Let's say I invented a perpetuum mobile. For real! A wheel spins, or a voltage is provided across two metal prongs, whatever, without it requiring any fuel or input of energy. Maybe it uses some not yet discovered law of physics, maybe it taps into some parallel universe, whatever.

My problem is that I would like to use the official way to introduce a new discovery to the scientific community, but I fear that if I just wrote a paper and sent it to a few journals, they would just toss it into the garbage. There are far to many quacks (actually, all of them, except for me), there are far too many youtube videos and patent applications with fakes, so that all serious people are bored with finding the hidden power source of the machines brought to them by claimants, that now they probably dismiss all claims outright.

I would like to introduce it to the scientific community. Although I would be happy if it gave at least some profit to me, I don't wish to become a multi-billionaire while limiting its use to maximize profits. I want the global community to make use of it, so I fear if I just founded a company, I might get tricked or attacked by people with more power and experience, so my invention might end up rotting in some company's (or government's) basement or might be patented so that no one will be able to use it.

The device is too large and bulky to power a car, its power-to-weight ratio is terrible (not much better than a steam engine, but hey, it at least doesn't require any fuel), but that might be improved upon in the future. In its current form, it is not exactly profitable, for the costs it took me to build it, it would need a lot of time to return its investment in electricity bills. Lot of time means that it has a slightly worse cost-to-build versus power-it-provides ratio than solar cells, but it doesn't require sunshine, works at constant capacity, and it might be improved in the future.

It's not built quite out of household materials, so it needs some fairly good electronics, rare materials, but all can be bought on the open market (no rare material only produced in scientific facilities). It took me quite a lot of time, effort, and expenses. I stumbled onto the principles almost by accident, it is advanced enough that the layman will certainly not be able to build it at home, but a well-equipped university lab might be able to reproduce it given enough time. They, however, might not want to invest the many tens of thousands of dollars for materials, and many thousands of man-hours to do it, just to "disprove yet another crackpot theory", unless I manage to convince them. The device is complex enough that just by reading the description nobody will say "aha, I now see that it will work". No one will be convinced unless they really reproduce it, and they must be really careful in it, avoiding many pitfalls. I don't want that a small mistake in the reproduction makes it non-operative and so they dismiss my claim. They have to really give a lot of effort and dedication into reproducing it.

Although having an academic background, I don't work at academia, and don't have a team of researchers under my command. Trying to get back into academia and reach such a status would take too many years and might not even work. If i just contact my ex-professors or fellow ex-students, they will probably laugh it off and not take it seriously. This is important, as I'm not known in the scientific community, and my experience in writing good papers and finding good journals is limited to a few insignificant ones as undergrad. Even if a university lab does try it and does succeed with it, they still have to convince the larger community.

So, how can I publish it for the benefit of the scientific community, while not giving up authorship? I don't want to build an empire onto it, but it would be nice if I wouldn't starve if I lost my job.

  • $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 5, 2016 at 21:00
  • $\begingroup$ I wondered a lot about what tag to take but couldn't find one. The question has generated enough interest and votes so I think I can safely claim that it has its place here. Academia.se would not be good because this is about a fictional character, so there it would be highly hypothetical. I now created the rational-fiction tag, I think it would fit well. Rational fiction can be distinguished from hard-science (even if they sometimes overlap), there are very well written rational-fiction stories about Harry Potter, My Little Pony, Santa Claus, and other topics far from traditional hard science $\endgroup$
    – vsz
    Commented Jul 5, 2016 at 21:04
  • $\begingroup$ Show it to an actual scientists, the fakes either keep scientist from analyzing their inventions and play publicity games or do lets scientists test them and are quickly found out. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Commented Apr 18, 2017 at 2:39
  • $\begingroup$ Tapping a parallel universe doesn't make a perpetual motion machine. Introduce it as a means of accessing the parallel universe and your problems go away. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 18, 2017 at 23:43
  • $\begingroup$ Do you know how it works or do you need scientists to figure it out? $\endgroup$
    – Solanacea
    Commented Apr 19, 2017 at 21:23

19 Answers 19


Let's get one thing clear about science. Nothing is off limits.

We don't have sacred cows. We don't worship our calculators. Newton is not a god.

If you somehow break the laws of thermodynamics, honestly, for real, reproducibly, then all you have to do is let someone play with it.

If you fear being dismissed if you make outrageous claims too soon simply temper them down. Ask us, "How does this work?"

If we can't explain it, and you can, and we can reproduce it, without your interference, you've just started a new field of science. Nobel prize time.

It may turn out you only thought you broke the law of thermodynamics, but actually discovered a new source of power. Still Nobel prize time.

If you want an example of how this might play out in the real world. Read up on cold fusion (a failure) and high-temperature superconductivity (a success). Neither was seriously predicted by theory.

To us, fantastic claims only require one thing: fantastic proof. Doesn't matter who you are.

Some may claim this isn't enough for scientists. Those aren't scientists. This is how science works. If you don't do it this way, it isn't science.

