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The N Machine.
February 4, 2006 3:28 PM   Subscribe

Physicist Bruce DePalma has a 100 kilowatt generator which he invented, named 'The N Machine', sitting in his garage. It could power his whole house, but if he turns it on, the government may confiscate it. This is because the U.S. Patent office automatically denies a patent to any gizmo which purports to produce more energy than it consumes, on the grounds that its personnel are not equipped to evaluate such claims. [more inside]
posted by Effigy2000 (138 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
Is this a valid defence? Or is it more likely, as the article claims, that the US Energy monopoly, which pushes for the development of oil, gas, coal and nuclear power while defunding solar energy and other non polluting alternatives, simply does not want to see free energy emerge as a viable option?
posted by Effigy2000 at 3:28 PM on February 4, 2006


the US Energy monopoly ... simply does not want to see free energy emerge as a viable option

U.S. energy companies would love nothing more than to see a free energy device. Who the heck do you think would get paid to build them all?

So, go ahead. Build one. I dare you. Let's see it. Roll that fucker on out here. Do it. We're waiting.
posted by frogan at 3:31 PM on February 4, 2006


This could not possibly be a hoax.
posted by metaculpa at 3:33 PM on February 4, 2006


Oh, and if anyone does build one, be sure to contact this guy. He's got $1 million waiting for you.
posted by frogan at 3:36 PM on February 4, 2006


The claims are utter bullshit. Free energy claims should be treated with as much confidence as if somebody tried to sell you magic beans.
posted by substrate at 3:37 PM on February 4, 2006


The reason they deny patents is becuase nobody has ever once showed such a device working. Many thousands of people claim to have invented perpetual-motion machines, which is what this is. So to save themselves time and discourage the crackpots, they automatically deny these patents.

I'm sure if anyone actually did invent something like this, and could demonstrate that it really worked, the Patent Office would let him patent it. They're just trying to avoid going through all the paperwork for idiots.

Regardless, the government will not confiscate his invention. They are not interested in enforcing the laws of physics. He can make all the free power he likes without any interference at all. I encourage him to do so, we could really use the power.

(hint: the real reason it's turned off is BECAUSE IT DOESN'T FUCKING WORK).
posted by Malor at 3:38 PM on February 4, 2006


Another note: virtually all fake perpetual motions will have magnets in them. Big flashing sign of likely fraud. If free energy really could be created with just magnets and torque, we'd have figured it out already. Honest.
posted by Malor at 3:39 PM on February 4, 2006


Is this a valid defence? Or is it more likely, as the article claims, that the US Energy monopoly

Neither. The most likely explanation is that we know negentropic machines are purest horseshit, and that the patent office is just trying to brush off cranks in an expedient and relatively polite manner.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 3:43 PM on February 4, 2006


From the same site: Enterprise Mission graphic showing predicted Hominid / Lion appearance
posted by LarryC at 3:43 PM on February 4, 2006


Can we add some more tags to this post? Like 'wackjob', 'nutter', 'pseudo-physics', 'hoax'?
posted by anthill at 3:50 PM on February 4, 2006


(hint: the real reason it's turned off is BECAUSE IT DOESN'T FUCKING WORK).

Exactly. Otherwise, power your house, and sell the surplus power back to the power company. The other tell of fake perpetual motion machines is that they're always not working for some odd reason, but they can easily be fixed up -- for just a little investment.
posted by eriko at 3:51 PM on February 4, 2006


Of course, you can easily demonstrate the "faraday homopolar" effect in your own house. While the disc is rotating at 2600RPM and generating .00075W (1.5 mA * .5 V) , please make sure you subtract the power used by the drill to find out the net surplus energy generated by this effect.
posted by jepler at 3:52 PM on February 4, 2006


Some nutball described by a crappy publication. If you're going to link to cranks, at least go all the way.
posted by Nelson at 3:52 PM on February 4, 2006


That is purest nonsense.

Someone tell him he is invited to bring his invention up here, north of the border for a demonstration. On behalf of Canada, I hereby promise not to confiscate it.
posted by Count Ziggurat at 3:53 PM on February 4, 2006


Physicist Bruce DePalma has a 100 kilowatt generator . . . sitting in his garage.

I don't think he does. He's dead, Jim
posted by Zetetics at 3:56 PM on February 4, 2006


Nelson- I dunno, sounds like some pretty great stuff over there to me: "You educated stupid word animals can't fathom this greatest social and scientific math of creation."
posted by wozzwinkl at 4:01 PM on February 4, 2006


"You educated stupid word animals can't fathom this greatest social and scientific math of creation."

Issac Newton, Stupid Word Animal.
posted by frogan at 4:02 PM on February 4, 2006


as always, openmindedness is alive and well!
posted by moonbird at 4:04 PM on February 4, 2006


So often, emptymindedness masquerades as openmindedness.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 4:05 PM on February 4, 2006


who would win in a fight: bill nye or beakman?
posted by mcsweetie at 4:06 PM on February 4, 2006


as always, openmindedness is alive and well!

We're open-minded. Show us the device. No really, I'm serious. Bring it out. We'll bring cameras and donuts. Is it ready yet? Turn it on. Hook it up. Let's see it.
posted by frogan at 4:07 PM on February 4, 2006


It's probably a crock. Still ... it shouldn't be mocked unless you really know. Science has enough professional mockers, don't need any more really.
posted by Dag Maggot at 4:11 PM on February 4, 2006


Even granting the existance of a machine that violates conservation of energy, why would the government confiscate a device deemed unpatentable? Seems their response would be to, um, not grant a patent.

I love all those people in garages who'd save the world if only the Old White Guys would stop conspiring against upstart pseudoscientists.
posted by stackmonster at 4:11 PM on February 4, 2006


The fact that someone cannot patent something doesn't mean the "government can seize it." That is utter B.S.
posted by Ironmouth at 4:12 PM on February 4, 2006


"Show us the device. No really, I'm serious. Bring it out."
posted by frogan at 10:07 AM AEST on February 5

Zetetics first link appears to have pictures of it, along with a series of papers from DePalma on energy.
posted by Effigy2000 at 4:12 PM on February 4, 2006


Unfortunately, Effigy, you've been had.

This is a scam. You won't find anybody making a device that puts out more energy than it consumes. People have been trying for ages; they all fail.

And believe me, if somehow, someway, this guy did actually make this machine (and in so doing prove the entire foundation of physics, and millions of man-hours of meticulous experimentation wrong), the US government would buy it in an instant.

It would be beyond useful. It would essentially make men into gods*. There's no right-thinking government in the world that wouldn't jump all over this.

* And it's important to note, anyone claiming to have made a device that puts out more energy than it consumes is claiming to have found a way to turn men into gods. That is how profound the implications of such a machine would be. With such machines we could, literally, start storing up enough energy to push the moon into the sun, or blow up Jupiter, or move the entire Solar System somewhere else. We'd have complete dominion over the physical realm (I guess we wouldn't be quite gods, as we'd still have informational and temporal spheres to conquer, bet we'd be damn close).
posted by teece at 4:15 PM on February 4, 2006


And while you're building your perpetual energy machine, here's some more information you should check out.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 4:16 PM on February 4, 2006


... and out comes the timecube. Took less than an hour, that time.
posted by stackmonster at 4:20 PM on February 4, 2006


Also, I'm not a physicist so therefore I can't really speak to the validity of this so called N Machine and whether or not it could really work (though my housemate's girlfriend, who has done a Masters in physics, suggests it could work).

