Ten-trillionth time's a charm

A reader writes:

From: John
To: dan@dansdata.com
Subject: re your rod magnets.
Date: Wed, 21 Jan 2009 20:35:17 +0900

Dear Dan,

Amazing,!!! I was looking for what was available and came across your page, and it seems you have what I am looking for.

I am a retired engineer who has had a bee in my bonnet for years about using magnetic force to produce a reliable motor that requires no electricity.

I had a reasonable plan of how to do it but like most never quite got round to doing it.

Now I am looking at videos from YouTube showing how many people have all had the same idea.

I would like to know if you do a pack of 1/4inchx1'long high powered magnets and if so how much in total I am thinking of say twenty to start with.

There is a video under the heading of free energy by a company called Tesla comp. in the States who look like they have cracked it and it is worth watching.

if you could, I would like a price list showing the type of magnet, and the price per pack and of course the number in the pack including freight costs to Australia.

If you have more detailed information that you think would be of help please email me and let me know.

I am really very keen to go into this while I still can.

I served in the royal navy as a saturation diver and worked on the first nuclear subs.

Because they leaked badly (there was a team of eight) we all got cooked about three times and all had problems with cancer of some kind, I got cancer of the bone but am the only one of the team left, and have been on chemo for thirty years. However that is beginning to lose its effectiveness.

As you can guess like all those involved nobody owns up to what they did so no compensation for any including a lot of friends I made in the U.S. Navy.

I look at it that I am still here so you never know.

So i just get my pension for what it is.

Maybe I will come up with something that will pay better, you never know.

It was nice to find your web page and your sense of wit.

All the best and look forward to hearing from you.

Western Australia

My reply:

I can only urge you to find something better to do with the remainder of your retirement.

This sort of quest has, on the very very numerous times it has previously been tried, at best led to nothing but frustration and disappointment. I've written about it previously.

I don't sell magnets, I just wrote about them a few times. It's easy to get NIB magnets of all shapes and sizes, from miniscule to large and very dangerous, on eBay these days.

The two outfits that provided me with various magnets for my two big reviews were Otherpower's Forcefield Magnets and Engineered Concepts. (There was also Amazing Magnets...

Mysterious magnetic object

...but they're not really what you're looking for here.)

I'm not sure exactly which video you're referring to, because the brilliant - but also rather deranged - Nikola Tesla is almost unavoidable in all areas of electrical "weird science".

(And, of course, a measure of magnetic field strength is named after him. According to the units that bear their names, Nikola Tesla is worth 10,000 Carl Friedrich Gausses!)

The first "TESLA free energy generator" video I found on YouTube/Google Video when I just did a search was this one:

The fact that this video obviously comes from a well-played VHS tape, yet the company responsible still hasn't managed to "reinvent the electric power companies in America", may tip you off to the fact that the product on offer is not quite as valuable as the video makes out. This company is in fact "Better World Technologies", run by one Dennis Lee, who I have also written about previously. There are a number of other outfits doing essentially the same thing Dennis is doing.

I apologise if this isn't the video you were talking about, but I think you'll find that most, if not all, other such works on YouTube, etc, fall into two categories.

The first category is hobbyists who're barking up much the same tree that you're considering, and who may or may not think they're making progress. Often, measurement mistakes like not correctly reading the RMS output of a device make it look as if it's doing something; the poor hobbyist in this situation may spend years trying to find the "minor bug" that must be the only reason why his contraption can't charge its batteries faster than it empties them.

(At this juncture, allow me to recommend the Pure Energy Systems Wiki, PESWiki, which is all about "breakthrough clean energy technologies". It has articles about just about every currently popular free-energy scheme, plus equivalents like "run your car on water" systems. Most of the things documented on PESWiki are utterly preposterous and, in my opinion, not considered nearly critically enough, but it's a great reference source, to see if even True Believers think they've made Device X work, or if they find the claims of Promoter Y plausible. PESWiki has a whole directory page about Dennis Lee.)

