Does this video show a “perpetual” ball machine?

A video shows a marble machine in “perpetual” motion.

The context

Although these are authentic images of a genuine product, the “perpetual” bead machine does not run indefinitely without an additional power source. Instead, it uses batteries and a magnet to create the illusion that marbles can perpetually move through the contraption.

Fact check

In May 2022, a video purporting to show a “perpetual” moving ball machine was shared in the “Be Amazed” section of Reddit. The video, which showed a marble spiraling down a funnel, falling through a hole, moving along a curved track, then re-throwing into the funnel where the process would begin again, drew some skeptical comments. After all, a perpetual motion machine is impossible, because it break at least one of the first two laws of thermodynamics.

Our first inclination when we saw this video was that its creators used digital animation. We came across several similar seemingly “impossible” videos featuring colored ball sorters and musical marbles that used computer-generated technology. The final video purporting to depict the “perpetual” marble machine, however, was authentic footage and featured a physical product.

But a perpetual motion machine? No, this example of gadget did not upset our understanding of the world. Instead, batteries and a magnet created the illusion that the marble could move perpetually through the contraption.

These marble machines were available for purchase at the time of writing this article. We found several versions of the product on Amazon and Etsy. You can search “perpetual marble machine” if you want to buy one for yourself.

Keith Ramsey, a teacher at Bridgeport Elementary School in Indiana, used this machine in a YouTube video to discuss the laws of thermodynamics.

Ramsey says:

A perpetual motion machine is a machine that continues to run without any loss of energy. Scientists agree that this is impossible due to the first and second laws of thermodynamics.

The first law of thermodynamics is the law of conservation of energy, which simply states that energy cannot be created or destroyed, but rather transferred. For perpetual motion like this, the energy should stay with the machine. To create a perpetual motion machine, you would need a machine that has absolutely no friction, so no energy is wasted.


Sources:

jessy. “Perpetual Motion Machines: Working Against Physical Laws.” Livescience.Com, August 31, 2016, https://www.livescience.com/55944-perpetual-motion-machines.html.

“Thermodynamics – Definition, Equations, Laws, Meaning, Formulas | Basics of thermodynamics. BYJUS, https://byjus.com/physics/thermodynamics/. Accessed May 13, 2022.

When a physics teacher knows about it!! www.youtube.com, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=77ZF50ve6rs. Accessed May 13, 2022.


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