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Will Alexander

Stand in the open on a bright day and enjoy the warmth of the Sun. Energy is Free. Beyond direct sunlight, humans use other forms of energy to keep themselves warm. We gather wood to build fires. We build houses to protect us from the cold. Humans build houses and gather fuel. Houses and fuel belong to someone; they are not free. Energy is free; the human processes delivering energy according to our wants are not free.

In addition to sunlight and fire there are more forms of energy which humans may convert to their use, such as water power. Let us take the case of hydro-electric energy, a human managed system delivering electric energy to us for a price. At least five parties are entitled to share our payment:

  1. The owner of the river from which the water is taken
  2. The scientists (designers and inventors) who imagined the technology - the dams, the power plant, and the distribution system
  3. The owner of the dam, the power plant and the distribution system
  4. Those maintaining the technology
  5. Managers of the system.

The total of our payments shared by these five for the electric energy delivered is proportional to our wishes and our ability to use the electricity. The competitive prices of alternative forms of energy which may be available to serve us are sorted out in the market. The enormous hydro-electric power systems located all over the world are evidence that our payments are sufficient to create and maintain the delivery systems. We pay enormous sums for the delivery of a product which is free, energy.

Into this system let us introduce a scientist who has developed an alternate technology, called the N machine, for the delivery of electrical energy from a source other than the sun or water. The N technology does not need a river or a dam and the N power plants are small enough to be located in many places eliminating the large transmission systems. Those entitled to receive payment for electricity delivered with this improved technology will be:

  1. The scientist-inventor
  2. The owners of the N machines
  3. Those maintaining the machines
  4. Managers of the system.

The costs of these four entitlements may be small compared to the costs of the five entitlements in current hydro-electric systems. The delivery system costs can go down by an order of ten, maybe more.

Consider three problems:

  1. The profits on both delivery systems are enormous.
  2. If N machine electricity is introduced, who will lose the right to the big profits from the delivery of hydroelectricity?
  3. How will the big profits from the delivery of the N machine electricity be shared?

The conflicts inherents in (2) and (3) create a scenario frightening to all, rather like a gold discovery equal to the size of all the known gold in the world. The first and most personal set of conflicts surrounds the initiator of the N machine electricity delivery system, the scientist-inventor.

Let the inventor of the N machine, Dr Bruce DePalma, be introduced. Dr DePalma is a kindly scientist with a mission to help humans to survive the 21st century. DePalma is a New Zealand resident from California; he taught electrical engineering for 15 years at M.I.T.

Think of DePalma as a gold prospector who has visualised a seam of gold deep in the earth. With stakes so high, who can he tell? His first thought is to register his claim, but he has reason to be fearful of claim jumpers. The gold source is so big that those with gold fever may threaten his life and the life of others in the ensuing struggle to control the claim. DePalma needs to dig a sizeable hole to prove his claim. That will cost money. The gamblers who might stake a gold prospector to dig a hole to prove his claim are likely to steal the claim by legal or illegal means.

In order to get honest finance, DePalma knows he needs certification of his claim from independent experts. He goes to a firm of geologists and presents his evidence. The geologists listen briefly to DePalma and deny certification. DePalma's claim violates a fundamental tenet of geology. Without certification he cannot get honest money to dig a hole which could prove his claim.

In this gold rush analogy, the firm of geologists is the scientific establishment and the fundamental tenet is the Law of Conservation of Energy.

The scientific establishment is presided over by a science elite, editors of scientific journals and managers of expensive experimental processes and laboratories. Why have they rejected Dr DePalma's N machine? From its origins in religious doctrine, heresy is the advocation of ideas and concepts strongly at variance with established beliefs. Orthodox beliefs of the hard sciences are characteristically stated in the style of mathematical theorems, simple crisp abstractions, convenient for teaching, called laws.

Such laws were first stated because they explained a phenomena observed. Thereafter, they have been used to test the potential of new ideas, as axioms are used in mathematics. Given a few generations of successfully winnowing out the chaff of absurd ideas, these scientific laws have been enshrined in the minds of successful scientists like doctrines in theology. Those who persist in calling attention to phenomena not explained by accepted doctrine are heretics. In science such persons are labelled "cranks". Even the personal acquaintances of such "cranks" in the scientific community accept that they should be punished by silence. Support for their experiments should be denied.

Let us look at the sacred Law of the Conservation of Energy. It is commonly stated as: for each action there is an equal and opposite reaction. When applied to machines with an energy output, the Law of the Conservation of Energy is stated as: The output of energy cannot be more than the input. Input is that energy which the human experimenter has under control, that is, the energy which he himself puts into the machine. Easily visualised machines with human control of both input and output are the balance scale and the seesaw. The kinetic energy in the body at the higher elevation must be just a little more than the gravity (and inertia) of the body on the lower end of the seesaw in order to cause it to move. The input is a little more than the output.

It is most important to note that the Law of Conservation of Energy is applied here as if human experimenters had the input of energy under their control. In practical machines as opposed to laboratory machines, this is not the case. For example, the water used in hydro-electric generators was placed in elevated positions ([and thus] endowed with kinetic energy) by a process called rain, not by an experimenter. There was some input by humans, the dams, penstocks, and hydro-electric generators, but that input was certainly less than the output of electric energy.

In the seesaw example, man apparently did input all the energy. In the hydro-electric machine, man inputs only part of the energy. In the real life application of the Law of the Conservation of Energy, man may or may not input all the energy. This does put man in a subordinate position to natural phenomena but the Law of the Conservation of Energy is not violated. We only need to accept that nature may have an input in order to find in the case of hydro-electric or N machine, "for each action there is an equal and opposite reaction". Many phenomena in nature benefiting humans are not fully understood by humans, let alone controlled.

It is not necessary to impute evil intent into the behaviour of those who constitute the scientific establishment. It is sufficient to accept that the scientific establishment is made up of humans like the rest of us. We have all lived through a century marked by endless success stories, man controlling nature. "Human control" has been mistakenly added to the definition of the energy inputs in the Law of Conservation of Energy. Unfortunately this explanation still leaves Dr DePalma, and the N machine we all need, in a "Catch-22" situation. Without endorsement from recognised scientists, potential funders will not invest in tests of the N machine, tests which could overcome the scepticism of responsible scientists, scepticism created by their own misinterpretation of the Law of the Conservation of Energy.

Dr DePalma undertook preliminary experiments with his N machine 17 years ago. In the meantime the gold rush scenario is building. In the United States inventions which may have military use, such as the N machine, are placed under heavy government secrecy. It is known that US naval research is working on ship propulsion based on the energy system incorporated in the N machine. As late as 1993 the Japanese Research Institute reported their experimentation on their version of the N machine. Since 1993 these experiments in Japan have been clothed in secrecy. There are rumours of experimental work in Germany and France. Demonstrations of another variation of the N machine are known to be scheduled in June under the sponsorship of the Nuclear Power Corporation of India.

Gold rush fever is about who will control the process of mining the gold, who may sell the gold, and how to keep a potential gold surplus from undercutting the current price. Energy is free.

William Alexander is Professor Emeritus in Political Science at St Luis Obispo University, California. This document courtesy of the WorldWatch Institute.

Further information about Bruce DePalma and his work may be found on his website.

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