Fact Check

Does This Video Show a 'Perpetual' Marble Machine?

In this house, we obey the laws of thermodynamics!

Published May 16, 2022

Image courtesy of YouTube
A video shows a marble machine in "perpetual" motion.

While this is authentic footage of a genuine product, the "perpetual" marble machine does not operate infinitely without an additional energy source. Rather, it uses batteries and a magnet to create the illusion that marbles can perpetually move through the contraption.

Fact Check

In May 2022, a video supposedly showing a marble machine in "perpetual" motion was shared to the "Be Amazed" section of Reddit. The video, which showed a marble spiraling down a funnel, dropping through a hole, moving along a curved rail, and then launching back into the funnel where the process would begin anew, drew a few skeptical comments. After all, a perpetual-motion machine is impossible, as it would break at least one of the first two laws of thermodynamics.

Our first inclination when we saw this video was that its creators used digital animation. We've encountered several similar seemingly "impossible" videos featuring colored ball sorters and musical marbles that used computer-generated technology. The latest video supposedly depicting the "perpetual" marble machine, however, was authentic footage and featured a physical product.

But a perpetual-motion machine? No, this sample gadget did not upend our understanding of the world. Rather, batteries and a magnet created the illusion that the marble could perpetually move through the contraption.

These marble machines were available for purchase, as of this writing. We found several versions of the product on Amazon and Etsy. You can search for "perpetual marble machine" if you'd like to buy one for yourself.

Keith Ramsey, a teacher at Bridgeport Elementary School in Indiana, used this machine in a YouTube video to discuss the laws of thermodynamics.

Ramsey says:

A perpetual motion machine is a machine that keeps on going without any energy loss. Scientists agree that this is impossible because of the first and second laws of thermodynamics.

The first law of thermodynamics is the law of conservation of energy, which simply states that energy cannot be created or destroyed, but rather is transferred. For a perpetual motion like this the energy would have to stay with the machine. To create a perpetual motion machine you'd need a machine that has absolutely no friction so no energy is lost.


Jessie. “Perpetual Motion Machines: Working Against Physical Laws.” Livescience.Com, 31 Aug. 2016, https://www.livescience.com/55944-perpetual-motion-machines.html.

“Thermodynamics - Definition, Equations, Laws, Meaning, Formulas | Basics of Thermodynamics.” BYJUS, https://byjus.com/physics/thermodynamics/. Accessed 13 May 2022.

When a Physics Teacher Knows His Stuff !! www.youtube.com, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=77ZF50ve6rs. Accessed 13 May 2022.

Dan Evon is a former writer for Snopes.