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Irish Company Claims Free Energy 1125

Posted by samzenpus
from the and-a-robot-in-every-house dept.
raghus writes "An Irish company has thrown down the gauntlet to the worldwide scientific community to test a technology it has developed that it claims produces free energy. The company, Steorn, says its discovery is based on the interaction of magnetic fields and allows the production of clean, free and constant energy — a concept that challenges one of the basic rules of physics." I can't wait until I can use this free energy to power my flying car and heat my aquarium of mermaids.
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Irish Company Claims Free Energy

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  • by ackthpt (218170) * on Monday August 21, 2006 @03:21PM (#15950452) Homepage Journal

    They talk in circles and can't provide any definite explanations as to how something like this would work.

    About 7 years ago I worked with a fellow who absolutely was buying into some black box he would just plug things into and it would harvest energy from the earth's magnetic field. Sounds about the same thing. If there was enough density of magnetic fields to run a toaster, odds are you'd be suffering some serious and potentially fatal side effects.

    "What we have developed is a way to construct magnetic fields so that when you travel round the magnetic fields, starting and stopping at the same position, you have gained energy," McCarthy said.

    Moving around in circles to gather energy, what a neat idea! Um, where do we get the energy to run around in circles? Sounds like that net forces thing, the sum of all forces acting upon my car at the moment are zero, but if I could just remove those coming from one direction, it should move in that direction, right? Hey, how about something that runs on gravity, since there's an unending supply of that, eh?

    I'm also of the opinion if we started using something which was naturally in abundance, like earth's magnetic fields, it would cumulatively and ultimately affect something we'd regret later.

  • by Distinguished Hero (618385) on Monday August 21, 2006 @03:24PM (#15950478) Homepage
    Crackpots and Opportunists say Crazy Crap (perhaps in hopes of securing some cash investments); Film at 11 on You Tube. Why is this on Slashdot?
  • Good grief (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jmorris42 (1458) * <{jmorris} {at} {beau.org}> on Monday August 21, 2006 @03:26PM (#15950499)
    Is it now the policy of slashdot to give headline coverage to every crackpot perpetual motion machine? It might have been mildly amusing had it been filed under humor, but as news? Even the snarky wisecrack from the editor doesn't make up for the misfiling.

    But even as humor it should not have been posted since there was a similar one only a week or so ago and I really doubt anyone has a new joke to make about these assclowns that didn't get used then.

    Listen up you primitive screwheads at /., there is no "Free Energy", no Free lunch, no tooth fairy and there ain't ever going to be flying cars. (We will eventually solve the tech for a flying car but the liability is insoluble.)
  • by snowgirl (978879) on Monday August 21, 2006 @03:26PM (#15950501) Journal
    "What we have developed is a way to construct magnetic fields so that when you travel round the magnetic fields, starting and stopping at the same position, you have gained energy," McCarthy said.

    I have to agree with you here. To me it just sounds like electromagnetic induction. Move a wire through a magnetic field, and boom! It makes electricity.
  • by nizo (81281) * on Monday August 21, 2006 @03:28PM (#15950511) Homepage Journal
    From this article [pesn.com]:



    In order for such a revolutionary technology to have the public support needed for it to become used widely, McCarthy says that confirmation from the academic community will be crucial. "That is our focus at this point," he said.

    McCarthy declined to specify how many prototypes they have built, or how long they have run, how much power they produce, and other details of the design.

    All of this documentation will be presented in full to the jury of twelve scientists that are soon to be selected to analyze the technology. As of the time of this writing, 1,300 people have expressed interest in serving on the jury of scientists; and 15,516 people have signed up to be notified of the results.

    The selection of the jury will screen out anyone who has past involvement or other indications that might be construed as showing support of the technology in some form or other. "We want cynics," said McCarthy.

    "We are not seeking validation from the court of public opinion. What we need is validation from the academic world," he said. Once that has been achieved, then the public can know.


    It really sounds to me like they want outside verification, and are willing to pay for it themselves. Shouldn't we let that take place before we fry them in oil?

  • by derrickh (157646) on Monday August 21, 2006 @03:30PM (#15950534) Homepage
    Even it they really did find a way to get 'free' energy, it doesnt really matter. I dont even get excited over announcements like this anymore. Because if its false, then everything stays the same. If its true, the current energy corporations will do anything and everything possible to make sure it never sees the light of day...and everything stays the same.

    D
  • by LurkerXXX (667952) on Monday August 21, 2006 @03:31PM (#15950553)
    No. It sounds like they are looking to do some advertising, so they can rope in some not-too-smart-but-greedy venture captial investors.
  • by Mr. Underbridge (666784) on Monday August 21, 2006 @03:35PM (#15950587)
    Seriously, could someone explain to me the slashdot editors' obsession with junk science, specifically perpetual motion and free energy machines, and the like? This is not news. This is not for nerds, except to laugh at. This certainly doesn't matter, since variations on this crap have come around every few months for millennia.

