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Sunday, October 03, 2004

Sumtin' fer Nutin's

A couple of dubious suggestions for tapping energy out of atmospheric space have made the rounds recently. Shockingly, they show signs of an enduring capability to perpetually recirculate as pseudo-scientific urban legends. Which is as close to perpetual motion as they will ever come.

1. The first claim is the most recent. Anthony Mamo promotes a patent for recovering energy stored up from barometric pressure differentials in spatially separated regions (typically in mountainous regions) by using pipelines connecting to energy extracting turbines. Popular Mechanics excitedly wrote this up as a potential breakthrough and it was further advertised by Paul "Bunny" Harvey on his syndicated October 2nd radio show.

To logically deconstruct the claim, realize that barometric pressure differences drive the complicated natural phenomenon known as "wind". So Mr. Mamo basically wants to harness a type of wind energy by driving it through a lossy pipeline. No dice. Some home power DIY'ers have vigorously deconstructed this claim here.

2. The second idea is more curious still. Labelled as a Motionless Electromagnetic Generator (MEG), this should get classified into the "free energy" bucket of claims. First off, I should admit to a bias; over the years, I have noticed that any web site that features the following textured background underneath a rambling HTML organization of information portends tin-foil hat ideas.

The debunking by Shawn Bishop of Simon Fraser U. is here, while the ridiculous counter-debunking by Cyril Smith is here.
Mr.Smith says: Bishop is obviously of the opinion, held by many in the scientific fraternity, that perpetual motion machines are impossible. Stone-age man would hold this opinion with regard to windmills, but today we fully accept that, in a perpetual wind, a windmill will provide useful perpetual motion.

I suggest that Mr.Cyril Smith should consider investing in Mr. Anthony Mamo's perpetual wind machine. As a principal investor, I am sure he will get to at least view some nice mountain scenery and get a dose of fresh air.


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