Examination of the
which the so-called
Of Merseburg has built,
what to think of it
and how all that which he has hitherto
adduced as supposed proof
does not lead to the conclusion that the wheel necessarily must be
Christian Wagner, Mathematician
Leipzig, printed by Johann Gottlieb Bauchen
Translated by Andrew Witter;
U.S.Copyright 1997 by Al Bacon;
Reprinted by permission of copyrightholder
In the public newspaper and elsewhere, the wheel constructed by Herr Orffyreus at Merseburg has been the object of much fuss and praise and also much testimony, irrational as it may be, that the wheel is the veritable perpetual motion machine which has been sought in vain for so long, with the effect that many gullible persons, who do not think beyond what their eyes see, believe it to be the true perpetual motion machine. Let us look now at the reasons and arguments, such as they are, as to why this machine is the true perpetual motion machine.
First of all, because the motive principle is contained within the wheel itself, and the journals and axle rotate together with the wheel, it necessarily follows, according to Herr Orffyreus, that if the motive principle is capable of turning the wheel at a constant speed for some time, then the wheel must rotate until the material of which it consists wears out.
Furthermore, his motive principle is allegedly not one of the hitherto known mechanical powers, all of which can drive for only a certain time, but in reality the true perpetual motion.
Thirdly, he intends to show by the motion's effect and duration that his wheel achieves perpetual motion, and he offers to let the wheel run in the presence of officials and persons experienced in mathematics and mechanics for 8 days, excluding Sunday because of a vow that he has made to God.
Finally, Herr Orffyreus asserts as a fourth argument that his wheel can turn to the left and to the right; a characteristic which no mechanical power to date has had. However, this supposed argument falls far short of settling the dispute over perpetual motion, as will be shown clearly and thoroughly in the following.
The first argument that if the motive principle is contained inside the wheel and go round simultaneously with the wheel and thus there is no fixed point, then the motive principle must have a perpetual motion - is utterly false. To show this all the more clearly, I have constructed the same wheel here. It measures 4 ells in diameter and 7 inches in thickness and is situated between two thin boards in such a way that the journal bearings can be attached to the outer side of these boards, the machine can be raised out of its journal bearings and placed on other pieces of wood and, consequently, the machine can be brought to other places and set up, if the doorways are large enough. Hence it follows irrefutably that the motive principle is contained in the wheel itself, and because the axle and journals rotate with it at the same time, this wheel would also have to be, if these requisites were sufficient, a perpetual motion machine, which it is not, however.
As for the second argument, i.e. that a perpetual motion exists in nature, Herr Orffyreus adduces the following: it exists because many famous mathematicians and mechanics who have seen the wheel assert and affirm that perpetual motion is possible. For a mathematician as celebrated as Orffyreus, this evidence is very weak indeed. That this or that famous mathematician considers perpetual motion possible falls far short of proving that it is actually possible. Certainly Herr Orffyreus is not unaware that many other mathematicians in the world consider perpetual motion impossible and thus undermine his pretended authority. Instead of skimming this point, which is the crux of the matter, Herr Orffyreus should have thoroughly demonstrated:
1) that from and within nature itself a mechanical perpetual motion or continuous superior force is possible without any new, added assistance;
2) what kind of motion it would be and in what it would consist.
The following axiom, among others, argues against the continuous and perpetual superior force: in every perpetual motion, the dominant mode of turning must take the place of the dominated, and the latter must take the place of the former again. The transition from dominant to dominated, however, cannot occur except during the hypomochlium, or point of rest; hence while the dominant is still passing over to the dominated, a state of rest necessarily occurs by the principle of equilibrium. Even if Herr Orffyreus objects that by disclosing the wheel's structure he would, at the same time, inevitably reveal the whole secret, it does not follow that disclosure of the principle by which he drives the wheel would be tantamount to informing the people of how the principle is applied in the wheel and how the wheel is structured. Herr Orffyreus does not wish to deal with this main point in writing or in private discussion but always makes the following excuse whenever sensible people ask what kind of principle drives the wheel: he is too dizzy and giddy in the head at the moment. Thus one can sufficiently see that his motive principle is an empty concept, and if he were to discuss it a little too far, sensible people might gather that the wheel's motion is not perpetual but derives from a hitherto known mechanical power and is therefore nothing more than a temporary motion which lasts, for example, 1, 2, 3,4 or more hours, whole days even, depending on how long the machine has been calculated to run. He is all the more ridiculous when he alleges that his perpetual motion is mentioned in the Holy Scriptures, particularly in Christ's words in the New Testament. He is careful to omit these words because the good man himself does not know of any. Finally, Herr Orffyreus supposedly gets to the root of the matter when he asserts that children in the lane play with his perpetual motion or so-called superior force. Here I am in complete agreement with him and say that not only does his principle appear in all books on mechanics, but most people in the world have seen it, and children in the lane do indeed play with it often; also, if the linen cloak were removed from his wheel so that one could see the well- known invention, everyone would say: Oh, that we had not been credulous people to admire and make a fuss over the wheel and consider it a perpetual motion machine, for only now do we very well understand its capabilities and see that it can go but a certain amount of time.
The third argument consists in his claiming to have shown by the wheel's effect and duration that the wheel has a perpetual motion, and he imagines that he has settled the matter by allowing the wheel to run continuously for 8 days (excluding Sunday). (See LeipzigerZeitungen', number 4, 36th week of 1715) Here I ask Herr Orffyreus what is remarkable, ingenious or novel about making a wheel that runs for eight consecutive days. The mechanical powers already known are sufficient for making wheels which go not only eight days but entire years in succession without requiring assistance; thus in no way does it follow that because the wheel has run for 8 days it is a perpetual motion machine. Here the motive principle would seem to be very difficult to apply since the wheel has no fixed point, rather everything rotates with the wheel. True, it does seem to be difficult, but it is not therefore impossible. The proof is clear from the wheel which I constructed.
