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.

Continue reading “How can the net amount of entropy of the universe be massively increased?”

Scavenging ambient electromagnetic energy


At this very moment, unseen radio waves are bouncing off almost everything that surrounds you. Emitted by everything from radio and TV stations to cell phone networks and satellites, these waves are full of unharnessed energy. That is, until now. Researchers at the Georgia Tech School of Electrical and Computer Engineering have been working diligently to harness this unused energy, and recently unveiled their new antenna technology at the IEEE Antennas and Propagation Symposium.

The team, led by professor [Manos Tentzeris] has been working to develop ultra-wideband antennas to tap into the energy all around us. Using printers filled with a specially-formulated ink compound, they have been able to print these antennas on paper and polymer substrates. The antennas can harness energy stored in radio frequencies ranging from 100 MHz all the way up to 60 GHz, depending on the printing medium.

The team can currently power temperature sensors using television signals, and is preparing a demo in which they will power a microcontroller simply by holding it up in the air. The technology is still in its infancy, but the list of applications is almost endless. We doubt you’ll be powering your TV with this technology any time soon, but it definitely holds promise for things such as wireless sensor mesh networks and the like.

[Thanks, morganism]

Power All Over Your Body

We know that you can transform the mechanical motions of your body into electrical energy, like when you turn the crank or shake a mechanically-powered flashlight. These types of mechanical motions are quite large compared to many of the day-to-day (and minute-to-minute) actions you perform–for example walking, breathing, and thumb wrestling.

What if we could harvest energy from these tiny movements? Researchers at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology are seeking the answer to this question with piezoelectric barium titanate. The electrical output of their devices is very small (in the nanoAmps) but over a long period and over many repetitions it would be possible to run a small electric device–even a biologically-embedded one. An alternative to blood power?

There is clearly a lot of potential in this technology, and we’ll be interested to see if and when we can start messing around with this stuff. Heck, it’s already been used to power a small LED and you all know just how much everyone would jump at the chance to cover themselves in self-powered LEDs…

You’ll shoot your eye out, another coilgun

All we needed to read was 4x 3900uF capacitor bank to know we had yet another decently sized homemade coilgun on our hands. And for the math buffs, that equates out to 1.25kJ of potential energy (efficiency kills it down to 37j of kinetic, but large numbers are more fun) which is more than enough to break skin; of course we recommend you just shoot old electronics rather than friends. On the more technical side, sure its only a single stage for now and we’ve seen some slightly more impressive triple stage guns, but it may just be more beautiful than our previously featured coil pistol. You guys be the judge. Catch a complete video after the jump of the internals and build process, skip ahead to 2:40 for the destruction.


Continue reading “You’ll shoot your eye out, another coilgun”

Fusion, in my backyard?!

Here is the 32nd amateur fusion reactor built in a basement. [Mark Suppes] is right behind [Will Jack], the (then) 17 year old [Thiago Olson], and [Mileiux] in engineering a homemade nuclear reactor. By taking two light elements and colliding them under extreme speed and pressure, a heavier element and energy are produced.

[Mark’s] goal is to lasso in investors to earn enough money to build a larger Bussard Reactor, which will hopefully produce as much energy as it consumes. Free energy at only a couple million dollars; who wouldn’t pass up this opportunity?

[Thanks Imp]

Tapping Tree Power

[bugloaf] tipped us off about this flower power hack. University of Washington researchers, [Babak], [Brian], and [Carlton] have developed very low power circuits to run directly off of trees. This builds upon the work of MIT researchers and Voltree Power. A voltage of up to around 200mV is generated between an electrode in a tree and an electrode in the ground. Identical metals can be used as electrodes as the process is not like that of a lemon or potato battery. The significant development here is the use of a boost converter and exceptionally low power circuits. What kind of applications can you come up with for this source of power? Maybe you could try to combine this power with the power from donuts and hair.

Real time gas monitoring

With the weather getting colder, [Daniel] decided it would be a good idea to monitor how much energy his gas heating was using in real time. He used a Nokia 6680 cameraphone to monitor the heater’s flame through the sight glass. PyS60, a Symbian implementation of Python, checks the image sent by the camera and measures how much blue flame is visible. These values are stored in a SQL DB on the phone that can be polled over Bluetooth. At the end of the billing cycle,  he’ll be able to correlate the amount of gas used with what the phone reported.

[Thanks, florent bayle]