  • 9
    $\begingroup$ Absolutely correct. Science doesn't have boundaries. Sure quacks and charlatans usually push perpetual motion machines. If you have the real deal, scientists will sit up and pay attention. It has to be verifiable, reproducible, and not a fake. Scientists love rewriting the laws to take in any new aspect of nature. Physicists looked seriously at cold fusion until it was an obvious dud. Science is full of dead ends. If it works, then they're on board. $\endgroup$
    – a4android
    Commented Jul 4, 2016 at 5:40
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    $\begingroup$ Definitely, if you claim "I did it! It takes power from nowhere!" you'll be dismissed as a quack. But tell "It draws power from somewhere and I don't know where from, help me find that hidden energy source!" you're presenting a puzzle which they will gladly tackle. There are such "perpetual motion" mechanisms that seemingly draw power from nowhere, while in fact working off Earth spin, Earth magnetic field, light pressure, ambient static charge, random minuscule air movements and heat gradients, and so on. Each is a fun riddle to solve for the scientists. $\endgroup$
    – SF.
    Commented Jul 4, 2016 at 12:07
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    $\begingroup$ as they say, "the greatest inventions don't start with 'Eureka!' but with 'Thaaaat's interesting...'" - instead of "presenting a solution", present a riddle. "It's against the laws of physics, so I must have made an error somewhere... can you help me find it?" $\endgroup$
    – SF.
    Commented Jul 4, 2016 at 12:12
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    $\begingroup$ For a perfect example of people trying to push a fake perpetual motion device, google Stoern Orbo. They've tried every trick in the book to gain publicity for their device, short of actually allowing real scientists access to one so they can check if it actually works. $\endgroup$
    – Richard
    Commented Jul 4, 2016 at 13:40
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    $\begingroup$ @CandiedOrange Unfortunately your description is what I call "schoolbook science": A distorted image of the real scientific work which is by far much more influenced by human limitations than your fantasy science. No, it is not easy to prove as an amateur that you found something interesting. No, it does happen that scientists screw up horribly and choose to ignore something with direct evidence before their eyes. I will add examples in my answer below to demonstrate this. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 4, 2016 at 20:05

I propose: The frog boiling principle.

Let's assume your Perpetuum Mobile requires input energy to get started - you start spinning the wheel by hand, or heat its cauldron until the boiler gets going, or it needs a certain amount of watt hours and then starts generating electricity. When you passed that threshold, it just keeps going, and going, and going. You have, in short, built a machine that takes power as an input, and generates power as an output. If you didn't know the machine generates more output than input, there's nothing strange about this invention - it's just plain ol' power storage.

Power storage isn't new, we've built dams to power water mills since I don't know when, for example. But even though it's old, it's also quite fashionable: We're using wind and sun to generate electricity, but we want our lamps shining on still nights; we're seeing some really awesome electric cars these days, and we don't want them plugged in while we're driving; etc.

Now, let's assume that if you tap the energy your machine produces too heavily, it stops. Right? Great, because now you can craft some carefully skewed (but correct) test results that are scientifically uncontroversial but still very interesting. Suppose you can get 90% power efficiency if you drain the machine in one hour (i.e., input 10 kWh and you can pull out 9kWh in one hour), or 99% if you drain it in a day (9.9kWh from 10kWh), and increasingly better efficiency the slower the tapping. No need to say that you can tap 10.1kWh from the 10kWh of input if you do it over the course of a week, or infinite kWhs if you tap even slower, because the amounts of energy tapped under such circumstances are rather uninteresting when comparing production costs to power output (or whatever excuse you can make up for not testing the truly remarkable cases).

The stage is set for you to patent your Very Efficient Power Storage, not saying that it is actually also Yet Another Perpetuum Mobile. Finding some clever scientists who are interested in improving on this remarkable - but still quite plausible according to accepted theory - design shouldn't be that hard if builds upon pre-existing designs into which there is currently being put scientific effort to improve. If it is a completely novel design, unlike anything ever seen before, it'll probably be harder to find suitable academics since they'll pretty much have to leave their entire previous research behind (but who knows, perhaps there's a brilliant scientist out there who wants something new to sink their teeth into, or someone who just realized their current research subject is a dead end?).

With a suitable staff, you can get venture capital, and from the efficiency improvements your white-coated pals find, you can build a successful company and make big bucks from selling your Very Efficient Power Storage to grid owners, electric car manufacturers, or whatever suitable customers you can think up.

As more and more research effort is put into your design, some strange, wonderful, and frightening results will surface in your lab. Your staff - academically distinguished, of course, and probably still connected to prestigious universities - can't believe their own results. But it actually happened - we achieved 150% efficiency! They won't mention it outside the lab, but since you keep an eye on things, you notice it and let them in on the secret.

You lab continuously produces papers detailing the advances you've made. Your findings are very interesting and prestigious journals on the subject of power storage (I assume there are such journals) happily publish you. But your papers never really delve into the truly strange parts, the efficiency on low outtakes. If someone took the time and money to build a device like yours, they'd notice... but they probably wouldn't believe their own findings. That doesn't matter, though, because it's actually quite expensive and complicated to reproduce and it is trivial to see that your designs actually work, and the science in your papers seems to add up just fine.

As your invention becomes commonplace, you gradually improve its efficiency. At one point, when the scientific community are feeling fairly comfortable with the improved design's 99.999% efficiency during a one-hour draining, you launch a new product line that has >100% efficiency. Perhaps you won't even say anything, and noone notices anything unless they're crunching numbers on electricity production vs consumption. Perhaps you'll start your own power plant generating electricity from nothing. One day, you make the statement, and noone will want to believe you but they have to since you now run a large-scale production facility of free energy, which incidentally also powered the coffe makers of the people who call you a fraud.

The frog is now boiled. You are free to share your invention and patents with the world, if you like.

