Jul 06 2007

Perpetual Idiocy

We do not and cannot know everything. We will never obtain 100% metaphysical certitude regarding any scientific question. But there are some aspects of nature that have been verified to such an outrageously high degree that, barring an equally outrageously high degree of evidence to the contrary, treating them as anything other than a rock solid fact is absurd bordering on insanity. Of course most often those who fail to acknowledge such laws of nature – the term reserved for such things – are usually just ignorant of the science.

The poster child for iron clad laws of science is the conservation of matter and energy – you don’t get something from nothing. This means that anyone who claims to have produced a perpetual motion machine, a machine that can generate free energy or that produces more energy than it consumes, is simply wrong. They could be misguided, scientifically illiterate, a hopeless crank, have a tenuous relationship with reality, or simply be a con artist knowingly lying. But chances are they are not, as they would have us believe, the lone brilliant scientists who have succeeded where all others have failed in achieving the impossible.

Despite this perpetual motion machine and free energy claims continue to pop up, occasionally gaining some degree of media coverage and notoriety. To no one’s surprise, none have panned out. But there remains a hopeless romance about such claims. They are typically couched in the latest techno-jargon to impress the public, and increasingly they are wrapped in the language of conspiracy theories and fear of big government, big science, and big industry.
The latest spectacle comes from a Dublin company called Steorn and their Orbo perpetual motion device. They made headlines earlier this year when they challenged the world’s leading physicists to examine their machine. They promised a demonstration that would convince the world (or at least some hapless investors) of their claims. The demonstration was scheduled for July 4th, but then had to be delayed to the 5th due to technical difficulties.

Here’s the latest from the Steorn website:

Further to Steorn’s announcement yesterday (5th July) regarding the technical difficulties experienced during the installation of its “Orbo” technology at the Kinentica Museum in London, Steorn has decided to postpone the demonstration until further notice.
Sean McCarthy CEO stated that “technical problems arose during the installation of the demonstration unit in the display case on Wednesday evening. These problems were primarily due to excessive heat from the lighting in the main display area. Attempts to replace those parts affected by the heat led to further failures and as a result we have to postpone the public demonstration until a future date.”

He continued that “we apologise for the inconvenience caused to all the people who had made arrangements to visit the demonstration or were planning on viewing the demonstration online.”

Over the next few weeks the company will explore alternative dates for the public demonstration.

I am shocked, SHOCKED! that the demonstration did not occur. I have to say that overheating from camera lights is an extremely lame excuse, but not atypical.

That the claims from Steorn were completely bogus is unsurprising and completely predictable, not even worth a yawn from anyone with the most basic knowledge of physics. The chatter, rather, is about what the game is. What is Steorn really all about? The two top contenders are that: 1) they are simply self-deluded cranks or, 2) they are trying to lure and bilk ignorant investors.

An interesting third possibility has emerged, however – that the whole thing is a ploy to showcase the credulity of the media. Once the drama has completely played itself out, the gag will be revealed and the media will be ridiculed for buying it. Also in the crosshairs are all the free energy true-believers who are backing Steorn’s claims and chastising all those scientists for being closed minded or shills for big oil.

In any case, I predict this will not be an end to the perpetual motion phenomenon. For if it has demonstrated anything over the years it is the probability of perpetual human idiocy.

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