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Free Energy Tomorrow
July 5, 2007 7:12 AM   Subscribe

Previously featured on MetaFilter, "Free Energy" company Steorn had scheduled a demonstration of their revolutionary, world-changing, physics-defying contraption Orbo to open today at London's Kinetica Museum. But due to "intense heat" from camera lighting, their fake invention isn't working today. Here's the live web feed of an empty box. Incidentally, it seems that the Steorn folks have allies in high - very high - places.
posted by Optimus Chyme (115 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
Curse you first law of thermodynamics & your unwavering insistence on energy transference!!! Also: curse my sad, sad guillibility that spark a .0001% chance that this might actually be a real invention. Stupid, naive jonson.
posted by jonson at 7:18 AM on July 5, 2007 [3 favorites]


Why do people believe this shit?
posted by notsnot at 7:22 AM on July 5, 2007


"In this house, we follow the rules of thermodynamics, young lady. Go to your room!"
posted by Afroblanco at 7:23 AM on July 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


Will it be working tomorrow? Or did the camera lights represent an unsurmountable technical challenge?
posted by stbalbach at 7:23 AM on July 5, 2007


From the last link:

Sean McCarthy and Richard Walshe, the two boffins behind Steorn Research unveiled their latest gizmo: The Orbo, a magnetic engine which according to carefully controlled experiments can produce up to three times as much energy as is put into it,effectively creating an infinite amount of energy from apparently nowhere.

I do not think that word means what you think it means.
posted by vernondalhart at 7:25 AM on July 5, 2007


It works, only if it's completely, totally dark. Let's just turn out all the lights here. Now, it should work, right?
posted by filmgeek at 7:30 AM on July 5, 2007


But just imagine if we did have an infinite source of energy.
All our environmental problems would be over.



No, wait...
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 7:32 AM on July 5, 2007 [6 favorites]


Damn it, I figured we'd make it through this without it getting posted to the blue. It's been on digg, slashdot and engadget for a couple days now. Seriously, if the thing worked, we'll find out about it soon enough. Don't give these assholes any more attention than they deserve.
posted by BeerFilter at 7:34 AM on July 5, 2007


Who are these allies in very high places? Is overwhelmingevidence.com backed by someone big?
posted by hydrophonic at 7:35 AM on July 5, 2007


that would be the big G.
posted by empath at 7:36 AM on July 5, 2007


Quelle surprise.

No perpetual motion device post is complete without a link to TimeCube.

Flagged as noise.
posted by jellicle at 7:37 AM on July 5, 2007 [2 favorites]


I had to read that post 3 times before I realized that "overwhelming evidence" wasn't a reference to science but to the existence of God. Oh the irony!
posted by DU at 7:39 AM on July 5, 2007


Very High places indeed: You See? The energy doesn't come from "nowhere," it comes from Jesus! It's well-documented!
posted by TechnoLustLuddite at 7:40 AM on July 5, 2007


I do not think that word means what you think it means.

Inconceivable as it may seem, I do not think you're quoting what you think you're quoting.

"You keep using this word. I do not think it means what you think it means."
posted by The Ultimate Olympian at 7:42 AM on July 5, 2007


Yeah, I'd heard of this before. However, humiliating public failure of those who think that math/physics is somehow optional to their lives is always worth seeing. Point and laugh, children!
posted by a robot made out of meat at 7:44 AM on July 5, 2007


Aha! - Just make the next machine work off the 'intense heat' from the camera lights and you will have a license to print money.
posted by azlondon at 7:45 AM on July 5, 2007


The Orbo, a magnetic engine which according to carefully controlled experiments can produce up to three times as much energy as is put into it,effectively creating an infinite amount of energy from apparently nowhere.

No, no, no. It's not called Orbo, her name is Paris Hilton.
posted by three blind mice at 7:49 AM on July 5, 2007 [4 favorites]


If only there were a way to harness all the attention these guys were getting, they'd really have their perpetual-motion machine.
posted by adamrice at 7:54 AM on July 5, 2007


The oil industry sabotaged it!
posted by StarForce5 at 7:55 AM on July 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


I thought people who believed in intelligent design would be designed to have their designs work immediately.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 7:57 AM on July 5, 2007


I once had someone tell me that they invented a car that would run forever. See the car was powered with electric batteries that would drive a motor to turn the wheels. The wheels, however, were basically dynamos that would generate electricity as they rotated. He had drawings and everything.