    This is for idiots.

  • Fry them now (Score:5, Insightful)

    by spun (1352) <loverevolutionary.yahoo@com> on Monday August 21, 2006 @03:39PM (#15950627) Journal
    Exactly. Make it look like they are actually serious. How much VC cash do you think they will rake in between now and the test? After the scientific community announces that this is bullshit, they will claim to need more money to "fix" the issues that the scientists raised. The VC fools, not wanting to admit to themselves that they have been swindled with one of the oldest cons in the book, will happily throw more money at them. They will continue with this cycle until enough people wise up and the lawsuits pour in, then they will disappear to the Cayman Islands.

    No, we need to bitch-slap these peckerwoods now, before they fleece too many dumb but wealt- Wait, you know, I think their ideas just might work. Send cash just in case.
  • Ya know, our (yours, mine, /. in general) skepticism is unquestionably well placed - free energy would collapse some economies, invigorate others, bring about new business opportunities, advance the living conditions of people stuck in third world countries - the actual ramifications are impossible to really get a grasp on.

    My thoughts are twofold:

    1) Man, if it's true, how awesome would that BE?! I'm the kind of person that - as skeptical as I am - always holds out hope for discoveries like this. There is more clean energy in this universe than we'll ever need - harvesting it is the difficulty. If someone discovered a way to do it - man alive that'd be sweet.

    2) If it's true, someone will patent it and it won't be free - on the contrary, it will still somehow cost me as much as energy does now, as greed seems to outpace progress these days.

    Since it's probably BS, I don't really have to worry about either one of those two thoughts, but seriously - #1 - how cool would that BE??
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 21, 2006 @03:43PM (#15950665)
    Because dipshits like us read the stories and post angry comments.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 21, 2006 @03:45PM (#15950682)

    I'd:

    1. Take a huge short position in Oil, gas, and power distribution.

    2. Sell power back to the grid under the guise of it being a cogenerating plant, keeping the real power source secret as long as possible.

    3. Undercut competitors in energy-intensive applications such as electoplating or aluminum smelting, once more keeping the methods secret as long as possible.

    I would certainly *not* be begging for money anyone, or "acceptance from the scientific community". All of that stuff would come automaticly if you managed your discovery properly. Therefor, their claims are provably false without any need for anyone to lift a finger.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 21, 2006 @03:46PM (#15950695)
    I might respect him a little bit if he seemed to have some understanding of where the energy is coming from, could cite a real outside verification (as opposed to "one time, this one guy came to check it out, and he thought it was pretty cool"), and could explain a few really simple details of steps they'd taken to verify there was no place this energy was coming from besides "nowhere." For example, can they say for sure it wasn't the earth's magnetic field or a thermocouple effect. Heck, they don't even give any mention of how much power they're getting. I've got a pretty good suspicion it's some tiny amount that could easily be attributed to such a source.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 21, 2006 @03:47PM (#15950704)
    I really really want to laugh, becuase it's a funny concept but you don't apply any humor to your post.

    WHAT DO I DO?
  • by Xerxes1729 (770990) on Monday August 21, 2006 @03:51PM (#15950737)
    ...without having to know anything about physics.

    During 2005 Steorn embarked on a process of independent validation and approached a wide selection of academic institutions. The vast majority of these institutions refused to even look at the technology, however several did. Those who were prepared to complete testing have all confirmed our claims; however none will publicly go on record.

    Please. Any physicist who figured out how this miraculous technology worked would be more revolutionary than Einstein or Newton. Showing how to violate conservation of energy would be an instant Nobel Prize. If their data really support this, why won't they go on record and become famous? They could win at least $2,000,000 (from the Nobel committee and from James Randi).

    "What we have developed is a way to construct magnetic fields so that when you travel round the magnetic fields, starting and stopping at the same position, you have gained energy," McCarthy said.

    To me, this sounds a lot like a generator. You know, rotating a wire loop through a magnetic field to generate an electic current. That's only been around for, what, 180 years?

  • by ConsumerOfMany (942944) on Monday August 21, 2006 @03:52PM (#15950748)
    I think its great that everyone thinks Venture Capitalists are complete idiots. If thats true then where did they get the money to invest in the first place? If venture capital never had any returns, then venture capitalist would not exist.
  • Re:Fry them now (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Xerxes1729 (770990) on Monday August 21, 2006 @03:56PM (#15950788)
    It would be nice to give everyone a fair hearing, but at a certain point, you have to just say, "Enough is enough." There are millions of crackpots all over the world who think that they're the next Einstein or Galileo or whoever. If you spend all your time fairly evaluating each of their claims, that's all you're going to be doing.
  • In modern society, the best and easiest way to acquire large sums of money is to inherit it. Donald Trump could have invested in munis and done just as well.
  • Re:Fry them now (Score:5, Insightful)