However, I did think that the more interesting point of the story was that the U.S patent office automatically dismisses, out of hand, any machine that claims to do what The N Machine claims to do. Putting aside the validity of DePalma's case for just a minute, isn't it worrying, even just a little, that if one day, hypotetically, a machine that actually did create more energy than was needed to run it was invented. that the patent office would dismiss it out of hand. They may just be saving paperwork, or they may not know how to assess such a device. But shouldn't the patent office have a plan to deal with the possibility that one day such a device could be presented to them?

Also, the second link from Zetetics suggests that DePalma wasn't a crackpot, but was "well known" in the physics community. Of course, one could also take that to mean he was well known for being a crack pot. It's hard to say what the author of that Wiki article was trying to say when he wrote that.

Didn't know that he was dead though. Thanks once more to Zetetics for bringing that to our attention.
posted by Effigy2000 at 4:22 PM on February 4, 2006


Zetetics first link appears to have pictures of it, along with a series of papers from DePalma on energy.

Cool. Now does it fucking work? Hook that bad boy up. Let's see some flying sparks and shit. Any day now. We're waiting. C'mon, center your chakras and let's get this show on the road. Free energy, yee-hah! Just turn it on and show us that it works. Seriously. Turn it on.
posted by frogan at 4:23 PM on February 4, 2006


I'm just waiting for an inventor of a perpetual motion machine to come along who's altruistic and open-source, who shows us the plans and lets us built it ourselves, instead of keeping it hidden away behind new-age rants.
posted by Jimbob at 4:24 PM on February 4, 2006


isn't it worrying, even just a little, that if one day, hypotetically, a machine that actually did create more energy than was needed to run it was invented. that the patent office would dismiss it out of hand.

Not really. It doesn't need to be patented for it to work. The inventor could make it anyway, people would see it would work, all our energy problems would be solved, he'd get a Nobel Prize and make lots of money on the seminar speaking circuit. And they'd probably even bend the rules afterwards to let him patent a faster than light drive.
posted by Jimbob at 4:27 PM on February 4, 2006


However, I did think that the more interesting point of the story was that the U.S patent office automatically dismisses...

Yeah, it MUST be the Patent Office that's crazy. That couldn't be wild-ass imagining, misrepresentation and/or exaggeration from the type of crackpot that claims to have invented free energy. No, THAT guy is totally normal and level-headed. He wouldn't lie or be totally mistaken about Patent Office procedures, would he?
posted by frogan at 4:27 PM on February 4, 2006


Hey, whether the damn thing works or not, some of the derision for eccentric/unorthodox/harmless ideas around here is just sad. Why must we poke the weird people with perfect science and perfect logic? Why must we poke die-hard believers in strange gods or concepts? All that achieves is a demonstration of rigid, unflinching belief itself. How 'bout all us monkeys live and let live without the pissing contests, just for a day?
posted by moonbird at 4:28 PM on February 4, 2006


However, I did think that the more interesting point of the story was that the U.S patent office automatically dismisses, out of hand, any machine that claims to do what The N Machine claims to do.

No, it's a very reasonable stance for the patent office to take. Such a machine is impossible by the known laws of physics. There are few, if any, physicists that think this is a law likely to be wrong.

Examining such patents is a waste of time -- they invariable come from crackpots.

If (and it's a huge if) such a device were ever to be legitimately made, it would have absolutely no problem getting attention. If you gave the specs of such a machine freely, if you ran open, verifiable, and repeatable tests of such a machine, believe me, every single physicist and engineer that could we be putting your machine to the test.

We'd know of it in no time. Such a machine would completely and fundamentally alter the world, and it's knowledge would spread like wildfire.
posted by teece at 4:29 PM on February 4, 2006


Who's knocking magic beans?
posted by Balisong at 4:30 PM on February 4, 2006


Why must we poke the weird people with perfect science and perfect logic?

Because the false hopes provided by weird people wastes our fucking time and dilutes real messages about science, the environment and reality itself.

"In every country, we should be teaching our children the scientific method and the reasons for a Bill of Rights. With it comes a certain decency, humility and community spirit. In the demon-haunted world that we inhabit by virtue of being human, this may be all that stands between us and the enveloping darkness."
-- Carl Sagan

posted by frogan at 4:34 PM on February 4, 2006


Are you people actually saying that it's "lacking openmindedness" and "might miss an opportunity to solve the world's problems" to acknowledge that you simply cannot build a machine that generates free energy? It's not just knowing physics - it violates common sense and any reasonable aesthetic to think such a thing could exist.

Openmindedness does not imply you can never call bullshit. It just means you really mean it and have good reasons when you do.
posted by freebird at 4:37 PM on February 4, 2006


Perhaps I am missing something here, but is there not a glaring non-sequitur in Walters' article? Does the fact that the U.S. Patent Office auomatically denies a patent to an invention necessarily entail government confiscation of the invention? "We refuse to patent this, therefore we must take it from you." I don't get it.
posted by jayder at 4:37 PM on February 4, 2006


If one googles for this Bruce DePalma, one learns that he died in 1997, and also that there are a lot of people who know people who know people who've built various zero-point overunity free energy flux capacitor N machines. Of course nobody goes so far as to claim they've seen one work with their own eyes.

On the other hand, everything in the universe is literally made of energy and we aren't sure what gravity is.
posted by newton at 4:38 PM on February 4, 2006


Pfft, Newton, you got gravity wrong in the first place.
posted by Jimbob at 4:39 PM on February 4, 2006


Effigy2000 writes "Also, the second link from Zetetics suggests that DePalma wasn't a crackpot, but was 'well known' in the physics community."

Reading comprehension time. It says he was "was a well known figure in the alternative energy community." In other words, he was a well-known crackpot.

Did you read those "papers on energy" you linked to? They're undiluted nonsense. Sorry.
posted by mr_roboto at 4:40 PM on February 4, 2006


This post is bullshit from the very first line -- the article in question is more bullshit.

Since when does "not granting a patent" == "confiscate"? I make things all the time -- almost all of them are not patentable -- does that mean the government can confiscate them?

If the US or any other government suspected that someone had "free energy" -- they'd snap it up in a minute. If one person had it, it's only a matter of time until some Japanese, Chinese or other scientist got it too.

Don't waste our time with stupid posts like this, please.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 4:42 PM on February 4, 2006


the second link from Zetetics suggests that DePalma wasn't a crackpot

Hold it right there. I have in no way done anything in any way related to suggesting that DePalma wasn't a crackpot.
DePalma was a crackpot. He was a relatively well-known crackpot. I merely pointed out that he is now a dead crackpot

shouldn't the patent office have a plan to deal with the possibility. . .

I think they do have a plan for such an occasion; they pack up and go home. As the problem of scarcity will have been solved for all time, the U.S. patent office will no longer be needed.
posted by Zetetics at 4:43 PM on February 4, 2006


The reason the patent office doesn't deal with this isn't because it hasn't been shown to work, or because of any conspiracy, but because it fucking violates the laws of thermodynamics, and is horseshit.
posted by odinsdream at 4:44 PM on February 4, 2006


Here's a history of perpetual motion machines back to 1300 or so. He mentions DePalma, too.

