Saturday, 19 November 2011

The Leiden Jar, static electricity, a solenoid and some springs!

This is in response to a long email I received about the Leyden (Leiden jar). It is not my opinion, in fact I don't think it has anything to do with Bessler, but in case I'm wrong I thought I'd air the views of another, no matter how wacky -  he's aware of my opinion of his ideas.

I mentioned in my biography on Bessler, the coincidence of Pieter van Musschenbroek, a professor of physics at Leiden University, inventing the Leiden jar, an early method of storing static electricity, in 1745 - the year Bessler died, (it was also discovered by Ewald Georg von Kleist in Germany the previous year). I had previously examined the remote possibility that Bessler used static electricity in some way to provide the additional force often suggested as necessary, to make a gravity-driven wheel complete a full rotation, and recently the idea has reappeared in a couple of emails.

The story of the first test of the Leiden jar and its effect on van Musschenbroek's student helper, Andreas Cunaeus, is well reported in wikipedia. He was virtually knocked out by the strength of the electric shock he received and was unwell for two days following. Van Musschenbroek went on to arrange some spectacular demonstrations of the power of the device, and after having experienced the shock himself he wrote, in a letter to his French colleague RĂ©aumur, that the whole kingdom of France could not compel him to repeat the experience. The French priest Jean Antoine Nollet, a great popularizer of electrical phenomena, learned of the Leiden experiments via this letter and lost no time in contriving even more spectacular demonstrations. They culminated in one involving 700 monks joined in a circle to a Leiden jar!

It was suggested that if 's Gravesande, being a close friend and colleague of Musschenbroek, was so intently examining Bessler's wheel perhaps it was because he suspected some electric component at work within the wheel.

The static electricity stored in the Leiden jar was generated in the first place by transforming mechanical work into electric energy, usually by means of friction against a glass. Jan Ingenhousz invented an electrostatic machine made of plate glass - in 1746.

It will be recalled that Pieter van Musschenbroek, was the guy who was contacted by Daniel Schumacher, Peter the Great's librarian, charged with buying experimental equipment for his universities and of course it was Schumacher who negotiated with Bessler to buy his wheel for Peter.

My correspondent wondered if, perhaps Bessler had already discovered how to generate and store static electricity in a capacitor, or something akin to the Leiden jar. This he might achieve by including glass plates within his wheel, as per Jan Ingenhousz's method. The capacitor would have to be fully charged before he began. However I have questioned whether it is possible to temporarily power a magnet by discharging a capacitor suddenly. I suspect that the resistance in the magnet's coils might be too high for the sudden discharge of static electricity to overcome, but I'm not knowledgeable about this.

He went on to suggest that if it were possible then it might lead one to suspect that Bessler had designed an electromagnet or even a simple solenoid, powered by sudden discharges of static electricity which could be used to deflect weights on springs, thus overcoming the wheel's reluctance to continue to turn. Bessler, you will recall, said that he used springs but not in the way you think.

I know - it's crazy, but I like it!



  1. Hi John,I fear you are getting to the point of desperation to even entertain this suggestion.
    There's no way you could store enough energy to run a wheel for a day never mind a month.Even todays lithium batteries would not cope.
    Just be faithful to gravity and soon you will find that you will be vindicated.

  2. Yeah, I know Trevor, but this guy has been desperate to get his idea posted, so I did it to keep him happy.

    I don't want to be the one who posts everyone's ideas all the time but I decided to go with this one because it had a kind of weird logic to it. I was also fascinated at how small Bessler's world was in those days - everyone famous name seemed to be connected with another famous name.


  3. In many ways this is a very interesting topic, John. Although I have a hard time believing that Bessler developed sufficient technology (electric motors for example) there is an amazing amount of evidence that electricity has been discovered *and* understood in ancient times. For example, a certain great Chinese general has been found in his lavishly decorated tomb, wearing armor and jewelry including a belt made with aluminum (for our American friends - we say aluminium). Now we know, for a fact, that aluminium can only be produced using electricity.

    The Antikythera Mechanism is another example of a absolutely stunningly precise mechanical, analog astrological computer, constructed more than 2000 years ago.

