Over in the thread about Engineer Borg and his wacked-out electromagnetic theory
of gravity, a commenter popped up and pointed at the web-site of someone named Tom Bearden, who supposedly has shown how to generate free "vacuum" energy using electronic and/or electromagnetic devices.
I hadn't heard of Dr. Bearden before, and promised to take a look at his website.
So I went and took a look. And wow, I hit the jackpot! This is an absolute masterwork of crackpottery. Dr Bearden's lunacy covers just about every conceivable topic, from conspiracy theories, to HIV denalism, to wacky physics, magical woo healing devices, post-Soviet KGB collaborations with the Japanese government to shoot down American planes and manipulate weather....
To give you a bit of flavor: he's got a bibliography of information that allegedly supports his theories. If you take a look at it, the first thing you see is listed as "National Science Foundation letter favorably reviewing Bearden Paper". The contents of that link consist of a scanned letter from the NSF replying to an email sent by Dr. Bearden, which consists of a basic standardized form letter inviting him to submit an actual proposal, and warning that he'd better include some proof that his perpetual motion machine really works, and an explanation of how.
Moving on.. The heart of most of Dr. Bearden's claims is that Maxwell's equations have been deliberately corrupted to eliminate concepts like "negative resistance" which can result in electrical systems generating more power than they consume. Let's take it from the beginning (in so far as I can identify a beginning on his nightmarishly organized website).
"Maxwell's" vector equations taught in university are actually Heaviside's truncated equations, and are only a simplified version of what Maxwell originally wrote.
The Maxwell-Heaviside theory of electrodynamics is now well over a century old, and is actually a serious truncation of Maxwell's 1865 theory of 20 equations in 20 unknowns (those are specifically listed in the original published paper in 1865). Because it was "tainted" with a higher group symmetry algebra (quaternions), even Maxwell himself came under intense pressure to simplify it, after the publication of the first edition of his famous Treatise in 1873. Consequently, Maxwell was rewriting and greatly "watering down" his own Treatise, having finished rewriting and greatly reducing some 80% of it at the time of his death in 1879. The second edition and third edition, therefore, are NOT the original Maxwellian theory, but a very serious truncation.
The further great "simplification" occurred by several scientists after Maxwell's death, in the 1880s, and notably by Heaviside, Hertz, and Gibbs. The equations taught today at university as "Maxwell's theory" are pale shadows, and those equations themselves are actually the equations and notations of Heaviside, further "symmetrically regauged" by Lorentz (which very neatly threw out all COP>1.0 EM systems taking their excess energy from the vacuum in the form of free asymmetrical regauging). At the time these altered Maxwell equations were adopted in general, it occurred in a short "debate" (mostly in the journal Nature) where the vectorists simply discarded the quaternists' work, etc. It was not done by "sweet science", but by sheer dogma and individual preference for "simplicity".
This is a thoroughly mangled version of the history of Maxwell's equations. Here's a brief version of real history:
- Maxwell published the first form of his equations - 20 equations in 20 unknowns.
- Maxwell reformulated his 20 equations into a set of 4 quaternion equations.
- Heaviside translated Maxwell's quaternion equations into vector equations.
- Special relativity once again reformulated Maxwell's equations using 4-vectors and removing the "universal reference frame assumption".
The claim of Bearden is that in the re-formulations of Maxwell's equation, something was lost. He claims that the original version of Maxwell's equation included the ability to do something that he calls "free asymmetrical regauging", which extracts energy from a vacuum.