It's very indicative -- and very sad -- that the DePalma website opens with a quote: "If you can imagine it, it's imaginable -- if it's imaginable, it must be real." If you believe this, then you believe anything at all.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 4:54 PM on February 4, 2006


The people who claim to make these machines fall into three camps:

Type 1: The well-meaning, but bad, experimentalist. These people think they've created a free energy machine, but in reality are just really bad at accounting for energy (meaning they're counting all they're energy outputs, but not all their energy inputs, so their bottom line is wrong).

Type 2: Crackpots, people who believe a lot of nonsense, and essentially practice a type of nonsensical superstition they think is science or engineering.

Type 3: Snake oil salesman. Someone lying to you to swindle you out of a buck.

This is a centuries old tradition. Every single example falls into one (or more) of those three camps. With no exceptions. With all likelihood, it will continue to be that way for all time.

If you really think that such a machine can exist, I urge you to ponder the implications. Everything humans have known to this point will be null and void. Physics is all wrong. Economics is all wrong (if energy is free, there is no scarcity, and hence no economics). Men are essentially gods if we do this, so even religion can be thrown into major chaos. We could literally reorder the universe to our desire if we had such a machine.

Really think about it. You'll come 'round to the point of view that such stories are crap if you do.
posted by teece at 4:55 PM on February 4, 2006


OMG!!! You mean "mufor.org" isn't 10,00% reliable? Does that mean I shouldn't go to its "U.F.O. Research" homepage and automatically believe the lead story about FACES ON MARS???


It looks *way* legitimate to me. Especially since it's brandishing the ultimate mark of interweb legitimacy:


posted by MaxVonCretin at 4:59 PM on February 4, 2006


moonbird, the reason we poke this kind of claim so hard is because it's FRAUD. These guys are always trying to bilk money out of people. If they were just harmlessly puttering away in their garages, it would be one thing, but they're out there soliciting money with extravagant promises.

This specific kind of 'belief' needs to be ridiculed without mercy. Anyone making this claim without demonstrable proof should be mocked and made an example of. He or she is either deluded or trying to steal money from people, and isn't worthy of the tiniest shred of respect.

They're not harmless.
posted by Malor at 5:02 PM on February 4, 2006


"...we could, literally, start storing up enough energy to push the moon into the sun...."

That'd be so Awesome!!!
posted by squalor at 5:08 PM on February 4, 2006 [1 favorite]


There are few, if any, physicists that think this is a law likely to be wrong.

Hey, there's Effigy2000's housemate's girlfriend.

That makes at least two.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 5:22 PM on February 4, 2006


That'd be so Awesome!!!

Yeah, I've always hated those pesky tides too.
posted by flaterik at 5:26 PM on February 4, 2006


jimbob: Thank you, that made this thread worth all the fuss.

I'm suprised there wasn't a link to "The Endochronic Properties of Resublimated Thiotimoline."
posted by ?! at 5:33 PM on February 4, 2006


odinsdream-

Well, this is an interesting question. There have been many times in history when accepted scientific standards have changed, so I doubt whether a patent official would deny a patent to a design precisely because its effect was expressly prohibited in accordance with current understanding. I'm more inclined to think that this device would be declined for patent because its stated effect can't be demonstrated, not because it's supposed to be impossible, even though it can't be demonstrated (in all likelihood) because it's impossible.
posted by clockzero at 5:47 PM on February 4, 2006


I think by calling these guys 'crackpot', 'nutjob', 'loony' etc you're actually doing them a favour, by laying the groundwork for a future "They all called me mad, but..." speech.
posted by Ritchie at 6:11 PM on February 4, 2006


It's a completely workable solution. And it's real. I built one. I didn't manage 500%. I only got 350% energy efficiency, but it's real. Honest. I errm, spent a lot of money making it though, and that's why I've decided to sell it on eBay. Get your chequebooks out people. And watch this space.
posted by seanyboy at 6:13 PM on February 4, 2006


I honestly don't know how someone could be stupid enough to believe this.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 6:23 PM on February 4, 2006


"moonbird, the reason we poke this kind of claim so hard is because it's FRAUD. These guys are always trying to bilk money out of people. If they were just harmlessly puttering away in their garages, it would be one thing, but they're out there soliciting money with extravagant promises.

This specific kind of 'belief' needs to be ridiculed without mercy. Anyone making this claim without demonstrable proof should be mocked and made an example of. He or she is either deluded or trying to steal money from people, and isn't worthy of the tiniest shred of respect.

They're not harmless."


A point well made. Just like to point out, equally true of religon.
posted by lowest.common.denominator at 6:23 PM on February 4, 2006


How 'bout all us monkeys live and let live without the pissing contests, just for a day?

Posted too late. National 'Give Love to Kooks' Day was Tuesday.
posted by stackmonster at 6:25 PM on February 4, 2006


Also, to be fair, perhaps what might seem like energy coming out of nowhere could actually be the tapping of energy whose existence or use as a viable source for human needs wasn't previously comprehended. I saw this not to defend this particular device, but just to consider possibility.

For example, if a dam is holding a river back and is suddenly removed, a great deal of kinetic energy is expent. Obviously, that isn't materializing ex nihilo. Perhaps there wil be a technology someday which will open a dam that we can't see yet.
posted by clockzero at 6:30 PM on February 4, 2006


How did this bullshit get posted? People who claim to be oppressed by the established academic world - whether in medicine or science, are invariably full of shit. If their claims had any merit, they would be accepted.

Check out The Seven Warning Signs of Bogus Science

2. The discoverer says that a powerful establishment is trying to suppress his or her work.

3. The scientific effect involved is always at the very limit of detection.

Or in this case, doesn't exist. Because if it fucking worked, it would be used.
posted by aerify at 6:37 PM on February 4, 2006


It got posted because I don't know shit about physics and because I thought there was something substantial behind a non-physics related aspect of the article. The Mateafilter group-think mind disagreed and I apologise. Feel free to delete the thread.

I'll stick to politics-filter from now on.
posted by Effigy2000 at 6:52 PM on February 4, 2006


Oh, and the USPTO will perfectly well consider patenting a perpetual motion machine -- all you need is a model that runs in their office for one year, see eg here or here... one search with Google would have told you this.

Is it too much to ask for a little fact checking before posting?

I had a debate about two years ago with an English-language reporter in Japan -- she was writing about a guy who had a way to make motors for fans 500% efficient.

I very politely pointed out that if he could do that, then he could extract energy out of the system, so why would it ever need to be plugged in? and that, since she was pushing his investment ideas, she was basically plugging a massive financial fraud. I also pointed out that a story exposing him as a massive fraud would sell a lot of papers.

She gave me all this gobblety-gook -- I politely wrote a series of simple experiments, one of which would have to work, in very simple English. She wrote back, basically saying that all my arguments were irrefutable but she knew the system just worked.

You might say I'm perpetually cranky on this issue (wince).