    Ancient batteries (much like Leyden jars) have been found too in the Andes, in Brazil, China, and elsewhere - some even holding some voltage to this day! So it's evident that there most likely have been quite highly developed civilizations in ancient times. In fact history is replete with such "anomalies", mostly conveniently ignored my mainstream science.

    Perhaps Bessler stumbled upon some of this ancient knowledge and know-how. I don't think he used electric motors, but maybe indeed solenoids. Solenoids, if used wisely, won't consume much power, and only momentarily. Electric dissipate much more, especially primitive or inefficient ones. Batteries would be depleted quickly. For that and other reasons I doubt Bessler used motors.

    But solenoids is very possible indeed, and if he found a way to recharge his Leyden jars from rotation of the wheel, it certainly would seem a PM. Personally I have stated many times as my opinion that electromechanically the Bessler wheel is much, much easier to realize. My own tests with a simple parametric oscillator -using solenoids to move the pivot- proved it to my own satisfaction.

    So yes, it might be not as far fetched as it would seem at first sight. Also, note that in Bessler's self-portrait there are some artifacts in the picture that *might* be interpreted as Leyden jars.

  4. "Electric dissipate" should be "Electric motors dissipate". Apologies.

  5. Even considering the suggestion that Bessler was an early electrical physicist using Leyden jar powered solenoids to shift the weights about inside his wheels just goes to show how very desperate we are for a solution to the mystery of his wheels! It is, however, a rather cute hypothesis, but I see no basis for it in the Bessler literature (those jars in the first DT portrait are for storing various medicines, not electricity!). I would, therefore, have to drop this latest hypothesis into the same bin marked "highly improbable" that contains several others such as the clockwork mechanism, heat engine, seismic vibration / gravity wave, atmospheric pressure differential, temperature differential activated bimetallic strip, hidden barbed rod activator, lodestone, etc. hypotheses. (By "highly improbable", I do not mean that these methods might not be able to continuously rotate a wheel. Just that they would not be able to deliver anywhere near the same levels of constant power that Bessler's wheels provided.)

    To understand Bessler's wheels, one has to get passed the arguement that it is physically impossible to extract energy from a weight moving about a closed circular path in a gravity field (the so-called "conservative gravity field" arguement). Yes, it IS impossible when only using ONE weight. BUT, it becomes very possible when using a rotating array of two or more weights carefully arranged within a carrier wheel such that at any instant some of the weights are dropping faster than others are rising. This process naturally extracts energy / mass from the weights and makes it available to ;perform useful outside work. This will occur in ANY wheel that is imbalanced and will continue to do so as long as the wheel remains imbalanced. Find a way to maintain a wheel's imbalance (and by exclusively using weighted levers) and you will find the same secret Bessler found.

  6. I agree, Techno, that is is very unlikely - but not impossible. And indeed we should get past that tired argument that it's impossible to extract useful work from gravity. It certainly isn't easy, but if it's possible with a simple parametric oscillator, it should be possible with a rotating wheel as well. John, in my view, has made a very convincing and solid case for the fact that the man and his invention were genuine.

    If we accept that (and I for one do) then there must be a way to do it. It can be done electromechanically. It should be possible in a purely mechanical way too.

  7. It seems to me that if you try to maintain overbalance with weighted levers, then you are simply placing a series of levers inside a (circular) lever. That's one way to show why it would eventually balance. You are asking the weights to lift the ascending weights, somehow, inside a lever, with leverage. If a wheel and axle is a class 1 lever, and you try to imbalance it with levers, pretty soon, you run out of "room", so to speak, and you can't add any more leverage.
    I think people are drawn to the seduction of gravity doing work because things fall, and the resulting more "massive" kinetic mass (and thus, kinetic energy) can be tapped. If we try to tap it, it slows down (losing kinetic mass and energy!), and when it reaches the bottom of the gravity "well", it doesn't have the same kinetic mass or energy as it would have if we hadn't tried to tap any kinetic energy from it! So it isn't going to rise from the "well" as far as it could have. It's a zero sum game, and we have to look somewhere else to lift that mass to start the cycle over. I have no doubt bessler had to look elsewhere (maybe not static electricity), and imo it's not only probable, it's eggs is eggs.

