Reimagined and Revamped. Fighting the spread of nonsense often feels like a Sisyphean task. However, the joy is in making the information available, not the hope of conversion.

More nonsense in the energy sector

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 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.
So, I'm ready to make some predictions:

  1. 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
  2. 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
  3. A hydrino (a negatively charged proton) will never be shown to exist from this process
  4. 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.


On 7/26/08, 2:54 PM , Anonymous said...

Before the Wright Brother flew the first plane, they were called frauds.

Also many thought the Manhattan Project during WWII was folly.

Not so long ago a Doctor had to swallow bacteria to give himself a ulcer. To prove that ulcer are cause by bacteria and not by diet.

Mr. Randy Mills does have believer in his theory. See Most crackpots and frauds do not have thier own study groups.

Does this mean I believe Mr. Mills is correct. I have no idea. But I will keep an open mind and pray he is the real deal.

On 7/26/08, 4:05 PM , Neil said...

1. Only a crackpot would believe you can split water into its constituent atoms and use the atoms in a mysterious way to produce more than energy than it took to separate them. Another group of crackpots have claimed that you can separate out the hydrogen, separate out the tiny percentage of deuterium atoms from those, and combine them using magnetic or electrical fields (Hah!) to produce excess energy. What a bunch of loons! Read all about their wacky ideas at [End of sarcasm]

2. "Spherical and two dimensional?" I'm just guessing, but I think "two dimensional" refers to the _surface_ of the sphere.

3. I think you misunderstand (or just misstate) the point about Newton's laws. The quote you include implicitly suggests that Mills allows for Einstein's impact on (some of) Newton's laws.

4. Former CEO of Westinghouse and Combustion Engineering. You do know those companies were/are slightly involved in nuclear power plant engineering? Giant multinational corporations select complete idiots to be their CEO's? No lame, knee-jerk
answers, please.

5. Millsian is a spinoff of Blacklight Power that specializes in marketing a chemical analysis software package. I'm still waiting for a qualified scientist to evaluate the software. Let me know if you hear of a serious attempt to do so.

6. The relevant web site for Mills's theories is If you click on the "Tech Papers" link you will find dozens of papers and other materials discussing his theories. They're not just offering a ridiculous book.

7. There have been a few external looks at his experimental results. The worst that can be said is they are "inconclusive".

8. The scientific establishment has behaved shamefully in its reactions to the cold fusion controversy. Cold fusion (now known is Low Energy Nuclear Reactions), has not gone away. Numerous physicists with impeccable reputations are studying it very
seriously. Their findings very well may profoundly undermine current theories of quantum mechanics.

9. Mills' theories, and his interpretation of experimental results, certainly may be nonsense. He may have made fundamental errors in his calculations. I credit criticism of scientists who know the math, understand QM (as much as anyone can) and
bother to try to follow his theories. Being wrong theoretically doesn't necessarily preclude Mills from discovering a novel process that works, based on chemistry that is incompatible with accepted theory.

10. Your attacks on him smack of simple bigotry. Your fanatical faith in conventional wisdom, maliciously expressed, undermines your credibility. What Einstein did to Newton's "Laws" should give you pause.

11. Your challenge is reasonable if the "1 cent per KWH" refers to fuel cost. Capital costs for the Blacklight process will be comparable to coal-fired power since the power generation mechanism (steam turbines), common to both systems, is substantial.

Neil Ferguson

On 7/26/08, 4:12 PM , Techskeptic said...

yeah, I linked to his fan club in the article. Here is an anti-gravity fan club. Here is an over unity fan club

There are fan clubs for homeopathy, water dowsing, reiki, astrology, The Secret, What the Bleep Do We Know?, The Moses Code. JZ knight, Sylvia Browne, James van Praugh, and Kevin Trudeau all have on-line fan clubs swearing that what they do is true and Big Pharma, Big Science, Big Auto, etc etc are suppressing their work. No, sadly every fraud on the planet does in fact has their own fan club.

Yes, this is the Galileo fallacy you are making.

Shall we fund every crackpot who claims over unity machines or processes? There are entire lists of people with over unity machines, shall we fund them?

The problem here is that a claim is made, and the supporting material for it is obfuscated. check out Time Cube, how do you debunk that? Its just nonsense. There is no place to even start.