    by spun (1352) <loverevolutionary.yahoo@com> on Monday August 21, 2006 @04:02PM (#15950844) Journal
    No, first round verification does not mean a world wide ad campaign to find a panel of scientists to verify this. There are proper channels. Look at their site for God's sake, this is a scam and that should be made painfully obvious to everyone. If it turns out it isn't, we can apologize later, after the world-wide fucking revolution this kind of technology would cause.
  • They're in the tech industry claiming revolutionary results and their, "About" page contains no less than five pictures of the CEO, three of the marketing manager, two each of their finance and operations managers, and NONE of their tech people.
  • by jmorris42 (1458) * <{jmorris} {at} {beau.org}> on Monday August 21, 2006 @04:04PM (#15950866)
    > Just create the devices, let's say five of them. Take them with you. Plug in normal devices.
    > Let them run uninterrupted for weeks. Keep watch while they're running.

    Exactly. Hell, just demonstrate more usable energy come out of a black box than could be supplied by an equal volume/mass of gasoline + generator and you could attract investors as long as they could stuff a meter up it's bum and make sure it wasn't a radiothermic generator. Because even if it weren't 'free energy' there would still be a pretty good chance of it being something commercially viable, at least for some extreme segment of the market.

    But these perpetual motion con artists never do that, for fairly obvious reasons.
  • by AugstWest (79042) on Monday August 21, 2006 @04:05PM (#15950873)
    I'm sorry, but did you sleep through the 1990s?
  • No they don't (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Silent sound (960334) on Monday August 21, 2006 @04:15PM (#15950954)
    It really sounds to me like they want outside verification, and are willing to pay for it themselves.

    Uh... no, if they wanted outside verification, they'd just plain go out and get some. This "jury" thing, on the other hand, is proof they DON'T want outside verification, because the whole thing is clearly designed specifically with the intent of presenting the appearance of allowing outside review of their technology while minimizing or eliminating the chance anyone will actually get a chance to see what it is. Seriously, they're inviting the world to come join a lottery in which the winners get to be told what their invention is after a long dramatic pause of unspecified length while public hype builds? And you think this is a form of public review?

    What this "jury" thing actually DOES do is allow them to handpick people to give a dog and pony show to, afterward leave the world still unsure what their supposed invention actually is, and beforehand allow them to generate a gigantic mailing list of people to pitch to later on. The most important element is that "jury" thing allows them to brag-- as they do in a huge box on the front page of their site, as they do in your blockquote-- about the large number of people who have signed up to be on the jury, thus presenting the impression of great public interest in their invention. It's a hype-generating trick, and you have fallen for it hook line and sinker.

    And did you not notice this piece of garbage on their website?

    During 2005 Steorn embarked on a process of independent validation and approached a wide selection of academic institutions. The vast majority of these institutions refused to even look at the technology, however several did. Those who were prepared to complete testing have all confirmed our claims; however none will publicly go on record.

    How can you possibly take seriously someone who writes a paragraph like that? If you look at archive.org you'll see that Steorn didn't even have an active web page in 2005.

    Shouldn't we let that take place before we fry them in oil?

    Shouldn't THEY let it (the academic verification) take place before they expect us to do anything OTHER than fry them in oil? Seriously, giving these people the time of day makes about as much sense as halting, before you delete your spam, to wonder whether maybe that e-mail really WAS sent by a Nigerian prince. The perpetual motion machine is after all one of the few scams that's been around even longer than the Spanish Prisoner [snopes.com].
  • by frisket (149522) <peter AT silmaril DOT ie> on Monday August 21, 2006 @04:16PM (#15950956) Homepage
    I'm as skeptical as the next nerd, but it's still essential for respected scientists to conduct the tests, do the math, and come up with an answer, even if just to debunk it formally.

    Anything less is a negation of what science is supposed to be about, and reduces scientists to the level of the Holy Office of the Inquisition, condemning a theory without testing it.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 21, 2006 @04:16PM (#15950959)
    In order for such a revolutionary technology to have the public support needed for it to become used widely, McCarthy says that confirmation from the academic community will be crucial. "That is our focus at this point," he said.


    Nonsense.
    All it would need is for McCarthy to call the electric company to have his service turned off, and run his household from that invention. Or even just a camper, or a laptop, whatever.

    Within a week, all his neighbors would be lined up to buy one of their own.
    From there, the world.

    The only reason he hasn't done that is: it doesn't actually work.
  • by Cheap Imitation (575717) on Monday August 21, 2006 @04:21PM (#15951003)
    Free energy is the scientific community's equivalent to the "winning the lottery" dream. The odds against it actually happening (to you) are insanely long.

    But the payoff is so huge that the speculation is fun. How would our lives change? What would we do with it all? What COULD we do with it all?

    Sure, it'll probably never happen. But I'll read the articles for the same reason I occasionally buy a 1$ ticket. It's cheap admission for the chance to dream big for a little while.

