Steorn’s Perpetual Motion Machine

Continuing the theme of the flowery descriptive language in the Lady Hope account of Darwin’s deathbed conversion, check out this explanation from would-be perpetual motion machine vendor Steorn: How Orbo Works.

Orbo is based upon time variant magnetic interactions, i.e. magnetic interactions whose efficiency varies as a function of transaction timeframes.

It is this variation of energy exchanged as a function of transaction time frame that lies at the heart of Orbo technology, and its ability to contravene the principle of the conservation of energy. Why? Conservation of energy requires that the total energy exchanged using interactions are invariant in time. This principle of time invariance is enshrined in Noether’s Theorem.

The time variant nature of Orbo interactions can be engineered using two basic techniques. The first technique utilizes a method of controlling the response time of magnetic materials to make them time variant. This is achieved by controlling the MH position of materials during permanent magnetic interactions.

The second technique decouples the Counter Electromotive Force (CEMF) from torque for electromagnet interactions. This decoupling of CEMF allows time variant magnetic interactions in electromagnetic systems.

If you hurry, you can be one of the first 300 lucky licensees to sign up to make and sell Orbo machines.

22 Responses to “Steorn’s Perpetual Motion Machine”

  1. J.A.Y.S.O.N. Says:

    This seems like a great opportunity, however I think I am going to wait for their time machine before I climb on board.

  2. shcb Says:

    This one may be fun to watch.

  3. enkidu Says:

    unless they have discovered some sort of quantum loophole in thermodynamics, this is bunk. Their wiki page is a quick overview, tho they’ve been in the news for years (not very flattering stuff).

    Speaking of fun puzzlers, have you heard of the airplane/treadmill question? In short, you have a standard passenger airliner (not a VTOL) and an enormous ‘treadmill’. The plane is on top of the treadmill and is not tied down in any way. The treadmill can keep exact pace with the plane’s wheels (let’s say the wheel bearings and treadmill mechanisms are virtually friction free so we don’t detour into the mechanics of landing gear and giant treadmill design ;-). The result being that the plane stays in place on the treadmill. As the engines push forward the wheels begin to turn and the treadmill keeps pace exactly.

    The question: will the plane ever take off?
    (assuming it stays on the treadmill until liftoff, of course)

  4. J.A.Y.S.O.N. Says:

    The plane will not take off since there’s no airflow over the wings to generate life.

  5. J.A.Y.S.O.N. Says:


  6. knarlyknight Says:

    Please explain why the problem’s parameter includes that “the result being that the plane stays in place on the treadmill.”

    The plane is powered by wing engines (jet or props) that push air and thus propel the plane relative to all the surrounding air. Planes are not powered by their wheels, so if the parameter of no friction is assumed to remain then the speed of the treadmill has no “bearing” (pun not intended) on the plane’s takeoff.

    Expect the take-off as per usual, with or without treadmill.

  7. shcb Says:

    that’s right Knarly, mythbusters did something similar except they had a conveyor driven, I think in the direction of the plane at the same speed and the plane took off. in this case the wheels would be turning at zero surface speed (circumference of the wheel compared to linear distance of conveyor) in relation to the belt but they would still be turning at normal speed in relation to the ground. If the wheels were driven as in a car then everything changes.

  8. enkidu Says:

    it’s a semantic thing to find both ‘solution states’ and ‘failure states’ in this problem.

    By my specifying that there is negligible friction in the treadmill/conveyor mechanisms we avoid talking about mechanics and hypotheticals. But by using that language I’ve also hopefully ruled out completely frictionless interface between the plane (in which case it would take off even faster, like a plane on a lake or why a plane needs longer breaking distance when landing on ice).

    I didn’t see the mythbuster episode (wife refuses to get a dang tivo! gar) but if the conveyor is moving the plane forward, it essentially acts as a catapult. More wind flow past wings = more lift. This is why carriers face into the wind when launching planes (personal aside, the boys and I are going to be sleeping aboard the USS Hornet next weekend!) If the conveyor (a giant hypothetic conveyor mind u) is moving in the opposite direction (ie the belt surface moves from nose towards tail), then we have our ‘thought exercise’.

    If we are talking hypotheticals, I would say the plane could not attain liftoff without the wind moving under/over the wings to provide lift.