Its a simple matter to prove that you have an over unity machine or process. In 19 years, why is there not even a single study from him that reports the energy balance that includes the splitting of water, the splitting of H2 and then the rest of his process? Experimental results are needed. There is no need for a demonstration of a final product, just a lab demonstration showing the technology potential. Every other sector of energy has to do this, why not these guys? In 19 years there is no independent verification?

I'm all for new technology, but unlike Wright Bros, Manhattan project this company is not basing its idea on established laws of physics, they are making up their own.

Unlike Barry Marshall, Dr. Mills hasn't "eaten his bacterium", in other words, where is the demonstration that more energy comes out than goes in the process? Where is the demonstration that more energy comes out of the process than any other process that starts by splitting water?

We have too many workable forms of energy conversion that allows us to use the sun, or earth's core (i'm cool with nuke as stop gap also) to meet our energy needs to be wasting time, money, and effort on unsupported, crackpot ideas like this one.

But thanks, I wish I could have the same optimism of free energy that you have. I will not pray, I will try to understand claims, and look for actual data to support these claims.

On 7/26/08, 5:35 PM , Techskeptic said...

hi neil,

Ok, thanks for the comments.

The surface of a sphere is still three dimensional. I suppose you could use spherical coordinants and simply freeze the magnitude of the vector and just use phi and theta to get 2 dimensions. But it still resides in three dimensions. It may be semantics.

3. I copied the quotes right out of his documents. If I unintentionally quote mined him, I apologize, but I read over and over that his assumptions are that all laws of physics always scale. He specifically mentions Newtons laws. He just bunches them together with other theories. The bigger problem with his results is that it undermines the actual results of 30 years of experimentation, not just he conclusions of those results.

I don't understand what the question is for #4. I did mention that it appeared that they have respectable people on their board, I even linked to that. I'm sure I don't have to link to complete farces, that hoodwinked plenty of respectable people all the way back to Tesla himself.

Smart people with lots of papers and valid devices and theories are not immune to utter nonsense as Tesla himself is an example of (unless you have a thought viewer somewhere).

5. (I will start numbering now, LOL). No, I have yet to see anyone validate, or even use this software for anything. Its free, so you'd think it would be zipped around the internet or academia if it actually had some value.

6. I linked to their site. The funny part was that not all of the papers were published, many of them were published in non-peer reviewed journals, and many of them had nothing to do with hydrino theory at all. He just listed all his papers, whether or not they had anything to do with this stuff.

Look at what appears to be his favorite journal, Physics Essays. Here is their publication policy:

"Articles submitted for publication will be reviewed by scientific peers. Realizing the interchangeable roles of authors and reviewers, the positive aspect of the reviewing process will be retained by providing the authors with the reviewers' comments. Authors should judge which part of the reviewers' suggestions are appropriate to improve the quality of his or her paper. The editor, who is responsible for the Journal, will allow a large degree of freedom to the authors in this process.

Different points of view will be accepted as long as they are logically sound and well balanced in their exposition, until the process of truth searching naturally reaches a stage of a convincing argument in favour of one point of view or the other."

So while an author may get some comments on their entry, its not the peers that make or break an article, its just the editor. This editor "encourages" differing points of view. Which is fine, but it just means you can print nonsense. I wonder why he likes this journal so much! Its very similar to the style of journal as Journal of Medical Hypotheses. A journal that prints virtually every medical conspiracy theory available.

To be fair, he does have entries in some very legit journals. So did the cold fusion people.

7. Agreed, but that is the same result that you get when you do an scientific test on psychics. Its inconclusive because they simply say "Well you can't test it with science", or some such nonsense. Inconclusive means their claim was not met.

8. I'll believe it when I see it. Its true that this concept continues to live on, but I strongly disagree that the scientific community behaved badly. I think they behaved perfectly. Same goes for any other scientist that went against the grain. Its their job to show the evidence, its their job to be bombarded by skepticism and questioned about their procedures. You are right that people don't have to act like assholes to get this done, and certainly that happens. But the process is a good one. It filters nonsense quickly. It error corrects. Its why I am extremely skeptical of authors who try to sidestep science by publishing themselves, or using journals that do not require true peer review.

9. I'm good with that, he can have something that works even if he doesn't know why it works. He just has to show the first part. Doesn't he?

10. I don't see how it is bigotry. Your example is exactly the fallacy that over unity folks use to promote their nonsense. It is also exactly why I think Mill's is full of it.

Einstein did nothing to Newtons laws. If he did, we would have to throw out all of Newtons experimental results. Relativity simplifies to Newtonian physics at low speeds. I tried to make this point in the article, perhaps I did not do it well enough.

