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"Post-Civilized" Possibilities: Gravity Wheel

J. Harmon Grahn

v5, February 5, 2013

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1Energy Abundance
3A Minimal Configuration
4"Post-Civilized" Possibilities
4.1Noncommercial Applications
4.2Flexing the Imagination

1 Energy Abundance

What follows is a preliminary take on remarks expressed in Item 4 of an Agenda for a "Post-Civilized" Humanity.[1] In that place, Einstein's famous matter/energy equivalence formula, E = mc², was mentioned; and in recent essays the disclosures of Dewey Larson's universe of motion have been discussed at some length;[2] and will probably be discussed further hereafter.

Mainly, in a universe in which E = mc², or in which everything that exists consists entirely of motion, or the reciprocal relationship between time and space . . . there is no shortage, or scarcity whatsoever, of energy. If Earth-humans are finding it difficult to meet the energy requirements for our various projects, the fault does not lie in any shortage of available energy; but rather of a rich and seemingly inexhaustible capacity for human arrogance, combined with human ignorance — and possibly a measurable admixture of human forgetfulness, of what energy is, and the limitless ways it may be put to human use.

Historically, humans have been quite innovative in putting to use ubiquitously available ambient energy. Thousands of years ago, humans developed and mastered the art of harnessing the winds for the purpose of moving about at will upon the watery surfaces of our planet; and today skilled sailors are able to navigate to any chosen port, propelled by infinitely variable winds. Meanwhile, landsmen have applied similar principles to the tasks of grinding grain, and gaining access to subterranean water.

Similarly, humans have taken advantage of the simple fact that water runs downhill, and placed water wheels, and hydroelectric generators, in the path of moving water, thereby sipping daintily from the inexhaustible ocean of energy in which we all live and move.

These are all old and thoroughly developed human technologies, and it may be argued that the human need for energy has "maxed out" what these technologies are able to deliver. This may indeed be so, in relation to the current trajectory of human "civilization." However, I have already argued, perhaps to exhaustion,[3] and others have echoed,[4] that the trajectory of human "civilization" appears to be on target for probable self-destruction in the quite near term. Whether any Earth-humans may remain beyond that point is still an open question; but if so, my guess is that they (we) shall have become something other than "civilized," if we are not soon to be overtaken by the same destiny.

However that may be, I would like to suggest in principle that we Earth-humans have not come close to exhausting the energy freely available to us at all times, everywhere — notwithstanding that we may indeed have come close to "maxing out" all of the commercially marketable energy sources on Earth. Of course, this opens up another can of worms, which we may examine in more detail another time. For now, I would like to turn our attention to an "old technology" that in this case was never developed commercially; and so, was never developed at all.


2 Orffyreus

There once lived a man, born in Zittau, Germany, named Johann Ernst Elias Bessler (1680-1745), who called himself Orffyreus; and evidently not knowing any better, employed the principle of leverage to harness the "gravitational wind," thereby turning a wheel capable of useful work.[5]

During the early 1700s Orffyreus demonstrated a series of machines he designed and built, which he unfortunately claimed to be "perpetual motion" machines. The only person he ever allowed to view the inner works of any of his machines was his patron, Karl I (1654-1730), the Landgrave of Hesse-Kassel. All others he allowed to scrutinize his machines with as much rigor and skepticism as anyone could wish, short of peering inside them; and although nobody except the inventor and his patron understood how they worked, no one ever proved them not to fulfill Orffyreus's every claim for them.

Orffyreus's machines were large, hollow, stand-alone wheels — the largest was 12 feet in diameter; the smallest 4½ feet in diameter — with no visible engine driving them; and they turned vigorously, such that it took considerable effort to bring one to a halt once it was in motion. Orffyreus's machines were not idle curiosities: for in addition to sustaining their own motion, they were capable of performing significant actual work; and he repeatedly demonstrated their ability to hoist substantial loads.