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Ugh. I never understood that boiling frog metaphor. Or rather, I understand the metaphor, but I have no idea how it remains popular. A metaphor is useful because it explains something by comparing it to something else the listener is already familiar with; Tell me, when was the last time you boiled up a frog? $\endgroup$
    – user867
    Commented Jul 5, 2016 at 0:44
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @user867: In this case I think it explains something abstract by comparing to something concrete, and vivid, that is easily pictured even by those not already familiar with it. Cf. Plato's allegory of the cave. (And oddly enough, it would actually be less effective if we were all familiar with how to boil frogs, because it turns out that it's a myth. :-P ) $\endgroup$
    – ruakh
    Commented Jul 5, 2016 at 5:40
  • $\begingroup$ I've always been fond of ludicrous and/or absurd metaphors. They tend to stick in your memory. $\endgroup$
    – gustafc
    Commented Jul 5, 2016 at 6:54
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    $\begingroup$ This may not be the most upvoted answer, but it is by far my favourite. I love that rather than just getting it accepted, you've thought of how to get it widely accepted and used. $\endgroup$
    – swinefish
    Commented Jul 5, 2016 at 6:57
  • $\begingroup$ So now you have to figure out if the metaphor is the "original" 19th century version, or the deeper metaphor referring to the fact that the frog boiling behavior is wrong but still used as a metaphor. $\endgroup$
    – JDługosz
    Commented Jul 6, 2016 at 9:12

Before you do anything else, leave no doubt that the invention is yours. Take many redundant measures so that you can't be sued out of your discovery.

Next, you have to show the larger sciencific community that your invention works. As you pointed out, it's very unlikely that you will be able to instantly convince a large chunk of the sciencific community, especially since you are not known. So you either have to change the "instant" part or the "large chunk" part. Since waiting too long isn't an option, you will have to start out by convincing just one sciencist.

Look for a professor or researcher who works in a field that is related most closely to your technology. Offer him x ammount of money per hour (up to a limit of y hours) to look at your blueprints, and offer a reward of $10,000 if he/she finds the power source. Encourage him/her to invite friends as well, and double the bounty. Once you have this sciencist (and maybe a few of his/her sciencist friends) convinced, offer them a share of the future monetary benefits you will get once the invention is recognized. These can include prizes, a prestigeous research position under you, or a company you will build (even if you decide that this machine or a company in this field won't be profitable, your characters don't have know that; they will probably think it will make them rich). These sciencists will get some of their friends to verify the invention as well (for free, because they know/trust each other). Offer these new people a share of the company too. This proccess of sciencists asking their friends can continue.

Once you have a resonable numbers of sciencists on your side, you can stop offering shares of your future company; sciencists will pay attention to it for free because it will gain some credibility. At some point, you can send your findings to a journal with a large number of sciencists backing you (make sure you are the author) and you can reap the monetary benefits (nobel prize, professorship, grants, etc.)

  • $\begingroup$ Sorry for the English errors, I typed this on my phone lol. I'm going to fix some now and reword this a bit when i get home to a computer. $\endgroup$
    – Ovi
    Commented Jul 4, 2016 at 1:12
  • $\begingroup$ If it helps, I've heard it's actually pretty easy to patent perpetual motion machines these days. Since such patents are unlikely to ever be seriously disputed, they rarely cause much trouble for the patent office, who are happy to take your money. $\endgroup$
    – user867
    Commented Jul 5, 2016 at 0:38
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Be sure to have someone like the Amazing Randi--someone who knows trickery--examine the device. Scientists aren't always used to thinking like a trickster, and so can be fooled. See, for example, the scientists who were fooled by Uri Geller and others like him. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 5, 2016 at 1:19
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Rather than a professor or researcher who works in a (related) field, I might start as close as a local high-school science teacher. Once convinced or intrigued enough, that person could recommend a next higher step up the academic ladder. Step by step, the next higher could be asked "Can you help us explain this anomaly? We're apparently going wrong somewhere." But it still could be called "looking for a professor, etc." $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 5, 2016 at 1:38
  • $\begingroup$ @user867 where did you hear that? I thought the US patent office had an explicit policy that no patent would be issued for perpetual motion machines? $\endgroup$
    – Solanacea
    Commented Apr 19, 2017 at 21:47

Well, you nailed it pretty hard. Yes, any attempt to use or demonstrate a "perpetuum mobile" would be futile, this ground is too poisoned. I do not think any attempt to communicate with scientists will be fruitful (I am a scientist and I would be extremely sceptical and dismissive myself).

The whole thing reminds me of the Orbo of Steorn.

It is has a terrible power ratio, it must be improved. It must be useful for at least some applications. So if you cannot do it yourself, you need someone who has the technical background to improve the design. Or you try it yourself by trial and error.

Once you have a working design, you patent it. And now you are flying under the radar by adding a credible power source and market it as such. So the customers get a functioning device and the scientific world is calmed. The very best thing would be that you use it for a scientific instrument.

Well, sooner or later someone realizes...well, the battery should be empty now. But it still runs. Hey, the battery is empty. What ? Is that a joke ? It runs and runs. Where is the power source ?

Now people will ask questions. You are completely innocent and simply tell them: What are you talking about ? It runs itself and produces more energy than it consumes ? You thought that it is impossible.

Now scientists are curious and at least some of them want to solve the puzzle of the hidden power source. Just as training. First they are astonished, then they won't believe their eyes and finally they are aghast.

Well, there you have it. The scientists are introduced now.

After the glowing ode on science in some other answers I must put it in a more realistic view. Policemen are not in general the incorruptible, generous good person holding up law and order. Doctors are not in general the selfless professional who sacrifice their free time to save human lifes. Neither are scientists in general cold and undetached seekers of the truth.

@Benubird: Are you actually aware that your sentence "and given that they rejected it, it sounds like they were actually real scientists" sounds a bit like if they accepted it you would think they are a bunch of shills and crackpots ? Confirmation bias is not a only a crackpot problem, it is human.

