How can the net amount of entropy of the universe be massively increased?


The greatest – and last – question that will ever be asked is, “How can the net amount of entropy of the universe be massively decreased”. It follows then, that the worst – and possibly first – question ever asked is, “How can the net amount of entropy of the universe be massively increased?” While for the former question there’s insufficient data for a meaningful answer, we’ve found the answer to the latter question. It’s a machine designed to waste energy, and the exact opposite of a perpetual motion machine.

The machine is set up along two stories of a building, with cables, pulleys, and levers constantly pressing an elevator button. The device is powered by the elevator doors opening, so when the elevator opens of the first floor, the part of the machine on the second story calls the elevator. This repeats ad infinitum.

Wait. It gets better. Inside the elevator car, there’s a modified printing calculator also powered by the elevator doors. Every time the doors open, it calculates the amount of energy consumed for each cycle of the elevator. It’s a hydraulic elevator without a countersink, so moving down is effectively free, but each cycle of the elevator still uses up 11.8 Kilojoules of the universe’s energy. To make the build a complete waste of resources, the printing calculator neatly empties it’s printed tape into a wastepaper bin.

We’re tempted to call this a [Rube Goldberg] machine, but that doesn’t seem to fit this machine that does absolutely nothing. Calling it a useless box is more fitting, but this is far, far more impressive than a box that turns itself off. Whatever it is, you can see a video of it in action below.


  1. macona says:

    “but each cycle of the elevator still uses up 11.8 Kilojoules of the universe’s energy.”

    Really? Uses up? Energy cannot be created or destroyed.

    • MikrySoft says:

      Well, that depends if you consider matter a form of energy. You can create energy from matter and vice versa.

      • evan says:

        You’re not really creating energy though, you’re converting it. The energy is already there to begin with, you’re just converting it to a usable form

        • bemis says:

          I never understood how gravity fit into that… using gravity we can do things that require energy. If we placed an small object (say, a planet) tied to a string near a massive object (black hole?), the small object would be pulled toward the massive object, and that would pull our string which might run some gears or something… so how is that energy accounted for? What was it converted from?

          • James says:

            The energy is converted from the (stored) gravitational potential of the planet in its starting position. Think of it like a spring, which has already been stretched out. By allowing the planet to fall towards the black hole, you’re converting gravitational potential energy into another form (your spinning gears).

            Once the planet crashes into the black hole… That’s it. No more energy for you to harvest. If you want to do it again, you have to move the planet into its starting position again. The energy required to move the planet away from the black hole and back to where it started will exactly equal the energy released when it fell in.

          • g2-4398c80c694065fdf4cc4762d75061dc says:

            That planet would have some “potential energy” when it’s farther from the black hole. That energy is “used” when it moves towards the black hole, but you cannot use it again. If the planet doesn’t move you cannot use the energy.

            It is the same principle that works in a pendulum clock. You have a weight that is at a given height. That weight moves down towards the Earth, and it moves some gears (it uses the energy for that). When it’s at the floor it has “spent” all that potential energy, and you have to move it to the top again (and spend some energy in doing so) to replenish the potential energy.

            If the weight doesn’t move then you cannot use the energy. So, you cannot get that energy for free, you have to use your own energy (that you get from BigMacs) to move the weights up. But it is useful, as you can change one form of energy (BigMacs) that you use in a very short burst to move the weights up in another form of energy (potential) that you can use slowly to move the gears in the clock.

            If you were to do the same thing with a planet and a black hole you may be able to move a giant set of gears (provided they could withstand the forces trying to rip them apart), but then you would need to eat a lot of BigMacs to move the planet up again to “rewind” your giant clock. So, no free lunch there either.

            I hope that clarified things a bit, sorry if something didn’t make sense (english is not my first language).

          • Pusalieth says:

            this starts getting really complicated really fast, but its “time”

          • Pedro says:

            even in blackholes when they collapse they create massive gama ray bursts that are in essence insane amounts of released energy. so in reality the energy sucked was just transformed.

