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Device that amplifies or replaces human or animal effort to accomplish a physical task. A machine may be further defined as a device consisting of two or more parts that transmit or modify force and motion in order to do work. The five simple machines are the lever, the wedge, the wheel and axle, the pulley, and the screw; all complex machines are combinations of these basic devices. The operation of a machine may involve the transformation of chemical, thermal, electrical, or nuclear energy into mechanical energy, or vice versa. All machines have an input, an output, and a transforming or modifying and transmitting device. Machines that receive their input energy from a natural source (such as air currents, moving water, coal, petroleum, or uranium) and transform it into mechanical energy are known as prime movers; examples include windmills, waterwheels, turbines, steam engines, and internal-combustion engines.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on machine, visit Britannica.com.