I already said in the comment to CandiedOrange's answer that I will give counterexamples of professional behavior.

After we got better and better telescopes, it was finally accepted in the 1920s that the former "nebulas" are galaxies like our Milky Way. Fritz Zwicky examined the Coma Galaxy Cluster and was irritated: Something was wrong with the rotation. The galaxy rotated too fast, you need gravitation to hold a galaxy together and there were simply not enough stars to account for the necessary gravitation. So he proposed "dark matter", something which does not emit light, but has gravitational influence.

The "Dark Matter" theory gained finally more and more influence in the 70s. 70s ? What happened in the meantime ? Well, the astronomic community chose to ignore completely the problem. It was not the problem that they could not reproduce or prove it, a simple look through the telescope would have been enough. It was easier to sweep the problem 40 years under the rug.

Unbelievable ? I challenge here anyone to show me that a scientific discussion in papers took place which took the phenomenon seriously.

Another not so bright moment: Irving Langmuir had written 1953 a scientific paper about "Pathological Science", endeavours in science which were in his own words "the science of things that aren't so". In one example he criticized the "mitogenetic rays" of Alexander Gurwitsch 30 years earlier. Quite ironically: "The mitogenetic rays" of pathologic science do actually exist, so it really may be asked why a valid result could be labeled as "pathological science"...

Then the neutrino affair: The problem was not the measurement error. The problem was that while anyone which would come up with superluminal theories a bit sooner have been considered a crackpot. Now in arxiv a whole swamp of papers published such theories without an eye blink instead waiting for the final confirmation that the result is genuine. No, the scientists were not suddenly open, they simply hoped for the jackpot and to hell with Einstein.

I must add that there are also very good and nice scientific endeavours which are in the majority and quite readily accepted, I simply do not like this extremely rosy paint.

In effect scientists are currently underpaid and overworked (yeah, yeah, says everyone, but it is really a problem, especially for postdocs), they have not much time to follow spurious leads. The competition to publish papers is so hard that in some fields amateurs cannot publish without being ignored (if they are accepted at all). Just my 2 cents.

  • 5
    $\begingroup$ The wikipedia article on the orbo of steorn says that a bunch of scientists actually agreed to review it - and given that they rejected it, it sounds like they were actually real scientists, not sock puppets. So by your own example, attempts to communicate with scientists is far from fruitless - it seems there still are people willing to give their time to debunk crackpot ideas. $\endgroup$
    – Benubird
    Commented Jul 4, 2016 at 7:47
  • $\begingroup$ Where the Orbo failed is that it's a fake. A real device wouldn't have suffered the same list of failed demonstrations, scientific refusals and bad publicity. A competent mechanical engineer could have confirmed that this device was indeed producing more energy than it was consuming in a trivial amount of time, and yet they've persistently refused to allow that to happen. $\endgroup$
    – Richard
    Commented Jul 4, 2016 at 15:09
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Your examples all seem to be theoretical constructs that were later proven using observational experimentation, not an actual device that can be held, tested and checked trivially using a multi-meter and eyeball observation. $\endgroup$
    – Richard
    Commented Jul 5, 2016 at 13:53
  • $\begingroup$ @Richard First: It is not a theoretical construct that gravity is not sufficient to hold the galaxy together, it is a fact. The observation was already there the whole time and always needed an explanation, either dark matter or modification of gravity (TeVeS theory). Second: It is further wrong because the "mitogenetic rays" were observed, it is simply that the scientists ignored the results. Third: There was actually an actual device from Johann Bessler where the scientists could not discern the reason, smart people could be screwed. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 6, 2016 at 19:36
  • $\begingroup$ Addition: You really are underestimating the difficulty to rule out deceit. Even I can set up a trivial machine where your unaltered multimeter shows more energy output than energy input. And even if you really did competent work to survey the invention, how can others trust your result ? How can you prove that you have not been fooled ? What really happens is that sceptical people will think that you have been fooled and believers will drag you forth as evidence. And both camps together will be more than 95% of all people, so the rest cannot influence them even if they agree with you. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 6, 2016 at 19:45

It's going to be a long term project.

Look at the timeline of the EM drive.


Over a decade later and still most scientists would not touch it with a ten foot pole.

Be able to provide prototypes, be persistant, and don't oversell it. If you don't know how it works, say so. Be prepared for not just scepticism, but instant dismissal. Ask some theoretical physicists to study this interesting device and let them find out that it is violating known physics.

  • 12
    $\begingroup$ most scientists would use a 3,048m pole, though. $\endgroup$
    – njzk2
    Commented Jul 4, 2016 at 15:10
  • $\begingroup$ Ouch, that cuts deep, @njzk2 (lolz) $\endgroup$
    – Tony Ennis
    Commented Jul 4, 2016 at 18:09
  • $\begingroup$ @njzk2 3.048m to be correct $\endgroup$
    – jmn
    Commented Jul 5, 2016 at 13:15
  • $\begingroup$ @njzk2 would you please let me in on the joke? $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 5, 2016 at 21:17
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @EmilioMBumachar Scientists use the metric system. 10 feet in metric is 3.048 meters. $\endgroup$
    – Shane
    Commented Jul 5, 2016 at 22:30

A nitpick - a machine that is powered from elsewhere isn't a perpetual motion machine. You're merely demonstrating an alternate power supply. You'd be richer than God.

A steam engine can be a powerful thing, by the way. Think "locomotive".

In general, I'll take the opposite view of many - it would be easy to get it reviewed by scientists. You negotiate a price and pay them in advance, in cash, under the agreement they must publish the results of their reviews.

