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Boundless energy or bad math?
November 5, 2005 6:04 AM   Subscribe

Boundless energy or bad math? Randell Mills thinks he has the solution to our energy problems. In his company's patented process, "energy is released as the electrons of atomic hydrogen are induced to undergo transitions to lower energy levels producing plasma, light, and novel hydrogen compounds." It also implies that quantum mechanics is wrong.
posted by Espoo2 (73 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
Call me a skeptic, but I don't think I'll bet in favor of this particular free energy/perpetual motion machine.
posted by Malor at 6:13 AM on November 5, 2005


A critical analysis of the hydrino model

We found that CQM is inconsistent and has several serious deficiencies. Amongst these are the failure to reproduce the energy levels of the excited states of the hydrogen atom, and the absence of Lorentz invariance. Most importantly, we found that CQM does not predict the existence of hydrino states! Also, standard quantum mechanics cannot encompass hydrino states, with the properties currently attributed to them. Hence there remains no theoretical support of the hydrino hypothesis.
posted by rxrfrx at 6:16 AM on November 5, 2005


rxrfrx:
Your critique is partly addressed in the guardian article -
Dr Randell Mills argues that there are plenty of flaws in Dr Rathke's critique. "His paper's riddled with mistakes. We've had other physicists contact him and say this is embarrassing to the journal and [Dr Rathke] won't respond," said Dr Mills.
posted by dash_slot- at 6:33 AM on November 5, 2005


The article in the Guardian hints that they already have working prototypes? Any confirmation on that?
posted by mek at 6:38 AM on November 5, 2005


Physics is mostly over my head, but I'd be curious to see if there's a letter published somewhere where Mills spells out what's wrong with the critical Rathke paper.
posted by rxrfrx at 6:45 AM on November 5, 2005


Seems more reputable than the average crackpot theory. While the math and theoretical framework is clearly lacking, these claims of repeated empirical verification are promising, as is the large amount of venture capital, and the interest and support of some qualified people. The lack of any mention of Tesla is an added bonus. This would be beyohd hyperbole in describing it's significance if it turns out to be true.

I really, really want this to be genuine. I want something too good to be true to be so, just this time.

That said, I'm still strongly in the skeptic camp for the time being, this just seems to grandiose and overarching to be something I can put any faith in. Ye gods, do I want to be proven wrong on this.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 6:51 AM on November 5, 2005


Um, a guy has been claiming since 1991 that he can produce free-energy-from-nothing, and yet somehow has never managed to demonstrate this. Never.

Like all the other perpetual motion people, they are all talk, no reality.

Note: you can file for and obtain a patent on producing unicorns out of rainbows and moondust. Patents mean nothing. You do not have to have a working prototype of your invention to get it patented.

If you're going to link to perpetual motion machines, can you link to a bunch of them, along with the NASA-didn't-land-on-the-moon people and the Earth-is-flat-but-liberal-media-pretends-it-isn't people and so on? That would at least be entertaining. But linking to it with some suggestion that there might be a real perpetual motion device is like smacking every reader here right in the cerebral cortex with a sledgehammer.
posted by jellicle at 7:07 AM on November 5, 2005


Where does it say it's a perpetual motion machine, jellicle? [By which, I take it you mean an output is greater than input energy equation]
posted by dash_slot- at 7:29 AM on November 5, 2005


jellicle, why would you want more links when you have obviously not read the ones provided? Mockery and derision are such fun and so easy and, ultimately, so backwards. Of course it is possible, maybe even likely that this energy source (not free-energy and not perpetual motion, by the way) is not valid, but there are some unusually positive signs. He has some supporters from people who have apparently seen demonstrations. He also has some detractors, including MeFites who assume that the world is always going to be what it is now and to suggest differently is just the source for jokes.
You know things are quite different now than they were in 1905 in case you didn't notice. And it's not because of unicorns coming out of fucking rainbows, but because of creations that were seemingly absurd.
So leave me and my unicorns alone, and you can go off and hang out happily with your straw men.
posted by kingfisher, his musclebound cat at 7:31 AM on November 5, 2005


Um, a guy has been claiming since 1991 that he can produce free-energy-from-nothing, and yet somehow has never managed to demonstrate this. Never.

This guy may have, but people in general have been claming this for decades. Chances are if someone releases their great, earth-shattering, paradigm-shifting scientific breakthrough as a money-making product, it's much more likely to be a crackpot scam.