  • by LurkerXXX (667952) on Monday August 21, 2006 @04:22PM (#15951011)
    Sigh. Of course not all Venture Capitalists are complete idiots. Many are mucho smart. Some, however, were either lucky, got good advice from others (but might not every time), or inherited their money.

    Smart venture captialists will always be around. But so will stupid ones for the above reasons.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 21, 2006 @04:23PM (#15951021)
    "...people think of more efficient ways to do work all the time, with the result being that things are constantly getting cheaper..."

    A few things, no doubt, and mostly a result of the technology maturing. But if I walked into Walmart, I'd most likely see the end results of this "more efficient" new way all over the shelfs -- efficently cheap slave labor.
  • Popular opinion (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Y-Crate (540566) on Monday August 21, 2006 @04:26PM (#15951046)
    Disclaimer: I believe this,"product" like many other claims, is just a scam. Nothing more. I would like to address the distinction between obvious scams like this, and attempts by experienced scientists to pursue their ideas.

    In the scientific community there is often an understandable impetus to wholeheartedly dismiss anything that goes against the established laws. This makes an enormous amount of sense, as scientific laws do not become laws without absolutely overwhelming consensus that anything else is not even remotely possible.

    That being said, it seems to be absolute arrogance to assume that there is absolutely zero chance of a discovery that contradicts what has been well-established as being a hard law of science, and such an attitude that goes against the very ideal that has produced some of history's most innovative discoveries. Which is not to say that someone who approaches you with an idea that goes against every bit of science you have ever been taught should be given the benefit of the doubt, but on occasion I've seen reputable people propose the possibility of a dissenting theory only to be dismissed with "No, it's not possible, you are an idiot if you even look into the chance that science may be wrong."

    Curtailing academic ambitions because you believe the human mind has figured out an aspect of the universe to such an extent that nothing can possibly challenge that belief is rather ridiculous. This is not to say that people should be openly accepting of radical ideas that attempt to dispel well-proven theories and laws, but if someone accepts that the burden of proof is entirely on them, and does not attempt to use it as a VC scam (like the one we are probably witnessing here), or a means to suck up more than a very modest amount of grant money, then I really don't see the problem.

    You can say that they are wasting their time, and most of them probably are, but they should at least be given the respect one who chooses to test the frontiers deserves.
  • Not a new idea (Score:2, Insightful)

    by pseudorand (603231) on Monday August 21, 2006 @04:26PM (#15951049)

    This is hardley a new idea. I went to a talk in Oakland, California a few years back by some guy who claimed to have communicated with aliens. He described something similar for how UFO's are powered. Also, the idea of the N-Machine [pair.com] has been around for a while, as have numerous rumours of the oil companies supressing such technology. And who can forget little Lisa Simpson. (Homer: "Lisa, in this house, we follow the rules of thermodynamics!")

    I think this claim should be given a serious look. It seems incredible, but such a technology would be so revolutionary that it's worth it anyway. Of course, assuming that the conservation of energy still applies to the devices that USE this energy, by generating all that free energy, won't we be contributing to global warming in a way far beyond just trapping solar radiation?

  • by Pharmboy (216950) on Monday August 21, 2006 @04:29PM (#15951068) Journal
    Were they bored and need a good laugh or is it a profit makeing effort?

    No one takes out a full page ad "for a good laugh". For that matter, everything that everyone does is always for money.

    And when someone says "No, I don't just do it for the money", then you KNOW they are REALLY just doing it for the money, and they are a liar to boot.
  • by CyberLife (63954) on Monday August 21, 2006 @04:29PM (#15951069)
    Good catch. The press release was issued on April Fool's Day. Did the submitter or anybody at Slashdot check to see whether this was intended as a gag?
  • If it's true, someone will patent it and it won't be free - on the contrary, it will still somehow cost me as much as energy does now, as greed seems to outpace progress these days.

    Right; because damned if human greed hasn't kept the price of those computer chips right up where they always have been, $60 per 1000 transistors [1], keeping all the profits for themselves. Corporate bastards.

    [1] Intel 8080 retailed for around $360 IIRC and had 6,000 transistors. http://www.intel.com/pressroom/kits/quickreffam.ht m#i486 [intel.com]
  • by Red Flayer (890720) on Monday August 21, 2006 @04:37PM (#15951124) Journal
    1) It's funny. Laugh.

    2) If we let it fester, you might never know how quickly an infection of belief growst. Look at ID.

    3) It gives everyone posting righteous indignance a sense of mental superiority that fuels the nerd ego-drive. That, my friend, is a source of 'free' energy.

    And, given your nick 'Mr. Underbridge,' perhaps your grumpiness is due to the fact that you've been out-trolled by the editors, a cut to your own ego-drive?
  • Re:Fry them now (Score:3, Insightful)

    by WormholeFiend (674934) on Monday August 21, 2006 @04:39PM (#15951135)
    And of course, if the next Einstein or Galileo is indeed among them, his discoveries will never see the light of day.

