Respectful Insolence

Here we go again.

After falling for such claims enough times, you’d think that journalists would go back to the physics textbooks and read up on the basics, you know, like the Three Laws of Thermodynamics. You’d especially think that a techy website like Engadget would know better than to hype this stuff without a bit more of the appropriate level of skepticism.

You’d be wrong.

Here we go, after months of doubt over claims of a magnetic machine promising “infinite clean energy,” Steorn will be putting their wares on display for public scrutiny in London. A physics defying perpetual machine, if you will. Starting tomorrow, rumor has it that the Kinetica museum will host the Orbo device for a ten day long public demonstration of the technology. We’re expecting a formal announcement at 6pm 11pm London (1pm 6pm New York). iPhone shmiPhone, this is going to be good.

This all began last August with a bold “challenge” by Steorn to scientists to “disprove” their technology:

An Irish technology company today challenged the global scientific community to test its “free-energy” technology.

Dublin-based Steorn said its technology based on the interaction of magnetic fields allows the production of clean, free and constant energy, challenging a fundamental scientific principle that you cannot destroy or create energy.

Sean McCarthy, chief executive of Steorn, has placed an advertisement in the Economist seeking the world’s leading scientists working in the field of experimental physics to examine the technology.

“We are under no illusions that there will be a lot of cynicism out there about our proposition, as it challenges one of the basic principles of physics,” he said.

“However, the implications of our technology go far beyond scientific curiosity; it addresses many urgent global needs including security of energy supply and zero emission energy production.”

At the time Engadget was a lot more skeptical of Steorn’s claims:

If it’s the real deal then after all the congratulations are all over and we’ve reevaluated the fundamental underpinnings of physics as we know it, perhaps all humanity’s energy ailments are finally going to come to a close. But the chances it could be a large PR hoax toying with our desperate need to revamp our global energy situation? Well, let’s just hope Steorn proves us all wrong and changes science forever.

What are the odds that this is the “real deal”? Slim and none? Yes, that’d be my guess. Let’s take a look at the checklist of some hallmarks of pseudoscience. Let’s see… A claim that violates the laws of known science (i.e., a device that produces more energy than it consumes)? Check. Take a look:

Steorn is making three claims for its technology:

  1. The technology has a coefficient of performance greater than 100%.
  2. The operation of the technology (i.e. the creation of energy) is not derived from the degradation of its component parts.
  3. There is no identifiable environmental source of the energy (as might be witnessed by a cooling of ambient air temperature).

The sum of these claims is that the technology creates free energy.

This represents a significant challenge to current understanding of the universe and clearly such claims require independent validation from credible third parties.

Yikes! If this were really the case, why not just publish the results in Nature or Science? After all, if it’s true, this sort of “technology” would indeed overturn the laws of physics as we presently understand them!

Let’s see. What’s next? Circumventing the process of scientific peer review and publication and pitching the device directly to the credulous media and to the public, starting with an ad campaign? Check:

During 2005 Steorn embarked on a process of independent validation and approached a wide selection of academic institutions. The vast majority of these institutions refused to even look at the technology, however several did. Those who were prepared to complete testing are claimed (by Steorn) to have all confirmed the company’s claims; however none will publicly go on record.

In early 2006 Steorn decided to seek validation from the scientific community in a more public forum, and as a result have published the challenge in The Economist. The company is seeking a jury of twelve qualified experimental physicists to define the tests required, the test centres to be used, monitor the analysis and then publish the results.

Steorn decided to publish its challenge in The Economist because of the breadth of its readership. “We chose it over a purely scientific magazine simply because we want to make the general public aware that this process is about to commence and to generate public support, awareness, interest etc for what we are doing.”

Sean McCarthy, CEO of Steorn, commented: “During the years of its development, our technology has been validated by various independent scientists and engineers. We are now seeking twelve of the most qualified and most cynical from the world’s scientific community to form an independent jury, test the technology in independent laboratories and publish their findings.

My skeptical antennae always start twitching when an inventor starts invoking a seemingly legal, rather than scientific, model for “proving” that his invention works. After all, why twelve scientists? Why not ten? Or fifteen? The number twelve was clearly chosen because it’s the number in a jury. I also love it when claims are made that “independent” scientists or university research groups have “confirmed” the inventor’s claims but none of those scientists or university research groups are willing to go on record saying that the device works. I wonder why. It must be that nasty conspiracy by the oil, coal, and natural gas companies whose livelihoods would be threatened by the Orbo. Yes, that’s definitely it. One last thought: How can such a “jury” be independent if they are chosen by Steorn? They can’t:

We now know that of the 5,000 applicants for the jury, just under a 1000 were qualified to participate. Of these, only 22 experts had the scientific know-how (and, free time) to assess the technology — testing which seems both under way and about to begin depending upon how you interpret the release. Nevertheless, in July Steorn will host a public demonstration of the technology in London. The event will allow anyone to “pretty much get hands-on with who we are and what the technology does.” Fortunately, it will also be broadcast live across the Intertubes.

Unbelievable. At least they expanded their “jury” to 22 scientists. Actually, if you really want to prove your technology, let someone else pick the panel of scientists to evaluate the claims. Heck, let the oil companies pick them! Convincing scientists predisposed to be hostile to your claims is far more powerful than using a hand-picked bunch of scientists. Or, they could take the advice of Mark over at Calladus and just hook up the device at MIT surrounded by a bunch of engineers and have it do some work or generate a current in such a way that it can be verified that there is no input of energy. Or, better still, this seems like just the sort of thing for the Randi challenge, with the added advantage that Steorn could rake in a million bucks to keep funding its research effort if it could convince James Randi. Steorn already has a major media presence, at least in the U.K.; so I would think that it could apply right to the James Randi Educational Foundation without validating its device to any middlemen first. In fact, Randi has stated that he’d be happy to award his million dollar prize to Steorn if it could prove its device produces more energy than it uses.

Let’s see, now. What’s next in the pseudoscience parade? Ah, yes, a science-y sounding “mechanism” by which it supposedly works. Check:

Orbo is based upon the principle of time variant magneto-mechanical interactions. The core output from our Orbo technology is mechanical. This mechanical energy can be converted into electrical energy using standard generator technology either by integrating such technology directly with Orbo or by connecting the mechanical output from Orbo to the generation technology. The efficiency of such mechanical/electrical conversions is highly dependent on the components used and is also a function of size.

And:

McCarthy explained to Silicon Republic that Orbo technology works on the basis that occurrences in magnetic fields do not happen instantaneously, and are therefore not subject to time in the way that, say, gravity is.

This time variance allows the Orbo platform to generate and consistently produce power, going against the law of conservation of energy which states that energy cannot be created or destroyed.

“This is as big a claim as you can possibly make in the world of technology and science,” said McCarthy.

And, from a video that appears to be no longer on the Steorn website but is described by Mark at Calladus:

So far, Steorn has indicated no peer-reviewed works, and has shown no photos or video of their device. They have given very little in the way of theory. The only hint of how this device works is from a film that can be downloaded from their website, or from Google Video. From that film, we see the following graphic while McCarthy says,

“The technology is the ability to construct certain magnetic fields that when you travel around the magnetic fields, starting and stopping at the same position you’ve suffered a net gain of energy. Quite simply the analogy would be, you know, you walked to the top of the hill and you walked back down to the bottom of the hill and in doing that you gained energy; and it really is that simplistic.”

Nice. Too bad he forgot that you have to use energy to get to the top of that hill. Geez, I’m just a dumb surgeon and even I know that! I am, however, duly impressed by the time-variant magneto-mechanical interactions. Not bad woo, although, quite frankly, I can write more convincing-sounding woo than this.

Let’s see. There’s one more thing: a public demonstration. Oddly enough, instead of choosing to do it at a museum or a science laboratory, Steorn chose to do it at a museum that doesn’t seem to be primarily dedicated to science and technology, namely the Kinetica Museum in London. This, as you may have heard, was scheduled for 6 PM EDST yesterday (11 PM London time). Why they chose 6 PM on a U.S. National Holiday (and 11 PM in London on a weeknight), where the demonstration is not likely to be seen by a lot of people, I don’t know.