  8. I'll say one thing Doug..,Even though you're a sceptic about gravity driven wheels,your presence only serves to kindle the fire of determination for the pros to succeed.
    The only eggs is going to be egg on your face.

  9. I don't think Bessler used any form of energy or method that was not well understood in his time. He must have used simple machines and springs. I think he somehow managed to make an unstable system and regulated it with that big external pendulum.

  10. He actually used a perfectly natural behaviour in mechanical physics and developed a way to store it momentarily to be released in the form of a gravity assisted wheel.

  11. I don't like to pour cold water on anyone ideas (just in case they're right), so Just take this as my "opinion".

    I don't go with the leydon jar theory at all.
    I think you'll find that when this was invented/discovered, static electricity was all there was; current electricity hadn't been discovered/invented yet! At this point in time, when electricity was in its infancy, insulated wire hadn't been invented either - there was no call for it! Without insulated wire you couldn't build a solenoid, which was pretty useless without current electricity anyway. Most importantly of all, no one had yet made the link between electricity and magnetism, so to suggest Bessler used electromagnets seems ridiculous.

  12. I think you will find that John actually concurs with that.

  13. It's relatively easy to find a starting arrangement of weighted levers within a wheel that has its CoM offset from the axle. The problem, as many of you well know, is keeping that CoM offset.

    Bessler, via his revolutionary Connectedness Principle, was able to interconnect his levers in such a way that they were, at any instant, at or very near a sort of tripping point. The slightest rotation of a ONE directional wheel would immediately cause the levers to shift postiion so as to keep the CoM were it previously was. In essence, as the side of the wheel containing the CoM of the wheel's weights began to rotate downward, the CoM would rise relative to the wheel. But, the combination of both motions kept the CoM where it started relative to the Earth's gravity field! All that would happen during wheel rotation was that the descending side weights (NOT their CoM) would be falling a little bit faster than the ascending side weights rose. In other words, the descending side weights, during wheel rotation, would always lose a bit more energy / mass than the ascending side weights took back from the wheel during their ascent. The differential between these two rates of energy / mass transfer was then what the wheel outputted to both accelerate itself or perform useful work in its environment.

    Can a Leyden jar mechanism be constructed that would be able, when charged, to shift a weight farther from a wheel's axle on its descending side?

    Possibly. The jar would have to have a two piece electrode inside of it that, when charged, would cause two pieces of metal (one fixed in position) to push away from each other when electrically charged and thereby shift their CoM a little farther from each other on the descending side. On the ascending side the jar would be discharged and the two pieces of metal would be pulled back together again by a spring so as to shift their CoM closer to the axle.

    No wiring available? Bessler could made his own wiring out of the same metal used to make clock hair springs (used on a balance whee) and coated them with varnish to act as an insulator. I don't see this as a major obstacle.

    The problem is that a wheel that can only shift the CoM of its relatively light Leyden jar electrode pieces back and forth by an inch or so, is not going to have much of a power output. Probably just enough to overcome bearing friction and air drag to keep itself in motion.

    It takes a constant energy input to keep the Leyden jars within such a faked PM wheel in motion. Bessler would also have had to have had electrical current delivered and removed from the wheel's jars through some hidden means which, most likely, would have been the brass bearing plates that the axle pivots rested on. Then he would have had to have had a static electrical generator hidden away in some other room of the building that housed the wheel and had it powered someway, perhaps by a small windmill.

    Is any of this possible? Yes. Probable? NO way, IMO.

  14. Technoguy, you seem to miss the point.

    Usable electricity hadn't been invented at the time. If Bessler had used such equipment, he would have made his name in this emerging new science.