          • Mindcore says:

            I agree with Pedro – that energy is released again as Hawking Radiation.

      • Whatnot says:

        ‘consider’? I think we established that already for some time now.

    • Drew says:

      Technically correct, however this machine does reduce the amount of available Thermodynamic Free energy available in the universe, the type of energy that can actually do work.

  2. Jordan says:

    Well that was…. Interesting….

  3. john says:
  4. Lapin says:
  5. AndrewNeo says:

    With magical girls.. obviously.

  6. birdo says:

    So are you guys asking for half a million dollars to repost articles about moronic “art” projects?

    My favorite comment from the last time this was posted:
    >Honest to god, he could have just put a switched on but empty fridge on display and called it Global Warming.

    I might actually go to my fridge and do that right now. See you all on the front page!

    • mojojoe says:

      I wonder if some article count limit in wordpress has been reached and the articles are just looping from the beginning again. Requires $500,000 for an upgrade.

    • HC says:

      Good to hear someone else is tired of useless horseshit appearing on Hackaday. Tomorrow’s lineup:
      -[cretin] builds a soda can opening robot
      -[dingleberry] rigs an arduino to play different genres of music to his plants depending on the weather
      -[chucklesmcgee] has his mailbox thank the mailman upon opening
      -[wallcandy] builds a media controller pad for his dog

    • Lauro Gama says:

      This article is a nice tie in to The last question by [isaac Asimov] as brian benchoff quoted with the “insufficient data for a meaningful answer”. The post was well written even if the hack itself isnt a nobel prize. People complaing just arent smart enough to understand. lay down with the nitpicking and go read a book.

  7. Nathan says:

    I have found having children significantly increases the entropy within my house.

  8. Tom says:

    Actually there are 100’s or more machines like this one doing seamingly wasteful motions all the time on the planet. It really has a useful purpose. It’s called product lifetesting. All your high tech products go through 100 or 1000’s of hours of testing before you can buy the finished product. Ask any product designer if they would release a new product without doing some kind of lifetest.

  9. simon says:

    hahahahaha that’s a beautiful machine, such illumination! Really, how easy it is to move energy on from a fundamental form to something that can be used in this and then become part of the beautiful noise of the cosmos. And such art energy, new forms! Amazing. Inspiring. Lost forms, never to return again in quite the same way, ever, ever ever. Just keeps moving. AND IT’S SO NOW!

  10. Matt Wagg says:

    Who pays the electricity bill? What’s the carbon footprint?

    • Eirinn says:

      No carbon footprint, CO2 quotes are bought from Africa. /s

    • Whatnot says:

      If it’s an art thing the local city council will probably pay it, possibly with the help of an EU grant.

      The carbon footprint requires one to know the way the electricity is generated, and it could actually be close to 0 if it’s for instance waterpower or renewable forestry. Although in poland it could just as easily be a damn coal-powered plant I fear.

  11. Chris says:

    Some elevators do this anyway “Shabbat mode”?

    • ka1axy says:

      I just read that. Words fail me.

      Well, not really…my mind can’t comprehend why it’s wrong to push a damn button, but OK to go to extreme lengths to get around having to push the button. Seems like an intentional and deliberate attempt to violate the spirit of the rule…which is perfectly fine?

      Perhaps this is why I’m not religious.

  12. aampudia says:

    if you stop the video at 1:59 you can see that the calculations are incorrect, sometimes it adds 5.9 (five point nine) and some other times it adds 59 ( fiftynine), a small “bug” in the machine, it’s useless that way!!! hahahaha

  13. Inc says:

    I love the subtile Asimov reference at the start of article :D

  14. incanusuk says:

    The Last Question by Isaac Asimov

  15. patrick says:

    I was pretty sure that the best machine to waste energy was a heater. An electrical heater is just very inneficient machine that does almost no work and wastes all its energy as heat.