Orffyreus took care to obscure from public view the mechanism by means of which his demonstration wheels worked; and rather than allow anyone (except his patron, Karl) to view their inner works, he eventually destroyed every one of his machines. However, Orffyreus did leave intact a number of drawings, which clearly illustrate the trend of his thoughts, and suggest the operating principle of his inventions.

As described by those who saw them demonstrated, and as confirmed by his drawings, each of Orffyreus's machines was a hollow wheel supported vertically by an axle and bearings hung between a pair of supports, which allowed the wheel to turn freely. It was evidently divided internally into a number of identically shaped chambers, each containing a weight at liberty to roll within its chamber as the wheel revolved. Witnesses mentioned in their accounts of his demonstrations that the motion of these moving weights could clearly be heard, and seem to have made a good deal of noise.

The peculiarity of Orffyreus's demonstration wheels, which even to those who saw them in motion proved difficult for them to believe, was simply that they revolved rapidly and continuously, with no external source of motive power; and appeared to be exactly what their inventor and builder claimed them to be: perpetual motion machines. Orffyreus's patron Karl rigorously tested and certified the bona fides of his invention, including a 54-day test at Weissenstein Castle during which his 12-foot wheel ran virtually without interruption in a locked and guarded room, sealed with the Landgrave's undisturbed seal. During his life, Karl, who seems to have been a rather goodish egg, at least in relation to Orffyreus, never violated his trust to hold the inventor's secret in confidence.

Perhaps if Orffyreus had been less mysterious about his invention, and more forthcoming about its basic principle, humanity might have been blessed three hundred years ago with a simple means of supplying an inexhaustible stream of motive power to innumerable human tasks. However, nobody bought into his invention, which Orffyreus offered outright, in exchange for what at the time amounted to a small fortune. Finding no takers, rather than disclose their secret, Orffyreus destroyed his inventions, and with the exception of Karl, shared their secret with nobody.

This story was brought to my attention a number of years ago, and has never ceased to intrigue my interest. Based upon Orffyreus's surviving drawings, I made a number of drawings of my own, in an effort to understand as clearly as possible whether such a machine could, or could not, function as described. I am still not certain. However, if such a machine were actually built, and proven to be functional, I am convinced that it would not violate any known physical or mechanical principle.

A "perpetual motion" machine, as I understand it, is one which generates its own motive power, and relies upon no external source of power. If so, then a water wheel, for example, is not a "perpetual motion" machine; although it may run perpetually, so long as the stream driving it does not dry up. And the stream driving a water wheel may never dry up, so long as the oceans, which feed the weather systems, which produce the rain, which feeds the stream, which runs the wheel, never dry up. Or so long as the Sun doesn't go out.

In this sense, Orffyreus's machines were not "perpetual motion" machines either: for they were propelled by the constant scalar motion[6] known as the gravity of a massive body, such as Earth. Transport one of Orffyreus's wheels beyond Earth's gravitational limit, and it would no longer run. However, so long as such a machine is located on Earth's surface, if it works at all, I can find no reason for it not to run perpetually, or until its bearings wear out, or some other part fails.

If it works at all. Aye, and there's the rub.


3 A Minimal Configuration

Revolving Orffyreus's wheels in my mind, I came up with a minimal configuration that if actually built, either would work, or would not; and would thereby either prove the concept, or cast it into doubt. That is, if one failed to produce a working prototype, that isolated fact would not prove that nobody could produce one.

The drawings that follow, to no particular scale, are a series of schematics illustrating four peculiarly shaped chambers arranged at 90° intervals around a central hub; which like a freely revolving bicycle wheel, may be imagined to turn on bearings around a centrally supported axle. The four red dots, A, B, C, and D indicate the positions of four equal masses, and may be imagined to represent the ends of cylinders, each at liberty to roll within its chamber. The diameter of the masses is small, in relation to the size of the wheel, in order to maximize the differential between their positions near the hub, and near the rim of the wheel. Each of the four chambers occupies a 30° wedge of the whole: so that, if this minimal configuration is able to sustain its cyclical motion, its performance may be tripled by the addition of two more chambers between each of the existing four: creating a wheel with 12 identical chambers, and 12 identical masses. The pale blue lines around the rim indicate 15° intervals.

