Skeptic "sonoluminescence" and Kansas creationism
A good compendium of junk-science-scares of 99:
Robert Park's book, "Voodoo Science - the road from foolishness
to fraud" details a long amusing list of cases of wishful thinking
getting way ahead of reality. (and that is putting it nicely).
In the world of alt-physics, I commonly see people who get
very enthusiastic about some new process which hasn't really been
accepted by mainstream science. A recent cases of this is
"Impulse Devices Inc." which has put the cart a few hundred
yards ahead of the horse. By this, I mean rather than first
establish a bench top experiment to repeatedly prove their
concept - they have to jump way ahead and make plans to go
large scale. If this were limited to just a private delusion
of grandeur, that would be fine. But sometimes such dreams
turn into budding investment debacles:
Grass Valley Company Gets Funding for Fusion Power
by Celia Lamb
Sacramento Business Journal
June 23, 2000
A Grass Valley company working on a technology for generating energy
by fusion has captured $825,000 in financing, despite skepticism by
Impulse Devices Inc., founded by mechanical engineer Ross Tessien,
aims to produce power plants that use a process called
sonoluminescence to fuse atoms together and make energy.
The company plans to sell 1-megawatt power plants using the
technology that could be shipped to small towns and industrial
manufacturers throughout the world. The company estimates it could
capture $100 billion of a $500 billion per year electric power
The technology could produce power for only $6 per megawatt-hour
compared to $30 to $60 per megawatt-hour by
Besides the low production costs, the company's Web site points to
other benefits, from eliminating air pollution to making wars over
But a scientist contacted by the Business Journal said the business
plan may be too good to be true.
"Nobody's even demonstrated the (effectiveness) of fusion technology
with sonoluminescence, and to anticipate megawatt power plants based
on that technology seems premature," said Mike Moran, a scientist
with the experiments with sonoluminescence.
Though the technology is unproven, investors have bought in. The
company raised $830,000 in two rounds of financing and will seek $5
million more. Tessien said the financial supporters are private
investors in the Bay Area who are sophisticated enough to understand
the risk. The lead investor has financed Internet, medical and
Impulse Devices has submitted 20 patent applications to the U.S.
Patent Office, but it is keeping details about its research secret.
The company has not published the results of its research in
peer-reviewed scientific journals, leaving many scientists dubious.
"I can't imagine who they're getting money from. Maybe the people
who are giving them money don't care about peer review," said William
Moss, a physicist at Lawrence Livermore. "If they can demonstrate
that there's some science here, then that's fantastic. The world is
waiting for it."
Technical Difficulties: Fusion involves heating a mixture of hydrogen
isotopes - hydrogen atoms with neutrons inside. When they get hot
enough, atoms fuse to form helium and expel neutrons and energy. The
most common way to start fusion is by bombarding a pellet of
neutron-laden hydrogen atoms with a laser.
Sonoluminescence uses sound waves to collapse tiny bubbles of gas
suspended in liquid, generating heat and light.
Both sonoluminescence and fusion are proven physical phenomena, but
nobody has been able to demonstrate that sonoluminescence can
generate enough heat to fuse nuclei, said Robert Apfel, a mechanical
engineer at Yale University who studies sonoluminescence.
The temperatures needed for fusion are in the hundreds of thousands
of degrees Celsius, while temperatures measured from collapsing
bubbles have reached only 20,000 to 30,000 degrees Celsius.
Even if Impulse Devices were to prove it could start fusion with
sonoluminescence, the technology probably would not produce enough
energy to fuel power plants, scientists said. That's because the
bubbles are so small, with a diameter of less than one-hundredth the
width of a human hair when the bubble is collapsing.
Moss, one of the first scientist to suggest that sonoluminescence
could result in temperatures high enough for fusion, said his
calculations show that even if he were to tile the earth with flasks
containing sonoluminescent bubbles, he would only get enough energy
from fusion in one hour to heat a cup of coffee one degree.
"I'm not intimately familiar with what they're doing up there," Moss
said. "If you consider the practice of fusion from sonoluminescence
from a strictly classical perspective, I think it's going to be very
difficult to do."
Proof: Tessien and his company's chief scientist, Felipe Gaitan,
acknowledge that they have yet to prove their technology. Gaitan
said he's been experimenting with different temperatures, pressures,
"Where we're at right now is essentially like Edison trying to figure
out what kind of filament to put in the light bulb," Tessein said.
Gaitan estimates that he's about two years a way from proving that
sonoluminescence can be used to produce energy from fusion in the
quantity needed for power plants. After that the company would need
only about six months to engineer the first plant, Tessein said.
Gaitan, who earned his Ph.D. in physics from the University of
Mississippi, home of the National Center for Physical Acoustics, was
recruited by Apfel to work at Yale before he decided to enter the
private sector. He was the first scientist to show that stabilized
sonoluminescence was possible. He admits he's working in a
"Most people laugh when you tell them you're trying to do nuclear
physics with sonoluminescence," he said. "Some people would like to
say we're outside regular physics. I'd like to think we're at the
There is an effort in the Orgonomy movement to get Wilhelm
Reich posthumously pardoned by president Clinton.
you are almost better off just donating stock that has rapidly
over appreciated as you are in cashing it in. One worthy cause is
CSICOP (IMHO). You can make arrangements with:
If you are sitting on a lot more dough than you expect to need, there
are ways to set up a charitable remainder trust where you can get a
large tax deduction today, get income from the trust and have the right
to change your mind on current or ultimate recipients. Probably any
one of the major irrational groups we oppose are probably 10 times
better funded than us.
