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Physics Fraud or Ground-Breaking Science? 426

N. D. Culver sent in an interesting Village Voice story. Here's a quote: "...Randell Mills, a Harvard-trained medical doctor who also studied biotechnology and electric engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, says he's found the Holy Grail of physics: a unified theory of everything." And, the story says, Mills' company, BlackLight Power, has rounded up over $25 million in investment capital to exploit practical applications of Mills' work, which traditional physicists claim is nothing more than cold fusion rehashed. Is Mills a charlatan, or is this cutting-edge science? Read the story and decide for yourself.
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Physics Fraud or Ground-Breaking Science?

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  • by DanaL ( 66515 ) on Wednesday December 22, 1999 @11:58AM (#1451570)
    I'm guessing his work hasn't been peer reviewed, as we haven't heard stories of other scientists verifying, or even testing, his theories.

    From what I understood, Unified Theory investigation required massive particle accelerators to generate data and test ideas.

    I'm not going to say this guy is a fraud, but I would wait for a few other researchers to go over his work before I start buying stock in his company!

  • by DanaL ( 66515 ) on Wednesday December 22, 1999 @12:02PM (#1451574)
    (Ugh. Responding to my own post...)

    I read the article and have decided that I should have jumped to conclusions instead of 'waiting for peer review'

    Thanks to his Grand Unified Theory, he's almost generated limitless energy (cold fusion?) and revolutionized artifical intelligence. Wow, I wonder what other over-hyped topics his work also touches upon.

  • by GFD ( 57203 ) on Wednesday December 22, 1999 @12:04PM (#1451575)
    I think if you go to the black light site you will find that they have independent labs verifying their work and have been doing so for a couple of years.
  • by dentin ( 2175 ) on Wednesday December 22, 1999 @12:04PM (#1451577) Homepage
    This guy has been rehashed many times on usenet. His claims are bogus, and he is a well known fraudster.

    You need only search for his name and his company on deja news.

    -dennis towne
  • by duras ( 34902 ) on Wednesday December 22, 1999 @12:05PM (#1451579) Homepage
    Not only that, but for the low, low price of only 19.95 plus shipping and handling, you'll get a extra bottle of Hydrinos ABSOLUTELY FREE!

    Look at the amazing things that NEW Hydrinos (scholarly review pending) can do!

    * Turn water to rocket fuel
    * Shrink water (stockpile more for that long Y2K weekend...)
    * Replace that pesky lava-lamp with a clean, safe nuclear byproduct--ultraviolet light
    * Use it as gasoline in your car
    * It also polishes wood, plastic, and glass to a magnetic, semiconducting sheen!

    Stay tuned, folks, and you'll see how YOU can make money off this revolutionary new crackpot idea... IPO!
  • by vesalius ( 52846 ) on Wednesday December 22, 1999 @12:07PM (#1451582) Homepage
    If you read the information provided on BlackLightPower's website you'd see that the tests were carried out for validation at several other sites. It looks like the larger scale "water-bath" calorimetry tests weren't all that succesful.

    Third Party Tests:

    *************** quote ************************
    The Company's proprietary compounds have been analyzed at 24 independent laboratories. The tests indicated were performed at the following laboratories: Lehigh University (XPS), University of Massachusetts, Amherst (proton NMR), Virginia Polytechnic Institute (Raman spectroscopy), National Research Counsel of Canada (proton NMR), Charles Evans & Associates East (TOF-SIMS, XPS, EDS, scanning electron microscopy--SEM), Charles Evans & Associates West (TOF-SIMS), Northeastern University (Mossbauer Spectroscopy), Spectral Data Services (proton and NMR), Surface Science Associates (FTIR), IC Laboratories (XRD), PerSeptive Biosystems (ESITOFMS), Franklin and Marshall College (XRD), Pennsylvania State University (plasma torch synthesis, Calvet calorimetry, XRD), INP (EUV), Galbraith Laboratories (elemental analysis), TA Instruments (TGA/DTA), M-Scan Inc. (fast atom bombardment magnetic sector mass spectroscopy--FABMSMS, electrospray ionization quadrapole mass spectroscopy--ESIMS, solids probe magnetic sector mass spectroscopy), Xerox Corporation (TOF-SIMS, XPS), Physical Electronics (TOF-SIMS), Ricerca, Inc. (liquid chromatography-ESITOFMS), BlackLight Power, Inc. (ToF-SIMS, XPS, liquid chromatography-ESITOFMS, UV and EUV spectroscopy, cryogenically cooled column gas chromatography, thermal decomposition/cryogenically cooled column gas chromatography, quadrapole mass spectroscopy of gasses, solids probe quadrapole mass spectroscopy, Calvet and heat loss calorimetry), Micromass (ESITOFMS), and Southwest Research Institute (solids probe magnetic sector mass spectroscopy, direct exposure probe magnetic sector mass spectroscopy).

    *************** End Quote *********************


    P.S. You're abusing commas.
  • by seaportcasino ( 121045 ) on Wednesday December 22, 1999 @12:07PM (#1451584) Homepage
    From the article: "If you could fuck around with the hydrogen atom, you could fuck around with the energy process in the sun. You could fuck around with life itself," claims Dr. Phillip Anderson, a Nobel laureate in physics at Princeton University. "Everything we know about everything would be a bunch of nonsense. That's why I'm so sure that it's a fraud."

    Ok, this guy Dr. Anderson gets my vote as the coolest Nobel Laureate alive. Why don't you say what you really think, Dr. Anderson! :) I love people that don't beat around the bush and candy-coat what they really think, especially a brillant physics professor who obvious thinks this guy is a loon.

  • Great. Lovely.
    *IF* this is indeed true, doesn't it just warm your heart to know that this great cheap, perhaps even free, energy source is in the patent process. Ahhhh, I love the system.

  • by Bronster ( 13157 ) <slashdot@brong.net> on Wednesday December 22, 1999 @12:12PM (#1451592) Homepage
    Look at it: The Scientfic Establishment thinks he's nuts.

    Well, the scientific establishment is occasionally totally wrong, but usually they tend to have more of a clue about it than somebody who:

    Mills says that with this new understanding he's produced clean and limitless energy and an entirely new class of materials and plasma that will reshape every industry in the coming decade. Mills also claims breakthroughs in artificial intelligence, cosmology, medicine, and perhaps even a form of gravitational jujitsu.

    It looks like the sort of thing that people trying to set up a religious cult claim, rather than serious scientists who actually try to show some evidence. If his theory is that great and simple, why doesn't he have any working examples?

    Though the topics he broaches could be coming from a B-movie mad scientist, Mills's cadences are more often like those of a motivational speaker.

    Ahh, now this is sounding more like it. I think it's time for a gratitous link to today's userfriendly [userfriendly.org]. Clearly the buzzword complience of his claims make him out to be in the marketing rather than technology end of the business.

