Monday, September 10, 2007

Oy journalists.

Newsflash! Man invents perpetual motion machine. Again. And fools journalists into thinking it is revolutionary (or even real):

For obvious reasons, scientists long have thought that salt water couldn't be burned.
Yep. Obvious reasons like "it doesn't burn".
John Kanzius, a Washington County native, tried to desalinate seawater with a generator he developed to treat cancer...
And this didn't make said journalist go "hmmmm????"

Dr. Roy said the salt water isn't burning per se, despite appearances. The radio frequency actually weakens bonds holding together the constituents of salt water -- sodium chloride, hydrogen and oxygen -- and releases the hydrogen, which, once ignited, burns continuously when exposed to the RF energy field. Mr. Kanzius said an independent source measured the flame's temperature, which exceeds 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit, reflecting an enormous energy output.

Okay. Assuming these people are just stupid and not dishonest, they're doing electrolysis. Releasing hydrogen gas, and burning it again. That means that they're completing a cycle that, only if they were doing it perfectly without any energy loss would produce zero net energy. Given that it is impossible to do this perfectly, it will require more energy in than it will produce. But what do our intrepid "scientists" think?
"We will get our ideas together and check this out and see where it leads," Dr. Roy said. "The potential is huge."
Potential to fool naive audiences perhaps. Oh, and just for fun, Dr. Roy is also a homeopathy practitioner. Will wonders never cease.

Dear Mr. Templeton (journalist),

Oy. Avoid making an ass of yourself. Actually call someone not involved in the experiment to explain the hoax to you. Before you print it in a newspaper.

Shame on you, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Update: Shame on you, Associated Press, for picking this up without checking it. This is the single worst piece of science journalism I've seen this year.

Digg!

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'm so banging my head right now...

See how it spreads:
WIRED
NYT
Washington Post
etc., etc.

This is a huge desaster.

AP copy-pastes from the Gazette, then everyone else copy-pastes from AP.

Unbelievable how such crap can spread.

Bonechar said...

This story got a mention on a message board I frequent back when it was a local TV report, and I posted in reply describing how it's essentially the same as the Amazing Burning Water! claims made at least a few times a year on local TV news stations across North America.

This is a deviation, though - I don't remember most of those somehow getting major print coverage like this. Of all the ways it could break from the pattern, this has to be only one I would find depressing.

How stupid can people get?

The Factician said...

What a disaster. And none of these news organizations thought to call someone at another university, just for a few thoughts?

NotPhil said...

It's been a long time since I've taken a physics class, but doesn't the principle of conservation of energy apply to everything, including everything else we use as fuel?

I think the discovery here, if Mr. Kanzius and Dr. Roy aren't misleading us, is that they performed electrolysis just using RF energy, instead of using direct current, and that the same RF energy appeared to ignite the hydrogen. And that's what the journalist reported:

But there are no electrodes and no gimmicks, ... Dr. Roy said the salt water isn't burning per se, despite appearances. The radio frequency actually weakens bonds holding together the constituents of salt water ... and releases the hydrogen, which, once ignited, burns continuously when exposed to the RF energy field.

The article doesn't claim that they're producing a net energy gain, just that they might have found a different way to burn the hydrogen in salt water for fuel.

Isn't the real question whether this process is more efficient than comparable processes (like using DC electrolysis to separate hydrogen from water and then storing it and burning it later)? If so, then isn't that what the journalist reported?:

But researching its potential will take time and money, he said. One immediate question is energy efficiency: The energy the RF generator uses vs. the energy output from burning hydrogen. ... But whether the system can power a car or be used as an efficient fuel will depend on research results.

I might be missing something, but I'm not sure the journalist really did a bad job reporting this. Someone in his area claimed to have found a new process for burning hydrogen, which was confirmed by a second source from a university's materials research lab, and he reported it. No one's reported that the laws of thermodynamics have been violated.

The Factician said...

notphil,

It's in the title and also later in the article:

"Salt water as fuel? "

Salt water can't be used as fuel. To use it as fuel, you would have to add energy to release the hydrogen first. Hydrogen is fuel.

And:

"Mr. Kanzius said he powered a Stirling, or hot air, engine with salt water. "

No, he would power it with hydrogen.

It is possible that this is a reasonable way to release hydrogen, and even an energy efficient way to release hydrogen. But it is clear from the way the article is presented that the author thinks "saltwater" is the fuel, not hydrogen.

Anonymous said...

This is not perpetual motion any more than someone spending money to drill for oil, extracting it, refinine it and then burning it is perpetual motion.

This is simply extracting energy from a store of energy (oil, hydrogen, uranium, whatever). Currently, the cost of this process in terms of energy (money) input exceeds the benefit of energy produced. That was clearly once the case with oil. The cost of the energy to create the source product, oil or hydrogen, was essentially free to us. In the case of oil, it was created by the natural processes on earth. In the case of hydrogen, it was created in the formation of the universe and stars. I have little doubt that the total energy in the creation of oil vastly exceeds the energy we extract from it. The same will be the case with hydrogen. It's simply a matter of the technology developing to the point that extraction costs make sense when compared to the energy created in a usable form.

