Friday, June 18, 2010

The Awesome Powers of ... Duct Tape

In 1912, a thought experiment tried to show that a bunch of randomly bouncing balls could be capable of turning a windmill in one direction. There was some back and forth about whether this was possible or not over the last century. This is important for understanding how molecules bounce around and make things work.

Well, they finally managed it at the University of Twente using the Awesome Powers of ... Duct Tape:
With duct tape covering one side of each vane, the vanes spun in one direction only. Since the beads lost more energy when they hit the soft duct-taped side than the non-taped side of the vanes, the machine generated a positive net movement.

Van der Meer noted that the machine doesn’t come close to violating the second law of thermodynamics, since the system is extremely inefficient. Most of the beads’ energy is lost through heat and sound.

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