The characteristics of these batteries are different enough that you'll find lots of claims of "perpetual motion" on the Internet from people who have made them and found how long they can last when powering low-current loads like LEDs!
I'm still impressed totally, but I must say that that factor dampened it a bit for me. If planned obsolescence is really non-existent in that industry one wonders how long a modern low-wattage bulb built for endurance could potentially last.
With normal incandescent lighbulbs, electricity is about 95% of the costs, so if you doubled the lifetime of those bulbs, the most you could save would be about 2.5% of total costs, if the lower operating temperature of long-lasting bulbs didn't increase the electricity needed for the same brightness, which practically means that you probably would pay more overall.
Really depends on the application. For difficult-to-change bulbs (in high or remote locations), longevity can be a significant factor. It's one thing to replace the bulb in a table lamp, another on a remote high tower or deep within an industrial plant in a hostile environment. Or on a spacecraft.
I do not think so. LED on its own sure, but most bulbs also have power converter and other parts prone to failure.
I really doubt there's anywhere in the US where power has run uninterrupted for 100+ years. Even the use of backup generators is fairly modern and those fail or run out of fuel as well.
Neat little thing, but I think back then they hand-wound the filament using much stronger and thicker (and with more resistance) wire than what we use today. Or used, considering that style of lightbulb is more or less dead. Dunno, I'm not impressed by this the same way I am by the pitch experiment or the ever-ringing bell.
But i have no idea how much truth there is to it.
If you buy 130 volt-rated bulbs (120V is typical), they are built to a better standard and can survive exposure to poor quality electric service.
It's one of those things not taken into account by the cargo-cult conversion to CFL and LED -- the electronics in these bulbs are built for good conditions. Try running the newer bulbs for extended periods off of portable generators.
Some smaller cities have municipal electricity that pretty much always works (Holyoke, MA is the one that comes to mind). Even in regional blackouts, there are a few Upstate NY towns that never go out... they can isolate themselves from the grid when necessary, and draw from the grid when they have issues.
I grew up in the boroughs of NYC, and don't recall ever having a power outage in those years. I think it flickered during a hurricane in the 80's, but never actually went out.
Where I live now (Upstate NY), forget it... even after eviscerating the street trees, any significant gust of wind has a probability of taking out power. The state no longer effectively regulates the utilities -- the transformer on my street blew up this past winter, and per the lineman had markings indicating that it was made in the mid 1960s.
But most submissions from Wikipedia to Hacker News, and especially the submissions that are submitted with heavily altered titles, don't gratify anyone's intellectual curiosity so much as raise all kinds of questions about incomplete research or writing in the original underlying Wikipedia article. Here, the description appears to be of a very low-energy system that occasionally halts entirely and may not really be doing anything very remarkable. It's hard to tell how the energy flows or steadiness of motion in this system compare to other electro-mechanical systems that just weren't made quite as long ago, and that weren't judged by such relaxed standards.
 "please use the original title, unless it is misleading or linkbait."
As to every other sentence you wrote: its a community, whatever you think is appropriate is only slightly relevant and even what dang thinks is only slightly more relevant.
This has never "stopped for 174 years"...because that would be too long.
I was very surprised too when I found out about a year ago.
Is there a limit to how much energy can be stored in such a way? It seems like it might be a promising avenue for new battery research, no? Are there major limitations I'm not seeing?
One nanoampere for 100 years is a very small number of amp-hours.
Thermal noise is around a nanovolt per Hz at 50 ohms and room temp (Very roughly) so it would be a trick to use this power level to do much electronically, like generate a measurable radio signal. A much larger battery might be able to power a (edited: continuous) radio beacon.
The "electrostatic" comes from the engineering model where you can pretty much treat it like a magic leyden jar that charges itself. A self charging high voltage capacitor of sorts.
Not as dynamic as one would expect, though.
Edit: Reproduction, easier to see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uKwSHtQwzD8
The world has enough youtube videos of people claiming their homebrew magnet contraption is a perpetual motion machine, one hopes the author is simply trying to stymie that trend.
I for one would like HN to be an inclusive international community, and that means not jumping down people's throats just because their english is not 100%. I'd like to see any of us native english speakers try to submit something to a foreign language site...
Although having said that, my initial thought was the OP had hit return too early and not realised...
The GP's two word comment, while correct, is too reddit for my taste (nothing against reddit - both sites have their place).
"The Oxford Electric Bell does not demonstrate perpetual motion. The bell will eventually stop when the dry piles are depleted of charge"
Yes, and the Earth revolving around the Sun is not perpetual motion, despite the fact that it has been happening for billions of years and will continue to happen for billions more. Score one more for the pendants! :D
I guess the thing that struck me about the perpetual motion line is how unintentionally(?) trollish it was. It invites debate. It would be better to omit it.
It's like a web form that asks your email address followed by "We never ever sell your personal information to anyone!!11!" It raises a question I wasn't even considering and now I'm not sure I trust it! http://goo.gl/PaXG5g
Well, circular motion does not cause any work to be done, so that's not quite the same thing. The earth might continue spinning around the sun forever in a perfect universe, but that still wouldn't violate conservation of energy.
So if motion lasts longer than your lifetime, doesn't it seem like perpetual motion to you? Personally, when I think of perpetual motion, the first thing that comes to mind is using it to power a generator. In that context, if something could produce electricity for decades without being refueled or even attended to, aren't we moving toward and/or operating with a realm that feels like perpetual motion--even if it is only from our self centered point of view? Granted, this is sort of like if someone is in your field of view and then steps behind a tree that obscures your view of them, you can say they are invisible to you. Though it isn't exactly true to say they have gained the power of invisibility, you labeling them as being invisible is a self centered and relative statement.
So as self centered humans, from our point of view any motion which lasts years or even decades--and could be harnessed--could seem sort "effectively perpetual" to us, even though it is nowhere near actually perpetual.
(Yes, this theory ignores that fact that that generator's output would indeed be ridiculously low, probably close to unmeasurable--the important part is that if we have motion, we assume we can generate electricity. And yes, even if you could make this happen, it may take thousands or even millions of these together just to power an LED. I was probably prompted of this thought because of this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8hwLHdBTQ7s)
For a similarly long-running process, consider underground coal fires. If a seam of coal is burning, it may take hundreds of years to burn itself out, comparable to the lifetime of the ringing bell. But because it is consuming its fuel in a much more obvious fashion, it's less magical.