This is just more crack pottery (or outright scammary) with better math if anything. Crap like this gets into the mainstream media at an alarming rate, for some unknown reason. Perhaps someone should study that.

Create like a center for accurate science reporting, who's job is to promote quality scientific reporting.
posted by delmoi at 7:51 AM on November 5, 2005


Here's my design for a prepetual motion machine.

A very light wheel powered by an efficent electric motor powered by a solar cell. The whole thing is a sealed box. If the lights are off, it dosn't spin. But then, you also can't see it...
posted by delmoi at 7:52 AM on November 5, 2005


there was similar idea around many years called, if i remember correctly, polywater. the argument there was that there was a molecule made out of hydrogen and oxygen that had a lower energy that water, so you could "burn" (via a catalytic reaction) water to this lower energy state and so get energy.

here is similar, except that the lower state is a different (hitherto unknown) atomic level in hydrogen.

feynman (that nobel prize physics guy who did the space shuttle ring thing) had a very nice argument against polywater which also applies here - if there really is such a cheap supply of energy, you would expect evolution to have stumbled across it. there should have been some animal that "ate" water and excreted polywater. and, of course, there wasn't.

more generally, ever since the big bang the universe has been "running down". balls run down hill. hot things cool. electrons orbiting in atoms transition to lower energy states. so how come hydrogen - the most common element by miles - has somehow stuck in a high energy state? it's rather odd.

add these electron orbits, while obscure to most people, are well understood in many ways. a lot of astronomy is based on observing the light emitted by atoms as the electrons move between these levels. if you look at the spectrum of light from a star, you see bright "lines" at certain frequencies. the frequencies (or "colours") are related to the energies of these levels - and the lines are well understood and very useful (you can tell from these colours what the physical state of the gas is). now what this guy is proposing would mean that there are extra lines that we don't currently have an explanation for. we simply don't see those extra lines.

so it's reasonable to be fairly sceptical.

of course, it would be great if true - except that we could have a terrible disaster on our hands. what if the "waste" hydrogen behaved differently to ordinary hydrogen? if all the rest of physics is suddenly wrong, who's to predict that this is safe? maybe it's a terrible poison. you can't both piss on a physics and expect it to say your new idea is safe...
posted by andrew cooke at 8:02 AM on November 5, 2005


That's fusion power, delmoi. The sun.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 8:04 AM on November 5, 2005


actually, wgp, i think it's a joke.
posted by andrew cooke at 8:05 AM on November 5, 2005


That paper rxrfrx linked is actually a pretty comprehensive demolition job.
The important point is that even if you take the CQM theory at face value it is not only inconsistent, it doesn't even prove the existence of the high-binding energy "hydrino" state of hydrogen that it is claimed to do.
Since the hydrino state is also ruled out in standard quantum theory CQM is in loads of trouble already.

Having said that, the experimental results in the papers by Mills need explaining although, as Rathke says, "it would be helpful if these were independently reproduced by some other experimental groups."
Which brings us onto ...

The Advanced Aeronautical/Space Concept Studies Program paper referenced above states that:
"The spectroscopic and calorimeter data discussed above suggests that there does indeed appear to be something unique about certain low pressure mixed gas H2 plasmas".
Elsewhere they say:
"It is difficult to explain how (under the same microwave power input conditions) control gases and control gas/H2 mixtures only produce approximately 40 W of heating, while H2/catalyst mixtures such as H2O, H2/He, H2/Ar mixtures, etc. consistently produce 55 to 62 W."

So we are looking at some very odd results that appear to be repeatable. Sadly, the theory Mills has come up with is probably DOA. Of course, he could go on to produce technology based on the effect even if his explanation for how it works is wrong.

