball was once recorded to be moving at constant speed for a period of three days.
The machine in action.
The internal workings of the machine may sound complex, and they are, but what "Moving Sculpture" accomplishes is quite extraordinary: Finsrud's machine has an efficiency close to 80 or 90%, with some sources citing as much as 99%. This means that 99% of the energy inputted into the machine could realistically be extracted from it. Make no mistake, 99% is not actually perpetual motion; there is still a loss of energy involved. However, you will be hard pressed to find another machine that comes even close to that number. Most machines have an efficiency of around 20-50%. The internal combustion engine, for example, has an efficiency of roughly 30%.
Reidar Finsrud has big plans for his machine. He believes continued work will eventually allow him to reach 100% efficiency, true perpetual motion. With time, he even hopes to go further than that; if he can reach 101% efficiency, his machine will output excess energy, thus allowing the ball to, perhaps, push a paddle as it travels down the track. This paddle could be used to drive a generator, thus providing free energy. Finsrud believes his machine can create a new society, one which is entirely free of fuel dependencies.
In truth, those goals are still quite ambitious. Reaching 100% efficiency is a monumental task, one which would require the elimination of every source of energy loss in the machine. This includes friction, wear, imperfections in the materials and heat loss to name a few. To reach 101% efficiency, Finsrud will have to somehow defy the laws of physics, specifically the law of conservation of energy, which states that the energy in a system must remain constant at all times.