Free Energy by Switching Cameras (Classic Repost)

Oct 31 2010 Published by under Bad Physics

This is an edited repost of a classic. Back when I first put up the post about the genius theories of Engineer Borg, a commenter pointed me towards the website of a Dr. Tom Bearden. Dr. Bearden is a veritable renaissance man of crackpottery: he hasinvented a perfect free energy system which has been quashed by a conspiracy of governments and corporations; invented a cure for all major diseases (again hidden by the strenuous efforts of corporations and governments); demonstrated the flaw in relativity... You name it, Tom has done it!

Before I get to the details of that, let me give you a sense of the flavor of his site. Dr. Tom clearly believes that he is a genius of epic proportions, and that the entire world actually knows it. For example, he repeatedly talks about how his work was favorably reviewed by the National Science Foundation! Which means it's brilliant! Only it was quashed by the Evil Government Conspiracy before he could demonstrate it! So I went looking for the supposed favorable review of his free-energy work. And I found it in his list of references, listed as "National Science Foundation letter favorably reviewing Bearden Paper".

This looks interesting, right? A review from the NSF? So, click the link, and... 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.

Put in slightly different terms: look at a ball sitting on the ground with a movie camera. Don't move the camera. The ball isn't moving. So according to your camera, the ball's kinetic energy is zero. Now, switch to a moving camera, going past the same ball. Now, according to that camera, the ball is moving! Its kinetic energy, according to camera 2, is greater than zero! By switching cameras, we've changed its kinetic energy, and according to Dr. Bearden, we can extract that energy that we just created by switching cameras! Of course, Dr. Tom doesn't really claim that switching cameras around the ball creates energy. But he does make an equivalent claim about electromagnetism.

How does this work, according to Dr. Bearden? 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 electromagnetic free-energy 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.

Pretty much, what it comes down to is: Tom Bearden is the messiah, being blocked by the evil forces of the antichrist. He claims to be a perfect genius in multiple fields, perfecting all of engineering, physics, medicine, and lord-only-knows what else with his magnificent discoveries, which surpass all other human creations.

Based on this, I have to conclude that Bearden is, quite possibly, the looniest crackpot I've found so far.

10 responses so far

  • Don't get me started on crackpots. And yet, I've been working on the following... for on online venue which pays me, and for which I've had 13 short articles already published.
    http://hplusmagazine.com/search/node/Jonathan%20Vos%20Post

    I admit, it takes someone who knows Physics and Computer Science to know whether I'm a crackpot or not from such text as below:

    Logic for Infinite Capitalists -- Perfect Computers that Run Forever?
    By Jonathan Vos Post
    For H+ online, “AI”, “Energy”, “Science” sections, written 23-27 Oct 2010
    Partial draft of 31 Oct 2010, 32 pages single-spaced (with metadata on the 32nd page), approx. 13,900 words, including appendix [corrects typos, expands, replaces draft of 28 Oct 2010, 24 pages single-spaced (with metadata on the 24th page), approx. 10,000 words ; Partial draft of 27 Oct 2010, 18 pages single-spaced (with metadata on the 18th page), approx. 7,800 words; Partial draft of 26 Oct 2010, 9 pages] – this is still growing longer before I can edit it to be shorter
    ======================================
    Logic for Infinite Capitalists -- Perfect Computers that Run Forever?
    by
    Jonathan Vos Post
    31 Oct 2010
    1. Introduction

    Is it possible, in mathematical principles, or in our actual physical universe, to build a thermodynamically perfect computer than can run forever on its own initial energy, without requiring an external power source? Surprisingly, several experts keep the door open in the face of objections that "the outcome is too good to be true."

    To see the promise and paradox of this revolution, we look at sophisticated ideas of math professor John Baez (on leave in Singapore from University of California, Riverside), Mike Stay (Google California and Computer Science at Auckland, New Zealand), Tommaso Toffoli (Boston University), Silvio Capobianco (Reykjavic University, Iceland), and their co-authors in Rome and other cities.

    We will flash back to the history behind these ideas by such giants as Richard Feynman (1985 proposal for Quantum Computers), Freeman Dyson (1979 paper “Time Without End: Physics and Biology in an Open Universe”, which led to my paper “Human Destiny and the End of Time”, quoted extensively in novel by Gregory Benford, and weakly rediscovered a decade later by an Oxford Philosopher who got massive publicity for this). Before them, but on whose foundations the revolution rests, were J. Willard Gibbs’s 19th century and Claude Shannon's 1948 breakthroughs in Entropy (in thermodynamics and communications), James Clerk Maxwell's “Demon”, Charles Babbage’s steam-powered computers, the Probability/logician Thomas Bayes, the Cellular Automata of John von Neumann and Stanislaw Ulam, Quantum Mechanics pioneer Leo Szilard, and John Horton Conway's “Game of Life.”

