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A Machine to Die For is a documentary about perpetual motion that showcases different inventors, each of whom is striving to create a perpetual motion machine. The documentary could be used as a resource when studying motion and simple machines in secondary science and physics. It could also serve as a springboard for discussions about inventors and inventions and the history of scientic endeavours. It would be suitable for teachers of middle to senior secondary students in Science (Physical Sciences), History and Materials Technology.



A Machine to Die Forthe quest for free energy Synopsis

Machine to Die For is about the search for perpetual motion and free energy. Conventional science claims this is impossible, yet generations of inventors have been mesmerised by the promise of an engine that powers itself. The worlds reliance on diminishing fossil fuel resources and the associated problems of pollution serve to spur them on. A Machine to Die For showcases a number of dedicated, sometimes eccentric, and always obsessive individuals who have devoted their lives to this quest.

The recurring centrepiece is ex-car mechanic Aldo Costa, who has spent some fty years building a giant ve story high fuel-less Ferris wheel that he believes will run forever.

In Norway Ryder Findsrud, an artist and sculptor, has designed and built the ultimate Perpetual Motion machine. This combination of pulleys, pendulums, magnets and weights has, he contends, been continually on the move for six years. There is a recluse in Canada who believes the secrets of Perpetual Motion were given to him by aliens. A British inventor, John Searl, has been working on a free energy ying machine that can apparently do the London/New York run in under half an hour. An inventor in Seattle, Doug Konzen, believes he can get batteries to recharge themselves faster than they discharge, and another who has a machine that puts out some thousand times more power than is required to run it. Eric Kreig is a compassionate but righteous debunker who has dedicated his life to puncturing folly. He is offering a $10,000 prize for the rst Perpetual Motion Machine, and provides a dose of healthy scepticism throughout the documentary. Prof. Edmund Storm, who worked at Los Alomos on nuclear projects, states: New ideas are very frequently

generated by people who are very strange and it is easy to reject their ideas just by virtue of their strange personalities. Is there really not that much difference between these inventors and conventional scientists? Great ideas and great inventions are all guesses; all begin in faith and are nurtured by optimism, and advance in the teeth of resistance. And who should tell a crusader when to stop?

Before you watch the lm

1 Brainstorm and discuss what you know about energy and the scientic laws about energy: What types of energy are there? Can energy be changed from one form into another? Can energy be made or destroyed? Can machines run without a constant supply of energy? The by-line of the documentary is the quest for free energy. What do you think is meant by the term free energy? Is any energy entirely free? Record your ideas and decide whether you want to change or alter them after watching the documentary.

Look at the key words below and discuss the meanings with your teacher or your classmates. - perpetual - Fossil fuels - pollution - famine - patent - sceptic - motion - conspiracy - unorthodox - utopia - obsession

Key scientic words

energy kinetic friction gravity magnetism electromagnet thermodynamics generator

After you watch the lm Rules of science

Conventional scientists refer to believers in free energy as crackpots, conmen or crooks because they work outside the current laws of physics. Narrator


The seekers after perpetual motion are trying to get something from nothing. Sir Isaac Newton Scientists look for patterns in nature and they develop general laws or rules to help understand the world around us. About 300 years ago, Sir Isaac Newton formulated a law that stated that energy could not be created from nothing. This became the First Law of Thermodynamics. Later, two other laws of Thermodynamics were developed. The British scientist and author C.P. Snow had an excellent way of remembering the three laws: 1. You cannot win. 2. You cannot break even. 3. You cannot get out of the game. Research the three laws of thermo

dynamics. Write down at least two different wordings for each law, then write the laws in your own words (like C.P. Snow did). Explain why the quest for perpetual motion and free energy is outside the laws of physics.

Joule? After whom was the Joule named?

Energy Conversions
There are many different types of energy. Brainstorm as many as you can think of and write them down. What is meant by the term potential energy? How many different forms of potential energy can you think of?

