back to article Oz skeptic offers prize if Rossi’s E-cat works

Australian entrepreneur, philanthropist, skeptic, aviator and eccentric Dick Smith has offered $AU200,000 for proof that the Andrea Rossi “energy catalyzer” actually works. With a local in the town of Mullumbimby hoping to pitch the E-cat to locals as an attractive investment, Smith has offered to send along Australian Skeptics …

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Facepalm

You will need 3 keyboards

if you want to read the Sydney Morning Herald "article" all the way to the bottom. This was my favourite bit:

"A community group will gather to discuss the work of an Italian inventor who claims to have developed a machine that can produce large amounts of energy from almost nothing."

I'm sure the first law of thermodynamics will put a reasonably swift end to that discussion, then I assume it will be time for the snake oil auction.

SMH seems an appropriate acronym...

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Coat

You misunderstand...

That's not a "scientific community" group, it's probably on the agenda just after the discussion of the next church bazaar. The third law holds no sway over such a discussion.

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LENR is probably real

http://technologygateway.nasa.gov/media/CC/lenr/lenr.html

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Three challenges for you

1) Describe an experimental setup demonstrating LENR that gives results others can repeat.

2) Measure significantly more decay products than the background level.

3) Measure significantly more heat output than calorimeter calibration errors.

If you ever achieve all three, I will apologise for saying LENR is an investment scam.

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Worthless

That video is worthless, basically some guy telling how great it would be to have a machine in your home that can output energy cleanly. Oh it tells shooting neutrons at a nucleus transmutes it to something else and generates energy. Great, I did that at a 2. year physics labs at my university 30 years ago... the trouble is making enough of those neutrons without running a conventional nuclear reactor (and having neutrons flying around is not exactly harmless anyway). Hard to believe NASA hosting such crap. Is there more substance somewhere?

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Why don't you wait for the ECAT to hit the market first?

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I have never seen such a bizarre attempt to discredit something.

You seem to hold NASA in a position or respect yet when you watch a video with one of their top researchers discussing this technology you refer to him as 'some guy'

Some guy?

And you talk about doing scientific experiments in days gone past but the way you talk shows you do not have a scientific view of the world. You declare a theory crap because you could not overcome the same problem yourself or theorise how it could be overcome?

Until I see the working unit in stores or peer reviews I will remain sceptical on e-cat, however the very fact that numerous scientists including some at NASA have enough interest in LENR technology for NASA itself to make a 'statement video' supporting it shows it is something that should at least be given fair consideration don't you think?

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Without verifiable, replicatable proof ...

... it is as worthy of consideration as Harry Potter's magic wand. It is nothing but faith and persuasive words until hard science proves it to be something real.

The fact that this man has, for no reason at all, not shown anything but a black-box so far *very* strongly suggests he is at least innocently mistaken and at worst just another fraud.

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Anonymous Coward

@gammell Just because it's NASA doesn't mean they can't be fooled

This post reminded me of a talk that James Randi gave a few years ago. In it he discusses physicists at Lawrence Livermore labs being fooled by a fraud performing a simple trick with a matchbox. It's worth watching:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SbwWL5ezA4g

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Mushroom

Nickel to Copper

IANAP, but I seem to recall from high-school physics that Nickel is the most stable of all elements - Ni62 in particular. To 'fuse' Ni to Cu you have to ADD energy - you certainly don't get any back! You would probably also get some hard gammas and a beta-particle up your cloaca for your troubles, too.

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Pint

err, that would be Iron

Iron is at the bottom of the energy curve, Anything lighter will give some energy for fusion, heavier and material will give off energy on fission.

That's probably also wrong as it's been a while.

Either way I'm pretty sure the energy rewards were greater at the extreme light and heavy ends, and that most atomic nuclei are more than happy with their weight...

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Joke

Forget Physics ...

"...that most atomic nuclei are more than happy with their weight..."

Try gently telling your spouse this without an outbreak of Cold Fusion.

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Mushroom

Oh not AGAIN

Oh ffs. We forgave Brocky (Peter Brock) when he temporarily went insane and started peddling this snake oil. He came back to the fold of sanity and had the good grace to say the project had been all rubbish. The trouble is, there are always hippies (which these days stands for Hipster Ignoramus) who think there is merit in this crap.

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"wide-eyed, breathless and clueless"

Pro tip: such an introduction is unnecessary for anything printed by the Sydney Morning Herald.

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Mullumbimby

I don't think a device that gives out free energy would take off much up in Mullumbimby. Now if it was a machine that gave out free grass (and free cornchips sometime after) then it would be a roaring success.

