Imagine you have two choices. You can either...
Do nothing, or...
Do something simple that has a 1% chance of helping billions of low income people live substantially better lives, but it comes with a 99% chance that the only outcome is your own permanent embarrassment.
Here I'm talking about the kind of embarrassment that follows you around forever. If you have a Wikipedia page, your embarrassment will end up on it. Every time you go to a party, someone will bring it up. When your obituary is written, it will be mentioned. Your credibility will forever be defined by this embarrassment.
Do you take that 1% chance?
This isn't a thought experiment. I'm dealing with that decision right now. Luckily for the world (maybe), I don't feel embarrassment like normal people. So I'm all in for the 1% chance of helping the world. I live for this sort of thing.
Here's my story.
About a decade ago I got an email from an engineer/inventor who claimed he could make electricity out of air. It had something to do with harvesting ions or some such blah, blah, blah. I was interested because I have a nerdy curiosity about green energy projects, but I assumed that this would be like most ideas in that realm and it wouldn't pan out.
The inventor formed a tiny company and the company stayed in touch with me by email as they filed their patents and worked on their prototypes. Patents were granted. Bigger and better prototypes were built. I've seen their videos of the prototypes powering household appliances.
If the videos are to be believed, the prototypes are harvesting useful amounts of electricity directly from the atmosphere, day or night, rain or shine. What the company doesn't yet know is how well it scales up, and whether or not normal engineering improvements in the process can make this economically feasible. The company thinks the odds are good.
If it scales up, and proves to be economical, the world will be transformed.
I like to think my bullshit filter is better than average. After ten years of following this project, I have concluded that the people are real, the patents are real, and the prototype does create electricity from the atmosphere. I could be wrong, so you should be skeptical. And I'm encouraged by the fact that the company doesn't claim to know it can scale up; they are looking for funds to find out.
And just to be super-clear, things that are in the "too good to be true" category turn out to be bullshit 99% of the time. That's our context.
But I'm going to take the 99% chance of embarrassing myself along with the 1% chance of helping the world by giving some attention to this technology.
I give you the company's crowd funding link
I don't have a financial interest in the company.
The company has offered to fly me out to their tiny field laboratory in some godforsaken Florida cow field to see the prototype myself. I said they should spend their money showing it to atmospheric physicists (to further validate the potential) or investors in the green energy field.
If you are one of those types, I can put you in touch with the company. Depending on your credentials, I might even pay for your trip to see it. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
if you're interested.
Here are the patent links:Patent 1Patent 2Patent 3
[Update: Read all of the comments before forming an opinion. And keep in mind that this is in the class of things that are bullshit 99% of the time.]
[Update 2: I'll forward to the company for response any simply-stated question you have about the technology or the economics of scaling up.]
[Update 3: And please stop categorizing me as gung-ho for an idea I have described as being in the class of things that are 99% likely to be bullshit. It's going to be hard enough to keep "Cartoonist involved in scam" off my Wikipedia page.]
[Update 3: For some reason there are comments I can see on my CMS that aren't getting posted. If you put a phone number in your comment, that might be why. Try an email address. The comments getting omitted include an alleged eyewitness to the prototype. And there are a few comments I can't comment on because my CMS doesn't work. -- Scott]
Co-founder of CalendarTree.com
explains why I do things like this