Why perpetual motion machine wouldn't work.

  • Thread starter kop442000
  • Start date
  • #1
34
0

Main Question or Discussion Point

I'm trying to explain to my friend why the following would not work, but embarrassingly, I'm having trouble.

You have a ramp that allows a ball bearing to roll up, and a strong magnet at the top which is able to pull the ball up the ramp. But there is a hole halfway up the ramp, and so the ball falls through and goes back to the start.

Obviously this wouldn't really be a perpetual motion machine, but I can't explain why not. I can say thinks like "friction" or "magnets run out", but I don't feel like they are very rigorous or satisfactory answers.

Thanks in advance!
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
6,054
390
If the magnet is strong enough to pull the ball up, it does so with or without the ramp and thus a hole in the ramp is no obstacle.
 
  • #3
DrClaude
Mentor
7,143
3,278
Quick guess: when the ball falls through the hole, it is still attracted by the magnet. Therefore, it will go down slower than if it was just rolling down a slope without a magnet. It will have less speed going down and therefore will not go up as much as if the magnet was not there. As it loses energy to friction and air resistance, it will not be able to reach the hole anymore.

In summary: I think that wath the magnet giveth, the magnet taketh away.

Edit: in light of what voko wrote, I have to clarify that I was thinking that the ball is already rolling and that the magnet is only there to give it a little extra tug.
 
  • #4
A.T.
Science Advisor
9,969
1,731
If the magnet is strong enough to pull the ball up, it does so with or without the ramp and thus a hole in the ramp is no obstacle.
Wrong. You need less force to pull something up an incline, than pulling it up directly without the incline. That is why humans use ramps for thousands of years.
 
  • #5
A.T.
Science Advisor
9,969
1,731
You have a ramp that allows a ball bearing to roll up, and a strong magnet at the top which is able to pull the ball up the ramp. But there is a hole halfway up the ramp, and so the ball falls through and goes back to the start.
It can fall through the hole, but cannot go back to the start. Depending on the details of the design it will get stuck somewhere, where the sum of gravitational and magnetic potential is minimal.
 
  • #6
UltrafastPED
Science Advisor
Gold Member
1,912
216
Magnets don't run out, though it is possible to ruin them by banging or heating, etc.

If the magnet is strong enough to pull the ball up the ramp, then it has already lifted it against gravity to where the hole is. Of course it is pulling up the ramp, so the force of gravity is reduced (draw the force diagrams!).

Now the ball reaches the hole; if the magnet is really strong the ball is going so fast that it hops across with a slight bump. But suppose the magnet is weak enough (or the ball heavy enough) that it will fall down the hole (draw the force diagrams required for this to be true!).

Now when the ball reaches the bottom of the hole it is supposed to fall down a second ramp which should lead it to the first one (I'm imagining something like Mousetrap, the game - but you must draw this in some detail).

I am here interested in this second ramp: it clearly has a slope that is gentler than the up-bound ramp, because it starts at the bottom of the hole.

Now draw the force diagram for the ball at the top of this second ramp. Since the downward force for gravity is the same everywhere, the effective lift required to move against it can be determined from the slope of the ramp.

You can also say something about the force from the magnet: it has to be large enough at the bottom of the first ramp to get the ball rolling, and then increases (1/r^2, approximately, from Coulomb's law for magnets). You also know that the magnetic force at the top of the hole is insufficient to keep the ball going, and is not sufficient to keep it from falling down the hole (by assumption!) ... so once again you have a limit on the force vector from the magnet, in this case in the vertical component at the top of the hole.

Having analyzed all of the parts, and established the limits of the magnetic force at various points along the way, for your final step you must draw the force diagram for the ball rolling down the lower ramp. Since at the end it must come out level with the up-bound ramp, or be higher up, but with less slope, it seems to me that the magnet will impede the downward rolling motion of the ball ... and it will freeze up on the way down.

You should be able to show this with the force diagrams, no matter what the design of the contraption is.

You can also construct a working model, and let your friend try different sized ball bearings, and reposition a very strong magnet as required to get the ball moving.

Note that we don't rely on friction or failing magnets here.
 
  • #7
831
12
@A.T. that would be because a ramp or hill of any kind and any angle still provides some " ground" to sit on while there being nothing provides nothing and the uplifting force has to entirely support the object it is trying to get up.

@OP ,Well normally the way you describe it it wouldn't work that' s for sure.Things might be different if you could some how shield the magnetic force in different parts of the mechanism and switch the magnet itself on and off when needed.
But controlling a magnet in this way would make it an electromagnet as you cannot (sadly) switch on or off permanent ones.
An electromagnet uses current flow when switched on and current flow takes power , certain amount depending on the setup etc.So no longer a PMM.

Even if you could do all the actions I mentioned with a permanent magnet and even if this all setup would provide some motion without extra energy added , still in real terms nothing is perpetual , elements tend to wear out and break down etc.

Ok maye others have something interesting to say about this.
 