    Despite howls from the scientific establishment that Mills is a relic of the "cold fusion" trend quashed a decade ago, BlackLight Power Inc. has raised more than $25 million from about 150 investors.

    Wow, ladies and gentlement, I believe we have a winner for the competition of where foolish investors will part with their money after the internet stocks die down.

  • From reading this article, it looks like this company may have discovered an effect of quantum physics that has gone previously unexplored. Big deal, maybe, but hardly a grand unified theory.

    The Kulturwehrmacht [onelist.com] On the front lines of the Culture Wars
  • by pq ( 42856 ) <rfc2324&yahoo,com> on Wednesday December 22, 1999 @12:16PM (#1451601) Homepage
    Well, much of the mumbo-jumbo is beneath us, and all the "classical quantum effects" I'm not qualified to comment on, but there's this one bit way down at the end of the article:

    His theory predicted in clear language two recent astronomical discoveries-one, the universe is expanding at an accelerating rate, and, two, there are stars that measure as older than the expansion of the universe itself.

    As an astronomy grad, I feel qualified to comment on this: (a) The accelerating (not just expanding!) universe result is based on two very preliminary studies of supernovae in distant galaxies, where they try to use supernovae as "standard candles". Given the incredible diversity of stars, this is a highly controversial and speculative result, though it might ultimately prove correct. (b) Stars older than the Universe? Bah! This was a silly thing related to the current expansion rate of the Universe, and it is clearly incorrect given our current understanding of the data.

    I could go on and critique the rest of the article, but I'll leave it to someone more qualified: if its on par with the astronomy bits, its garbage. I'd take odds his "Mill's cells" are producing some purely chemical energy, and the product materials will turn out to be novel chemical compounds rather than "new forms of matter". If they ever exist outside his lab.

    To repeat from the article: "It's the American story," says Dr. Robert Park of the American Physical Society. "But he's still wrong."

  • by Tau Zero ( 75868 ) on Wednesday December 22, 1999 @12:16PM (#1451602) Journal
    I went through the claims on the web site, and here's my tally:
    • Lots of claims of "patents pending".
    • Not one single patent number.
    • Not one single reference to a scientific paper.
    • A plug for a (non-peer-reviewed, probably over-priced) book.
    If it looks like a scam and it smells like a scam, it's almost certainly a scam. If this guy doesn't deliver on his promises RSN, I hope he spends the next five years in prison, and the twenty after that slaving to pay back the people he scammed.
  • shows what the guy knows. All of electronics, magnetism,
    superconductivity, even our understanding of normal
    conduction, depend on quantum theory. The list is endless.

    Anderson's quote sums it up. If we don't understand the
    hydrogen atom, we don't understand *anything*. Obviously
    most scientists would prefer to believe in the work of
    the last 75 years, than that of some unrefereed weirdo --
    until he writes up his theory, makes real predictions with
    it, and they have the chance to test it out for
    themselves. I wouldn't bet on such a theory.
  • by Captain Zion ( 33522 ) on Wednesday December 22, 1999 @12:19PM (#1451610)
    For a good introduction on the Unified Theory, check Steven Weinberg [sciam.com]'s article A Unified Physics by 2050? [sciam.com] in the December 1999 issue of Scientific American [sciam.com]. According to the article, developing a unified theory would require "radically new ideas":
    Einstein devoted the last 30 years of his life to an unsuccessful search for a "unified field theory," which would unite general relativity, his own theory of space-time and gravitation, with Maxwell's theory of electromagnetism. (...) At any rate, it seems likely that by 2050 we will understand the reason for the enormous ratio of energy scales encountered in nature.
  • by GodHead ( 101109 ) on Wednesday December 22, 1999 @12:21PM (#1451620) Homepage
    This is what I took from the article:

    1) Man has Grand-Unified-Theory-Of-Everything(tm)
    2) Man can make limitless energy, space ships, super duper A.I., and just about everything else.
    3) Man is planning IPO.
    4) Man will not say how because he wants to *patent* the technology.


    And the quotes all seemed to say one of two things:

    Average Joe Board Member "Gosh, I don't know but I think it would be great if it's true!!"

    Average Physicist "It's a crock."

  • As explained to me by my physics prof:

    1)You can't win
    2)You can't try
    3)You'll always loose.

    What I read in the article does not just fly in the face of Thermo, but also thumbs it's nose at it as it does the flying. Look, I don't care if he says that it's suppose to work at the atomic or macro level, rules are rules, and this is why people have not been able to do things like produce repeatable demostrations of cold fusion.

    With my opinion aside, the rhetoric of the article is good. The writer simply presents the ideas and arguments that were prsented to him, and lets the reader deside on thier own, with a slight hint twords the crazy people in this case. The rhetoric of the opins given, are quite different. Mills arguments apear to be mostly using techspeak with only limited understanding. This can in some sense be forgive, seeing as the background is more biological based and not in "pure" physics. The arguments give against Mills are better founded in who has given them. Most notably by people that have tried to debunk such people before. So, in the end, what time that is given to the detractors is much more effective and helps to bring a good balance to the article.
    Read it, you'll be surprised, but take a bit of salt with you.
  • I think people are a bit drastic in assuming that he *must* be a fraud, just because his results are weird or impossible. After the last ten or twenty years of QM, I'm ready to believe that impossible results will be commonplace.

    Would I invest in his company? No. If I had some spending money, and I felt like risking it, I might speculate in his company, just because, if he *does* have anything, it could be worth a lot - even if it's not what he thinks it is.

    It's like the guy who thinks water burns, because he's been able to make an engine burn a water/gas combo. He's wrong, but there could be applications for an internal-combustion-and-steam engine.

    If he's got neat materials, I don't care if his physics is stupid; he's got neat materials.

    On the other hand, he sure *sounds* like a kook.
  • by lwood ( 89028 ) on Wednesday December 22, 1999 @12:25PM (#1451628)
    Cripes, where are all of the Slashdot scientists to give us some lay-men (sp?) explanation?

    Heck, this guy supposedly IS giving you the layman's explanation -- that's why all those highbrow scientist guys are scoffing at him. It's a conspiracy, I tell you...

    Seriously tho -- as a Slashdot physicist I can tell you that this guy is full of it, has been full of it for years now, and the fact that people have actually given him money just means that he's good at selling stuff to people who don't know any better. Despite the usual complaints about the peer-review process (no, it's not perfect), it has an important effect: it helps weed out frauds. Consider this -- when the typical physicist comes up with something new, he works on it in secret, then publishes all the results for the world to see. This guy works on something in private, then is willing to sell you one of his miracle cells for the low cost of $1000 each, or at least that's what they were offered for a few years ago when I got a mass-mailing from him -- the claim at that time was that it would convert dangerous chemicals into useful elements like copper...