Four-Lobbed Wheel, Frame 1

In the first illustration, mass A has just rolled down the incline to nearly the full extent of its moment arm, and is in a position to lever up its opposite, identical mass C, which has rolled nearer the hub. Mass B is at the bottom of its arc, and for the time being, represents no significant resistance to A's impulse toward the center of the Earth. Mass D is very near the hub, and offers negligible resistance to A's motion. The otherwise perfectly balanced wheel turns.

Four-Lobbed Wheel, Frame 2

At the peak of its vigorous youth, A is accelerating down the steepest part of its slope, easily levering C swiftly toward its nest near the hub; while B is still in the foothills of its ascending climb, and as yet offers little resistance against A's steep descent. D at this point is almost entirely out of the equation. The wheel continues to turn.

Four-Lobbed Wheel, Frame 3

Fifteen degrees further around, A is still in vigorous motion; C is almost completely nestled into the hub, where it will remain for the rest of its ascent; and B is commencing its steepening climb, while beginning to lose leverage against A. The wheel continues to turn.

Four-Lobbed Wheel, Frame 4

C and D, for the time being, are now both essentially out of the game; and A's downhill run is beginning to flatten out; while B, though continuing to lose leverage against A, is beginning to bite into a steadily steepening climb, in resistance to A's descent. It's starting to look like it may be a close race.

Four-Lobbed Wheel, Frame 5

Now it's neck and neck between A and B. A is running out of steam, approaching the end of its downhill run; and B is losing leverage, while entering a steadily steepening climb. Probably about all that is keeping things moving now is the momentum of the wheel itself, impelled by a younger, more energetic A, earlier in its career.

Four-Lobbed Wheel, Frame 6

If the wheel were to stall at this point, there would be no impulse within it to put it in motion again. However, the wheel is in motion, even if at the moment, there is nothing pushing it. Maybe the wheel's momentum is sufficient to carry it through another 15°, allowing D to roll out for another push.

Four-Lobbed Wheel, Frame 7

And so (in our imagination) it is; and round and round it goes. Would it be so with a material wheel, propelled by material masses? It seems plausible that it could; and the story of Orffyreus's repeated demonstrations is persuasive. If so, and if Orffyreus's principle is able to sustain cyclical motion with four chambers, and four masses, imagine its performance with 12 of each instead.

Twelve-Lobbed Wheel, Frame 8

If each set of four perpendicular chambers is able to drive the wheel alone, then three such sets should be able not only to turn the wheel, but to perform some useful work besides. So one can understand why stopping one of Orffyreus's wheels, once it got going, required considerable effort. Yet in the course of three hundred years nobody has materially duplicated his demonstrations. Why is that, do you suppose?


4 "Post-Civilized" Possibilities

The question as to whether the mechanism described in the prior Section would work, or not, involves far more than a question of simple mechanics. If the story related above of Orffyreus is essentially true — and I have encountered no compelling reason to doubt it — then his invention was unambiguously demonstrated to work mechanically. However, being a typically "civilized" man, Orffyreus was mostly in it for the money; and finding no one willing to tender his price under his terms of sale, his invention failed to work socially, or to find a functional place within the "civilized" scheme of things. There are probably a number of reasons for this.

If Orffyreus's wheels operated on the principle described earlier, then anybody to whom their mechanical details were disclosed would in an instant have the knowledge necessary to duplicate them — as now, you do. Were this knowledge to become common, it would immediately lose whatever commercial value it may have had; and Orffyreus may be considered to have been "right," within a "civilized" context, to guard it jealously.

In practical terms, 300 years ago, or today, a competent craftsman, with access to a moderately equipped shop, could produce a functional mechanism on the basis of the principle described here, and at orffyre.comprovided there is no fundamental physical or mechanical principle prohibiting such function. A witness 300 years ago to one of Orffyreus's demonstrations could have assured himself in advance that there is no such principle. Today, one might have to proceed on the basis of at least some uncertainty, because no demonstration model physically exists.