What's funny is that I'm open to all sorts of wacky ideas -- I'm an active Fortean (though on the slightly more skeptical side of the field) and believe that there are a lot of things that simply aren't well-explained by science in its current form and a lot of phenomena swept under the rug. William Corliss has systematically collected well-documented anomalies that aren't explained by science and categorized them according to the quality of the report and how much they challenge science (from "minor anomaly that could probably be explained by science with a little work" to "major anomaly that would require a revolution in science to explain" -- my paraphrase). Interestingly enough, he has no reports that are both from impeccable reports and that would require a revolution in science, but plenty of very high quality reports that would require some significant new work in science to explain.

But free energy machines? I'm going to be very very skeptical without very very good proof.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 6:53 PM on February 4, 2006


Oh, dear, sorry Effigy2000. We shouldn't have been so harsh.

I do actually love reading about this stuff... I just feel bad for the people getting ripped off.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 6:54 PM on February 4, 2006


Perhaps there wil be a technology someday which will open a dam that we can't see yet.

Sure. But the Patent Office does not employ the kinds of people qualified ferret out the one in a trillion chance that this latest perputal motion machine is actually the breakthrough that fundamentally alters physics.

In the exceedingly rare case that something truly revolutionary comes along, a lack of a patent is not going to hinder its progress. First of all, such a machine is much more likely to come from peer reviewed science, and thus not have the crackpot factor to contend with. Second, any such machine that actually works is going to make you fabulously wealthy (not to mention drastically alter the fate of humans) -- patent or no patent, the financial incentive is going to be there. Lastly, a untapped energy machine, such as you posit here, is not an perpetuum mobile, and is thus much more likely to be coming from people who know what the hell their doing; thus they could explain to the Patent Office (in their patent) why it was not such.

The Patent Office's policy is the correct one.
posted by teece at 6:55 PM on February 4, 2006


Dag Maggot: It's probably a crock. Still ... it shouldn't be mocked unless you really know. Science has enough professional mockers, don't need any more really.

FWIW, I think "professional mockery" is an apt definition of the word "science" (or at least the scientific method). e.g. If your theory withstands the mockery, it goes in the textbooks/it gets named after you/you win a Nobel prize etc.
posted by bright cold day at 7:04 PM on February 4, 2006


Here's some magic beans, and here's some more.

While perpetual-motion machines are without doubt bogus, links to sites about perpetual-motion machines are the opposite of bogus, because they often lead to interesting things.

On the other hand, the smackdown being administered herein is quite undeniably bogus.

On the web, snake-oil can be the scent that leads to Gene Day or Dr. Bronner.
posted by mwhybark at 7:07 PM on February 4, 2006


To all who think this might work, I would like to let you know that I have a bridge for sale.

It could power his whole house, but if he turns it on, the government may confiscate it. This is because the U.S. Patent office automatically denies a patent to any gizmo ...

So all unpatentable gizmos are now confiscated by the government? Did you even stop to think before posting this tripe?
posted by caddis at 7:12 PM on February 4, 2006


Entropy - there is no stopping it.
posted by caddis at 7:14 PM on February 4, 2006


That is hardly as impressive as the Z Machine.
posted by TwelveTwo at 7:20 PM on February 4, 2006


That's true, teece. Getting a patent is pretty minor compared to discovering a major new source of renewable (or limitless, useable) energy, or a perpetuum mobile.

The patent office's policy is to not grant patents to specifications for perpetual motion machines without a working model, apparently. I don't know about anyone else, but I didn't dispute the wisdom of that stance. I think the same standard should apply to claims of ex nihilo sources of energy, and it may very well.
posted by clockzero at 7:21 PM on February 4, 2006


I want to believe that there are energies around us that we don't understand yet. And I like the idea of some smart people pursuing a holy grail.
posted by fenriq at 7:25 PM on February 4, 2006


I'm always amused by the people who Come to the Defense of Science whenever someone proposes an efficiant generator. Does no one at all understand the distinction between a perpetual motion machine (impossible) and a means of converting energy from an environmental source into electrical energy (very possible — photovoltaics and geothermal energy come to mind). What this article describes seems to fall into the latter category, and while it also seems fairly bogus, it doesn't seem to be anything a priori impossible like a real perpetual motion machine.

First of all, such a machine is much more likely to come from peer reviewed science, and thus not have the crackpot factor to contend with.

The journal in which De Palma discussed this appears to be peer reviewed, though the page doesn't say for certain.

People who claim to be oppressed by the established academic world - whether in medicine or science, are invariably full of shit. If their claims had any merit, they would be accepted.

Sounds like a nice world you're living in. What's the immigration policy there?
posted by IshmaelGraves at 7:27 PM on February 4, 2006


He or she is either deluded or trying to steal money from people, and isn't worthy of the tiniest shred of respect.

Of course, that's what the "Scientific Elites(tm)" want you to think. But throughout History, many brave men like Judge Crater (inventor of the "Flexographotron 102 mpg carbueretor!) have dared to stand up to the evil plots of the Newtonian Cabal!

(hint: the real reason it's turned off is BECAUSE IT DOESN'T FUCKING WORK).

Go ahead and use your multisyllabic words, "College Boy". When the Grays shared the "R-dimensional Gravity Nullifying Technography Device" with Jimmy Hoffa, the "Scientific Establishment" was QUAKING IN ITS COLLECTIVE BOOTS!

Physics is all wrong. Economics is all wrong (if energy is free, there is no scarcity, and hence no economics).

Yup, and just think - all of the Economists and "Traditional Scientists" would all be out of business TOMORROW! Traditional Butchers laughed when JonBenet Ramsey explained that she could remotely mass-butcher cattle using the "J-Beam Bovimutilator 3000" that Nikola Tesla revealed to her during a harrowing session with a Ouija board.

The next day she was garrotted "as if by a professional". As if!

Free energy claims should be treated with as much confidence as if somebody tried to sell you magic beans.

Laugh on, dupe of the "ExxonMobilVerizonHalliburton conspiracy"! Natalee Holloway invented the "ZR degree wormhole spacetime FTL slingshot" and was about to demonstrate this for a science fair - once she got back from Aruba. Ken Lay received an early demo.

Bad move, Nat.

Anyone making this claim without demonstrable proof should be mocked and made an example of.

Of course you say that, you who are constrained by the lack of imagination, who have a so-called "investment" in the so-called "scientific community". Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman (he was disguised as a waiter) had discovered the technology behind the "SR3J Modulated L-Ray Wave Confroogulator" which would allow Star Trek-like transport beams. The CIA and the Mossad gave OJ powerful mind-altering drugs, and that was the end of that.

All I can say about Bruce DePalma is that I hope he hides well, 'cause they're probably going to kill him any second now.
posted by swell at 7:28 PM on February 4, 2006


Actually, there is such a thing as an energy background. It's called dark energy. Nobody knows what the hell it is. But sure, in principle, maybe you could find a way to extract energy from the background. Probably not, but like I said, nobody really knows what the hell the stuff is.

We do know that we've only noticed the effects of dark energy by looking over cosmological time scales and distances, so the machine would likely have to be very, very, very big, to say the least.