Actually, I suspect that I do know.

So what happened yesterday at 6 PM EDST at this big public demonstration? Was our world shattered? Was the most bedrock law of physics placed in doubt? Do we now have a potentially endless energy supply? Can we tell Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, and the rest of OPEC to go screw themselves? In other words, did the device (a “prototype” of which is pictured in the YouTube video below, which was posted in February) deliver?

Well, not exactly. Steorn canceled postponed the demonstration, citing “slight technical difficulties.”

I’ll bet. Anyone want to make any bets over whether the Orbo demonstration goes off today as they now claim that it will?

Basically, although it’d be a wonderful thing if the Orbo worked the way that Steorn claims it does and generates more energy than it consumes, there’s just no way it’s going to. I don’t know if Steorn is a bunch of deluded inventors or scammers. They do seem to believe in what they’re doing, but in that case they would simply be cranks rather than dishonest. Still, if any of their scientific knowledge and abilities have survived, they must know, in their heart of hearts, that you can’t get something for nothing, that a free energy machine can’t work. The energy has to come from somewhere. In fact, I’m so confident of this that I autoscheduled this post to appear around the same time I’ll be starting in the operating room, which in London will be early afternoon.

I highly doubt that Steorn will have pulled off a successful demonstration by then. In fact, I’m betting on it, as I’ll have a lot of egg on my face if it does.

Comments

  1. #1 Joseph
    July 5, 2007

    It appears there’s an enviornmental source of the energy (contradicting their claim # 3): the Earth’s rotation.

  2. #2 Ginger Yellow
    July 5, 2007

    You’re misreading that Engadget piece. There’s a healthy dose of irony involved, as is clear from the updates.

  3. #3 Rob
    July 5, 2007

    According to Steorn: “We are experiencing some technical difficulties with the demo unit in London. Our initial assessment indicates that this is probably due to the intense heat from the camera lighting.”
    Riiiight. I predict the problem with “heat from the camera lights” means the demonstration will go ahead, but in the dark, thereby making it oddly difficult for anyone to see what’s really happening.

  4. #4 Dougie
    July 5, 2007

    I’ve followed this since they first broke with the ad The Economist. Obviously I’m as sceptical as the rest of the world (or the rest of the sane world at any rate), but this is a curious case. They’re not seeking money, they’re not accepting offers of investment and if they’re seeking fame well that will obviously be short lived and will send them crashing in a hurry and in a big way. I’ve just struggled to find a reason why they’d be doing this? A lot about it seems extremely suss, but I still can’t come up with one apart from that they honestly believe they have something. In which case – all power to them. They’re not hurting anybody by displaying this and attempting to have it validated (even if they choose to do it in a suspicious way). No one is being conned out of their hard earned dollars. The only losers here will be the people who have put their names to this. So go for it I say. I really don’t see why they deserve such bitter vitriol directed at them? Why do people get so worked up? If this turns out to be a marketing scam of some sort, then by all means we have a right to be angry. ..if they honestly believe they have something and are proven wrong – no harm done?

  5. #5 TK_M
    July 5, 2007

    I am no expert on this particular device, but don’t they claim that it is getting more energy than is put into it, because the difference is made up from the Earth’s rotational energy?

    I think the reason they circumvent peer-review, is that peer-review just sees this as “over-unity” so doesn’t take them seriously. This must be intolerably frustrating for anyone that believes they have discovered something previously overlooked.

    This is the way conspiracy theories are born and is BAD SCIENCE. Good science is not just saying something is wrong – But explaining WHY something is wrong. When someone comes up with something intriguing, we shouldn’t just shun them, but look at what they are saying, understanding what they are doing (or are trying to do) and then explaining why it is wrong.

    Scientist can and are taken in by social-manuipulators like magicians – I wholeheartedly support the Randi Foundation and will treat any findings with extream suspicion without his help on this.

    Try seeing this from their point of view for a moment – They probably find the peer-reviewed channels closed to them, so they think scientists are all closed-minded. Heaven knows, I’ve come across this myself where respectable scientists have denied something I’ve said, only for me to be proved right as I’ve read the more recent research where the existing theories had been proved wrong.

    So they see this as a closed avenue to them, yet are risking their own money to publicise something, either because they are so believing in their discovery, or the more cynical might suspect ther are just after investors. I personally tend to believe they genuinely believe they have found something new, yet are being frustrated at not being able to get the scientific community to look at what they have and at least explain why it is not what they believe it is.

  6. #6 Zeno
    July 5, 2007

    You’re not being fair to Steorn, Orac. They have a really nifty looking web site. It’s professional and slick. How could they be fake if they have a really nifty looking web site? It seems unfair to quibble about trivialities like the laws of physics when they have such a nice web site. (And at least their web site does not appear to have technical difficulties.)

    P.S.: For Dougie, from Steorn’s nifty web site: “Under the terms of a modified general public licence and for a nominal fee, Steorn’s intellectual property will be made available concurrently to all interested parties, from individual enthusiasts to larger research organisations.” What’s “nominal” and how does that conform with “not seeking money”?

  7. #7 wolfwalker
    July 5, 2007

    I agree with Dougie: cui bono? Everything about this screams “fraud!” except the one thing: as far as I can see, they don’t stand to gain anything from a con. Steorn is privately owned, no public stock. They’ve suspended fundraising for the duration. Any attempt to make money off a phony ‘invention’ is fraud, and companies can be prosecuted for fraud as easily as individuals can.

    I also agree with TK_M about his (her?) suggested motive behind their tactics. Perpetual-motion machines are universally condemned as woo — so much so that most scientists and most countries’ patent offices won’t even look at them anymore. At the same time, a perpetual motion machine that really works would make the fortunes of every person in the company, and get their names in the history books from now til doomsday. I can easily see Steorn resorting to this methodology after trying the conventional channels and getting laughed out of the building.

    I’m 99.99% certain that it isn’t what they think it is, but at the same time I’m intensely curious to see what sort of oddball uses-energy-although-it-doesn’t-look-like-it gadgetry could manage to deceive so many trained and intelligent people.

  8. #8 John Marley
    July 5, 2007

    from Dougie:

    I really don’t see why they deserve such bitter vitriol directed at them? Why do people get so worked up?

    What ‘bitter vitriol’?

    All that Orac (and James Randi) have done is state that we’ve all seen this stuff before, and it’s always nonsense.

    Orac even said that he thinks it would be wonderful if it were true, but he (and most of the rest of us) know that it isn’t.

    He also said that they seem to belive their claims, and are most likely cranks rather than dishonest.

    No one here is angry about this, except maybe you.

  9. #9 Romeo Vitell
    July 5, 2007

    Why is it up to the scientific community to test this amazing new idea? As the ones making the claim, the burden of proof is on them. Not to mention the fact that peer review is hardly closed to them. All they have to do is persuade even one real physicist of their achievement and submit it to any of the major scientific journals. Even the cold fusion boys managed that and they weren’t physicists either. The fact that they cry ‘conspiracy’ and advertise directly to the Economist is not a mark in their favour.

  10. #10 Chris
    July 5, 2007

    Why does the title of this post sound disturbingly like a creed?

    Anything, up to and including 1LOT, is subject to revision if the evidence is good enough.

    I’m 99% sure that the device doesn’t work the way they say they think it does. But even major laws of physics are revised once every couple centuries.

    They are probably wrong, or maybe frauds. There are hundreds of cranks and frauds for every genuine scientific revolution, and there’s nothing wrong with playing the odds. But to dismiss them without looking at the evidence would be the antithesis of science.

  11. #11 Dunc
    July 5, 2007

    At the same time, a perpetual motion machine that really works would make the fortunes of every person in the company, and get their names in the history books from now til doomsday.

    That’s understating it a little – a perpetual motion machine that really works would completely overturn pretty much everything we know about physics, and completely revolutionise, well, just about everything.