The fact that a lot of venture capital has been put in is meaningless btw. It was conclusively proved in the dotcom boom that venture capitalists will invest in anything.
posted by thatwhichfalls at 8:07 AM on November 5, 2005


Have Mills' experiments been independently reproduced? The Guardian article says they were (or says that independent scientists claim to have verified the experiments, whatever that means) but Rathke says otherwise. And without independently reproducible results, what's the point?
posted by elgilito at 8:07 AM on November 5, 2005


The lights were off. I couldn't read it properly.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 8:09 AM on November 5, 2005


ahhhhh.... :o)
posted by andrew cooke at 8:11 AM on November 5, 2005


Maybe it's this low-energy form of hydrogen that's needed to produce Ice-9. It's got to suck the energy back somehow, why not by freezing the planet of whatever species is stupid enough to put it into widespread production?
posted by hank at 9:11 AM on November 5, 2005


Bunny.
posted by Eideteker at 9:11 AM on November 5, 2005


If you believe this, you are stupid.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 9:18 AM on November 5, 2005


more generally, ever since the big bang the universe has been “running down”. balls run down hill. hot things cool. electrons orbiting in atoms transition to lower energy states. so how come hydrogen–the most common element by miles–has somehow stuck in a high energy state?

I hate to nitpick here, but the ball analogy’s a bit off. Its (kinetic) energy would become enthropic after reaching the base of the hill, but only after the inertia from the rolling momentum subsides. “Tapering off” would’ve been a better phrasing, as the act of “running down” in the aforementioned instance indicates an excited state.
posted by Smart Dalek at 9:46 AM on November 5, 2005


eh? this guy is claiming that hydrogen is, currently, in an excited state.
posted by andrew cooke at 9:49 AM on November 5, 2005


You were supposed to keeping your eye on the ball, remember?
posted by Smart Dalek at 9:59 AM on November 5, 2005


bleagh. so you'd rather i said something like:

more generally, ever since the big bang the universe has been "running down". balls run down hills and don't make it as far up the other side because energy is dissipated; hot things cool; electrons orbiting atoms transition...

nah. i think you're forcing yourself to misread what i said as "balls roll down perfectly smooth surfaces". but that's not what i wrote. people are used to things rolling down slopes and coming to a halt; not continuing forever at constant velocity along a perfectly smooth horizontal surface. i was writing about those balls.
posted by andrew cooke at 10:19 AM on November 5, 2005


I would like to see some debunking of the confirmed predictions Mills has supposedly made. I seriously suspect they are bunk, but so far I haven't seen anything challenging his experimental and observational claims, which to me is so much more important than the theoretical framework, which is clearly flawed. What about these supposed independent verifications of his results? He makes some seriously outrageous claims, I still have a really hard time even seriously considering the idea of hydrogen as we know it being in an excited state--why has it taken so long to discover this hydrino? I'm sure there is a debate about this evidence. If there wasn't, we would be looking much more seriously at this theory.

As I said, I really want to believe this, and it looks so much better than any other crackpot theory I can think of, but it still reeks of pseudoscience and fraud.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 10:32 AM on November 5, 2005


here's my idea for perpetual-motion:

find a lake somewhere, install an evacuated column of plastic such that it pokes out of the water. Drop hollow balls down the column. Have a little trap door thingy at the bottom of the column that can spring out the balls one-by-one. Attach the bouyant balls to a generator via a line, generate AC as they zoom up to the surface. Rinse & repeat.

Theoretically I suppose the energy to pop out a ball at the bottom of the column is equal to potential energy of the ball at that depth, but I would like to think ingenuity might be able to find a shortcut...
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 10:34 AM on November 5, 2005


This triggers pretty much all of my bullshit alarms.

First of all, if the electron in hydrogen can attain a lower energy level than the ground state, why doesn't it? Electrons in any other excited state always end up eventually returning to the ground state and giving off photons, so why wouldn't all the hydrogen in the universe become hydrinos and give off energy? And if quantum mechanics is wrong, why doesn't the electron spiral in and hit the nucleus? It should, according to classical mechanics, but it doesn't.

Secondly, if hydrinos exist, why haven't they been detected? There has to be a way to form them from hydrogen if they exist. Nearly everything on Earth was once inside a star, and nearly all potential excitation events happen inside stars, so if hydrinos could exist, they'd have formed naturally and would occur on Earth. And if they did, we'd have seen them; there would be unexplained emission spectra in stars and unexplained absorption spectra in water. Someone would have discovered them by now; after all, we know about deuterium, which is far more subtle than hydrinos would be if they existed.

Third, why is the scientist that discovered this going to the media with tales of free energy, and not to the journals with tales of sub-ground states? The discovery of fractional states would be a huge deal. It would almost certainly guarantee a Nobel Prize. After his discovery was accepted, he could then launch his energy device with no scientific opposition. But instead, the discovery is incidental to the free-energy device, and he went to the media. That really suggests that this is a scam.
posted by Mitrovarr at 10:37 AM on November 5, 2005


If you believe this, you are stupid.

