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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 X_Bones (93097) <danorz13.yahoo@com> on Monday August 21, 2006 @02:25PM (#15950484) Homepage Journal
    more than a few people think that the whole site is part of another viral marketing campaign by Microsoft and Bungie, this time for Halo 3. Don't take it as gospel quite yet, but it would explain the total lack of engineering and scientific detail that a company of this nature should be showing to the world.
  • by Ckwop (707653) * <Simon.Johnson@gmail.com> on Monday August 21, 2006 @02:28PM (#15950517) Homepage

    When Noether proved in 1918 that every conservation law must have a paired symmetry, physics was transformed for-ever. From then on whenever you saw a conserved quantity it implied there was a symmetry that could be seen in space-time.

    A lot of physics courses focus on the conserved quality and not the symmetry. Perhaps it's because the maths is a lot neater with conserved quantities than with symmetries. But I argue that the real understanding of the physics is to be had in making sense of the symmetries.

    Conservation of energy implies that the laws of physics are constant over time. This is why breaking the law of energy conservation is important. If even one pico-joule of energy is created from nothing in the universe, it destroys the constancy of physical law.

    The theory of electromagnetism has been verified to factor of 10**-20. I find it highly unlikely they've found something new in theory to allow this.

    The fact they've issued a press release rather than a research paper suggests they're cranks. Nothing to see here, move along.

    Simon

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 21, 2006 @02:33PM (#15950575)
  • by nizo (81281) * on Monday August 21, 2006 @02:42PM (#15950658) Homepage Journal
    The Earth's magnetic field has decayed about 10-15% over the last 150 years.


    Does anyone have a source for this besides Wikipedia? Wouldn't this be a serious problem when the weakened magnetic field stops shielding us from the solar winds??

  • by jonnyelectronic (938904) on Monday August 21, 2006 @02:44PM (#15950673)
    From a quick shifty of that patent, it looks like it's based around the "If I just block the magnets, I create energy!". Just like the idea that one of the guys in my secondary school got excited about when he's invented a perpetual motion machine. If they are so confident, and having been spending the last 3 years on this project, why haven't they built a big one that outputs a reasonable amount of power, and powered something of a reasonable size. I expect they have been "tweaking" the design, and it's "just under the 100% mark", they just need to deal with some "inefficent" parts of the system. Or maybe they've invented unlimited free power.
  • by Surt (22457) on Monday August 21, 2006 @02:45PM (#15950679) Homepage Journal
    If even one pico-joule of energy is created from nothing in the universe, it destroys the constancy of physical law.

    It's a good thing not even one pico-joule of energy has been created from nothing in the history of the universe, otherwise we might be here to appreciate this invention.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 21, 2006 @02:45PM (#15950691)
    http://blogs.chron.com/sciguy/archives/2006/08/ste orn_and_free_1.html [chron.com]

    Quote: "Recall that Steorn is a former e-business company that saw its market vanish during the dot.com bust. It stands to reason that Steorn has re-tooled as a Web marketing company, and is using the "free energy" promotion as a platform to show future clients how it can leverage print advertising and a slick Web site to promote their products and ideas. If so, it's a pretty brilliant strategy."

    1. Pretend to invent an impossible technology that nobody will believe in.
    2. Promote the heck out of it on the internet.
    3. ???
    4. Profit.

    Well, the infamous missing step three is "Demonstrate to your web-marketting customers that you can market even such a preposterous idea as free energy successfully and they will flock to your doors".
  • by johneee (626549) on Monday August 21, 2006 @02:48PM (#15950720)
    We do actually have electrical generating stations that run with gravity... In fact there's a huge one at niagara falls.

    You could argue I suppose that they run on the evaporative cycle, but I prefer to think of them running on Gravity.
  • by Animats (122034) on Monday August 21, 2006 @02:54PM (#15950772) Homepage

    What Steom is actually claiming is quite possible, but uninteresting. Steorn is making three claims for its technology: [steorn.net]

    1. The technology has a coefficient of performance greater than 100%.
    2. The operation of the technology (i.e. the creation of energy) is not derived from the degradation of its component parts.
    3. There is no identifiable environmental source of the energy (as might be witnessed by a cooling of ambient air temperature).