I think Dick is pretty safe from writing that cheque.

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Devil

"Damn I lost my singularity, it fell through the floor."

> I don't think a device that gives out free energy would take off much up in Mullumbimby

OTOH, a device that produces Copper from Nickel would probably blow up much of Mullumbimby.

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LENR Primer

There is a new clean energy technology that is one tenth the cost of coal. LENR using nickel. Incredibly: Ni+H(heated under pressure)=Cu+lots of heat.

This phenomenon (LENR) has been confirmed in hundreds of published scientific papers: http://lenr-canr.org/acrobat/RothwellJtallyofcol.pdf

"Over 2 decades with over 100 experiments worldwide indicate LENR is real, much greater than chemical..." --Dennis M. Bushnell, Chief Scientist, NASA Langley Research Center

"Energy density many orders of magnitude over chemical." Michael A. Nelson, NASA

"Total replacement of fossil fuels for everything but synthetic organic chemistry." --Dr. Joseph M. Zawodny, NASA

According to Forbes, electricity will be "too cheap to meter" if Rossi's Oct 28 demonstration succeeds: http://www.forbes.com/sites/markgibbs/2011/10/17/hello-cheap-energy-hello-brave-new-world/

Here's the latest, according to MSNBC it passed the test: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/45153076/ns/technology_and_science-science/#.TrNo9rJqwe4

By the way, here is a current survey of all the companies that are bringing LENR to commercialization: http://www.cleantechblog.com/2011/08/the-new-breed-of-energy-catalyzers-ready-for-commercialization.html

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"LENR Primer "

Are we supposed to take any of this cr*p as evidence ?

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Unlikely

Not just because of physics, but nickel + hydrogen under very high pressures is a staple part of modern chemistry for making everything from margarine to hydrogenating coal. If copper was a result - even in very small quantities - it would poison the catalyst and this would have been recorded in the chemistry texts.

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Anonymous Coward

I liked this quote about another so-called power generation from hydrogen

"The company is therefore dependent on investors with deep pockets and shallow brains.""

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Swarm idiocy

According to the statistics in your reference ttp://lenr-canr.org..., the field of LENR is slowly dying out (continuous drop in papers since the thoroughly debuked 1989 cold fusion hype). Three cheers for science, which once again scores a - slow - win against swarm idiocy.

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Mushroom

Checked the metal prices?

Is the claimed energy output enough to cover the $ loss of converting nickel to copper? Nickel's price is currently over twice copper's, and it would become even more expensive if this worked.

Flying in the face of the laws of physics AND economics simultaneously!

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Well actually ...

Rossi is claiming in his provisional patent that 56 g ( 1 mole) of nickel will produce energy equivalent to 30000 tonnes of crude oil so I guess the economics would be favourable.

However I think the whole thing is nonsense

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Forget Investment...

If this was real, forget trying to find investors, you would have the Nobel committee throwing millions of dollars in prize money at you!

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@Forget Investment...

Considering the millions-billions that governments spunk on useless projects (think UK failed ID cards) I think it is worth the odd few £100k to conclusively prove or disprove such schemes. It would provide a public display of the scientific method which one might hope would make them more critical of marketing claims, and might just occasionally turn up a fabulous new discovery.

A lot of 'science' suffers from the same human failing of dogmatic belief that religion has, that a new idea must be wrong because its not fitting to established theory. Often that is true, but every so often we get something major that initially is dismissed as crank theory (e.g plants having sexuality, relativity vs Newtonian mechanics, quantum vs classical physics, maybe something new with the pro-ported FTL neutrinos...).

So lets support this prize and see if we can get proof one way or another.

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Sadly you wouldn't

The Nobel science prizes tend to be awarded 5-10 years after the work was done.

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"I think it is worth the odd few £100k to conclusively prove or disprove such schemes"

Science changes. As we get new data and learn new techniques, things may change. We could disprove it for now, but things may be different in 20 years. Its why I love science, if you can back up what you claim, and others can reproduce your results, your ideas will be accepted.

Cold fusion seems to be the same thing as Homeopathy. Its had a long time to prove itself and constantly fails.

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No you wouldn't. You don't understand how the world works at all do you?

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@The Jase

There are two issues here: the first is what might explain such a generator. That could run for years...

The second is much simpler, Andrea Rossi claims to have built such a machine, so it should be simple to set up a controlled experiment to establish if it produces more power than is input, and for sufficient time to not be explained by internal chemical means.

If so, then the first issue merits more serious work.