    If it's spun right, it could be entertaining if aired on a tv show like Mythbusters or Patent Bending.
  • by Politburo (640618) on Monday August 21, 2006 @04:44PM (#15951164)
    Easy. These stories always generate a lot of discussion (306 comments at my post). Discussion implies readership. Readership implies ad views. Ad views equal money.
  • by ISoldMyLowIdOnEbay (802697) on Monday August 21, 2006 @04:44PM (#15951165)
    Re: Siphoning off the rotational energy of the Earth

    This of course, is exactly what a Tidal [wikipedia.org] generator does. Watch out as the earth's rotation locks to the moon's orbit and we have 696 hour days...

  • by gad_zuki! (70830) on Monday August 21, 2006 @04:51PM (#15951208)
    >free energy would collapse some economies, invigorate others, bring about new business opportunities, advance the living conditions of people stuck in third world countries

    Not really. Unless it could compete on price with gas, oil, or nuclear power then it will just be a curiousity. We already have various "free-ish" energy sources out there like wind and water. The problem is that they cost too much and don't produce enough power, thus tradtional power-generation wins out. These methods have specialized applications, but unless these things can seriously compete on price then they won't change the world at all.

      Also, its worth noting that a great deal of poverty in the third-world is not a technological problem but a social one. Its not tech holding them back its their corrupt and incompetent warlords running the show. Money better invested in local hostpital, clean wells, etc then in getting 220v AC to everyone out there. Political incentives (slave labor, international aid monies) to keep people poor. etc. etc.
  • Why the hostility? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Forge (2456) <kevinforge@gmail ... minus physicist> on Monday August 21, 2006 @04:53PM (#15951226) Homepage Journal
    I don't see why the hostility.

    These guys claim to be doing exactly what a layman should do when he thinks he has discovered technology which challenges a fundamental scientific principle.

    Invite as many credible scientific experts as you can find to test it and report the results of such testing in peer reviewed scientific publications and on the Internet.

    Free energy is one of the biggest discoveries that people are seriously searching for. That and intelligent extraterrestrial life.

    And yes, apart from free energy there is the promise of virtually free energy. I.e. If you could create a small (as in portable) device that can separate Water molecules into the atomic components and burn the resulting Hydrogen for energy, cool. If the energy generated in that process is significantly greater (1.5X to 2X) than what is required to run the machine, viola. Virtually free energy.

    Bonus points if it runs on watter too impure to drink and still maintains a positive balance even with the purification process.

    So let them be. If it's bogus that will come out in the testing. This has happened before, without the invitations. If it's legit. Whoopee. countries like mine which produce mineral raw materials (bauxite) but import all our energy needs could see a an economic bump.

    A bump our politicians will work feverishly to squander, but that's a different story.

  • Re:No they don't (Score:5, Insightful)

    by shess (31691) on Monday August 21, 2006 @05:05PM (#15951294) Homepage
    Uh... no, if they wanted outside verification, they'd just plain go out and get some.

    Or, you know, just hook up to the grid and start selling power. Admittedly, it would be easier to get tens of millions of dollars and jumpstart things, but ... you hook it up to the grid, and start generating revenue at a couple cents per kilowatthour, round the clock. Since it's "free", your revenue is operating profit, and should add up FAST. After a couple months you build another unit, and another, and pretty soon you've bootstrapped yourself into a real company.

    Well, unless your current prototype doesn't, you know, really provide free power. It will only do _that_ after you've built the $10M version, of course.

    -scott
  • 10 Bagger (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Forge (2456) <kevinforge@gmail ... minus physicist> on Monday August 21, 2006 @05:06PM (#15951299) Homepage Journal
    There is another piece to the VC puzzle.

    The sure fire, must win ideas (Like a fast food outlet in the middle of the business district) usually run into stiff competition and hence slim margins. What make spectacular 10 and 100 fold returns on your investments are those ideas that are so wacky they couldn't get a commercial bank loan..

    You know ideas like "Lets get the same old books that people buy at brick and mortar stores and sell them online" or "Gee, how about if we sell the operating system like it wasn't a part of the computer, but it's own product".

    Most of those ideas are actually Waco and money invested in them is lost. Occasionally one hits pay dirt and a VC makes a killing.

    What they came up with for that is the "10 bagger". Bet on 10 ideas that _almost_ make sense to you. Fully prepare for 8 of them to completely tank and loose everything you invest, while 1 will turn a small profit and the other makes the kind of returns that capitalists of all stripes salivate over.