He said, "so the energy used to turn the wheels is recreated by the turning wheels!"

I just looked at him.
posted by Pastabagel at 7:58 AM on July 5, 2007 [5 favorites]


If not for thermodynamics and law enforcement, I'd be unstoppable!
posted by Dipsomaniac at 8:02 AM on July 5, 2007 [3 favorites]


Have you heard about those cars that run on grain?
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 8:05 AM on July 5, 2007


Wait, this is real? Last year I looked at the website for about 5 minutes and assumed it was marketing for a movie.
posted by roll truck roll at 8:09 AM on July 5, 2007


Ah, pure marketing: All heat, no light.
posted by LordSludge at 8:13 AM on July 5, 2007


He said, "so the energy used to turn the wheels is recreated by the turning wheels!"

Haha. I met a guy who thought you could plug a generator into a transformer and back into the generator to produce free power forever. When I tried to explain the problems inherent in his hypothesis, his eyes just glazed over.
posted by IronLizard at 8:18 AM on July 5, 2007


Damn Al Qaeda and their infernal freedom hating camera lights.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 8:18 AM on July 5, 2007


I do not think that word means what you think it means.
posted by vernondalhart at 9:25 AM on July 5


Of course it does.

The whole promise of these kind of "free energy" machines is that they produce more energy than fed into them.

So, suppose you have a machine that will produce 2 watts when 1 watt of energy is fed into it. Then, you take 1 of the 2 watts of output and feed it back into the machine, thereby having a continuous "free" output of 1 watt, forever.

Of course nothing like this will ever take place. To our current understanding it is truly impossible.

As you can imagine, producing a machine that could even return 100% of the energy put into it (i.e. no loss) would be a huge technological leap. Something that produced 101% of the energy put into it would quite literally change our world.

Any possible advances in this realm would certainly be revolutionary at the 100.001% or 100.1% level. Therefore, hearing claims of 2-3 times as much energy produced can be dismissed out of hand.
posted by Ynoxas at 8:18 AM on July 5, 2007


Just a note to advise that the obligatory "I for one welcome our new Orbo overlords" will be delayed til technical problems are resolved (or intelligently redesigned).

In the meantime we will set up one of these to amuse the kids and the press
posted by Artful Codger at 8:19 AM on July 5, 2007


crap. fixed link
posted by Artful Codger at 8:20 AM on July 5, 2007


Ah, brethren, there is a perpetual motion machine, and it is connected to Jesus:

See, whenever this bullshit starts flowing, the humble Galilean carpenter whose heartfelt concern was for the poor, the downtrodden and the wretched begins to spin in whatever rude grave his corpse was laid. That spinning continues, impelled by an unknown force and were we but able to discover that grave, and to harness that energy, we could enjoy the benefits of unlimited power. For we will always have idiots like this among us.
posted by felix betachat at 8:21 AM on July 5, 2007 [3 favorites]


Of course nothing like this will ever take place. To our current understanding it is truly impossible.

Not to side with the free energy people but what we currently understand and what is possible are related but not identical sets
posted by Rubbstone at 8:22 AM on July 5, 2007


Just to play devil's advocate, the earlier demos were made with plastic. Maybe the device couldn't take the heat from the lights? While zero-point energy is real - i.e. getting energy from quantum particles popping in and out of existence at Planck scales - it seems a tad unlikely that a macroscopic device could get energy this way.
posted by Nquire at 8:22 AM on July 5, 2007


One of these days I'm going to get around to casting a nice, official-looking Thermodynamics Police badge.
posted by Skorgu at 8:24 AM on July 5, 2007


Artful Codger: It is conceivable that these guys are trying to run a radiometer off the camera lights, and are pulling the old "reverse psychology" trick so we don't suspect that.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 8:28 AM on July 5, 2007


Any possible advances in this realm would certainly be revolutionary at the 100.001% or 100.1% level. Therefore, hearing claims of 2-3 times as much energy produced can be dismissed out of hand.