That's the most mathematically robust part of Bearden's rambling. From there, it degenerates rapidly into pure babble:
So our present classical theory still implicitly retains the material ether more than 100 years after that ether was falsified by the Michelson-Morley experiments. Not an equation was changed after those experiments! The "Maxwellians" as they are referred to, all originally assumed the material ether, which meant that they assumed there was not a single point in the entire universe that was devoid of mass. Consequently, the EM fields were--to them--obviously very material fields indeed; they ALWAYS occurred in mass (e.g., in the material ether). They were therefore erroneously assumed to be force fields. Mass is actually a component of force (though that is still ignored in classical mechanics as well); there is no separate mass-free force acting upon a separate mass, because the phrase "mass-free force" itself is an oxymoron). Many foundations physicists have discussed this "material origin of force", so it is well-known by leading scientists (though seldom known to engineers).
First: Mass is a component of force? Since when? "mass-free force" is an oxymoron? Where's this stuff coming from? We know that light and other electromagnetic waves can exert a force - in fact, Maxwell's equations describe that. But light is massless.
Second: Maxwell's equations did a remarkable job of describing electromagnetism. the fact that we discovered that the aether assumption was incorrect didn't mean that we would throw them away - they still do their job of predicting electromagetic interactions quite well. Newton's laws of motion assume that mass is a fixed quantity - which we now know is incorrect. But that doesn't mean that we don't use Newton's laws - in non-relativistic settings, they remain an extremely accurate tool. And that's a darned good metaphor, because just like relativity includes a correction to fix Newton's laws of motion, it also includes a correction to Maxwell's equations.
So we have a peculiar situation and one of the great stalemates in human history: In modern physics terms, a "force" is generated in, on, and of a mass (e.g., a charged mass) when the volumetric mass-free fields (as curvatures of spacetime relativistically, or as altered virtual particle flux of the vacuum region in particle physics) in mass-free space interact with and on a charged mass. That ongoing interaction is indeed what a "force" identically is, prior to observation. Note that this also gives a physical mechanism to the notion of "asymmetrical regauging", where the potentials (and potential energy) of the system (in this case, the interacting charged mass) is freely changed.
Gibberish, written up in fancy terminology. Basically, what this is doing is mucking around with the symmetry concept of relativity. Relativity says that you can switch reference frames in ways that alter the apparent energy of a mass. For example, if you consider a body and an observer, and you treat the observer as stationary, then the mass will have some velocity, and thus some kinetic energy relative to that reference frame. You can switch to a frame in which the observer is moving, and the velocity and kinetic energy of the body will appear to be different. Nothing has changed - the translation between reference frames is symmetric. This process is called regauging.
But Quaternions are not symmetric. So if you use the quaternion form of Maxwell's equations, and do the relativistic reference frame shift, you can get a non-symmetric reguage - which, if you work through the equations, means that you can create energy. Or you could, if in fact the quaternion form of Maxwell's equations was compatible with relativity. Which they aren't.
So what Bearden is arguing, ultimately, is that the viewpoint change represented by a shift of a reference-frame has real physical implications: by simply switching reference frames to one in which there is more energy, we can get energy. After all, if you do the relativistic reference-frame translation using quaternions, you get a non-symmetric translation where there is more energy than before the translation. So it's surplus energy, generated from nowhere.
The problem is that he's thoroughly botching the math. He's insisting on using the non-symmetric quaternion form of Maxwell's equations; but he's also insisting on using the symmetric translation of relativity - even though the two are completely incompatible. The "free energy" is coming from the performing a translation that's dependent on a kind of symmetry on a set of values that do not possess the required symmetry. It's a basic math error - roughly like applying a theorem derived for an abelian group to an algebra on a non-abelian group.
From there, it degenerates into pure conspiracy theory, about how many times free
energy devices have been invented and surpressed; how the KGB in collaboration with
Japan used an electromagnetic free-energy weapon to shoot down TWA flight 800;
how all of the weather in North America since 1976 has been artificially managed/produced using
electromagnetic free-energy devices; how AIDS is really a weapon in biological warfare, how EMFE devices can cure cancer, AIDS, SARS,
anthrax, and any genetic disorder in one 30 second treatment, but it's all
being covered up by Big Pharma.
Bearden is, quite possibly, the looniest crackpot I've found so far.