    People have been making these types of claims for at least a couple of hundred years. So far, every single one of them has been total bunk, and many (most?) of them have involved some degree of outright fraud.

    As for not being able to get published… Pah, I say. Remember cold fusion? That was equally paradigm-busting, and they got published. Not only did they get published, but many major research institutions immediately put together teams to try and replicate their results. I suspect the most likely reason they can’t get published is because their machine doesn’t work.

    I’d bet on dishonest. Somehow, somebody, somewhere, is making money off this.

    as far as I can see, they don’t stand to gain anything from a con

    Ah, but that is the hallmark of all the best cons – you can’t see how the conman is going to benefit until it’s too late.

  12. #12 Mike Saelim
    July 5, 2007

    “McCarthy explained to Silicon Republic that Orbo technology works on the basis that occurrences in magnetic fields do not happen instantaneously, and are therefore not subject to time in the way that, say, gravity is.”

    If he is referencing that electromagnetic interactions are propagated only at the speed of light, he’s definitely denying that gravitational interactions also propagate at the speed of light.

    Sad.

  13. #13 Calladus
    July 5, 2007

    Perpetual Motion has been tested over and over again. Yes, the very next test could prove perpetual motion – but it has always failed before.

    Scientists are tired of being told that it will work “next time”. Perpetual Motion believers can put those guys in their place just by creating an astonishingly powerful display. Excuse me for not holding my breath – the perpetual motion track record to date has been… insufficient.

    As for Steorn being on the up and up just because they are not currently asking for investor money – to me that just sounds like an elaborate Confidence Scam. They’re softening up a mark for future rewards. And we don’t know who the mark is! Perhaps their mark isn’t public investors, but some pigeon that they already have on the line.

    This is assuming that they are just fraudulent, and not personally deluded. But just because they are deluded now doesn’t mean that they will admit to it later – they’ve created a cult-like environment and are holding the tail of the perpetual motion tiger. Letting go of it could be disastrous to McCarthy and Steorn.

    Heinlein’s words of wisdom apply here: TANSTAAFL – There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.

  14. #14 Ben M
    July 5, 2007

    The difference is made up from Earth’s rotational energy? In that case, rather than violating Conservation of Energy, they’re just violating Conservation of Angular Momentum. Great.

  15. #15 wolfwalker
    July 5, 2007

    Remember cold fusion? That was equally paradigm-busting, and they got published.

    Uh, no they didn’t. IIRC, that’s one big reason why most scientists I know were skeptical of Pons and Fleischmann from the start: they didn’t submit their claim for publication or peer-review, they announced it at a flippin’ press conference and then refused to give details of their apparatus so that others could check their findings.

  16. #16 Science Avenger
    July 5, 2007

    Fools, they should go public with the stock offering now, before the damned test. That way they can get rich off the sales first…and I can get rich shorting it.

  17. #17 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    July 5, 2007

    Why does the title of this post sound disturbingly like a creed?

    Anything, up to and including 1LOT, is subject to revision if the evidence is good enough.

    I’m 99% sure that the device doesn’t work the way they say they think it does. But even major laws of physics are revised once every couple centuries.

    They are probably wrong, or maybe frauds. There are hundreds of cranks and frauds for every genuine scientific revolution, and there’s nothing wrong with playing the odds. But to dismiss them without looking at the evidence would be the antithesis of science.

    There needs to be some evidence first. The history of these types of claims is that they are 100% bogus. Being skeptical of yet another perpetual motion machine is perfectly logical and sound science. Once the evidence is produced (if it ever is) then that can be assessed for validity. As of yet he has produced nothing to be reviewed on its merits. Just lots of talk and some distraction. Classic crankery.

  18. #18 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    July 5, 2007

    ugh. Sorry about the poorly closed blockquote tag. I seem to be good at that.

    quote should end at …”would be the antithesis of science”

  19. #19 horrendo
    July 5, 2007

    Like most of you I’m extremely doubtful of the claims that have been made, however with no clear description of how this device works it’s impossible to judge. I suspect if it were to work, it would merely be a way of extracting energy from the Earth’s magnetic field (conversion NOT creation of energy). This would be harmless enough on a small scale, but if done on a global scale it could cause some rather undesirable side effects, such as exposing us to greater levels of cosmic radiation and cooling of the Earth’s core. After all our global energy requirements are quite large already, and it would seem they consider this device an excuse to waste energy on any old frivolity! No doubt this is never going to be an issue since hot lights are enough to prevent it’s function and the sun’s a pretty hot light.

  20. #20 rrt
    July 5, 2007

    As others are pointing out, regarding the “gee, they aren’t asking for money” angle: Wait for it. Even if these guys are True Believers, they will need to ask someone somewhere for money to continue their “research” unless the inventor is wealthy. There’s a good chance they’ve already bilked some private investor or investors just to get this far.

    As for the suggestion that if they truly are wasting only their own fortunes, there’s no harm done: Poppycock. Again, giving Steorn the benefit of the doubt by assuming them to be True Believers (which I strongly doubt), their entire effort sets a bad example to an already scientifically undereducated public of the scientific method and scientific discourse and debate. This is not how you do science. This is not how you present a new idea such as this and seek to earn its acceptance. It’s exactly how you do a con, however, which is why we route legitimate ideas through the scientific method in the first place.

  21. #21 Calladus
    July 5, 2007

    I suspect if it were to work, it would merely be a way of extracting energy from the Earth’s magnetic field (conversion NOT creation of energy).

    Maybe the Free Energy crowd will next “invent” a way to transform Global Warming into free energy. You could get all kinds of investors from that.

    Of course, if it worked we would find ourselves living in Larry Niven’s book “Fallen Angels”

  22. #22 mark
    July 5, 2007

    Maybe the demonstration did not work because Uri Geller got distracted.
    What would be the consequences of a perpetual-motion machine on the angular momentum of the Earth, the solar system, the galaxy? If the machine worked, and a few million were produced and started running, how would that affect the cosmos?
    Check out this site for a deeper understanding of Sympathetic Vibratory Physics.

  23. #23 wolfwalker
    July 5, 2007

    rrt, a question, if you don’t mind:

    Hypothetical: You’re a research physicist with a bunch of ongoing projects. Someone comes to you and says “hey, something weird happened in my research, and now I think I have a perpetual motion machine. Will you look at it and help me figure out what’s going on?”

    Would you:

    a) agree and put it at the top of your to-do list, ahead of all those existing contracts?

    b) agree and put it at the bottom of your to-do list, at such low priority that it never gets up the queue to the top?

    c) tell him to go pound sand, because you already know that perpetual motion machines are impossible?

    Note that in only one of the three scenarios does he get you (or anybody) to look at his device. And I think you’ll agree that it’s the least likely of the three.

  24. #24 Calladus
    July 5, 2007

    Are those the only choices we get wolfwalker? What a dilemma.

  25. #25 Joe
    July 5, 2007

    @Wolfwalker “Remember cold fusion? That was equally paradigm-busting, and they got published.

    Uh, no they didn’t. IIRC, that’s one big reason why most scientists I know were skeptical of Pons and Fleischmann from the start: they didn’t submit their claim for publication or peer-review, they announced it at a flippin’ press conference and then refused to give details of their apparatus so that others could check their findings.”

    I am afraid you recall incorrectly. Yes, they held a press conference before the publication; but their paper was “in press” in a peer-reviewed journal and came out shortly after the press release. However, it was not a first-line journal of the sort in which one would wish to publish such amazing results.

    Gary Taubes wrote a great book on the subject: http://www.amazon.com/Bad-Science-Short-Weird-Fusion/dp/0394584562/ref=sr_1_5/002-9700318-0992051?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1183655343&sr=1-5

    P&F did release details on the experiment; which allowed people to discredit their claims a few months later. Eighteen years later, there is still a substantial number of people claiming promising results from cold fusion research.

  26. #26 Piper
    July 5, 2007

    Anyone here sign up for their email news? If you did, then there is a part of you that believes that it could be true. Don’t try to justify it as, “Want to see how it turns out”, if that’s what you wanted then you are NOT convinced that its not going to happen like you are spouting.