We're making rules for what a credible perpetual motion machine would look like?
posted by cillit bang at 8:30 AM on July 5, 2007


Even the fucking perpetual motion machine remembered to take the 5th off.

And yet, here I am, still in the office, hungover.
posted by smackwich at 8:35 AM on July 5, 2007


So, suppose you have a machine that will produce 2 watts when 1 watt of energy is fed into it. Then, you take 1 of the 2 watts of output and feed it back into the machine, thereby having a continuous "free" output of 1 watt, forever.

Then, you take the other 1 Watt and you put it in the bank to earn interest. At a rate of 6%, your original 1 Watt of power will double to 2 Watts in 12 years.

You know what they saw, a penny Watt saved is a penny Watt earned!
posted by Pastabagel at 8:42 AM on July 5, 2007


You know what they say. Dammit!
posted by Pastabagel at 8:43 AM on July 5, 2007


I built plans for a perpetual motion machine once. My analysis showed that it would provide twice the energy provided it. Unfortunately, it required all of the energy in the universe as well as all of the matter. My funding was denied, and the university deans called me a madman.
posted by boo_radley at 8:48 AM on July 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


If only there were a way to harness all the attention these guys were getting...

It's been done and much to the betterment of mankind! Think of them as a low potential where we shunt the derision and mockery that we might actually bring to bear on co-workers, friends, family, even ourselves.

Imagine your son got into a fender bender, or your spouse ran up the credit card on something you didn't really need anyway, or your boss just told you that no one actually needed the information he had you spend the better part of the day putting together. Now compare that to publicly unveiling a non-functioning Jehovatron.

I feel better already.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 8:48 AM on July 5, 2007


As you can imagine, producing a machine that could even return 100% of the energy put into it (i.e. no loss) would be a huge technological leap.

This isn't a "huge technological leap."

It is fucking impossible.

Calling it a "huge technological leap" infers a possibility, and that tantalizing possibility only feeds the yahoos. The only way to kill yahoos is with sunshine and clarity.

Now, say it with me: You can't win. You can't break even. You can't get out of the game.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:54 AM on July 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


Make magazine did an issue a while back on "fringe technology" including a couple people who build models of various perpetual motion machines. What is interesting is that a lot of them aren't just not perpetual motion machines, they're actually less effective than a big damn flywheel.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 8:56 AM on July 5, 2007


If only there were a way to harness all the attention these guys were getting...

I think they may be working on that themselves... I'm sure a few wide-eyed 'investors' have already been offered the thing at a low, low price.
posted by zemblamatic at 8:57 AM on July 5, 2007


Camera 1, 2, 3, 4.

How few, small halogens do you see in that gallery (camera 4)?

(Re: camera 3: is this all just a surreptitious campaign for iMacs? Or for adidas - "impossible is nothing"?)
posted by progosk at 8:59 AM on July 5, 2007


Pastabagel: I tried to convince my teachers of that very same car design when I was about ten years old, which is when they described entropy to me. But what did they know. Materialists.

(I think it a little bit awesome that the fundy-train is now so off-the-rails batshit insane that it'll tie itself to any fly-by-night scam science in the hope of proving conventional science wrong.)

1. Disprove any scientific law, whether it has to do with ID or not.
2. ???
3. Rapture!
posted by Navelgazer at 9:04 AM on July 5, 2007




Use of the term "impossible" and perpetual motion.
posted by Bort at 9:14 AM on July 5, 2007


Pastabagel: I sketched the same invention. I was eight.
posted by absalom at 9:18 AM on July 5, 2007


You know what's funny? All those evangelicals out in the midwest who believe that God speaks through them in tongues and all that? You know, the ones who pray for GWB to win elections, and for abortion doctors to die, and for muslims to die and for gays to die and all that? You know what I never hear about them praying for? That's right, renewable energy. Or a reduction in our oil dependancy. Fucking weird, right? You'd think someone would have pointed out that Jesus would totally fucking ROCK if he could do that for us, right?
posted by shmegegge at 9:21 AM on July 5, 2007


But no. no. let's just keep praying that JK Rowling dies. that's a much better idea.
posted by shmegegge at 9:22 AM on July 5, 2007


The second law of thermodynamics is fucking sexy.