    BTW, if you're interested in alternatives to the standard peer-reviewed process, take a look at the e-print archive at xxx.lanl.gov [slashdot.org]. This has proven to be a wonderful way of getting useful information and ideas out into the scientific community even faster than the so-called "Rapid Communications" columns in the scientific journals...

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Blacklight Power has been trying to recruit scientists in the Central NJ area. I went in for an interview - when I was there they were looking for help in trying to make conventional rechargable batteries for laptop computers, but had no clue as to who to hire, how to build the batteries and so on. I actually met this Mills guy at the interview.

    He knows nothing, and as far as I can tell is a major con artist looking to make a fast buck by stealing technology from legitimate companies and then pedealling it under wildly inflated claims as something revolutionary, much like the fakirs that promote magnets as water purifiers and arthritis cures.

    As far as I could tell Blacklight Power was a rented office in a industrial park.

    Mills with a unified theory of the universe? He can barely zip up a fly, and has no clue how a battery works.

    If he has $25 million in investment capital, he got it from his dad, or by holding up a bank.

    I wouldn't trust this guy with a paper clip. Harvard Degree? MIT? Has anyone called to check to see if these credentials are real? I doubt it.

  • Basically, he seems to be saying that the reason this has not been confirmed by other reputable labs or examined in any mainstream news sources is that it's too close to "cold fusion" and therefore his work has been automaticly rejected by everyone as a political move, even when they are getting results that it works.

    Sorry, conspiracy theories aren't going to make me relax my expectations of peer review. In fact, it increases them. This has too much of an X-Files-y "They don't want you to know" feel for me to take it seriously. In the real world, anything that he could be doing without any grants or backing (in an old factory, no less) could be easily tested.

    And his overall story seems like a parody of the American Dream. Poor boy goofs off in school, has major life-changing event that turns him into super-brain, works outside the establishment which won't listen to his ideas, fights prejudice to bring hope to millions... Wait, I think they left out a part with him working a menial job at an energy plant and doing brillient work with the equiptment after everyone had gone home. Kinda a Tucker meets Good Will Hunting sort of thing.

    -Kahuna Burger

  • I've been watching this particular claim for a couple of years now, with a net result of... nothing significant.To wit, there are several completely independent groups who have offered to test Dr. Mills claims, even with him on site setting up his own equipment, but have not received so much as a speck of a reply.

    For those not acquainted with the theory Dr. Mills proposes, it is this: Dr. Mills claims to have invented a method of causing the electrons in hydrogen atoms to drop to a lower energy state, i.e., move to a lower orbit around the nucleus, in the process giving off large amounts of energy. He also claims that this "lower energy hydrogen" is in fact the "black matter" required to unify the other theories in that the amount of matter/energy in the universe which other theories require in order to balance.

    Having read all of the data provided on his site, I can say that he makes a compelling case -- however, he doesn't seem in a big hurry to have his claims validated. Which (combined with the lack of responsivenes previously mentioned) inclines me to be extremely skeptical of his claims.

  • This is hardly a grand unified theory. But the existance of "hydrino" electron states is still an important theory.

    After reading the article, I'm still pretty sceptical about all of it. As the article says, most of molecular/atomic physics and chemistry uses the ground state of the hydrogen electron as a fundamental law... I suppose it is possible that there are less enegertic stable electron states within the "probability cloud" that forms around the nucleus, but that would also mean that we have to reconsider all of the equations that support current electron wave mechanics and kinetics. (I think this is covered by a derivative of the Schroedinger wave equation?)

    There's little/no independent confirmation of the results, even though it should be fairly easy to detect the hard UV emissions caused by the electron state changes as hydrinos are formed. Unless there's some other form of energy dispersion occuring (kinetic?), based on the quantum nature of electron states, there should be a discrete change in energy, resulting in a discrete band of photon emission.

    This is exciting if it's for real, but I'm gonna wait until there's a good body of independent evidence to support it before I buy into it.

  • by Tackhead ( 54550 ) on Wednesday December 22, 1999 @12:31PM (#1451640)
    > 25 million investment in a fraud? I don't think anyone could get 25 million peddling snake oil.
    > I'm willing to give him the benifit of the doubt.

    $25M in a fraud is checkenfeed. If you were involved in the Canadian securities industry 2-3 years ago, perhaps you heard of Bre-X? A company that claimed, on the basis of falsified core samples, to have discovered the largest gold deposit on the face of the planet?

    Try six billion dollars in market capitalization, and the entire thing was a fraud. Not one ounce of gold in the ground, and for at least a year, almost the entire community of securities analysts in the mining sector had been kept completely hoodwinked, to say nothing of the mutual fund managers and average-joes-on-the-street.

    Believe me - there are plenty of people gullible enough that a sufficiently-skilled huckster can raise $25M for a fraud.

  • by MetricT ( 128876 ) on Wednesday December 22, 1999 @12:31PM (#1451643)
    I've got a physics background (working on my MS in General Relativity), and this guy is a very smart person. Honestly, he must be. How could an idiot get so much money with such an obviously stupid theory? The equation that describes the hydrogen atom is called the Schrodinger equation. Basically, it says that the kinetic energy + the potential energy equals the total energy. 2 -h 2 --- Del Psi + V(x,y,z) Psi = Energy*Psi 2m V is the electrodynamic potential. Yeah I know the equation looks weird, but that's what it means. And this equation describes about 99.99% of all the properties of the hydrogen atom. The stuff this equation misses, like spin (a relativistic effect) and the Lamb shift (a quantum field theory effect) are pretty small and take nice expensive machines to even notice they exist. Nothing of the "we'll cut the size of your atoms in half by 50%" exists. Think about this: if it were possible for hydrogen atoms to transition to a lower energy state, they would have already done so by now. Mother Nature likes to be in the lowest energy state possible. If she gould have squeezed more energy out of hydrogen atoms, she would have already done so.
  • by GFD ( 57203 ) on Wednesday December 22, 1999 @12:32PM (#1451645)
    I am really hesitant to post anything about this since it will most likely be flamed to a crisp.

    However, Mills stuff is just the tip of the iceberg. There has been quite a bit of active research in this whole, particularly in Japan and Europe.

    The most interesting work has not been in the original electolysis using heavy water and palladium although SRI and to a lesser extent Los Alamos have been doing work in this area and have essentially confirmed the *original* observations of Pons and Fleischman. The major problem with this type of experiment is that you need to get close to a 1:1 (.9 as I recall) ratio of hydrogen atoms for each atom of the palladium crystal matrix before you get results. If you have cracks or other impurities you will NOT achieve that level of packing. If you use bulk materials the stuff gets explosive. One SRI researcher died from this. Also this whole area is *very* close to weapons research so Los Alamos has become very quite in the last couple of years while SRI is still plugging along. Here is a link [std.com] to a page that has a nice summary of the issues.

