Perpetual motion, Leonardo da Vinci

by RichMac, published

Perpetual motion, Leonardo da Vinci by RichMac Jan 24, 2013

Featured Thing!


A model made from one of da Vinci's drawings. This is an elegant and simple version of the 'overbalanced wheel', which supposedly has more weight on one side and will spin forever.
A fun model to make, with an interesting history.

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What would that accomplish? You still have to move the balls back up. You must input some energy from somewhere that is outside the system (wheel device) if you want it to keep running.

The universe seems to work well with phi as a ratio in the "design"... just a thought.

Yeah you're right, but this device obviously could never work perpetually. My point was simply that "perpetual motion" is possible.

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Designed for 8 mm balls, but 5-10mm will work.

Perpetual motion doesn't seem to work, what am I doing wrong?


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lancer31 on Dec 31, 2013 said:

10 each 10mm balls for $9.00 + shipping, (about $10.68 total), from The Bearing Ball Store, on Amazon.
As I built mine, I wondered what Leonardo could have accomplished, if he'd had an UP! Mini, like I do!
(At least he would have proved to himself that it can't really work)!

gregsmith_to on Dec 30, 2013 said:

Da Vinci figured he could 'game' the system, the leverage of the balls on the right would be enough to lift the others on the left, with some left over. He was wrong; turns out gravity is a conservative vector field, which allows it to be mathematically proven that you simply can't make an arrangement that generates power continuously from gravity. So, since that was worked out, nobody needs to waste hours and hours looking for an arrangement that works, since we know due to the intrinsic nature of gravity that there just isn't one (yay math!). Doesn't stop hundreds of people on youtube trying to do this with magnets though :-( .
So, it's a bit of history, build it as an amusement, but don't expect it to turn by itself for very long. If you actually want it to spin a long time, the best way is to use a really good bearing in the middle *and* glue the balls to the outer end of each track (thus you have an ordinary, boring, flywheel). The motion of the balls along the track doesn't actually help, and in fact uses up a fair bit of energy - especially when the balls on the right lose all of their kinetic energy when colliding with the outer end of the track.

dude on May 23, 2013 said:


I believe that if you have an exact same wheel, you place it next the other one in oppesite direction. Make the balls go from one wheel to the other when they are on a low point.

flyboy on Feb 5, 2014 said:

What would that accomplish? You still have to move the balls back up. You must input some energy from somewhere that is outside the system (wheel device) if you want it to keep running.

Shaylana on May 13, 2013 said:

The fundamental laws of physics do not prohibit perpetual motion. But properties of physical objects conspire to prevent it.

gaiaaxiom on May 13, 2013 said:

got some 5mm balls laying around gona make this asap

TravisMichels on Apr 26, 2013 said:

It can't work because the friction gets larger as the force gets more powerful on the axle, which makes the friction counter the extra force.

ozcabal on Mar 1, 2013 said:

OK - I'll pay $300.00 US to anyone who can model this for me... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v... I've tried for hours in sketchup, but Im a novice at best. If interested, please message me.

100rabh on Apr 10, 2013 said:

Check my collection.
I have added the wheel, arm and load.

Just made it.

100rabh on Apr 10, 2013 said:

Alright Deal. I could do that. And I would add your name to it.
You would need some Neodymium magnets in order to make that.

So Do I have your confirmation..?

Hulksmash on Feb 19, 2013 said:

i made this was wondering were to get the medal bearings? also what kind of pin did u use?

RichMac on Feb 20, 2013 said:

The bearing balls can be bought from any industrial bearing shop. Or on ebay.
I made the centre bearing holes so they could be drilled out. But I just used a pin used for sewing.

lungofish on Feb 9, 2013 said:

Lisa, in this house we obey the laws of thermodynamics!

JerZ on Feb 6, 2013 said:

The reason it doesn't work is it is almost balanced. I realize the principle is the balls roll to the outside edge to increase leverage, but with the balls closer to the center there is always MORE balls trying to be lifted. If you draw an imaginary line vertically through the center, you will see more on the left.

ozcabal on Feb 4, 2013 said:

What about the v-gate magnetic wheel? http://youtu.be/FLek_3Hpwus - Id kill to see if this actually works...

creuzerm on Jan 31, 2013 said:

I wonder if some sort of magnetic bearing http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M... could be used to get rid of the primary friction point?

Solko on Jan 27, 2013 said:

I've seen this one online:

emhughes on Jan 28, 2013 said:

This is great.

IcanCwhatUsay on Jan 27, 2013 said:

The shape of your holes are wrong. There is a youtube video somewhere that shows one that works (even if it is only for a few minutes)

RichMac on Jan 27, 2013 said:

A video of it working? Find it! We want to make one!
My model is pretty close to da Vinci's, He was clever even if his helicopter never flew. He also proposed wheels with hinged arms, and shaped water or mercury channels, variations of the same concept.

mikemwa on Jan 26, 2013 said:

Not saying that it would help much but wouldn't it be better to have an odd number of arms instead of an even number?

Whystler on Jan 26, 2013 said:

If you experience perpetual motion for more than 4 hours, please consult your doctor.

tc_fea on Jan 26, 2013 said:

Just make the balls out of unobtanium and use frictionless bearings. :) or better yet have hidden air jet blowing on the wheel. Maybe some electronic whiz could. Set up an oscillating magnetic field to drive it.

