Friday, January 09, 2009

Visions of cubic magnetics dancing in my head

When you disassemble a Rubik's cube, you quickly learn that the brilliance of the puzzle has little to do with the colorful square stickers on its exterior. The brilliance of a Rubik's cube is in it's composition.

Whenever a person with mechanical vision takes apart a Rubik's cube for the first time, they say, holy shit! or something to that effect because it defies description. It's sort of like a sectional rotating sphere, but without any conventional mechanical means. There's no ball bearings. It is a non-mechanical mechanical device. Having grown up the daughter of a machinist, I understand this as something so so rare and simple and inarguable that it is divine.

Now just bear with me: magnets.

In the attraction mode, they move things together (see: your nephew's baby pic on the fridge). Flip their polarity and they move things apart. All of us are intimately familiar with the results of magnetism. We've seen magnets snap together in an instantaneous kiss. We've watched them refuse to touch each other like quarreling spouses. The magnet defines the terms "attract" and "repel" in the most organic sense.

I had to take all sorts of science courses in order to earn my EE degree, including thermodynamics. The one thing that stayed with me from that class was this line from the professor: "When you put energy into something, it either moves or it gets hot." (damn, that's a good line)

This is true of your car, your furnace and your body. But magnetism bypasses that venerable decree. It moves stuff without energy. Very few of us assign the proper amount of significance to that fact: magnetism moves things without fuel--and it works all over the world.

This brings me to the point of my essay, a concept that drives me nearly insane: why in the hell aren't we powering our cars with magnets instead of GAS?

Why why why why? WHY!!??

Because we need someone to have a stroke of divine brilliance like Rubik did with his quirky toy. We need someone to wake up one day with an applicable vision of a device composed of magnets that constantly reverse polarity and uses the worldwide phenomenon of magnetism to push and pull and push and pull and push pull pushpull pushpullpushpullpushpullpushpullpushpull and somehow rotate the axles of our cars (or a reasonable facsimile.)

Then, oh, people, people, people, THEN we could stop sending all of our money to the glittering city of Dubai. When a stroke of brilliance comparable to the Rubik's cube meets the lowly magnet, the world will truly change.

Imagine how many people will want to silence the voice that successfully defines the design that replaces the internal combustion engine with the magneto. Imagine how powerful the country that first conquers that technology will be. Imagine how immediately the Middle East will transform into just a place.

* * *

The administration would like to apologize to the reader for the incomprehensible ramblings of the Authoress. The Authoress, as the reader may have surmised, is difficult to control and is often prone to tangents that have little to do with her daily tasks. However, the administration has discovered that sometimes it is best to indulge the Authoress as the Authoress sees the light in the east and has known the metallic taste of blood. The Authoress hears the sound of falling water.


garrett said...

First comment. Woot!

Is gravity a form of magnetism?

If it wasn't for NASA sucking up so many science brains over the past half-century (plus), this or something else unpredictably cool might already have happened.

(Government bad.)

Erin O'Brien said...

Gravity and magnetism are different. Gravity is solely a function of the earth's mass.

I am no expert, but methinks the space program had was hella important in computer development.

And me-also-thinks a little ol' computer will be instrumental in telling all the magnets to reverse polarity.

I can almost hear those effing things in my head prrrRRRrrrRRRrrrRRR ....

I'm also guessing this technology is applied in any number of places. Just not where it counts. Not yet.

Velociman said...

Magnets are nettlesome devices. They simply don't provide the kinetic energy in relation to their mass, for some reason. Electromagnets partially alleviate this problem. The Senator (my father) unwisely invested some unknown thousands of dollars in a con man who claimed to have a magnetic perpetual motion machine in 1970. We were going to be bathing in filthy lucre. Rich beyond our wildest reactionary dreams. Unfortunately, for a criminal defense attorney the Senator could have maddening lapses of judgment when it came to people. That was probably my college tuition he fronted Grifty McShyster. And that unknown grifter is probably T. Boone Pickens for all I know.

Anonymous said...

True that, Velociman, and therein lies the rub. Generating the juice to flip polarity pulls the process negative again, as per physics 101. But mag-lev trains and colliders are cool.

Soon the Earth will top out about 18 billion happy campers farming algae and fungus from oceans and caves, and conscious capitalism will fund the first voyages out to edges of the known. Like Bruce Dern in Silent Running, we'll use crude but dense chemical reactions to bash into escape velocities as per Newton's 3rd Law, stopping where there's water. A robust tourist industry will result.

Back on Earth, the brainiacs will build on string theory and advanced materials to begin to tweak the continuum and make good time at night, like my old man used to do in the Falcon. A few centuries after that point humanity will fold along in perpetuity with the Cosmos, world without end. The original Star Trek will be considered an aboriginal dream of the future. Travelers will look back at Earth the way Greeks, Scandinavians and Polynesians look out to sea.