Or just gullible, wishing for an easy answer to the looming energy problems we face.

Until there is an open and verifiable demonstration of this "boundless energy machine", as well several replications of it by independent groups, people should not trust anything this guy says as true. I don't know why people have such a hard time understanding that.
posted by moonbiter at 10:44 AM on November 5, 2005


as is the large amount of venture capital

These days, if you can form a complete sentence, you can walk away with a promise for billions in venture capital.

If you think about it for a few minutes, you can often refactor your project so you don't need anywhere near that amount of money, or the venture capitalists. This actually makes the problem worse. VCs want to put money into good projects, but few good projects actually need money (where good == profitable). This leaves the wide open field of half baked and crackpot projects.

Free energy would be cool though. With an infinite source of power, IBM could build a quad-core G5 chip for the powerbooks and cool it down with a huge peltier unit. I'd buy one.
posted by b1tr0t at 10:45 AM on November 5, 2005


Heywood, I think in that case you're storing energy by pushing the evacuated column into the water. You'll inevitably get some leakage as you cycle balls out into the water, so the column will eventually fill and you'll have to start over.

My expectation is that your energy input (column positioning, plus ball expulsion) would exceed the energy output.
posted by Malor at 12:57 PM on November 5, 2005


Crackpot Index. Apply liberally.
posted by apathy0o0 at 12:57 PM on November 5, 2005


malor, who are you talking to?
posted by andrew cooke at 1:09 PM on November 5, 2005


Malor, but that is a technological limitation, not theoretical/mathematical limitation. I'm curious about the energy cycle of this, whether it is possible to push a ball out for less energy than the ball will return floating back up to the surface. I assume the math says no, but lack the skills to verify this...
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 1:41 PM on November 5, 2005


Metafilter: I was writing about those balls.
posted by Hat Maui at 2:09 PM on November 5, 2005


Heywood - if you email me I'll give you an educated opinion - andrew@acooke.org. I presume your prev message was deleted from here for some reason. Or I'm even more stupid/badly sighted than I thought. Hey look, caps.
posted by andrew cooke at 3:30 PM on November 5, 2005


Interesting idea - how exactly does the ball return energy by returning to the surface? If it's connected by a line you also have to use energy to retract the line to connect it to the next ball.

I'm pretty sure it doesn't work, but it's fun to think about. They should probably get kids to try and design perpetual motion machines in physics lessons, it'd be a good learning experience...
posted by Jon Mitchell at 3:37 PM on November 5, 2005


ok, now i see it. sorry. i don't know what happened - i actually searched for heywood. maybe i'm going mad.

anyway, the big problem is the little trapdoor thingy. as soon as you open the little trapdoor thingy the ball will shoot back up the way it came instead of popping out. and the column will end up full of water.

more generally, you should look up "maxwell's demon" somewhere. i suspect you could reduce your machine to that, if you fiddled around long enough, and it raises some interesting details about quantum mechanics, entropy etc.
posted by andrew cooke at 3:51 PM on November 5, 2005


as soon as you open the little trapdoor thingy the ball will shoot back up the way it came instead of popping out. and the column will end up full of water.

well yeah, I sorta assume there's a ratchet or something to keep the gate from becoming an entry port for water. Imagine cool molecular-level nanotech devices pushing a smoothed hollow cube ... the question isn't about leaks so much as the energy required to keep water out of the column while pushing a ball out.

If it's connected by a line you also have to use energy to retract the line to connect it to the next ball.

yeah. if there's only break-even energy (or worse) in pushing the ball out this is irrelevant, and if there's surplus energy then this is also possibly irrelevant.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 4:14 PM on November 5, 2005


to make things simpler, replace your balls with cylinders (so they fit smoothly in the tube and top water from partially flowing back) and after each cylinder add a round plate. the round plate will stay in place after the cylinder floats off, keeping the tube sealed. that is liek your flap things, but much easier to reason about.