    • It’s not a waste, if you’re cold :-p

      • Trav says:

        if you’re cold wouldn’t it be 100% efficient? Actually that is a serious question. I had heard before that electric heaters weren’t that efficient. But the only waste I can see is losses in line resistance and power plant production before it reaches your house

    • static says:

      Perhaps there may be more effeciant ways to use electrical power to heat a space, but many of them aren’t practical in all applications, I hard pressed to come up with where resistance type space heater isn’t going to heat. I’m fairly certain that nearly most of the electric power used by a Resistance type of electric space heater goes into space heating is it really waste? In that it’s performing a desired function it’s hardly waste.

  16. Ren says:

    Instead of a hydraulic drive, the elevator could have a worm screw drive, less gravity free ride. Elevator could also be loaded with politicians, (highest energy wasting form of matter).

    • 0c says:

      But politicians are a renewable and limitless source of hot air. If you can use that to power the elevator, it would be quite environmentally friendly.

    • static says:

      A worm gear on an elevator? Ouch. Contrary to popular belief & Wikipedia a worm drive will spin backwards dropping the load uncontrollably. I have seen it happen on an oilfield winch truck & know of a man who was killed when it happened on another winch truck.

      • Ren says:

        (gasp!) Wiki is wrong!??
        Thanks for letting me know that worm gears can work in the reverse direction.
        Perhaps the angle of the bevels on the gears make the difference?

  17. Lord Binky says:

    I thought any piece of excersize equipment was an entropy increase device.

  18. Fname Lname says:

    That’s amazing. But that fuggin’ elevator trick is not without consequence; I’ve been noticing that everything around me seems to happen more slowly as of late, particularly where gravity is involved.

    The other day while getting dressed, I missed my pocket and dropped my keys. Instinctively, I flailed wildly, hoping to catch them before they hit the floor. It’s a hardwood floor, you see, and all I could think about was that my Nissan’s key fob might be damaged by the impact. Amazingly, I caught the keys with plenty of time to spare. Naturally, I congratulated myself (profusely, for I am not normally known for delivering such pinnacle performances of coordination, let alone accuracy.) on this masterful save.

    A few days later, I caught a dropped pen, with seeming hours to spare before it reached the floor. I smugly patted myself on the back for having taken up Russian, attributing the mental exertions that it demanded of me for restoring the lightning reflexes of my youth. Impossibly, it seemed that I looked even more magnificent when I gazed upon my own reflection on whatever handy mirror that I happened across.

    And I must not have been paying attention (probably still basking in the glow of the car key feat) when I set my coffee down a few days ago, whereupon I promptly knocked it over as I carelessly withdrew my hand to reach for my laptop. The coffee fell so slowly to the floor that, like the bullet scene in The Matrix, I was able to slide off the sofa and position my body under the falling java as it flowed, as if in space, towards Earth such that it flowed directly into my waiting maw and down my gullet.

    It was then I realized the horrible truth: I was not getting faster; gravity was getting weaker!

    It had to be the energy-wasting elevator from youtube! I must find this elevator and kill it before everything: people, trees, buildings – even the sharks – all fly off into the vacuum of space where they will be reduced to their component plasma jelly for lack of an atmosphere!

    Thank you for sharing this – I must go now – we’re nearly out of time!

  19. So by your logic, any powered device left “on” is an entropy increase device. next time save time and video your car running at idle.

  20. incognito says:

    I’d love to see someone call this elevator to a different floor.. Pulleys be snappin’

  21. static says:

    I recognized it a repost, but because it removed no hair off my nuts I didn’t see it worth mentioning. Then again I can’t expect the writer to remember any every thing that has been posted. Only a matter of time before a whine included the indiegogo campaign

    • Whatnot says:

      Since they tag everything on HaD and they put the name of the maker between brackets it should be possible using advanced space-age computers to do a search maybe?

      Not that I care a whole lot so far.

  22. To be perfect, this should have been paid for by mined bitcoins.

  23. The correct name for this device is: “heater.”

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