The idea of a perpetual motion machine has caught the imaginations of inventors throughout history, despite the accepted laws of physics telling us that such a thing is impossible. There have been many who have claimed to have constructed such a device - some have been self-deluding crackpots, others out-and-out fraudsters, but in every case their efforts have ultimately been exposed as failures.
But such a machine, if it were possible, would have a profound impact and it is for this reason that the search goes on, pursued both by professional, fully-funded teams working with the latest equipment and facilities, and by lunatic amateurs pottering away in their garages and garden sheds with bits of string, bicycle wheels and rusty old tins.
Firmly inhabiting this latter category is Herman Gland, who has been working on the problem for more than twenty years. Mr Gland, however, is coming at the matter from a novel direction. He reasons that if it is possible to make a perpetual motion machine - a device which will continue to operate indefinitely without any input of energy - then it follows that it is equally possible to build a perpetual stasis machine - a device which remains static no matter how much energy you put into it.
Gland's initial attempts to build such a machine were understandably basic. He began by nailing a grapefruit to a post, but found that it was ridiculously easy to dislodge. He then tried supergluing a Mars bar to a table leg. This set-up proved slightly more resilient but ultimately no match for the dog, which ate it when Gland popped out to put the kettle on.
Of Gland's early experiments, the most successful was when he left his car parked in a neighbouring alleyway. It stayed there, motionless, for just over eight months before the council finally came to tow it away, which was impressive but still fell some way short of the most commonly accepted definition of 'perpetual'.
In more recent years, Gland has experimented with more sophisticated techniques and has invested in powerful magnets, advanced superconductors and a laser pointer that he bought on eBay. All this was a lot of fun, although essentially pointless.
But now Herman Gland believes that he has accidentally stumbled across the real deal after spotting a broken washing machine dumped in the front garden of the house opposite. The appliance has been there for over a year now, without anyone making any attempt to move it, and Gland firmly believes that it will remain where it is indefinitely.