Is it because there is infinite potential energy stored in the infinite handkerchief? If that is the source then why do we need to raise lead weights to the height of the clown?

I think the answers to your questions are “Yes” and “You don’t”. The comic is a bit of a miss.

Perhaps there’s an argument that a single lead ball is required to overcome friction and start the handerchiefs falling out of the pocket. Then the weight of the falling column of handkerchiefs should be sufficient to keep them coming; if not the heat loss to pocket friction exceeds the energy gain. But then why show a bunch of lead balls up there.

I agree, this is a “miss”. But I’m amazed at his imagination in producing one of these strips every day, many of them are creative and clever.

Oh … so this has nothing to do with plutonium-248 being super-critical in this situation?

If I’m understanding it correctly, the premise is that the energy gained by dropping the lead ball is only equal to the energy gained by raising the lead ball up to that height. So that energy cancels out.

However, if you attach the infinite chain of handkerchiefs to the lead ball then you can add their mass to the falling weight. So you can lift and drop lead weights as many times as you want. And each time you get a small amount of extra energy from the falling weight of the handkerchiefs. And you never have to lift any handkerchiefs because you have an infinite supply of them once you’ve lifted the clown to the height.

The logical fallacy is that he treated the clown as a finite mass when he raised him up to the ceiling. But then he treated the clown as a source of infinite mass for purposes of dropping weights from the ceiling.

The clown and his handkerchiefs follow the same rules as the lead weights. Whatever you’re dropping, you had to originally lift up. If the clown truly had an infinite chain of handkerchiefs then he weighed an infinite amount and couldn’t be lifted. If the clown and his handkerchiefs could be lifted then he had a finite weight and therefore a finite amount of handkerchiefs. And like the lead weights, all of the energy you’d get out of dropping a finite amount of handkerchiefs would not be greater than the amount of energy you spent lifting them up.

Yes, there’s infinite PE in the handkerchief because it has infinite mass, but the clown, as we all know, is not infinitely heavy. So the clown-hankie system is a source of energy. You need to raise lead weights to start the hankie falling to the ground. It’s a vacuum tower, not an infinitely tall tower, so you need a second/third/etc. weight to continue the process once the first lead ball hits the ground.

What happens when the attachment point reaches the bottom pulley?