You'd put it on a trailer and take it to them. You'd build it so they had unfettered access to all components. Bring a welder, so any support part could be cut and rewelded etc. Also supply mechanics to disassemble at the request of the reviewer.

But expecting scientists to foot the bill to review the device... nope.

Patent the hell out of it first.


Don't. Use it yourself to translate the unlimited energy into unlimited wealth and power. If it were actually real, some benevolent "scientific community" is not who's going to benefit from it anyway; powerful governments militaries would, and they'd have no qualms about screwing you over in the process.

  • $\begingroup$ They'd kill you to keep you quiet. $\endgroup$
    – Tony Ennis
    Commented Jul 4, 2016 at 18:04

As a claimed "perpetual motion machine", you basically can't get it accepted. The reason for this is that the second law of thermodynamics is the solidest law of nature we know. If your scenario actually involves breaking it, you need to lose the hard-science tag. A relevant quote, from Eddington:

The law that entropy always increases, holds, I think, the supreme position among the laws of Nature. If someone points out to you that your pet theory of the universe is in disagreement with Maxwell's equations — then so much the worse for Maxwell's equations. If it is found to be contradicted by observation — well, these experimentalists do bungle things sometimes. But if your theory is found to be against the second law of thermodynamics I can give you no hope; there is nothing for it but to collapse in deepest humiliation.

As "this is a way of extracting energy from (explanation that makes sense in physics terms)", it is an interesting discovery, and you might well be able to get a job with some company that wants to develop it.

A way of presenting it if you don't know where the energy comes from, is to publish in the same way as the physicists who measured neutrino speeds faster than light in 2011: as something they could not explain, asking for help in explaining it. But whoever figures out where the energy comes from will get most of the credit.

  • 4
    $\begingroup$ I disagree with "lose the hard-science tag". Science holds nothing sacred. You are free to disprove anything. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 4, 2016 at 2:14
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ To paraphrase someone a lot famouser than I: when actuality and theory disagree, it is not actuality that changes. $\endgroup$
    – Nij
    Commented Jul 4, 2016 at 7:49

It's all about your phrasing. Daring to contradict CandiedOrange, some things are off limits in science. Perhaps not in the ideal world, where everything is a point mass and all my cows as spherical, but in the real world, perpetual motion is a severe non-starter. Real flesh and blood scientists simply dismiss them without even hearing the argument. Far too many people have been swindled by false claims of perpetual motion. Some scientists might be willing to hear a theory about ghosts, but none are willing to touch perpetual motion.

Accordingly, you're going to have to sell the story correctly. Sell yourself as a skeptic. When you publish, it should not be "hey guys, check out my perpetual motion machine," but rather, "hey, I'm noticing this funny error term that I can't cancel out... can somebody run these experiments and figure out what I did wrong?" Solicit advice on how to better constrain sources of error. Sell it not as a perpetual motion machine, but as a problem for the scientific community to solve.

It's going to take time. You're literally going to have to shift the entire scientific community in a direction to take perpetual motion off the "off limits" list. That will take time. From your description, the amount of free energy generated is very small compared to the energy and materials that went into making the device. Accordingly, your device could simply be producing energy as the result of a decomposition of some of the material in the device (similar to the behavior of a sacrificial anode in the SALt lamp, which claims to run on nothing but salt water). You may have to run your machine a great deal before you can gather enough samples to really start to leave scientists puzzled.

Remember, the threshold for "discovery" of a subatomic particle that every expected to see was 99.9999% confidence. That's where the particle physics community puts their line these days. Discovery of something which fundamentally upsets every assumption ever made about physics in the past 200 years is going to require substantial confidence. You may not be able to constrain the experiment sufficiently in your lifetime to reach a sufficient confidence interval for such a earthshattering discovery.

You may have better luck with the corporations. You may be able to convince them to find value in your invention, for one reason or another. Perhaps if everyone in the world is using the technology, you might find that the confidence in your theory is far greater. Science loves independent identically distributed samples, and having 7 billion of them would be a big step forward to moving perpetual motion from "we're not interested in discussing it" to "I wonder what's going on."

It is a common misconception that the great discoveries in science are made in a brilliant stroke of genius which leads one to jump out of the bathtub and streak around town shouting "EUREKA! I have found it." That is not what true scientific discovery sounds likes. True scientific discovery does not sound like "Eureka," but rather "hmm... that's kind of funny."


One thing that the tech and in particular gaming industry has shown me is that to file a patent you don't need to show a thing works, you just need a bad line drawing, an idea, and someone to write fifteen pages of indecipherable legalese.

So, assuming the character could scrounge up enough money to hire a lawyer with some patent law experience, or perhaps have a friend who has such skills and is willing to help, simply have the file a patent without using the words perpetual motion. Don't take the engine and try to prove it works, just send an illustrated numbered rough drawing and a steaming mound of confusing words.

Large scale circular impelling engine for usage in large scale slow repetitive rotary mechanical function systems. Or something.

  • $\begingroup$ This is good real world advice but does not seem to address the introduction to the scientific world part if the question. $\endgroup$
    – Solanacea
    Commented Apr 19, 2017 at 21:33

I have serious issue with this question. You ask how do I get scientific community to accept my perpetuum mobile, but I see absolutely no reason why anyone, including yourself, would assume the device you describe is perpetuum mobile. A device that extracts work from some energy source we can't otherwise detect would be far more reasonable assumption. We even have some fairly obvious candidates for such source due to properties of dark matter. dark energy, and even vacuum being largely unknown.