  15. The problem I have with descending weights falling faster than ascending weights rising is, if they did that, then you'd end up with more weight under the axle. It would "pile up" weight at the bottom, because the descending weights would be catching up with the slower weights. So how would that make sense?
    The center of gravity of an overbalancing wheel has to remain on one side, above the axle, in the top right before 3 o'clock in a clockwise direction. Weights faster on one side than the other isn't going to accomplish that

  16. @ Great Bear

    If Bessler had been experimenting with Leyden jars, he would probably have quickly discovered that they could be charged and discharged through a piece of metal and not, say, through a piece of glass or wood. Being a clockmaker, he would have had access to fine metal springs and would have uncurled these to see if he could charge / discharge a Leyden jar through them. Even without coating the springs with an insulator, he could have just stapled the uncurled spring metal to a insulator such as the interior wooden surfaces of a wheel. The air gap between two adjacent strands of spring wire would also have had enough resistance to keep them from discharging through to each other if their seperation was wide enough and the charging voltage for the Leyden jars was not too high.

    The big problem Bessler would have had with this approach would be generating the electrical charges needed to charge the wheel's internal array of Leyden jars in the first place so that their internal metal parts could shift their CoM outward on a wheel's descending side. The simplest way to do this would be to construct a wind / water driven disc that would caused a material capable of having electrons rubbed off of it(such as sulphur) to rub against something that could pick up and hold these electrons (such as wool or fur). Such a device could generate a tremendous charge difference between the wheel and the material it rubs against that could be used to charge the Leyden jars inside of a wheel in a separate room.

    Thus, to make this work, Bessler would also have had to have invent a primitive static electric generator! The electrical currents these devices produce are only in the milliampere range, but they can accumulate voltages in the hundreds of thousands of volts. Yes, it IS doable using early 18th century technology, but I'm sure that if Carl had seen something like this inside of one of Bessler's wheel's, he certainly would not have described it as. "so simple that..." (Need I even complete this often quoted phrase?!)


    Actually, the faster dropping descending side weights would not "pile up" at the bottoms of overbalanced PM gravity wheels like the ones Bessler constructed. The reason is because those descending side weights moved nearer to the periphery of a wheel and thus moved along a longer path than did the ascending side weights which were slightly closer to the wheel's axle.

    At all times there were always four weights on each side of one of Bessler's one directional wheels and it took the exact same amount of time for a descending side weight to travel from the top of a wheel to its bottom as it took for an ascenidng side weight to travel from the bottom of a wheel to its top. Because of this, no pile ups of weights at the bottom of a wheel were possible.

  17. ...And the descending weights are connected to the ascending weights some way, pulling them up alongside the axle, even though they all weigh the same?
    How are they supposed to pull up the ascending weights and have any inertia left over to turn the wheel? Or lift even more weight attached by rope?
    Trevor, no egg on me!

  18. @ Doug

    By the time they reach the top of the wheel, the ascending side weights must "climb" back toward the rim again. And, according to AP, they must do this "in a flash".

    To achieve this rapid movement EACH of the eight weighted levers inside of one of Bessler's one directional wheels would have had to have been connected to SEVERAL other weighted levers which would raise it rapidly while they fell. Obviously, one of the weighted levers that fell on the wheel's descending side was landing on a wooden stop near the rim and this accounts for the "gentle" impacting sounds heard on that side.

    It took Bessler hundreds of attempts and ten years of toil to find the design that would keep the CoM of his wheel's weights on the descending side of the wheel during rotation. Although the "Preponderance Principle" that his wheels used is simple enough to understand, I suspect that HOW that principle was employed is far more complicated. Most likely, at any moment all or most of the weighted levers within a turning wheel were "in play" and shifting in precise coordination to each other. This coordination was maintained by a complex web of cords that interconnected all of the levers.

    Don't expect his design to be something that "armchair philosophers" on the web will eventually reason their way to. The problem, despite the naive hopes of those that study the Bessler literature and follow various web discussions on the matter, is much too complex to just be some quick and simple little mechanism that everyone in the last 300 years just happened to overlook.

    No, to finally find Bessler's PM gravity wheel design is going to require a MAJOR effort on the part of the discoverer. He will not be wasting hours per day on the web or be pursuing "other" useless designs. Rather, he will be spending several HOURS per day actually building something in an effort to rediscover the Connectedness Principle. Then, after he has met these requirements, he will still need a truly phenomenal amount of luck to find success.