now assume that the tube gioes down a depth D and the cylinders are height d. the cross sectional area of the tube (and cylinders) is A. we need to compare two things:

energy gained from the cylinder as it floats up. this is the same (or opposite) to pushing a cylinder from above water to just underneath, and moving it a furtheer distance D under water. for the initial pushing under water, the force at a distance x is A x (assuming units where the density of water is 1). we need to integrate the force x distance for x from 0 to d, so we get A d^2/2. then the force for the extra distance D is Ad (difference in pressure top + bottom), so we have extra work A d D. so the total work pusing down (and the maximum we can extract when it bobs up) is A D d + A d^2 / 2

now lets look at popping this thing out of the end of the tube. we need to move it down a distance d so it clears the end of the tube, at depth D. the force upwards is A(D+x) and again we need to integrate that for x from 0 to d. that's the integral of (AD + ax) dx, which is ADd + ad^2/2. and that's the same as the energy we can get back.

so we break even (as you'd expect, since we ignored friction, losses due to splashing, assumed 100% efficiency etc). i also assumed everything (ecept the water) was massless.

heh. sweet problem. (for what it's worth, this came straight out - i didn't cheat, and i'm surprised it worked first time; there may be errors...)
posted by andrew cooke at 4:19 PM on November 5, 2005


oops. in some places i have a instead of A.
posted by andrew cooke at 4:20 PM on November 5, 2005


and i assume you know archimiedes' law or whatever it's called, and i ignored air pressure and and ... but you get the idea, i hope.
posted by andrew cooke at 4:22 PM on November 5, 2005


yeah :) thanks. 20 years I could have cranked on the formulas, but bitrot has set in in this area of the brain.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 4:34 PM on November 5, 2005


I don't think it can be reduced to Maxwell's demon, though there are similarities in the design. But the ball wouldn't pop out in the water. You would either expend all the energy you get from the buoyancy getting it into the water, or let water into the tube.

The idea is tempting because it could work for the first couple of balls, before the tube fills up. The energy you get that way is the energy you spent by forcing the air-filled tube into the water in the first place.

The demon problem is interestingly solved by an information theoretical argument, from the fact that information must be coded in a physical structure.

On preview: andrew cooke's solution.
posted by springload at 5:02 PM on November 5, 2005


From the second article: electrons might be made to respond negatively to gravity by warping their general relativistic curvature

What does this supposed to mean?..
posted by c13 at 5:51 PM on November 5, 2005


as you'd expect, since we ignored friction, losses due to splashing, assumed 100% efficiency etc

So what's the point? If you ignore things like friction, there is a whole bunch of other prepetual motion machine designs out there...
posted by c13 at 6:02 PM on November 5, 2005


I vote for boundless math. Or bad energy.
posted by The Great Big Mulp at 8:47 PM on November 5, 2005


Well, his point is that if you assume no friction, at best you break even. So as soon as you add friction, you're losing energy and so no perpetual motion will occur.
posted by vernondalhart at 9:37 PM on November 5, 2005


Heywood, perpetual motion machines based on "one-way" mechanisms such as ratchets eventually fall pray to the heat generated by the ratchet smacking against the pawl. Once the ratchet-pawl assembly becomes hot enough, the molecular motions will cause the ratchet to bounce randomly against the teeth, allowing the pawl to go "in reverse".

See Feynman's essay on this.
posted by growli at 11:06 PM on November 5, 2005


Let's say an individual did invent a bona-fide free (not perpetual) energy method in their basement. How exactly would this come to market? VC money? Am I the only one that would expect energy industry intervention?
posted by scarabic at 3:09 AM on November 6, 2005


What about this scenario:

You have the column, and at the bottom you have a chamber with a trap door on it. You start with the chamber empty, put the ball in there, close the door. Then, you open a door on the other side, the chamber fills with water, and you can easily pop the ball out. So far, nothing different. However, suppose that, above this chamber, you have a bunch of capillary tubes attached to the top of the chamber, and they extend up to the top of the lake. When the chamber is open to water, these tubes are capped (so they don't fill with water), and when you finally close it (after popping the ball out), they uncap. Now all the water in the chamber starts travelling up the capillaries, due to capillary action, and the chamber is emptied, allowing you to put another ball in there for free.
posted by dsword at 3:25 AM on November 6, 2005


capillary action doesn't work like that.
posted by andrew cooke at 3:30 AM on November 6, 2005


No? I'm not too familiar with it. I only remember using those little tubes back in o-chem. What's the trick here?
posted by dsword at 3:48 AM on November 6, 2005