That is all.

Anonymous said...

Man, are you in my head the last couple of days?? I've been bouncing around this idea, as well.

dean said...

Problem is, magnets do no work. They're exactly like gravity: you can use them to store energy (by pulling opposite poles apart, or pushing them together) which is analogous to carrying a ball upstairs: the ball gains potential energy, but that energy comes from your leg muscles.

We do have magnets that reverse polarity: isn't that how an electric motor works? Thing is, you have to put energy in in order for it to work.

Anonymous said...

What Philbilly said. Having read the post the train technology crossed my mind too. But, like they said, all the "stuff" required to build the magnets playground negates the advantages.


"Back on Earth, the brainiacs will build on string theory and advanced materials to begin to tweak the continuum and make good time at night, like my old man used to do in the Falcon."


Erin O'Brien said...

Soylent Green is people.

garrett said...

Space program has accomplished a lot in terms of science. That's not the point I was trying to make.

I was thinking of economics generally and Bastiat's essay about the things we can see contrasted with the things we can't see specifically.

If you're not familiar with this essay, I can't recommend it strongly enough! Great insights. And very important insights to both be aware of and constantly reference as we Americans are plunged ever further -- some believing it to be to their delight, some knowing it to be to their horror -- into the world where the things unseen are ignored ever more intentionally.

Anyway, Bastiat says it way better than me.


In the economic sphere an act, a habit, an institution, a law produces not only one effect, but a series of effects. Of these effects, the first alone is immediate; it appears simultaneously with its cause; it is seen. The other effects emerge only subsequently; they are not seen; we are fortunate if we foresee them.


Dig it!

Anonymous said...

How does that make government bad?

I much prefer the insight of Elmer Fudd:

"Be vewy qwiet, I'm hunting wabbits"


Erin O'Brien said...

All good points, gents.

But that said, imagine going back in time and telling some poor jamoke that his nixie tube would be replaced by a "liquid crystal." Think about the energy an LCD uses vs. a CRT.

The phenomenon of magnetism is stunning to me. I can't help but think there is untapped potential.

Imagine a different sort of magnet. A liquid magnet? Maybe it constantly reverses polarity when a voltage is applied.

VideoDude said...

OW!! My brain hurts!!

Amy L. Hanna said...

It should also be noted that the brilliance of The Apostrophe is better known for its reference when it's not being abused.

Anonymous said...

Take a look at liquid magnet in action.

James Old Guy

Anonymous said...

I may know where there's still a big box of new Nixie tubes. Just sayin'.

Erin's right that manipulating magnetic fields is heading in the right direction conceptually. We're currently about like our forebears standing around staring at a tree stump smoldering from a lightning strike, noticing the grubs taste better.

Except for that Steven Hawking guy. He just went up with a NASA training flight to experience zero gravity free from his wheelchair. That's a badass.

I read a deal where the Earth's magnetic flux at the core is getting increasingly jiggy. No predictions really, but stock up on canned food just in case.

Anonymous said...

It's 2:30 am and I can't help myself.

"This is a job for Joe The Plumber."


Erin O'Brien said...

That was way cool-o James. Thanks

And damn if Amy didn't get me again!

Kirk said...

1. Albert Einstein went to his grave believing that magnetism and gravity were one and the same thing--he just couldn't say how.

2. It's interesting you bring up the movie Soylent Green, because most of our energy problems--most of our problems, period--is the result of overpopulation (with materialism thrown in for good measure) Magnets are made from rocks, which, I admit, we have quite a lot of on this planet, but they CAN run out. If that seems absurd, well, global warming caused by man would have seemed absurd back in 1896 (except to Svante Arrhenius, who actually predicted that's what would happen. Why is this guy less well known than Nostradamus?) Call me paranoid, but I'm afraid we'll end up strip-mining this planet right down to it's molten core if we go the magnet route. Let's try renewables like sun and wind first, seeing as us humans are ourselves renewable.

Erin O'Brien said...

Hi Kirk. Point well taken, but 'ya gotta hope someone's shooting for the sci-fi solution as well.

Kirk said...

Oh, it's science fiction you want?

I don't know if you ever watch LOST but the island on that show is supposed to be magnetic. It also seems to be outside the time-space continuum.

I don't quite know what the connection is between magnetism and time-travel, but, getting back to your original idea, can you imagine such a car? You'd never be late for anything again!

Is that why you have that picture from BACK TO THE FUTURE?

Kirk said...

Erin, check out "Weird but True", in today's Plain Dealer Comics page.

Or, if you'd rather cut through the jungle with a toenail clipper, you can probably also find it at