Would you really want to live in a world where it didn't hold? Beauty is only important because it is ephemeral.
posted by jeffamaphone at 9:26 AM on July 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


The first law of thermodynamics is "don't talk about the second law of thermodynamics."
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 9:34 AM on July 5, 2007 [3 favorites]


These guys got the laws of Thermodynamics repealed. Welcome to a new reality.
posted by zemblamatic at 9:41 AM on July 5, 2007


My worry is that, someday, someone will actually come up with a "free energy" machine that actually works. Everyone will wonder how that can possibly be, but we accept it, because it works. And then, 50 years down the line when this miraculous energy source is in wide use, we figure out where that energy was coming from, and it turns out to not be as free as we thought, leading to some kind of global calamity.

Also, doesn't it strike anyone as odd that this is being unvailed at a museum? Maybe this is just a hoaxy art project?
posted by Emanuel at 9:41 AM on July 5, 2007


I propose the following as the Fourth Law of Thermodynamics:

Anyone claiming to be able to violate laws 1 through 3 will always get more attention than they deserve.
posted by jeffamaphone at 9:44 AM on July 5, 2007


I built a free energy machine. It works, too. Try it! Come on - you'll love it, I promise. Well - the first hit's free anyway...
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 9:45 AM on July 5, 2007


This is an excellent opportunity to bring up the turbo-encabulator and its cousin, the retro-encabulator.
These incredible machines are an advance in science and technology, replacing the usual methods of generating energy through the relative motion of conductors and fluxes with modial interactions of magnetoreluctance and capactive diractance.
posted by leapfrog at 9:53 AM on July 5, 2007 [3 favorites]


I love how many people also came up with the car wheel generator thing as kids. If I may paraphrase Churchill, if you design a perpetual motion machine as a child, you are bright. If you design one as an adult, you're an idiot.

I didn't come up with the car wheel thing myself. Mine was a solar panel that was connected to a big lamp that would shine back on the panel. I called it my "solar feedback lamp" (feedback is so sciency).

See, the sun shines on the panel and generates some amount of power, which is fed to the lamp to make it produce light. The lamp shines its light on the panel, creating a total amount of light greater than the sun alone, which in turn causes the solar panel to generate more power than with the sun alone. This extra power would then be fed back into the lamp, creating more light and more power, etc.

* files for patent, gets rich, rules world with iron fist, rationalizes not reading The Call of the Wild for English class based on aforementioned pseudoscience and megalomania.
posted by Pastabagel at 9:55 AM on July 5, 2007


You know, we do have a practically infinite supply of free energy ripe for the taking should we ever develop a good method of harvesting it. Our planet is orbiting it.
posted by mr_roboto at 9:56 AM on July 5, 2007


And then, 50 years down the line when this miraculous energy source is in wide use, we figure out where that energy was coming from, and it turns out to not be as free as we thought, leading to some kind of global calamity.

"Oh my, God! Soylent Green is people!"
posted by Pastabagel at 9:59 AM on July 5, 2007


If we could harness all the brain power expended on this subject over the years we could toast bread. Lightly.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:01 AM on July 5, 2007 [4 favorites]


Skorgu: One of these days I'm going to get around to casting a nice, official-looking Thermodynamics Police badge.

OOooh! Oooh! Can I have one to wear with my "Why, yes, I am a rocket scientist" button?
posted by drhydro at 10:13 AM on July 5, 2007


Y'ever notice how these perpetual motion machines always involve magnets? It's nearly a certain bet that the Free Energy Machine Du Jour will have 'magnet' or 'magnetic' in the description somewhere.

I guess there's just something about the invisible action at a distance that attracts magical thinking.
posted by Malor at 10:13 AM on July 5, 2007


Magnetic attraction is SCIENCE!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:15 AM on July 5, 2007


We do kind of have 'free energy' machines--- solar panels, hydroelectric power, tidal power, wind power, geothermal power, etc.
posted by empath at 10:16 AM on July 5, 2007


You know, we do have a practically infinite supply of free energy ripe for the taking should we ever develop a good method of harvesting it. Our planet is orbiting it.

