Title text: The misguided search for a perpetual motion machine has run substantially longer than any attempted perpetual motion machine.
A perpetual motion machine is a hypothetical device that is supposed to move infinitely with no external forces helping it, thus providing an unlimited source of energy. The existence of such an object would contradict the theory of thermodynamics, so perpetual motion machines are known to be impossible.
A conspiracy theory called free energy suppression asserts that it really is possible to get infinite energy and special interest groups have worked to hide it. In the comic, Randall says that he posted to a forum dedicated to the idea back in 2004, and the thread is still active — it kept on going forever, like the perpetual motion machine they desire (in contrast with real attempts to build such a machine, which all stop quite soon). Of course, the reason the thread continues is that its advocates continue to add energy to it, in the form of comments.
The Second law of thermodynamics states that the entropy of an isolated system never decreases. See this video about entropy. Thus, even if you could build a perpetual motion machine, you wouldn't be able to use it to produce energy that could be consumed by another device.
The three supposed comments show humorous forms of scientific ignorance:
- The first comment is simply wrong; neither pole of a magnet reverses entropy.
- The second comment confuses the First law of thermodynamics (conservation of energy) with Isaac Asimov’s First Law of robotics (robots may not injure humans).
- The third comment invalidly conflates the notions of physical law and US law, hoping for legal loopholes to make a flywheel spin forever. Perhaps Congress would repeal the law of gravity on one side.
- [A page from a very long thread on "Free Energy Forum."]
- Thread: You're all crackpots who don't understand thermodynamics.
- Page 547 of 547
- Poster 1: No, idiot, only the north end of a magnet increases entropy. The south end decreases it.
- Poster 2: I wiki'd this "First Law" and I don't see the issue. My device isn't a robot and doesn't harm humans.
- Poster 3: What if we trick the government into only suppressing the left side of the flywheel?
- Caption: Ironically, the argument I started on a perpetual motion forum in 2004 shows no signs of slowing down.