A new theory certainly has to explain new observations, but it also has to encompass all the old ones too!. That is the brilliance of relativity, at low speeds it just falls out to become Newtonian (due to the differences in the results of each theory being virtually zero).

I never attacked Dr. Mills. I attacked his company.

11. I'm OK with forgetting about capital costs of the device he is claiming to make if at the end of it, somehow you can use 15 cents/kWh electricity to make 1 cent/KWh electricity. That is what his claim is.

Thanks for your thoughtful comment Neil.

On 7/28/08, 6:32 AM , Gregory Smith said...

If you ask me, the fundamental mistake that is going on among folks that conceive of things like BLP, and those that are willing to believe -- usually on the grounds of "paradigm shift" type arguments -- is a misunderstanding of how science and innovation really work.

As you (techskeptic) must know, scientists change their theories, points of view, etc., when observations and measurements turn up things that current ideas cannot explain satisfactorily. They ask themselves, what might really be going on, and try ideas. When an idea does (and this is critical) a better job of explaining phenomena, then it gets tested with experiments that check to see if predictions of the idea occur. If that test is passed, then it is accepted.

It is a simple matter to come up with examples. And, generally, the obsolete theory can be seen as an approximation to the deeper theory that applies sufficiently well in limited circumstance (say, geo-centric vs. heliocentric, newtonian mechanics vs. general relativity, etc.)

Crackpots on the other hand, conceive of something that they wish to be true, and then set out to weave a theory to explain their wishes. Never mind that this "theory" has no predictive power, never mind that it does not explain observations better than past theories, and never mind that it cannot be tested. They believe it because they want to believe it. To my mind, "intelligent design" and Randell Mills' theories of physics fit this mold.

To me, this is the most fundamental difference between real science and pseudo science, and being alert for these differences makes it easy for me to spot the BS.

On 7/28/08, 6:44 AM , Techskeptic said...


I couldn't have said that better myself.

and didn't.


On 7/28/08, 9:08 PM , optionsgeek said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
On 7/29/08, 7:49 AM , optionsgeek said...

(N.B.: re-formatted link)

Techskeptic, you seem a decent fellow and I'd like to make a simple request. Please review the spreadsheet published at

I, too, am concerned about the 19 years of uncorroborated claims and the lack serious verification (although, to be fair, there have been some academics who have spoken in favor of Mills). However, this spreadsheet keeps me from turning away completely, because, quite honestly, it appears to be impossible. Starting with simple fundamental constants, Mills has combined them in equations taken straight from his book and produced nearly exact values for atomic binding energies for atoms with up to 20 electrons. If you've ever tried to do that with standard QED methods (Ab initio, etc.) , you'll know how complicated that can be. However, Mills can do it in simple, elegant, closed-form solutions.

If you have an hour or two to spare, I'd appreciate your honest assessment.

On 7/29/08, 7:35 PM , Techskeptic said...

Well I downloaded the spreadsheet.

There is zero background, no comments and honestly I don't really know what I am looking at. I poked and prodded here and there.

further the calculation on each sheet seem to be different. Some sheets have 3 sets of data enumerated by Z and some sheets have only one. Some columns have no headings. There are no units expressed anywhere. There are some formulas that have unexplained and unlisted coefficients in them (13.60580 in 10E atoms column P) There is very little here I can reasonably check.

As I have mentioned I am an engineer, not a physicist. You would be best supplying this information to any of the links I supplied from physicists. They can better explain this than I ever could.

Let me ask you this... there are already equations for estimating binding energies. That is an empirical model. Are you sure that his equations aren't simply an empirical model also? i.e. did the data come first and he fit a line? Why does the model only work where the binding energies are increasing with atomic number? Or does it in fact work all the way out to say uranium?

another thought: on the 10e page (actually any page), he lists the experimental data (i assume this is what 'exp' means). Where is this experimental data from? Is it independent data or is it his?

Sorry I can't be more helpful.

On 7/29/08, 8:31 PM , optionsgeek said...

Thanks, Techskeptic, I appreciate you looking at this. I'm not a physicist either, but an engineer like yourself. Yes, I agree that this particular spreadsheet is a muddle to work through. But after some effort, I was able to convince myself that Mills had more or less translated his equations to the spreadsheet and come up with reasonably accurate values for binding energies. I'm familiar with the estimation and empirical formulas you mentioned. IMHO, that's not what Mills is doing here. I believe it's likely that he started with his equations and worked forward, although I think he might have later introduced a Lorenztian correction factor to improve his fit to experimental data.