Also, magnets aren't going to help.
posted by dsword at 7:33 PM on February 4, 2006


What the heck is a gigawatt!?
posted by Citizen Premier at 7:38 PM on February 4, 2006


storing up enough energy to push the moon into the sun

Don't joke, the U.S.'ll do it. On the 4th of July, too.
posted by CynicalKnight at 7:38 PM on February 4, 2006


"The most profound manifestation of the creative force in material form are the thoughts and ideas [...] On the highest level of abstraction Force is Intelligence; consequently the primordial field is intelligent"

On the Nature of the Primordial Field, Brian De Palma, 1997
posted by CynicalKnight at 7:41 PM on February 4, 2006


SR3J Modulated L-Ray Wave Confroogulator

That's the last time time you'll blame someone else for your technology thievery, Swell. We're on to you, and you better return the Illudim Pew-36 explosive space modulator.

[linked WAV file]
posted by CynicalKnight at 7:50 PM on February 4, 2006


the primordial field is intelligent

Intelligent Design
posted by caddis at 7:57 PM on February 4, 2006


Yeah, but wouldn't it be cool if it worked?
posted by PossumCowboy at 8:13 PM on February 4, 2006


If it really works then turn it on and damn the US patent office. If you've got such a machine you pretty much rule the earth anyway.

I for one bow to our infinite energy overlords. (well, except that they are full of crap that is)
posted by Merlin at 8:21 PM on February 4, 2006


The Metafilter group-think mind

Put me down as a proud member of the Metafilter Group-Think Mind. Is there some sort of an initiation? Do I get to wear a funny hat?
posted by frogan at 8:45 PM on February 4, 2006


It got posted because I don't know shit about physics

It's not so much physics as common sense. But I suppose it is indicative of shocking lack of general scientific knowledge the public seems to have these days.
posted by aerify at 8:52 PM on February 4, 2006


When I was a boy, blowing up the moon was just a beautiful dream. Now, it's science fact!
posted by AaronRaphael at 8:59 PM on February 4, 2006


I honestly don't know how someone could be stupid enough to believe this.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 8:23 PM CST on February 4 [!]


We'd know of it in no time. Such a machine would completely and fundamentally alter the world, and it's knowledge would spread like wildfire.
posted by teece at 6:29 PM CST on February 4 [!]


I think those two things sum up everything one would need to know on this topic.

It is all very simple, virtually no high level knowledge required.

John claims to invent a machine that can output 2 watts when 1 watt of energy is put into it. Therefore, if it can output 2 watts, 1 watt could be diverted to power the device, giving off a constant 1 watt excess of power.

Therefore, you would have a machine that could run forever with no additional inputs and provide, again forever, a constant stream of free energy. Energy literally produced from nothing.

At even this small scale, the implications would be earth-shattering. Everything, and I mean everything, would change, forever. The person who made this, even if it were 101% efficient, would be the most famous person ever, and would be able to hire Bill Gates as his poolboy.

That to me is the funniest part. There are always these claims of being 500% efficient or 350% efficient, where only 101% would literally change the face of the world immediately. So little to ask, yet COMPLETELY UNATTAINABLE.
posted by Ynoxas at 9:01 PM on February 4, 2006 [1 favorite]


Hint: if you have a way of producing energy and are afraid you can't patent it because it will trigger the "won't patent perpetual energy machines" test -- you don't have to claim it does.

Claim how to build a device to your description, just the parts and how to put everything together, never mind why you think it works, as long as it does; we'll all build our own, agree it works.

Explanation can wait. You get the patent and right to build them for resale. No need to hypothesize _why_ it works, just describe it clearly enough that I can build one too, and mine will work.

The patent is that description -- with a number stamped by the Patent Office affirming it can be build, and that you get the right to resell them (but I and others who've build our own from your description do not get that right).

I'm not a lawyer. I have a workshop.
posted by hank at 9:08 PM on February 4, 2006


the reason we poke this kind of claim so hard is because it's FRAUD. These guys are always trying to bilk money out of people.

Same goes for those people who say things like, "A penny saved, is a penny earned." Don't they know that yesterday's pennies are worth so much more than next week's pennies?

This is the same bullshit the bank has been trying to sell me.
posted by Balisong at 9:16 PM on February 4, 2006


People who claim to be oppressed by the established academic world - whether in medicine or science, are invariably full of shit. If their claims had any merit, they would be accepted.

It's true. No one with a good idea has ever had it rejected because it threatened established power structures. People in power simply hate being in power, and are waiting impatiently for someone to unseat them with new information which underlines a previously unknown absurdity about the basis of their social privilege.

Also, no one has ever been reluctant to accept new information which makes their belief system untenable. People love having their life's work and the potentially shoddy foundation on which it was actually based thrown in to question, especially in public. It's fun.

Everyone is always entirely and immediately gracious about everything they encounter - even moreso if it is unfamiliar.

And that, children, is why we all live in an utter and endless peace. Because people just want to do what's right, all the time, completely selflessly, and anyone who attains privilege always rightly and immediately resents it.

If you believe that, I have an N Machine I'd like to sell you.
posted by poweredbybeard at 9:34 PM on February 4, 2006


If you believe that, I have an N Machine I'd like to sell you.

Really? Does it work? Show me a working model. Then show me the horrible oppression that prevents us from enjoying the wonderful invention. I'll bring the beer. It'll be a great time.

This is like that Crossing Over guy, John Edwards, coming to me and saying, "Since I can talk to dead people, I can ask them who really killed JFK. But the evil, corporate goons won't let me talk to the right dead guys, so now we'll never know."

And I'd be all like, "Really, you can talk to dead people? Show me."
posted by frogan at 9:59 PM on February 4, 2006


The funny thing effigy2000, despite all the criticism you have gotten for this post, your prior posts leading up to this one are standouts. I looked at the list and remembered every one of them. They were good. Everyone makes bad posts. I guess it is more fun to really do it up when you do. Anyway, don't take any of this stuff to heart.
posted by caddis at 10:01 PM on February 4, 2006


The journal in which De Palma discussed this appears to be peer reviewed, though the page doesn't say for certain.
Yeah, but then every charlatan, every snake-oil salesman, every scientist guilty of poor book-keeping, every confidence scammer and every crackpot has a group of peers. Reputation is both the boon and bane of peer reviews. A lack of reputation makes it hard for new scientists to get in journals unless you can hitch a ride with a more established name. On the other hand because of the value of a reputation half-baked ideas tend to be dismissed. Sometimes even really intelligent people get fooled, or a scientist who already has a reputation gets their paper through the peer review process even though they're fabricating results or did poor measurements. Usually the peer review process works though because of the intangible value of a reputation.

If you dissect a free-energy machine you will invariably find a power source. Maybe it's a battery, maybe it's generator or maybe it's a dish of hot water. There's no such thing as free energy.

This machine is supposed to put out 5 times more energy than what is put into it. You could make an energy ponzi-scheme with this. If this machine takes in 2000 watts and puts out 100,000 watts then the machine in turn could power 5 copies of this incredible device. So now you've got 12.5 megawatts of power. This is enough to power 6250 copies of the device for an output of 625 megawatts. Repeat the process again with 312,500 of them and now your power output is 31.25 billion watts. Go one more rank (312500 more generators) and you have 1562.5 billion watts. That's about 10% of the U.S. energy consumption.

