Monday, July 09, 2007

Thermodynamics and Free Energy Show Up Again

Friend DEG apparently studied the Laws of Thermodynamics from the same Professor of Quipology as Mark Frauenfelder:
Mark Frauenfelder: You Can't Beat the Odds at the Entropy Casino - Business on The Huffington Post
1. You can't win. (You can't create or destroy energy in a closed system.)
2. You can't break even. (You can't convert one form of energy to another with 100% efficiency.)
3. You can't get out of the game. (You can only achieve 100% efficiency at absolute zero, but it's impossible to cool anything down to absolute zero.)

Friend DEG put it this way on his first trip back to Ottawa on his winter break from U of Guelph (Go Griffins!) and it's stuck with me since.
Now, how's this come up today? We'll there's more and more about Ye Olde Free Energie Machine that failed in the UK recently. And if anything tells you you don't get something for nothing (TANSTAAFL, boys and girls) it's the first law.
Anyone designing a car engine or a power generator can either try their best to engineer a efficient system within the limitations of the three laws, or they can choose to ignore these axioms and attempt to beat the odds at the Entropy Casino.
Most engineers pick door number one. These people are the ones who have designed every motor, engine, and power-producing system on the planet. Those who've thought they could break the laws of thermodynamics have designed and built thousands of non-functioning perpetual motion devices dating back to antiquity. Not one of these devices has ever been able to run indefinitely on its own power, much less produce additional energy.
With a track record of zero, you would think the perpetual motion school of applied phyics would have shut down long ago. Not so. Today, there's a company in Dublin, Ireland, called Steorn, which claims to have developed a device, called Orbo, which violates, or at least effectively skirts around, the laws of thermodynamics. They say once the technology -- which allegedly exploits hitherto unknown properties of magnets to generate free energy from nothing, is refined -- it can be used to power cars, electronics, and just about anything that needs energy to make it run.

Unless what needs to be powered is near studio lights. What is it with these woo-dudes that they love to blame the lights.
Wait there's more -- the GOD Intelligent Design crowd are stepping up to bat for the Perpetual Motion folks. Now there's a marriage made in...some place shitty.

Boing Boing: Intelligent design proponents champion Steorn's perpetual motion device
Over at ScienceBlogs, Orac reports that creationists are pointing to Steorn's alleged free energy device (which failed at its public unveiling two days ago, incidentally) as proof that "ultra-materialists scientists" are wrong about the laws of thermodynamics.
Full Article at Repsectful Insolence.
And Bad Science has an article:

Bad Science » Perpetual truths
I was looking forward to it. At first device was supposed to lift a weight, but then they announced that it would simply rotate. Steorn’s chief executive Sean McCarthy said that the company “decided against using the technology to illuminate a light-bulb, because the use of wires would attract further suspicion from a scientific community that has denounced the invention as heretical.”

Now if I can just put my withering voice on for one moment, let’s be clear: this invention is not heretical, it’s just highly improbable (although I recognise that heresy is an important part of the branding, because even if it’s a thermodynamic one, there’s still something attractively transgressive about getting one over on the law. Very Billy Idol. Very Guns ‘n’ Roses.)

Go read and see what you think. Is the battery life in my iPod about to get a whole lot better?
Listen to that. It's the sound of breath not being held.

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