Producing rotational energy out of nothing..

I wasn’t going to mention Steorn or their, literally, incredible claim of having invented a perpetual motion machine. They have, after all, had plenty of expensive publicity already, I saw the first report back on 18th August on RTÉ. But their continued appearances in the media have forced the issue, not least the less that sufficiently critical report in the Guardian [wasn’t Ben Goldacre available? – Ed] Thankfully someone who has seen others try similar stunts before has an article about Steorn’s Amazing Nonsense online at ZDNet.. and he’s highlighted some of the points that, frankly, piss me off about the whole thing.In fairness to the Guardian’s Steve Boggan he does highlight his doubts

But then that Christmas Day feeling kicks in; doubts about the power source. According to McCarthy and Walshe, the marketing manager, there have been no fewer than eight independent validations of their work conducted by electrical engineers and academics “with multiple PhDs” from world-class universities. But none of them will talk to me, even off the record. I am promised a diagram explaining how the system works, but then Steorn holds it back, saying its lawyers are concerned about intellectual property rights. And that European partner, the one with the moving, almost perpetual, prototypes? It won’t talk to me either and Steorn has undertaken not to name it.

And gets a quote from Martin Fleischmann, the cold-fusion scientist..

“I am actually a conventional scientist,” he says, “but I do accept that the existing [quantum electro-dynamic] paradigm is not adequate. If what these men are saying turns out to be true, that would be proof that the paradigm was inadequate and we would have to come up with some new theory. But I don’t think their claims are credible. No, I cannot see how the position of magnetic fields allows one to create energy.”

However his final ‘just maybe’ line is more than irritating…

And if their “free” energy can light up a developing-world village or the eyes of a child with a toy, then perhaps we all should.


Anyway.. From Rupert Goodwin

It is also pseudoscience of the highest order. The general idea has been around for a while and has spawned many impassioned claims: you spin magnets around in a clever way and get more energy out from a system than you put in. This is generally agreed as impossible: it’s perpetual motion, it breaks the laws of thermodynamics, and in the long and gaudy history of pseudoscience it ain’t never worked yet. Which is not to say it never will: science is full of astounding discoveries that turn the accepted truths on their head. History is also full of total balderdash masquerading as science.

Fortunately, there are easy ways to tell pseudoscience: grand claims with no way to verify them, important facts that are alluded to and not presented, claims of conspiracy or closed-mindedness by the scientific community, production of claims by press release rather than scientific papers. Steorn more than fulfils all of these: it is, by any objective test, pseudoscience.[added emphasis]

and he pulls it all together neatly at the end..

Whatever Steorn is doing — and in the utter absence of any testable data, the chances of it being a significant scientific achievement are closer to absolute zero than the contents of Lord Kelvin’s freezer compartment — it’s an expensive experiment. For the price of that Economist advert and whatever they’re paying their PR company, they could have built 10 apparatuses that actually demonstrated their effect and Fedex’d them to the major centres of scientific excellence on the planet.

It wouldn’t even cost them that much. If they’ll send me the plans, I’ll build one. Having built it, I’ll convince myself that it does produce more energy than it takes in — which will take a glass of water, a resistor, a thermometer, a couple of test meters and some basic mathematics, all of which I already have. I shall then get on the train to Cambridge and refuse to leave until the nice people at the Cavendish take a look at it.

I shall do all this at no charge to Steorn, because it will make me very famous if it turns out to be true and I’ll get a great article out of it if it isn’t. Furthermore, I don’t think it will happen.

Neither will Steorn’s amazing machine. Whether it’s being driven by madness, genuine misapprehension or some ulterior motive yet to be revealed, it’s not being driven by science. Producing rotational energy out of nothing is a great trick and one that its PR company is clearly very good at, but once the silly season’s over the spin will die down.[added emphasis]


More links and info here

reasons to be cheerful