    The most interesting area, in my opinion, has been in the area of light water electrolysis where some people have seen signs of transmutation - which of course goes from 'fradulence' to 'outright witch craft' as far as conventional science goes.

    Mills work is actually kind of on the sidelines from the 'mainstream' research in this area. He does have a lot of backing by reasonably conservative investors (2 mid size power utilities). He does have a comprehensive theory and has done numerous experiments to validate various aspects of his theory that have allegedly been confirmed by independent labratories.

    Here is a link [blacklightpower.com] to a reprint of a recent Wall Street Journal article on BlackLight and its recent work.

    Here are some other 'Cold Fusion' sites:

    Cold Fusion Times [std.com]
    Infite Energy Online [mv.com]
    BlackLight Power [blacklightpower.com]
    Clean Energy Technologies [onramp.net] a company that has done a lot with light water cold fusion and has recieved a number of patents in the area.
    A Cold Fusion Bibliograph [kemi.aau.dk] by Dieter Britz

  • I had a really carefull read of this, then I read it again. Here are my thoughts. The primary point in interest in this whole thing is: (If you don't want to read all of this stuff just read the last paragraph, it's funny and explains it all).

    "A central part of Mills's theory explains the basis of the traditional, and paradoxical, "duality" concept of the electron as both a particle and a wave with a model where electrons are charges that travel as two-dimensional disks and wrap around nuclei like fluctuating soap bubbles. He calls them 'orbitspheres.'"

    I can take this and accept it as a maybe, there is nothing there I can imediatly find problem with without reading much more about his work, although the current electron model fits most cases it is known to be slightly wrong. It starts to get silly after that:

    I quote the notes "produced clean and limitless energy" ok, this is obviously the line bringing out the 'cold fusion' comparisons, this line gives this away as marketing hype. Thermodynamics already tells us that energy can neither be created or destroyed, just changed from one form or another. If the guy had claimed to have found an efficent method of tapping the energy stored in matter it would have almost been believable, anything that requires scraping theries that have been around as long as thermodynamics needs to be backed with some serious grade proof, and I see none.

    Another interesting line "Mills also claims breakthroughs in artificial intelligence" This one is curios, I remember reading the "Emporors New Mind" By Roger Penrose where he makes a pretty convincing argument that the brain uses processes of physics not understood and so could not be simulated with current techniques. If indeed Dr Mills has discoverd something fundamentaly new in physics (although I am doubting this) this particular claim may not be unreasnable. This sentance goes on to mention "cosmology, medicine, and perhaps even a form of gravitational jujitsu." which quite frankly has me checking the date to see if it was publiched April 1st.

    We then move on to the clincher that explains it all. "Morgan Stanley Dean Witter & Co. is considering a public offering of BlackLight Power stock in 2000". Everything the guy said is true, if he can convince the media then his IPO will be possesed of "limitless energy", he will gain curious new "Material" possesions, be able to afford the best "Medicine" and maybe finance his own space station to develop "gravitational jujitsu".

  • * Add it to your pet's water! Double it's size in minutes! * Wash your clothes in it, to make them whiter than white AND bullet-proof! * Soak those Windows 2000 CD's in it! Guaranteed to kill all known bugs! * Fill your SuperSoakers with this! Turns your opponents invisible!
  • by twit ( 60210 ) on Wednesday December 22, 1999 @12:36PM (#1451652) Homepage
    What points to question this work is that most science (even back in the nineteenth century) is built off the back of other, older science. Even those scientists viewed as mavericks, such as Louis Pasteur, built off a considerable weight of work - they just took it in unexpected directions.

    This science doesn't seem terribly indebted to other scientists, which makes me mistrust the theory. This doesn't mean that he is necessarily wrong, but that the effect of Mills cells is almost certainly caused by a different means (unsurprisingly, this is the explanation for cold fusion - energy created through a chemical reaction rather than a nuclear one).

    I would be suspicious of Mills, and rightly so. The article doesn't touch on Mills' background for his entire working life - the twenty-odd years between graduation from Harvard Medical School and today are a blank. What has led him to this point? What research has he done in the interim? That he is very smart is without contest, but the very smart are apt to make mistakes of equal grandeur. Look at Ramanujan, who made important discoveries in modern mathematics but also made equally great errors in prime numbers. Like Ramanujan, Mills seems to have a great difficulty and impatience with the scientific method, and it is this that should make us most suspicious of his hypotheses.

  • by Nickbot ( 15172 ) on Wednesday December 22, 1999 @12:42PM (#1451654)
    Yeah you guys, be serious, this guy is on to some good stuff, and you stuffy nonbelieveing types with your darn requirements of proof and peer review are just jealous.

    What has your precious peer review and scientific method ever done for mankind? (except for all known scientific discoveries)

    Besides, I met Mr. Mills a few years ago, and I could tell he was a genius. He worked with me to develop my trans-hyper-superultraforce sheilding compound ('egg salad' to you laymen) that I can apply to anyone's head to block out the mind rays that are used by the Demons from Witchland.

  • by CrosseyedPainless ( 27978 ) on Wednesday December 22, 1999 @12:44PM (#1451660) Homepage
    Carl Sagan:
    "But the fact that some geniuses were laughed at does not imply that all who are laughed at are geniuses. They laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Fulton, they laughed at the Wright brothers. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown."

    Well said, Bro. Carl.
  • by Brett Viren ( 296 ) <brett.viren@gmail.com> on Wednesday December 22, 1999 @12:45PM (#1451663) Homepage
    While looking for info about this ``ground breaking technology'' I ran across an amusing page:

    THE CRACKPOT INDEX [ucr.edu] (see #7)

    Poor Mr. Mills quickly racks up the points.

    After reading his claims that his work is ``past the scientific verification stage'' while it won't be until January that he ``will submit [his] findings to a premier [yet unamed] scholarly journal'' it makes me wonder how carefully he paid attention when he was attending Harvard and MIT (if he actually did). Peer review is at the heart of scientific verification.

    Mr. Mills: just what grade did you get in your physics class?

  • You just don't understand... This theory also replaces thermodymanics, relativity, and multiplication. I guess this fits within the general theory of perpetual motion, and the special law of alchemy.
  • My background is in Quantum Chemistry, and it's pretty clear to me that this guy is a fraud. I don't have the background of the physicists who were quoted, I'll let them speak for their part of it since I don't understand String Theory or other such grand physics stuff.

    What I do understand, however, is quantum mechanics. I have problems with two of Mills' assertions:

    A central part of Mills's theory explains the basis of the traditional, and paradoxical, "duality" concept of the electron as both a particle and a wave with a model where electrons are charges that travel as two-dimensional disks and wrap around nuclei like fluctuating soap bubbles. He calls them "orbitspheres."