Let me restate, after reading a tiny bit. You make the tubes thin enough so that water will draw up the entire length of the tube. The question is, what happens when the water gets to the top? Will it drip out? I know very little about fluid mechanics, so I'm just throwing out ideas here.
posted by dsword at 3:55 AM on November 6, 2005


capillary action can be thought of as a certain amount of "suck". so if you have a tube stuck in water, some will be "sucked up". but in your case you are sucking from a closed box. as soon as you've sucked a bit, you have some vacuum in the box which starts "sucking" back. the two cancel out and you you end up only moving a very small amount of water.

obviously, it's not sucking, but that's the general idea.
posted by andrew cooke at 4:00 AM on November 6, 2005


Good point, but you can just have one tube that doesn't quite touch the water piping air back in, no? Then you don't have a vacuum.
posted by dsword at 4:03 AM on November 6, 2005


oh for goodness sake. no, because.
posted by andrew cooke at 4:09 AM on November 6, 2005


A fine response. Unfortunately, you seem to be wrong, on top of being a jerk. (You do need some solar energy at the top, which makes sense.)

In any case, thanks for making this a good place for informative discussion.
posted by dsword at 6:15 AM on November 6, 2005


why?
posted by andrew cooke at 7:05 AM on November 6, 2005


dsword: The problem is getting the water out of the capillaries. You could have atmospheric pressure in the chamber, through the ball-feeding tube. It's just that the capillaries will fill with water, which you can't get it out again without expending the energy you gained. It won't squirt out at the surface. So you may get a couple of balls through at first, but then you are stuck. What you got out by floating those first balls is energy that you put in when you installed the machine. Using solar power is cheating, and there are better ways of utilizing that.
posted by springload at 7:14 AM on November 6, 2005


Andrew, I took your previous response as being rudely impatient and uninformative. If that wasn't your intention, I apologize. Even if it was meant that way, well, I suppose I should apologize anyway. You did not deserve to be called a name.

And thanks, springload. That was my initial thought, that you had to do something at the top to get the water out--otherwise you've just generated a lot of potential energy out of nowhere. It seems that getting water out at the top requires that you overcome the surface tension, which I expect would require as much energy as you would get from the water, say by creating a pressure gradient. Fine.

But now suppose you make the capillary very very long (and likewise very very thin, so the water can still get up it), so that it goes high up in the atmosphere (the intake tube still feeds from just above the lake). The water still has intermolecular interactions, and so will still rise until the downward forces and the upward forces cancel. In this case, you make it thin enough to overcome gravity(which of course decreases as you go up, letting the water rise higher than it otherwise would). So, the water rises to the top, and now you just have surface tension to overcome. But if it's very long, you've also introduced a significant difference in atmospheric pressure between the bottom and the top. So you're pushing the water up, on top of the capillary action! Why doesn't the water come out now? Say I take a fairly short capillary, let it take in some water, and then blow on the bottom (i.e., what happens everytime you cut yourself). Water squirts out! Is there something fundamental I'm missing here? (I haven't even mentioned vapor pressure, either, which I would think would increase the pressure.)
posted by dsword at 8:45 AM on November 6, 2005


err,

...would increase the effect.
posted by dsword at 8:47 AM on November 6, 2005


there's no need to apologise. my plan was to simply continuing asking "why?" until you got fed up with explaining variations of the same response again and again. so, you see, you were right about me being a jerk.

but, at base, if you want to understand physics, get a degree. go to university and spend three years of your life learning about it. learn to look at the world that way. the "whole point" of physics is that, at base, everything is pretty much the same. you are not learning physics by asking for detailed answers to silly perpetual motion machines any more than you learn geography by remembering the name of each state's capital city. i'm happy to explain things once for fun (and twice to be polite), but there are a million different details you can vary and blindly assume that "this time you're right". when does it stop? when do you realise that you should either try to study the subject for real or shut up?

sorry, but that's how it is.
posted by andrew cooke at 9:16 AM on November 6, 2005


dsword: Regarding the pressure differential, it pushes water up in the tube exactly to the level of the outside surface. If you just put one end of an open pipe in a lake, the level of water is the same inside the pipe as on the outside.

In a capillary, the water may be forced up a bit above the lake surface, but this capillary force works both ways. It doesn't specifically suck water up the capillary, it sucks water into the capillary. If you gained some energy by getting it in there, you have to spend the very same energy to get it out again.

