Wednesday, August 23, 2006
A scam, or self-delusion?
By now you've probably heard about Steorn, a company of dubious provenance (used to be an e-business of some kind back during the .com boom) with no clear technical expertise that placed a full-page ad in The Economist last week. They claim to have developed a device that produces more energy than it takes to run - essentially a perpetual motion machine of the first kind. They go further than that, anecdotally claiming that scientists and engineers at reputable places have tested this gadget and agree that it really does produce energy seemingly from nowhere, but none of those folks have been willing to speak on the record. So, Steorn is trying to put together a "jury" of 12 scientists to test their gizmo. This has many many of the hallmarks of a pseudoscientific scam, complete with an utter lack of technical detail, and the company wanting to decide who does the testing. In fact, they actually won't let the scientists do tests - just examine records of the tests and data. Presumably they'll also say something like "Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain." On the other hand, it's hard to see what they gain by spending close to $200K on an ad, if the net result is a huge pile of negative publicity - I suppose they're just hoping some gullible rich person will believe that The Scientific Orthodoxy is suppressing this incredible breakthrough, and that big investment will follow. Place your bets on whether we'll ever even hear from these folks again....
Posted by Douglas Natelson at 8:49 AM