Put a millions of tiny harnesses on mice, and let them chase the cheese that makes up the moon?
posted by inigo2 at 10:24 AM on July 5, 2007


You're stupid to try. You're stupid to believe that the fundamentals of science can change. If it was possible, scientists would already know about it. Outsiders are never the ones that transform closely held beliefs -- change always emerges from those scientists who closely hold said beliefs.

There is no inertia in science whatsoever. Scientists are a special type of human, immune to cognitive biases and emotional loyalties. Scientists have no fear of exploring fringe topics. There are no vested interests in keeping things the same.

There are no cogent reports of suppression within the scientific community. There are no scientists who have lost standing because they publicly challenged the status quo. Scientists are immune to groupthink.
posted by Moistener at 10:27 AM on July 5, 2007 [3 favorites]


I liked this better when people thought it was part of a viral marketing campaign.
posted by 0xFCAF at 10:28 AM on July 5, 2007


We do kind of have 'free energy' machines

Don't forget the various space tether experiments.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:28 AM on July 5, 2007


Moistener, it looks like you're trying to be sarcastic, but it's not working.
posted by 0xFCAF at 10:43 AM on July 5, 2007


Is so.
posted by Moistener at 10:54 AM on July 5, 2007


You're stupid to try.

You're stupid to try stupid things. Or, as Forrest's mom would say, stupid is as stupid does.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:06 AM on July 5, 2007


The fundie christian angle is so cute.
posted by 2sheets at 11:32 AM on July 5, 2007


Moistener: breakthroughs are certainly possible, but if you'll notice, nothing really major in science has been overturned in decades. Rather, existing theories are generally shown to be special cases of more advanced ones. And we're not doing much in the way of basic research anymore, just the applied kind, and that doesn't often lead to breakthroughs.

So yes, it's possible for two guys in a garage to overthrow the entire scientific domain. It's also possible to win the lottery. Offhand, I'd say you'd be much better off buying lottery tickets than paying attention to anyone claiming to disprove any of the really fundamental tenets of physical science.

There will be, probably, at least one more major, fundamental breakthrough... if we ever figure out how to unify quantum mechanics and relativity into one unified theory, that will certainly change things. But even then, it's probably not going to overthrow quantum mechanics or relativity, it'll just show them to be special cases of something bigger.

One thought that comes to mind: maybe there is a source of free energy out there. But tapping into it could be dangerous.... unlimited free energy means enough power to create an entire universe. The Big Bang might have been caused by some 9-tentacled, socially rejected monstrosity tinkering in his basement -- and I bet it was hard on the neighborhood.
posted by Malor at 11:44 AM on July 5, 2007 [2 favorites]


If we ever invent a machine such as this we'll later discover the energy is coming from a parallel universe. The residents of that parallel universe will discover our flagrant theft of their energy and will then develop a weapon they can use against us in self-defence.

And they'd be right to use it!
posted by knapah at 11:44 AM on July 5, 2007


You're stupid to try stupid things.

More importantly, you're stupid to try a con in public.
posted by bonehead at 11:47 AM on July 5, 2007


The residents of that parallel universe will discover our flagrant theft of their energy and will then develop a weapon they can use against us in self-defence.

Their weapon will undoubtedly involve magnets. And Paris Hilton.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:49 AM on July 5, 2007


I can explain why it always comes back to magnets: "The magnetic field is the relativistic component of the electric field". There's a lot to that phrase.

As to scientific group think, well, search around on that phrase and you'll find a whole mess of people who seem way eager to debate that. I didn't go wading through the whole thing, but if you're worried about loosing standing it probably doesn't make sense to act as though every modification of electric field theory is a personal attack on Marconi, Fermi and yourself. I've always had good luck with the phrase, "This suggests...." but what do I know.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 11:50 AM on July 5, 2007


These guys got the laws of Thermodynamics repealed. Welcome to a new reality.
Naw, they didn't repeal the laws, they just added a signing statement saying the laws wouldn't be enforced for their particular invention.

Bort's link reminds me of grad school: when any of the locals came up with an idea for perpetual motion, they would usually ask the college for an endorsement. The EE faculty would snap them up and assign a grad student to explain to them what was wrong with their idea. I got one of the car ideas ("Waddya mean there's friction -- I greased the wheels!") plus the cow magnet on the fuel line idea.
posted by forrest at 12:04 PM on July 5, 2007


And then, 50 years down the line when this miraculous energy source is in wide use, we figure out where that energy was coming from, and it turns out to not be as free as we thought, leading to some kind of global calamity.