    First, this interesting concept does absolutely nothing to address the fact that photons also have both particle and wave-like behavior. Second, his idea of orbitspheres is completely incompatible with atomic and molecular orbital theory. For those who don't know, orbitals are areas of probability where the electron is likely to be found in an atom or molecule. This theory can be used to explain, qualitatively, chemical reactions and their mechanisms. This brings me to my second quible with his claims:

    BlackLight Power boosters scoff that they've seen no practical application of quantum theory since the atomic bomb and nuclear power, and say they have little time for theorists who call Mills a charlatan while teaching that the fundamental mechanics of cause and effect are subverted at the subatomic level. Mills's camp responds: Fraud? Let's talk about fraud. Quantumists have us living in myriad dimensions filled with "probability waves" and unobservable "virtual particles" that flit in and out of existence

    I have a number of problems with this. First, all the quantum theory which he's dismissing in so cavalier a manner has actually proven itself, countless times. Using the same theories which he dismisses, quantum chemists and solid state physicists have been able to predict the results of untried chemical reactions. This is achieved by computer modeling which implements the mathematical formulas that make up the "fraud" Quantumists are "guilty of".

    Second, let's not forget who won the Nobel Prize last year for Chemistry. It was the people who concieved of and implemented DFT, [nobel.se] one of the more powerful quantum theories which I mentioned above.

    Lastly, I'd like to comment that this guy's speculation is all well and good, but where are the mathematics to back it up? Quantum theory is largely supported by extensive mathetmatical formulae. I took an Advanced Quantum Class, learning the nitty-gritty of that stuff, and even wrote code for a program which implemented it. I ported a Fortran implementation of it to C, and added some stuff. I've seen how it works at a fundamental level. If his theory undoes all of that stuff, I want to see the mathematics which support it. I doubt, however, that he has any.

    So, it seems to me that this guy is out to bamboozle stupid people with a lot of money. I just wish he wasn't trying to do it with junk science.
  • Am I the only person on slashdot who gets a real kick out of seeing different people's methods of avoiding spam? Check out this poster - he's got a mini perl script in order to convert the shown email address into the real address.

    There's another user, I forget what his username is, who has in his sig "reverse, remove everything between the two e's, and rot-13 encode to email me" (a paraphrase, and probably a bit wrong, but the real one is really that obfuscated)

    I get a big kick out of seeing those email obfuscations that work in theory because spam bots that troll the web are dumb and most humans aren't.

    So, I've got to submit my own - I'm making this up on the fly, so if it's a bit wrong, be gentle:

    My email address: "moc.|.ucv.|.natitbeielladm5s"

    s/(\d)/($1 - 3)/e;

    And there you have it!!! (s2mdalle@titan.vcu.edu)

    Oh, excuse the regexps if they're a bit screwed - my perl is rusty. :)

  • by Tau Zero ( 75868 ) on Wednesday December 22, 1999 @12:52PM (#1451679) Journal
    We have what are called energy orbits, but one of the fundamental concepts of chemistry is that you can't move them!
    Actually, you can move them, very slightly, by using powerful magnetic fields; depending on the spin-state of the electron (up or down) the energy of the orbit changes slightly. If I recall correctly, this is one way that magnetic fields are measured on the Sun; they use a high-resolution spectroscope and look for "splitting" of the spectral lines.

    Claimer: Yes, I took basic QM. No, I don't remember very much of it.

    This is high school chemistry! He's either a fraud or an idiot.
    Definitely the former; an idiot wouldn't be able to do the confidence act so well.
    This is just stupid. I hope that whoever wrote the slashdot headline for this one was being facetious when he offered up "ground-breaking science" as a valid option.
    Agreed that it's stupid. On a site which touts itself as News for nerds, Stuff that Matters, it's disgusting to see it wasting space here.

    On the other hand, if Roblimo loses some money in this guy's scam, maybe it would improve the editorial skepticism of Slashdot.

  • by Tackhead ( 54550 ) on Wednesday December 22, 1999 @12:53PM (#1451680)
    "When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong."
    - Arthur C. Clarke, Clarke's First Law

    "When, however, the lay public rallies round an idea that is denounced by distinguished but elderly scientists and supports that idea with great fervor and emotion--the distinguished but elderly scientists are then, after all, probably right."
    - Isaac Asimov's Corollary to Clarke's First Law.

    Even ignoring the fact that I know enough about physics (having worked at a reactor in a previous life oughta qualify me :-) to read through the bunk in the article being discussed here (and make no mistake, the "technology" in this article is bunk), there's also the fact that "great fervor and emotion" (as in "Help, help, we're bein' repressed, can't you see the violence inherent in the system!") is the Village Voice's stock and trade.

    This isn't always bad. Paranoia ("lookit the Eeeevul Corporit Masterzz"), especially when combined with a liberal arts education ("cuz science is so hard compared to marching in protest!"), can be a pretty useful combination when you're trying to ferret out real oppression, but when it comes to science, all you end up with is total gullibility when it comes to anything involving scientific clue.

    "Ah," I hear you say, "but this free-energy theory could be true! Who are you, Tackhead, to say what's worthy or not?". Well, yes, it could be true. And the earth could be carried on the back of a giant turtle, but is it worth investigating when there are better theories to work with? The relativist notion that "all ideas are equally worthy of debate" is great for politics and art, (issues on which Village Voice reporters spend a lot of time writing, and writing well), but a complete flop when you try to extend them to science. The evidence we have makes it pretty bloody clear that world is not sitting on the back of a giant turtle, and any attempt to claim that this "theory" is "just as valid as the big bang theory" is hogwash.

    Science, unlike politics, requires skepticism, not paranoia, and it doesn't respect your politics one way or the other. Given the political leanings and (lack of science in the) educational backgrounds involved, I'd bet that anyone with a crackpot theory that, if it were true, might destabilize capitalism, would have a lot of credibility in the eyes of a VV reporter, no matter how loony the theory.

    On both counts - bad physics according to what I know in my brain, and hokey emotional rhetoric instead of valid peer review according to what I feel in my gut - my money's with Asimov's Corollary on this one.

  • You will see, as responses, a number of statements made by people with one degree or another claiming that their education is what allows them to refute or substantiate these claims.
    A degree is only proof that you have the economic power to attend a center of education and regurgitate what they want you to regurgitate.
    Many of these people have a finicial interest in debunking Mr. Mills. Dr. Robert Park is making money on a debunking book to be published next year. Dr. Michio Kaku has based his career off of string-field theory.
    As for the rest of us, we have an easy option, wait a year. "I'll have demonstrated an entirely new form of energy production by the end of 2000." - Randell Mills.I can wait a year to make my informed decision.
    There are, and have been, a lot of theories about the nature of the universe. History shows that the one thing intelligensia does not like is anyone who does not agree with them. I can't blame them. How would you like to base your whole career on the "fact" that the three corners of a triangle add up to 180 degrees?
    The problem with modern science is that the "proof" of most discoveries is based on a lot of assumptions. Some of these assumptions have bene around for so long that we have begun to regard them as facts.
    Regardless of the outcome, he has at least given support to a very important scientific theory: Money for scientific research is easier to acquire if you can show a profit - Grant Money for Dummies
  • In the next year, Mills promises, the revolution will be "hydrinoized."