In any case, whatever commercial value Orffyreus's secret may have at one time possessed, was extremely volatile, has long since evaporated, and in his time rendered Orffyreus himself no commercial advantage. Nevertheless, 300 years ago, or today, a machine that is able to perform useful work by putting in harness the ubiquitous and freely available motion of gravity, is not without value — although that value may not be quantifiable in commercial terms.

Today, an enterprising individual or group might venture commercially to mass-produce and market an Orffyreus Gravity Wheel, if we may call it that, coupled for instance to an AC/DC electric generator — which might at first sight appear to be a highly marketable package. However, such an enterprise, probably sooner than later, would come into competition with powerful economic interests in the large-scale business of selling energy; and would likely be summarily bought out, and production suppressed; or otherwise encounter insurmountable obstacles to commercial success.

Come to that, how might anyone make a commercial success of an Orffyreus Gravity Wheel — presuming its principle is sound, and that such a machine can be built, tested, and further perfected? The principle itself is commonly available, and understandable at a glance by anyone. Different craftsmen might approach the project in different ways: for instance by substituting identical masses of BB shot or ball bearings in each chamber, instead of rigid cylindrical masses. Another may find a more effective shape and number for the chambers. The principle is simple, and like the principle of sailing, may be applied in an endless variety of ways.

Bear in mind also that a formidable factor in the success of any such venture, commercial or otherwise, requires non-collision with the interests of powerful players in the commercial energy market, so long as they remain in power.


4.1 Noncommercial Applications

Many of the obstacles to development of such a machine are mitigated in a noncommercial, noncompetitive context: for although maybe not easily marketable commercially, a machine capable of work without energy costs, simply by existing, would significantly widen the spectrum of human possibilities.

The Orffyreus Gravity Wheel has some significant advantages over other "free energy" devices that have come to my attention over the years: inasmuch as it does not require an esoteric grasp of obscure energetic principles. It is simple in concept, and can be implemented in many different ways by a wide assortment of craftsmen. It is as unpretentious as a water wheel; and if Orffyreus himself had been a miller, and less determined to convert his invention directly into cash, he might have used it profitably to set himself up with a mill at an otherwise unsuitable location: such as a site inappropriate for a water wheel.

In general, anyone with a task in hand requiring an input of energy might find an Orffyreus Gravity Wheel useful; and might even build it himself, designed to meet his peculiar needs and circumstances. He might thereby bring electric power to a remote settlement, or power a conventional enterprise without incurring energy costs. A group of Uncommitted Investigators[7] might cooperatively establish a research facility anywhere — possibly accessible only on horseback — and furnish it with as much energy as required, by means of one or more Orffyreus Gravity Wheels.

The noncommercial possibilities are limited only by the scope of the human imagination — which is one good reason I have emphasized the necessity for anyone, who would be at unfettered liberty, to reclaim his own imagination.[8] In fact, the least of the challenges to putting an Orffyreus Gravity Wheel into productive service is designing and building it. Much more formidable is the challenge of creating around it a context that glows with the quality without a name.[9] This can be accomplished only by the individual(s) involved; and it is essential. Without it, although an Orffyreus Gravity Wheel may work flawlessly in mechanical terms, absent a setting rich in the quality without a name, their enterprise, whatever it may be, will not work in practice. It is this deficiency alone that plausibly answers the question at the end of § 3 above, and has kept a simple, useful, and accessible machine entirely out of human service for the past three hundred years.[10]


4.2 Flexing the Imagination

Today, all this occurs within the context of the critical transition on Earth between "civilization" and "post-civilization:" a transition whose outcome is being decided right now; and before very long will be decided, one way, or another. In the essay just mentioned,[11] we discussed the essential quality that will decide the outcome of this transition — yes, the very quality without a name: that can only be nurtured and encouraged within each individual, by the intention and effort of each of us; and without which, nothing works.

Now let us take a perhaps extravagant flight of fancy, and assume that a number of humans have nourished within ourselves the quality without a name, to the extent that we have by various means, including ample blessings of "good luck," apparently survived the final collapse of "civilization." As the dust begins to settle, and the plaster stops falling from the ceilings, so to speak, we find ourselves in a position to commence building "post-civilization" upon the ruins of "civilization."