    I’ve always noticed that the people carrying around soap boxes so they can proclaim their denial of science or God, are loud, and in my opinion trying very hard to convince themselves that what they are saying is true…

    I’d also like to remind all of you that there is NO LAWS of Thermodynamics… There are theories of Thermodynamics. Throughout history ‘laws’ of science have been challenged and beaten. Science has been used to ‘prove’ that we cannot fly, that if you exceed the speed of 40 mph you will suffocate, the sun rotates around the Earth… At one point (when religion controlled science) they believed that if you had a headache your head should be splitting open to release the demon trying to take you over. And we all know that those theories where wrong.

    How can you question the method that Steorn is using, as wolfwalker said, “Perpetual-motion machines are universally condemned as woo — so much so that most scientists and most countries’ patent offices won’t even look at them anymore.”. Steorn can’t protect their product, they have to get it into as many hand as possible, so some big corp doesn’t use their power to push through a patent and maintain the stasis quo.

    Free power means free everything. If this works it levels the playing field, the middle east has nothing on anyone anymore, the developing countries will have potential for anything we can do. How will the US deal with the rest of us when we can tell them to take a hike?

  27. #27 Coin
    July 5, 2007

    McCarthy explained to Silicon Republic that Orbo technology works on the basis that occurrences in magnetic fields do not happen instantaneously, and are therefore not subject to time in the way that, say, gravity is.

    … wait, what? Hasn’t it been already been demonstrated that gravity’s force carrier, whatever it is, propagates only at the speed of light?

    It appears there’s an enviornmental source of the energy (contradicting their claim # 3): the Earth’s rotation.

    Well, there’s a thought. I wonder if you could use a Foucault’s pendulum to power a motor :P

    Why does the title of this post sound disturbingly like a creed?

    I think Sir Stanley Eddington put it best in 1927:

    The law that entropy always increases, holds, I think, the supreme position among the laws of Nature. If someone points out to you that your pet theory of the universe is in disagreement with Maxwell’s equations — then so much the worse for Maxwell’s equations. If it is found to be contradicted by observation — well, these experimentalists do bungle things sometimes. But if your theory is found to be against the second law of thermodynamics I can give you no hope; there is nothing for it but to collapse in deepest humiliation.

    I would basically go so far as to say that everything in science is open to review and revision except the first two laws of thermodynamics. Evidence or new physical models could be presented that would change this opinion entirely, of course, but that’s not happening. Instead, we’re being given an e-commerce consulting company which claims to have a first-order perpetual motion machine, who will not present what it has for review but which is putting a lot of effort into elaborate multimedia presentations. This is worthy of nothing but derision.

    But to dismiss them without looking at the evidence would be the antithesis of science.

    On the other hand, dismissing them on the grounds they refuse to let anyone look at the evidence is the height of common sense.

  28. #28 Coin
    July 5, 2007

    How can you question the method that Steorn is using, as wolfwalker said, “Perpetual-motion machines are universally condemned as woo — so much so that most scientists and most countries’ patent offices won’t even look at them anymore.”. Steorn can’t protect their product, they have to get it into as many hand as possible, so some big corp doesn’t use their power to push through a patent and maintain the stasis quo.

    So you’re saying Steorn has a product that can’t be patented, therefore they have to take steps to prevent someone else from patenting it first?

    What?

  29. #29 rrt
    July 5, 2007

    Wolfwalker: As Calladus points out, the information and my options are rather limited in your example. I’m not sure I’m really getting your point. Depending on the circumstances, sure I might inspect the device. Are you suggesting that such a radical idea simply would not be considered for publication, would be laughed off the reviewers’ desks? If so, I disagree. True, I think it would have a much harder time, but it would break through eventually. Steorn themselves don’t seem to have a problem getting the scientific community’s attention, given their claims that several “academic institutions” have confirmed that the device works yet (ludicrously) refuse to go on the record.

    And if all good-faith attempts at publishing the science truly failed (and there’s always the internet and Steorn’s own site), then I could forgive similarly good-faith publicity efforts. Steorn hasn’t made such. The “good faith” common thread here is full disclosure to the scientific community, which Steorn has not even attempted to provide.

    Regarding patents, Steorn themselves appear to be involved in some patent processes already.

  30. #30 Ahistoricality
    July 5, 2007

    It’s so cute!

    OK, I’ll ask the obvious “I am not a physicist, but I listen close when they talk” question: if they’re exploiting what are effectively quantum-level effects — speed of magnetism v. speed of gravity — how do you scale that up into a process which is mechanical?

    Or am I misunderstanding the underlying principles here?

  31. #31 maryyugo
    July 5, 2007

    It is not correct that Steorn has not taken money from investors as someone above alleged. In fact, they have collected somewhere between 8 and 20 million Euros, according to an independent analysis of UK financial records. I believe this appeared here:

    http://freeenergytracker.blogspot.com/

    But I don’t recall exactly where within that blog.

  32. #32 hakluyt
    July 5, 2007

    You know, they could have done all this silently. There was no need for them to go public so long ago as they’re not accepting funding. They could have just worked away til they were ready, then voila! But no. Which to me suggests the angle they’re working, in conjunction with this (non)demonstration in a gallery – Performance art. A kind of surreal joke. They could keep it up for years.

  33. #33 rrt
    July 5, 2007

    I’ve wondered about that myself, hakluyt. This case is (so far) such a classic example of a pseudoscience scam that it crosses over into parody, and I can’t help feeling sometimes as though it’s deliberate, as if some strange practical joke or performance art project.

  34. #34 Joseph Hertzlinger
    July 5, 2007

    Have they asked the Discovery Institute for support yet?

  35. #35 AJ Milne
    July 5, 2007

    I was seriously wondering about that ‘performance art’ thing, too… It’s almost too perfect. Impossible claim, pitch to the media, promise a demo… oh, look, odd ‘setbacks’ at test time…

    Classic, really. Straight off the template. If it is a gag, I gotta salute them.

  36. #36 Mark P
    July 5, 2007

    A scientist doesn’t have to look at this invention. All he needs is an adequate description. If it fits the description of a perpetual motion machine, the scientist can state that one of two conditions holds: 1) the machine does not work, or 2) the machine does not work the way it is said to work.

  37. #37 Zuckervati
    July 5, 2007

    What’s this about the “Law of suffocating at speeds in excess of 40 mph”?

  38. #38 guthrie
    July 5, 2007

    Oh look, the con-artists* are having some trouble. From their website:

    “We are experiencing some technical difficulties with the demo unit in London. Our initial assessment indicates that this is probably due to the intense heat from the camera lighting. We have commenced a technical assessment and will provide an update later today. As a consequence, Kinetica will not be open to the public today (5th July). We apologise for this delay and appreciate your patience.”

    Yeah, right. How long would it take to nip out to the shops and get some decent lights? 30 minutes?
    * theoretically they could sue me for libel, but I don’t think I’m worth enough to bother with.

  39. #39 Alex, FCD
    July 5, 2007

    1. The technology has a coefficient of performance greater than 100%.

    2. The operation of the technology (i.e. the creation of energy) is not derived from the degradation of its component parts.
    3. There is no identifiable environmental source of the energy (as might be witnessed by a cooling of ambient air temperature).

    And it can divide by zero.

  40. #40 Orac
    July 5, 2007

    I was actually surprised at some of the sympathetic reactions to these guys.

    Come on! They announced their “discovery” last August, and periodically since then have been releasing little teaser updates, culminating in yesterday’s fiasco at the Kinetica Museum. Every step of the way, the behavior of Steorn’s owners has clearly been designed to court publicity, rather than to provide real evidence that its device can do what is claimed for it. I’m beginning to think those of you who think this is some sort of elaborate performance art hoax may be right.