    The revolution will not be hydrinoized.
    The revolution will not be brought to you by Blacklight Power
    In 4 parts without commercial interruptions.
    The revolution will not show you pictures of Dr. Randell Mills
    blowing a bugle and leading a charge by Niels Bohr, Albert Einsten
    and Richard Feynman to eat
    hog maws confiscated from a Harlem sanctuary.
    The revolution will not be hydrinoized.

    with all due apologies to Gill Scott Heron
  • A couple of Quick Points:
    1) Science already admits (and Goedel proved mathematically) that it can't answer everything. In any formal system there are things that are true that CANNOT be proven by that system. (Incompleteness theorem)

    2) The basis of scientific fact is experiment. Technically we are confined to this universe, therefore any question dealing with before, after, or outside of this universe can neither be confirmed nor controverted by science.

    both of these points call for some faith. . .

  • by Malor ( 3658 ) on Wednesday December 22, 1999 @01:01PM (#1451687) Journal
    This guy is absolutely wrong, and he's probably knowingly wrong. (ie, fraudulent).

    I've seen this kind of thing many times. After awhile you start to spot the frauds. Consider:

    1. He's appealing to the 'underdog' effect. "Yeah, scientists everywhere hate me, and I'm going to prove them all wrong!" This elicits sympathy.
    2. He is promising way, way too much. Any one of these inventions would make him a wealthy man. He wouldn't need investors the way he has gotten them; he would make a material sample, show it to some big corporation, and get bought for a couple hundred mil.

    Consider: he's promising about a dozen revolutionary advances all at the same time, for one low, low monthly payment. It's just not likely that he would simultaneously overthrow all of established physics in so many areas at once.

    There may very well be breakthroughs of this magnitude, but they won't happen like this: all promises up front with no delivery. Instead, a scientist will announce a revolutionary discovery and probably will make a whole lot of money. Then, a lot of OTHER people will make further progress based on the original breakthrough, and they will make tons of money too.

    There's not enough wattage in anyone's head to throw back the frontiers of science in so many directions simultaneously. If this were real, his head would be totally wrapped around making the energy release work. That alone would make him enough money to buy small countries. The only reason to make claims in so many areas at once is to get investment money. I can't imagine of a surer way of showing that his basic breakthrough -- the power generation -- has no substance. If it were real, he would already be demonstrating a machine that worked.

    This reminds me almost exactly of a claim by a company that was local to where I lived, about ten years ago. They claimed to have sped up the AT compatible machines of the day by a factor of 100 using off-the-shelf components.. Of course, it was a fraud, but it had a lot of people excited and I believe the owner made a lot of money. I don't know what happened to him -- hopefully he is in jail. Intel spent many billions to make computers 100 times faster than an AT. If it could have been done with off-the-shelf components, you can bet Intel would have done that. They're not stupid.

    As a culture, we like to believe in the myth of a single person seeing the brilliant insight that nobody else is capable of seeing. But the stuff he's talking about here is too basic. There's no way that millions of scientists missed it. Just like the AT-machine that was 100 times faster, this 'invention' will disappear, and most of the investors will lose their money.

    My $0.02.
  • Oh no, it's a conspiracy! Just like Bob Lazar, they wiped him from their records! : )

    Actually, they said he went to Harvard, and only took some unspecified courses at MIT...

  • First, a disclaimer: I am not associated with this "Dr Mills" in any way. The name we have in common is merely a coincidence.

    The theory has to be bogus.

    The Grand Unified Theory, if it is eventually found, will provide a single set of equations to describe the four fundamental forces of nature: strong, weak, electromagnetic and gravity. The Standard Model as currently understood has unified the strong, weak and electromagnetic forces into a single set of equations, but these equations do not include gravity. The unification of gravity with the other forces has occupied the finest minds in nuclear physics for over fifty years. Albert Einstein spent the last thirty years of his life on such a unification and he did not succeed.

    Now "Dr" Mills has allegedly created a unified theory of his own, and by using it created a method by which he dissociates water and combines potassium with the hydrogen to produce "hydrinos". As any nuclear physicist worth his salt will tell you, a chemical method cannot produce results that the best particle accelerators existing in the world today have not been able to do.

    Also, the process as described cannot produce energy, as it is thermodynamically impossible for it to produce a net energy gain. Energy is required to dissociate the water molecule into its constituents, whether it be by electrolysis, by catalyst or by enzyme. If the alleged process produces ultraviolet light as claimed, the energy required to create this light must come from the dissociation of the water. By the laws of thermodynamics, the energy allegedly produced by the alleged process cannot yield as much energy as was required to dissociate the water molecules.

    There is also the question of the "Doctor's" qualifications. Does he have a doctorate in nuclear physics? No. Does he have any accredited degree in nuclear physics? No. Does he have any formal training in nuclear physics? That we don't know, but I believe it's unlikely. Therefore, we can safely assume that the "Doctor" is not qualified to speak on the topic of Grand Unified Theories. Are we to believe that someone with no formal qualifications in nuclear physics has succeeded in something where the greatest minds in nuclear physics of the last fifty years have not? Is Dr Mills, without formal qualifications in the field, a better nuclear physicist than such eminent minds in the field as Einstein and Hawking?

    Which, then, is the more likely explanation? That Dr Mills has miraculously and without formal training solved one of the great unsolved scientific problems of our time? Or that he is a fraud and a charlatan, out to fleece gullible people out of their money? The simpler and therefore more likely explanation is that the "Doctor" is a fraud, as is evidenced by his previous exploits.

    Like Dr Mills, I lack qualifications in the field of nuclear physics. However, if I can provide good arguments to debunk his claims from general knowledge only, desite my lack of qualifications in the field, then clearly there's something wrong with the claims of Dr Mills.
  • I wouldn't bet on there being any cells. Perpetual Motion (ie: "limitless energy") violates the second law of thermodynamics, and this guy is clearly too bright to not be aware of this.

    Some of his "quantum mechanics" claims are interesting. The idea that there has been "no practical application of quantum mechanics, since nuclear power & the atom bomb" is amusing.

    First, these aren't based in quantum mechanics but are rather a branch of Nuclear Physics, which is closer to the classical model than the quantum one.

    Second, you know those high-temperature superconductors that have been built? Chances are, they're not following Newton's Laws.

    Nano-scale switches aren't exactly going to be classically described, either.

    Quantum teleportation may not be in the marketplace, but it has been demonstrated, which is more than can be said of these strange new materials.