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A hundred years is not a long time my friend. The ECAT is real. Wait for it to hit market before you cast judgement.

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Holmes

> lot of 'science' suffers from the same human failing of dogmatic belief that religion has

This B.S. is repeatedly professed as truth by "soft" science academics, "truthers" and people how think that math has been invented by The Man to put down the peasants. But it's just not true. You may have to *wait* thirty years for attitudes to be reoriented until the egos occupying the ivory tower have died, but compare this to the 4000+ years that humanity has been plagued by abrahamic religions.

> dismissed as crank theory

> e.g plants having sexuality

WAHT!

> relativity vs Newtonian mechanics

history shows that it wasn't dismissed as "cranky" AT ALL, indeed it gave a fresh look at the problems that others tried to crack with unwieldy and bizarre ideas given EXPERIMENTAL EVIDENCE. Hard-core Newtonians weren't happy. They were wrong.

> quantum vs classical physics

history shows that it wasn't dismissed as "cranky" AT ALL, indeed it gave a fresh look at the problems that others tried to crack with unwieldy and bizarre ideas given EXPERIMENTAL EVIDENCE. Hard-core Classicists (like Einstein) weren't happy. They were wrong.

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@charlesfrith ...

... without proper proof (scientific method, replicated by others, etc) this thing has as much chance of coming to the market as my cat's hairballs. No proof, no investment, no coming to market - all very simple. It is beyond all reasoning that, if this effect is real, it has not been demonstrated for other scientists to examine properly, and to replicate in their own labs.*

Don't get me wrong - I would dearly love this thing to real. However, there is nothing to suggest this is any more real than the imaginings of sc-fi writers.

* Please don't tell me that you are frightened that the idea would get stolen, or suppressed by "big business", because that would make sure that I could not take anything you say seriously.

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Flame

Here's a link to a proper refutation of Rossi's nonsense by a proper physicist.

http://motls.blogspot.com/2011/11/andrea-rossi-pressure-and-boiling-point.html

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Anonymous Coward

And here's a link to a potential explanation by an even more proper physicist:

http://www.physics.purdue.edu/people/faculty/yekim/BECNF-Ni-Hydrogen.pdf

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Anonymous Coward

Ah that wonderfully peer reviewed journal blogspot

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re: peer-review

To be fair, peer-review isn't possible until Rossi releases some information on how it works. He's not going to do that until he can get it protected by patents (he claims). Patents aren't going to be granted (except in Italy) because the "invention" breaches the currently-understood laws of physics.

This is not a comment on whether Rossi's claims are true or not - BUT: he is acting exactly like a man who (believes he) is telling the truth, (believes he) has a world-changing invention and wants to protect it. I suspect a knowling fraud would not be making his "invention" so public, where it falls under the scrutiny of people who know what they're talking about.

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Holmes

Well, it *is* Lubos. If he isn't doing defending String Theory by Vociferous Attack or commenting on politics, you should be able to trust him.

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Anonymous Coward

breaches the currently-understood laws of physics.

No explanation is necessary for patents. Just describing a mechanism in sufficient detail that "those skilled in the art" can replicate it is sufficient.

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Anonymous Coward

>"he is acting exactly like a man who (believes he) is telling the truth"

He is /also/ acting exactly like a man who is fraudulently hyping a worthless snake-oil-powered perpetual motion machine, and when we've had people acting in this way in the past, they've always turned out to be deluded cranks or conscious frauds, so I won't be playing against the odds by investing.

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re: No explanation is necessary for patents.

From physorg:

Rossi and Focardi have applied for a patent that has been partially rejected in a preliminary report. According to the report, “As the invention seems, at least at first, to offend against the generally accepted laws of physics and established theories, the disclosure should be detailed enough to prove to a skilled person conversant with mainstream science and technology that the invention is indeed feasible. … In the present case, the invention does not provide experimental evidence (nor any firm theoretical basis) which would enable the skilled person to assess the viability of the invention. The description is essentially based on general statement and speculations which are not apt to provide a clear and exhaustive technical teaching.”

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re: /also/ acting exactly like a man who is fraudulently hyping...

Yes, possibly, although I'd tend more towards deluded crank than conscious fraud - as I said, if he knows he's being fraudulent, then he's doing a pretty bad job of keeping his head sufficiently below the parapet to get away with it when it does all prove to be less than he claims.