  41. #41 Coin
    July 5, 2007

    You know, they could have done all this silently. There was no need for them to go public so long ago as they’re not accepting funding. They could have just worked away til they were ready, then voila! But no. Which to me suggests the angle they’re working, in conjunction with this (non)demonstration in a gallery – Performance art. A kind of surreal joke. They could keep it up for years.

    When this Steorn thing very first hit the scene, a couple of the web communities I follow– specifically, communities about video games– quickly came to the conclusion that this was some kind of “Augmented Reality Game”, a big engineered public hoax slash interactive fiction event designed to draw attention to some product, such as Microsoft has been using to promote its “Halo” series of games.

    This theory was particularly popular in certain circles in the first couple of days after Steorn went public with their original little video. The argument for it was based mostly on the incredible slickness of their web presentation, which was clearly done by professional marketing people; the lack, by contrast, of any clear means by which Steorn could afford to hire that kind of marketing; the fact Steorn’s website claimed the company had been in operation since about 2000, yet nobody at first could find any evidence that Steorn had existed that long, or even still existed as a company even at the time; the fact Steorn was located in Ireland, where most of the people following this on the internet conveniently would not be able to check to see whether they actually existed; certain visual resemblances between things on Steorn’s website and things that exist in the universe of the “Half Life” series of video games; and the fact that Steorn claimed they would be demonstrating their device in about a year, which incidentally at the time was when Half Life 2 Episode Two was supposed to come out. This entire “it’s an ARG” theory of course fell apart very quickly, once it became clear Steorn had in fact existed for five years and had had the same management this entire time, and once time passed and the public eye left Steorn without any mystery product being revealed or the rabbit hole turning out to be any deeper than steorn.com.

    But one variant on the “Steorn is an ARG” hypothesis managed to survive a little while longer, and this version may be a little bit viable even now. This hypothesis is based around the probable explanation for how Steorn was able to swing all this flashy marketing stuff: that it turns out before Steorn ostensibly got into alternative energy (and technologies for preventing “credit card and optical disc fraud”), they were originally an e-commerce consulting company in the closing days of the dot-com boom. They helped people set up websites. In other words, it appears marketing is part of what they originally did and still have expertise in internally. In other other words, were they interested in staying in the market area they originally started out in, Steorn today might have been the kind of company you hire to create an ARG.

    So, went one idea, maybe they still are. Maybe the Steorn hoax isn’t just a hoax, but a demo. Maybe at some point they’re going to just jump out and say “Surprise! We never even thought we had a perpetual motion machine. But look at all the media attention and buzz we were able to generate, with absolutely nothing but marketing and with an unbelievably flimsy premise! We’ve gotten more free media coverage than some genocides, and people all over the entire world know our company’s name. We can do the same for your company, call us for our rates.” Such a hoax would as far as I know actually even be legal, so long as they didn’t actually ever solicit money to build the nonexistent perpetual motion machine.

    Of course, I don’t think even this theory holds water anymore; Steorn’s gone just a bit too far for that. Other commenters here have posted reports they have taken investment money. The “public demonstration” stunt might for all I know cross the line into legally counting as fraud perpetuated on the Kinetica museum, if they lead the Kinetica people to believe the machine was real (even though Kinetica is an art museum). Either of these situations would have already lead them out of the realm of hoax for art or advertising, and into the realm of hoax for fraud.

    For completeness though I do want to bring up one other possibility besides that of Steorn being a joke or an intentional investment fraud. That possibility is that Steorn actually and seriously believes in what they are doing. Perhaps they’ve built some machine that does somehow extract energy from a magnet (i.e. by demagnetizing it) or from environmental magnetic fields, or which somehow stores energy while the device is being set up and releases it over a period of time. Lacking the scientific knowledge to know what they’d built or why it did what it did, and consisting themselves largely of marketing people, they might have concluded it was a perpetual motion machine and cooked up this bizarro Sons of Ether-style “changes in magnetic fields not subject to time” explanation to satisfy themselves as to how it works. It’s not like this would be the first time a hoaxer hoaxed himself, or the first time a group of people managed to construct their own private reality in the service of trying to make something to sell people, or even the first time these things had happened in the service of making a perpetual motion machine. If this is the case– that Steorn are True Believers and they’ve fallen for the hoax too– then I don’t think it’s going to help them very much in court when they’re sued for having defrauded their investors, but if it’s true when this is all over it might be interesting to study the people who worked there as a fun little archetypal case study in institutional group think and how confidence tricks and/or cults form. (And if it’s not true and they’re just shysters, then Steorn still is pretty interesting as an archetypal media scam.)

  42. #42 Ginger Yellow
    July 5, 2007

    ” if they’re exploiting what are effectively quantum-level effects — speed of magnetism v. speed of gravity — how do you scale that up into a process which is mechanical? ”

    They’re not. Electromagnetic waves and gravity both propagate at the speed of light.

    I lean towards the theory that this is a hoax, whether artistic or otherwise, rather than a scam. If you’re scamming, you don’t hang around for years after you’ve taken the marks’ money. You bugger off to the Cayman Islands as soon as you think you can get away with it.

    My favourite thing about this whole scam is that the advert for the highly rigorous scrutiny process was placed in the renowned scientific journal The Economist.

  43. #43 Prometheus
    July 5, 2007

    You know, I’m really perplexed by this one. Not the device, which I’m (100 – 10^80)% sure will fail (or continue to have “technical difficulties”), but the motivation behind it.

    It is possible that its inventors truly believe that their machine works. It doesn’t make them less wrong, but it does make them more pitiable.

    Another possibility is that – as others have suggested – this is just come sort of publicity hoax or “performance art”. That the promoters are aware that the machine is just a pretty toy and doesn’t do anything. What they could be trying to accomplish is hard to guess, but it could be anything from getting their “fifteen minutes of fame” to selling cologne.

    Finally – and the one I’m placing my bets on – they could have a very complicated scheme already in play to make money off this thing. After all, they are going to great lengths to appear honest and above board and could be trying to establish themselves as legitimate “scientists” with a credible (if undercapitalized) product. Perhaps they will stage a public failure in order to draw in some serious venture capital.

    They could argue, “We wouldn’t have staged a public demonstration if we didn’t think it would work – we just need to rework the design, maybe change the brass to platinum, and it will work.”

    I don’t know how they’ll do it, but I suspect that they have a plan – and that the plan preceded their “invention”. For reference, see “The Taking of Pelham 123″.
    (http://movies.aol.com/movie/the-taking-of-pelham-123/9474/synopsis)

    Prometheus

  44. #44 Coin
    July 5, 2007

    You know, come to think of it, this new thing is named “Orbo”, and Half Life 2 did have energy orbs… no, no, too contrived.

  45. #45 djm
    July 5, 2007

    It gets better! The Darwin denialists are onboard now:

    http://www.overwhelmingevidence.com/oe/node/314

    “Infinite-energy theory challenges materialist thermodynamics dogma”

    Though I could be convinced that this site is satire.

  46. #46 Coin
    July 5, 2007

    Oh, goodness. Wasn’t Dembski involved in the founding of Overwhelming Evidence?

  47. #47 Ginger Yellow
    July 5, 2007

    Seems like good evidence for Orac’s “pseudo-science attracts pseudo-science” hypothesis.

  48. #48 khan
    July 5, 2007

    Oh, goodness. Wasn’t Dembski involved in the founding of Overwhelming Evidence?

    Isn’t that from “The Secret”: Crank attracts Crank?

  49. #49 Ginger Yellow
    July 5, 2007

    Also, isn’t it amusing that when they think the laws of thermodynamics disprove evolution, they’re cast iron rules, but when they think disproving the laws of thermodynamics will allow for miracles, they become “absurd assumptions of materialism”?

  50. #50 Coin
    July 5, 2007

    Also, isn’t it amusing that when they think the laws of thermodynamics disprove evolution, they’re cast iron rules, but when they think disproving the laws of thermodynamics will allow for miracles, they become “absurd assumptions of materialism”?
    I think we’ve actually got an answer to that one: that’s because they’re not actually using the laws of thermodynamics, they’re using Sewell’s Law, which is better than the laws of thermodynamics. The principles of pleasurianism tell us so.

