Saturday, 10 December 2011

The Orffyreus documentary

I returned from Rome on Thursday night having been invited to take part in an Italian documentary for RAI 2, a part of the government television network. The documentary is about Orffyreus or Bessler as we tend to refer to him. They have already filmed actors in period costume telling the basic story of Bessler and they wish to end it with an interview about him. The director had sent me a series of topics which they would ask me to comment on.

Bear in mind the questions were translated from Italian, so the phrasing is a little awkward.

The topics included:-

What is the perpetual motion?

Can you describe the character traits of Orffyreus?

Can you describe the first Orffyreus’s wheel?

Can you give us an overview of the writings of Bessler? What do they contain? Are they logical and comprehensible to the eyes of whoever? What messages have you succeeded in deciphering? Describe how the name Orffyreus is fruit of a manipulation.

Which rivalries did Orffyreus’s increasing reputation raise up? And Who were the most persistent opponents of Orffyreus and what actions did they put into practice?

Can you tell us what happened in Merseburg?

Which tests were done on the wheel exhibited in Kassel after the 54 days of isolation?

Who was interested in the Orffyreus’s discovery following the exhibition in Kassel?

We would like also for you to comment on the following: many people are wondering how the world would be today, if the professor Gravesande had not yielded to the temptation to spy on the secret mechanism of the wheel of Orffyreus. Already, because this gesture, which proved inadequate to understand the essence of the mechanism of the wheel, determined the end of every possibility that the secret of the invention was finally released. Orffyreus, in fact, cannot tolerate such an insult. Went rapturously, and in a gesture of baleful wrath destroyed violently also his last creation under the bewildered eyes of those present.

The Royal Society dropped each contact believing that they were dealing with a madman and the Landgrave quickly found an excuse to remove that visitor now deemed unpredictable and dangerous.

Not difficult subjects for me to comment on and yet, sat in front of a two cameras, the director, a sound man, two cameramen, an interpreter and the director's assistant plus the two owners of the house where it was filmed.... I froze! I got it together on the third or fourth take for the first question though! They will send me a copy of the finished product when it's ready and it is budgeted to be finished by December 31st!

I added some additional information concerning the coded material but I don't know how much, if any, they will include as it wasn't in the original specification.

I've included some pictures for your amusement!


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  1. Thats awsome John,I wish you the best and hope the documentary will renew interest world over.

  2. Looking good John, can't wait to see it.

  3. John, the questions asked seem quite thoughtful and intelligent. Please keep us informed of progress with the documentary - as I'm sure you will.

  4. It looks like you had fun, John. Now that the documentary is in the can, we'll keep our fingers crossed for a movie!

  5. What a wonderful chance to help spread the word about Bessler and his inventions to the masses. Who knows, somewhere amongst them may be the person who finally finds a solution.

    I wish you had some photos of the wheel they used in the documenary that was powered by a washing machine motor. I assume it was a replica of the Weissenstein wheel. I hope their special effects people did a good job on it. Did you et the see the wheel? If so, how did it impress you?

    Yep, if enough people express interest in the documentary, it could eventually lead to a movie.

  6. I saw some short clips of the documentary, technoguy,including s scene with the Weissenstein wheel. They admitted that it was only half the size of the original but with the right camera angles it looked bigger. It looked authgentic as far as I could tell.

    Once the documentary gets circulated I think it will attract and interest more people and, as you say, it could lead to a movie.


  7. Although we welcome the documentary, it seems that with statements like "The Royal Society dropped each contact believing that they were dealing with a madman and the Landgrave quickly found an excuse to remove that visitor now deemed unpredictable and dangerous", it shows a bias.
    This adds fuel to the idea that Bessler was a fraud, and should be treated as such. I note that the questions were also quite pointed, and whilst they may be genuine they again seem to suggest the idea that a fraud was being perpetrated. E.g. "Which tests were done on the wheel exhibited in Kassel after the 54 days of isolation?". A good question, but again it implies or leads to the question of whether Bessler had to do something to keep it running (like wind it up again). It remains to be seen wheter this documentary will cast him as a genius, fraud, hoaxer, or lunatic.

  8. Don't worry GB, I put them straight in no uncertain terms. I wrote extensive notes to respond tpo the querstions and here is a what I wrote in my notes:-

    "I don’t think that in fact Gravesand’s inspection of the wheel was really too searching for Bessler, causing him to destroy it..... Bessler always made a big thing about...smashing his wheel to pieces in reaction to some event he took exception to, but actually these episodes of apparent vandalism and madness always ocurred just before he was due to leave the address he resided at. Karl had given Bessler a house and garden in nearbye Karlshafen and he planned to move there. This was not the action of a man who was believed to be a fraud. The prospect of transporting his wheel on the back of a horse and cart to his new abode was not something he could consider without the fear that an attempt might be made to snatch his invention from him. Much better to dismantle the device and carry it in pieces so that no one could possibly gain the secret even if they acquired the wheel."

