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In my prior post I described a small company that claims it can harvest useful amounts of electricity directly from the atmosphere. Is this a case of a bold scam or is it simply an inventor who is more optimistic than qualified? Or - and this is the least likely possibility by far - could it be a legitimate breakthrough?

Whatever it is, I think we all agree on the following fact: Almost every part of the company's pitch fits the pattern of a classic scam.

If you knew nothing except what has been presented to you so far, including the information and calculations provided by the sleuths who left comments, you would be generous to assume a 1% chance that this is a legitimate scientific breakthrough in green energy. On the face of it, you'd have to give it a 99% or better odds of being bullshit. If you tell me the odds are more like 99.9999% bullshit I'll be happy to agree because I'm not that good at calculating the odds of things.

But here's where it gets interesting.

Do you know what else can sometimes look exactly like a scam? Answer: A legitimate breakthrough.

If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and swims like a duck, it must be a duck, right? Unless it's a hunter with a remote-controlled duck. There's always the thing you didn't consider.

What interests me most about this situation is that the company has been consistent from the start in asking for both public attention and qualified scientific scrutiny. They even offered to ship me a desktop prototype that I can witness lighting a bulb.

Are they bluffing?

That's an interesting question. Let's take a journey to find out. I hope you'd agree that unmasking scammers (if that's what happens) would be interesting.

Based on your comments, I asked the company this question yesterday: "How much useful wattage does the prototype produce?"

If the wattage estimate is trivial, or for some reason unavailable, or delayed for a variety of excuses, I think we're done. Would you agree?

The company claims that its technology is different from the devices you can see on YouTube that are harvesting too-trivial-to-matter electricity from the air. That technology is decades old. And they say their technology doesn't use the EM from radio stations. There's no way for me to verify that from a distance.

If the wattage estimate that they come back to me with is in the useful range, I would next ask for a video that tracks end-to-end from the antenna to the intermediate equipment to the working household device (light bulb, fan, etc.).

And I would also ask for their location relative to the nearest radio station.

If the video and the wattage estimate are still intriguing, and they aren't too near a radio tower, I say we put a qualified expert in the same room as the prototype and have some more fun.

Would that plan entertain you?

[Update: Yesterday the inventor provided me with some wattage figures along the lines of "keeps a 15-watt bulb lit for x minutes." I asked a follow-up question of how long the device needs to collect energy before releasing it for those x minutes. He informed me that he was called away on a family emergency and would follow up. If you are following along at home, this is exactly what a scammer would do. That doesn't make it a scam. But the pattern is consistent with one.]

[Update 2: The comments that support the company didn't show up for a few days because our comment system puts new accounts in a limbo zone for reasons I don't understand. See comment from BrahmsKeith in particular]

[Update 3: I have received wattage information from the company in a few email exchanges but I am pressing to get that information in the form of "On average, my prototype produces enough wattage in x minutes to power a bulb of a certain type for Y minutes." What I have received so far doesn't tell me how long it takes to charge a capacitor to light a fluorescent bulb for a period of time. This is the response all of you predicted.]

--------------
Scott Adams

Co-founder of CalendarTree.com

Author of a book with a name that doesn't sell books.

 



 
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Jun 5, 2014
"Yesterday the inventor provided me with some wattage figures along the lines of "keeps a 15-watt bulb lit for x minutes.""

That sounds like a dodge. If this thing is for real he should be able to answer the question "How many watts does it produce?" with a single number. No light bulbs, no minutes, just watts. If he can't or won't do that, then it's not for real (whether he's a liar or incompetent I don't know).
 
 
May 30, 2014
Jibbley: The amount of energy you can gather depends purely on the size of the antenna. You _might_ be able to run your house if you build an antenna the size of a football stadium, depending on where you live.

How do you come up with that "fact". Do you have any factual basis for that at all? Do you know how much energy you can attain from any collector of any size? No, of course you don't. You continue to throw out baseless conjecture as fact. What is your scientific background, anyway?
 
 
May 30, 2014
@Jibbley, I see dishonesty and incompetence as fundamentally different things. I've actually known a few wildly incompetent "inventors" who were legitimately trying to create things and improve the world. They're not, in my mind, bad people in the same way as people who are knowingly running a scam. And sometimes incompetence isn't as big a hurdle as you would expect.
 
 
-1 Rank Up Rank Down
May 30, 2014

My guess is, that the odds are against this being viable. But I'm curious and entertained enough about the process of proving something like this valid or invalid.
If I could be an intern for Penn and Teller's Bullsh1t, I'd jump through a flaming hoop. Yes, maybe literally.
I need a break, and I could be willing to take time off work and head to Florida to observe and report, if someone will cover my gas and motels.
I'm a bit of an @ss, but I think I could observe and understand, be objective and report clearly.

