Friday, February 15, 2008
I probably missed a few, but I estimate that every year I see about five
perpetual motion machine claims. You may recall Steorn, the Dublin
company that assembled a jury of scientists to evaluate its 2006 claim of
generating free energy from "rotating magnets"
(WN 25 Aug 06). In 2007 the company
went belly-up. The first one this year is the Perepiteia invented by
Thane Heins of Almonte, Ontario, who fits the mold perfectly. The 46-year
old Heins is not scientist; he dropped out of an electronics program, but
earned a chef's diploma. The secret? "Rotating magnets." His wife took
the children and left over his obsession with Perepiteia. "I have mild
dyslexia and don't do well in math," Heins told the Toronto Star, "so I
don't do well in school." But wait, two weeks ago an MIT Electrical
Engineering Professor, Marcus Zahn agreed to view a demonstration. Heins
held a permanent magnet a few centimeters from an induction motor - and it
speeded up. Wow! The Toronto Star contacted Zahn, who said it surprised
him. WN is trying to reach Zahn.
First the public was assured that the danger from a school bus sized "spy
satellite" expected to make an uncontrolled reentry is "very small." Now
we learn the President has ordered the Navy to shoot it down with a
missile interceptor because it's carrying a tank of dangerous hydrazine.
How dangerous is hydrazine? "If you inhale a lot of it, it could in fact
be deadly," an official said, which is true of most fuels. It's a
standard low-power propellant used in spacecraft maneuvering thrusters.
Perhaps the most serious consequence of shooting the satellite down is the
space debris it would generate. When China used an interceptor to shoot
down an obsolete weather satellite it littered low-Earth orbit with more
than 100,000 fragments, and the Bush Administration expressed outrage. In
any case, the probability of it hitting a populated area is slight, and
speculation has focused on the "real" reasons for wanting to shoot it
Before the Super-Tuesday primaries I got a dozen emails telling me "a vote
for Huckabee is a vote for the Second Amendment." I don't care how much
fun people get out of blowing away cottontail rabbits and mourning doves,
this is the 21st Century and it's time to start controlling the
availability of hand guns and assault weapons.
The second Director of the National Center for Complementary and
Alternative Medicine, she replaces Stephen Straus who died last year
(WN 7 Jun 07) and is expected to
continue his policy of rigorous science. Asked by Science if anything
that works had come out of CAM, she paused and replied that, "the tai chi
for shingles was very nice."