Friction Motors

I once wrote a story for infinite energy magazine (a technical journal for cold fusion, believe it or not) about how cool it would be if we had free energy: Cities in space, desalinated ocean water making the deserts bloom, refrigerator lights that stay on when you close the door.

Since then, energy got less free, I’m sorry to say, but I still commend those on the fringes of science who are poking around with the strange loops of physics in search of a breakthrough. Seems like we all could use a break lately.

Most likely energy will never be free. There’s an old acronym cooked up by science fiction author Robert Heinlein that goes like this: TNSTAAFL (pronounced TAN-staf-ful) or “there’s no such thing as a free lunch.” You-get-what-you-pay-for is the equivalent Yankeeism, I suppose. But even without a perpetual motion machine, there are some cool tricks that we can do with the energy we have.

Anyone around my age grew up with toy cars and other wheeled devices that ran on what was known as a friction motor. You’d zip the wheels on the rug a few times and then let it go and it would magically zoom across the room as if it were supercharged. This was back in the days when batteries were as big as cucumbers and had about the same shelf life, so the child, who had energy to burn, was required to transmit some of that power into the motor by getting a little flywheel turning at high speed. Then the flywheel would apply that force to turning the wheels until the inertia stored up was dissipated.

So, I hear you thinking (or so I imagine), “Where the heck is Rick going with this one?”

After all, it’s July. This is our Best of NH issue. Obviously I should be recommending that you get out and explore this beautiful state of ours, make some memories, help out our hospitality and tourism industries and, ahem, visit as many of our advertisers as you can. Right?

Right. So consider the tiny friction motor. It takes something that normally keeps things in their place (inertia, i.e. bodies at rest tend to stay at rest) and turns that same force into raw power to make them move (i.e. bodies in motion tend to stay in motion).

So, aware that I might be stretching a metaphor to its breaking point, consider this issue of New Hampshire Magazine to be your own personal friction motor. Sure, you have to be relatively still while reading it, but what you’re actually doing is “ginning up” the wheels in your brain with thrilling possibilities for fun, shopping, dining and adventure in every granite corner of the state.

Once you’re fully charged, all you need to do is get behind the wheel and hit the road, supercharged with exciting destinations.

Oh, but do keep an eye on the speed limits out there. Nothing stops a body in motion quite like a set of blue lights in the rearview mirror.

Categories: Editor’s Note