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Energy, the Subtle ConceptThe discovery of Feynman's blocks from Leibniz to Einstein$
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Jennifer Coopersmith

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780198716747

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: August 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198716747.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 17 January 2022

The Quest for Perpetually Acting Machines

The Quest for Perpetually Acting Machines

(p.5) 2 The Quest for Perpetually Acting Machines
Energy, the Subtle Concept

Jennifer Coopersmith

Oxford University Press

Perpetual motion—a perpetually acting machine— had been attempted for so many years, and in so many ways, but was never successful (the French Royal Academy of Sciences said ‘Non’, no more submissions). But did this mean that something was being conserved? This was a question that could barely be put—let alone answered—and was not finally resolved until the riddle of energy was solved in the middle of the nineteenth century. However, the sheer variety of ways in which perpetual motion was sought, and was failing, was in itself illuminating (overbalancing wheels, perpetually cycling water or air, chemical, magnetic, and adhesive attractions, gravity shields, and so on). Stevin famously used the impossibility of perpetual motion in a reductio ad absurdum proof (using his ‘wreath of spheres’).

Keywords:   perpetual motion, French Academy of Sciences, overbalancing wheel, Stevin’s proof, inclined plane, reductio ad absurdum, gravity shield

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