You can toy with ideas like this for fun, but rest assured that it cannot ever work. The common way for a physicist to deal with the issue is to say "it violates the conservation of energy", then flag it and move on. The non-feasibility roots in a more fundamental principle than the mechanics that control your specific machine.
posted by springload at 10:05 AM on November 6, 2005


Andrew: I do have a degree in physics, and currently study theoretical particle physics. I'm actually quite good at it, when presented with some reasoning. I understand very well that perpetual motion cannot work, but the specifics of the mechanisms that enforce the principle in this particular situation interest me as a teacher. I honestly would not know how to respond if a student came to me with a similar question. This is how one becomes better at physics: thinking of problems and finding an answer.

Also, I disagree with your ultimate point: you learn quite a bit by looking at silly examples; any quantum mechanics course is basically a string of silly examples.

springload: What do you mean the capillary force works both ways? The miniscus is either concave or convex, it can't be both. The capillary action results entirely from intermolecular attractions: it has nothing to do with gravity or pressure.
posted by dsword at 10:37 AM on November 6, 2005


What do you mean the capillary force works both ways?

The amount of force pulling something into a capillary is equal to the amount of force you need to overcome to get something out of a capillary. Therefore, both ways.
posted by moonbiter at 11:46 AM on November 6, 2005


The capillary force works both ways in the following sense:

If the capillary pulls water up through the lower orfice, it would also pull water down from the upper orfice, so there is a force preventing water from being pulled out through the top of the capillary.

The capillary action results entirely from intermolecular attractions: it has nothing to do with gravity or pressure.

I didn't bring up gravity of pressure. If I understand your system, you have a capillary that can pull water say 2 cm up. Then you cut it at 1 cm and let water spill out from the cut. But there would be no spilling - you'd have to pump out the water by force.
posted by springload at 12:22 PM on November 6, 2005


I do have a degree in physics, and currently study theoretical particle physics.

Well, maybe you should brush up on practical particle physics.




I kid, I kid!
posted by c13 at 8:27 PM on November 6, 2005


But, speaking of particle physics, what do you think about the actual link we're supposed to be discussing? Negative energy levels and such...
posted by c13 at 8:29 PM on November 6, 2005


He he..
also, if you're going to use capillary action, why not just do what trees do and just evaporate the water? You wouldn't need capillaries stretching to ionosphere.
posted by c13 at 8:40 PM on November 6, 2005


springload: only if you have sucked up all the water will you get a miniscus at the bottom.

c13: Right on the evaporation, but we were talking about perpetual motion, so using the Sun wouldn't work. However, it seems like using an existing background pressure would be acceptable. I just like thinking up odd examples that seem counter-intuitive. I find them instructive and fun.

As far as the hydrino model, it's bull. You should always hear a BS alarm when you hear something like "I've developed a deterministic theory of quantum mechanics..." Bell showed that any such theory is inconsistent with quantum mechanics. Suppose you measure some property of a particle which you didn't know before. Did the particle have that property to begin with (i.e., could there be a deterministic theory that would tell me what I was going to get?), or did measuring it force it to collapse into that property? Well, once you start saying that particles had this property or that before you actually measured them, you find that you should get experimental results different from what QM predicts. The problem is that quantum mechanics has been tested, and found to be accurate. I believe you can get around the problems by introducing non-localities, but I think then you run into causality problems.
posted by dsword at 12:51 AM on November 7, 2005


Wait a minute. You need the Sun just as much. Something is got to keep the water from freezing, because ice does not flow very well through capillaries. Right?
posted by c13 at 6:23 AM on November 7, 2005


what's really noteworthy here is that mills frequently finds it profitable to resort to the level of humiliation when responding to critics. his last taunt is also very revealing about another earlier promise that didn't transpire:

the guardian:
Dr Mills argues that there are plenty of flaws in Dr Rathke's critique. "His paper's riddled with mistakes. We've had other physicists contact him and say this is embarrassing to the journal and [Dr Rathke] won't respond," said Dr Mills.


village voice:
"I'll have demonstrated an entirely new form of energy production by the end of 2000," Mills responds. "If Dr. Kaku has escaped our universe through a wormhole by then, I'll send my first $1000 in profits to his new address."

on balance i'd say he's either a total lying git or he's probably about the most pompous prat ever to put on a lab coat and call himself a scientist.
posted by rodney stewart at 5:17 PM on November 7, 2005


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