Where do the experimental numbers come from? I remember tracing them down at one point and being relatively convinced that he was not cheating here either. However I don't remember exactly where they come from now.

In any case, we have two very different models of the electron. Schroedinger says it is a spherical probability cloud, Mills says it is like the skin of basketball. I'm not ready to forsake Dr. Schroedinger just yet. But I do find it interesting that Mills' model seems to provide a somewhat more elegant path to the computation of binding energies.

On 7/31/08, 6:06 AM , shpalman said...

Have you seen Jonathan Phillips, Randell L. Mills, and Xuemin Chen. Water bath calorimetric study of excess heat generation in “resonant transfer” plasmas. J. Appl. Phys. 96 (6) 3095-3102 (2004) and its associated comment and response?

On 8/2/08, 8:14 PM , Techskeptic said...

no, I had not seen that discussion before, although I pointed to a number of articles that call Mills out.

The most elucidating thing to me is written there in the response to the criticism.

"Given positive outcomes for tests of any theory, the next
step in the scientific process is to design and conduct additional

Perhaps it is one of the next step, but the most important next step is independant verification. The laws of nature are not owned by anyone. If these are realities then other institutes should be able to duplicate these results. Is there an article on Millsian Physics available from anywhere? NREL? LANL?

For all we know, they calibrated their voltmeters incorrectly. That is why independant verification is so important. That is how nonsense is dispensed with.

Perhaps I am wrong, or will be, but the only way that will happen is when someone besides Mills can produce the same results.

Until then 19 years of nothing is pretty powerful evidence against this.

Then there is this treasure:

"Is it time to consider new paradigms? Recent modifications of the standard physics theories require neutrinos to both have mass and travel at the speed of light, indicate that greater than 90% of the universe is “dark matter” or “dark energy” of unspecified form and origin, and should soon include a vast modification to virtual particle theory to explain the missing “quantum foam.” The standard physics explanations/criticisms of the outcomes of designed tests of
CQM are hardly compelling."

Sigh, this is exactly the same arguments that the religious and woomeisters use. It goes like this: "Well if you can't explain how energy came from nothing during the big bang then God must be true".

Its a false dichotomy. I agree that it seems unlikely that dark matter is a real thing. But that doesn't mean that this specific unsupported theory is the right one. Just because its time for a new paradigm shifting theory, doesn't mean we should accept one because it sounds nice, we still need the evidence.

On 8/4/08, 12:09 AM , Spoony Quine said...

You know, people have been saying this crap for a hundred years when they're obvious swindlers and people still fall for it!

On 9/9/08, 12:10 AM , Anonymous said...

Wouldn't a negatively charged proton be an anti-proton, not a bulls.. I mean hydrino?

The secret fascist in me wishes we had a UN hit squad that just quietly sterilized these people.

On 10/23/08, 2:31 AM , Anonymous said...

@TS: just curious if you saw this:

Is that independent enough for you?

On 10/23/08, 10:06 PM , Techskeptic said...

Well the inpendance of that article really isnt in question. What the heck its trying to say is however.

The article is simply about the following:

Blacklight is providing the Rowan researchers with a common industrial form of nickel called Raney nickel, which is then put through a reaction with water to produce energy.

I've written before about materials which give of energy as heat or hydrogen before.

There are many processes which place a material in a state such that when it is exposed to water, it steals the Oxygen from the water releasing heat and H2. There are some siloxanes that do this, sodium does this and so forth. Mix some other materials with a strong base like NaOH, a catalyst and you have opened even more materials that share this energy releasing property.

Its really nothing special, and it shows nothing about the process as a whole, for example in each case that I listed it still takes more energy to make the material than it releases in the reaction with water.

So once again we have an article with no quantification of anything, that describes a mundane process, and has absolutely nothing to do with the so called theory that Dr. Mills is promoting.

Sorry, not impressed.

On 12/19/09, 9:29 AM , Anonymous said...

it is the end of 2009. Just yesterday I stumbled upon a guy on a christmas party, referring to the blacklight "miracle(?". Being more then sceptical I had to roam trough some articles about it, stumbling upon yours as well.
And here we are: your first "prophecy" allready fullfilled ;)

On 7/1/10, 8:44 AM , Anonymous said...

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