    The coefficient of performance [wikipedia.org] is not efficiency. It's the reciprocal of efficiency. Most refrigerators and heat pumps have a coefficient of performance greater than 100%. 200-350% is typical. The coefficient of performance of an ideal heat pump, and the efficiency of an ideal heat engine, both working between the same temperature difference, will have a product of 1.

    So Steom can meet its claims with any off-the-shelf heat pump.

    Since they talk about "magnetics" so much, they're probably fooling around with something exotic like a magneto-caloric heat pump [nrel.gov]. This is a cute idea that's been around for a while, requires very strong magnetic fields, is sometimes used for cyrogenic cooling, and has been considered for auto air conditioners. There are buzzword friendly papers like "Preparation of Superferromagnetic Lanthanide Nanoparticulate Magnetic Refrigerants" on the subject. If they've made that work, they may have something with product potential. Maybe. But it's not "free energy".

  • Re:Coefficiency (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MobyDisk (75490) on Monday August 21, 2006 @03:01PM (#15950836) Homepage
    Most car AC units have an energy coefficiency of somewhere around 400% - for every one watt of power used four watts of heat are removed
    Apples and oranges. That "efficiency" is a completely different measurement than the efficiency of an energy generating system which is the amount of energy produced to the amount of energy consumed. Since air conditioners produce no power, they have an efficiency of 0%.

    Actually, my physics teacher demonstrated how to get energy out of magnets.
    I've never seen that experiment before. Based on what you said, the power is not coming from the magnets: it is coming from the force of your pushing. The energy to light the LED came from that burrito you ate earlier in the day. :-)

    Don't discount it. Remember it onyl takes a tiny weak spark to get massive amounts of power out of gasoline.
    It requires a spark, fossilized carbon-based life, and 100,000 years of the sun beating down on the earth to produce the gasoline. You just released stored potential energy from the sun. And we still haven't created an engine that can get 100% of the energy back out of that gasoline. And of course, in the end, the gasoline is gone.
    A more complete analogy to what these guys are claiming is this: they can burn the gasoline, then still have the gasoline left over.
  • by HaMMeReD3 (891549) on Monday August 21, 2006 @03:05PM (#15950869)
    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, I think it's equally likely that the rich are smart enough to do whats in there power to prevent any kind of serious progress that would hurt there ability to make money. The GM EV1 electric car as an example, a production quality electric car the owners loved, and they took them all back and crushed them.

    Lets just hope that when things get really bad, one of the many free power devices actually was not bunk, because to believe in conservation of energy itself is bunk. The universe has been showen to expand at an exponentially rate from it's creation, the distribution of a fixed amount of energy evenly throughout the expanding universe would mean that we wouldnt be moving for much longer.

    Conservation of energy is more of a crutch to help explain what's happening in small scale physical interaction. Things like dark matter are just proof that the systems of energy in the universe are not a static one but dynamic.
  • by drolli (522659) on Monday August 21, 2006 @03:24PM (#15951030) Journal
    Science - since a long time is based on the principle that you publish your information, and no matter who the other person is - he or she can criticise you (peer review). And, since theories can only be falsified (or to put it in words of a physicist: you can explore in which limit the theory holds), you have to provide openly what you want to falsify. The measure of acceptance for a theory in physics is how many people had the chance to falsify it.

    What these guys so is the opposite. They do not publish any information WHAT they acually do. They do not go to a conference ans seek the open criticism. Thy do not go with this discovery to a peer-reviewd journal (this discovery would ensure the Nobel price to the scientist when it is accepted by the peers). No they want to set up a closed jury which they select. Are these people the advisory board or should they just convince the bank? If this circle is closed - may they report on a failure or are they, after beeing selected to be the "jury" only alowed to write positive things about the company. Do they have any kind of NDA? Wre they allowed to disassemble the technology? Will they have financial interests to say yes? Will they be taken to a brainwashing show in a nice hotel in the mountains or will they be sent to the lab? Open questions.....

    They claim that Energy conservation does not hold. This either means that the Noether does not hold (and it holds since it is a mathematical law) or that space is not time invariant. An they are right. If you are moving some parts in circles the space is not time invariant. Thats the principle of a generator. But the thesis that the overall energy conservation does not hold is ridiculous - if stated in that way.

    Perpetuum mobile exist for a long time and never any Joule of energy was won - still a lot of them are patented. That is because you can apply for a patent without proving that it works.