Because we have "done our homework," we have meanwhile transformed ourselves more or less into "post-civilized" people, and are no longer encumbered by many of the obstacles we used to place in our own paths during our earlier "civilized" lives. This of course has been a gradual process (still, and ever in progress) at which each of us have labored quietly and persistently, over the course of many years.

Our transitional situation may be imagined in many different ways, and does not necessarily require endless landscapes obliterated by smoking desolation. It may be just as likely to appear little changed from what falls within our view right now: for all seven thousand million of us are indeed right now thoroughly involved in the toils of a tumultuous global transition; and the lives of many people, in many places, are being irreparably shattered, even as I quietly write these words, or as you quietly read them.

Now — somehow, anyhow — we have become aware that what lies before us, so far as we can see from where we stand, is that "civilization" no longer functions at all; and that it is up to us, if we will, to continue the task for which, knowing, or unknowing, we have been preparing ourselves throughout our prior lives.

We did not reach this crossroads entirely by accident — and maybe not by accident at all. We are not wholly strangers to one another. We were drawn together in this time and place, because our many differences notwithstanding, we found common ground in numerous domains of our lives. We responded in similar ways to the mighty currents and countercurrents sweeping the world. We were similarly attracted by certain conditions, and similarly repelled by other conditions; and by seemingly erratic paths, and Brownian motions, have found ourselves together, here, in this time and place — whenever, and wherever it may be.

Although among us we have many differences, we also share in common some vital similarities. Among these is a profound respect for ourselves, and consequently for one another. It took considerable effort to make of ourselves what we have become; and having made that effort, we have eyes that can recognize and appreciate similar effort behind the eyes of our fellows. The most important thing we have learned is that we have yet much to learn; and so we appreciate and respect what others have learned: from whom we may learn much in turn.

We have not taken up our tasks on a whim; and we have not awaited the "final trump" to begin them. We have been long at work, and have now reached this time and place by such subtle stages that we may now proceed, even in the midst of the panic-stricken rush of "civilization" to its final self-destruction. For the only thing that distinguishes us from our "civilized" peers is the quality without a name: that each of us have taken the time and care to cultivate within ourselves. We are keenly sensitized in every situation to the distinction between what works and what does not work; and we often know intuitively when to move forward, and when to pause, and wait.

The panic-stricken rush all around us has no coherent purpose, and consequently dissolves into a background of "white noise" that amounts in essence to "silence." Meanwhile, the patient, purposeful quiet of the quality without a name, that never pushes, but only manifests where it is allowed, does its work through us, in effective isolation and solitude, unnoticed in the headlong rush of multitudes. We move like mist through forests and fences, creating piecemeal the integrated structure of "post-civilization," in the midst of the disintegrating structure of "civilization."

Ours is a multitasking operation of global scope, carried out by unique individuals united and guided by the quality without a name, with the purpose of having something in place that works, by the time "civilization" has dismantled itself, and ceases to work altogether.

When (not if) that happens, it is desirable that many elements of "post-civilization" should be in place, and available for we who intend to pick up the torch dropped by "civilization." One such element consists of localized replacements for parts of the centralized energy grids that illuminate "civilized" cities and towns. The failure of these networks is not likely to happen all at once; but it is likely to happen eventually. The production and use of energy by "civilized" methods is not sustainable, and may reliably be predicted not to be sustained — particularly after "civilization" itself has ceased to be sustained.

Well, guess what? Borrowing from a 300-year-old invention, now any individual or group so inclined, with access to a modest shop, can build an Orffyreus Gravity Wheel, harness it to an electric generator of the required wattage, and power our homes or shops with it. Or cabins in the woods. Or . . . well, it isn't necessary to wait until the lights go out to start doing any of this, is it?

