Jason Koebler over at Motherboard recently highlighted a scientific mystery that may not be solved any time soon.
In the mid-1800s, Robert Walker, a physics professor at the University of Oxford, acquired an interesting device. It was a battery designed to propel a hanging metal ball quickly back and forth, between two small bells. Today, 175 years after it was manufactured, the Oxford Electric Bell, as it is often referred to, is still ringing—in fact, it is said to have rung over 10 billion times.
Built by Watkins and Hill, a London instrument-manufacturing firm and with a note attached in Walker’s own hand reading “Set up in 1840,” the battery would eventually come to be displayed at the University’s Clarendon Laboratory.
How exactly has the apparatus, dubbed the “world’s most durable battery” by the Guiness Book of World Records, functioned for so long? No one knows for sure. That’s because, as Koebler points out, opening the device could potentially “ruin an experiment to see how long it will last.”
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