After Napoleonic wars the new king of France (Louis XVIII) was worried about the delay in in industrial technology. War was isolated United Kingdom but their steam machines raised in productivity while the continent machines were stalled. So Louis XVIII was sent to England an engineer named Sadi Carnot for to see and to copy what England industries where doing in their machines.
The surprise was that machines are equal as before war. What had happened? In fact it was happening one thing impossible in the thermodynamic theory of epoch. Watt and their heirs had the patent of steam machine until 1800 (in middle of Napoleonic war) and it born a lot of companies dedicated to build machines steam; and this new companies apply an empirical evidence discovered by mechanical that repair this machines: as great is the temperature better is the machine performance. This evidence was in contradiction to the Caloric theory, and when Watt had been building machines never increase more the temperature (minimum to generate steam) because with the increase of temperature is join the increase of pressure and the mechanical problems that produces (and dangerous situation also). But with freedom to build machines temperatures (and deaths for explosion) increased, at the same time performance and industrial profit increased also. Carnot returned to France with the revolutionary idea, and he devised a machine cycle for maximum performance (Carnot Cycle) and one theorem which prove it. Sure he had seen as a new National hero when exposed his discover in the France Academy, but he died in ostracism.
October 1920 issue of Popular Science magazine, on perpetual motion.
Carnot died thinking he was a failure man, but his discover become in the basis of 2on thermodynamic law that buried the Caloric theory. Second law gives us the direction of processes and one important item: we always pay a price when we want extracting energy. There are some equivalent formulations about the 2on but only one arithmetic formulation of this, Clausius introduced a new physical quantity called entropy, and we can resume 2on as only can be possible processes that entropy increase (or stay equal in reversible processes).
It exist one kind of machines which are finding by inventors in the last 300 years named “machines of perpetual motion”. These are a chimera of energy without end. These machines thanks to use all kink of tricks will never stop without need energy in first stadium; but after we would extract energy of them with any cost. Obviously this is impossible because it contradicts the first law of thermodynamics, and is very difficult that someone is working in its direction, except amateur inventors without minimum formation. But exist at 2on kind of machine of perpetual motion, and here things are more difficult to distinct. Perpetual Motion’s Machine of 2on kind is a machine which doesn’t comply with the second law of thermodynamics.
Second law people can’t understand too well. First law is more intuitive, and even inventors which show machines out of 1st law never thing in create energy of nothing. Second law is other thing; entropy, order and distribution of probabilities need some knowledge prior to taking it. Second law say also that is impossible to take all the energy of a hot source, we always must trash some energy, but this concept is the more difficult to understand by the people and it’s usually don’t think in how we left the residual hot, and this is summarized to the energy taking. However to profit all the energy when our better profit never pass to 80% is too good to let it lose.
Today, all kind of widgets run or they intent to run around the world, with the purpose to solve the current energy problem. Sometimes machines work well but its performance isn’t more inferior than inventor thinks; other times machines don’t work (but have very encouraging results). Obviously first and second could be wrong but there are many examples that both are correct. Nevertheless we don’t close any door and all must be prove; but before of selling the ultimate solution to our ills better we sure ours basis.
The problem isn’t that people make machines which don’t run; problem is to publisher it without an accompanying critical that gives criterion at public. If inventor that we assume to have sufficient knowledge could be wrong; people without these knowledge only understand the headline, and more times headline has too enthusiasm.
The current energy problem will not solve with magical solutions. 2on law we can’t leave it aside, there are more deep reasons that 2on law is true. Science is the solution but we need before put it in value in front the popular beliefs, and it’s is needed as general people as politicians and other social actors. We can’t waste energy with the rate we do now, and any renewable energy can supply fossil, because we are waste every day, energy stored in decades. Saving is the painful solution and don’t expect one bizarre solution which solve the problem. God makes miracles sometimes but mankind only can follow the natural laws.