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.


74 thoughts on “How Can The Net Amount Of Entropy Of The Universe Be Massively Increased?

        1. 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?

          1. 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.

          2. 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).

          3. 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.

    1. 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.

          1. This setup is pretty munch localized to the earth environment I think you guys will find, and much of that is in a closed local loop. Let’s not go too extreme with the ‘universe’ talk.

          2. Well photons and neutrinos and all that stuff that is zooming out from the Big Bang into dark empty space probably won’t get re-used and so that energy is effectively lost.

  1. 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!

      1. I wonder how much energy this WordPress “useless machine blog recycler” plugin uses? I would imagine that some energy would be required to poorly re-write and re-post the old articles….

    1. 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

        1. That would be cool.

          I was driving down country(ish) roads looking at the mailboxes at the end of a long driveway thinking how dangerous it is for people to stop on the road to check their mail.

          I thought it would be cool for a rotating mailbox on a long arm. points towards the street normally so the mail carrier can put stuff in. When mail has been inserted, it rotates towards the driveway so the homeowner can stop safely off of the road. For outgoing mail, it senses the flag up and therefore does not rotate.

          One step short of having a robotic mailbox deliver it up to your door.

      1. Fortunately different people find different things interesting (repost or not) – I’d hella glad you’re not curating the articles that’s for sure. We’d all fall a sleep in a matter of minutes.

    2. 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.

  2. 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.

        1. Seriously?

          ‘twould be interesting to see how much mercury is released from broken CFs vs. reduction in mercury released from coal burning power plants due to lower energy usage resulting from switching to CFs.

          Here’s one part of the equation (from
          A power plant emits about 10mg of mercury to produce the electricity to run an incandescent bulb over a 5-year period. A power plant will emit only 2.4mg of mercury to run a CFL for the same time period.

          Here’s an estimate of hoow much mercury is released from broken fluoresecnt bulbs (2003:
          Based on the estimated release rate of 3-8 mg per broken bulb developed in this study, discarded bulbs release approximately 2-4 tons of mercury per year in the United States.

          And here is an EPA document showing that using CFLs results in almost 3 times less mercury released into the environment than using incandescents (1.6 mg vs 5.5 mg per bulb-lifetime):

          It’s worth noting, I think, that the amount of mercury released as powerplant emissions in generating the electricity to power a CFL, is 3 times the amount of mercury released if the CFL isn’t recycled, 1.2 mg vs 0.44mg

          The more you know…

  3. 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!

    1. 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.

    1. 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.

  4. 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

      1. 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

    1. 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.

  5. 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).

    1. 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.

      1. (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?

  6. 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!

  7. 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

    1. 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.

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