The perpetual motion, gaming and dreaming machine

by Daniel Mongelard

Blaise Pascal, a seventeenth century physicist, mathematician, and inventor, wanted to create a machine of perpetual movement that would defy the first and second law of thermodynamics. The first law states that energy cannot be created or destroyed in an isolated system. The second law states that the entropy (the measure of thermal energy unavailable for work) of any isolated system always increases. He wanted to invent a machine that continues to operate without drawing energy from an external force. Blaise Pascal failed but the roulette wheel was invented.

The game has been played in its present form as early as 1796 in Paris. The Roulette game is mentioned in a regulation document for Nouvelle France  (Quebec) in 1758 to ban the game. The roulette wheel invented by Pascal remained the same for centuries. But in 1842, François Blanc build a roulette wheel with an added single zero to it for Charles III of Monaco, to give the house a bigger advantage. The new wheel generated great income for the Monaco kingdom when it was added to newly built casino.

In 2012, Michael Small and Chi Kong Tse wrote a scientific article in Chaos journal to provide a very simple model for the motion of a roulette wheel and ball and demonstrate that knowledge of initial position, velocity and acceleration is sufficient to predict the outcome with adequate certainty to achieve a positive expected return. However, this model requires electronic devices (cameras) that are forbidden in casinos.

However, the most crucial scientific outcome of the game came centuries earlier when Chevalier De Mire, a friend of Blaise Pascal, asked him a question about gambling. Blaise Pascal created a formula to calculate the probability of two people winning and pursued his work to construct the probability theory we still use today in modern mathematics.