So since there is no reason to assume you have a perpetuum mobile, there is no reason to represent your invention as such, and no reason your invention would suffer due to prejudice against perpetuum mobile. Although to be honest, I think many scientists actually like perpetuum mobile and would be willing to spend some effort to study your work and find the reason your invention seems to work even if you claimed for some reason it is a perpetuum mobile.

  • $\begingroup$ If the device isn't suspended in an isolation chamber I would consider vibrations, air currents, background radiation and other more understood explanations. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 5, 2016 at 11:13
  • $\begingroup$ @DonaldHobson Absolutely, my point was that even if all such have been excluded so that it for all practical purposes looks like a perpetuum mobile, it probably still is not. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 5, 2016 at 11:32
  • $\begingroup$ @DonaldHobson : I doubt vibrations, air currents, background radiation or similar could lead to a power to weight ratio comparable with that of a steam engine, except for maybe microscopic scales. $\endgroup$
    – vsz
    Commented Jul 7, 2016 at 6:22
  • $\begingroup$ @vsz That's one of the tricky parts of your device - steam engines are brutally efficient. That's the reason we still use them today, even in nuclear power plants, we have no better way of turning the heat into work (usually electricity, but not always). Perhaps you don't mean the steam engine itself, but something more like "a typical 19th century coal powered steam locomotive"? But still, the efficiency is very high, that had nothing to do with why steam locomotives were discontinued. And if you made it comparable in cost to solar panels on your own, a factory will make it 10x cheaper. $\endgroup$
    – Luaan
    Commented Jul 7, 2016 at 9:13
  • $\begingroup$ @Luaan : efficiency regarding weight, not energy. There is no wonder why we don't use them in aircraft or cars. $\endgroup$
    – vsz
    Commented Jul 7, 2016 at 9:33

Linus Torvalds decided that his work should be available and kept free to everyone (open source), whereas Bill Gates decided to make money from it. None of them starved and both of them are recognized world wide.

If you want to make money you have two options:

  1. keep it secret (like Coca-Cola) and pray for no one else figure it out;
  2. get a patent (you reveal how you do it but you protect part of the market for you)

If you decide to be make it public and free for everyone, then make sure:

  1. you publish it as soon as possible (in any format: conference, exhibition, paper, video, post);
  2. detail your work as much as possible so no one else would be able to patent what you didn't say about it;
  3. enumerate as many variations and applications you can think about.

By making it public, no one would be able to get a patent on it anymore.

At last, keep in mind that by sharing your achievements and getting feedback from your work is a very rewarding experience. It can help you improve on what you've done and take you much faster to the next level.

Good luck!


Write a history of your thoughts and construction of the device, dated honestly. Include as high-quality drawings as you are able. Have this notarized. Continue the dated diary and have it notarized on a schedule.

Begin demonstrations. Invite schoolteachers, reporters, a Boy Scout troop, a service club, amateur science organizations (radio, aviation, seismologists) etc. and give demos until enough are persuaded. Sooner or later a working technological professional will be interested. Your notarized notebook will preserve your rights until patents are proper to acquire.


I think you're trying to base your story on a very flawed premise. That is, a person, without even being a scientist, makes several important inventions (nothing wrong with it per se), discovers at least one completely new fundamental law of physics (hmm, okay), but does not attempt to share, publish or use any of those in any way right until the point when he tightens the final screw and a perpetuum mobile device suddenly comes to life! Did he somehow know from the beginning that he will succeed in building that particular device? Did he just wake up one morning and started putting parts together until the device was ready?


A genius locks himself in a secluded laboratory and after 15 minutes of montage (which corresponds to something like 2~3 months of real time?) emerges with an Iron Man exoskeleton he built. By himself. Alone. From scratch. It's so ahead of time no one even understand how it's possible. It's so advanced no one can reproduce it even after extensive observation, studying and reverse-engineering.

Whereas in real life...

A genius, amply funded by different organizations, along with his many assistants, after decades of work, invents, maybe, several new materials, which can potentially be used to build an Iron Man exoskeleton, and also a somewhat new type of servo. As a team. Based on other people's existent research. Publishing like a hundred scientific papers every year, thoroughly explaining every minor achievement they make. The assistants not only understand the work enough to reproduce or continue researching without our genius - in fact, the genius already understands just a small part of the project. And the scientific community is more than ready to understand their next discovery, no matter how revolutionary.

Back to the flawed premise. Contrary to Hollywood movies and novels of Jules Verne, no matter how ingenious you are, you can not achieve everything by yourself. Which leaves you with two possibilities regarding your hypothetical perpetuum mobile:

It is already, by an large, accepted by the scientific community.


It doesn't exist.

But if you want to go the Hollywood route, just add whatever deus ex machina to help your character, one more won't hurt...


I think the "best" way is by actually making money from the device.

There are always copycats who will deconstruct and try and make a cheaper clone, so once they do, they will go to the scientists and say "how the heck does this thing work?".

Voila, you have introduced to the scientific community while establishing the fact that you created the device.


Invite Power

Make the local power utility buy your electricity. Ideally, the machine would scale according to some input. That is, if you put more energy into the machine, even more power would come out. This would allow you to ramp up power output to any arbitrary level by introducing a feedback loop. Then connect your device to the local power grid, and charge the utility to buy your power (works in the USA). It really doesn't matter if feedback is available or not, as long as you can submit enough "free power" for the utility to meter it and notice. Even a few hundred watts of continuous power will be convincing.

Dump power into the grid for a few months...enough to get statements from the utility showing that they are paying you. If you can get a feedback loop, great! You can easily dump enough power into the grid to put a nice dent in their profits, but be careful not to blow up your local substation!!

