The idea of the Perpetual Motion Machine has been a point of fascination of both science and science fiction for hundreds of years.

The basic concept of Perpetual Motion is that a machine would be created in which the energy output is equal or greater than the energy required for the device to function.

At the dawn of the 20th century, according to all of the widely accepted and utilized models of physics and maths, such a machine is impossible.

However. . .

There have been numerous scientific theories as well as the rumored existence of applied devices which promise the next best thing, that being the collection and utilization of the ambient energy which modern science claims to exist in the fabric of space. (See Zero Point Energy or ZPE).

There are also rumors of technologies, both theoretical and applied, which use low cost techniques to release large quantities of energy from atomic fusion reactions. See Cold Fusion. The existence of such technology is generally disbelieved by both the scientific community and the public at large, but a significant amount of evidence to the contrary does, however, exist. According to some accounts, the metallic rods in which the hydrogen to helium reaction takes place in a Cold Fusion Cell are unstable and can be made to explode on the same scale as a small atomic warhead, though without toxic radioactive fallout. It is believed by some that military applications have been found for Cold Fusion technology.

Pyramid structures, when constructed using specific quantities of metallic impurities, are believed by some to be able to use the magnetic qualities of the Earth to pump water.

There are other such technologies claimed by various sources to exist, but none of them are officially available to the public, the most popular theory for this being that such devices would significantly alter the power structure of the civilized world in such a way that the privileges of the extremely wealthy and power elite would be diminished.

Perpetual Motion and the USPTO

Perpetual motion machines are automatically disallowed patents by the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), on the grounds of being simply impossible. But that's not where the story ends, dear reader, no indeed.

Perpetual motion is a seductive idea, even though it is so clearly debunkable using the smallest amount of common sense, to say nothing of the Laws of Thermodynamics, which state as paraphrased by Robert Heinlein's immortal acronym: TANSTAAFL. There ain't no such thing as a free lunch.

Being forbidden by the laws of nature and the laws of men is surely part of the allure of the unstopping device, the unstillable wheel, free energy for all, and one imagines the USPTO is deluged with such "inventions," but have any ever made it through? The answer, friends, is yes.

Take patent 6,362,718 for example. Granted March 26, 2002, all we have to do now is sit back and wait for the inevitable cheap electricity soon to be provided by the "Motionless Electromagnetic Generator", a name which will surely be known by every school child in the future. Comprising a "magnetic generator which a need for an external power source during operation is eliminated" (sic), this device, once you crank it over with a standard battery, will keep on dishing out the watts after you disconnect the power source. It will, if you read on, produce far more than you put in.

It's a small device, too, so I am christening it the "Small Motionless Electromagnetic Generator" or SMEG. How does the SMEG produce this extra power? Read on! The SMEG is an "open, dissipative system, receiving, collecting and dissipating energy from its environment; in this case from the magnetic flux stored within the permanent magnet". So you see it isn't perpetual motion at all, the patent goes on to state, because the machine will eventually stop when the magnet becomes demagnetized.

Sharp readers will no doubt have already figured out that demagnetization could not possibly be providing the effect described, let alone the kind of power output that the patent actually describes. This is textbook perpetual motion stuff. But this is surely the first time, right? I mean we all know the patent office is overworked and all, weeding out bogus software patents, surely letting one slip by is not such a crime?

Would that it were only one. Eric Krieg, at, in a study of the subject of perpetual motion and the patent office, records that between the first grant of a patent for perpetual motion (England) in 1635 and 1903, 600 patents for such devices had been granted. Moving to modern times and away from the ancients who hadn't invented Thermodynamics yet, at least 4 times from 1900 to 2000 the USPTO has granted perpetual motion machines that great boon for the scam artist or insane inventor, an actual US patent.

And so now there's a patent for this new century with perpetual motion written all over it. This happens because a patent is not a certificate that a device will work (contrary to popular belief), and the onus is on the examiner to disprove the patent, rather than on the claimant to prove each statement. The bar is rather low, with a device only required to be "more likely than not" to work. Since it costs a non-refundable couple of grand to even ask the patent office to "look again", perpetual motion looks like it may have at least achieved perpetual status as a fixture at the USPTO.

Staking Claims, Scientific American October 2002, Graham P. Collins - input 6,362,718 for a closer look at the "SMEG"

She has a sleek metallic black finish
With curved steel alloy
Hugging the topography of her
Inner workings.
Steam valves whistle
As her pistons pump power
From her rolling cogs and gears.
The well lubricated joints allow her
To move
With but a whisper of a sound.
She's the most important piece of machinery here.
She needs no fuel but
Produces endless energy.
A perpetual motion machine.
Her lights and actuators spin in
hypnotic grace.
She's fragile.
The wrong turn of a dial,
The throw of a wrong switch,
Or a misread gauge
Could put the calibration off and
She doesn't work at all.
Screeching grinds and the
Piercing pitches
Of metal scraping metal.
She cries for repair.
Sometimes years of work
Will have to be put into getting her right again.
With the right tools
And the right person working on her though
She hums
Like your favorite song
On your best day.

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