    Then, there are his other claims:

    Wormhole theory is Einstinian. Indeed, modern wormhole theory is almost entirely derived from the research paper done by Einstein and Rossen, concerning a solution which was entitled an "Einstein-Rossen Bridge".

    Two-dimensional disks, and he calls them "orbit-spheres"? Last I heard, spheres had 3 dimensions. This isn't just nit-picking. Are these charges carried by spheres or disks? There's a big difference.

    Charges on disks would allow you to know the position and velocity of the charge. (The charge can only be going one way around the disk, or the other.) This would allow you to violate the Uncertainty Principle, which I feel very certain this guy can't do. (If he could, he would have, as that WOULD blow Quantum Mechanics out of the water.)

    Shrinking the orbit of the electron round a hydrogen atom would require increasing the charge in the nucleus. But the nucleus has only one proton and no neutrons. (Unless it's deuterium or tritium, which have 1 or 2 neutrons respectively). The nucleus is comprised of 2 "up" quarks and 1 "down" quark, which have charges of 2/3 and -1/3 respectively. The only way to ramp up the charge would be to increase the strength of the "up" quarks, or reduce the strength of the "down" quark. Let's say that was possible (which it isn't, by any known process). If you did that, the proton would be unable to hold itself together, as the positive fields would repell each other. The nucleus would fly apart.

    The rate of change of expansion of the Universe depends on the value of Omega, which is very close to 1. This gives anyone caring to make a bet a 50/50 chance of getting it right, even if they were basing their guess on chasing raindrops down a window.

  • Well that last bit puts it all in perspective.

    Don't knock DG though ;) They were fine for thier time.
  • I think that he *has* discovered a new particle, the "put-on".

    He has clearly already demonstrated the puton's
    enormous potential of raising money. Since
    everyone knows time=money, he might be onto something here.
  • Do you have any references for any of this information? I would certainly like to read more about this.

  • This is off-topic but:

    There is a big difference between using "fuck around with" and "motherfucker". The latter is used as an insult by somebody who feels cornered and lacks the capacity to a real retort, while the other is an expression used by somebody who wants to get his poitn across, and doesn't care to much what people think about his vocabulary.

    We cannot reason ourselves out of our basic irrationality. All we can do is learn the art of being irrational in a reasonable way.
  • (I am going to point to the prisoners from some NJ state pen that try to get gets to straighten out before they end up among their population and notice this fact).

    Well, you might not like his language, but at least his sentences are intelligible. :)

    Just my 0.02 zorkmids.

  • by Hrunting ( 2191 ) on Wednesday December 22, 1999 @01:27PM (#1451717) Homepage
    Did anybody actually go and check out his stuff on Deja? The people aren't saying he's a fruitcake. I searched using 'Randall Mills Blacklight', 'Mills Black light' and 'Randall Mills' and came up with four (4) articles having to do anything with this whole debacle (although threads did have other information on related experiments by others, which apparently started discussion about Mr. Mills). In any case, the four articles basically state that

    a) Mills has posted a couple of articles to ANs for peer review, although they haven't been given much attention.

    b) On the surface, it passes pseudoscience but people aren't holding their breath.

    This doesn't read as crackpot. Personally, yes, I think the experiments will fail to pan out, mostly because this guy is an capitalist, not a scientist or mathematician and he's probably overlooking something himself that's giving him these strange new results. Stranger things have happened. This may turn out to be the 2000 version of the patent clerk coming out of nowhere with a brand new theory that explains far more than we knew before.

    Of course, this time he's going to the patent clerk. How ironic.

    Deja search link (turns up those four articles):
    ht tp://www.deja.com/qs.xp?OP=dnquery.xp&ST=MS&DBS=2& QRY=Randall+Mills+Blacklight [deja.com]
  • Why did you post a blank message?
  • I wonder sometimes why these people don't make a physics fraud FAQ so that when journalists come calling they can refer them to it and say that if they pass muster and don't fall into well established physics frauds, taking it apart will at least be an interesting exercise.

    Then again, I'm still waiting for the Vatican/WCC to put out its christianity FAQ

  • Dude, hydrogen has 1 electron, not two.

    Deuterium (sp?) Has an added neutron, and
    Tritium has 2 added neutrons (man those tritium gas lights are wild!)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 22, 1999 @01:47PM (#1451740)
    Anderson! My thesis was descended from his work. He was the first person to prove that in sufficiently disordered materials electrons become localized and what was a metal becomes an insulator. Pretty cool (and the Nobel committee thought so too).
    I met him a few times. He's just as hilarious as you might think from the quote.
    Generally though, what distinguishes a real scientist from a loon and how can you tell? It's quite rare for the one to become the other. I feel I can tell pretty quickly when someone is a loon; for one thing they get angry very fast when you start questioning them. Real scientists have to give up a cherished idea pretty much every day before breakfast, because good science is about you or someone else proving yourself wrong. In many cases this makes scientists fairly mellow when their work is questioned, at least by someone reasonably knowlegeable.

    Anyone else think they can tell the difference, and if so how?

    On this kind of thing check out this link [skepdic.com].

    BTW I'm only an AC 'cause I can't get Slashdot to send me a password. This happen to anyone else?

    John Drewery
  • *All* of the experiments that 'observed' energy gain have also been shown to suffer from calorimetry mistakes. This is why they can't get results to consistently reproduce.

    Ultimately, the problem is that palladium loves hydrogen atoms to the point that it is difficult to begin an experiment that doesn't already have hydrogen attached. Thus, the experiment doesn't properly account for the energy (usually in the form of heat) that was required to get the palladium in that state. This throws off their calorimetry and their results. These facts are nothing new: There was a professor at MIT [Bellanger/Berringer?] who was investigating the interactions between hydrogen and palladium long before Pons et al.

    Yes, mistakes and misinterpreting results are very real. This is why peer review exists.

  • If I remember correctly, when Niagra Falls was to be harnessed for hydroelectric power (around the turn of the centuary, I believe), Testla proposed the idea of something very absurd. The current electrical power genius, Thomas Edison, and his company Edison Electric company (now General Electric, or GE) thought his idea was poposterous. Testla proposed he could send current on a wire farther than anything that had been done before (20 miles was the current maximum) and everyhting could run off of it.

    The James Westinghouse company (I think) backed Testla and outbid Edison for the Niagra Falls hydroelectric station. In that station the first of these new generators was built, for Tetla didn't even build a protoype or even write down anything related to what he had discovered. He also claimed it would give twice as much power per revolution of the generator magnet as what was currently being used. The scientific community though Testla a fool.

    What he discovered, and what we now use to power homes across America and most of the rest of the world.

    'It' is alternating current.