The second category of YouTube free-energy videos is entirely made, so far as I can determine, by scam artists, who may be deliberately doing what the hobbyists do by accident, or may have any number of other tricks up their sleeves.

Here in Australia, "Lutec" are a big name in the "press releases about free energy" business. They haven't, to my knowledge, been as successful at the "actually MAKING free energy" aspect of their business.

And then, as we come back toward things that could actually work in the real world, there are outfits like Thermogen, which aren't selling perpetual motion machines at all, but whose numbers still don't quite add up.

There are many "free energy" ideas - in the sense of "power that you don't have to pay for", not "energy from nowhere" - that really are very promising. High-efficiency solar collectors that'll fit on a suburban roof, for instance.

Evacuated-tube thermal collectors are very effective, and can be used for simple water heating or to power a heat engine. There's also considerable promise in photovoltaic concentrator designs, that let you use fewer, higher-quality solar cells - provided you can keep the cells from burning up, and track the sun accurately enough.

(Note also the next letter on that page.)

In closing, I really must urge you in the strongest possible terms to use your remaining years on this planet to do something other than become a footnote, to a footnote, to a footnote, in the Big Book Of Failed Free Energy Ideas.

I am aware that the man who says it cannot be done should not interrupt the man who is doing it, but when "it" appears to have many things in common with both finding the Loch Ness Monster and travelling faster than light, I cannot in good conscience advise anybody to invest any time at all in such a miserably hopeless activity.

22 Responses to “Ten-trillionth time's a charm”

  1. j Says:

    Good answer.

    Just the other day, I had to have a talk with a (well educated) co-worker who was convinced buying 100 scratchies in a row would significantly increase his chances of winning a big prize.

    Sadly, the world is full of people who should know better, but don't.

    (See also: What about the budget deficit? PRINT MORE MONEY!)

  2. Chazzozz Says:

    Just the other day, I had to have a talk with a (well educated) co-worker who was convinced buying 100 scratchies in a row would significantly increase his chances of winning a big prize.

    Sadly, the world is full of people who should know better, but don’t.

    *sigh* I must admit that I've actually done this. It was merely as a bit of a lark, and because I was young & foolish and thought spending $100 on scratchies would be fun.

    Surprisingly, I made nearly $90 back in winnings, but I certainly don't believe I actually improved my chances of cracking The Big One.

    I guess that ties in with the lesson here: if it sounds too good to be true then it most likely is, and you'll only end up with less money than you started with.

  3. tantryl Says:

    You should forward John's details to Alfie Carrington.

  4. Zarquon Says:

    One tesla is 10,000 gauss actually.

    [Quite right - I've fixed it. -Dan]

  5. Daniel Rutter Says:

    Re the lottery-ticket thing, I cannot resist the urge to nitpick.

    I'd say that a 100-fold increase of the chance of anything happening is very definitely a significant one, in the statistical sense. But in the lottery situtation, the original probability being multiplied is so minuscule that buying a hundred tickets indeed does, as you say, still not leave you with a real chance of winning. The journey of a thousand miles may begin with a single step, but whether you take one or a hundred steps on a journey of a billion miles, you're still not likely to make it to the end.

    If you buy pretty much any sort of lottery ticket on the way to work every day, you're much more likely to die by misadventure that day than you are to Win Big Bucks. If that chance of death doesn't bother you, the far smaller chance of winning shouldn't excite you.

    Buying lottery tickets is a perfectly valid form of entertainment, though, if you ask me. There's nothing wrong with the daydream of maybe becoming fantastically wealthy on drawing day or, in the case of scratch-lotto tickets, making a year's salary in 30 seconds during your lunch break. It's only if you start mistaking the lottery for an investment strategy that it becomes a problem.

    Similarly, there's nothing wrong with having a recreational interest in Weird Science and the strange and tragic characters that inhabit the field. It's only if you decide to add your own efforts to the quest for antigravity, or perpetual motion, or communication with the dead, that you're likely to end up devoting your life to a long-lost cause.