    If you want to go a bit more ‘real’ then I would suppose that the plane gets up to max engine thrust and the conveyor is roaring away, at a certain point the steering would start to stray and eventually one side or another is going to slip off the treadmill and suddenly encounter the reference frame of the static ground and (tires shredded, landing gear failure, slewing, more contact w ground and) KABOOM.

    If you want to go less real, then… if we had a engine of infinite power, why have wings at all? just point it in the direction you want to travel and boom off you go. Wheels? pshaw

    There was a thread on boingboing about this (must… stop… surfing web… must…)

  9. enkidu Says:

    knarls, for the purposes of the experiment, lets assume if you can build a gigantic treadmill, you can also have a sensor inout and computer controlled drive motors that would speed up the treadmill to ‘pace’ the rotation of the wheels. Basically matching the engine output.

    simple optical sensors could track the nose or something

    hey it’s a hypothetical =)

  10. knarlyknight Says:

    Enk, For the first time I really don’t understand most of what you are trying to say. You seem to get the principle of flight Jayson also mentioned: lift is created by airflow over the wings.

    What creates that airflow? The plane moving forward.

    What makes the plane move forward? Engines with propellers or jets, on the wings.

    What makes the wheels rotate? The motion of the plane relative to the surface the wheels are touching.

    What is the function of the wheels? To reduce ground friction so the plane can achieve a lift-off airr speed faster and so fuselage is not being destroyed by its dragging on the ground.

    Enk, the optical sensors would not be tied to the engine output they would be linked to the nose (i.e. position of the plane.) If they were tied to the engine output, then you would need to adjust for strong headwinds or strong tail winds.

    Now, put the plane and treadmill into a wind-tunnel, with the wind-tunnel speed and treadmill hooked up to the optical sensor to increase air-flow and conveyor belt speed backwards as the plane tries to move forward. The faster the propeller turn or the more the jet propels, the faster the wind in the tunnel and the conveyor on the belt. The plane will get into the air when the airflow over the wing generates the appropriate lift. What you just did was re-create vertical take-off conditions (y-axis) in a stationary horizontal position (squished x-axis) and the conveyor represented the tarmac relative tothe plane.

    Now repeat the experiment with the treadmill locked in a stationary position. As the plane engines whir and the wind-tunnel airflow increases the plane will again take-off (y-axis) with no x-axis movement. In the wind-tunnel the planes wheels do not turn if the conveyer belt is not moving and the plane still takes off.

    Now here’s a better experiment, but you really have to be in the right frame of mind. Go to a quiet place, stand still and shut your eyes. Imagine you are the centre of the universe, fixed forever in the same tiny space. You are standing on an enormous ball called earth. When this is firmly entrenched in your mind, hold on strongly to that idea, open your eyes and rotate the ball called earth by taking a step “forward” – and consciously think of this as pushing the ball called earth backwards. Do this right and with practice you will never walk down the street the same way again. Motion is relative, and it is just your assumption based on what you are willing to perceive or sense that tells you that when you walk it is your motion upon a stationary earth. In fact, when you walk you are moving at about 5 km/hr on a ball that is itself travelling at 29.658 km per second around the sun while spinning (at the equator) at about 1600 km/hr. Whileit is truly humbling to be out on a starry night observing the heavens rotate around Polaris, yet somehow it is slightly empowering to take a step that makes the enormous ball beneath your feet, the entire universe even, move just a little bit relative to your position. Too bad that’s all crap.

  11. shcb Says:

    your right Knarly, they were running the conveyor, actually a tarp pulled by a pickup in the opposite direction of the plane, so the wheels turned twice as fast but the plane was moving the same speed as it normally would and the air was flowing over the wings as normal since its thrust was from the prop not the wheels, what was funny about that show was the pilot wasn’t sure what would happen.

  12. shcb Says:

    oops i guess that was to enky, give us a report on what the boys think after the adventure

  13. enkidu Says:

    man u must have been really baked when you typed that… ;-)

    we are saying the same thing: air flow = lift
    no air flow over the wings = no lift
    without motion relative to the local static frame of reference – the air through which the jet flies – there cannot be sufficient lift from the conventional jet engines of today.