TravisMichels on Apr 26, 2013 said:

In that case, just put a magnet in the center and a coil of wire around a cylinder containing the machine. Then run an electric current through the coil. :)

nechaus on Jan 26, 2013 said:

perpetual motion is like saying your creating something out of nothing, all the same it looks like a good object to be placed on a work desk and can spin when you get bored at work, great toy

gr0b on Feb 18, 2013 said:

But you can create something out of nothing, But you normally have to create a negative something at the same time. so then you are left with a positive and a negative object.

Riddellikins on Jan 26, 2013 said:

The reason that it is not working at all is this: you have 2 points of friction in the model, the centre Axel and the ball bearings rolling. The first has a LOT of friction so it is using up all of the energy almost instantly. If you fix that with a ball bearing (as suggested below) then that would dramatically increase the spin time.

But do remember, IT WILL NEVER BE ABLE TO SPIN FOREVER! As many people have mentioned perpetual motion is impossible. This is because, sadly, no matter how hard we try, friction will always exist. :), (however in computer simulations, it doesn't)

gregsmith_to on Dec 30, 2013 said:

I think you'd get to the point pretty quickly where the ball bearings are using up far more energy than the axle bearing. At which point, improving the axle bearing won't make much difference. Bear in mind, each time a ball bearing collides with the end of the track, all its kinetic energy is lost.

GardsVision on Jan 25, 2013 said:

I love how most of the comments are about how perpetual motion is impossible.

tc_fea on Jan 26, 2013 said:

Perpetual motion demonstration: feed a 2 year old a piece of sugar candy. :)

ecafruoy on Jan 25, 2013 said:

Clarke's Three Laws
1. When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.

2. The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.

3. Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

ecafruoy on Jan 25, 2013 said:

#1: Did you use phi as a ratio in the design? #2: Magnetic balls with two magnets at the bottom on either side of the wheel... to y'know, boost it till the magnets wear out? #3: Coral Castle in Florida. Code144.

gregsmith_to on Dec 30, 2013 said:

Because perpetual motion machines tend to work much better when you use phi as a ration in the design?

Greasetattoo on Jan 25, 2013 said:

His has 12 balls, yours only has 8. Could that be it? I would use a bearing in the middle though!

rocketboy on Jan 25, 2013 said:

It obviously doesn't work because you printed it in white. I believe safety cone orange or bright green are required for perpetual motion...

nallath on Jan 26, 2013 said:

I'd go for red. The red makes it go faster and thus have more kinetic energy.

naught101 on Jan 26, 2013 said:

If you take enough acid, it'll look green and orange, and it'll probably spin forever, too.

strangeloop on Jan 24, 2013 said:

did you try it with slighter heavier bearings? if i am not wrong, the perpetual motion is possible if the center of gravity of the entire combination of the wheel and the bearings is always closer to the circumference and to one side. Perhaps a math simulation for actually tracing the movement of the center of gravity is called for :D

RichMac on Jan 25, 2013 said:

There are countless complex computer simulations and calculations proving that it does work. Unfortunately my ball bearings don't understand the theory!

Sungod3k on Jan 24, 2013 said:

Next: the mechanism in peppers office in ironman 2

ldabkey on Jan 24, 2013 said:

Would love to see a video...do you have one of it working?

RichMac on Jan 25, 2013 said:

Sorry, no video of it working, because is doesn't! Despite all the enthusiasm for hundreds of years, the overbalanced wheel is a delightful myth. As you turn the wheel, the extra friction of the balls slows it down quicker.

davide70 on Jan 24, 2013 said:

You aren't doing anything wrong. Your only problem is that perpetual motion is impossible because it violates the laws of thermodynamics.

DDeGonge888 on Sep 29, 2013 said:

No it doesn't. Go into outer space and spin a ball. It will spin forever assuming it doesn't interact any planets, asteroids, etc. What is impossible is getting any energy out of it and having it still spin. As long as no energy is taken away from the object (aka no friction) it can in fact spin forever. But no, this isn't possible on earth unless you artificially create a vacuum and some kind of magnetic levitation so there is absolutely no friction.

mtdna on Jan 25, 2013 said:

No, he's just using the wrong kind of filament. He needs Monster Cables' ultra-gold.

mechadrafter on Jan 24, 2013 said:

A ball bearing in the center would increase the spin time dramatically I'm sure. The sleeve bearing has a ton of friction.

gregsmith_to on Dec 30, 2013 said:

The balls sliding around probably use up a lot more energy than the bearing at the middle, which may be hard to accept since Da Vinci thought they would supply energy...

gr0b on Feb 18, 2013 said:

not to mention air resistance, might need to keep it in a vacuum too

robi772 on Jan 24, 2013 said:

Need a little engine in the middle. :)

ssd on Jan 24, 2013 said:

It might be interesting to put a low friction bearing in the center...

jfpion on Jan 24, 2013 said:

nice but can't work, the enrgy needed to lift the ball from the low place to the up one is the same than the enrgy you can get from the up place to the low one <; the sum is zero so it can turn

if it can there would be no energy shortage anywhere

Jhack82 on Jan 24, 2013 said:

it would be interesting to glue the balls in place on one wheel, and let them roll on another wheel, and with the same force applied, see the difference in decceleration times. could be an interesting math problem to prove/disprove inertia math.

Alzibiff on Jan 24, 2013 said:

Interesting - how long have you managed to get it to spin for?

RichMac on Jan 24, 2013 said:

Not long at all. If you turn it slowly it stops immediately, if you turn it fast the balls fly out!