    If he has all of these, then the day will finally arrive when he will have the same experience that Bessler had at the "House of Richter" in late 1711 or early 1712: a table top size wheel that produces a constant torque as it rotates through, say, 45° and its eight weighted levers all resume the orientations they had at the beginning of the wheel's segment of rotation.

    It will be a glorious day, indeed, and well worth the effort required.

  19. Totally unrelated but I want to ask something; what are those things in MT138? E is a kind of stork's bill, C and D are obvious but the other ones? Do you know what they are?

  20. @ technoguy
    This technology just didn't exist then, and the volt hadn't even been defined. The electrophorus wasn’t invented until 1775, so until then, there was no consistent way of producing static charges for experimentation. It was only in 1800 that the first voltaic pile was invented and only in 1881 was the unit of the volt was first named in Voltas honour. At the time of Bessler, the best one could hope for was to rub amber or glass to produce a faint electro luminescent glow in the dark. Your idea of using static electricity to shift weights is also a flight of the imagination.
    The first electric instruments to detect the presence of electricity, like electroscopes were unheard off before 1754, with the famed gold leaf electroscope not arriving until 1787, and all this could do was move a piece of gold foil several atoms thick by a few degrees. If this could have moved weights of several pounds the electric motor would have been invented there and then!
    If Bessler was so far ahead of this science to have made all these discoveries, then his name would be prominent as one of the greatest thinkers and scientist of the age. He could have worked by electric light rather than candle light; he could have had power tools… No, I don't think so.

    Finally, don’t forget that the Leyden jar wasn't invented until 1745, over thirty years after Bessler displayed his wheels.

  21. @ Great Bear

    I am, of course, grasping at straws as I describe how Bessler could have made a wheel turn using Leyden jar shifter weights. I don't think for a moment that he actually did this. Just trying to show that it was barely possible.

    Just because there is an "official" date for an invention this does not necessarily mean that it was not discovered earlier, sometimes centuries or even millenia earlier! For example, I remember reading how some archaeologists found a warrior's tomb in China that was thousands of years old. They were amazed to discover that he was buried wearing a belt which had an aluminum buckle that had been electroplated with pure gold! This was long before electricity was officially discovered or a method for extracting aluminum from its ore found (aluminum, like many other elements, is not found in a pure state in nature).

    Bessler was a craftsman extraordinaire who personally knew and corresponded with other mobilists. Possibly he had heard of early experiments using charged amber to produce a new kind of force that was not the same as magnetism. Fascinated by this, he might have accidentally stumbled upon the design for a Leyden jar which is nothing more than simple capacitor. When it comes to ingenuity, I don't want to put any limits on Bessler.

    However, I also take Bessler at his word. He emphatically states that his wheels were driven by weights that used the force of gravity and nothing else. One either believes Bessler or he does not. I choose to believe him and so must reject the "Leyden Jar Hypothesis'.

  22. Part II (Damn that 4,096 character comment limit!)

    @ yellowson

    MT 138 is the famous "toys page" and, as the name suggests, shows various toys whose working principles are somehow related to the mechanics of Bessler's wheels. The two objects on the right side are front and side views of a toy known as a "Jacob's Ladder". I had one of these as a kid which was made of small wooden plates with attached ribbons (I think they are still available online and one can also find instructions online for making them).

    You let this toy hang down from one hand and then allow the extra out of place plate at the top to drop. As it does so, it takes the place of the plate below it which then drops to take the place of the one below it, etc. Eventually, this chain reaction comes to a stop with two plates hanging down at the bottom. To repeat the process one must grab one of the two plates at the bottom and hold onto it while releasing the previous top end. It's really sort of hypnotizing to watch and one must study the motion to realize how the toy works. The secret is in the way the ribbons are woven between the plates.

    What is Bessler saying with this toy? The answer it that, during rotation, a sort of similar chain reaction is constantly moving through the weighted levers within his wheels. This reaction causes weighted levers on the wheel's ascending side to rapidly rise one after another as other levers they are attached to drop. Unlike the Jacob's Ladder in MT 138, however, the circular shape of a wheel guarantees that the process will continue indefinitely as rotation proceeds. Don't, however, make the mistake of thinking that Bessler actually used a giant curled up Jacob's ladder inside of his wheels. That approach has probably been tried hundreds of times and if it worked we'd all know about it by now.

