Before you can understand the workings of Maillardet's Automaton, you will need to know a bit about movement. Everything around you is moving. In fact, YOU are rotating with the Earth this very minute! All movement is governed by certain mechanical principles. Learning about these mechanical principles will help you understand mechanical movement.

Sir Isaac Newton was a great English scientist who was the first to explain the laws of gravity. A legend says he made his discovery as he saw an apple fall from a tree. Newton put forth a variety of laws which explain why objects move (or don't move) as they do. These three laws have become known as Newton's Laws of Motion.

Newton's First Law of Motion can be stated as:

"An object at rest tends to stay at rest and an object in motion tends to stay in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless some force interferes with its motion."

Basically this means that any moving object will continue in a straight line and at the same speed unless some force interferes with its motion.

As an example, if you leave your socks on the floor when you go to bed at night, they will still be in the same spot in the morning unless an outside force moves them. This also means that when you kick a soccer ball it will continue moving until it hits something. However, in reality the ball will slow to a stop even if it does not hit anything because of the friction between the ball and the ground drains its energy.

Newton's Second Law can be stated as:

"The greater the force, the greater the acceleration."

The second law says it is easier to push the empty cardboard box your
refrigerator came in than the refrigerator.

The mathematical formula for Newton's Second Law says that force is equal to mass times acceleration.

This formula is useful because it tells the exact relationship between the different quantities. For example, if you double the amount of mass, it will take twice the force to give it the same acceleration. If any of the two quantities in the formula are known, the other can be figured out..

Mass is often confused with weight. Mass is the resistance to being accelerated and weight is the force of the earth's gravity pulling on an object.

Acceleration is produced when a force acts on a mass. The greater the mass the greater the amount of force needed (to accelerate the object). In other words, a force acting on a moving object will speed it up, slow it down, or change the direction in which it is moving. A force can also cause an object at rest to start moving.

Newton's Third Law can be stated as:

"For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction."

So, if an object is pushed or pulled, it will push or pull equally in the opposite direction. For example, a car has four wheels which spin backwards. As the wheels spin backwards, they push the road backwards. In turn, the road reacts by pushing the wheels forward. The size of the force on the road equals the size of the force on the car's wheels; the direction of the force on the road (downwards) is opposite the direction of the force on the wheels (upwards). For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Action-reaction force pairs make it possible for your car to move.

This section offers a very brief introduction to some of the principles of mechanics. For an in-depth study of Newton's Laws and motion it is suggested that you visit some of the excellent educational sites listed in the "Internet Links of Interest" section of this piece.