If you go on YouTube, you will find a large number of machines that work for almost forever. But why do all of them stop working after some time? Which Law (Other than Conservation of Energy) prevents a machine from running till eternity?

  • $\begingroup$ How do you define eternity? $\endgroup$
    – user163104
    Aug 7, 2017 at 11:08
  • $\begingroup$ Depends on the machine. Different machines exhibit conservation of energy in different ways. $\endgroup$
    – PhillS
    Aug 7, 2017 at 11:31
  • $\begingroup$ But "Almost" Perpetual Machines are high energy efficient, right ? $\endgroup$ Aug 7, 2017 at 15:18
  • $\begingroup$ Maybe it could be grabbed by some entropy thing. $\endgroup$
    – peterh
    Aug 7, 2017 at 22:05

2 Answers 2


Most don't work due to the laws of thermodynamics, usually the first law which states that energy can neither be created or destroyed as you mentioned in your question . This stops the opportunity for many perpetual motion machines as most lose heat (and therefore energy) in the process. Without putting more energy in the total energy of the system will run out.

Aside from conservation of energy there is the second law of thermodynamics, which states that the entropy of any isolated system always increases (entropy is defined as the measure of a system's thermal energy per unit of temperature that is unavailable for doing useful work). This means that over time less of the systems energy will be able to do the work, and the machine will eventually stop.

The ones that contain magnets and objects rolling up ramps, dropping down and rolling up again etc. don't work because eventually the magnets will stop being magnetised.

Other's I've heard of are things such as capillary action by water going up a tube and dropping down. The problem with ones such as that is that if the water's gone up against gravity, it's not going to drop out without external force.

Hope this answers your question - commennt other supposedly perpetual motion machines if you're not sure of their problems and I'll see if i can find one :)

  • $\begingroup$ Conservation of energy is a local law, and appealing to the laws of thermodynamics leaves a probabilistic loophole. I know that we both know they are not perpetual, but I personally wouldn't argue based on those laws. $\endgroup$
    – user163104
    Aug 7, 2017 at 11:14
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Countto10 But to influence the system local or not 'something' has to enter the system surely, regardless of locality. And in my mind a perpetual motion machine just isn't if it isn't an isolated system. Maybe I'm just misunderstanding your comment? $\endgroup$ Aug 7, 2017 at 11:19
  • $\begingroup$ Sorry Cooper, I definitely don't want this to veer away from conventional physics. This question is bound to return again and I will be better informed to expressed myself more clearly in future. I rushed this a bit, frankly but I learnt a lot. Regards. $\endgroup$
    – user163104
    Aug 7, 2017 at 12:45
  • $\begingroup$ Hey Cooper,what about perpetual motion machines which work due to the center of load being unbalanced ? $\endgroup$ Aug 8, 2017 at 0:52
  • $\begingroup$ Do you mean something like this: lhup.edu/~dsimanek/museum/overbal1.gif? Say this is on an axle. To my knowledge all this would do is change the centre of mass downwards. With a low centre of mass this causes the wheel to swing back and forth until it eventually stops. $\endgroup$ Aug 8, 2017 at 11:05

Which Law (Other than Conservation of Energy) prevents a machine from running till eternity

Why is the law of energy conservation not fulfulling for you to answer that? There is always energy conservation, and that is the sole reason that you can't draw more energy out of a machine than is put in.

That the output is always even less than that is a result of efficiency considerations (the Carnot limit e.g.)

So, drawing energy from a machine will cause it to eventually stop. But if you don't draw energy from a motion, then theoretically it will continue running forever. A rolling wheel will in theory never stop rolling if nothing stops it. A space ship drifting in space will never stop drifting but forever have constant velocity, until something stops it. But here on Earth we never see anything lasting forever. There is always friction, deformations in materials, air resistances etc. even in the smoothest gears, and all that cause small energy losses. Nothing is ideal; everything will stop eventually.

  • $\begingroup$ Hi physics.stackexchange.com/questions/333489/… implies that on a global scale, energy is not conserved. So thinking, really really big, (total thought experiment, PM machine), the law of conservation may not be the barrier usually accepted for local systems. I not sure either of us wants to get away from practical physics, but if I could harness the expansion of the universe in some way, well......:) $\endgroup$
    – user163104
    Aug 7, 2017 at 12:30

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