I've worked out a way around that; My free energy machine is going to run off of people's prayers. But in order for it to work, people really, really have to pray hard for it to keep going. They need to become monk-like in their devotion to providing the spiritual energy which will maintain their flow of electricity.

In order for this to be possible, people are going to have to essentially turn my machine into their God.

The only thing that they will discover missing in 50 years is their souls, which I will now possess. And those souls will power my next evil invention; the gun which I will use to blow up my ancient enemy... the moon.
posted by quin at 12:06 PM on July 5, 2007


"plus the cow magnet on the fuel line idea"

...I bet that was a lot less exciting than it sounds.
posted by aramaic at 12:13 PM on July 5, 2007


Cool Papa Bell: I guess you missed the two places in my post where I explicitly said "nothing like this will ever take place" and "truly impossible".

I'm sorry that my pronouncements were not strong enough for you.
posted by Ynoxas at 12:15 PM on July 5, 2007


My childhood perpetual-motion machine was a car powered by pulling a string — that is, it unwinds from a drum, turns gears, turns the wheels — but with the string tied to a fixed post. If you adjust the gear ratio juuuust right then, given a push, it should shoot off at ever-increasing velocity! I actually built one out of Legos but somehow I never got it to work.

I'm sure that if my parents had simply bought me more Lego Technics sets that I could have succeeded. I blame society. They laughed at me at the Academy, but one day I'll show them all! They'll rue the day!
posted by hattifattener at 12:20 PM on July 5, 2007


I guess you missed the two places in my post where I explicitly said "nothing like this will ever take place" and "truly impossible".

Your attempt to back out now and accuse me of misreading you is somewhat lame, considering these two "pronouncements" were modifying the sentence before it, not the one after, but thanks for the apology anyway.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 12:32 PM on July 5, 2007


Hmm, oddly my first perpetual motion machine involved a sailboat with a fan aboard.

*deputizes drhydro*

I'm trying to come up with a Thermodynamics Police jingle, but I just can't make it scan with the Men In Black theme.
posted by Skorgu at 12:40 PM on July 5, 2007


I actually have a perpetual motion machine in my house. It runs on Jesus. I just prayed and prayed and prayed for Jesus to power my perpetual motion machine, and he did. This is because Jesus makes all things possible, including unicorns, zombies and this dress shirt he gave me that is both 100% cotton and 100% silk.
posted by shmegegge at 12:41 PM on July 5, 2007


I want to be a ThermoCop too.
posted by jeffamaphone at 12:44 PM on July 5, 2007


P.T. Barnum would be so proud.
posted by tommasz at 1:12 PM on July 5, 2007


I want to be a ThermoCop too.

Together, you can be a ThermoCouple.
posted by Quonab at 1:18 PM on July 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


Incidentally, it seems that the Steorn folks have allies in high - very high - places.

Anyone allied with this nonsense must indeed be very high. Hey, if you rearrange the letters in "Steorn", you get "Stoner". Hmmm...
posted by Durhey at 1:36 PM on July 5, 2007


I also had the idea, when I was a kid, of finding the right trajectory to launch a craft into orbit at the right speed and angle where the continuous free-fall would continually increase velocity, and the lack of atmosphere would keep it from attaining terminal velocity, so that it would eventually go faster than the speed of light.

My idea will be considered valid until somebody demonstrably proves me false. I'll wanna see the specs on the craft, people!
posted by Navelgazer at 1:58 PM on July 5, 2007


It won't work, obviously. But imagine that it did... The world would be a Very Different Place™.
posted by alby at 2:31 PM on July 5, 2007


empath brings up an excellent point: solar energy is, from a certain point of view, perpetual motion. I could put out a solar array in the sunshine, hook up a battery array to it to keep the energy flowing at night, and have what for my purposes is a perpetual source of free energy. It actually isn't, of course, it is powered by the sun. But we don't have to pay for the sun to keep shining. Neither do we have to pay for the wind, the earth's magnetic field or the moon's gravity. So, something that runs off these is free energy too, from our point of view.