  • by ConsumerOfMany (942944) on Monday August 21, 2006 @05:07PM (#15951306)
    I'm glad you were able to pull out such a specific rebuttal, but my point remains. The mere fact that venture capital money is still around means that it is pulling returns greater than its inputs, regardless of pets.com and other attention grabbing headlines shoved out by the media. Just because some lost money on dot.coms doesn't mean more made it on biotech and others...
  • Re:Fry them now (Score:3, Insightful)

    by buswolley (591500) on Monday August 21, 2006 @05:12PM (#15951333) Journal
    Crackpots don't usually own companies. Let them test. You guys act like the inquisition, revolutionary ideas in science always face inquisitions of one sort or another. Sure, they can be wrong, but they are aware of the scientific process.
  • by shoolz (752000) on Monday August 21, 2006 @05:16PM (#15951362) Homepage
    If the device really worked, there would be no need for scientific verification. They'd just hook 50 of them up to the grid and make millions generating and selling electricity to the power companies.

    If it works, why does it need to be proven? Just go out and make billions with the device.
  • by DerekLyons (302214) <fairwater.gmail@com> on Monday August 21, 2006 @05:17PM (#15951371) Homepage
    Validation in the academic world, free or even cheap power has never done well because it's not money. Since the 1900's there have literally been thousands of perpetual motion and free power devices. Who's to say that every single one is bunk,

    Who is to say? Anyone who paid attention to the their physics classes in High School.
     
    [snippage tinfoil hat ravings and handwaving nonsense.]
  • by flibuste (523578) on Monday August 21, 2006 @05:18PM (#15951380)

    There is no such thing as "free" energy. What you get is what you've spent somewhere else. The FA says their thing generates "energy" (electricity) when you move something around a magnetic field. The energy carried by the electricity generated by magnetic induction (moving a conducting object within a magnetic field induces an electric field in your object) is the energy you spent moving the object around the magnetic field. No gain, no loss.

    What seems strange is that, without naming it, the FA says they've found something that seems to break the conservation of energy. I bet you scientific scrutinity will unveil a source unaccounted for in the first place.

  • by AJWM (19027) on Monday August 21, 2006 @05:20PM (#15951394) Homepage
    Now if only we could figure out how to harness [vacuum energy]

    Oh, that's easy. You just need to find something with less energy than the vacuum and tap into the flow.
  • Thermal run-away. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Brit_in_the_USA (936704) on Monday August 21, 2006 @05:21PM (#15951396)
    Some people have been postulating the changes to civilization that such a device would pose.

    In the sci-fi book "3001" references are made to a period of human history shorty after the roll out of nuclear fusion power stations (no the fission power used today). The near limitless supply of seawater to power the reactors and the cheap reactor designs with little of no waste to dispose of resulted in very, very cheap electricity. As a result everyone consumed as much electricity as they liked and Earth started warming as a direct result of electrical heating.

    Something to think about - we can still cause global warming even without the use of fuels that produce emissions.
  • by Traiklin (901982) on Monday August 21, 2006 @05:25PM (#15951432) Homepage
    Regardless, the patent for that machine would expire 20 years from its filing date and would then become public domain.
    hahaha, your serious aren't you? look at some of the stuff "Patented" today, how much of that stuff do you honestly think will fall into the public domain in 20 years? hell how much stuff has tons of prior art and is already in the public domain that companies and patent leeches are trying to patent & have succefully patented?

    if the ones that came up with it patent it and it turns out to be true, how many energy companies would throw billions at these people just so they can aquire it for themselves? and then the technology just never seems to meet their expectations or just vanishes all together.
  • by exp(pi*sqrt(163)) (613870) on Monday August 21, 2006 @05:39PM (#15951542) Journal
    I know how to send a rocket to the moon. Just stick some chemical propellant along with oxygen in a tube and light it. But if I actually wanted to send someone to the moon I'd probably have to advertise what I was doing to attract attention from people who could actually fill in the details and build the required rocket. This is no different. (Except for the small fact that these guys are lying...)
  • Re:Fry them now (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Jerf (17166) on Monday August 21, 2006 @05:41PM (#15951557) Journal
    Perhaps, but in the Free Energy domain there's a trivial path to "the light of day": Start selling your wonderful free energy device. If it works, it'll sell, because first crackpots will buy it, then they'll notice that it actually works, tell their friends, whom will satisfy themselves it works and order one, and it'll go from there.

    Free energy ideas tend to stall at the "working" part. See the Mythbusters episode, for instance, not because they disprove the entire idea (technically not possible), but because the free energy devices are hilarious and obviously don't work. If they actually had, we'd know now.
  • by DaoudaW (533025) on Monday August 21, 2006 @05:48PM (#15951618)
    I don't see why the hostility.

    What hostility? All I'm reading is a healthy dose of skepticism. Those of us who have been observing the world for awhile, I'm 50, get tired of discrediting hoaxes. This is a hoax and it's unconscionable to encourage scientists to interrupt research which could decrease our dependence on fossil fuels. This is nothing more than a publicity stunt to attract investors.