Or you could just feed the output of a single generator back into itself. It'd build up power until it couldn't handle it and burn up or explode.
posted by substrate at 10:20 PM on February 4, 2006



That to me is the funniest part. There are always these claims of being 500% efficient or 350% efficient, where only 101% would literally change the face of the world immediately. So little to ask, yet COMPLETELY UNATTAINABLE.


Yes, 101% is completely unattainable. But, 99.9999...%, now that is something to really dream about.

Thank god we cannot create "free-energy", humans have big enough egos as it is. Can you imagine how difficult politics would be if we all had endless stores of energy?

SCARY.
posted by slickvaguely at 10:28 PM on February 4, 2006


I want to believe that there are energies around us that we don't understand yet. And I like the idea of some smart people pursuing a holy grail.

There are energies we don't understand. Try 'zero-point energy' and 'Casimir' in Google searches ans you'll quickly discover that there is a potential source of energy from quantum fluctuation that we may be able to harness. This approach has variously been described as 'stealing energy from other universes' since no known mechanism exists for replenishing the energy and still obeying energy conservation (then again, E conservation is merely a statement about Time symmetry and we may be off on that...)

All the people in the thread saying perpetual motions cant exist are sort of correct in that way that English teachers are correct about grammar and yet there are great writers out there who break them all the time because they know what they're doing. They cant exist if you accept strict E conservation - but we already know thats not true since E is part of a conjugate pair along with T (time) which obeys its own symmetry rules (E-T symmetries in the Noether theorems and of course E-T uncertainty in the Heisenberg theorems) So, we can borrow Energy from the vacuum and then scheme ways so that we dont have to return it thus, essentially, creating Energy.

In other words, Energy creation is against the laws of only high school physics.
posted by vacapinta at 10:37 PM on February 4, 2006


Intuitively seems plausable. Did anyone actually read the article in it's entirety?

Allow for the possibility...wrap your mind around that...allow for new thinking...quote " the laws of physics are not written in stone..." In an oddly parallel aside, some of you exhibit the same thinking of the said same patent office that once (a hundred years ago?)stupendously declared that everything that could be invented, had already been invented!

This quy was an MIT professor. Any MIT professors or their equivelent among you commentors? Step up. I have a doughnut for you. Those who say it can't be done need step aside for those who are already taking steps to get it done!

The world isn't flat? Heresy!!
posted by Muirwylde at 10:44 PM on February 4, 2006


Free energy? Sure you can have as much as you'd like as long as you return it fast enough. But as far as we know, it must always be returned.
posted by ozomatli at 10:46 PM on February 4, 2006


I should add, before I get lumped into the crackpot contingent, that there appear to be some theoretical stumbling blocks but, as far as am I aware, there is no rigorous statement that says we can't either. This is mostly due to lingering uncertainties about the strength and ultimate macroscopic manifestation of the Casimir force itself which raises some issues in associated cosmological theories.
posted by vacapinta at 10:49 PM on February 4, 2006


This quy was an MIT professor.

So fucking what? Ted Kaczynski was a math professor at Berkeley.

I think everyone here is tremendously open-minded (some to extremes, but that's another discussion). We're all so open-minded that we'll gladly sit through a demonstration of the N-machine device, and gladly sit through a dissertation of the woes of the Patent Office.

At the same time, I hope everyone on the other side of the discussion is open-minded enough to realize that ... despite all their claims to high-minded philosophy, "pursuing a holy grail," and being misunderstood ... charlatans and kooks will fuck with you.
posted by frogan at 10:53 PM on February 4, 2006


A primer on Casimir Effect. Still isn't free energy.
posted by ozomatli at 11:03 PM on February 4, 2006


While the perpetual energy machine is 100% bogus I'm afraid, I'm with the ones urging you to keep trying effigy2000, and don't be too disheartened that you seem to be living up to your handle today....
posted by JHarris at 11:16 PM on February 4, 2006


In other words, Energy creation is against the laws of only high school physics.
posted by vacapinta at 12:37 AM CST on February 5 [!]


Please don't say stuff like this. It actually makes the reader wince in sympathetic embarrassment for you.
posted by Ynoxas at 11:26 PM on February 4, 2006


Please don't say stuff like this. It actually makes the reader wince in sympathetic embarrassment for you.

Meh. Thats part of my point. Physics discussions around here involve making sure not to "speak profanity around the kids" so there is little room left for viable discussion about different parametrizations of time in General Relativity and/or local Energy fluctuations.

So, yeah, fuck this.
posted by vacapinta at 11:40 PM on February 4, 2006


The machine, which weighed approximately 20 pounds when not running, reportedly DECREASED in weight to 15 pounds when running. This effect was said to be due to antigravity.

That's where they lost me.
posted by clevershark at 11:44 PM on February 4, 2006


Muirwylde I'm halfway through my Masters degree in Engineering and I'm telling you there's no way some guy built a machine that produces free energy. Unless you're manipulating subatomic particles or at supercooled/heated temperatures there isn't any possible chance of doing it. And by no means with magnets.

See here.
posted by anthill at 11:44 PM on February 4, 2006


Wanna know the real dangers of pseudoscience? Right here, bud.

Life and Death on Fringes of Medicine

Clive McLean died March 29 of kidney cancer that had spread to his brain. The therapies for which he and his wife had paid so dearly — using up much of their savings and forsaking traditional cancer treatments that might have prolonged his life — were useless, doctors say.

...

Proponents of unorthodox medicine have been quite successful at changing the language as well as the playing field, he says. "What we used to regard as illegal, immoral and unethical is now regarded as just a different way of thinking."

But Erica McLean maintains that she was duped.

"When you're dealing with something like this, you can believe anything and anybody," Erica says. "We were so pulled by the promise of a cure. It was a betrayal."

posted by frogan at 11:53 PM on February 4, 2006


Entropy - there is no stopping it.

I am an anti-entropic orgasm machine.
posted by loquacious at 12:00 AM on February 5, 2006


The history of science is full of really obviously idiotic ideas from goofy people that have silly jobs, like in the Swiss patent office, that turn out to be not so silly after all.

As far as I'm concerned, the current state of physics is full of magical silliness. Any reasonable and informed person would expect 'perpetual motion' to be invented at any time. After all, the universe is expanding at an increasing rate, in defiance of all known rules.

Please, keep hands and feet inside the carriage at all times, and fasten your seat belts. Reality is far more bizarre than anyone can guess. It's going to be a rough ride.
posted by Goofyy at 12:22 AM on February 5, 2006


So, we can borrow Energy from the vacuum and then scheme ways so that we dont have to return it thus, essentially, creating Energy.

Yeah, that's not the way it works. How, exactly, would we be able to borrow energy in such a way that violates the laws of thermodynamics?
posted by bshort at 12:25 AM on February 5, 2006


I'll stick to politics-filter from now on.

This kind of post is what's wrong with the politics threads as well.
posted by Slithy_Tove at 1:28 AM on February 5, 2006


To clarify what vacapinta said:

While energy conservation may seem mandatory to some (particularly the experimentalist), to the theorist it, like everything else, is merely an empirical observation.

At some point, however, it all comes back to your assumptions. If our equations describing the Universe are right, and if the Universe is invariant under translations in time (if I can perform an experiment today, or tomorrow, or whenever, and get the same result), then energy is conserved.