Of course, it will be prudent to keep out of the way of the "big boys" who sell energy: just as the mice nibbling crumbs in the cellar have to keep an eye out for the cat. But then global "civilization" is collapsing now, and those guys may consider themselves to have other fish to fry. Meanwhile, "civilization" hasn't completely fallen in yet, and we can still go down to our local hardware store and buy a motor-driven generator, and replace the motor with our home-built unit — and when the lights do go out, and we can't buy gasoline for our motors anymore, at least our lights can stay lit.

For awhile. But of course, if the lights really go out for keeps, we'll eventually run out of light bulbs. Well, but then, if we've stocked up in advance on some up-to-date technology, we may do alright. One of the latest technologies being developed at present is 3-D printing. It is now possible buy a desktop machine that works like a laser printer, capable of printing three-dimensional reproductions of intricate objects in various materials, designed on a CAD (Computer Aided Design) workstation. A given design can be printed in various plastics, or metals, which may be purchased as fine powders, like powdered laser printer ink. There is very little waste in this process, because the 3-D object being printed is built up, layer by layer; instead of, as in conventional machining, being milled out of a solid piece of material, most of which is discarded as swarf. There are thousands of CAD designs now available; maybe there's a design for a light-emitting diode we might print up in our cabin in the woods, before we run out of light bulbs — and before we run out of powder for our 3-D printer.

Just kidding. The idea is that a home-built source of localized power that can be made available anywhere opens a huge spectrum of possibilities that would otherwise never even be contemplated. But the main idea is that, in order to get there — and stay there — we've got to become a different kind of human from the "civilized" kind. And there's nothing we can buy that will do that for us. It's another do-it-yourself project.[12]

Flexing the imagination a little further, I kind of like the idea of a research facility for Uncommitted Investigators. It could be sited in a remote location, such as a back corner of a ranch, with a reliable stream, and some acreage suitable for gardening. There's nothing particularly clandestine about it; it's just that no one would make much effort to draw attention to it. Its staff consist of "ordinary people" with any number of different, one might say, "extraordinary interests."

A few things its members have in common is respect — one might almost say reverence — for ourselves, for one another, and for the integrated wholeness of all things. We are, as mentioned above, keenly sensitized to the distinction between what works and what does not work, and are highly selective, within and without, in favor of patterns that work. This imbues each of us with a significant measure of the quality without a name, and imparts that quality to all of our endeavors.

Having a physical site, we take pains from the outset to establish it for the long haul — which is to say, make it indefinitely self-sustaining. When all the pieces are in place, it should be minimally reliant upon "civilized" sources of supply. However, although that may be our ideal vision, complete severance from "civilization" may not be fully achievable until the last vestiges of "civilization" have dissolved and blown away: for the integrated wholeness of all things means that nothing exists in isolation, and there is no way to evade the consequences of "things as they are."

In any case, our research facility will become, among other things, a test bed challenged to develop human living patterns that we may at least hope do not self-destruct. This is a supremely elusive objective, never achieved by "civilization." If such a condition has ever been attained by any "pre-civilization," it has been obliterated wherever it may have been overtaken by "civilization." Now it is our turn; which we may attempt, sustained by the observation that the non-human world on Earth, and Cosmos at large, seem to work pretty well: and so we have persuasive reasons to believe that there must be some way for humans to live, that likewise works. This is what we seek; and seeking, we shall find it — or perish in our search.

If suitable buildings are available on site, we shall use them; if not, we shall build them with our own hands, possibly of the soil upon which they will stand. In either case, Alexander's A Pattern Language[13] is a highly recommended source for creating spaces for human use that imbibe the quality without a name.

Having (presumedly) built a working prototype Orffyreus Gravity Wheel, and proven the concept, high on our list of priorities is a suitable space for the plant that will physically power our facility: for it will also furnish the electrical power needed to build it. Initially, we can use the prototype unit for this. Eventually, however, we will want to have a large capacity for power generation. One possibility might involve a massive flywheel, kept spinning at a high rate by the combined kinetic input of an array of Orffyreus wheels, which may individually be engaged or disengaged at will, for maintenance or repair. The flywheel stores the combined energy contributed by the Orffyreus wheels, and drives the dynamo(s) that actually generate the electrical power for the facility.