It takes extreme amounts of energy to produce solar radiation that enables solar cells to create electricity.... far more than the electricity produced. However, that cost doesn't require us to write a check for the root source of the energy. Same for wind, hydroelectric, nuclear.....

The issue is what is the cost to produce some arbitrary unit of energy. If you can build a nuclear facility (solar farm, dam a river, wind generators... whatever) to produce the electricity required to run the RF generator to convert the seawater to hydrogen at a cost that is cheaper per some arbitrary unit of energy than our current costs for oil, coal or other sources, per equivalent unit of energy, hydrogen will become the primary energy source.

The Factician said...

Hi Anonymous,

Thanks for stopping by. Your analogies are not correct. This system involves cracking water using electricity, and then burning the hydrogen. Burning hydrogen creates water. Circle closed. Any energy lost to inefficiency means that this system uses energy, it can't possibly release energy.

Here's a more apt analogy: Imagine you have a lab. In this lab you have carbon, oxygen and water, and all kinds of equipment. You use all your lab equipment (and a whole lot of electricity) to create coal, using the carbon, oxygen and water as a starting point. Now you ship the coal to a power plant to burn it. That's what this system does. It uses power to make the fuel, and then hopes to release energy by burning the fuel. But it can't release more energy than was put in to make it. Plus, if you add in all the energy moving the coal around, you now have a net loss of energy. That's what this guy has accomplished.

I hope this helps.

Anonymous said...

Clean energy sources tend not to be portable; wind farms, solar arrays, hydro-electric. If we wish to make some of that energy portable we have to convert the energy into a portable form. If this "inventor" has come up with a more efficient way to use clean stationary power sources to produce protable fuel, even at a net loss, it can be a benifit. The articles do read like a miricle cure to power production, but the technology has a place. Constructive action here would suggest putting the technology in proper perspective and not attempt to end a line of reasoning because of some purism. All aspects of generating, moving, storing and using energy have to have more experimentation in thought and in practice to solve big picture issues.
I for one would enjoy driving a new hydrogen powered car. Since that hydrogen has to be extracted at a net loss using some process I'd like it to be the best it can be. Leave the question of "original source" to bigger less portable and cleaner solutions.

The Factician said...

Hi Anonymous,

Thanks for stopping by. This "inventor" hasn't shown even a new way for releasing hydrogen. Nothing that he is showing is new.

All he's done is to demonstrate the gullibility of the public and the media. He's shown you can release hydrogen and oxygen from water. I believe he was scooped on this some time in the middle 1800's. That's all he's done. And he did it in his garage.

Pure genius.

Anonymous said...

The media creates the sensationalism. The public is reasonsible for it's own gulability. Engineers and planners forget leasons learned all the time; even from the 1800s.

I guess I'm speaking more from the standpoint that experimentation, garage band style or not, is usefull when you can't depend on large institutions to discover or remember anything. The tragedy in junking the would be inventor/reinventor is that it serves to raises the burden for well meaning idea sharing and may serve to discourage simple tinkerers for participating in a needed process. Many of the best ideas in since and applied technology have come from simple people with little trained and indoctrinated knowledge of the area in which they tinker.

I hope that when one discusses the conspiracy that can form around a sensationalize fluff news piece that one might allow for the fact that the subject of the piece might not be an accomplice but rather a valuable tinkerer in search of something useful.

Anonymous said...

I, for one, believe that this IS possible and has already been done many times by many scientists around the world, some have died trying to get the info out.

It's negative people like the OP that spread negativity throughout the science community. Aren't real scientists the ones that ask questions? They are not the ones that say, no no no no, thats not possible, they are the ones living in a box...

Everything is made up of energy at different frequencies, i believe the RF generators can split water with minimal energy which does create more out than in.
When you think how our bodies convert water to fuel for the body, is it so hard to comprehend that we might one day soon be able to make a machine that will emulate the body?

Anything our best machines can do (computers), the human body can do better.

I think science is on the verge of leaping into the Electro-Magnetic Quantum Physical age of frequency, sound and vibration.

Positivity and research into water power is the way forward, being in denial that science can't get any better than it is is just plain old arrogance.

This info and other info seems to be suppressed in America. Thank God for countries like Japan pushing forward with Water Powered Cars and Blood Electrification which both use RF generators and electro-magnetics, and this stuff has been in America for years now, but been suppressed...

If you think water powered cars are possible, you might also want to check this link below about blood electrification!

www.electrobiotics.com

TheOne said...

God i hate how arrogant scientists go on about what is and what is not possible, i mean, does science know it all? No, so shut the hell up... There is lots of undiscovered territory in science you know it alls...

Are you aware that anti-gravity has been here for years as well? Have a look at this PHD Physics guy's page:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9xnh5Nd4DzM&feature=related

Look and learn sheeple