Phenomena

Perpetual Motion?

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In the 17th century, scientist Robert Boyle proposed a perpetual motion machine consisting of a self-filling flask. The concept was that capillary action, which creates the meniscus of liquid seen in containers and is responsible for the flow of water from a tree’s roots upward against gravity, would allow the thin side of the flask to draw fluid up and refill the cup side. In reality, this is not possible because surface tension will hold it in a droplet at the end of the tube rather than letting it fall. In the video above, the hydrostatic equation is used to suggest that the device works with carbonated beverages (it doesn’t; the video’s apparatus has a hidden pump) because the weight of the liquid is much greater than that of the foam. Of course, the hydrostatic equation doesn’t apply to a flowing liquid! The closest one can come to the hypothetical perpetual fluid motion suggested by Boyle is the superfluid fountain, which flows without viscosity and can continue indefinitely so long as the superfluid state is maintained. (Video credit: Visual Education Project; submission by zible)

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