Apparatus vs Machine

Oh where to start!  How about the dictionary!

Citing a few different reputable dictionaries:

  1. a set of materials or equipment designed for a particular use
  2. a group or combination of instruments, machinery, tools, materials, etc., having a particular function or intended for a specific use

Now the definition of a machine is not as straightforward!
According to these same dictionaries:

ma·chine :
  1. an apparatus consisting of interrelated parts with separate functions, used in the performance of some kind of work: a sewing machine.
  2. an assemblage of parts that transmit forces, motion, and energy one to another in a predetermined manner (2) :an instrument (as a lever) designed to transmit or modify the application of power, force, or motion
  3. a system or device for doing work together with its power source and auxiliary equipment.

It’s interesting that the first definition actually uses the word “apparatus” in it.  The second is getting closer to the scientific definition, but does not differentiate between the types of machines.

In physics there are 6 simple machines and everything else is a combination of these 6. Therefore,

Simple machine:
  1. A simple device…that alters the magnitude or direction, or both, of an applied force. Take note that a machine CANNOT alter the magnitude AND direction of an applied force simultaneously.

There are six simple machines:

  • Lever
  • Wheel and Axle
  • Pulley
  • Inclined Plane
  • Wedge
  • Screw
Moreover, any combination of these 6 simple machines is thus innately a complex machine which can be defined as

Complex machine:
  1. a device that helps make work easier to perform by accomplishing one or more of the following functions:

  • transferring a force from one place to another,
  • changing the direction of a force,
  • increasing the magnitude of a force, or
  • increasing the distance or speed of a force.

Great! Now we have yet ANOTHER word to define….what the H…E…double hockey sticks is “work”?

  1. the transference of energy that is produced by the motion of the point of application of a force and is measured by multiplying the force and the displacement of its point of application in the line of action

Excuse me? You might say. Were I just speaking English? Yeah, yeah, I know this is why people hate physics! And why I LOVE IT J

That long winded definition is really just trying to say that work is defined as the force required to move an object over a distance in the same direction as that force, or how much effort you need to exert to push a 100 pound box across a room.

                Work = Force x Distance

Oh snap there I go again….what’s a force?? Simply put (because after all this is a Pilates blog not a physics lesson!!) is any push or pull on an object, or

                Force = Mass x Acceleration

I’ll assume that if you’ve ever been in a moving vehicle you know what acceleration is.

And this is where the definitions stop – well let’s hope so!

So we’ve defined an apparatus, a machine, work, force and acceleration….let’s leave one “P” word behind for a minute or two and move onto the other (Pilates – for all of you keeping score).

So, what was I here to talk about again?!? Oh right, Machine vs. Apparatus. Sorry, I can get carried away when I talk science.

So an apparatus is a group of equipment intended for a specific use, and a machine is a device that has parts with different jobs used to make work easier, and work is moving an object over a distance.

For me this begs the following questions:
  1. Is there work in Pilates? – some exercises yes, most, probably not.
  2. Are the Pilates devices intended to make “the work” easier?

Then of course this brings me to another tangent – did Joe call Contrology “the work” or did that come after him? Another day, another post…

And, mind you it’s not as easy as you might think to determine if work is being done.  Take this quiz and see how well you do.

Is work being done?

  1. A mother carries her baby from room to room.
  2. A woman carries a 20 pound grocery bag to her car?
  3. A mouse pushing a piece of cheese with its nose across the floor
  4. A body builder lifts 350 pounds above his head.
  5. A father pushes a baby in a carriage.
If you answered “yes” to 3, 4, and 5, congratulations, you’d be right! But if you answered “yes” to 1 and 2 you’d be wrong, even though both are traversing a distance there is no force being applied and therefore no work being done!!

So, if the suite of tools that Joe built make the work  done easier, then they should ALL be called machines, but ONLY if, by the strict scientific definition of the word, work is done in the Pilates exercises!

If an exercise is performed on that same suite of tools and no work is done or we don’t know if work is done then by default we MUST call it apparatus!

So this Aerospace Engineer by default calls everything apparatus!

I ask you, where is work performed in the Pilates system? Provide your comments below and let’s start chatting!

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2 comments on “Apparatus vs Machine

  1. Awesome!! I’ve had this same discussion, though not nearly as thoroughly, in the studio in which I am an apprentice. Thank you for this very detailed answer to the question. Going to be sharing it for sure!

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