But again, it's all about the assumptions. People assume that the Universe exhibits time symmetry. If it turns out that it doesn't, well, hey, maybe free energy is possible. For a long time, people thought that the Universe was symmetric with respect to parity (look at an event through a mirror... you can find another event that looks just like that in the unmirrored Universe). That turned out to be wrong. The same was true with charge conjugation (particles->anti-particles). Now, all we're left with is the CPT theorem, which says nothing more than that if you observe an event involving anti-particles going backwards in time through a mirror, then it's a physically realistic event.

Even though physicists themselves often talk about energy conservation as though it were something holy, it really isn't. It's just the way it is (and it happens to be really friggin' convenient for calculations).
posted by dsword at 2:01 AM on February 5, 2006


This guy, however, is a crack pot. I want to be clear about that.
posted by dsword at 2:02 AM on February 5, 2006


I believe it was Carl Sagan who said "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence". In this case, that phrase is very applicable.
posted by Meridian at 2:09 AM on February 5, 2006


Life and Death on Fringes of Medicine

That was a great article, frogan. Would have been a worthy FPP in itself, IMO. Faith-based medicine is definitely on the upswing, defended by precisely the same sort of demands for 'open-mindedness' that we're seeing in this thread.

Meanwhile, practitioners pursue their policy of never giving a sucker an even break.

obviously idiotic ideas from goofy people that have silly jobs, like in the Swiss patent office


What's silly about a job in the Swiss patent office? Now, if you'd said the software section of the US patent office, then I could see your point.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 2:12 AM on February 5, 2006


I'll stick to politics-filter from now on.
Don't. They are ALL lunatics in there.
posted by Joeforking at 4:14 AM on February 5, 2006


PeterM: Pretty silly, if you're Einstein, that is ;-)
posted by Goofyy at 6:14 AM on February 5, 2006


The journal in which De Palma discussed this appears to be peer reviewed, though the page doesn't say for certain.

That is why our science education is failing us. Publication in a journal, even a well accepted peer review journal does not mean that the theories in the article are correct. It just means that there is enough there to make it interesting for publication. Then the real work starts as the peers try to replicate the experiments. If they can then scientists start to believe in it. Remember high school science? You start with a hypothesis and then you run experiments to prove or disprove your hypothesis. If you can not repeat the experiments, especially if only the inventor can seem to repeat them, then the hypothesis is not proven. This hypothesis has not been proven.
posted by caddis at 6:18 AM on February 5, 2006


Dear Mr DePalma,

You have to play the game.
You can't win the game.
You can't break even.
You can't quit the game.

Sincerely,
Thermodynamics.
posted by Mikey-San at 6:39 AM on February 5, 2006


Any reasonable and informed person would expect 'perpetual motion' to be invented at any time.

I can't imagine that's what you really meant to say. Any reasonable and informed person would never say something so absurd.

Perpetual motion and/or free energy is not something physicists expect is "just around the corner" or one garage-project away.

It is impossible.

As I said, show me a machine that can reliably produce 101% of its energy input and I will buy you a beer anywhere you want. After that, we'll talk about 500% efficiency. Of course, if you could do that, you wouldn't need me to buy you a beer, because you would be rich beyond all measure and the most famous person since Jesus.

The people who "want to believe" just don't quite get the scale and scope of what they are wanting to believe in. It is something that would fundamentally change every single aspect of your life. Forever.

If there were *ANY* chance of this being possible, no matter how tiny, it would be doggedly pursued by every research group in the world, as the gains would be immeasurable.

In fact, I would go so far as to say that if it were possible, it would be the *ONLY* research project in the world.

I'm sorry to be a hater and shatter your dreams of making a magic box that powers NYC on a 9-volt battery, but it's not going to happen.

Not now, not ever. Not Ever. Ever ever ever.

After all, the universe is expanding at an increasing rate, in defiance of all known rules.

Firecrackers expand at an increasing rate as well. For a while.

I feel dirty just being here.
posted by Ynoxas at 7:02 AM on February 5, 2006


Why the hell would the government confiscate the thing just because they don't want to issue a patent? That dosn't make any sense.
posted by delmoi at 7:52 AM on February 5, 2006


Yes, this thing is probably a mistake of some sort - it probably doesnt produce free energy. But dont rule it out because it violates the law of thermodynamics. Scientific laws change. Read Kuhn. Who knows how the universe works.. if you had told people a hundred years ago we could split the atom, land on the moon, or clone sheep they'd think you were crazy.
posted by tranceformer at 8:58 AM on February 5, 2006


In other words, Energy creation is against the laws of only high school physics.

This is complete bullshit vacapinta, and you're smarter than that.

It's called the Correspondence Principle. QM becomes classical in the macro -- QM upholds conservation of E in the macro -- and mainly in the micro, too. Zero point energy comes with an astounding penalty -- it can only exist for time frames below the barrier put on it by the uncertainty principle, which are really, really short time frames.

Again, there will be no free energy without a complete reworking of physics, and that includes the QM from which zero point energy and quantum foam and all that stuff comes from.

It's complete nonsense to say that conservation of energy is something that only exists in high school physics. Indeed, conservation of energy is THE principle that holds together all of of the different branches of physics, from quantum to classical. None of the underpinnings of modern physics would exist without it. The mathematical structures of both quantum and classical physics rely completely on the conservation of energy for their genesis -- without that, they're nothing.

You're way smarter than the nonsense you just spouted.
posted by teece at 9:21 AM on February 5, 2006


In other words, Energy creation is against the laws of only high school physics.
posted by vacapinta at 10:37 PM PST on February 4


I'm interested in when we'll be able to harness infinite energy, v. Do you think it will be in the next ten years? Hundred? What's holding us back?
posted by Optimus Chyme at 9:21 AM on February 5, 2006


What a silly and sad thread. You so want to believe, but you're wrong. It's science fraud.

The reason we're so vehement about perpetual motion being impossible is because it's so frustrating to understand something about science and to try to talk to folks who don't, but should. What's worse is it's impossible for we science nerds to do this without sounding arrogant. Because, frankly, we are. We know something that is true. Really, verifiably true; not "it's my religion" but "this is measurably the way the world works. Folks proposing perpetual motion are irritating because they refuse to understand that truth and thereby waste people's time or steal their money.

Perpetual motion is a laugh. But the same unscientific impulse is what causes quacks to hold magnets and homeopathic tinctures near people's deadly cancerous tumours and claim they're healing them. It's dangerous and must be stopped. Not because it's stupid to think a magnet could cure cancer, but because the folks waving the magnets around refuse to scientifically measure the efficacy of their "treatment". It kills people.
posted by Nelson at 9:52 AM on February 5, 2006


I want an Ineffable Truth Cube. I've not wanted any other cube as much I want one of those.
posted by planetthoughtful at 9:55 AM on February 5, 2006


For all the smart commentary on this discussion, can't anyone just build one of the darned things and test it ?

It might be worthwhile. It seems like a simple enough experiment.

If it works - well then, the world's energy problems are solved. If not, the pointless bickering is curtailed.
posted by troutfishing at 10:29 AM on February 5, 2006


I don't often raise my head so obviously here, but I'm one of the hosts of Mythbusters, on the Discovery channel. Some of you may or may not have seen our show on "Free Energy" and if you saw it, you may or may not have problems with what we did, but I'll tell you this.

