Thursday 10 April 2014

Drinking Bird

The drinking bird is a popular toy or mobile ornament that has been around for about a century, but it exhibits an extraordinary characteristic; it appears to be a perpetual motion device. The drinking bird is a dumbbell-shaped glass chamber evacuated of air and half-filled with a volatile liquid like dicholoromethane or acetone; the rest of the space is filled by vapour from the liquid. The central column of the dumbbell forms a tube and in one of the ends, this tube extends down like a drinking straw so that it opens out beneath the surface of the liquid pool when the device is held with that end downwards; this will henceforth be called the bottom end, and the other the top end. The top end’s outer surface is covered by an absorbent textile, like felt; this is usually coloured and decorated with feathers so that it resembles a bird’s head. The chamber is then balanced on a pivot attached to a stand so that it can swing freely back and forth, and then the whole assembly is placed next to an open-topped container of water, like a drinking glass. When you tip the chamber over so that it is almost horizontal, the top end dips into the water and the textile absorbs some of the water. The weight of the liquid is slightly higher in the bottom end because the angle is not quite horizontal so the chamber tilts back to the vertical, dragged by the weight of the liquid in the bottom end. Once out of the water the textile dries, which draws heat out of the top end and makes the vapour inside cool down. This then condenses leaving behind a vacuum. The vacuum then sucks the liquid from the bottom end up the tube to the top. The top end becomes heavier this time and the chamber tilts back down into the water, and then the dry textile absorbs some again. This action raises the end of the tube in the bottom end above the level of the liquid and the entire tube drains. This breaks the vacuum and equalizes the vapour pressure between the two ends, the liquid held by suction in the top end flows back to the bottom, the bottom becomes heavy and the cycle begins again. Once you have started the drinking bird going it will theoretically continue forever. So long as you keep the water topped up and leaving aside practicalities such as wear and tear on the pivot. This is why the toy is sometimes referred to as a miniature chemistry demonstration or heat engine. The heat effects within the system produce work, the movement of the entire assembly. However the literature on the subject emphasizes that the drinking bird is not a perpetual motion device. Even though it will run infinitely, it cannot function without an external heat source within the ambient air to evapourate the water in the textile. In that way it’s similar to a wind turbine which is also not a perpetual motion device even though it too will spin forever, because it will only do so for as long as the wind keeps blowing.

A real perpetual motion device is something entirely different, it generates energy internally. If you search for images and designs for perpetual motion devices you’ll find all kinds. They’re usually a fairly simple mechanical engine in which the work they do is fed back to the input of the system through various means; water wheels, balls running on tracks, a network of cogs etc. According to the science you’ll learn at school and university this should be impossible because it violates the laws of entropy, conservation of energy and thermodynamics. This basically means you can’t get more energy out of something than you put into it. For example, my own design for a perpetual motion machine would be a dynamo that charges a circuit to run an electric light. That light shines onto a photovoltaic cell which powers a motor which both turns the dynamo and spins another shaft onto which I can attach a second generator for other purposes. The problem is obvious to anybody trained in no more than schoolboy science: Suppose the dynamo produced twenty watts of power, then at least twenty watts will be needed to spin it. That twenty watts will then be transferred to the light, which cannot emit more radiated energy than twenty watts onto the photovoltaic cell. That photovoltaic cell is the source for the spinning of the dynamo and that requires all twenty of those watts; there will be none spare for turning the second generator. In fact it gets worse, because in practice even the closed loop sans generator would be impossible because resistance in the circuits and other inevitable forms of inefficiency would mean a spiralling loss of power from the moment you started it. The whole set up would grind to a halt very quickly even without the second generator to deal with. This hasn’t stopped hundreds of inventors from trying to build one though, over many hundreds of years. Some men even became obsessed to the point of madness in their quest. There have sadly been many fakes, fraud and error, which always happens when so much is at stake and so much passion aroused. The motive is obvious; once a working perpetual motion machine is invented it will produce energy without any input of fuel, in other words: free energy. Here’s an interesting documentary about perpetual motion:
Should we be so swift to dismiss the possibility of perpetual motion? After all, I’ve been saying for a long time how I think free energy exists and that the authorities are covering it up, for example see: What’s the difference between my assertion and those of a perpetual motion inventor? In essence nothing; there’s merely an arbitrary intuitive barrier drawn between ideas involving emergent concepts like electrogravitics and the Hutchison Effect, and those which merely tinker with existing mechanical principles. It’s very much an assumption on our part that we’ll never find an answer through fiddling with cogs and springs. You may disagree and argue that if existing mechanical engineering had this latent ability waiting to be discovered it would already have been a long time ago. Would it? We hear all the time how oil companies are trying to suppress free energy inventions, however the free energy cover up goes back at least to the 19th century when coal was the world’s principle fossil fuel, not oil; and simple mechanics was the only technology. We also know that forces exist in nature that appear to have no energy source, like gravity, magnetism and the nuclear forces. It might be possible to harness those forces and direct them for our own use. The Brownian ratchet is an example of how somebody tried to use molecular motion to run a motor, see: The machine you see in the opening scene of the documentary A Machine to Die For linked above is probably powered by the magnets. Free energy does not always need Large Hadron Collider level technology to be created. It can emerge in surprisingly simple systems and even exists in nature. According to Viktor Schauberger the trout he saw swimming in cold Austrian rivers propelled themselves using a zero point energy source which they harvested directly from the water itself. He built watercourses and turbines that used this inherent energy in water that he discovered, see: Schauberger was pressured into working for the Nazis when they annexed Austria in 1938 and his work went underground, but others have been inspired by his contribution. Did you know that the water hammer effect might sometimes be a trigger for a zero point energy upwelling? So when you open a tap or flush a toilet and hear an annoying growling vibration coming from under the floorboards it’s time to call the plumber. But remember that might be, sometimes but not always, a free energy effect? One inventor has built a generator based on this, see here at the start of the programme: It’s still possible that some feature of known solids or liquids and how they interact inside an engine that was invented hundreds of years ago and is routinely used today, or is even obsolete, could be producing a zero point energy effect right under our noses; and it just takes some genius, thinking outside the box, to spot it. Also of course we shall need a political and economic landscape in which free energy already spotted can be used legally. So the laws of physics are not wrong. Working perpetual motion and free energy devices are not breaking them by producing more power then they consume; it’s just that the input power is coming from a source beyond what we currently know about, therefore we don’t see it and misunderstand. Going back to the drinking bird, I doubt if this little gift shop trinket is really exhibiting free energy potential in its usual form; I’m sure it really is just a heat engine run by thermal transfer. But seeing as the best potential free energy machines, at least those based on simple principles, involve water, would it be possible to design a drinking bird device using water for the fluid inside the chamber? Well, we’d need a far hotter ambient temperature, to vapourize the water inside and also the head end would need to be soaked in a very different substance, one with a far higher boiling point. If this were done though, would we see something new happening? Would we see a free energy drinking bird?

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