  • #9
831
12
@UltrafastPED the only way something like this could work is if you would be able to totally shield off the magnetic force after the ball rolls into the entrance on it' s way down , then it falls down hit all the other balls and pushes the first ball slightly upwards so that the magnetic force takes over and starts to pull it upwards , as there has to be a point at which the magnet is close enough to overcome the gravitational attraction of earth which tried to keep the ball down.
If this setup could even work it would have to do with very precise angles and lengths from one component to the other.Ofcourse without the possibility to extract any useful power.
But I'm not so sure it sounds to me that there is something missing in what I just said.

Well the one thing that makes anyone with a reasonable mind say they have some fatal flaws is that none of them have been brought up to the major public and approved to be working , ofcourse then the " free energy agenda" kicks in to tell you that they have been surpressed by the FBI, NSA, Bill Clinton and James Bond personally. :D:D
 
  • #10
6,054
390
Wrong. You need less force to pull something up an incline, than pulling it up directly without the incline. That is why humans use ramps for thousands of years.
I agree with the principle. The principle, however, is that you need less force if the force is aligned with the ramp, compared to a force that acts vertically. I initially understood the contraption had the magnet arranged over the ramp. If the ramp leads to the magnet, then indeed a magnet could set the ball in motion even if it is not strong enough to move it vertically.

As explained by others, the magnet will both accelerate and decelerate the ball, so there will not be a net gain in energy. As such, the system is equivalent to a system without the magnet, whose initial velocity is just enough to reach the hole; without friction, such a system would have the ball in perpetual motion (but it would not do any useful work).
 
  • #11
UltrafastPED
Science Advisor
Gold Member
1,912
216
@UltrafastPED the only way something like this could work is if you would be able to totally shield off the magnetic force after the ball rolls into the entrance on it' s way down , then it falls down hit all the other balls and pushes the first ball slightly upwards so that the magnetic force takes over and starts to pull it upwards , as there has to be a point at which the magnet is close enough to overcome the gravitational attraction of earth which tried to keep the ball down

Your suggestion reminds me of the title page for Simon Stevin's "Mechanics"

See the image at http://www.lhup.edu/~dsimanek/museum/unwork.htm#stevinprob

Simon Stevin explained that this "ball chain" system was unchanged when you advance each ball by one position ... the first example of the "Principle of Virtual Work" ... if there is no change in the system, then there was no work done or extracted.

For fun see: http://www.lhup.edu/~DSimanek/museum/models/build-pm.htm
and http://www.lhup.edu/~dsimanek/museum/unwork.htm
 
  • #13
sophiecentaur
Science Advisor
Gold Member
24,275
4,306
@A.T. that would be because a ramp or hill of any kind and any angle still provides some " ground" to sit on while there being nothing provides nothing and the uplifting force has to entirely support the object it is trying to get up.

@OP ,Well normally the way you describe it it wouldn't work that' s for sure.Things might be different if you could some how shield the magnetic force in different parts of the mechanism and switch the magnet itself on and off when needed.
But controlling a magnet in this way would make it an electromagnet as you cannot (sadly) switch on or off permanent ones.
An electromagnet uses current flow when switched on and current flow takes power , certain amount depending on the setup etc.So no longer a PMM.

Even if you could do all the actions I mentioned with a permanent magnet and even if this all setup would provide some motion without extra energy added , still in real terms nothing is perpetual , elements tend to wear out and break down etc.

Ok maye others have something interesting to say about this.
That power can be made arbitrarily small and doesn't affect the PMM argument any more than the other 'friction' losses. But what does relate to the PMM idea is that setting up the magnetgic field, in the presence of the steel ball involves a different amount of energy from setting it up without the ball. That extra energy is 'just' what's needed to make this thought machine work.
I must say that I fully support the PF attitude to PMMs. They are really not worth discussing, yet so many people seem to think they have found a 'loophole' and that their particular version will work. We really shouldn't encourage them.
 
  • #14
34
0
Thanks everyone. I agree that they are not really worth discussing, but explaining why they don't work to my friend is useful I think.

Sophie could you say a little more about the extra energy needed to set up, as this seems to be the crux?
 
  • #15
sophiecentaur
Science Advisor
Gold Member
24,275
4,306
The Energy stored in an inductor depends upon the current and the inductance (see this link and many other sites). The inductance depends upon the reluctance in / of the surrounding magnetic circuit (involving the permeability of everything around). The second half of that link shows what I mean about the energy. Put an object with high permeability near the solenoid and the local energy density goes up - hence the total energy, supplied by the current at switch on.

When discussing PMM with the 'unknowing' you have to tell them that, whatever they think and however able or unable you happen to be in spotting their fatal flaw, the PMM concept is nonsense and that far greater authorities than you, personally, have been through it all. Explain that what they are talking about is not actually Science and that the principle of Energy Conservation holds always. etc. etc.. If they don't like that then there is nothing more you can do. Talk about the weather instead - or the Cricket. Those topics are more matters of opinion.
 
  • #16
29,035
5,314
We don't discuss PMMs here, not even to debunk them. Please read the forum rules.
 

Related Threads for: Why perpetual motion machine wouldn't work.

Replies
2
Views
3K
  • Last Post
Replies
9
Views
4K
  • Last Post
2
Replies
29
Views
6K
  • Last Post
Replies
16
Views
3K
  • Last Post
Replies
5
Views
1K
  • Last Post
2
Replies
30
Views
5K
Replies
2
Views
693
Replies
44
Views
10K
Top