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Not taking sides here - but -

>“As the invention seems, at least at first, to offend against the generally accepted laws of physics and established theories, the disclosure should be detailed enough to prove to a skilled person conversant with mainstream science and technology that the invention is indeed feasible..."

so-- a person with a 2nd grade education, through what ever means, invents a device that does something. S/he has no idea how the device works, from a physics or any other 'learned profession'. Yet the device does work, and it does do what the inventor says. Does this mean he cant patent it? as he cant explain how it works??

for a simple example:

meat goes in here -> I turn this handle -> sausage comes out there ->

it is possible, has happened in the past, will probably happen in the future, person wants to do something, doesnt know "Its Not Possible", through trial & error, and blind luck, they actually *do* the 'impossible'. After which the theorists come in look at said device and figure out how it happened.

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Anonymous Coward

Re:re: No explanation is necessary for patents.

They rejected this because there was no evidence presented of this device working and insufficient information to enable people to check it's extraordinary claim. The point about the "laws of physics" is the usual one that extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof - if he provides more evidence and detail the patent is likely to be granted.

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"Not taking sides here - but - #"

No, if you show evidence that it works and describe how to make one AND it's a novel device you'll get a patent. After all why not esp. as if it doesn't work or turns out to be uncommercial no-one will want to license it anyway

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Facepalm

Grow up!

The world is flat too and we revolve around the sun, Stupid people sigh..... ;)

Wether it turns out to be bullshit or not at least he is trying to make something what is everyone else doing except whinging and bitching about it.

No matter how rediculous it may seem now, Maybe something can be learned from just doing it instead of talking about how not to do it. Got to start somewhere otherwise you get nowhere!

If even just a minute little thing can come of this it opens new paths that can be experimented on,And if it turns out to be a scam then his credibility is over and will be rideculed, Until it is proven either way grow up and give the man a chance, The applause or mocking can come afterwards.

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FAIL

"The man" is his own worst enemy

Yes, you are correct that there might be something to look at (I'm not sufficiently au fait with physics to know), but unless he actually lets other people look at the thing, he deserves no applause, and only mocking. Exceptional claims demand exceptional evidence, and the loon is giving no evidence at all.

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Well, done El Reg

I've been despairing at just how bad even supposedly serious newspapers are at engaging their critical faculties when it comes to reporting fantastical claims. The worst is probably health and medicine, with expensive, useless (and sometimes dangerous) "advice" being promulgated, often to the financial advantage of a named charlatan.

It's is bullshit, call it bullshit. Rock on.

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I would waste my time with every pseudo sceptical ass hat debunker

Debunkers are without fail a bunch of time wasting pricks. The man is changing the world and doesn't need a debunkers approval. Why don't people wait for it to hit the market. Then do your debunking.

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Boffin

Debunk first, not afterwards

Because, until the device "hits the market" (if ever) the "inventor" will need Lotsa Money[TM] which will come from people gullble enough to believe him, some of whom may not be able to financially absorb the non-return of their "investment".

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Stop

Steorn are over *there*

Rossi, Steorn, Fleishmann+Pons; they're all very much the same grade of moron. Until the reaction can be demonstrated in a properly controlled and reproducible scientific experiment, then it remains merely an unsubstantiated claim and nothing more.

There is a set procedure for new, revolutionary claims. Do the work quietly in secret then quietly patent the process. Then, once again quietly you get a number of scientific colleagues to try the method themselves and see how they get on, working independently of yourself. Then you expand this process, by which time if the process really IS revolutionary you'll have all the publicity you actually need or could ever desire.

What you don't do is put out press releases before going to the scientific community. Assuming there's a good deal of healthy competition in the sector of science you're working in, as is the case for 95% of the scientific community (note that I am excluding the wilder climate change bunch here, as their funding depends on repeated doom-saying), then one's scientific colleagues are going to be mostly honest and decent folk. This is how scientific review of papers works; you assume honesty in the community, and any complete crap tends to get called before it is published.

Every so often though, highly respected journals like Nature and Science and their ilk get a yen to shake up the scientific community by publishing some highly controversial but interesting paper. Nature published a paper by Beveniste which claimed that immune system cells could be affected by even minute dilutions of certain chemicals; essentially a demonstration of homeopathy in a controlled environment. The paper drove the medical world wild (as Nature hoped it would) and a full investigation was called, involving proper respected scientists and a respected stage magician (a person who makes a living fooling people is ideal for preventing said foolery taking place). The investigation repeated the work, imposing very strong double-blind controls and rather large sample sizes to reduce statistical error. The reported effects disappeared completely.

This sort of investigation wants doing on all these "free energy" claims; proper scientific investigation. Going public, looking for investors and generally trying to circumvent the scientific process is a red flag, and usually indicated a scam artist at work.

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