I'm emphatically not crediting Steorn with this: but since we have not reached the "end of science", at some point some other equivalent effect, from which "free energy" may be leached with an appropriate device, may be discovered. The argument against this proposition is that undiscovered motive forces, or forces converted in nature to motive forces, will have to be below our ability to notice them; and we're awfully good at noticing things moving, and getting better all the time.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 4:09 PM on July 5, 2007


I once had the idea of using Dark Energy^ as a revolutionary power source for the future.

Since the cosmological constant fills space equally in all directions, you could use a Dark Energy Reactor anywhere and it would appear to be drawing energy from nothingness.

The downside? Well, the more you use the Reactor, the slower the Universe will expand. (!!!) This is because you're taking the Dark "expansion" Energy and turning it into heat or light for your own purposes. If you have enough Reactors running long enough, at some point the Universe would cease to expand and begin to contract on itself.

The only way to "save" the Universe, at that point, would be to find a way to somehow turn regular matter and energy back into Dark Energy. I envision an advanced civilization desperately ripping apart entire galaxies just to make enough Dark Energy to move us back over the tipping point again.

Wouldn't that be a great thing to invent?
posted by Avenger at 4:49 PM on July 5, 2007


Navelgazer: that actually kind of works. It's called the 'slingshot effect'; if you orbit a body at the right angle, you can actually gain speed by doing so. But it's a one-shot deal; you approach, sliingshot, and move away at higher speed. You don't get infinite acceleration.

Free energy, right? Nope. It's stolen from the rotational momentum of the body in question, slowing it. In the case of any large-sized body, it's so small as to be negligible, but it does happen. When they slingshot probes around the Earth to gain speed to get out to Jupiter and the like, they increase the day's length just ever, ever so slightly.
posted by Malor at 4:50 PM on July 5, 2007


Oh no. Those evil scientists are trying to stop the sun from rising.
posted by IronLizard at 5:10 PM on July 5, 2007


I've come to the conclusion that stupidity is a limitless form of energy. The hype, the misreporting, the misplaced beliefs and the sheer force of futility that went into this represent a force that will never dim.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 6:07 PM on July 5, 2007


Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof.

What does a belief require? No more than a royal road.

"Ptolemy asked the mathematician if there was some easier way to learn geometry than by learning all the theorems. Euclid replied, "There is no royal road to geometry" and sent the king to study."


posted by Twang at 6:10 PM on July 5, 2007


Just while we're on the subject of thermodynamics' laws... I found it interesting to learn in university of the zeroth (0th) law of thermodynamics. (They realised they needed it after they had already invented the first three and didn't like to shuffle 'em all up one.)

Well I found it interesting.
posted by NailsTheCat at 6:12 PM on July 5, 2007


a watched pot never boils.
posted by arialblack at 6:16 PM on July 5, 2007


Navelgazer: that actually kind of works. It's called the 'slingshot effect'; if you orbit a body at the right angle, you can actually gain speed by doing so. But it's a one-shot deal; you approach, sliingshot, and move away at higher speed. You don't get infinite acceleration.
posted by Malor


And if you do it right, you can travel back in time to get some humpback whales.
posted by papakwanz at 8:43 PM on July 5, 2007


Navelgazer: that actually kind of works. It's called the 'slingshot effect'; if you orbit a body at the right angle, you can actually gain speed by doing so. But it's a one-shot deal; you approach, slingshot, and move away at higher speed. You don't get infinite acceleration.
posted by Malor


Malor, that particular idea wasn't meant to provide anyone with fere energy (how could it be harnessed, really, even if not for the rotation-slowing aspects) but rather as one smart-ass' idea of how to overcome the known rules of physics by utilizing other known rules of physics, all coming from the brain of someone who doesn't know science all that well. If it worked, why, it'd prove nothing less than how awesome I am! We must get on this immediately!

Also, I know of the slingshot effect, but the idea of this would be to find an exact, ever decreasing trajectory with ever increasing velocity - two things which are, by nature, incompatible. Still, if you don't think about it too much, it's great fodder for a sci-fi social satire I've had in mind for some time now.

(In my planned novel, it doesn't actually work, but rather just kills all of the upper class who put their assets in order to arrive in the future even richer than they were before.)
posted by Navelgazer at 11:00 PM on July 5, 2007


Incidentally, it seems that the Steorn folks have allies in high - very high - places.

