Is a magnetic engine a real possibility?

This thread reminded me that when I was a kid, my dad spent many hours talking to me about his ideas for a magnetic engine. He would do drawings and talk about the practical problems. I seem to recall that the his idea of the most difficult problem to surmount would be the cooling of the magnet. Unfortunately he never had the money or space to build one to see if it actually worked before he died.

Reading the thread on electric cars, it made me wonder if Dad had something there?

(Hijacking my own OP, I have to take a minute to tell you about my dad. He was from an extremely poor family and dropped out of high school around 1931 because the kids there made fun of his one outfit of clothing. The principal offered to buy him clothes for school if he would stay, but he was too proud. He served in the CCC for a couple of years, and then started working as a mechanic, which he continued to do for the rest of his career. He married my mom, had 11 kids and a huge problem with alcohol, which he eventually conquered but unfortunately not until a couple of years before he died of cancer when he was 65.

The stories and designs he told me of were often told on nights when we kids took turns sitting up with him to make sure he didn’t pass out drunk with a lit cigarette in his hand. One thing I remember him telling me was that he had had an idea for an engine that someone had built and patented later on (I am not of a mechanical mind, I want to say the internal combustion engine but I honestly don’t know if that’s correct or predates him). He wasn’t angry about it; just frustrated that he didn’t have the resources to build what he could ‘see’ in his mind.

Being a kid, I took his ramblings as the gospel truth. Later, I grew skeptical of the things he told me, wondering if they could really be true. But one thing really sticks with me and makes me wonder if he was on the level - after my mom died and we sorted out the house, we found pencil drawings of a videotape, with written explanations of how it would work. The papers we found them with were things that dated from the late '60s - early '70s. Dad couldn’t have seen one - he died in 1981, before our town even had cable and several years before VCRs came into our lives. It made me think twice about all the other things he told me.

Sorry for the hijack, but it seemed like the place to tell my dad’s story - to the other smartest group of people I ever knew.)

How is a “magnetic engine” different from an “electric motor”?

The only thing I remember is that it was to be powered by a large magnet. I am as I said not a mechanical person, it was usually well after the bars closed, and I was about 10 years old. It might well be that they are the same thing and I look like an idiot. Oh well, so be it.

There is no “Energy” in a permanent magnet, just like there is no energy in a gravitational field. In other words, you can set up a situation where two magnets attract each other and generate energy, but you need to put at least enough energy into the system in the first place. Look up “Steorn” or “Orbo”

If you are thinking of an engine made up entirely of a clever arrangement of magnets with no outside power supplied, the answer is no. Magnetic forces are conservative - there’s no way to generate net positive energy this way. The only way this could work would be if the magnets themselves were consumed in the process, becoming weaker as the engine run, and even then the energy you got out of the motor would be less than that which it took to manufacture the magnets.

Thank you; question answered!

I’m sorry to rain on your parade, but you’re mistaken if you believe it’s impossible for your father to have seen a video cassette machine by the time of the late 60’s or early 70’s. The original invention was marketed (according to this Wikipedia article) in 1956, but because of cost it was only something that television stations and studios used.

By the late sixties there were a couple of high end consumer video cassette machines on the market. But at $1000 an unit, and considering the way that even after the successful marketing of the videocassette machines in the late 70s and 80s the studios still fought allowing privately owned copies of movies to circulate, I can’t imagine they’d have been very popular.

But, alas, simply because something is rare, doesn’t mean it’s impossible for your father to have seen examples by the time you’re mentioning. It is not impossible that he came up with his drawings on his own, based on his own inspiration, or based on only a discussion of what was currently in use. But while such rediscoveries are possible, they’re pretty rare.

Thanks for the responses. My ignorance of these things has been successfully fought.