Fourthly, he cites, as an argument, that his wheel can turn right and left, from which it is supposedly plain to see that no mechanical power is added, for if it were added, the wheel would not be able to turn left then right. To be sure, it does appear plausible when one takes a cursory look at the matter; that it has nothing to do with the main work, however, will be shown thoroughly in the following. This retrograde motion is not an essential part of the internal motive principle, rather the machine can do just as well without it, and it is therefore a mere accidental. The reason is that such retrograde motion was not present in his first wheel at Draschwitz (as Mr. Orffyreus himself acknowledges in the general Leipziger Zeitung), and yet this wheel likewise had internal motion and was also, according to Herr Orffyreus' assertion, a true perpetual motion machine. If the retrograde motion were essential to the machine, then it could not possibly be omitted, and therefore his previous wheel was not an authentic perpetual motion machine but a mechanical optical illusion. For this reason I have left it out of my wheel. It is, however, simply some kind of addition to the invention, for after meticulous investigation I have found that it is entirely practicable to apply retrograde motion in a pseudo-perpetual motion machine in such a way that when one gives the machine the initial push to the opposite side, the internal motive principle turns along with it in that direction. Furthermore, Herr Orffyreus makes much noise about the great force which his wheel has in that it can lift almost a hundredweight (see Leipziger Zeitung cited above). That the internal principle or so-called superior force does not in itself have power but depends on the momentum of the wheel is clear because he must always give his wheel an initial, vigorous push. Now, everybody knows what kind of power a wheel measuring 6 ells in diameter has if it is set in motion but not given any additional impetus and that it is capable of heaving several light pounding stamps (especially if the stamps are made of thin boards nailed together and are hollow inside, like those of Mr. Orffyreus) into the air a few times and of hoisting a stone several ells up. If Herr Orffyreus wishes to demonstrate that the internal motive principle has its own force, he must leave out the push, which is an additional force coming from the outside, and let the wheel go by itself.
I assure him that his great 6-ell wheel would not be powerful enough to move from the starting position or to rotate even very slowly. Then if he wishes to show what it can lift, he will have to apply such things that must continuously press upon and drive the machine, e.g. a water-pump; in this way a completely different effect would soon be seen.
One can also readily conclude that his internal motive principle or so-called superior force has no hundredweight force because his apprentice - a weakling who together with his leather waistcoat and blue apron does not weigh a hundredweight but is able to halt the wheel by grasping the axle twice - made it clear that the wheel cannot raise a hundredweight; for a body weighing less than a hundredweight suffices to bring the wheel to a complete standstill within 2 seconds, and as soon as the wheel stops moving, almost all internal impetus is gone.
I write this not out of mere fantasy or heedlessness but from thorough investigation involving an experiment; from the fact that the wheel built by me must likewise be given a push or else it, like Orffyreus' wheel, will not move from the original position, he can see that his internal motive principle, or so-called superior force, and its application are not unknown to me but that we have entirely the same principle and application except that I left the wheel in its own motion and did not employ any internal assistance that causes movement and maintains the speed of a wheel already set in motion when only a slight stimulus is added inside.
Finally, Herr Orffyreus is officially requested to fulfill his promise made in the general Leipziger Zeitung and let his 6-ell wheel run continuously for 8 days in the presence of persons mentioned above. It is not necessary that he situate it in an open field; rather, the run can suitably take place at the location where the wheel now stands; he can free himself from all suspicions of external pulling or driving if he, as he himself has offered, screws out the journals and allows the journal bearings and posts to be inspected closely. Perhaps the whole experiment would end after the lapse of 24 hours.
If Herr Orffyreus does not manage to do this, then I am willing to tear away the external cloak from my wheel and let it run publicly so that everyone sees the application and entire structure, and if some one wants to spend the time and money he too can make the same wheel, which will remain in continuous motion for many hours, indeed for as long as Herr Orffyreus' wheel turns. From personal experience, I attest that one can design the machine to run for 1, 2, 3, 4 or more hours, for whole days even, if one is only willing to spend the time and money.
Lastly, I must mention that they who inspected the Draschwitz wheel observed, almost in the middle of the radius on the one side which faced the wall and was rather dark owing to a lack of incident light, a hand-sized gap formed by the removal of a mere thick splinter an indication that Herr Orffyreus by necessity had to do something in the machine to reset the internal motive principle or superior force to its previous state. Mr. Orffyreus was prepared with the excuse that this opening was left so that whenever something came undone inside the wheel he could fix it right away without having to remove the entire casing (how he always takes care to excuse himself with the fragility of the materials!); this, however, just cannot be. If something breaks on the other side, which is several ells away and has no such service hole, how would Herr Orffyreus be able to fix it through this tiny opening? The wheel currently set up in Merseburg, which is covered with linen cloth, has various openings ~~ that have been left around the axle and are bandaged over with pinned-on strips.
From the example of the wheel built by me and from the rest of the arguments, Herr Orffyreus must now see that everything he has demonstrated and shown so far proves not that his wheel is absolutely and necessarily the true perpetual motion machine but the following: that it is a wheel possessing its own internal motion which is in no way borrowed from without; when the wheel is brought into motion through a push, it goes for as long as calculated, namely 1, 2, 3,4, 5, 6 or more hours, days even, and therefore has temporary motion; and when the internal motive principle or superior force has run out, it remains a perpetual and intrinsic stability until it is reset to the previous state through external assistance. Thus it is a mechanical plaything and an optical illusion, and if in the future someone wants to take the trouble of writing about mechanical charlatans, this wheel deserves the highest and most distinguished position among them.
Copyright © 2011 John Collins.