Saturday, September 02, 2006

Power for Nothing and Your Chicks for Free

A lot of folks have asked me what I thought about Steorn, the Irish company which has announced they have created a system that generates more power than is used to run the generator.

This of course violates the laws of physics pretty significantly; as well as just the realities of egineering; and people don't understand how what they say is possible.

Well, I understand both the physics, and the engineering; and I even know some of the people involved with the company; however, I still don't know how it is even possible to have more than 100% efficiency; or even more than about 85% efficiency in the real world.

Hell, even if it's only 85% efficient, that would be a HUGE advance in generating technology. Current power generation is anywhere from less than 10% efficient, to somewhere north of 40% (there are experimental technologies that are higher of course, but they haven't been pracitcally applied); with the majority of the rest of the energy dissappearing as waste heat.

The fact remains though, the law of conservation of energy is very clear, and thus far always true (the definition of a law); in a closed system you cannot get out more than you can put in. The only way this could work is if the system is not in fact closed; that they are simply not counting the input from outside the system.

My thought on the details of the matter is that if they really want to say they are more than 100% efficient, it's because they plan to use "free" energy; like the motion of water through pipes, people over sidewalks, cars over roads etc...

Of course that energy isn't really free, because it will now take just slightly more energy for each of these activities to occur; enough to cover the energy generated, plus efficiency losses; for a net loss of energy equal to the efficiency losses.

Of course in a hgihly efficient system, distributed to many points of generation (say every car in the country, or every cow an a field, or every person walking on the sidewalk); then it is possible to have a practical application with very little percieved impact. This ould be percieved as free energy, and could in fact be NEARLY free energy, but no matter how little the impact, there will always be some.

It is entirely possible that the guys at Steorn have come up with a practical way of generating power at very low cost; that doesn't require much in the way of fixed infrastructure, or input energy. If they set up their multipole magnetic generators on every city street, and every cell phone had the companion component that generated current as it passed through the field for example. Or if they managed to shrink
the whole thing down to cell phone sie, and it was charged simply by the motion in your pocket (much like an automatic watch movement), I can see it working.

Let's see what the details of their "miracle technology" are before we dismiss it entirely. I am willing to be convinced, but the burden of proof is very high. You don't just repeal the laws of physics on a couple of businesmens say-so.

Thus far, conservation of energy has always applied. The results have proven true in all cases in the known universe; in all postulates, the theory was proved by the outcome. Under no circumstance has the conservation of energy ever been disproven, nor is there any theoretical way that it COULD be disproven within a closed system,
therefore it is a law.

Is our understanding of physics, cosmology, and cosmogeny poor and incomplete? In many ways yes; but in this fundamental case no, it is not. There is no way to achieve more than 100% energy efficiency; nor in the "real world" is it possible to even achieve 100% efficiency.

Now, prove me wrong; you'll own the world.