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MICRO’s new Perpetual Motion Museum is open now on Rockefeller Center’s Concourse!

Be the first to discover why perpetual motion is impossible by taking MICRO’s whirling journey through the earth’s energy system.

Traveling from the Big Bang through to the light switches you touch every day, you’ll explore some of the most mysterious questions in the universe:

Why do things move? Why do they stop?

 

1 | join the inventors' quest

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The inventors in the museum are trying to break the energy cycle by building perpetual motion machines. They want to create energy out of nothing.

Silly inventors. If only they looked behind them! They’d be able to see the energy transforming and changing shape all the way back to the Big Bang.

Inventors have been trying to come up with perpetual motion machines for hundreds of years.

There are two types of perpetual motion machines.

Perpetual motion machines that run forever, and perpetual motion machines that “create” energy, putting out more energy than is going in.

But perpetual motion machines never work. Visit the museum to find out why!

Explore the energy cycle.

The plants are using the sun’s energy to grow. In this animation, the inventor eats the plants, and the sun’s energy passes into their body.

They transform that energy into chemical and mechanical energy to ride the bike. The bike’s mechanical energy turns a magnetic generator, and is transformed into electrical energy.

The electrical energy is stored in a battery, which powers the inventor’s workshop light.

2 | UNDERSTAND THE FUTURE

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To understand the future, we can look at the past.

Humans have discovered amazing ways to harness and use energy. We started coming up with incredible inventions long, long before we understood how energy works, or where it comes from. 85% of the energy the human world consumes comes from non-renewable energy sources like fossil fuels.

What are fossil fuels? The sun’s energy, captured and stored by ancient plants and animals. It takes millions of years to make fossil fuels. And when we burn them in our machines, they release pollution as well as heat.

Perpetual Motion doesn’t work.

A fixed amount of energy goes into the process of making the wheels spin, and some of it escapes in ways we can’t avoid: sound, friction, heat.

Storing energy is difficult for some of the same reasons that Perpetual Motion Machines don’t work. Whenever energy transforms, a portion of that energy escapes as heat. Put a fixed amount of energy in to storage. Take it out, and some of it will escape as heat.

But humans are crazy inventive. Check out some of the storage inventions scientists are working on now!

3 | STORING FOR TOMORROW?

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Perpetual Motion doesn’t work.

A fixed amount of energy goes into the process of making the wheels spin, and some of it escapes in ways we can’t avoid: sound, friction, heat.

Storing energy is difficult for some of the same reasons that Perpetual Motion Machines don’t work. Whenever energy transforms, a portion of that energy escapes as heat. Put a fixed amount of energy in to storage. Take it out, and some of it will escape as heat.

 

4 | WANT MORE?

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What am I losing?

At MICRO, we measure units of energy as “burritos” just like the US Department of Energy!

Energy is a fact of life. Your body runs on energy, just like every machine you use. At the Perpetual Motion Museum, you can see energy escaping your body as heat in MICRO’s special IR camera.

Today, the average American consumes 31,000 burritos of energy per year. You’re only eating around 600 of those burritos... so what is eating all the rest? Your machines!

But people have different levels of access. Same number of people without electricity today as back when the light bulb was invented etc feel.

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What can I do?

Keep exploring.

The systems we’ve built to catch, store and use energy have lots of problems, which means: lots of potential solutions!

Discover how much energy is lost on the journey from the the power plant to your light switch.

Look into how buildings can save?

Look at LED light bulbs?

Cradle to grave design/consumption reduction?

Going all electric?

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How do zoetropes work!?

If you’ve visited the Perpetual Motion Museum, you’ve seen MICRO’s incredible spinning zoetrope.

Magic? Science!

All animation - including everything you see on television - is just a series of still images flashing at you very fast. When this happens, your brain links the still images together, giving you the illusion of moving images. This is called the “phi phenomenon.”

When MICRO’s zoetrope starts spinning, a light flashes over the sculpture. Each flash of light shows your brain a still image of the zoetrope in a new position. Your brain fills in the gaps! Learn more in this video.

5 | ROLL THE CREDITS

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All our thanks…

…to the incredible scientists, historians, and artists who are working on, brainstorming, wrangling, losing heat over, and adding facts to the Perpetual Motion Museum, including:

Brian Koberlein, senior lecturer, physics, Rochester Institute of Technology. Paul M. Sutter, cosmological researcher, Department of Astronomy, Ohio State University. Moiya McTier, astrophysicist extra-ordinaire. CREE distinguished professor Shuji Nakamura, University of California, Santa Barbara. Tal Margalith, executive director of technology, California NanoSystems Institute, University of California, Santa Barbara. Nathan Lewis, professor of chemistry, Caltech. Adam Brown, physics research associate, Stanford University. Daniel Busby, Andy Baker, Chris Weisbart and the whole crew of mad engineers and dreamers at Two Bit Circus. Rina Shkrabova, engineer. Gaia Donati, associate editor, Springer Nature. Beau Burrows, future wife, zoetrope spinner. Robb Godshaw, artist and wrangler. Pamela Parker, graphic designer. And of course, the incredible Russ Etheridge, animator.

Lead museum design: Labour.

And a very special thanks to our lead science advisors on this museum:

Tristan Ursell, Assistant Professor of Physics, University of Oregon.

Dr. David Brown, scientist-at-large.

MICRO’s Perpetual Motion Museum was developed with the support of Science Sandbox, an initiative of the Simons Foundation and the Tribeca Film Institute’s New Media Award.

The Perpetual Motion Museum is launched with the support of Tishman Speyer, who - insert tagline here.