    "Unfortunately for Gravesand, having reported on the wheel and his personal conviction that it was genuine and useful, he became the target of intense criticism, and this coloured the public opinion of Bessler. His reputation had already been damaged by the fraudulent claims of an ex-employee and suddenly all interest in the machine disappeared."


  9. @ JC

    A reduced scale Weissenstein wheel is fine and, as you say, using the right cameral angles, it can be made to appear to be 12 feet in diameter. All they had to do was have the actors stand twice as far from the camera as the wheel and look up. The viewer uses their heights (assumed to be 6 feet) and automatically assumes the wheel must be twice that in diameter. In a bigger budget film version, they will probably construct a full sized wheel and even have a scene where the audience gets to see it "uncloaked" with its weighted levers and interconnecting cords fully visible (this could be provided by CGI). Scenes showing the internal mechaincs could be used for occasional comic relief in the film version as we see Bessler frantically trying to cover up the mechanisms after he sees a coach pull up to the castle with Carl leading yet another group of potential buyers upstairs to view the wheel.

    i think that Bessler may have had several motivations for destroying his wheels. First, as you say, there was the security issue. A fully functional wheel has value, but a pile of chopped up wood and cords is worthless. Second, it's a great way to frustrate one's critics by eliminating the possibility that they could require yet more tests of a wheel. No wheel, no tests. Third, its a great way to vent one's pent up rage at being continuously financially frustrated after spending so much time finding a design that worked. And, fourth (and I think this is the most important) it FORCED Bessler to construct a new wheel that would incorporate all of the ideas he got for improving power output and reliability from the last wheel and its performance limits.

    Of course, the "believers" in the authenticity of Bessler and his inventions want a documentary that promotes this idea. But, hard as it is to believe, there are a few out there that still have not "received the faith" and think Bessler's wheels HAD to be hoaxes. Perhaps the documentary makers wanted to have a documentary that, to a certain extent, would incorporate their criticisms as well. Although I and most others who follow this subject have convinced ourselves 100% that his wheels were genuine, the fact remains that, although EXTREMELY improbable, there is still the submicroscopic possibility that they were not. Any documentary that pretends to be "fair and balanced" would need to at least suggest this improbability so that the skeptics viewing the documentary would not feel as thought their opinions, extremely unlikely as they are, had not been completely discounted.

    Okay, so WHEN and HOW are we going to see this documentary?

  10. I don't know when or how you are going to see it, technoguy. I know that they have said they'll be sending me a copy as soon as it is ready and I know that they have to finish by the end of this year, so it should not be long before I get my copy. The question for me is, do they have any recourse to legal action if I share the documentary? The best I can do is ask them once I get my copy.

    Other than that I can only hope that they sell a large number to as many different countries as possible, complete with dubbed speech or subtitles.


  11. I may have a problem here as I get a message saying that IE is no longer supported by google blogger. It insists that I must use google chrome to access my blog and I do not like chrome one little bit. I'll see if I can find a work around but I doubt it.


  12. @ JC

    If you get the English version on a DVD, then there shouldn't be any problem copying it or having it copied in quantity. Now the question is will the Italian television station give you the rights to sell it? Considering that you helped make it without pay (I assume), they might be willing to do that. Or, maybe they would give you a non exclusive license to do so if you pay them so much for each copy sold. I think something could be worked out. When you showed up to do the documentary you must have signed some type of agreement. There could be clauses in it that cover your use / sale of the documentary as a whole and your parts in it. I'm sure there are plenty of English speaking Besslerophiles that would like to see it just to see you and what kind of job they did with the Weissenstein wheel prop.

    You can't access your blog with IE anymore? Well, maybe it's time to shop around for another host for your blog! I hate it when the web keeps changing and I'm left behind trying to keep up with out of date technology. But, then again, if that did not happen, then all those people who make software (mostly in "Silicon Valley", USA) and computers (mostly in Asia) would be out of work. Progress is good, but often the "hidden" costs can be high over time.

  13. Technoguy I'm sure John knows a lot more about the copyright system and that video than what you are giving him credit for.

  14. @ Anon ("101"?):

    I just hope JC was sent copies of whatever "release" he was expected to sign BEFORE he took off for Rome, that they were in English, and that he actually read ALL of it! Usually these releases are phrased so as to give a publisher ALL rights to the work produced UNLESS otherwise specified.

    It's much easler to negotiate rights before a signing than afterwards. If he is uncertain about selling copies of the documentary though his websites, then he should contact the documentary makers and make inquiry as to how he can do this rather than to just go ahead and hope they will not sue him for infringement at some future time. Chances are they won't if the quantity of copies sold is small, but it's always better to do things legally whenever possible even though, initially, it can be a bit of a hassle and extra expense.

    Still, even if they absolutely forbid him to sell copies and threaten legal action if he does, his trip was well worth the effort, IMO, because his appearance in the documentary allows him to become the official "face and voice" of modern Besslerology. That is certainly an achievement to be proud of and, most likely, will lead to bigger things down the road.

  15. Sounds very good, John, I for one can't wait to buy that DVD of the documentary. Congratulations on your trip and interview. Let's hope the documentary will spark a lot of interest in Bessler and his invention.


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