Monday, 30 January 2012

Some advice, worth repeating in my opinion - Don't simulate - fabricate!

I know I've mentioned this before here, but from time to time, both by email and through the blog, I'm urged by well-meaning people to test my designs with simulation software, and my response has always been the same; I have tried simulations and I don't get the feedback from it that I do when I build a model, so I don't use them.  For me, there is no substitute for holding the pieces of a mechanism in my hands and, when I find that it isn't working, playing around with it and making all sorts of interesting and new (to me) discoveries.  I enjoyed that experience earlier this January and made, what I think is a momentous discovery and suddenly the so-called 'connectedness principle' was laid bare before me and I understood exactly what Bessler meant.

I am fully aware that there are several people who are equally sure they too understand it, and maybe they do; perhaps we have all made the same discovery... and maybe not.  I would never have made this short leap of understanding using simulation software because I would never have thought of moving the parts in the way I did, and even if I had, I doubt that I would have bothered to go to the trouble of entering that particular variation into the program - and there wasn't just the one variation I tried, but several different ones - who is to say which, if any, I would have tried out in the simulator?  The truth is that you can test variations so much quicker on the work bench than at a computer - and you know that what you are seeing is real and not subject to some bug within the program. Other aspects of the design now find an echo in several different drawings from Bessler and some loose ends have been tied up.

If you have never tried making models to test your design, please try it.  There are many impressive models shown on the besslerwheel forum and I am envious of the skills displayed by their makers but in all honesty there is no need to spend much money to test a hypothesis.  I have often made test mechanisms out of cheap materials such as cardboard, ice-lolly sticks, string, glue, plastic plates, drinking straws, lead weights for curtains and even blutack.  If the test answers the question then you can make something you wouldn't be ashamed of displaying!

I have no idea how many models I've made and if I knew, would I have counted separately all the variations on one design I'd tried?  Bessler suggested he'd made hundreds and I'm sure he did if you include the variations he tried. I would say the same thing - hundreds.

So my advice is, don't depend on just testing the ideas out on simulation programs because you may miss a vital clue if you don't build a model.   I'm sure that the successful machine will be designed by someone who is building models and not by someone who relies on simulation software.



  1. I agree John 100%. One can never predict what is going to happen unless you take the practical hands on approach.

  2. Well, I agree both ways - simulation software may have it uses (and in fact has been useful for me in a number of cases) but hands-on often indeed gives quick understanding and/or new ideas. After all, software simulation is only as good as the model one fabricates and as good as the program itself. And let's not forget that we're working with many unknowns. How can you simulate an unknown mechanism? The program won't come up with suggestions or alternatives. Computers are as dumb as a wooden post unless it's pre-programmed. Which simulation program would have predicted that a 2-stage oscillator puts out up to 12 times more force than is required to keep the pendulum going? None. The hands-on experiments did.

    I've been following this discussion about the connectedness principle (and other topics) from a little more distance, which is all very interesting, but I think it was as great bear who observed what I've been saying for a while too - we should share more and collaborate more if we want to make more rapid progress.

    My offer still stands.

  3. I wrote this blog before I read technoguy's advice, so it was not specifically aimed at him, but a general response to emails I have received in the last couple of weeks, as well as earlier comments on the blog. I agree actually with you Andre, I have nothing against simulation software per se, I just think that hands-on build is more likely to reveal the answer than software simulations.


  4. I spent decades buiding various wheels, some magnetic, but mostly gravitational, and I can only say that I wish I had simulation software available to me then. But, there were barely computers back then, let alone CAD programs. Why am I now "anti-hands on"?

    If one is building a small wheel (that's anything under 3 feet in diameter) and is chasing after an offset CoM that is only a fraction of an inch away from the center of the axle, then one will need a VERY precisely built wheel if he actually expects to produce enough torque to overcome various frictions in its bearings / pivots. Does anybody here think that the clumsy assemblages of hardware store parts they are slapping together will have that kind of precision? How many times have you assembled your latest "vision" of Bessler's secret wheel mechanics and, when it inevitably failed to run continuously, wondered whether the problem was the fault of your theory or the imprecision of your build? Or both?!

    With a simulation program that headache is immediately alleviated. You CAN precisely control all friction and even elimate it completely if you desire. Using springs? No problem. You can make as many as you need and they will all be perfectly linear with whatever spring constant you choose. How many times have you run to a hardware store in search of 8 springs only to find that they only have 6 of them! How many times have you used springs ONCE afterwhich they were stretched past their elastic limit and useless thereafter. All of this annoyance is immediately elimated by using simulations.

    And then, of course, there is the time factor. To compensate for the laborious effort of making 8 complete and separate "perpetual motion structures" in one's wheel, mobilists will often only make one or two and then test that to see what is happens. The problem is that these types of tests on "partial builds" are USELESS in determing whether one's design is keeping the CoM of ALL 8 weights on the wheel's descending side IF one has a design where MORE than one weight is shifted at a time (in Bessler's wheels 6 of the 8 weights were in motion during any 45° increment of drum rotation which means you will have to SERIOUSLY get into interconnecting cords AND springs if you want it to work!)).

