The Ergosphere
Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Scamwatch: Steorn

When things get tough, people get desperate.  Desperate people will grasp at straws for solutions to their problems.  Consider the worthless remedies obtained (sometimes at ruinous cost) by people with cancer.  Laetrile and "psychic surgery" just begin the list.  The money spent on these nostrums has made some of the scammers wealthy.

When the problem is lack or excessive cost of energy, the list isn't constrained by regulators preventing the unlicensed practice of medicine.  People still sell "fuel-line magnets", and apparently have buyers.  Even the legend of the 200 MPG carburetor appears to have new life in it.

In areas served by gas-fired electric generators, both heating fuel and electricity are becoming very expensive and even scarce.  With North Sea gas declining steeply, one harsh winter could leave Britain in crisis.  It shouldn't be too surprising that the inevitable worry this engenders has produced "solutions" of questionable merit.

Steorn ( is touting a new version of the "free energy from magnets" scam.  The history of failure behind these devices discourages them not at all; they claim:

We have developed a technology that produces free, clean and constant energy.

This means never having to recharge your phone, never having to refuel your car. A world with an infinite supply of clean energy for all.

Our technology has been independently validated by engineers and scientists - always off the record, always proven to work.

(Emphasis in original.)

It should make one wonder, though:  why "always off the record"?  What's wrong with their invention that nobody will back the claim of verification with their own reputation?

The obvious conclusion is that Steorn is a scam.  The reason you should know it's a scam is because electromagnetic devices work according to Maxwell's equations.  Maxwell's equations are conservative (any energy coming out has to have been put in somewhere, and by known means); if anyone found a violation of them it would have been Nobel prize material from the moment of discovery.

Nobody's collected that Nobel.  No papers have been printed.  Nobody's even declared an anomalous phenomenon (like the inability of gravitational contraction to explain the apparent lifespan of the Sun, which was finally explained by hydrogen fusion after the discovery of E=mc^2).

All Steorn has done is issue a "challenge" to scientists.  They want to "choose twelve and negotiate terms", which is a code phrase for picking the credulous instead of the thorough.  Producing one working example and letting it do the proving for them appears to be beyond them.

If they can't even make one, what makes anyone think they could possibly make enough to save the world?

Hold onto your wallet.  Save your money for something like John Cooper's direct-carbon fuel cells.  You might note that he is not afraid to tell the world how they work.  That's the difference between invention and fraud.

EP, it's been apparent for some while that "9-11 changed everything", including the elementary rules of logic. To that I suppose we should add the elementary rules of thermodynamics. It will be most interesting to learn the identities of the 12 emminent scientists chosen to aid in buzz-generation.
Indeed.  Perhaps some of them will be job-seekers from Bryan Leonard's former dissertation committee.
Cold Fusion.
At least cold fusion didn't violate any of the fundamental laws of thermodynamics.

While Steorn looks like a fraud, I can't say the same thing about cold fusion. In the years since Pons & Fleischman's original announcement, there have been reported observations of fusion byproducts. There appears to be something to it, but few can investigate because to do so is said to be professional suicide.

In a similar vein, so-called Resonant Transfer Plasmas, a plasma created in a mixture of hydrogen and an inert gas, result in anomalously high (100x chemical E's?)energies being imparted to the hydrogen atoms. This appears to be a real effect, and it sounds pretty easy to reproduce as well, unlike CF. The kicker, however is that it does not appear that it can be explained by conventional quantum mechanics, but allegedly is explained by a heretofor unknown electronic state of hydrogen with fractional principal quantum number. This theory is expounded by one Randell Mills, an MD-turned-plasma physicist who has a company called Blacklight Power.( They are trying to commercialize the effect, they seem to have money and are hiring people. Mills is seen as outside the scientific community, I suppose for his zany theory, despite the fact that he publishes in real journals. (e.g. J. Appl. Phys.; Int. J. Hydrogen Energy) It's not hard to understand how people could detect, shall we say, a whiff of fraud here, but the effect looks undeniably real- there is a lot of solid spectroscopy that backs it up. They are apparently putting a lot of effort into generating a lot of the ultra low energy hydrogen species, synthesizing compounds of it, and characterizing them. Originally the production of energy was what I had heard about, but that might be going nowhere fast- i dunno. I would be interested in hearing other people's insights on this crew.
If their developmetn is as good as they claim they should submit their ideas to peer review.
There's an interview up on YouTube:

Amazing how much attention this vapourware has generated, while promising technology such as wave power is practically unknown amongst the general public.
If you're interested in getting updates on what Steorn has been up to, check out my blog:

Let me know what you think!
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