Leonardo da Vinci’s Inventions Come to Life as Museum-Quality, Workable Models: A Swing Bridge, Scythed Chariot, Perpetual Motion Machine & More

Per­pet­u­al motion is impos­si­ble. Even if we don’t know much about physics, we all know that to be true — or at least we’ve heard it from cred­i­ble enough sources that we might as well believe it. More accu­rate­ly, we might say that nobody has yet fig­ured out how to make a machine that keeps on going and going and going by itself, with­out any exter­nal ener­gy source. But it has­n’t been for lack of try­ing, and the effort has been on the part of not just crack­pots but some of the most impres­sive minds in human his­to­ry. Take char­ter mem­ber of that group Leonar­do da Vin­ci, the Renais­sance design­er of bridges, musi­cal instru­ments, war machines, and much else beside, whose fas­ci­na­tion with the sub­ject also had him imag­in­ing the occa­sion­al per­pet­u­al motion machine.

Our unflag­ging fas­ci­na­tion with Leonar­do has fueled the efforts of 21st-cen­tu­ry enthu­si­asts to build his inven­tions for them­selves, even those inven­tions that pre­vi­ous­ly exist­ed only in his note­books. In the video above you can see a series of such Leonar­do-imag­ined devices made real in func­tion­al mod­el form.

Some of them, like the fly­wheel, odome­ter, ver­ti­cal ball-bear­ing, and dou­ble-deck­er bridge, have become so com­mon in oth­er forms that we no longer even stop to con­sid­er their inge­nious­ness. Oth­ers, like the invad­er-repelling cas­tle wall defense mech­a­nism and some­thing called a “scythed char­i­ot” — a nasty-look­ing yet char­ac­ter­is­ti­cal­ly grace­ful piece of work — remind of us that, at least in most of the world, we live in less war­like times than Leonar­do did.

The video comes from Valeriy Ivanov, who on Youtube spe­cial­izes in build­ing and demon­strat­ing “work­ing mod­els of per­pet­u­al motion machines” as well as “Da Vin­ci inven­tions” and “mar­ble machines.” (Leonar­do’s odome­ter, fea­tured in the video, makes a par­tic­u­lar­ly impres­sive use of mar­bles.) “My mod­els of per­pet­u­al motion machines are of motor­ized ver­sions that were built to illus­trate how they were sup­posed to work in the minds of inven­tors,” writes Ivanov. We see not only the mechan­ics Leonar­do and oth­er hope­ful inven­tors must have imag­ined, but the mes­mer­iz­ing ele­gance of Leonar­do’s designs in par­tic­u­lar, such as the video’s over­bal­anced wheel. On a note­book page from 1494, Leonar­do told the seek­ers of per­pet­u­al motion to “go and take your place with the alchemists.” But now, with the aid of tech­nol­o­gy unimag­ined in Leonar­do’s time — even by Leonar­do him­self — we can see just how com­pelling that vision must have been.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

MIT Researchers 3D Print a Bridge Imag­ined by Leonar­do da Vin­ci in 1502— and Prove That It Actu­al­ly Works

How to Build Leonar­do da Vinci’s Inge­nious Self-Sup­port­ing Bridge: Renais­sance Inno­va­tions You Can Still Enjoy Today

Leonar­do da Vin­ci Draws Designs of Future War Machines: Tanks, Machine Guns & More

Watch Leonar­do da Vinci’s Musi­cal Inven­tion, the Vio­la Organ­ista, Being Played for the Very First Time

A Com­plete Dig­i­ti­za­tion of Leonar­do Da Vinci’s Codex Atlanti­cus, the Largest Exist­ing Col­lec­tion of His Draw­ings & Writ­ings

Leonar­do da Vinci’s Ele­gant Design for a Per­pet­u­al Motion Machine

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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  • azteclady says:

    “at least in most of the world, we live in less war­like times than Leonar­do did.”

    No, it’s the weapons that have changed, nei­ther the inten­tion nor the aggres­sion lev­els.

  • Jaime Abad says:

    An Air­bus A380 holds 100 tons of liq­uid fuel in each wing, alleged­ly. I’m not an engi­neer but any­one with half a brain should real­ize that is impos­si­ble. Some say that it actu­al­ly runs on com­pressed air and lev­i­tates like a bee. Maybe per­pet­u­al motion tech­nol­o­gy has exist­ed for a while but is being repressed…

  • David says:

    It pro­duces over 1,100 tons of lift force. So no, it’s not impos­si­ble.

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