I've mentioned the perpetual motion machine company Steorn before. But it unlike other companies sellng nonsense, they never tried to justify their claims by warping science or actually, you know, selling a device. So I have kept quiet on it. The last I had heard was that they were going to get a jury of scientists to evaluate their claims. I knew that if it was a real panel, they would sort out where the extra energy was coming from.
I knew that there was a problem just from their description of their "technology" they made the claim that magnets somehow allowed them to gain energy "just like when you walk up and down a hill, you have gained energy". I knew that they would either find the error (this was being very optimistic on my part), or they were simply trying to pull a fast one (the realist in me).
Today from Ben Goldacre, I learned that the panel has spoken. Guess what. Nada. Funny part is that the company claims that the jury only looked at the technology while it suffered from a problem that has been corrected after the jury was complete. Pretty funny.
Implementing Orbo in a reliable and consistent manner had remained a challenge for the organization, one that we had made no secret of. Due to these difficulties we had focused on providing the Jury with test data relating to the underlying magnetic effect behind Orbo. This work concluded at the end of 2008.”
McCarthy concluded by stating that “during 2009 the company had resolved the key technical problems related to the implementation of Orbo and is now focused on commercial launch towards the end of this year, at which time academic and engineering validation would be released concurrent with public demonstrations”.
That said, I am pretty pleased how this has all turned out. I even commend Steorn for going through with the jury. They must have themselves pretty deluded to think that they would get past an honest panel of skeptics. Regardless, they honestly went about the testing and let the jury publish their findings ( sans the details unfortunately).
This sort of reminds me of my position about NCCAM. Orac and PZ have been railing against NCCAM for years. We have found out that they spent 2.5 billion dollars finding out that virtually nothing of the CAM industry works.
But isn't that good? Isn't that exactly what we want some organization to do? Check if something works and publish the results? I'd love for CAM to work. I'd love for all that nice comforting woo to work. But I want an organization to check for efficacy with rigorous studies. Considering the scope of studies, finding out that only one worked (ginseng for chemotherapy nausea), to me was worth it. This is enough for me, you, and the government to point to and say "nonsense!". I'm pretty happy wth both the Steorn outcome and the NCCAM outcome.
I realize that Steorn has spun the result already, and most woos will simply ignore the NCCAM results. But we now have a big thing to point at. And I like that.