  51. #51 Andrew
    July 5, 2007

    I’m sure it will work.

    I think it works using the following Idea..

    It works on the assumption that energy = resistance to force * time.

    It needs a lot of thinking about.

    I think it works similar to how a rail gun works. Where a magnetic field is turned off and on at strategic points. This generates a pulse.. You can do the same think with magnetic shields.

    All you need to do is shield the magnets from each other on a wheel and a fixed point. Once the wheel with the magnets being shielded from each other pass the point of no return they are exposed and you will get the two magnets repulse each other.

    I have worked on this Idea for about 2 years. Could not get it to work consistently… But with the money they have spent I sure they have done it. It looks exactly the same.. BTW it will spin Clock wise from the no. 1 camera angle.

  52. #52 Mojo
    July 6, 2007

    Calladus wrote: “Maybe the Free Energy crowd will next “invent” a way to transform Global Warming into free energy. You could get all kinds of investors from that.”

    Surely the free energy would be transformed into global warming? That energy has got to go somewhere, unless they’ve developed a way of destroying energy as well as creating it.

  53. #53 Tracy W
    July 6, 2007

    McCarthy explained to Silicon Republic that Orbo technology works on the basis that occurrences in magnetic fields do not happen instantaneously, and are therefore not subject to time in the way that, say, gravity is.

    This time variance allows the Orbo platform to generate and consistently produce power, going against the law of conservation of energy which states that energy cannot be created or destroyed.

    Edited version:
    Tracy explained to Respectful Insolence that W technologies works on the basis that a cake baking in the oven does not rise instantaneously, and is therefore not subject to time in the way that, say, gravity is.

    This time invariance allows the W platform to consistently produce power, going against the law of conservation of energy which states that energy cannot be created or destroyed.

    Or, in other words, this is meaningless. Occurrences in a magnetic field do not happen instantaneously and a cake rising does not happen instantaneously. Since they don’t happen instantaneously they are therefore subject to time. They may as well try to create a perpetual motion machine by baking a cake (or any other activity that is subject to time) as by building their machine.

    Andrew – you and a million other people. The magnetic field of your magnets will get (or is getting) weaker over time.

  54. #54 blf
    July 6, 2007

    The comments by “Andrew” in this thread (gibberish about magnetic shielding) is essentially identical to this comment by “bart0120″ at ZDnet.

    A “Nick Rouse” replies and observes:

    bart0120 join the queue of people that think that magnetic shielding will get them excess energy. Perhaps Steorn are ahead of you in the queue.

    If all they are doing is spinning a balanced wheel with no net energy output and slight problems with the bearings or light level can stop it they are at best generating microwatts. Even if it were valid this amount of power from a sizeable device is of no practicable use and it is amenable to fraudulent energy inputs such as a light air current.

  55. #55 Freud Wore A Slip?
    July 6, 2007

    http://www.i4u.com/article9971.html

    “Initially the company wanted to demonstrate Orbo already on July 4th in the Kinetica museum in London. They had to postpone the demo to Thursday as reported yesterday. Today Steorn says on their site that the demo is delayed to an unannounced future date.”

    Big surprise that.

  56. #56 Piper
    July 6, 2007

    Have you ever noticed that people who profess to not believe in the conspiracies that the Oil Industry is supressing technology, can make up the weakest conspiracies about Stoirn…

    Has anyone seen real evidence to show that Stoirn’s claims are false. All I’ve seen a bunch of people throwing around conspiracy theories, Some people calling scientific theory as if the theory is ‘law’.

    Sound like some of you lost money on the last Perpetual motion machine? GET OVER IT!!! Or are you heavily invested in Oil shares? SELL, SELL SELL! Or is it that you are members of The Oil cartel, and want to make Stoirn go away…

    I don’t have a fixed opinion (’cause there aren’t any facts yet), I just want to see how it turns out. I’d really like to see it this time, and not just get told that it doesn’t work.

    As for the “Law of suffocating at speeds in excess of 40 mph”? Zuckervati I didn’t say ‘Law’… And it was a theory that was around when cars were invented… Look it up.

  57. #57 rrt
    July 6, 2007

    So tell us, Piper: Is there really nothing else to do with an art degree in Ireland?

    Okay, sorry for the troll-baiting, folks, but the bizarreness is starting to get to me. “It’s just a theory?” “I don’t need no steenkin’ evidence, YOU have to prove MY extraordinary claims wrong?” “‘Science’ used to claim the world was flat?” “Conspiracy! CONSPIRACY!”

    Ugh. Hovind coulda done better than this.

  58. #58 Alex, FCD
    July 6, 2007

    Has anyone seen real evidence to show that Stoirn’s claims are false.

    Ok, let me explain to you how science works. We don’t have to provide any evidence that it doesn’t work, Stoirn has to provide evidence that it does work. Whenever a person claims to have built something that violates the first a second laws of thermodynamics, it’s pretty safe to assume that it doesn’t work, because millions of such devices have been produced before and none of them work.

  59. #59 Ginger Yellow
    July 6, 2007

    One good thing about this Steorn thing is that it drives all the nuts to the surface. I was truly surprised to see how many people are posting on various forums about this who absolutely insist that it’s true, despite having no proof whatsoever and , and that any doubters are just being dogmatic. Unless they’re all paid agents of Steorn, what the hell’s in it for them? Do they enjoy making idiots of themselves in public? Do they go round claiming that gravity is only a theory, not a law, and that people can too fly if they wish hard enough?

  60. #60 Ginger Yellow
    July 6, 2007

    Sorry. That should have read “despite having no proof whatsoever and all the hallmarks of a scam/hoax”.

  61. #61 blf
    July 6, 2007

    By the time cars were invented, trains were in widespread use. Fast trains, “mile-a-minute” (60mph), had been done. It would be idiotic to think, even at that time, that “fast” travel (and the early cars weren’t too fast) would cause problems.

    I myself do recall hearing that when the first trains were shown there was some concern about the effects of the slightly-faster-than-horses speed. Which was quite quickly disproven in a simple direct and obvious manner: People who rode on trains didn’t have problems.

  62. #62 dzd
    July 6, 2007

    Unless they’re all paid agents of Steorn, what the hell’s in it for them? Do they enjoy making idiots of themselves in public? Do they go round claiming that gravity is only a theory, not a law, and that people can too fly if they wish hard enough?

    You remember what Barnum said about being able to fool some of the people all of the time? These are those people.

  63. #63 Coin
    July 6, 2007

    Sound like some of you lost money on the last Perpetual motion machine? GET OVER IT!!!

    This may well be the funniest thing I’ve seen written on this subject.

  64. #64 Piper
    July 6, 2007

    Do they go round claiming that gravity is only a theory, not a law, and that people can too fly if they wish hard enough?
    Posted by: Ginger Yellow

  65. #65 Piper
    July 6, 2007

    Oops…

    Do they go round claiming that gravity is only a theory, not a law, and that people can too fly if they wish hard enough?
    Posted by: Ginger Yellow

    First: We can fly because we wished it iDiot!!! They are called PLANES!
    Secondly: I was told by my high school science teacher that if you put a feather and a 1 oz. lump of lead into a vacuum that they would both fall to the bottom at the same rate. I think he was trying to prove that it was resistance that slowed the feather and that gravity affected the rate that the two fell.
    I had already figures that when I was 12 years old, jumping off the garage with my moms sheets as a parachute. But I knew that he was totally wrong, you see Isaac Newton’s theory of universal gravitation states the following:
    Every single point mass attracts every other point mass by a force pointing along the line combining the two. The force is proportional to the product of the two masses and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between the point masses.
    So the lead would hit first as it weighs more and pulls itself down faster.
    I don’t recall Stoirn claiming to have found a perpetual motion machine, the media made those claims (And we can all trust news people to be on the mark). They claim that they have a machine that has a coefficient of performance greater than 100%. (Maybe the extra energy is coming from some other source) They also claim to have 22 scientists working on it, and trying to figure it out. (I’m going to assume that they don’t fully understand the physics of it, as they say it was accidental (Sorta like penicillin maybe( and we all know that that was a hoax))).

