...Prove Their Worth...

"Problems worthy of attack
prove their worth
by hitting back." - Piet Hein

A kind of running diary and rambling pieces on my struggles with assorted books, classes, and other things, as they happen. You must be pretty bored to be reading this...

Sunday, August 04, 2002

In my browsing, I came across this thread. Unfortunately, anyone who buys the claims made on the pages linked to in the first post is being taken for a ride. This is a bogus patent (so far as I can tell). For what it's worth, you may be distressed to know that the USPTO often issues idiotic patents, including for perpetual motion machines (if you don't literally call it a perpetual energy machine, and throw in lots of Star-Trekesque jargon to cover the fact that you're full of shit).

In the second of the linked pages provided by sIntax in the title post, the following is said:

The complicated physics of how the MEG works is explained in the paper "The Motionless Electromagnetic Generator: Extracting Energy from a Permanent Magnet with Energy Replenishment from the Active Vacuum," which can be found at Tom Bearden's website

Following the link, we start reading this paper with the impressively ponderous title.

The first sign of trouble comes right on the first page. Notice that all of the author names have claimed degrees listed next to them. This should set off loud warning bells for you! Basically, if you see people making big claims, and loudly trumpeting degrees, be very, very careful. You don't see degrees next to names in actual scientific publications, such as Physical Review Letters or what have you. You don't see "Richard Feynman, PhD" on his Lectures on Physics. You do see them on popular diet books and on creationist tracts. The presence of degree claims on an argument is not a foolproof BS detector, but it's enough to raise my hackles.

I'm not going to do a paragraph by paragraph critique, because I don't have the time, nor, to be honest, the expertise. But there are a few howlingly stupid things that even a beginner like me can see in there. So those I'm going to highlight. Oh, and notice that there are like, five equations in the whole forty page paper! Basically, all the arguments are not mathematical, they're verbal. Which is a very, very bad sign in a paper attempting to overthrow electromagnetism!

Anyway, moving on to the body of the paper. Second paragraph, first page:

Since the present "standard" U(1) electrodynamics model forbids electrical power systems
with COP>1.0, we also studied the derivation of that model, which is recognized to contain flaws
due to its 136-year old basis. We particularly examined how it developed, how it was changed,
and how we came to have the Lorentz-regauged Maxwell-Heaviside equations model
ubiquitously used today, particularly with respect to the design, manufacture, and use of
electrical power systems.

Ok, this is BS. Putting 'standard' in quotes does not mean that E&M "is recognized to contain flaws due to its 136-year old basis." The picture of the electromagnetism as being "Yang-Mills theory with the gauge group U(1)" is a rather modern one, given that Yang and Mills published their paper on what are now known as the Yang Mills equation in the 1950s. Classical electromagnetism is not 'recognized to contain flaws', except in the sense that it's not a quantum electrodynamics, that is, it's not a quantum theory. Moving, on, though...

Now, look at pages 6-9, where they apparently describe how stuff works. On page 6, we get this howler:

The conservation of energy law states that energy cannot be created or destroyed. What
is commonly not realized is that energy can be and is reused (changed in form) to do work,
over and over, while being replenished (regauged) each time. If one has one joule of energy
collected in one form, then in a replenishing potential environment one can change all that
joule into a different form of energy, thereby performing one joule of work.

Ok, this is bullshit. Energy 'replenished'? And 'regauged' is a synonym for 'replenished'? Um, no. They are apparently hoping that no one reading this paper has ever seen the word 'gauge' before, and will get intimidated into buying the jargon. Here's a brief and incomplete (hey, I'm just starting to learn about this myself) sketch of picking 'gauges'. Looking at the magnetic field B as a two form, we can define a vector potential to be a one-form such that B = dA, where d is the exterior derivative. The thing is that A is not unique, in the sense that we can add df (f being a function, d the same as above) to A without changing B. (This is an identity from how exterior derivatives work: d(A + df) = dA + d(df) = dA, because d(df) = 0.) This sort of thing is called 'gauge freedom', and works for the electromagnetic field, too (i.e., I used the magnetic field above as an easier example). Placing conditions on A (adding on df's, stuff like that) is known as 'picking a gauge'. It does NOT do anything about field energy!

That's not even mentioning that what the quoted paragraph is suggesting is something that violates some rather well-respected laws of thermodynamics...

Mind you, these characters are not using normal E&M theory, or so they say. They claim that the normal theory is wrong, and that their never-actually-articulated theory is right - but given that they never actually lay out precisely what their theory IS, it's rather hard to discuss...

Page 10 contains some real howlers.

So any amount of energy can be collected from any nonzero scalar potential, no matter
how small the potential's reaction cross section, if sufficient intercepting charge q and collecting
points x, y, z are utilized. In short, one can intercept and collect energy from a potential
indefinitely and in any amount, and in any form taken by the interaction, because the potential is
actually a set of EM energy flows in longitudinal EM wave form, as shown by Whittaker {1} in
1903 and further expounded by Bearden {24, 26}.

This is simply wrong. They're trying to get infinite energy out of electromagnetic fields! This just doesn't work: the energy in an electromagnetic field looks like E^2 + B^2 (E and B being electric and magnetic field strengths respectively). And 'reaction cross section' for scalar potential? Wtf? And what, precisely, is 'suffient intercepting charge'? If they mean taking some electric field, and sticking an arbitrary amount of charges in there, then they are indeed going to strengthen the field, because electric charge gives rise to electric field. But you'd need an infite amount of charge to get an infinite amount of field, of course.

Later on the same page:

For the magnetic vector potential, some preliminary comments are necessary. First, for
over a hundred years it has been erroneously advanced that the magnetic vector potential A is
"defined" by the equation

B = (del) � A [2]

This is easily seen not to be a definition at all, since an equation says nothing about the nature of
anything on its right or on its left, but merely states that the entire right side has the same
magnitude as does the entire left side. For an expression to be a definition, it must contain an
identity (:=) sign rather than an equal (=) sign. Hence in seeing what is attempted to be defined,
we rewrite equation [2] as

B := (del)�A

This is idiotic. First, to reconcile notation, B = (del) x A is just the same as B = dA above, since the curl (the (del) x part) is the special case of the exterior derivative on R^3 for one-forms (well, ok, you've got to pick a right-hand rule, too, and pretend that one-forms are vectors, but whatever). But moving on. First, a magnetic vector potential is indeed defined by B = dA. Note the article 'a' instead of 'the' -- as observed above, A is not uniquely defined due to 'gauge freedom'. But that's not what they are objecting to! They say that this is a bad definition since "an equation says nothing about the nature of anything on its right or on its left, but merely states that the entire right side has the same magnitude as does the entire left side." First, that's wrong, because equations aren't just about magnitudes - in this case, you've got direction to worry about, too. But ultimately, they're complaining about the use of an equals sign instead of a 'defined by' sign. This is insane - they THEMSELVES choose to use an equals sign, and then they complain about it!

Further, people generally use this relation (B = dA) to define A, not B. That is, A is the one-form such that the equation holds.

I don't think I need to go on. These people don't hold PhDs in physics, that much is obvious. PhDs in theology from Bob Jones University, maybe. Physics, no.

This 'paper' is full of bullshit arguments, vigorous handwaving, and no math that wouldn't induce peals of laughter in anyone even marginally familiar with some of the terms they use. Don't be taken in.

There ain't no such thing as a free lunch.

References used:

J. Baez and J. Munian, Gauge Fields, Knots, and Gravity, World Scientific Publishing, 1994.

Gauge transformations

Lorentz gauge


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