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free energy - general skeptical rant

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  • Eric Krieg
    People, I got one of those questions again, why can t you sink a deep pipe into the ocean and harness the high pressure water down there? . The problem is as
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 2, 2000

      I got one of those questions again, why can't you sink a deep pipe
      into the ocean and harness the high pressure water down there?". The
      problem is as soon as you stuck a pipe down there - water would flow
      in until it's level reached the top of the pipe. Then the pressure
      at the bottom of the pipe would be equal to that at the bottom of the
      ocean and the flow would stop. Actually there is a similar problem
      with "Zero Point Energy" claims. It's true that space it's self
      probably has amazing levels of energy - but you probably can't harness
      it until you have a lower place to dump it. The heat all around us
      can't be harnessed unless it can flow to a colder place (or at least
      according to mainstream physics)

      The following is an excellent bit of advice for kooks:

      Here's a skeptical writing on Free Energy I found at:
      Free energy

      by John Blanton

      First let’s run down what this is all about.

      People have long known that it takes effort to get anything done. Long ago a few
      smart people got concerned with what it took to do work. People like Watt and
      Joule. And Carnot.

      And, they had some bad news for us—there is no free lunch. This was called the
      First Law of Thermodynamics. Energy is conserved.
      If you wanted to pump so much water up from the mine shaft you had to burn so
      much coal (and more). This was good news for the coal company but bad news for
      people who wanted to get things done—which is what work is. Somehow there had
      to be a better way.

      First there were the perpetual motion machine cranks who looked holes in the first
      law. For example, they might hope to have a water wheel that operated a pump. The
      pump supplied water to power the water wheel. A lot of inventors went crazy trying
      to get these devices to work Most of these people have since been replaced by a new
      group—those who can live with the first law but think it can be finessed. Here is the

      Joule, for example, developed a concept called the mechanical equivalent of heat. So
      much work was equivalent to so much heat. You do the work, and you produce an
      equivalent amount of heat.

      This gave the entrepreneurs a great idea. Why not use the energy manifested by all
      this heat and stiff the coal company. The stockholders would be pleased.
      The problem with this was the Second Law of Thermodynamics. The second law
      allows for the conservation of energy (and matter) and goes one step further. Even if
      the energy is there (in the form of warm water, for example) you still may not be able
      to use it. Physicists have a cute way of restating the laws of thermodynamics in
      terms of a poker game: “You can’t win” [first law], “You can’t break even” [second
      law], and “You can’t get out of the game.” This last is supposedly a take on the
      so-called Third Law of Thermodynamics. I won’t get into explaining that here,
      because it always appeared to me that the third law was just a restatement of the

      In short, the second law just says you can’t do work by extracting the heat energy
      from something at or below the temperature at its surroundings. This doesn’t keep
      us from doing work by extracting heat from hot (or even warm) bodies of rock or
      water. Geothermal power is a practical implementation of doing just this, although
      the energy ultimately comes from nuclear fission.

      Joseph Newman

      This brings us to the matter of Joseph Newman. John Thomas previously told about
      Joseph Newman here in 1997. 1 Since then we have come into the possession of
      Newman’s book The Energy Machine of Joseph Newman. It’s an impressive
      volume, 8-1/2 by 11 format running over 350 pages.
      Like all good books, it starts with a bold statement by the author.

      In my search for Absolute Truth over the last nineteen years, I have often questioned
      why the conclusions I drew from present physics, electrical engineering, and
      astronomy teachings were not in accord with the scientific community’s

      A quick view of his book seems to indicate Newman is a free energy crank of the
      first type. That is, he wants to violate the first law of thermodynamics.
      I haven’t had a chance to go over all of Newman’s ideas, but it appears he bases his
      theories on a number of serious misconceptions about physical principles. Take a
      look at this drawing from his book and follow along with his explanation:

      Let’s examine a typical battery—an electro-chemical cell. These devices operate
      according to Faraday’s Laws. Faraday’s First Law states that the quantity of
      electricity that passes through a solution is proportional to the quantity of substance
      decomposed. You will note that this action is solely dependent upon the current
      (gyroscopic particles) completing the circuit. If the current (gyroscopic particles)
      does not complete the circuit, there will be no quantity of substance decomposed.
      The first thing you may notice is Newman’s reference to “gyroscopic particles.” He
      states early in his book his impression that
      …a magnetic field consists of particles with a mechanical gyroscopic-type action
      which can be understood and predicted and which occurs at the speed of light.
      Furthermore, the energy in a magnetic field is the energy which comprises the atoms
      of the material from which the energy comes and is literally Einstein’s Equation of E
      = MC2. Consequently, the mass (in the form of a gyroscopic particle) must move in
      a given direction at C, or the speed of light, and it must also spin at the speed of light.

