A few years ago a couple of friends and I spent some time reading about the perpetual motion engine that was apparently invented by the 17th Century Bohemian Johann Ernst Elias Bessler. We talked about what a magnificent contribution it could have for the world today if someone could work out how the engine could really work from Bessler’s writing and diagrams – all of which appear to have a certain missing something. We also agreed that we would follow Bessler’s edict that no-one should make money from this phenomenon directly as no doubt we could pick a good deal on spin-offs. We were so enthused that one of my friends even bought a whole load of Meccano on eBay so he could build a working model – yes it’s still all in his garage.
According to Google, one of the definitions of perpetual motion is “a state in which movement or action is or appears to be continuous and unceasing”. This got me thinking about whether we’d got any closer to achieving this in the last couple of centuries. My first example was the Mexican Wave, but I quickly dismissed that because the wave generally only lasts about 3 circuits after which the participants become self-conscious or just want whatever sporting event they’re attending to just start again. Then I considered the introduction of the chain letter which promises great wealth, health or luck as long as you keep them going. But they don’t succeed because the “non-believers” just don’t keep it going. And then I realised the technological age has developed a phenomenon that could be described as perpetual motion – viral videos!
Viral videos really do seem to have a life of their own and their spread is really ubiquitous. I’m sure there are some that are still doing the rounds after a couple of years. Maybe this isn’t what Bessler had intended but it’s probably the best we can come up with the moment and to be honest I’m not sure the perpetual motion engine actually is possible but it’s fascinating reading.
Oh and in case you’re interested, this is my favourite viral video of the moment.