Measuring energy
Energy is dened as the ability to do work (bring about a change). Energy in foods can be measured in a unit called a calorie. A calorie is the amount of heat required to raise one gram of water through one degree Celsius. The accepted unit of measurement for energy is now the Joule. Find two different denitions for a Joule How many calories are there in one

Many machines convert energy from one form into another: Show the energy conversions that take place in the following machines by completing Table 01 (also include all wasted energy that you can think of).

Machine e.g . Hair dryer Internal combustion engine (car) Battery Television Toaster Wind generator Solar cell Bicycle A pendulum clock

Converted from electrical

Mainly to Heat, kinetic

Wasted sound


Fossil Fuels
In the documentary, the narrator states that: The (perpetual motion) machine is a real threat to those individuals, companies and countries whose fortunes have been underpinned by gas, oil and coal plus perhaps, others who have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. Research fossil fuels: Why are coal, oil and natural gas called fossil fuels? What are the main countries that produce fossil fuels? What does OPEC stand for? What are the main uses of fossil fuels? What are greenhouse gases? What is the relationship between greenhouse gases and fossil fuels? Why are fossil fuels considered non-renewable resources?

List the problems that might be solved if all energy was free. What are the problems that might be caused if all energy was free? Some people contend that wars have been fought to protect different countries interest in the fossil fuel industry. Research and discuss. (Watch Michael Moores lm Fahrenheit 9/11 and discuss his contentions about the USAs involvement in wars in the Middle East.)

Electricity and magnetism

A number of the examples of free energy machines use magnetism and electricity, which are closely related. Electrical energy can be used to make a magnet and a magnet can be used to make electrical energy.

Make an electromagnet
WHAT YOU NEED: A large nail or bolt A long piece of insulated wire 2 x 1.5 volt batteries (D cells) A packet of paper clips WHAT TO DO: Strip the insulation from each end of the wire. Wind the wire around the nail at least 15 times, leaving at least 10cm of wire free at each end. Connect the two stripped ends of the wire to the opposite ends of the battery. Hold the nail close to a small pile of paper clips. Record the number of paper clips you were able to pick up. Now change the number of coils of wire and note how this affects the number of paper clips you can pick up. Try connecting two batteries and see how this affects the electromagnet. (DO NOT leave the electromagnet connected to the battery for extended periods as it may become quite hot.)

Free energy
The use of renewable energy sources is becoming more common. Sunlight and wind are free sources of energy. Solar water heaters are supplementing or replacing conventional hot water services in many places. Solar cells are being used to generate electricity in many places, especially in remote locations where powerlines are unavailable. The erection of banks of wind generators (wind farms) is causing controversy in many coastal areas. Research solar cells. Explain how they work, the recent improvements in their efciency and common applications. Research the arguments for and against wind farms. Justify your opinion on wind farms.

Economy of oil
Discuss what you think is meant by the term the economy of oil. Use your energy bills, transport costs and petrol costs to estimate how much your household spends directly on energy per week. List the indirect energy costs that you meet each week.


Generate some electricity

WHAT YOU NEED: A solenoid (wire coil) A galvanometer A bar magnet Wires for connecting the circuit WHAT TO DO: Connect the solenoid to the galvanometer. Quickly move the bar magnet in and out of the solenoid several times. Note down the current that registers. What happens if you move the magnet more quickly or slowly? What happened if the magnet is inserted the other way around?

Connecting wires Lemons Copper strips Zinc strips

For each battery work out the value for money by dividing the time it lasted (in minutes) by the cost (in cents). Which battery was the best value for money?

WHAT TO DO: Insert a copper strip into one end of the lemon and a zinc strip into the other end. Use the wires to connect the metal strips to the volt meter and measure the electrical potential. Try connecting several lemons in a series circuit and measure the potential. (It is recommended that it takes about twenty lemons to light a small globe!) Try other fruit and vegetables.