If everyone is already past this and moving on to Pyramids, nevermind.

(Of course after they do respond appropriately now, with times and wattage figures etc, and if someone does want a intermediate step between now and sending an Expert.

 
 
-1 Rank Up Rank Down
May 30, 2014
Me: "There simply isn't enough energy in the air to run domestic appliances. Period."

I should probably qualify that statement for all the pedants here.

The qualifier:

The amount of energy you can gather depends purely on the size of the antenna. You _might_ be able to run your house if you build an antenna the size of a football stadium, depending on where you live. Good luck with the planning permission for that, and in your legal dealings with the FCC for the radio blackspot you'd create (people's radios/TVs/cellphones won't work if your construction is between them and the tower).

No, you can't build it underground. Soil/rock absorbs radio waves.

(Sorry Scott, I know you like the idea of hobbyists building underground things the size of football stadiums but this one is a non-starter.)
 
 
-1 Rank Up Rank Down
May 30, 2014
"There's a quote - which I wish I could remember in detail - that scientists are used to dealing with a universe that plays fair, so when facing an opponent who cheats they are liable to make fools of themselves. "

Yep. Any magician can tell you that "smart" people are the easiest to fool.

(And the best people for unmasking hoaxes/fraudsters are magicians - James Randi, Penn Teller, etc.)
 
 
-1 Rank Up Rank Down
May 30, 2014
kulaid250: "The inventor has offered Scott a review of a prototype. Why don't you reserve your unfounded comments until after the review? Will you be a man and admit you were wrong if proven so?"

Sure, but I won't be.

I'm as sure that this is a scam as I am that 2 2 is 4.

Scott says I might be mentally ill for feeling sure about something but this one is math. There simply isn't enough energy in the air to run domestic appliances. Period.

Tiny radios? Yes. Things that can charge up all day then deliver a quick burst of energy? Yes. General domestic use? No. Solve the energy problem for millions of people? No.

The cleverness of the inventor, the cable technology, the patents, etc. really don't matter if there isn't enough energy at the source.

 
 
May 29, 2014
If by "qualified expert" you mean someone trained and experienced in unmasking scams, then yes, that might be interesting. (If you mean an electrical engineer, then no, not so much.)

There's a quote - which I wish I could remember in detail - that scientists are used to dealing with a universe that plays fair, so when facing an opponent who cheats they are liable to make fools of themselves.
 
 
May 29, 2014
Jibbley: By "same" I thought you meant "other scams based on using special antennas to get free energy from thin air" (...of which there have been many over the last hundred years or so).

What were these special antennas made from? Graphite or carbon fibers? Please show evidence. Apparently, the U.S. patent office could not find such previous energy collection devices. And neither could the patent offices of China, Japan, Russia, and Canada.

I've read many comments warning Scott not to invest money in this "scam." It doesn't appear that he is considering a monetary investment. It looks like he was only calling attention to the idea and the fund raising campaign. If you don't want to donate, don't. But you seem to know even less about the technology than he does, so why are you offering him advice? I'm sure Scott is a big boy and doesn't need some short-sighted advice from someone who almost got scammed from a magazine telemarketer. There are so many ridiculous comments such as predicting that the prototype will come with a battery and then acting like it's a fact, thereby proving that this is a scam. The inventor has offered Scott a review of a prototype. Why don't you reserve your unfounded comments until after the review? Will you be a man and admit you were wrong if proven so?

[On the Internet, no one is ever wrong. But there are many, many cases in which people "meant something different." -- Scott]
 
 
-1 Rank Up Rank Down
May 29, 2014
Scott: "Only on the Internet does "the same" mean "completely different." You're comparing the scam of "I'll sell you plans to power your house for free" with "I think I can light a bulb for a few minutes. Can you help me find some qualified scientists to review my work?" That sounds like the same scam to you?"

My bad.

By "same" I thought you meant "other scams based on using special antennas to get free energy from thin air" (...of which there have been many over the last hundred years or so).

I'm pretty sure you're shifting the goalposts as you go, too. As is your want.
 
 
-3 Rank Up Rank Down
May 29, 2014
Drowlord: "@Jibbley, I've read a fair bit of his back-and-forth on the 4hv.org site where he was trying to get help on putting together his ion collector. In all seriousness, I think the guy legitimately doesn't understand ohm's law and may not really understand the difference between voltage and watts. "

That's exactly what a good conman would make you believe.

