When hearing claims of technology breakthroughs from inventors, there are certain things that should raise your eyebrows: extreme claims yet lack of details how it works; talk of years of secret development; patents and government accountability are in the works; claims that big companies want to buy you out.
All those are part of a story about an inventor in western Massachusetts who is developing an energy system that sounds like it might be similar to a Stirling engine, using a secret sauce to make it hyper-efficient. So the BS meter pegged in the red when I saw this article in the Hampshire Gazette. Sample line: “According to Maynard, it uses no fuel, creates no emissions or waste, and can be easily scaled and replicated anywhere there is solid ground to produce reliable, affordable power.”
(UPDATE: Some illustrations posted from sources I can’t speak for make it look like a classic “unbalanced perpetual motion machine” that uses liquid instead of balls, weights or magnets. Liquid in one tube made heavier with secret sauce pushes liquid in a parallel tube and but somehow doesn’t back push the other way when it’s done. Sort of like saying you can get the energy out of a waterfall without the water ever actually falling.)
But that might be jumping to conclusions because the story is written by a non-technical staffer, so it’s hard to tell. I don’t know the staff but I’ll bet they have little or no technical training, so they just wrote down the inventor’s claims and presented them as is – although it wouldn’t have hurt to have included a variant of “that seems too good to be true” from a local engineering professor. Maybe if the inventor was dealing with a more specialized reporter, he would have toned things down.
So it’s not impossible that there’s some useful technology amid the over-the-top claims. It’s also possible that the inventor is fooling himself (as so many inventors do) into believing that the technology will work as he thinks it should if he just gets a little more money to do a little more development which means there’s no harm in exaggerating claims just a little bit.
I know which way I’d bet.
During my employment as an engineer, we had more than one party approach us requesting help developing a machine or system that sounded too good to be true. Efficiency would be extremely high, etc., etc. However, on careful review, we would find that the proposed design required unachievable manufacturing precision, or some similar issue preventing it from ever achieving the predicted performance. Some of the “inventors” were sincere but naive, others were true snake-oil salesmen. All were interesting.
“All were interesting” – ha! Great line.
I recall in the 1970’s a NH man claimed he could heat a house with a washing machine that would spin oil to generate heat. The Manchester Union Leader/NH Sunday News had photos and an article about his claims. It would solve all our problems with high home heating costs. Supposedly, a N.H. U. S. Senator or Congressmen (as they were all men back then) intended to present this idea in Washington to secure funding so we could all heat our houses with it. At the time I was a Mechanical Engineering student so knew this was absurd but was surprised by all the publicity and the many that believed it could work. Never heard about it again. Does anyone remember this contraption?
See an article I just posted!
I’ve megaphoned this on Twitter – we’ll see if any engineer old-timers can help out.