I was recently very happy to help a newspaper reporter gather
information for a story on a paranormal claim and get plenty of
Usually, skeptics are lucky to get a mere sound bite - but
this reporter quoted paragraphs from Randi, Nickell and me.
In other news, a group of skeptics from PhACT addressed the
national Mensa gathering in Philadelphia the other week.
Eric Krieg eric@...
PS: I close with a little bit of "I don't think we are in Kansas
NEWS RELEASE - NEWS RELEASE - NEWS RELEASE - NEWS RELEASE
KANSAS CITIZENS FOR SCIENCE - <http://www.kcfs.org>http://www.kcfs.org
7/1/00 - FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
NATIONAL FIGURES CONVERGE ON KANSAS
TO SUPPORT EVOLUTION
"Scopes Week in Kansas" will Blitz the State
with Pro-Science Messages July 9-14
In July, 1925, it was a very hot issue in the famous Scopes "Monkey Trial"
in Dayton, Tennessee. In July, 2000, the 75th Anniversary of the Scopes
Trial, the issue is still red-hot as the election season approaches.
The issue: evolution. The battleground: the August 1 primary elections in
Kansas. On that day, four of the six Board of Education seats held by the
"social conservatives" who voted to "de-emphasize" evolution in the state's
public school science standards will be up for grabs. And the outcome of
the BOE elections could affect the science education of Kansas students for
During "Scopes Week," July 9-14, Kansas Citizens For Science, along with
other Kansas groups, will host major speakers from across the nation to
bring the issues around teaching evolution into sharp focus. The speakers,
who will make presentations in Johnson County, Topeka and Wichita, include:
o Prof. Kenneth Miller, Brown University biologist, author of "Finding
Darwin's God: A Scientist's Search for Common Ground Between God and
Evolution," co-author of "Biology," one of the most widely used biology
textbooks in the U.S. Prof. Miller, a person of faith, will speak on
"Accepting God and Darwin: Kansas and the New Battle Over Evolution."
o Dr. Eugenie Scott, Executive Director of the National Center for Science
Education (www.natcenscied.org), an organization specifically dedicated to
defending science education against creationist attacks nationwide. Dr.
Scott's talk, "Evolution? Creation? Both? Neither?" is designed to answer
the question, "Why not teach both?"
o Dr. Michael Shermer, host/producer of Fox Family TV's "Exploring the
Unknown," editor of "Skeptic" magazine and author of "How We Believe: The
Search for God in an Age of Science." Shermer will speak on "Denying
Evolution: Who Says Evolution Didn't Happen and Why Do They Say It?"
o Robert Boston, assistant director of communications for Americans United
for Separation of Church and State (www.au.org) and author of "Close
Encounters with the Religious Right." Boston's talk will be "Bogus By
Design: Challenging the New Creationism in Public Schools."
o Prof. Douglas Linder, of UMKC Law School, will trace the history of the
1925 Scopes Trial. Linder is the creator of the "Famous American Trials"
the Web's largest source for essays and historical information on prominent
o Richard Milner, an expert on Charles Darwin, will perform his acclaimed
original one-man musical, "Charles Darwin: Live & In Concert," as a finale
for the week's events.
"Last August, the Board of Education vote embarrassed Kansans," said Liz
Craig, media contact for Kansas Citizens For Science. "Now the rest of the
world thinks Kansas is backward. But in fact, our state has a long-standing
record of excellence in education. The problem is that a few people on the
Board of Education used their power to pursue poli- tical and religious
agendas, at the expense of Kansas students and the image of the state."
"The stakes here are very high," said KCFS president Steve Lopes. "If
Kansas science continues to be perceived as substandard, a generation of
our children will suffer from limited employment opportunities and bias in
higher education admissions."
KCFS Board member Prof. Adrian Melott said, "It's not just evolution,
either. The Board's science standards removed statements on geological
time, the Big Bang, global warming, and the effect of human populations on
pollution. More importantly, they undermined the value of theories as ways
of organizing and understanding facts. These are not controversial issues
"And," added KCFS Board member Jack Krebs, "the Board changed the very
definition of science to include supernatural causes as parts of legitimate
"The anti-evolution people have been spreading a lot of disinformation
about what science is," said Krebs. "They try to paint science as operating
out of an atheistic philosophy, which it does not. Or evolution as some
kind of secular religion, which it is not. Science is simply a method--a
very successful method--of studying and understanding how the natural world
works. And evolution is one of the most well-supported theories in
Scopes Week in Kansas runs July 9-14, with events in Johnson County, Topeka
and Wichita. The week will be kicked off with simultaneous press
conferences on Sunday, July 9 at 2:00 p.m. in those cities and Lawrence.
Besides Kansas Citizens For Science, Scopes Week sponsors include
MAINstream Coalition, the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas and
Western Missouri, the Heartland Humanists, the National Council of Jewish
Women, the Jewish Community Relations Board - American Jewish Committee,
South Central Friends of KCFS and the Wichita Interfaith Alliance.
Kansas Citizens for Science is a not-for-profit educational organization
composed of educators, scientists, students and citizens concerned with
establishing and maintaining excellent science teaching in Kansas public
schools. For more information about KCFS and the science standards, go to <
http://www.kcfs.org>http://www.kcfs.org For the full Scopes Week events
schedule, speaker bios and articles, go to <http://www.scopesweek.org
(816) 283-3223 x 6298