Madazine : Perpetual Motion
The Yorkshire inventor and engineer Kevin Spout has been in action once more. On this occasion the venue was meadow, two miles from the Spout family’s Sheffield home. As was the case with public showings of his earlier innovations, Kevin had invited a number of journalists specialising in scientific matters. Madazine’s Axel Griess was present. About two hundred interested local people had gathered to watch the proceedings, which began at noon. In the middle of the field stood a flat-roofed wooden hut, eight feet high, twenty feet long and fifteen feet wide, with a floor of paving stones. It had a ceiling light and two mains power points. Both field and hut had been made available by a farmer.
Kevin gained the crowd’s attention with a shout, introduced himself, then went on: “In a few minutes I intend to prove that those who have long contended that perpetual motion is impossible have been wrong. I know that many attempts have been made and all have failed. To make my point, I went into the area of electricity generation. I have built a simple turbine, consisting of only one hub and a single set of blades. I am aware that in commercial applications, many of these units are fixed together. However, such complexity is not necessary for my purpose today. I now request representatives of the media to accompany me to the hut and view the machine. There is not enough room inside to accommodate anyone else, so I ask members of the lay public to disperse around the perimeter of this field.”
The reporters followed Kevin into the cabin. Standing in the middle of the floor was the test equipment. It comprised a metal wheel, three inches wide and about two and a half feet in diameter. Attached to the rim were thirty-six steel blades, each eighteen inches long. They were evenly spaced, slightly over two and a half inches apart. The assembly rested on two steel stanchions fixed to an iron platform which was fastened to the floor. The whole construction was covered by a housing of clear Perspex which, as Kevin explained, was there to protect onlookers from air turbulence. At one side of the apparatus, a hole in the Perspex sheet allowed the hub to be connected to an electric motor by means of a hexagonal shaft. Protruding from the other side was a handle, attached to the hub in the same way.
Kevin explained the essence of his scheme. “The secret here is the positioning of the blades,” he said. “In a conventional turbine, they are all aligned at the same angle to each other. You will see that in my array, they are all at slightly different angles. It took me quite a while to find the correct configuration. The result is that I need only apply a modest initial impetus from the motor here, then I switch it off and it is not required again. When the blades begin to turn, the way in which they are set agitates the air between them, setting up eddies, which are self-maintaining. The machine spins faster, up to a certain number of revolutions, at which point it levels off, thus achieving perpetual motion. The handle you see at the side opposite the motor is a brake, which I shall apply manually to stop the test. If I were not to do so, the appliance would rotate at a steady speed forever, barring external interference.”
Kevin asked the dozen or so viewers to separate into two small groups of about equal size and move to the ends of the cabin, so that they were as far from the assembly as possible. When they had complied, he bent over the motor, cried: “Here’s to cheap power for all time,” and pressed the starter button.
Shortly after the blades began to turn, Kevin pressed the stop button, stated that the apparatus was running under its own power, and stood back. As he had predicted, the wheel revolved at increasing speed. This went on for about five minutes, then one of the blades became detached from the rim, burst out of the housing and sped on to go through the cabin’s side wall and hurtle across the field. The other blades followed at intervals varying from about five to twenty seconds, all behaving in much the same way as the first had done.
As blades’ initial trajectories were largely determined by their velocities, their varying angles on leaving the wheel, and to some extent by the sides of the cage, their combined exits from the premises described a semi-circular path, up one wall, across the ceiling and down the opposite wall. The result was that when all of them had vanished, the cabin had been cut into two halves.
One of the onlookers then noticed that the electric motor was still running. He drew this to the attention of Kevin, who repeatedly jabbed the stop button, to no avail. The device ran until another spectator pulled out the lead connecting it to the mains power supply.
Kevin immediately instituted an inquiry. He asked the shaken journalists to step outside the hut and remain there until he could report his findings. In less than half an hour he gave an account of what he had discovered, saying: “I’m happy to tell you that the mishap was caused by two minor technical hitches. The first was that the stop button on the motor had a faulty connection. The second occurred because, as in earlier projects, I delegated some work to my cousin, Donald. I regret to say that he used his initiative. My specification called for the blades to be fixed in the usual engineering manner, by which I mean that when each of them was pushed through its designated hole in the rim, it was to be fastened by two nuts, one to secure it in position, one to serve as a lock.
“Unfortunately, Donald had equipped himself with only the securing nuts. When it came to locking, he had no spares and no means of getting any. He had the inspired idea of hurrying to a local store, where he bought a packet of small latex pads, sticky on one side. He cut holes in them and pushed one over each of the threads so that the adhesive surfaces fitted snugly against the securing nuts. Had he asked me, I would have told him that his plan was not workable. Unfortunately, he said nothing, as he feared being rebuked for his failure to procure enough components.
“I realise that you must be disappointed, but the good news is that I shall be able to build a new machine within two weeks and as soon as that is done I shall conduct another test. You will all be invited again. Thank you.”
Madazine’s Axel Griess, speaking from a nearby park bench, two empty three-litre cider bottles by his side, gave his verdict, his speech slurred. “Kevin began with one hut and finished it with two. Maybe he intends to start breeding the things. I’ll be around for the next trial but shall monitor it as well as I can from safe distance, probably Manchester.”
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