Having spent many years in the "free-energy" field, including attending numerous conferences and investigating dozens of devices,
I wanted to like this recent book by Canadian author Jeane Manning, and co-author Joel Garbon, but found myself disappointed.
In all fairness, the authors recount the fantastic but seemingly credible work of T. Henry Moray, the serious researches of Ken Rauen
into possible extensions of our understanding of thermodynamics, provide a cautious description of the magnetic researches of Howard Johnson,
and refer to the interesting focus fusion work of Eric Lerner. Unfortunately, those high points are drowned in an ocean of breathless enthusiasm
for every unproven free energy claim ever made. There is also material pertaining to wind, solar and other conventional alternative energy sources,
which, while usually more credible, are hardly revolutionary.
While I have an open mind regarding the more radical new energy sources, and respect for honest researchers into these areas, I believe
more rigor is needed in investigating and testing claims of such revolutionary technologies. Precious little of it is found here. Co-author
Joel Garbon apparently has technical training, but then why is he not more skeptical of inventors who have claimed to be weeks away from working
hardware for decades, and have consumed millions of dollars in the process? The authors gloss over these practices by saying that many inventors
lack business experience, and that their financial arrangements are "complicated."
The insistence by Mr. Garbon on the use of scientific language, rather than the terminology used by the inventors, is window dressing
in the case of devices that may not even work. Uneducated people can be brilliant, of course, and describing their real discoveries in ways
scientists can understand is fine, but if they are fools, or even worse, frauds, the gloss of technical language only adds credibility to people
who may not deserve it. Verification should come first, and translation later.
This is vital, because, when dealing with potentially world-changing and valuable technologies, people can lie to themselves. The effects
sought are sometimes small at first, and to measure them accurately requires both skill and elaborate equipment. As with UFO or bigfoot research,
where a blurry photo may represent a simple mistake, and a spectacular close-up is either real or fraud, the more impressive an invention is,
the less likely it is to be honest error.
The holy grail involves "closing the loop," which means doing actual work greater than the input by a large enough margin that measurement
error is impossible.
Some of the claims recounted in this book are large enough that they MUST either be true or outright fraud. If any of these are real,
where are they? For example, Andrija Puharich claimed to drive a car powered by water for thousands of miles. This is completely unambiguous
if it is true. Why not perform an undeniable demonstration, and make billions of dollars? Stan Meyer made similar claims, with nothing but
inconclusive testimonies to back it up.
People claim that groundbreaking inventions are suppressed. This is not impossible, but real suppression has certain earmarks. Any new
energy source, especially if it is suitable for vehicular use, has obvious military value. The military and intelligence communities have
the power to sequester inventions without compensation to the inventor, but the last thing an inventor does in such cases is run around telling
everyone they've been suppressed. The victim is not only unable to disclose their invention, but it would simply disappear as if it never existed.
The way to avoid this, or course, is to make an unexpected large scale demonstration, which is virtually never done. The inventor might claim
that they would then be giving away their work, but if it were suppressed, it would be worthless to them anyway.
Inventors can also suffer other forms of interference, of course, such as with their fundraising efforts, but any agency with real power
could do this without the inventor even knowing it. Most of the claims of such interference, upon further investigation, involve the sale
of securities under conditions which would merit legal action regardless of the nature of investment itself.
The authors also seem to uncritically accept the rather controversial credentials of some prominent researchers in the field. While
degrees are important in fields where the public good requires mastery of a fixed body of knowledge prior to professional certification,
such as in law, medicine and engineering (incidentally, the best scientists are often engineers by training), science is about EXTENDING
the boundaries of knowledge. For this reason, anyone willing to apply the scientific method of careful study, outside review (with appropriate
legal protections) and replication can be a scientist. While the insecurities which motivate some to acquire meaningless degrees
(which fool nobody) are as silly as a comb-over, the dishonesty involved is an important indication of character. In any case, disdaining the
NEED for degrees in pure science is far more impressive than to bother with false ones.
Science is like the proverbial tree in the forest. If it falls when nobody is there to hear it, the noise it may (or may not!)
make has no effect on anybody. If a device can't be replicated from the available data, it may still be real, but it's not science.
The whole point of science is to replicate results, and make them part of our shared reality. That will take hard learning and hard work.
Ms. Manning needs to put away her pom-poms; the free energy field needs scientists, not cheerleaders.