    According to TFA, (1)Steorn will pay for the research, (2)publish the research themselves and (3) develop products based on the research. Here's a translation: (1) We aren't applying for grant money. We know our "research" wouldn't stand up to the scrutiny required. (2) By publishing the research ourselves, we have complete control over it. (3) Okay, there won't be any products developed but if we can keep the research going for a couple of years, we'll get more victims^h^h^h^h^h^h^h investors.

    This is so predictable... when will Slashdot quit falling for these stories.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 21, 2006 @06:02PM (#15951708)
    "invite as many credible scientific experts as you can find to test it and report the results of such testing in peer reviewed scientific publications and on the Internet."

    Ah, so that's why they posted it in The Economist? Seems to me they're just trying to get funding from VCs, because they should first port it in a scientific magazine, wait for the result of the challenges, and if it holds up, THEN publish in more mainstream media.
  • by malfunct (120790) * on Monday August 21, 2006 @06:04PM (#15951717) Homepage
    The problem is that the laws of thermodynamics say that if you had to put energy into the system there will be a net loss of energy over the life of the process. Means in this case that you are guaranteed not to get back more energy than you used to split the water into oxygen and hydrogen and in all likelyhood you would get significantly less back in a harnessable form. That said the beauty of hydrogen as fuel is that you can take hard to capture energy and store it as easier to use hydrogen. For instance hydro electric power is plentiful (yes it has environmental issues but I'm just being hypothetical) but can't be used to power a car. If it instead powered a electrolysis plant and the hydrogen was used to power the car that is workable.

    Also for those who LOVE hydrogen as a fuel, remember, water vapor is a greenhouse gas.
  • by shadowbearer (554144) on Monday August 21, 2006 @06:17PM (#15951815) Homepage Journal

      Centuries worth of students relying on Newton's discoveries thought the same way.

      Sorry Derek, you don't understand the concept of theory. It does NOT mean that this is Truth, it means that it is true as far as we currently understand it.

    SB
  • by sacrilicious (316896) on Monday August 21, 2006 @06:22PM (#15951858) Homepage
    I don't see why the hostility. These guys claim to be doing exactly what a layman should do when he thinks he has discovered technology which challenges a fundamental scientific principle.

    The hostility probably comes from a commercial company seeking to make money off of something that runs against a basic (i.e. non-esoteric), foundational model of physics. That the model has been long tested doesn't mean that it won't ever be replaced by a better model, but it does call for skepticism. But the company isn't exhibiting skepticism. They're attitude seems to be, "After three years, we're convinced." Their attitude should be, "We know something's wrong, we just need to know what". In a commercial setting, anything else smells of upsell and false hype for personal gain. Whether strictly against the law or not, it's worthy of hostility in my opinion.

    Invite as many credible scientific experts as you can find to test it and report the results of such testing in peer reviewed scientific publications and on the Internet.

    I barely skimmed TFA but I only recall them seeking evaluations from 12 scientists. Whereas seeking as many experts as one can find would be better served by publishing the work on the internet.

  • by Planesdragon (210349) <slashdot@@@castlesteelstone...us> on Monday August 21, 2006 @06:24PM (#15951879) Homepage Journal
    The problem is that the laws of thermodynamics say that if you had to put energy into the system there will be a net loss of energy over the life of the process

    Which means exactly two things.

    1: Any "free energy" device is dependent on a system outside of its physical construction, just like hydropower or solar power is dependent on an outside source.

    2: If (1) isn't the case with this, and the claim is valid, then we need to revise either the laws of theormodynamics or how we apply them. They weren't written by God, they just happen to be the best description of that aspect of physics that we have.
  • by rossifer (581396) on Monday August 21, 2006 @06:27PM (#15951899) Journal
    On the other hand, FUSION is theortically possible, and that would 'destroy' its hydrogen fuel, producing worthless (you can't drink it) helium.

    Oh noes! Panic! :)


    Fear not! That "worthless" helium would be very useful to the mixed gas scuba diving market, which currently has to rely on the meager pickings of helium separated from natural gas.

    No, really. Helium in your mixture lets you dive deeper with less mental confusion (and therefore more safely). This effect is noticeable even at deeper recreational depths (though there are not a huge number of injuries related to nitrogen narcosis in recreational diving).

    At the moment, Helium is rather expensive to blend into your breathing mix. If there was enough of a fusion industry to knock the price down (though I suspect that even total conversion of all electrical production to tokamak-style fusion generation would not produce more than a few grams an hour)...

    Regards,
    Ross
  • by Euler (31942) on Monday August 21, 2006 @06:29PM (#15951921) Journal
    The reason why everyone should be hostile to the claims of 'free-energy' is that it is physically impossible.
    This is known by anyone who has a reasonable education in a scientific field. And I'm not talking about something like maybe it could be done if people
    are clever enough... it's just impossible by the laws of thermodynamics. I'm kinda surprised that 99% of the posters
    on Slashdot aren't saying the same thing.
    It is amazing to me that in this current day that charlatans can keep using the same pitch over and over. It's like an Amway pitch,
    you know it's BS, but you just can't believe that people keep falling for it.