    I will admit that there is a certain pleasure to be derived from bringing a OB PM gravity wheel design to "glorious completion" and one's friends who are allowed to see it will definitely marvel at your craftmanship. BUT, what good is it if it does NOT run and you puttered around with it for YEARS. With a simulation you could have achieved the same useless results in an hour and saved yourself a ton of time, sweat, and, most importantly, money in the process!

    When I was making hand made models, I spent decades and thousands of dollars and got absolutely nowhere. Now, with simulations, I have made about 90% of all of the progress that I have ever made and the cost was negligible. If I do finally manage to find the exact design Bessler used, I always have the option of physically buidling it and, if I do, I am probably 99% sure it will work like the simulation or very close to it.

    So if one is "in love" with "hands on" model construcitons, then fine, stick with them. But, I think every serious Bessler researcher should, at least, make an effort to start using sim programs. Get yourself a copy of Working Model 2D. It comes with an easy to understand tutorial that will get you started building simple little devices immediately. I tried several such programs and I highly recommend WM2D for the very beginner. Yes, it has its limits, but it can serve as a good foundation for if and when you are ready to move onto more advanced programs (actually WM2D really has ALL you will ever need to discover the secret of Bessler's wheels!).

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  6. It is good to know the history of some of the poster's because then we can emphasize with their endeavor.I personally have only been working on the wheel for about 4 years after I discovered John's site.I was literally blown away because I always wondered what had become of the wheel that I had read about when I was just 10 years old.
    That was 60 years ago and I never forgot it,hoping that one day I would discover the secret.

  7. Techno, you make some good points. But it's not a matter of being "anti" or "pro" simulation and/or hand-crafting something - it's a matter of recognizing the uses of both techniques. Obviously simulation has many advantages (speed, ease of use, etc.) as you so eloquently described. Tinkering with a model has it's merits too, especially when working with unknowns.

    Reading also Trevor's response here, it saddens me how much effort is perhaps misdirected or even worse, duplicated. Don't get me wrong, I am not saying that you (or Trevor, or anybody else) is doing "something wrong"; what I am saying is that we should work together. Who gives a flying hoot about who's going to be the first to discover the secret? I know I don't. I just want it to be (re)discovered, by you, or John, or Trevor, or Great Bear of mr. Worton or whomever. The problem is - OUR common problem is - a lack of effective cooperation. Sure, we exchange ideas, describe to the best of our abilities (in words) what we mean, and that's about it.

    Let's look at this objectively. John has spent a large part of his life tediously researching, documenting, translating, combining and sifting all the useful information he could gather about Bessler, all the while experimenting and building as well. You yourself have been working on it for decades. Trevor ditto. My own feeble attempts. In short, many, many people have spent countless hours and energy and money on this. Nothing wrong with it - IF we'd make at least some tangible progress. It's because of the lack of the latter and too much of the former that I say: we should work together more.

    And if it's finally discovered -the sooner the better, I say- then I propose it should be called the Bessler-Collins mechanism, in honor of the great man who invented it, and in honor of the great man who researched it in modern times and made it his life's work to vindicate Bessler and his unique invention.

    I stand ready to help out. Help finance it, if need be. I have a team of engineers at a renowned local University that can build anything we want from the finest materials with extreme precision. If we need a really powerful computersystem for simulations, I have access to a massive parallel supercomputing cluster with teraflop performance. We have the internet - in this day and age we can work together quite effectively. I'm just saying I can help facilitate things - I don't have to be project leader of whatever, I'm totally not interested in fame and glory. I just want to see it to materialize.

    Why not work as a team, simply share what we have, select with a critical engineering eye the most promising bits or concepts and go for it. I am certain that progress would be much more effective and fruitful if more minds and hands are working on it, in a concerted effort, with effective resources.

  8. I personally feel that simulation has a purpose to teach and help people understand how something works,but I would never have got where I am with the wheel if it hadn't been for a practical hands on approach.
    It's good to have a team of workman with various abilities but really there is only one designer.
    Once we have the secret principle there are actually many ways to build the wheel.
    The bottom line is,..We have to work out how to raise one pound with four ounces,all the rest will become clear.

  9. John, you just haven't grasped any of the simulators properly yet, otherwise you would have given up wasting so much time on real, physical models years ago.
    The first thing is - Bessler's first wheel was three feet in diameter, and only six inches across. That is the wheel we should all be trying to copy - the first, and the smallest, and presumably the one with the simplest mechanism.
    What can we deduce from the fact that the first wheel was only three feet across? That the mechanism was quite simple - otherwise Bessler would have had to make the wheel larger, in order to be able to build the more complex mechanism, because presumably the tools he had were not able to produce the sort of detailed parts we can produce nowadays.
    Better still, somebody should write a program that uses artificial intelligence to search for the solution - just as a chess computer can test out thousands of possible moves in one second, so a computer might be able to test thousands of possible Bessler wheel solutions in one day.

  10. I hadn't read Technoguy's comment when I wrote my previous one - I totally agree. And we need to look at the fact that Bessler's first wheel was only three feet in diameter, and FOUR inches in depth (I apologise for putting 'six inches' in my previous post), which means the mechanism must have been even more simple. Four inches in depth most probably means that no part of the mechanism operated outside of the plane of the wheel's disc. What tools did Bessler have access to, what were the smallest parts he could build, etc.


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