    BTW.: I find it embarassing that perpetuum mobiles are even mentioned on slashdot.
  • Announced April 1st? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Zildy (32593) on Monday August 21, 2006 @03:26PM (#15951047)
    http://www.steorn.net/en/coverage.html [steorn.net]

    Press Coverage
    Steorn Announce "Free Energy" Technology

    Irish company Steorn have announced a revoloutionary free energy technology. More
    The Guardian | 1 April 2006
  • Theory (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MobyDisk (75490) on Monday August 21, 2006 @03:27PM (#15951052) Homepage
    I wonder if this is a startup company, and they are actually using this to hire people. Similar to how Google posted challenges on billboards a few years ago, as part of a pre-interview process. The people who solved the problems and contacted them were given job interviews.

    Maybe they are looking for people who will come-in, prove why it won't work, then to hire those people.
  • by jcr (53032) <jcr.mac@com> on Monday August 21, 2006 @03:30PM (#15951070) Journal
    Dude,

    Forget how much you want this to be true: it doesn't pass the smell test.

    Very nice guy.

    That's what they said about Ponzi, too.

    -jcr
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 21, 2006 @03:37PM (#15951118)
    > 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.

    If the device is priced fairly, then no big deal. People will buy it, the company will get rich, and everyone will be happy until we discover the awful enviromental effects (like everyone going bald... or growing hair.)

    If the device is priced unfairly, then fuck 'em. People will steal the tech, and use it for themselves.

    Kind of like software piracy.
  • by LiquidFaction (987468) on Monday August 21, 2006 @04:17PM (#15951370)
    N-machine (aka - Zero Point Energy or Vacume Energy), and things like the Homopolar Generator

    The idea's been kicked around for a long time, and is not really new. Unfortunatly it looks as though if an idea is not patentable in the USA it doesn't exist. Start reading folks... this isn't anything new, it just that a company may have gotten enough attention to actualy get a non-oil consuming energy source off the ground (cause we all know what competition like this would do to Big Oil).

    http://www.mufor.org/nmachine.html/ [mufor.org]

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homopolar_generator/ [wikipedia.org]
  • by Ed State (961103) on Monday August 21, 2006 @04:22PM (#15951401)
    There is a constant stream of water entering our atmosphere all the time... little frozen bits. From space!
  • by julesh (229690) on Monday August 21, 2006 @04:31PM (#15951481)
    You know what... most of those venture capitalists actually made a profit. How? By selling all those ridiculous startups off to other suckers before the end came. A few were still holding on at the end, but most of them had wised up.
  • Actually, it doesn't have to violate any laws of physics, if it does something like:
    • slow down the rotation of the earth
    • slow the rotation of magma in the earths core
    • drag the earth closer to the sun
    • etc.
    (assuming those sorts of changes are lower-energy states). Now how it would do any of those without forcibly sliding you along the ground/driving you into the earth if you were holding it is a mystery to me, but...) The problem is if it does do something like that, it's hard to measure at the 1kW level, but if enough people do it, the day starts getting longer, the earth gets hotter, etc.

    Another possibility is that they've accidentally made a Really Good Antenna, and they're just receiving broadcast radio and converting it to DC...

  • by Angostura (703910) on Monday August 21, 2006 @04:38PM (#15951534)
    Except the guys aren't doing that: They aren't inviting as many credible scientific experts as possible to test it - they are asking people to apply, from which they will select 12. What a layman should do (other than attempt to publish in a peer-reviewed journal) is supply the information needed for anyone to try to duplicate the machine and its results.

    Personally, I think this is more likely to be viral marketing for a game or something daft like that.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 21, 2006 @04:45PM (#15951593)
    So where do you get the energy to travel around the fields?

    I'm assuming they haven't actually got it "working" in the sense that it could generate electricity but, if they did, then they could do a couple very informative and easy experiments. Basically, use the thing to power a light bulb and then either put everything in an insulated enclosure or put everything except the light bulb in the insulated enclosure. Then measure the temperature in the insulated enclosure.

    If the temperature in the enclosure increases when everything is in the enclosure, then conservation of energy (the first law of thermodynamics) has been violated and pretty much all of physics will have to be rewritten.

    If the temperature in the enclosure decreases when the light bulb is outside, then only the second law of thermodynamics has been violated and most of physics is OK but pretty much all of thermodynamics will have to be rewritten.