However, before we get too carried away with our visions of future possibilities, we must acknowledge that we cannot predict in advance the course of our transition from "civilization" to "post-civilization," or even if it will eventuate. We do not have ready answers for every contingency. About the best we can do is keep our knees flexed, "expect the unexpected," and rely upon our intuitions to guide us in our moves, from here and now, into an increasingly uncertain future.

This is not a wail of hopeless despair, but a level look into a swiftly approaching, and already arrived combination of inscrutable conditions none of us have ever encountered before. A typical "knee-jerk" reaction to the "unknown" is panic. Yet this is not the only possible response to it; and it is not likely to be the most effective response either. The approach of the "unknown" is by definition not inherently threatening. It cannot be, because it is unknown. When it is in some measure "known" one may arrive at an appropriate, or at least at a non-random response to it, instead of reflexive panic.

Perhaps we unnecessarily narrow our field of possibilities when we try to imagine in too specific detail how we might, for instance, put to use one or more Orffyreus Gravity Wheels — while not in fact even knowing for sure that the device can be made to work. That is an issue it would be good to settle early, before venturing further plans around it, even tentatively. However, if we had the verification of a working prototype, its implications might extend far beyond detailed considerations of how to implement it in the power plant for a particular research facility. Fabrication of a working "free energy device" of any kind, simple enough to be built by a "home shop craftsman," would disclose a domain of possibility never before imagined. People have been building sailboats in their back yards for thousands of years. Why not gravity wheels?

Well, if we could do that, what else might we be able to do? By the Principle of Repeating Patterns,[14] if something can be done one way, there should be any number of other ways to accomplish the same thing. So if it really is possible for "ordinary people" to harness the ambient energy of Nature to our own purposes — and it certainly is, and "ordinary people" have been doing it for thousands of years without giving it much thought — then who knows how many other ways there may be to do it, that simply haven't been imagined yet? So the obstacles in our path may have far less to do with what is and is not possible, than with what we are, and are not able to imagine.

Bottled Lightning!

The illustration above is of unknown provenance. If I could, I would thank the artist who produced it: for it symbolizes as perfectly as anything I can imagine, the spirit of good humored satisfaction "ordinary people" take in putting to human use small portions of the ambient bounty of Nature. Whoever produced this image . . . thank you.




2. Grahn, "Post-Civilized" Possibilities: Context is Everything § 2.2 The Significance of Scalar Motion ff.;
"Post-Civilized" Possibilities: The Quality Without a Name § 4 "Objective Reality"

3. See just about anything listed in my Authors Pages for elaboration: particularly The Writing on the Wall essay series, and the more recent "Post-Civilized" Possibilities series.

4. Paul R. Ehrlich, Anne H. Ehrlich, Can a collapse of global civilization be avoided?


6. See Grahn, "Post-Civilized" Possibilities: Context is Everything § 2.2 The Significance of Scalar Motion.


8. Grahn, The Writing on the Wall #7: "Not All That Can Be Imagined Works In Practice" § 3.6 Love, pp. 26-27.

9. Grahn, "Post-Civilized" Possibilities: The Quality Without a Name.

10. An alternative answer to the question is that Orffyreus's contraption is impossible, never worked, and that his alleged demonstrations are fabrications of a false history. Here, however, until proven otherwise, we are operating on the assumption that the story of Orffyreus is basically true in its essential details.

11. Grahn, "Post-Civilized" Possibilities: The Quality Without a Name § 3 The Quality of "Post-Civilization".

12. Ibid, § 3.1 Becoming "Post-Civilized"."

13. Christopher Alexander, Sara Ishikawa, Murray Silverstein, with Max Jacobson, Ingrid Fiksdahl-King, Shlomo Angel, A Pattern Language: Towns • Buildings • Construction, Oxford University Press, New York, 1977.

14. Grahn, The Writing on the Wall #5: "Don't Take Any Wooden Nickels" § 3.2.2 The Principle of Repeating Patterns.

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