    I said the sensors would track the nose to make sure it stayed in position. For every mm the plane starts to move forward, the treadmill sends it one mm back in an in ever increasing but always matching treadmill speed ramp. All hypothetical, and somewhat confusing, so no bigE

    Sure some air might be accelerated by the motion of the treadmill surface, but not enough to lift the plane. And without much, much, much more powerful engines (sufficient to boost the entire mass without wing lift of any sort) the conventional circa 2008 jet engine airplane and hypothetical-mega-treadmill will be running flat out without sufficient lift to boost the plane into the sky.

    Actually your last para isn’t crap. Tho that’s why I thought you might have just imbibed (heh). You describe a phenomena that my fav sci fi author calls “swim”. The sudden realization that for all the apparent (local frame of reference) static nature of the world around us, we are actually hurtling along at cosmic speeds, our very improbable existence a source of wonder, awe and not some small amount of fear or perhaps hubris. Ian M Banks – good stuff (coughs thru nose while holding breath in).

    I just read Carl Sagan’s Demon Haunted World – Science as a Candle in the Dark ‘highly’ ;-) recommended

  14. knarlyknight Says:

    ha! Sadly, I haven’t coughed through my nose for ages, but luckily the feeling never quiet goes completely away…

    We agree on all but one point, that of the hypothetical treadmill and its feedback sensors. Two points need to be kept in mind: (a) the power to propel the plane is being applied against the atmosphere / air (not the ground / treadmill); and, (b) no friction related to the wheel or treadmill.

    Item (b) means that the wheels turn freely on the treadmill such that the treadmill can have no influence through the wheels on the speed of the plane. The treadmill is simply a support structure.

    The mechanics are that the plane pushes against the air and moves forward (e.g. 1 mm), the feedback sensor prompts the treadmill to go faster but the faster treadmill has no effect on the plane because the wheels of the plane simply turn that much faster (i.e. (b) no friction). In other words, the feedback loop is not a real feedback loop because it is applied to a part of the plane (the wheels) that does not control the speed of the plane. Without friction related to the wheels or the treadmill, the wheels will turn as they need to with respect to the speeds of the plane and the treadmill.

    It may help to think in terms of dependent and independent variables.

    Wheel rotation speed is the dependent variable here. It is dependent upon the plane speed relative to the treadmill speed.

    The treadmill speed is, through the feedback loop, dependent on the plane position (or speed – being just a measure of changing position over time). As the plane moves forward, the treadmill speeds up (and the plane wheels immediately spin faster).

    The plane speed is independent of the treadmill speed, because the wheel speed (with zero friction) automatically and instantaneously adjusts to the relative speeds of the plane and treadmill. The plane speed is dependent on the force exerted by its engines on the air.

    The problem you have with your hypothetical experiment is that if the treadmill continues to speed up in a useless attempt to stop the plane, then the treadmill hypothetically would exceed an infinite speed. An infinite speed is impossible (to my mind). But that’s a problem of the feedback loop as definied in the paramaters to the hypothetical situtation. When you have constructed an impossible situation, then any ensuing result from that situatino will be possible. So obviously, as Jayson could tell you, the result of a treadmill rotating at an infinite speed is that it will collapse into its own footprint at freefall speed leaving pools of molten metal and the total destruction of the plane and its black boxes with an ensuing invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq.

  15. enkidu Says:

    the airliner is a conventional circa 2009 passenger jet
    it sits on a hypothetical treadmill
    there is friction between the airliner’s wheels and the treadmill surface
    I stated that the wheels and treadmill parts weren’t part of the scenario, as we don’t want to get into landing gear design or hypothetical giant treadmill design…

    basically a plane sits at rest on the treadmill, starts its engines and starts rolling forward… once the plane has travelled 1mm or less, the treadmill moves an equivalent distance back. Obviously the wheels don’t power the airplane, they provide a reduced friction interface to the ground (skids work fine on snow right?) Altho… you could design a hypothetical plane that used wheel power to move forward on the ground until it became airborne (but then it would need some forward thrust, right?)

    The aircraft engines have a max amount of push, and for the purposes of the thought experiment, the treadmill can indeed operate at an infinite speed.

    I still think you wouldn’t have the plane take off, as a conventional airliner flies as a result of engine thrust pushing the plane thru a relatively static medium – the air – the airflow over the wing provides the lift and thus it flies.