  • by Geoffreyerffoeg (729040) on Monday August 21, 2006 @05:04PM (#15951721)
    It's believed to be due to an upcoming polar switch (North and South switch polarities).

    Hey. HEY! That's it!

    Or if this isn't Steorn's method, it'd certainly do an interesting job. Not sure how much useful energy it would get us, but it would work.

    How do we induce electric current? With a changing magnetic field. What's the Earth's magnetic field doing? Changing.

    Technically it still obeys the laws of thermodynamics: the movement within the Earth's core is doing the work. It's the same as waving wires in the air and extracting a little current thence, but we don't have to do the work of changing the magnetic flux. And yes, it's a very small amount of energy, but it would work.
  • by CHK6 (583097) on Monday August 21, 2006 @05:42PM (#15952011)
    Is today some sort of April Fools Day in Ireland? I thought the USA was the only one.
  • by dep01 (730107) on Monday August 21, 2006 @05:49PM (#15952055) Homepage
    Well, the problem with The Internet today is anyone can put a very compelling and persuasive website together to claim anything they want to claim. Many people don't recall that Steorn is a former e-business company that saw its market vanish during the dot.com bust. It stands to reason that Steorn has re-tooled as a Web marketing company, and is using the "free energy" promotion as a platform to show future clients how it can leverage print advertising and a slick Web site to promote their products and ideas. If so, it's a pretty brilliant strategy.
  • by spoco2 (322835) on Monday August 21, 2006 @05:56PM (#15952096)
    Yeah, heaven forbid that the challenge be published in a SCIENCE journal, even a POPULAR one like, oh, I don't know, Scientific American or Discover.

    "Steorn has decided to publish its challenge in The Economist because of the breadth of its readership. "We chose it over a purely scientific magazine simply because we want to make the general public aware that this process is about to commence and to generate public support, awareness, interest etc for what we are doing."

    Oh, because the Economist has a broad, far reaching readership, not limited to only those interested in MONEY... unlike the science magazines who have a readership that actually may be interested, and, heaven forbid, know something about energy.

    My god what a load of shite.
  • by cayblood (525703) on Monday August 21, 2006 @05:59PM (#15952115)

    Many other charlatans and crackpots have made this claim. I have yet to see anyone publish a coherent layman's description of how to accomplish it.

    I think the best way to disclose such an invention would be to post a web site with a list of parts to buy, where to buy them from, how much they cost, etc., and step-by-step illustrated instructions for putting it together. The end result simply needs to be a box that one could screw a light bulb into and keep the light turned on perpetually without an external power source.

    If somebody did this, he would not even be a need to explain how it functions, because it would be impossible to refute. Scientists would eventually figure out how it worked.

    Unfortunately no claimed free energy source that I know of passes this simple test.

  • by brunos (629303) on Monday August 21, 2006 @06:16PM (#15952197)
    Exactly! A mate of mine actually did this same sort of thing in the Czech Republic: a massive advertising campaign for "the czech dream", which people were made to believe was a hypermarket with cheap prices.
    The funny thing was that their entire advertizing campaing was "it does not exist", "don't come", "it's a waste of time", but at least 1000 people came to the "opening" they made a film of it, and of how advertizing companies can really make you believe whatever! It's great!

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Czech_dream [wikipedia.org]
  • bugs! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by M0b1u5 (569472) on Monday August 21, 2006 @06:46PM (#15952348) Homepage
    No, that's not correct. Scientists have recently discovered bacteria which shit Hydrogen. From memory they eat rubbish too - so they are busy trying to genetically modify these little fuckers to shit more hydrogen, and faster.

    Hell, with the right system, you'd pass your garbage through this system before taking it to a land fill, and the output would be fuel for fuel-cells - for Very Little Money (tm).

    The other nice thing about the bacteria is that they could be used in small scale devices: at home, to reduce reliance on a national grid, and even to send power out of the house when usage is low. This would assist the decentralisation of power generation which is abolsutely necessary to get out from underneath the giant power and oil companies which rule western democracies.

    *sigh*

    Dreams are free I suppose.
  • by UKRevenant (996944) on Monday August 21, 2006 @08:52PM (#15952937)
    Free energy is possible, if just 4 percent of the worlds deserts were covered by solar panels (yes I know that is still a lot of panels) enough electricity would be generated to fullfil the worlds needs.