    Ok, let me explain to you how science works. We don’t have to provide any evidence that it doesn’t work,
    Posted by: Alex, FCD

    First: I have a Degree in Science, and I know how it ‘works’. I also know that these boys at Stoirn don’t know scientific process and are skipping steps. Just like you.
    Secondly: In science you don’t go straight from theory to conclusion, the way most of you have, you have already decided that it’s a hoax.

    I’m really sorry if you think I’m being an optimist by waiting to get some facts before I become another ‘Doubting Thomas’…

  66. #66 Coin
    July 6, 2007

    I don’t recall Stoirn claiming to have found a perpetual motion machine, the media made those claims… They claim that they have a machine that has a coefficient of performance greater than 100%

    That is the exact same thing stated using different words.

    (Maybe the extra energy is coming from some other source)

    They specifically say the energy is not coming from either the environment or the degradation of the device. What does that leave, as a source for the extra energy? The Ethereal Planes? Perhaps the Orbo works by burning God as a fuel source.

  67. #67 Cain
    July 6, 2007

    So the lead would hit first as it weighs more and pulls itself down faster.

    Jesus, Mary, and Joseph! Did you really just post this? Really?

  68. #68 rrt
    July 6, 2007

    “First: I have a Degree in Science, and I know how it ‘works’.”

    Clearly you do not, or you would not have made the silly statement to which Alex referred, or the silly statements immediately following. Nevermind that your credibility is further undermined by your claim that “I don’t recall Stoirn claiming to have found a perpetual motion machine…They claim that they have a machine that has a coefficient of performance greater than 100%” which cites a claim from Steorn three sentences before they expressly state: “The sum of these claims is that the technology creates free energy.”

    Regarding your high school physics teacher’s lessons about gravity…uh…what’s your point? It’s as if you’re trying to claim that because your teacher didn’t talk about the infinitesimal motion a falling lead weight induces upon the Earth, all of the scientific community except for you and Newton have no understanding of gravity and by extension shouldn’t be trusted about free energy devices. I especially like how considering a one-ounce object’s gravitational pull upon Earth negligible is “totally wrong.”

    Under these circumstances–ironclad support of the laws of thermodynamics and utter failure of every “free energy” device ever produced–it is perfectly acceptable to assume that the device does not produce free energy, with the always-prevalent provision that sufficient evidence could change the assumption. So sure, if you want to slit my wrists over the 0.000001% chance Steorn Really Has Something This Time(tm), go ahead. I’ll stand by my statement that it’s a scam, hoax or spectacular misadventure. If they prove us all wrong, as is their duty as the claimants, I’ll ask ‘em for a job as a salesman.

  69. #69 Orac
    July 6, 2007

    I love it when someone like touts a “degree in science” before defending pseudoscience. It reminds me of when WorldNutDaily columnist and all around evolution and vaccine crank Vox Day touts his “credible degree in science.”

  70. #70 Uncle Dave
    July 6, 2007

    I have a degree in welfare and I just can’t see why anything works…

  71. #71 nathan
    July 6, 2007

    I’m no scientist, and so my opinion is “I’d love it if it works, but let’s wait and see.”

    I am a human with the (debatable) capability of intelligent thought and we’ve all seen scientists claiming “this is impossible” or “now that we’ve discovered this, it’s the right answer” when we know that everything in science, from relativity to string theory, is eventually disproven or at least modified greatly with time and gaining scientific knowledge.

  72. #72 Coin
    July 6, 2007

    I’m no scientist, and so my opinion is “I’d love it if it works, but let’s wait and see.” I am a human with the (debatable) capability of intelligent thought and we’ve all seen scientists claiming “this is impossible” or “now that we’ve discovered this, it’s the right answer” when we know that everything in science, from relativity to string theory, is eventually disproven or at least modified greatly with time and gaining scientific knowledge.

    The argument here basically seems to reduce to “I don’t know anything, therefore neither does anyone else.”

  73. #73 nathan
    July 6, 2007

    I’m no scientist, and so my opinion is “I’d love it if it works, but let’s wait and see.”

    I am a human with the (debatable) capability of intelligent thought and we’ve all seen scientists claiming “this is impossible” or “now that we’ve discovered this, it’s the right answer” when we know that everything in science, from relativity to string theory, is eventually disproven or at least modified greatly with time and gaining scientific knowledge.

  74. #74 Calladus
    July 6, 2007

    Piper, you have a degree in science? You should really get a refund. This:

    So the lead would hit first as it weighs more and pulls itself down faster.

    is easily the funniest basic misunderstanding of freshman physics that I’ve seen since, well since I was a freshman.

    I am so posting this on the wall of my cube. Engineers love a good laugh.

  75. #75 Bob
    July 6, 2007

    Steorn always uses the phrase “coefficient of performance” when referring to their technology. They claim a COP of 400%. A coefficient of performance can exceed 100% and does for practical machines such as heat pumps. If you are skeptical about COP > 1, read about heat pumps.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coefficient_of_performance

    To explain, coefficient of performance is a figure that expresses how much energy a machine can move from one place to another given a input of work energy. This is different than energy efficiency, which is how much energy a machine outputs for a given energy input. The difference is that COP only considers the work input to the machine, not the energy being input to the machine from the energy reservoir.

    Steorn’s use of the term “coefficient of performance” is interesting since accepted use the term would require the machine to take energy from some reservoir during operation. I find it especially interesting that no commentators on the subject of Steorn have noted Steorn’s use of this term and its consequences or that Steorn’s claimed COP of 400% does not actually break any laws of thermodynamics.

  76. #76 Calladus
    July 7, 2007

    Bob, the problem is that Steorn uses the words, “Coefficient of Performance” as a synonym for the word “efficiency”. From their website, they’ve said:

    Steorn’s technology appears to violate the ‘Principle of the Conservation of Energy’, considered by many to be the most fundamental principle in our current understanding of the universe. This principle is stated simply as “energy can neither be created nor destroyed, it can only change form.”

    Steorn is making three claims for its technology:

    1. The technology has a coefficient of performance greater than 100%.
    2. The operation of the technology (i.e. the creation of energy) is not derived from the degradation of its component parts.
    3. There is no identifiable environmental source of the energy (as might be witnessed by a cooling of ambient air temperature).

    The sum of these claims is that our technology creates free energy.

    So it doesn’t matter that they use the words COP, what they obviously mean is something different, i.e. that their machine, “creates free energy”, which is another way of saying ‘over unity’ (efficiency > 1).

    I’ve read that some Free Energy forum members seem to have been led to believe that this energy is actually coming from an unidentified source. If so then it isn’t really free. If Steorn is now saying that there is an energy source then their initial statement was made either out of ignorance or fraud.

    Neither is a particularly attractive trait for any company trying to prove that their equipment really does what they say it does.

  77. #77 Bob
    July 7, 2007

    Calladus, of course that is what Steorn means. But if we all know they meant efficiency, why didn’t they just write efficiency in the first place?

  78. #78 rrt
    July 7, 2007

    What’s your point, Bob? Steorn goes out of their way to point out that this is free energy and that it isn’t coming from another source. That leaves your COP argument, as presented, empty. Steorn’s claims as they stand do violate thermodynamics.

  79. #79 Bob
    July 7, 2007

    My point is to be curious about their choice of words. Either they are ignorant (unaware of the correct terminology) or clever (using ambiguous language intentionally).

    Taken as a whole, I think their language is vague enough to let them argue they are not building a PMM if they desire.

    Claim 3 asserts no identifiable energy source, leaving them an out to argue their technology extracts energy undetectably from an unidentified energy reservoir in an efficient fashion (thus a high COP for claim 1 not an over-unity assertion). Meanwhile, Steorn never claims to have violated the laws of physics, only claiming it appears to. Thus they might argue that what they mean by free energy is the purported technology for the extraction of energy from a new reservoir which has no tangible cost to use.