Rechargeable batteries
Car batteries are rechargeable. They are used to produce the electricity needed to start a car and to run the electrical appliances in your car. The movement of the cars engine is used to generate extra electricity to recharge the batteries. What equipment in you car runs on electricity? Investigate lead acid accumulators (car batteries) and explain how they work. If car batteries are constantly being recharged, explain why they eventually go at.

Storing electrical energy

Some of the inventors of over unity machines claim that they use batteries to power machines which, in turn, can recharge batteries leaving you with as much or even more energy than you started with. Batteries are devices that change chemical energy into electrical energy, and electrical energy back into chemical energy if they are rechargeable.

Measure battery life

WHAT YOU NEED Several different AAA batteries (long life, expensive, cheap, alkaline, etc) A voltmeter Connecting wires A clock A light globe WHAT TO DO: Note down the cost of each battery. Connect each battery up in a circuit with the light globe and the voltmeter. Take the voltage reading every ve minutes until the battery goes at. Graph your results. Which battery lasted the longest?

Perpetual motion and art

Ryder Findsrud designed his rolling ball machine as a piece of art. The Dutch graphic artist M.C. Escher designed many visual illusions including a famous waterfall that appears to be in perpetual motion.

Make a lemon battery

WHAT YOU NEED: A voltmeter

Design and draw your own perpetual motion machine (it can be as fantastic as you wish). Explain how it might work. How would it change the world?

Believing the unbelievable

In the documentary there is discussion about whether the people who are endeavouring to nd a perpetual motion or free energy machine are real scientists or merely crackpots. It is stated that Royal Society president William Thomson, Lord Kelvin, (1897-9) made the following predictions: Radio has no future X-rays are clearly a hoax Heavier than air ying machines are scientically impossible. Use the Internet to make a list of other predictions that were found to be way off course. Note down who made them and when. Great inventions often receive violent opposition from mediocre minds.

and those that failed. He is sometimes called a man out of time. What do you think this means? Are the inventors in the documentary out of their time? Find out more at:

John Searle http://www.unexplained-mysteries. com/articlejohnsearle.shtml Tilley and Kibbey Tilley/fraud/index.html Redheffers machine redheffer.html Finsrud machine htm Pennie Stoyles has had 12 years experience teaching all aspects of science in secondary schools. Currently she manages the provision of education programs at Scienceworks museum in Melbourne. She has a strong interest in science communication and has published two series of science library books for school aged children. This study guide was produced by ATOM. For more information about ATOM study guides, The Education Shop, The Speakers Bureau or Screen Hub (the daily online lm and television newsletter) visit our web site: or email: Notice: An educational institution may make copies of all or part of this Study Guide, provided that it only makes and uses copies as reasonably required for its own educational, non-commercial, classroom purposes and does not sell or lend such copies.

Eric Krieg is a sceptic. He does not believe that perpetual motion is possible and he is so convinced that he is offering a $10,000 prize to the rst person who can demonstrate such a machine to him. Discuss what you think is meant by the term healthy scepticism. Do you think Eric Krieg was convinced by any of the machines that he saw? Were you convinced by any of the machines you saw?

In Australia and many other countries there are Associations of Skeptics. Find out about the activities of the Australian Skeptics. What is their $100,000 psychic challenge?

Historically there have been people who were ridiculed or persecuted for their new ideasideas that are now accepted in mainstream science. For example, Copernicus and Galileo were unable to publish their ideas about astronomy for fear of persecution from the Catholic Church. Write a short summary of the issues, including previously held ideas and the evidence for the changed viewpoint. Comment on the politics of the issue. Find out more at:

Find out more at: challenge.htm

General resources
The Perpetual Motion Page Erics History of Perpetual Motion A description of perpetual motion The Museum of Unworkable devices Finsrud Perpetual motion machine Strange Machines 8.html europe_church.html church.html or read Brechts play entitled Galileo. Nikola Tesla is called the father of radio and television, ideas for which he was ridiculed because he was so ahead of his time, but he did also propose a system of supplying power through the air using radio waves which was never implemented. Write a short biography of Nikola Tesla. Comment on his inventions, including those that we use today,


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