Why Don't Perpetual Motion Machines Ever Work?

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It turns out that some laws were definitely not meant to be broken! A short illustrative video explains why the first and second laws of thermodynamics prevent perpetual motion machines from actually moving perpetually — and why scientists are still trying to find a way to make them work.

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CCSS: Adaptable
Instructional Ideas

  • Include as a warm-up activity in a physics class when discussing the laws of thermodynamics
  • Have learners study or build real-life perpetual motion machines and see if they run into the same problems described in the video
Classroom Considerations

  • Best used with some prior knowledge of energy sources
Pros

  • Takes a complex subject and explains it for learners of all levels
  • Employs examples of ways that successful perpetual motion could change modern energy consumption
Cons

  • None