Finally, write an open letter to the utility, along with properly redacted copies of your electricity bill, and have it posted as a full-page ad in the nearest big-city newspaper. Tell them that you are feeding power into their grid with a device that consumes no fuel, or that produces over-unity outputs (more power than it consumes). Invite them to come inspect your "generator" with qualified experts, under the condition that all inspections are conducted in full view of the media and independent witnesses, to prevent tampering/destruction.

Go National

In fact, invite all national utilities, and threaten to bring your device to their grids too, if they don't come and investigate your power source. Especially invite the scientists (obviously). Ask the local universities to provide experts to oversee the inspections, and make it clear that you will comply with any reasonable requests to make the device available for testing (checking ground connections for surreptitious power, etc.).


First, you are gathering evidence that your device does what it says. That's the electric bills. You are using an objective third-party to "pre-certify" your claim. Second, you are employing the carrot of curiosity, by inviting all experts to examine your device, and letting people know that you are aware of the kinds of tricks employed in the over-unity scam space, and that you will let them eliminate all such explanations for your device. Third, you are employing the stick of using your device as an economic weapon, by forcing utilities to buy so much power from you that they go bankrupt. This incentivizes them to quickly verify or disprove your claims, before things get out of hand.

Of course, you could be just running a conventional gasoline generator and feeding it into the grid, as a publicity stunt; but the utility will eventually want to prove that is what you are doing. They might sit on their hands for a while to see if you get tired of buying gas for your generator, since you can't possibly do that at a profit; but the longer your machine runs, the more obvious it will be that it's legit, and you aren't just trying to scam them.

And if you can introduce feedback, you can force them to act very quickly. With feedback, you can do something quite dramatic, like set up a huge Tesla coil and generate massive lightning displays powered by your device. When you get a forklift and pick up your device and drive it around a bit while the coil is discharging, it will become obvious that there is no way you are generating millions of volts and significant current from a scam device. enter image description here


...for the costs it took me to build it, it would need a lot of time to return its investment in electricity bills...

Either 1) it produces more output than input or 2) it doesn't. It sounds to me like you put more into it than you can ever get out of it, and thus this isn't a perpetual motion machine. If it works for 100 years with no maintenance and still doesn't pay for itself, it's pointless to bring up to the scientific community. If it will pay for itself in 100 years, but requires maintenance along the way that negates the value, then it isn't perpetual motion.

So you can be assured that if this is the case - that it will never produce more output than you put into it - then it will not be seen as a perpetual motion machine, and thus there is no good way to present it to the scientific community as such.

  • $\begingroup$ The scientific community isn't as concerned with real world applications. The LHC cost about €7.5 billion just to build, not even getting into operating costs. The recent Juno mission cost roughly a billion US dollars. Some (myself not included) would dismiss such scientific research as meaningless and demand that the money be spent for the public good. Scientists, however, continue to delve into the mysteries of the universe despite the cost. $\endgroup$
    – Kys
    Commented Jul 6, 2016 at 20:39
  • $\begingroup$ You can buy a cheap smartphone for much less than $100. If there was no industry for it, and you wanted to build a single one from scratch, it would cost billions. Economics of scale, and also the first prototype of anything costs much more than the end product, because of the many trials, dead ends, experiments, etc. The reason of it costing a lot to build compared to its immediate benefits is that (1) one cannot get rich out of the prototype, and (2) if someone wants to reproduce it to check it, they might get scared of paying a large cost for something they are almost sure will not work. $\endgroup$
    – vsz
    Commented Jul 6, 2016 at 20:48

Despite hard-science tag

  • but topic is hot as hell, and I can not be silent

Do you have plans? Put link to dropbox or any file share, I'll take look. 'll share profit with you, mail me. And yes, good move, about WBQ ;) I'll do same ;).

How small it can be, can it be like tea pot - if yes, start kickstarter compain, more crazy ideas is, better it fires.

Write: Do you wish to be first owner of crazy machine which charges your phone, steampunk design, high capacity powerbank, fast charging rate

Equip it with real accums as buffer, as it constantly generates power it will look in some use cases like high capacity, in some cases as fast charging device.

There are lot of technical channels on YT, they may review your craft, test it, even if they cant determine is it Impossible Device or not, they definitely may confirm some properties as they observe them.

As example if Applied Science (have DIY Electron microscope which works actually good enough) will say it works this and this way - I'm sure that it work that way. There are lot of guys who are respectful, and they working on their channels for years and most important they do not seek or wait for such fat opportunity like this one to get some profit from, hm let say, easy impressed peoples.

Say I'll like you to make review of this device, it have a bit of unusual properties, we call it advanced technologies, which I suggest it you to discover, overall it's just funny battery block.

Some will do it for free, just for fun(because it's interesting content for their viewers). It will help peoples to know you, and your kickstarter complain, make some orders.

You do not need much profit at start, and much orders - you just need crowd which may discover some interesting and most important useful aspects about device which will increase sales. If it's real deal it will make some cash flow for you, allowing to refine and scale production, improve device(if possible).

If it can be portable, like under 1kg or less - it's excellent, it will be better then usual powerbank, and that's really enough to start sales.

  • I saw that note it's bigger and will not fit to car, but not sure you mean to produce appropriate enough power, for that car like 30kW or it's just some limitation of current construction.

  • I have to note that steam engine power/weight ration is't so bad, even for old machines.

$\text{If it's big}$

If it's big that's will be harder, but also will depend how big.