      From The Energy Machine of Joseph Newman

      He goes on to explain how the current from the battery would traverse the many
      windings of the coil and produce a magnetic field of great energy. However, he
      proposes to reverse the current at point X in the diagram, after it has traversed the
      coil and before it can return to the battery to deplete energy from the battery.
      Now, I have left out a lot of Newman’s explanation, but I think I have given the
      essence of it here. So, what are the problems?

      First, he has the wrong view that electricity flows at the speed of light in wires.
      Actually most people believe this. In fact, electrons travel only a few millimeters per
      second in a wire. The high speed is an illusion caused by the transmission of
      electrical signals down wires at nearly the speed of light. What really happens is that
      the mobile electrons in a wire are lined up like cars in a train, and they all get going
      together in quick order when you start pushing somewhere along the train.
      He also indicates that he sees the current flow in the wire as a horse race starting out
      from the battery. Hook up the battery and a bunch of horses, rather, electrons, start
      off down the wire and through the coil. He wants to turn the pack around at the
      commutator before they can reach the battery and effect chemical decomposition.
      As explained by the train analogy, this is not what happens in real life.

      Zero point energy

      After serving ten years in the Korean War Alan Alda finally came home and started a
      new career explaining science on TV for Scientific American. In Austin he
      interviewed physicist Harold Puthoff, who seems to have given up on remote viewing
      and is now pursuing zero point energy.

      Zero point energy is possibly a valid idea, and it comes from the notion that empty
      space is not empty at all. Even in a perfect vacuum, particles may momentarily
      appear and then return to nothing from whence they came. Energy (really equal to
      matter) can do the same. We have Werner Heisenberg to thank for this.
      In the Scientific American episode on pseudo-science we saw Puthoff exploring a
      device to coax zero point energy from the bubbles formed when an ultrasound source
      induces cavitation in a container of water. “Even in far out empty space there’s
      enough energy in the volume of a coffee cup to, for example, evaporate all the
      world’s oceans,” he explains.

      That appeared a bit extreme, so Alda stopped by to consult with another physicist,
      Steven Weinberg, who also lives in Austin. Weinberg never got involved in remote
      viewing, but he did become famous for writing a book titled “The First Three
      Minutes,” which recounts the history of the universe, but only up through the first
      three minutes. He also shares a Nobel Prize with Sheldon Glashow and Abdus Salam
      for developing the theory that unified the weak and electromagnetic forces.

      Yes, zero point energy is real, says Weinberg. However, don’t sell your Exxon-Mobil
      stock just yet. Puthoff’s expectations not-with-standing, in the space the size of the
      Earth there is likely less energy than a gallon of gasoline.

      Free energy

      So, is energy free? Well, sort of.

      It’s not inexhaustible, but you’re never going to run out of it. It’s free only in the
      sense that once you have gotten the first kilowatt hour, the second and every one
      thereafter incurs no additional expense. That source is solar power, of course.

      Down the street from my house a light flashes to mark the boundary of a school
      zone. The light and the timer that regulates it both run on solar power from a silicon
      cell array above the light.

      So why is OPEC still in business? It’s unfortunately that first kilowatt hour I spoke
      of. Solar cells are expensive, and that makes the first KWH prohibitive, except in
      special cases such as the school zone signal.

      The source of all this energy is the Sun—that giant hydrogen bomb that’s been
      blasting away for over 4 billion years now. Now there’s an idea. The oceans are full
      of hydrogen, even the heavy kind needed for fusion. Wouldn’t it be great if we could
      harness the power of hydrogen fusion?

      It “sure would,” and that was the origin of the name of a project back in the 1950s
      — project “Sherwood.” The pun was intended. Sherwood used a twisted tubular
      container in an attempt to confine and compress the hydrogen magnetically to induce
      fusion. Its lack of success is indicated by the fact that I am having to explain it to
      you now.

      In the late 1960s (twentieth century technology, again) the Russians invented a device
      they called tokamak. We even built one at the University of Texas Center for Plasma
      Physics (below where Weinberg was sitting when Alda interviewed him).

      Artist Tony Bell produced this drawing of the UT tokamak from the engineering
      drawings. The hydrogen got heated and compressed within the quartz inner torus.
      The big slab-like sections radiating out from the center are really electrical coils. The
      conductors for the coils were flat copper sheets that momentarily carried 30,000
      amps. It goes without saying that this device consumed more power than it

      The University of Texas tokamak. (art by Tony Bell and John Blanton)

      Tokamaks seem to hold out more promise than Sherwood did, but after more than 30
      years they still have not reached the break-even point. Furthermore, nobody expects
      successful operation for another 50 years.

      Throw another log on the fire.


      John Thomas. Perpetual Nonsense in The Skeptic, May 1997

      Eric Krieg eric@...

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