I was hoping that link would go to an Erowid page.
posted by Sticherbeast at 12:58 AM on July 6, 2007


These were all really interesting comments.
So, is it working yet?
posted by From Bklyn at 2:58 AM on July 6, 2007


Due to "technical problems", Steorn has decided to postpone the demonstration until further notice.
posted by cosmac at 4:24 AM on July 6, 2007


How will we spin our clear polycarbonate wheels now?!?!
posted by Optimus Chyme at 7:22 AM on July 6, 2007


Hey, quick question. The force of gravity on Earth is constant-ish. If you could create something that responded to that constant force somehow, wouldn't that behave *like* a perpetual machine? I mean, if the energy was coming from the fact that gravity exists. Or do you need more than just a force to have energy?
posted by Deathalicious at 9:47 AM on July 6, 2007


Like, say, a hydro-electric dam? Hydro-power works because the sun evaporates the "spent" water, then it rains down again, and again drives the turbines. (Funny how most energy on Earth is derived from solar power -- I guess you could say it's all nuclear, when it comes down to it!)

I think you'll find that most perpetual motion machines attempt to harness gravity, in one way or another. And it'll work, too, until you have to hoist the weight back up to the position it started from using the energy that was gained by dropping the weight to begin with.
posted by LordSludge at 11:01 AM on July 6, 2007


Of course there's such a thing as "free" as in "energy-that-nobody-wants": Tiny generator turns vibrations into eletricity (via)
posted by LordSludge at 11:50 AM on July 6, 2007


A museum's not a bad place for this kind of thing; the old L.A. Museum of Science and Industry had a bunch of "working" models of antique proposed perpetual-motion machines, connected to small motors to keep them running, and captioned with very careful, eloquent descriptions of the flaws that prevented them from running at even 100% efficiency, necessitating motor input.

I wish I could be amazed that anyone would show up to a demo of a perpetual motion machine in 2007 with their tongue not in their cheek. But I'm not.
posted by ikkyu2 at 12:26 PM on July 7, 2007


Hm. Maybe a wealthy billionaire who prefers to remain nameless actually is funding Steorn. Here's how it would go down:

You set up a bunch of Steorn demonstrations, one in every major city in the world. The machine is jiggered so that it has a hidden depleting battery or other invisible source of external power input. It appears to function as a perpetual motion machine.

You charge a bit of money to let people in to see, and you make them swipe their drivers' license, CC, or other unique personal identifier.

Eventually you have a database of everyone in the world's major cities who would shell out cash to see this thing. Then, the wealthy billionaire orders a hit on each one of them. Feckless credulity is extinguished from the gene pool forever. Brilliant!
posted by ikkyu2 at 12:31 PM on July 7, 2007


Alternative scenario: They've built a photoelectric device that runs off the camera lights. This test was the setup--it was designed to fail. The skeptics had a good laugh. Next, they'll set up a transparent shield of some sort to "insulate" their machine from the camera lights, which were "obviously" the problem. In the next demonstration the machine will work. Few will suspect that the camera lights are providing the energy because their effect in the first instance was presumed to be negative, and there is now a "shield". Reverse psychology. The believers laugh at the skeptics, and the money rolls in.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 1:37 AM on July 8, 2007


I'm not sure I read this right, but, uh, I kind of get the impression no one thinks this will work. All these spooky alternate scenarios and stuff.
I mean, they said they just needed to do some more tinkering and then they will have successfully rewritten the laws of physics as we have known them for some four hundred years...
posted by From Bklyn at 11:56 AM on July 8, 2007


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

(A.S. Eddington, The Nature of the Physical World, Macmillan, New York, 1948, p. 74)
posted by thatwhichfalls at 1:33 PM on July 8, 2007


First of all, thatwhichfalls, I think you're just being negative and you know, a little hope can go a long way - didn't you read Jonathan Livingston Seagull?

Secongly, in case anyone is still reading this thread, here's the PLANS! so we can all build our own Orbo's!

Check your brains at the door and - free energy for everyone!!!
posted by From Bklyn at 5:27 AM on July 11, 2007


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