    The small object at the bottom of MT 138 is a child's top. It's not exactly like the ones we had as kids. In fact, it's really closer to the gyroscope that was not "officially" invented until the late 1800's! This "top" consists of a small rotor housed inside of the egg like outer casing. One passes a string through the opening in the egg and then twists the portion of the rotor shaft that extends outside of the egg shaped case to wind the string around the rotor shaft. Holding the egg shaped case, the string is then quickly pulled out of the egg and the rotor and shaft will spin rapidly. When this top is placed on a table, it will remain upright and then, as its rotor slows and it begins to fall, it will precess all over the place.

    What is Bessler telling us with this top? He is trying to demonstrate that it is possible to maintain the CoM of an object (in this case the rotor) at a fixed ANGLE away from a pivot point. Likewise, in Bessler's wheels the CoM of their weights would remain fixed at an offset location from the wheel's axis. Again, don't make the mistake of assuming that Bessler actually used tops or gyroscopes in his wheels.

    That finally brings us to the central parallelogram frames with their "hammer men" busily taking turns striking the anvils in the center of the toys. I will leave the "message" of these toys to the reader to interpret. And, yes, they do demonstrate an important feature of Bessler's wheels.

  23. @technoguy
    Thank you very much techno. That ladder toy is just very very interesting. Your ideas are also interesting. One last thing that last toy is it upside down? Thank you again for your very detailed comments.

  24. @ Yellowson

    You're welcome.

    By last toy, I assume you mean the top. It is shown standing upright on it's pivot point which means its internal rotor would have to be spinning rapidly to do so.

    The Bessler literature is filled with many vague clues which will all become crystal clear to us AFTER we have the design he used. Until that day, however, they will continue to stir much controversy, but can serve as a source of inspiration for those seeking answers.

  25. Technoguy Bessler never said his weights ran on gravity. find me the quote, I'll give you a hundred dollars.

  26. @ Anon 18:54

    You can't even identify yourself and I'm supposed to count on you sending me the hundred?! LOL! Yeah, right.

    Here's a quote from AP:

    "Anyone who wants can go on about the wonderful doings of these weights, alternately gravitating to the center and climbing back up again, for I can't put the matter more clearly." - pg 295

    Those ascending side weights wouldn't have been "gravitating" anywhere if they were not being pulled down by gravity.

    I don't need your money, but there are plenty of people out there who could use it.

    So, just give my $100 to the American Red Cross which will use it to feed and shelter the victims of various natural disasters in the US. You can reach them by calling 1-(800)-HELP NOW and making a $100 dollar donation by credit card in the name of "technoguy".


  27. It has more than one meaning:

    It doesn't always mean it has to be gravity that does the moving.

  28. @ Doug

    I agree that "gravitate", in general, can mean that something is drawn to something else by an invisible force that does not necessarily have to be due to gravity.

    However, in the case of Bessler's wheels we have already eliminated electric field forces from Leyden jars and magnetic field forces since the wheels' weights were made of lead and non-magnetic. That leaves only the force of gravity to provide that invisible force and Bessler would have been most familiar with that force.

    To me it seems certain that Bessler is saying that the weights in his wheels would, on their ascending sides, be moved toward the axle by gravity before they began overcoming that force and "climbing" or rising away from the axle again. No other explanation seems possible.

    Hmmm...I wonder if that Anon made the $100 contribution to the American Red Cross yet in the name of "technoguy". If he ever does and claims it here, I will then call them to verify the contribution was made and announce it here. Then again, maybe I shouldn't hold my breath while waiting! LOL!

  29. Why people still use to read news papers when in this technological globe the whole thing
    is available on net?

    Feel free to surf to my homepage ... Made My Day


The True Story of Bessler’s Perpetual Motion Machine - Update

At the end of March we sold our house and moved in with my daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter, expecting to be there for no more than tw...