    The instruments of Physics have long pushed the art of computing forward. As Vannevar Bush wrote in 1945: “Rapid electrical counting appeared soon after the physicists found it desirable to count cosmic rays. For their own purposes the physicists promptly constructed thermionic-tube equipment capable of counting electrical impulses at the rate of 100,000 a second. The advanced arithmetical machines of the future will be electrical in nature, and they will perform at 100 times present speeds, or more. Moreover, they will be far more versatile than present commercial machines, so that they may readily be adapted for a wide variety of operations.”

    [other names mentioned later:
    Charles Babbage, Ludwig Boltzmann, Vannevar Bush, Rudolph Clausius, Alonzo Church, Gregory Chaitin, Charles Darwin, Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, Lord Kelvin, Kolmogorov, Blaise Pascal, Max Planck, Erwin Schrödinger, Alan Turing]...

    What do you think, MarkCC? I'll only email you the full draft if you ask.

  • The statement regarding incompatibility is still somewhat confusing to me, especially since your example is based on terminology I don't know very well at all (Abelian vs. Non-Abelian).

    Mathematically you state there is a way from the Quaternion-based theory (reformulation->translation->remove of absolute reference frame) to relativity.

    I would love to hear more about such incompatibilities. I mean, something was done mathematically to get from quaternions to some description that does not necessitate some fixed frame of reference. What happens there?

    In hope of making some sense, untilthen

  • ShadowWalkyr says:

    This reminds me of a conversation I had when I was in the second grade. Somebody had asked what "keeps the sun on fire." I answered "Gravity."

    My reasoning went like this: I knew that things under pressure tend to heat up, and I knew that the sun's gravity created pressures far in excess of what I could comfortably comprehend. Therefore, I concluded, the pressure should be making heat far in excess of what I could comfortably comprehend. I also knew that hot things tended to glow in the visible range of light (among others). If the sun was hot in excess of what I could comfortably comprehend, then it should be radiating heat and light in excess of what I could comfortably comprehend. Since that was exactly what the sun was doing, then I must have been right, right?

    Well, no.

    The gravity of the sun probably does create enough pressure to directly generate some heat--maybe even enough to produce light in the visible range, though that last bit (now) seems unlikely. At some point in the future, some (particularly bored) solar physicist may even get around to calculating how much heat is directly created by the pressure. For all I know, this may have already happened.

    The real culprit, I now know, is nuclear fusion, a concept of which I had no understanding during the second grade. This fusion is a process initiated and driven by the immense pressure in the sun -- pressure caused by gravity. In a sense, then, I was right, even though my syllogism was faulty and I certainly wasn't as right as I confidently thought I was.

    We have a similar situation here, although this may be limited to Mark's analogy. A camera moving past a stationary ball may make the ball appear to move, and there is more kinetic energy in that situation, compared to a stationary camera filming a stationary ball, but the extra energy is in the camera, not the ball. And the energy is coming from somewhere and is subject to entropy, which is exactly what this crackpot seems to be claiming -- to have made energy from nothing and made it not subject to entropy.

    There was no real point to this; I just thought I'd share.

    • Robert says:

      "At some point in the future, some (particularly bored) solar physicist may even get around to calculating how much heat is directly created by the pressure. For all I know, this may have already happened."

      It has, and its a pretty classic result. According to the virial theorem, half the potential energy gained by a gravitational contraction is radiated away, the other half causes heating of the star.

    • In fact, adiabatic compressive heating was the conventional explanation for the sun's heat in the late 19th century. Unfortunately, it led to the calculation that the sun could only burn for some millions of years that way (hundreds of milli0ns? I forget) while some rocks on Earth, including some with fossils of life, were known to be billions of years old, with a B. So clearly something was wrong, but it wasn't until radioactivity was discovered that anyone had a clue what it was.

      Free-energy enthusiasts love to talk about this episode, because it's one of the few discoveries in history of a source of energy previously unknown to the standard theories of physics. The other cases are, probably, when fire was discovered, and, uh, nothing else comes to mind at the moment. Oh, Hawking radiation? But that's not particularly new; we already knew you could convert mass to other forms of energy.

      But it could happen again!

      (Actually, non-amateur physicists think about that question too, calling it "dark energy" and "non-baryonic non-neutrino dark matter". But I don't think we're going to see any amateur scientists generating detectable amounts of energy from dark energy anytime soon.)

  • Vicki says:

    If I can switch frames and get free energy, I should be able to switch frames and make energy vanish suddenly, with applications ranging from firefighting to missile defense.

  • Andrew says:

    "The economic argument"
    http://xkcd.com/808/

    Just thought it was fitting.

  • Josh says:

    From the post: "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."

    I just wanted to note that Maxwell's equations are fully compatible with special relativity. Not totally sure if you meant otherwise, but I thought I'd point that out.

  • [...] the past, I've written about free-energy cranks like Tom Bearden, and I've made several allusions to the Brown's gas" crankpots. But I've never actually written in [...]

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