    As most of us already know you can run vehicle engines on hydrogen and that does include jet engines. The hydrogen economy has to arrive sooner of later.

    Most people dont know of a Cornish generator, this uses aluminium wire and water to produce hydrogen. The oxygen is bound to the aluminium creating aluminium oxide, the wire and the oxide are easy to transport around the world if people are worried about transporting hydrogen.

    There is of course another knock-on effect from starting to cover the worlds deserts with solar panels, that being economy of scale. The panels themselves would become much cheaper making it possible for the average person to install them on their house. The figure I read was that production needed to be up 100 fold to bring the price down enough for true mass market.

    A little political will would kick start this process, you dont actually need to cover 4 percent of the worlds deserts when you have every home generating some of its own power needs. Any excess created could be stored as hydrogen until needed. You would still need a power grid, but that power too could be based around hydrogen technologies.

    We are so close, but it feels like it is still so far away. Clean, cheap energy without sacrificing the car or the plane.

    Simon.
  • Re:don't think so... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ebuck (585470) on Monday August 21, 2006 @11:37PM (#15953516)
    Err....

    Galileo's claims were not scoffed at, he did a very good job of presenting his evidence.

    Unfortunately, the Church (the Catholic Church, the only Church of mention at that time) took his theories very seriously, and that's why they put Galileo to the test, demanding that he basically rebuke himself. When they discovered that they couldn't put the cat back into the bag, they basically asked for an apology. None of this would have been necessary if the Church didn't act as the supreme authority for all physical knowledge, but hey, God is omniescent and the Pope is the mouthpiece of God, and there you go.

    Columbus wasn't scoffed at when he said the Earth was round, that is a common modern misconception. In Columbus's time, approximately 50% of all Spanish citizens believed that the Earth was round, based on the excellent Porteguese and Dutch map-making skills, it was hard to NOT notice the only way to make coasts meet was to project them on a sphere.

    Quantum Physics wasn't scoffed at for scientific reasons, it was scoffed at because a religous believing super-star of physics wouldn't accept a theory that allowed randomness to drive the lowest basic forces. Ironically, it was Albert Einstein's early works that opened the door for seeing physics through "Quantum Physics" eyes, but the same Albert Einsteins decried quantum physics as being too random, and not capturing the "devine design of God", leading to the famous quote (which has never been proved or disproved) that "God does not play dice."

    So basically, all of your examples belies a mis-understanding of history, and you admit the company has shady looking characters, and you STILL expect us to hold out hope that they aren't out to fleece VC investors of hard-earned cash? Hope springs eternal, but so does stupidity. Don't promote things that even you feel a reservation in promoting, be true to yourself.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 22, 2006 @01:30AM (#15953824)
    The energy is coming from highly-ordered structures within the magnets. Unless those are being maintained/supplied by an external source, eventually they'll decay and the magnets will fail. Might be doable as a school science experiment?
  • by igb (28052) on Tuesday August 22, 2006 @09:00AM (#15955052)
    The story circulates in Broadcast Circles --- which may or may not be true --- of the occasion when the 1500m LW transmitter at Droitwich was found not to be producing the propagation pattern that was expected. Droitwich operates on 198KHz (200KHz up until the standarisation of LW frequency allocations in the 1980s). It carried the Light Programme (later called Radio 2) until the 1970s, and since then has carried Radio 4 (nee The Home Service). Some claim that Radio 4 propagation is more important than other radio stations, acting as a dead man's handle for the nuclear deterrent: Trident submarines finding themselves out of contact with HQ are supposed to have orders to surface and tune to Radio 4. If aftersome suitable interval they can't get either The Today Programme (0600-0900) or The Archers (1900-1915, repeated 1400-1415) they are to nuke 'em til they glow (for some value of 'em). I'm dubious about this story as last week I couldn't get usable Radio 4 reception with an SW-100 near Brest, but I digress: Droitwich is rather more fun-sized in power than it used to be, in deference to some Polish station. Anyway, the story goes that Investigation showed that someone living nearby had filled their loft with coils of copper. Some versions of the story go into details about where it was stolen from, to provide spurious verimisilitude. It's then claimed to power anything from lighting (which you could presumably do pretty-well direct) through to a stolen IBM 360/168 (I exagerate, but not by much). I don't know how true the tale is (not very, I suspect) nor how practical this is (not very, I suspect). But it's a fun idea...

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