Thursday, February 16, 2006

Unworkable Devices as Art

Brian
Donald Simanek, a retired physics professor from Lock Haven University of Pennsylvania, is curator of a virtual Museum of Unworkable Devices, which includes an exhibit on the dual-bellows wheel, pictured above:
The source we swiped this picture from didn't provide documentation, and the author didn't seem to understand exactly how it was supposed to work. We can imagine two ways to use this wheel, both ineffective. In both cases the little protuberances on each bellows represent lead weights.
  • The arms are independent, and the bellows and shafts on each arm are filled with a liquid. In the position shown the weights on the arm at the right have compressed the inner bellows and expanded the outer bellows, so that the liquid inside is shifted to a larger radius. On the left arm, the outer bellows is compressed and the inner one is expanded by the weights, so that the fluid inside is shifted to a smaller radius. Result: the classic "continually overbalanced wheel", and the wheel should turn clockwise.

  • The arms are independent, and the bellows and shafts on each arm are filled with air. The entire wheel is immersed in a tank of liquid. In the position shown, the weights on the arm at the right have compressed the inner bellows and expanded the outer bellows, so that the net buoyant force on the air-filled bellows is shifted to a larger radius. On the left arm, the outer bellows is compressed and the inner one is expanded by the weights so that the net buoyant force on the air-filled bellows is shifted to a smaller radius. The wheel should turn counter-clockwise.
Of course, neither result occurs.
Link (via the Proceedings of the Athanasius Kircher Society). It reminds me of these rosette cookies my mom used to make. Except they were definitely workable devices.

Indexed by tags science, invention, device, , , , rosette.
Image credits: "Dual Bellows," courtesy Museum of Unworkable Devices Annex, borrowed for news-reporting and comment purposes.