  16. knarlyknight Says:

    Yea, I agree with all that enk, I’m just saying the faster the treadmill tries to push the plane back the faster the wheels spin so there is no effect on the plane, it continues to go forward based on the engine air push.

  17. knarlyknight Says:

    Thought maybe someone else had a better way thatn me to describe this and quickly found website via google search of “physics airplane treadmill” that:

    The only reason that a plane or a car moves backwards on a treadmill is that the wheels are somehow partially locked to the axles. In a plane, this is because of minor friction in the bearings. In a car, it’s because of the drive train. If you want the car to stay still, you have to turn the drive train at the proper speed. If you want the plane to stay still, you have to overcome the minor bearing friction. And again, since friction does not change with speed, you don’t have to exert any more force at higher speeds. If you run the treadmill at 5mph and turn on the plane’s engines just slightly, they will provide enough thrust, pushing against the air, to keep the plane still. If you then increase the treadmill speed to 500 mph, you won’t need to adjust the throttle on the airplane – it will remain stationary. That’s because it’s seeing the same frictional force that it was at 5mph. Thus, it doesn’t matter how fast the treadmill is moving – if the pilot does not want to remain stationary, then he won’t.

  18. enkidu Says:

    a 747-8 weighs almost 900,000 lbs
    it has three sets of landing gear
    let’s say they each carry 300,000 lbs
    each engine can thrust max 66,500
    for a total of 266,000 lbs forward thrust

    I didn’t say there was no friction involved w the landing gear, but rather that for the purposes of the experiment, we’ll say that the mechanics of the landing gear can withstand whatever forces the engines can dish out. Same w our hypothetical giant treadmill/conveyor.

    It takes a certain amount of push just to overcome the inertia of the plane and it’s landing gear mechanicals. I imagine there is a bunch of friction between the treadmill surface and the tires as well.

    Anyway, it is a interesting experiment and the arguments on both sides can be convincing.

  19. knarlyknight Says:


    I disagree. The argument against the plane taking off on such a treadmill is bogus. Unless the plane is tethered to the ground or something.

    Look, there’s no need to get specific. Any working plane and any hypothetical treadmill will work fine.

    But if you wish, I’ll use your example to ask you just one question. What forces, other than friction & inertia forces which are both negligible and constant, are acting on the plane to counteract the 266,000 lbs forward thrust of the engines?

    Unless you can come up with a force or set of forces that match the engines’ 266,000 lbs forward thrust, the plane goes forward as the engine force is applied. Wheel friction and inertia are not sufficient. End of case.

    Adding inertia to your argument only works if you add enough mass to make the plane incapable of flight.

    Recall that your Feb. 13 10:57 post stated: “The treadmill can keep exact pace with the plane’s wheels (let’s say the wheel bearings and treadmill mechanisms are virtually friction free so we don’t detour into the mechanics of landing gear and giant treadmill design ;-). The result being that the plane stays in place on the treadmill.”

    However, it is impossible for the treadmill to slow the plane, as the “virtually friction free” mechanisms in the wheels exert near zero forces thus cannot pull the plane back.

    Conclusion: the situation as described by the wording of your problem (“The result being that the plane stays in place on the treadmill”) is impossible and illogical. The treadmill cannot make the plane stationary.

    What’s more, even with significant wheel friction the conveyor cannot pull the plane back once the plane’s jets exert a force greater than the friction. That’s because the friction force is a constant – it is not a function of speed – once friction is overcome the remaining forces of the jets being throttled up are not opposed by any other force.

    The only ways to keep the plane in a stationary position relative to the conveyor belt is to (i) anchor the plane to the ground or (ii) add friction to the wheels (e.g. apply ever increasing pressure to the wheel brakes) or (iii) increase headwinds such that the headwind force exerted on the plane is equal to force of engine thrust, or (iv) continuously increase the air viscosity until it is equivalent to, say, a cement and steel skyscraper. All those options are outside the scope of the thought experiment.

  20. knarlyknight Says:

    More physics: if a plane is travelling 500 mph forwards on a runway, then what is the speed (and direction) relative to the ground of (a) its wheel at the point of contact with the runway? (b) the point at the exact center of the wheel axle? (c) the point directly opposite the point in contact with the runway (i.e. top of the wheel)?

