One of the things I like about the enrgy sector is that it is full of material to write about. There are entire communities of loonies with little or no science education who think they have somehow defeated the laws of physics, with what ends up being perpetual motion or free energy machines. There are even patents on free energy machines, by people who presume that just because it is patented means that it works. This is absolutely not true, you are totally welcome to patent an idea that does not work, there are literally hundreds of patents like this. Here is one nice list of nonsense free energy machines.
The company Steorn was once refered to me. You can YouTube some of their videos. They made the unbelievable claim that their device gains energy "just like when you walk up and down a hill, you have gained energy". I'm not even sure what law of physics he is trying to corrupt, I'm thinking he simply has no idea what Kinetic and Potential energy are , or he does and is going on the fact that barely anyone else knows.
And of course, one of the most common sources of free energy claims are that you can get energy from water. I've mentioned this before: It always takes more energy to split water than the energy you get from the hydrogen. Think of it, no process is 100% efficient. It requires energy to take the hydrogen off of the oxygen in a water molecule, why would the recombination of the hydrogen and oxygen provide more energy than you used to take them apart? There are things that look like exceptions (as I mentioned in that post), but the fact it that the chemicals the combine with water (usually stealing OH- from the water, releasing H2) use the extra energy in the making of the chemical.
Anyway, recently I was referred to a company called Black Light Power. They of course have a web page that looks legit. There are a bunch of other features that make this company look like a real company:
They have a list of people some who are called "Dr." (what is with the 8 'directors'?)
They have a picture of a lab with some cool loking monitors and equipment.
They even have a building with more cool looking equipment.
They have been funded with millions of dollars.
Those investors and people working there have got to be legit. Right? No one would fund nonsense (regardless of the billion dollar industry of homeopathics, naturopathics, CAM, astrology, etc etc), right?
Check out the list of people who are interested, mentioned in this article from CNN:
"BlackLight's board of directors reads like a Who's Who of finance and energy leaders, including Michael Jordan, former CEO of both Electronic Data Systems (EDS, Fortune 500) and Westinghouse; Neil Moskowitz, CFO of Credit Suisse First Boston; and Shelby Brewer, former CEO of ABB (ABB) Combustion Engineering Nuclear Power. "They must know what they are talking about... right?
So what is all this fuss about? That same CNN article summarizes his claim:
[Randell Mills', the founder and CEO of Blacklight, theory] rests on what he describes as his discovery of the hydrino - an altered version of hydrogen that has an energy level lower than its ground state, or the baseline energy level. These modified atoms, he argues, are the stuff that comprises dark matter, the invisible material that many scientists believe composes more than 90% of the universe. The mechanism that creates hydrinos - a chemical reaction whose released energy can allegedly be harnessed for power - is what Mills calls the BlackLight Process.A hydrino. Well, lets search for a hydrino. We have a whole study group associated with hydrinos. We have a couple of debunkings. We have a few hype machine articles in random newspaper clippings . What is missing?
There are no verifying journal papers on "Hydrino theory". There is no peer review, no replication of results. Nothing.
Going back to the website, what else do we see? A book. Mill's theory of physics. Where have we seen this sort of thing before? Well we have people who wrote books saying time doesnt exist and this unifies all of physics. We have another who seem to think that the earth has 4 corners and therefore there are four separate days at any one time on the planet, and this somehow unifies all of physics. Here is yet another , who has his own claim of unifying physics, and his own book and advertising in many legit magazines like Discover, Smithsonian, and Science. Others have taken that one.
What do all these examples have in common? They all attempt to side step science in order to try to get respect for their crackpot ideas. Who else does that sound like?
Its not just this attempt to sidestep the scientific process in order to purvey your own wacky ideas that is the problem. Its also the wacky ideas. Lets go back to the Blacklight website. Lets pick and choose from around the website:
Check out this picture and its caption.
Orbitsphere Supercurrent. The bound electron exists as a spherical two-dimensional supercurrent, an extended distribution of charge completely surrounding the nucleus. Unlike a spinning sphere, there is a complex pattern of motion on its surface (indicated by arrows) that give rise to two orthogonal angular momentum vectors that give rise to the phenomenon of electron spin.
Spherical and two dimensional? Complex pattern of motion ...of what? Some completely cryptic effect gives rise to electron spin? How do you know? This is exactly the same tactic the astrologers use to try to rationalize their nonsense. They string together a bunch of nonsense words and hope their visitor has no idea what they are talking about.
Blacklight technology is based on the innovative Grand Unified Theory of Classical Physics (GUT-CP) which is the theory that physical laws (Maxwell's Equations, Newton's Laws, Special and General Relativity) must hold on all scales.Really? Because Newtons laws don't hold up that well at scales of very high speeds, that was the brilliance that Einstein brought us. Where can I find out about this GUT-CP stuff anyway? OOOOH at the Millsian website. How convenient!. Funny how the theory is the grand unifier of Classical physics, but the cook seems to be about the grand unifying theory of quantum mechanics.
The premise of this ridiculous theory is that you can split a water molecule (big energy consumption required), then split an H2 molecule (no problem there, fuel cells do that all the time, but that uses a catalyst and the presence of isolated O2, or power is required) and do something wacky to it in the presence of a catalyst. When you split a hydrogen molecule, you get two protons. Each of these protons is positively charged. His claim is that he can magically change a proton into a negatively charged proton (which he calls a hydrino). He uses a meaningless term like "resonantly transfers energy". He calls electronless protons "hydrogen atoms".
Here is another tip: tons of fun meaningless animations. No meaningful data. Zero.
They have a good presentation. What is the very first assumption?
"Assume physical laws apply on all scales including atomic scale"But we already know that Newtons laws don't apply at small scales, or at high speeds. So.... this most basic assumption, the foundation for the rest of the theory and results is total bunk. We know that relativity basically become moot at large masses and low speeds, so they too don't apply at certain scales.
You need a physics degree to debunk the rest of this stuff. To me, and to his investors, he puts out there tons of long words and "sciency" sounding terms in hopes of appearing to go over his audiences head. Luckily there are people to handle that part too. We have a debunking of "hydrino theory". And another. And another. (Blacklight has responded to that last one). And another. And another. and so on.
I fully understand the response to my entry here is "you haven't learned it, or understood the theory, or even read the book, so how can you criticize it?" You'll notice I criticize very little of the theoretical claims. I let the others do that (and did). I'll just mention here:
- They are using the old claim to be able to get more energy from water than they put into the process. That's the age old free lunch, you don't get to have that..at any scale.
- The founder wrote a book that rewrites the laws of physics. For this book to be right, the previous 30 years of QM would have to be wrong. The theories in this book would have to incorporate the results of the 30 years of testing, not go against them (it of course could go against the conclusion, but not the results)
- Mills has been having his investors wait for the "Next Thing" for 19 years.
- They claim to have independant testing underway... no independant result.. after 19 years.
- There is no replication and verification of their experimental results. This is exactly how the Cold Fusion guys (Fleischmann and Pons) were got to look foolish.
- Their website is rather typical of a hype machine.
- In 2009 there will be no product or independant demonstration of a Blacklight Generator that meets their claims of providing power at 1 penny per Kilowatt-Hour
- In 2010 there will be no product or independant demonstration of a Blacklight Generator that meets their claims of providing power at 1 penny per Kilowatt-Hour
- A hydrino (a negatively charged proton) will never be shown to exist from this process
- 60 million dollars will have gone to pot
Update: Blacklight was recently covered at the Skeptics Guide to the Universe. Give it a listen, you can download the podcast #170 on iTunes.
Post a Comment