  6. TwoHedWlf Says:

    Back before I used eftpos pretty much exclusively I'd occasionally go and dump all my pocket change into scratchies once it'd built up enough to start annoying me. Usually around $5 or so. Then any winnings go back into more and more until I run out. Never made any real money, but once went about 4 rounds before I ran out of money.:)

  7. GeeJay Says:

    Umm the exception to prove the rule I guess...

    My grandmother, whilst on the pension bought $100 worth of tickets in what was then the Opera House lottery. My mother was furious that she 'wasted' money on such thing.

    She won!

    First prize, both one off prizes etc and because she didn't want to lose the pension if she happened to win a small prize she put all the tickets in my mothers name.

    My father then proceeded to gamble away all his super before he even retired but that is another, more sad, story.

  8. j Says:

    Umm the exception to prove the rule I guess…

    It's not really an exception - somebody has to win big, it's just really unlikely that that person happens to be you.

    Let's be honest here: Spending 100 bucks on scratchies when you're on the pension should be considered sunk money. And if she was struggling to manage finances at the time, it was a very silly thing to do.

    But if she just knowingly chose to blow her entertainment budget all in one go, then that would've been some pretty fun entertainment :-)

  9. Eschatonic Says:

    Dang Dan you should have sold him some magnets.

    But seriously though - surely the strangest thing about Tesla was casting David Bowie to play him in the otherwise excellent movie 'The Prestige'.
    I cannot think of any sensible reason to cast Bowie other than to suggest a parallel between Nikola Tesla and the character Mr Newton played by Bowie in the movie 'The Man Who Fell to Earth'.

  10. kamikrae-z Says:

    Quiet Eschatonic! Lest The Sovereign overhear you and send his minions to strike you down!

  11. RichVR Says:

    I actually liked Bowie in that part. On HD you can see that he has two different color eyes. Kinda creepy. In a cool way.

  12. mlipphardt Says:

    @RichVR - So does Mila Kunis. On the whole, I'd rather look at her!

  13. Stark Says:

    Mila Kunis. Morning improved. Thank-you.

  14. Daniel Rutter Says:

    Bowie doesn't really have different-coloured eyes - he just has one permanently-dilated pupil, from an injury when he was a kid.

    Mila Kunis does have different-coloured eyes, but either I'm colour-blind or the difference is only small.

  15. Stoneshop Says:

    Oh dear. A navy engineer who can spot your wit, but then fails to notice you're not actually selling stuff, just reviewing it.

    Those nuke subs must have leaked not only radioactivity, but also bozons.

  16. violet Says:

    This article got us talking about high school lab classes, so a quick question: somewhere, at some point, you linked to a college lab report which actually told the truth--our data was shite, it bears no relationship to the maths, and I should have gone into computers science (or maybe English).

    I can't find it at all. I remember it being hilarious. Do you, perchance, have that link?

  17. SA Penguin Says:

    If you consider a "motor" as a device that converts energy into rotational force (torque), and your goal is to magnetic fields BUT NOT electicity, I must ask... are you re-inventing the radiometer?

  18. violet Says:

    Indeed it is! Excellent.

  19. Jonadab Says:

    > I had to have a talk with a (well educated) co-worker
    > who was convinced buying 100 scratchies in a row
    > would significantly increase his chances of winning

    I suppose "well-educated" is relative to the bulk of society, but really, shouldn't a really good education include at least a basic prob-and-stats class? I mean, yes, sure, it improves his chances of winning, by epsilon, but it also increases his losses proportionately. If buying a $1 lottery ticket means on average you lose $0.9975, then buying $100 in tickets means you lose on average $99.75.