    Now if instead of being on the runway, the plane is held stationary by a rope and the plane is facing forward upon your conveyor belt that is turning at 500 mph, then what is the speed (and direction) relative to the ground of (d) its wheel at the point of contact with the treadmill? (e) the point at the exact center of the wheel axle? (f) the point directly opposite the point in contact with the treadmill (i.e. top of the wheel)?

    Now if the engines are turned on full throttle and the rope breaks, and without taking off the plane accelerates to 500 mph relative to the ground while the conveyor belt continues to turn at 500 mph, (g) what is the speed (and direction) of its wheel at the point of contact with the treadmill? (e) what is the speed (and direction) of the point at the exact center of the wheel axle? (f) what is the speed (and direction) of the point directly opposite the point in contact with the treadmill (i.e. top of the wheel)?

  21. enkidu Says:

    ummm, the bearings and so forth in a set of landing gear have nearly 300,000 pounds of force on them. This is most certainly not a frictionless environment. Otherwise you’d see airliners skating around airports whenever a little breeze picked up. I just meant that we shouldn’t detour into mechanical design questions.

    The plane is held in position by the backward motion of the treadmill. Exactly balancing any forward motion. Thus no movement thru the air, no wing lift, no flight.

    Our hypothetical treadmill has no top speed, while the engines are ‘real world’ and can only push so hard. If the plane starts to roll forward, it picks up pace and moves it backward up to infinity (hey its a hypothetical right?)

    You have not convinced me sir knarls. The plane starts at zero mph, not 500. If the treadmill starts and the force is gentle enough (and the engines are off), it would actually carry the plane backwards. If you land on tarmac in the summer, it takes you less time to stop (even without brakes) than if you land on a sheet of ice in the winter. Until the wheels leave the ground, they are a source of friction. I leave it to you to calculate how much.

  22. knarlyknight Says:

    With due respect, and I mean much, I hear what you are saying and you are mixing up forces and causes and effects. I’ll try another approach.

    But “Sir knarls” … I like that. Who knows, maybe thousands of years ago one of my ancestors invented the wheel so that things would roll and ever since then the undercarriages of carts lasted longer.

    Are you suggesting that wheel friction will overcome the jet engine thrust? Even the wheel friction in a badly worn but functioning set of bearings would resist at most about a hundredth of a percent of the jet engine thrust. Oh, for crying out loud, never mind the wheels.

    Yea, forget about the wheels. No wheels. The plane belly rests on a cement tarmac. Engage the engines to overcome static friction and inertia forces so the plane begins to skid forward. How much power is required for that, 10% of capacity? Now crank the engines to maximum and engage the jets at full power. That sucker will skid down the runway spitting sparks everywhere and ripping the hell out of the fuselage, but assuming it holds together a good pilot will gain sufficient air / wing speed to get airborne.

    Get a new plane. Remove the wheels. Set it on your giant conveyor. Engage the engines and the conveyor at the same time to overcome force of static friction between the plane and the conveyor belt. At that point, the plane will lurch forward as static frictional forces are broken and the lesser, and virtually constant kinetic frictional force kicks in, so we’ll have to reduce the engine thrust at the moment the static friction force is overcome. See So the plane slides on the conveyor belt, but remains stationary relative to the air and ground due to engines that match the friction. Now pay attention to this next step: double or triple the speed of the conveyor belt. How much additional frictional force gets applied to the airplane? Answer: virtually none. That is because kinetic friction forces are virtually constant (per Coulomb’s Law “Kinetic friction is independent of the sliding velocity.”)

    So go ahead, increase the engine throttle by 0.0001% to overcome that virtually non-existent additional frictional force that is equal to the error inherent in Coulomb’s law (there is some). So go ahead and triple the conveyor belt speed, go ahead and do that ten more times. At a conveyor belt speed of ten thousand miles an hour, you might get almost the same addition to the frictional force as you did with the initial tripling of speed from 1 mph to 3 mph (but now you willl also start to get some significant lift effects from the air close to the conveyor belt! Let’s ignore that too.) So go ahead and increase the plane throttle by about 0.000001 % Now, as you increase the conveyor speed to infinity, the kinetic friction force will “limit out” at some constant, and it won’t matter how fast the conveyor belt goes you will get virtually no additional push on the plane. Now, engage the remaining 99.009 % of engine power, accelerate relative to the ground/air and lift off.

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