[A good con man would make you believe he wasn't competent to do the thing he claims he is doing? What would a BAD con man do?-- Scott]
 
 
-1 Rank Up Rank Down
May 29, 2014
Are you going to publish the "email exchange"?

 
 
-2 Rank Up Rank Down
May 29, 2014

Context.

Let's say we did get an answer:
I can make a 'free' energy collector, the size of a basketball, that will fully light a 15 watt bulb for 12 hours.
Or it will light that 15w bulb at half intensity for 24 straight hours, day after day after day.
I think this is what's happening, and I think I am observing things correctly. I can show you a video.
How much will it cost to scale up? I don't know.

Does that satisfy your criteria, is that worth your study as to a next step?

How will that compare with their answer?

But to make it interesting if I say I might be able to make it produce enough for a 60w or maybe even 100 watt incandescent bulb light up, but I need $3 million. Would you be more interested?


 
 
May 29, 2014
[How many times do I have to agree that there are red flags everywhere? The proposition (true or not) is that an unsophisticated inventor is powering appliances with whatever technology he somehow stumbled upon through luck or intuition or genius or trial and error. Had anyone at the company presented themselves as trained scientists, I would expect peer reviewed papers. -- Scott]

Point taken, well-framed
/j
 
 
May 29, 2014
@Jibbley, I've read a fair bit of his back-and-forth on the 4hv.org site where he was trying to get help on putting together his ion collector. In all seriousness, I think the guy legitimately doesn't understand ohm's law and may not really understand the difference between voltage and watts.
 
 
May 29, 2014
When someone is warned that they "stopped making sense several posts ago," yet they continue to obsessively rant , it is logical to assume they continue to not make sense.
 
 
May 29, 2014
OK, one more post:

Just to show you that this guy isn't in on some big "cosmic secret" that nobody else knows about, here's some examples of real science being done using the exact same principles (ie. harvesting radio energy from the air):

People have been doing it for over a century: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crystal_radio

"If it is more than a few miles from the receiver the power received by the antenna is very small, typically measured in microwatts or nanowatts"


More modern devices:

http://www.smartplanet.com/blog/pure-genius/capturing-energy-in-the-air-to-power-electronics/

"We can push it almost all the way up to one milliwatt."

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/07/110707131545.htm

"Scavenging experiments utilizing TV bands have already yielded power amounting to hundreds of microwatts, and multi-band systems are expected to generate one milliwatt or more."

These are real devices made by people who probably own pocket protractors.

They all have numbers for Wattage and reflect the amount of energy that's actually _available_ in the air.


 
 
May 29, 2014
[Certainty always looks like a mental health problem to me. -- Scott]

Be sure to let us know how many Watts he's producing.

My guess is he'll start weasling if you press him on the "Wattage" thing (although I can't be certain).
 
 
May 29, 2014

Me: Will you be OK with him continuing to do that...?

[Why would I be okay with that? You stopped making sense several posts ago. -- Scott]

Sorry. My real question is:

What will you decide to do if you unmask him as a deliberate conman (which he is) instead of a bumbling inventor who's being fooled by the cosmos (as he claims)?

(How do I know he's a deliberate scammer? Nobody could put that hardware together and file those patents without knowing what a Watt is.)
 
 
May 29, 2014
[Please provide a link to the many scams just like this one. My readers would like to see them. But it has to be more than "guy with fake energy device." I'm looking for the scam plan to be the same, including patents, ten years of development, a real lawyer (I checked), disclosing their names and locations, putting their own substantial investment into it, and begging for qualified experts to look at it. I'm not doubting that this is a scam; I'm doubting you've seen one structured like this. -- Scott]

The patent office has specific instructions to deal with perpetual motion machines because so many people were using the patent office as "proof" that it must work (and therefore be worthy of investment...!)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perpetual_motion#Patents

Noteworthy quote: "Even if a patent is granted, it does not mean that the invention actually works, it just means that the examiner believes that it works, or was unable to figure out why it would not work."

Patents tell you NOTHING about whether an invention is viable or not. The patent office has been used in scams ever since it was created ("It's patented!!").

You want examples of similar scams? Here's one:

http://www.teslagenerator.com/teslas-free-energy-generator/

They only sell you "plans" for $47, but it's basically the same scam. It has videos, too!

[Only on the Internet does "the same" mean "completely different." You're comparing the scam of "I'll sell you plans to power your house for free" with "I think I can light a bulb for a few minutes. Can you help me find some qualified scientists to review my work?" That sounds like the same scam to you? -- Scott]


 
 
 
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