    Of course I still believe the whole thing is bunk. I just wonder if Steorn is choosing its words carefully to help convince scientists/investors/lawyers/judges or perhaps just to avoid looking like yet another PMM. Or if they are really just ignorant.

  80. #80 rrt
    July 7, 2007

    I see. Well, your guess is as good as mine as to how clever these blokes are…but personally, if I intended vague, slippery language to give me lots of outs, I wouldn’t have written it as they did. They could have left themselves much bigger gaps. To me, their written claim implies they’re acknowledging the “draws from a source” argument and rejecting it. Maybe not, or maybe they thought that hitting the “we think it’s really free energy” angle so hard would help get them more attention.

  81. #81 Calladus
    July 7, 2007

    I don’t think there is really an ulterior motive in their choice of words, I think that someone at Steorn with some knowledge of the language of physics is putting together techno-babble in the hopes of snowing the audience. But instead of well-crafted techno-babble that gives them several “outs” they’ve instead tried to copy a bad Star Trek script.

    Those who had (and still remember) freshman physics can tell that the usage is bogus.

    Bob I’m just not sure if they’ve cleverly found a way to create an “out” for themselves by creatively using physics terms, or if they’re just ignorant of (or don’t care about) how those terms should be used.

    I just don’t think it is always fair to ascribe an evil motive to those who practice pseudoscience when in fact they may sincerely believe that they’ve discovered the impossible.

  82. #82 Engineer-Poet
    July 7, 2007

    I’ve been over this since ten months ago, putting Steorn on the scamwatch list.

    So far they’re sticking to the script!

  83. #83 guthrie
    July 9, 2007

    Is anyone surprised that I cannot access the Demo page on their website today?

    I’m not. It refuses my request.
    Oh look:
    http://www.engadget.com/2007/07/06/steorn-orbo-canceled/

    So, all you folk who have been defending Steorn, would you like to suggest what is going on?

    This sort of thing almost makes me wish I lived in London, so I could go along and heckle them.
    Fortunately for them, I was taking part on the re-enactment of the battle of Tewkesbury (1471), demonstrating the physics of swords and armour, not very far from some cannon demonstrating chemistry.

  84. #84 mark
    July 9, 2007

    Did anyone suggest a visit to the Museum of Unworkable Devices? That site covers shielded magnets on wheels, among other perpetual-motion machine nonsense:

    First, lets look at the field produced by a circular ring of magnet poles of the same polarity lying in a plane. Due to symmetry and the vector nature of force, their combined field at the center of the circle is zero. But what of their combined field elsewhere in the plane? The surprising result is that the combined field is very nearly zero anywhere in the plane, within the circle. [1] In fact, if the ring were a continous distribution of poles, the field would be exactly zero anywhere within the circle and in the plane of the circle. That continuous distribution is a useful model for further analysis.
    The original form of the motor had magnets lying in a plane. This is equivalent to one circle of N poles and a larger circle of S poles. Each circle contributes nearly zero field anywhere within the smaller circle, so the net field from all magnets is nearly zero anywhere within the smaller circle, and in that same plane. [2]
    So the rotating magnet and shield are “seeing” nearly zero field from the outer magnets. Therefore those magnets exert no force on the rotor. There’s nothing to make the rotor move, whether or not it has shields attached. [3]

    (But go ahead and read the whole site.)

  85. #85 bongo
    July 9, 2007

    RE: Speed of Gravity

    It has not been settled. See:

    Speed of Gravity Results Incorrect

    The Speed of Gravity – What the Experiments Say

    I’m just adopting a wait-and-see posture on Steorn.

    As for Pons & Fleischmann, I suggest considering why the US Navy has invested in this “failure.”

  86. #86 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    July 10, 2007

    I have a feeling that Piper is this guy.

    2. Who wants to deny gravity? I do. There IS no gravity force, and Newton had it wrong. Just take a bag holding 10 pounds of whatever, and hold it with your arm stretched out in front of you. After a while, your arm muscles get tired. Not surprising, because you expended energy, resisting gravitation. But… what is the energy source that is responsible for this “gravitational force”? Shouldn’t that get depleted also? (Think of the 1st Law of Thermodynamics)
    The earth has been around for a long time. If there was any energy depletion, we should have measured that somehow.
    So what’s a force for which there is no energy source? Answer: A non-existing force.

  87. #87 Calladus
    July 10, 2007

    Well, of course – it’s “Intelligent Falling!” We should really teach the controversy, you know?

  88. #88 Ginger Yellow
    July 10, 2007

    “RE: Speed of Gravity

    It has not been settled.”

    So, even ignoring the experimental data, you’re arguing that not only is the law of conservation of energy incorrect, but general relativity too. You’d think Steorn would be able to get that result published if they had anything to back it up. Also, linking to Metaresearch is hardly going to support your argument. The guy is an absolute nutter. He even buys the Mars face nonsense.

  89. #89 Zuckervati
    July 10, 2007

    As for the “Law of suffocating at speeds in excess of 40 mph”? Zuckervati I didn’t say ‘Law’… And it was a theory that was around when cars were invented… Look it up.

    Eh, what can I say, Piper? You distinctly used the word “law”:

    Throughout history ‘laws’ of science have been challenged and beaten. Science has been used to ‘prove’ that we cannot fly, that if you exceed the speed of 40 mph you will suffocate, the sun rotates around the Earth…

    You put little quotes around it, so perhaps you were making fun of people who used the word “law” inappropriately. But more likely, you’re confusing what actual scientists mean when they refer to Scientific Law, like when you said:

    there is NO LAWS of Thermodynamics

    You’re also confusing the definition of Scientific Theory:

    And it was a theory that was around when cars were invented… Look it up.

    Pretty sure the “suffocating at speeds in excess of 40 mph” thing was neither a law, nor a theory. Maybe a ‘rumour’, or a ‘baseless claim’, or ‘bad science’. Heck, maybe it was a ‘hypothesis’, or an ‘educated guess’. But a person with a science degree shouldn’t mess up fundamental scientific nomenclature.

    And please, please, please, stop calling them Stoirn.

  90. #90 Bronze Dog
    July 10, 2007

    If someone wants us to renounce the laws/theories/whatever of thermodynamics, they should hurry up and build one of these free energy deallym’boppers and show it to this guy I know with a million dollars.

    For the time being, I’ll keep going on the safe bet. I’m not going to change it just because some *NEW* cookie-cutter crank shows up doing exactly the same thing all the other cranks did.

  91. #91 P.J. Denyer
    July 26, 2007

    Piper | July 6, 2007 03:41 PM & rrt | July 6, 2007 04:39 PM

    I think Piper’s hypothisis is that excluding friction the force acting on the lead is greater than the force acting on the feather as it is proportional to mass of the item. So far, so good. Sadly he is then jumping from that to the assumption that this greater force will lead to a faster fall.

    Unfortunately he is failing to take into account that acceleration is INVERSELY proportional to mass (F=ma) so a greater force is required to accelerate the lead than the feather. Of course I don’t have a ‘degree in science’ so all I can rely on is a 21 year old memory of O level physics lessons…….

    Yes it would be great if this device worked, sadly I think the chances of it doing so are negligable and no amount of wishful thinking will change that.

  92. #92 R.L. Wengeler
    January 29, 2008

    The laws of thermodymics will be rewritten!The universe is not closed.Light when it collides with matter(protons/neutrons) produces Electrons-Positron pairs.When Electron-positron pairs collide they produce a pair of Quarks. 3 quarks make up Protons/nuetrons matter.Matter Produces the stars and planets thus creating light.Completing the circle,an open circle,infinity abounds.The problem with this since light creates electrons the higher the over-unity the more light you use,creating a black hole.Stealing light from the sun or fire from heaven sound fimiliar?

  93. #93 Coin
    January 29, 2008

    sound fimiliar?

    Yes…. yes it does.

  94. #94 MartinM
    January 29, 2008

    When Electron-positron pairs collide they produce a pair of Quarks.

    No, they don’t.