3 months of gathering together a file about a foot thick (not an exaggeration) on everything to do with claims of "overunity" and "free energy" yielded NOT A SINGLE PERSON willing to come forward and demonstrate a device on our show.

We have an amazing research team. They can find me half a million pingpong balls within a week (for free) and get me everything from live skunks to silicone breast implants on a moment's notice. Hell, they got the FBI to help us blow up a cement truck in the middle of California! And they couldn't turn up anyone, ANYONE willing to show their device on National TV.

I've never read so much crap in my life as sifting through the garbage that was the "Free Energy" file.

I personally pledge, that if someone COULD demonstrate it, I'd give them national exposure in a heartbeat.

(understand that we'd bring in our own outside experts for corroboration of the results we were seeing.

Snake oil, pure and simple. Not persecution, not a conspiracy, not anything but bunkum.

It's about as vaiid as rubbing green marker around your CDs.
posted by asavage at 10:38 AM on February 5, 2006 [7 favorites]


I'm curious about what you chaps make of Eric Laithwaite, though (I thought he was linked to you up there, but can't find it now) - there are two interesting points with reference to the scientific establishment -

First of all, his treatment after the Royal Institution demonstration (where he demonstrated that, amongst other things, he could lift a running 50lb gyroscope above his head effortlessly, that is to say it had lost weight): most accounts say that he was ostracised for implying that Newton was wrong. That said, he did give the following year's Royal Institution Christmas Lectures (video available here - in particular, this section). In general the story is that he was shunned by the establishment because he was talking about inconvenient things

The other point in Laithwaite's life was his earlier achievement with relation to linear induction motors, which has lain fairly fallow because of the collossal investment in R&D (mostly done by the Japanese and Germans in recent years with some success) and in infrastructure - after all it would require the replacement of any and all lines the train would be expected to run on.

These seem to highlight the political nature of scientific (and in particular engineering) establishments,which is what people are complaining about.
posted by Grangousier at 10:45 AM on February 5, 2006


Oh, he's nothing to do with "free energy", by the way - just a member of the Awkward Squad. And I think he managed to reconcile Gyroscopic motion with Newton for himself.
posted by Grangousier at 10:47 AM on February 5, 2006


Interesting thread. It seems that free energy machinists are the alchemists of our times...
posted by runkelfinker at 11:26 AM on February 5, 2006



Interesting thread. It seems that free energy machinists are the alchemists of our times...


No alchemists are the alchemists of our times. the meaning of lead into gold was a metaphor in the middle ages it was not intended literally
posted by tranceformer at 12:14 PM on February 5, 2006


I still have that bridge for sale.
posted by caddis at 12:22 PM on February 5, 2006


asavage wins the thread.
posted by terrapin at 1:52 PM on February 5, 2006


For all the smart commentary on this discussion, can't anyone just build one of the darned things and test it ?

It might be worthwhile. It seems like a simple enough experiment.

If it works - well then, the world's energy problems are solved. If not, the pointless bickering is curtailed.
posted by troutfishing at 10:29 AM PST on February 5


If I told you there was a diamond at the bottom of a lake of shit, would you go diving for it?

I'm interested in when we'll be able to harness infinite energy, v. Do you think it will be in the next ten years? Hundred? What's holding us back?
posted by Optimus Chyme at 9:21 AM PST on February 5


Still waiting, vaca. Your knowledge of physics seems to be the same as esquire's knowledge of law.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 2:15 PM on February 5, 2006


I happen to be a patent examiner (not in the USPTO, though), and to work in a field with more than its fair share of "unconventional science".

First of all, as many people have already pointed out, that something isn't patentable doesn't mean that any government can confiscate it. A patent merely gives you the right to stop others from copying your invention.

Secondly, the general criteria for something to be considered patentable are that it should be new, inventive (not obvious) and useful. Obviously, if something does not work, it can't be very useful. Moreover, a patent should give enough information to reproduce the invention. If the invention appears to go against generally accepted scientific principles, this will be debatable.

That something gets a patent does not necessarily mean that it works, though. This may be very difficult to ascertain, and the only person harmed by a patent for something that does not work is the owner himself. Nevertheless, examiners keep an eye open for things like perpetua mobilia. The USPTO in particular appears to have a long-standing policy to reject them from the start. Thing is, the idea behind this is to protect these applicants from themselves: the filing and prosecution of a patent aren't cheap, and neither are the renewal fees. Confronted with such an application, the only decent thing to do is to try to explain the applicant where he's gone wrong (sometimes there are some evident calculation mistakes) and try to see that he withdraws. If not, the only option will be the refusal.

Moreover, all of this takes a lot of time, and patent offices are already busy enough as it is. Nevertheless, a patent examiner should always keep an open mind: the Wright brothers, for instance, had trouble getting a patent, because back then the USPTO was as tired of notional "flying machines" as of perpetua mobilia...
posted by Skeptic at 4:13 PM on February 5, 2006


asavage wins the thread

Wins it? Dude, that was the all-time grand slam ThreadBuster. We should name the trophy after him.

Thanks, Adam. Love the show. Keep it up.
posted by frogan at 5:03 PM on February 5, 2006


There's another company I've noticed that seems to be edging into unconventional science/physics, over at Blacklight Power. I can't make heads or tails out of the math myself. Searched around in Google, found some folks who say it's a scam, but apparently NASA's looking into their claims and finding at least a bit of merit in their theories. Something like this I'd keep a more open mind on than a guy in a garage saying he's being intimidated by the USPTO.

And ASavage DEFINITELY ThreadBusted. Great show - great comments - I can only hope they keep doing it (Mythbusting, that is) for years to come.
posted by JB71 at 6:19 PM on February 5, 2006


“It's about as vaild as rubbing green marker around your CDs.”

*marker squeeka squeeka*
Wait, what!?

I love the concept of zero point energy and quantum fluctuation but I gotta go with teece.

I thought about the idea when I first heard about quantum flux, etc. - and said “Gee, you could tap energy from that” and I then went on to figure out ways it could be done (with current technology, and purely speculatively).
Then I said “Gee, it would be a ridiculous waste of time trying to tap energy from that.”

We’re more than a few cheap room-temperature superconductors away from that.
More than a few cold fusion chambers away.

We might as well look to take advantage of the ‘free’ energy from theoretical particles.

Even if it is ‘possible’ (debatable - doubtful)

Consider: take the best engineers and physicists you know - lets throw Oppenheimer in there too. Get them to build an atomic bomb - easy right?
But first put them in a time machine and strand them say 50,000 years back.

No mining, no precision made parts, no steel, no electronics, etc. etc. etc.
The scientific infrastructure doesn’t exist.

How’s some guy going to do this in his garage?

The days of the gentleman inventor are - for the most part - over. You need vast resources sitting on mountains of basic research to make moves in high level physics.
No conspiracy required.
posted by Smedleyman at 10:03 AM on February 6, 2006


In an oddly parallel aside, some of you exhibit the same thinking of the said same patent office that once (a hundred years ago?)stupendously declared that everything that could be invented, had already been invented!

In an oddly parallel aside, at least one of you exhibits the same credulity towards free-energy machines as towards apocryphal quotes.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 12:13 PM on February 6, 2006


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