    Of course, it's not quite that bad, because the lottery outfits have discovered that frequent small "winnings" (reduced losses) make people spend more on tickets. So in the real world a $1 lottery purchase may only lose you, on average, somewhere between thirty and seventy cents, depending on jurisdiction, and thus a $100 purchase loses you between thirty and seventy dollars. But that's still worse than never buying any and breaking even every time.

    > I made nearly $90 back in winnings,

    In other words, you're out $10 net, when all is said and done, i.e., 10% of the *official* list price of the tickets you bought. But since the tickets you bought are sold at *way* more than 10x markup over their real value, it was still not, fiscally speaking, a good investment.

    Of course, if you figure you got $10 worth of enjoyment out of scratching the stupid things off, then it's no worse than spending $10 in quarters at the arcade, and 50% cheaper than spending $15 to pay Laser Tag for a minute and a half. But personally I don't understand how anyone who has even a vague understanding of the probabilities involved could get $10 worth of entertainment out of scratching off a hundred lottery tickets. What a boring and tedious way to spend three minutes!

    > but I certainly don’t believe I actually
    > improved my chances of cracking The Big One.

    Technically you did, but not by enough to be worth anywhere near the $10 you spent, or anywhere near $1 for that matter.

    And I'm assuming here, benefit of the doubt, that you got the $90 back in cash, not in "free" tickets. (Free tickets would be worth only a fraction of a percent of their face value, so in that case you'd still be out nearly the full hundred bucks, though you could count the added joy of scratching off that many more tickets as an underwhelming benefit.)

  20. Jonadab Says:

    The main reason, IMO, that people consistently overvalue lottery tickets, is because they have a rather poor and very underestimated conception of how many people there are in the world generally, in their *part* of the world, and, most particularly, in the population of competing ticket buyers. If a $50 million prize is being given away, they're typically selling *billions* of dollars worth of tickets. This is easy to do.

    Let's say, for the sake of argument, that we're talking about the Ohio Super Lotto. (I don't think that's current any more, but I'm using it as an example because I know how it worked, because it was current when I still watched television and thus saw the lottery adverts.) The population of the state is well over ten million people, so if 30% of them buy tickets (which is, I'm pretty sure, conservative), and of the people who buy tickets if the average expenditure is only $10 (which is also almost certainly a lowball estimate), that's $30 million in tickets sold. The jackpot in this game went up by a million each time there was no winner, as I recall, and then reset, so a jackpot of $10 million implies it's gone up nine times, for a total of $270 million in ticket sales, conservatively, which makes every dollar's "worth" of tickets *actually* worth less than four cents. In practice, I'm pretty sure it's actually worse than that, because the ticket sales increase as the jackpot rises, and because my figures are, in a word, kind. And Ohio has since done away with the Super Lotto in favor of (presumably) even more lucrative (i.e., overpriced) games.

    mlipphardt, just to clarify, are you suggesting that Mila Kunis should have been cast as Tesla in The Prestige?

    Regarding the difference in her eye colors: to me it looks like she has basically the same colors in both eyes, or at least very similar, but the inner (more brownish) color takes up a larger percentage of the area of one iris, and the outer (blue-grey-ish) color covers a larger percentage of the area of the other.

  21. Eschatonic Says:

    My issue with casting the Thin White Duke as Tesla is that he had the sort of look about him that, just slightly, hinted that if the Austrian accent got a bit too much he might start singing The Laughing Gnome. Personally I thought it was a bit unsettling but possibly I was just subconciously reacting to his asymetric pupils.
    On the other hand it made me think of Wendy Richards and Mike Sarne singing 'Come Outside' which is no bad thing at all.
    As for the young lady - it's not like a case of these Siberian Huskies is it? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siberian_husky
    IMHO I think that 'scale' is a subject that warrants being taught as a general curriculum requirement at school because it's so important and so staggeringly misjudged. The other day I offered an 11 year old the choice between a plastic pot full of 10 cent coins or a 5 buck note as payment for a trivial job. Yep - that job cost me 5 bucks. Next time he's gonna get magic beans.

Leave a Reply