$\small \text{300kg, 1kW power, 3-10 times worse then steam}$

Once you have to prove that it will work for Х hours with 1kW power, and do not contain radioactive materials (just is save to produce and to operate). Gasoline, Energy content is 42.4 MJ/kg, so 300kg of gasoline is 3533 hours of electricity generation in case of 100% efficiency.

Problem with scam is, they do not have working models, and they disguise that in any way possible.

When you have working model, which already generates energy, instead of consuming it, there are ways to find funding, prove etc. And if result so measurable, it's easy to measure, steam power ratio it's not a 1mV$\times$1mkA per tonne of device, and it can work let say week nonstop. (in case of repair, any energy you may bring in your "pocket" will not cover 1week of continuous work with 1kW)

There are lots of groups which would be interested even in that model as product. Survivalist's, crazy peoples, mobile operators, all who works on storage energy solutions, peoples in remote places, peoples who use diesel generator will be happy to replace just because of laziness to maintain and fuel that noisy thing they have atm.

You may start your own broadcasting, specially while assembly of second device as example, and show everything, you will get some money just for doing that. Make patreon account. Will not say it's road without rocks but unique content is a key, even if it will be like: hey look, crazy dude makes spacetimemachine and shows that on the channel - this sure will bring attention, views, some cash.

Nobel prize

When you will have working samples and cash, you may just send them for testings, investigations.(probably it will be done earlier if you will work with companies)

As result you will have working samples, and most importantly reproducible results.

Working devices, is key to the situation, this is key difference from scam. I can name at least 10 peoples, some amount of small groups or places where to find them, and 3 companies(as I think, not sure, but there are some reasons why they will) - who may help and will be interested in such technology, even in it's current not perfect state - and that's a case, when it's not my field of interests. I'm even do not talk about opportunistic peoples, and I strongly recommend against partnership with them even in case you think you are smart enough.
Again, with working device there is lot of options.

If they will not get you a Nobel Prize in result, Mr. Alfred Nobel ... hm but that's different story, what he will do to them all.


I noticed in some answers, people talk about small energy output, and such cases it's really hard to tell where energy comes from, and makes analysis difficult. I do not know if is that's OP mistake, or just peoples perception of demonstrated Impossible Device's, but I cite OP:

  • its power-to-weight ratio is terrible (not much better than a steam engine ... )

Here they show table for data from book The Red Devil and Other Tales from the Age of Steam by David Wardale , about Power-to-Weight Ratio for steam locomotives, lowest value for entry locomotive(as I understood) is 10kW/tonne . Is that bad? Is that low? For free? You have kidding me, it's darn awesome. And definitely is easy measurable.

And no matter what it is called by inventor: cold fusion, nuclear reactor, Impossible Device, torsionic fields generator, or energy vampire, or wireless energy transfer, what ever - if it's mobile then Anyone with basic chemistry knowledge pretty fast may say is that Thing or not.

In case it's mobile(important moment)
If it can work 12 hours - it's a thing in any case, question is just which kind a Thing it is. Tesla(auto) weight around 2 tonnes and stores 85-90kW electricity. If that device may produce 120kW in 12 hours it is a Thing - it's or a good fuel element, or better capacity battery. If it can work few month continuously it's nuclear reactor or thermonuclear reactor or something else. In case reactors, it's very good power weight ratio, comparing to todays reactors. Or it may be something else, which have to be investigated, no matter how it is called by inventor.

And to prove and show that it is a Thing, you need almost nothing, just make sure it's not connected to thermonuclear reactor in basement of his house. Almost no science needed at all. Understanding what happening is another deal, but convincing (in mobile version) that it's worth to investigate will take 24h.

With such power ratio 100g device will be capable to charge 2 cell phones simultaneously, 2 iPod's etc.

This just out the box use cases with huge market. Plot here will be if it robs some electric plant for MW each kW produced - but still it will be a thing, even better one then in all cases above.

  • $\begingroup$ Of all the ideas in this answer, using Kickstarter is the best. People will back anything if you spin it right. Trimming it down to just that would make a good answer. $\endgroup$
    – Schwern
    Commented Jul 4, 2016 at 18:20
  • $\begingroup$ @Schwern So many ideas popped up, up level I see no problem in OP's situation, but at least I have numbers in honor of hard-science tag. Joke went a bit wrong, but it happens. $\endgroup$
    – MolbOrg
    Commented Jul 5, 2016 at 1:03

You apparently lack the background to publish in the Scientific peer-reviewed literature. You also apparently lack the understanding of our patent system which would prevent you from failing to establish priority. That is, your main character seems so clueless (which is hard to understand if s/he really has put in the many months and years required to build and test such a device - what was s/he doing?! playing video games instead of researching the literature???) The USPTO requires a working model of any supposed perpetual motion machine. Filing your patent (and first getting (and paying for) a patent attorney) is step #1. It isn't clear to me why you want to build a huge device which won't even light a light bulb, costing thousands or millions of times as much as a life-time supply of flash lights. You're going to have to do better than break-even. Opportunity cost is the cost of one thing (materials and time to build your device, less the amount you can make from it) compared to the best alternative use of those materials AND your time. It sounds as if your pm device wouldn't be a rational use of your time, money, or mental energy. Assuming you and your patent attorney could schmooze your way into having an examiner look at it and assuming you constructed it in such a transparent way, that there were no "black box" sources of potential (hidden) energy, and that you convinced (bribed?) the examiner then the patent would be so enormously noteworthy, that fame and fortune would follow. Of course, unless you were very very very smart and canny, within months the big guys would file their own patents for nearly, but not quite, identical machines which would blow yours out of the market.


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