    If someone makes claims of free-energy and also invites the scientific community to verify his results, then he is just looking for credibility. In
    reality, there will be excuses and foot-dragging. Prove me wrong, but that will be the end-result. There is nothing to see here.
  • Wrong dream. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by abb3w (696381) on Monday August 21, 2006 @07:25PM (#15952246) Journal

    Free energy is the scientific community's equivalent to the "winning the lottery" dream.

    No. It's the equivalent to the "getting superpowers by being bitten by a radioactive spider" dream. Which is also cool, and great fun to hear about, and if it's going to be told well even qualifies as news for nerds... but doesn't deserve anything but ridicule when brought out in public.

    If they were serious, everyone they were telling about it would be forced to sign some serious blood-oath NDAs. They wouldn't leak this much until they had a small-scale pilot facility ready to run their lab for a while... or perhaps after they had set it up and been selling power to the utilities in the US for a few years. This looks like just another variant on lost treasure maps, forgotten gold mines, wildcat oil wells, and Florida "real" estate.

  • by WhiteWolf666 (145211) <sherwin@[ ]ran.us ['ami' in gap]> on Monday August 21, 2006 @08:26PM (#15952550) Homepage Journal
    If they are really unable to find scientists willing to test it, then perhaps they can send it to me. I'd like to power my computer and charge my mobile phone please, to save on my electricity bill. I'll test it for free.

    I'll one up you.

    I'll fly my investors out to their facility. If they can demonstrate the machine actually works, I'll raise them as much operating capital as they need. Of course, they'll have to accept being vetted by my choice of experts; however, I (and my experts) are more than willing to sign any NDAs/non-competes they might need.

    More than that, we'd be willing to commit to funding the venture, and on their terms, too.

    The problem is it is horseshit. Pure crap. Utter phooey. That's why we're spending the big bucks on other, less exotic, but real schemes like BioFuel. Hell, I'd believe the Helium-3 buzz over this nonsense.
  • And they still think the same thing today - because Newton's Laws still hold.

    The equations and ideas are still around, sure. But, we know they're wrong. Not wrong enough to be important much of the time, but they are still wrong. For example, they presume that we live in a 3 dimensional space that has no curvature in any other dimensions. And numerous experiments in the past few decades have confirmed that this is definitely not the case.

    So, Newton is wrong. Einstein likely is too. All these ideas are just the best approximation we have for modeling various phenomena. That's all.

    Now, I personally am extremely skeptical of anybody who claims they've managed to contruct a device that violates such a cherised and well-tested principle of physics as the conservation of energy. But if they can provide a repeatable demonstration of this, then I'll be forced to change my view of the world.

    I think the people mentioned in the article above are little more than snake oil vendors conning unwise investors out of their money. I think that's much more likely than the idea that they've found some interesting bit of physics which everybody was heretefor unaware. Especially physics involving magnets, which have been studied very carefully for a long time. But, I could be wrong. And any true scientist would admit that though one possibility was far more likely than the other, the chance for the other is not 0.

  • Prove or Profit (Score:5, Insightful)

    by OverflowingBitBucket (464177) on Monday August 21, 2006 @09:50PM (#15952931) Homepage Journal
    Don't know about you, but I'm thinking one of:

    - Prove it. Publish your results and get it peer reviewed. None of this nonsense "people won't even take my claims seriously" nonsense. There is probably a reason.
    - Profit from it. Free energy? Make a big bank of these things. Sell the power. There are plenty of buyers.

    And if neither of these things are happening, I'm thinking one of:

    - Crackpot.
    - Investor scam.
  • by Stephen H-B (771203) <sjholmesbrownNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Monday August 21, 2006 @10:49PM (#15953159) Homepage
    Hydrogen peroxide is H2O2. 2*H20 is two molecules of water.
  • by CrackBabyyy (996961) on Tuesday August 22, 2006 @12:01AM (#15953398)
    The first guys who took a stab and claiming to have free-energy, and were taken seriously did it on purpose just for the publicity. And despite being soundly disproven, "Third party results differed", they were still set up quite nicely by Toyota with research money. So the publicity track does pay off for these guys (just look at the South Korean cloning fiasco, where the lead scientist now has his own lab).
  • by mrchaotica (681592) * on Tuesday August 22, 2006 @10:14AM (#15955168)
    Yeah, but that has the same problem as all the fuels we use now: what do you do with the carbon?
  • Re:FWIW (Score:3, Insightful)

    by geekoid (135745) <dadinportlandNO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Tuesday August 22, 2006 @12:35PM (#15956300) Homepage Journal
    "But magnetics is admittently a bit of a grey area, we know the capabilities of electromagnetism but this is an area that hasnt had the same level of academic research as for example DNA sequencing, astrophysics, etc..."

    completely laughabale.
    Clearly this person is lying.

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