    Science works in funny ways, but sometimes the 'nut' does end up being right. The results I saw in the article did not completely write out the technology proposed (unlike the cold fusion followups in the late 80's early 90's). It's something to ponder
  • I downloaded his PDF's and I can't make heads or tails of them. I'm unfortunately 2 years too stupid in Physics to really understand what in the world he is saying. The text around the mysterious formulas seems to say that he applies classical physics to the atom. I find this odd since quantum mechanics helped alievate some of the problems with classical mechanics had with the atom. It sounds like this guy just chucked it and went backwards again. Fine, that doesn't disqualify him, but it makes me suspicious.

    I cannot understand what the heck he is doing in the first one. He seems to be addressing a real issue if he is going to use classical mechanics on an atom: If we let the electron move around the atom in an orbit (or an "orbitsphere") it is experiencing centripetal acceleration. Thus, it will be radiating EM waves, lose momentum, and crash into the nucleus. [I hope I got that right.] This was the problem with the Bohr model for the atom.

    So what is this stuff about:

    Proof that the condition for nonradiation by a moving point charge is that its spacetime Fourier transform does not possess components synchronous with wavs traveling at the speed of light is given by Haus [1].
    Unfortunately, there is no bibliography at the end of the PDF, so I can't go look up Haus[1] to find out what he is talking about. Can anyone who knows what is going on help me out here?
  • Well, he also gets my vote as the most closed-minded Nobel Laureate (I _REALLY_ hope he was misquoted..)

    I dunno.

    If I said that you take a source code listing, run it through a blender with some cream of tartar and bury it under a rock during the full moon, and that it would spontaneously emerge **bug free** on the following day, would you take the trouble freeze your ass off in the middle of December to see if it worked?

    Wouldn't it be closed minded of you not to make the effort, when if it worked it would be thing single greatest thing that was ever developed in software engineering?

    How about if I got some venture capitalists to fund the construction of the world's largest and most complicated blender? Would that improve my credibility?

  • I assume that is an Einstein reference?

    In which case he did not come out of "nowhere". He came out of a PhD program at a respected university. He did his thesis on methods of calculating Avagadro's number.


    PS Einstein did extremely well in school. The myth to the contrary is based on a reporter who did not know that the numerical scores used in Austria were reversed from the German - the scores that looked like Einstein failing everything were actually top marks!
  • A number of comments toe the party line of the scientific establishment, calling Mr. Mills a fraud without any evidence to support this claim.
    I have no idea if this individual is on to something or not, but I am willing to wait for further information before I crucify the man. Anyone who believes that science has finished its turbulent path, that today's dogma will reign for millenia, is most likely mistaken (kill me if I am wrong).

    Newton had a good run, just over 250 years before Einstein and Maxwell made their adjustments. Ptolemy enjoyed over 1000 years at the top with the earth at the center of the universe.
    Mill's may or may not be onto something here but as it is a radical viewpoint, expect the papacy to attempt excommunication.

    I am also alarmed by descriptions of research being shut down for political concerns or fear of
    improper appearence ("did you say COLD-Fusion? I am sorry but we'll have to pull your funding.)
    When scientists close their minds to the improbable I tend to get nervous.


  • If you said it, i wouldnt do it. But if you said it, build the big, complicated blender, got a bunch of government and private-sector establishments interested, and then gave out samples of your bug-free code to other programmers.. then i think i'd give it a shot.

    The guy's proven he can make substances that nobody has seen before and has a device that's kicking out UV energy and nobody knows why.. it might not prove that he's turned science on it's head, but i think saying "No! It's a fraud! It has to be because if it's not i'm wrong, and *I* Can't be wrong!" is a bit closeminded of the guy.

    I mean, if Mills flies up to him in on of his anti-gravity flying saucers and gives him a rust-resistant suit made of magnetic plastic, will he still say "It's all bunk. Gimme my 11 dimensional strings back!" or what?

  • by FallLine ( 12211 ) on Wednesday December 22, 1999 @02:30PM (#1451772)
    peer review is not always right either. I believe a de-centralized science is the best science, and that this peer review, though it has clear benefits, can also be detrimental. There is a certain herd mentality amongst the so-called scientific community, academics especially. If science is to fundamentally advance, we need people to push the envelop, there is simply no other way. Virtually everyone who has done so has been met with harsh criticism by the entrenched.

    Though the vast majority of people, such Mills, may be incorrect, it is also people like him that shake science up and advance it. This is not to say that we should throw 'peer review' out the window; rather, that, we should allow both to coexist. For if all science were restricted to commonly help perceptions, it would never make great strides. On the hand, to accept whole whatever the latest longhair purports to be fact would be equally foolish.

    The interplay between the two "groups" creates a better system. Yes, all in all, Mill is most likely wrong. No one is asking us to swallow his line whole. What is the harm of allowing Mill and his investors to risk their money and effort? At worst, they lose money. At best, they produce something of use. Which can later be peer reviewed once they have an undeniable proof of concept, such that it can be "properly" classified, filed, writen up, or what have you. The biggest threat is not the ignorant few, it is the myopic "elite" that would try to restrict the few beyond their FOV.

  • by HermDog ( 24570 ) on Wednesday December 22, 1999 @02:40PM (#1451779)
    He's either a fraud or an idiot.
    I must say that I find this a frightfully closed-minded statement, especially today at the close of a century that's revealed the theory of relativity, quantum mechanics, atomic energy, manned flight and space travel. Certainly, after all we've learned, we can agree that it's possible that he's both a fraud and an idiot?
  • by raph ( 3148 ) on Wednesday December 22, 1999 @02:45PM (#1451783) Homepage
    An interview with Dr. Mills ran on the McLibel web site last February:

    Parts 1 [envirolink.org] 2 [envirolink.org] 3 [envirolink.org]

    It doesn't take any deep knowledge of physics to come to the conclusion that this is a fraud. If it were real, it would be really fucking obvious. I can think of a few really clean experiments just off the top of my head (I mean, don't you'd think you'd be able to notice if the hydrino gas failed to react with oxygen?).

    One of the more interesting things are the "independent" results that blacklightpower got done for them. Anyone else reminded of Mindcraft?
  • It's interesting that /.ers are even talking about this. We ought to be among the more critical readers, both in terms of our science knowledge and our skepticism toward baloney (or don't you get the same email nonsense I do).

    The Pseudoscience [syntac.net] page has some great examples of scientific-sounding nonsense. And sure enough, the historical examples show that the outwardly sophisticated are often the most thoroughly taken marks.

    Perhaps its our curiosity toward (and faith in) scientific-sounding things that makes us especially vulnerable to magic laundry magnets [syntac.net], cargo cult engineered diagnostic machinery [syntac.net], and the like.

  • Am I the only person on slashdot who gets a real kick out of seeing different people's methods of avoiding spam? Check out this poster - he's got a mini perl script in order to convert the shown email address into the real address.

    LOL. Yes, it's pretty funny. Check out mine as well - I don't like spam much either. :) [It took me a while to come up with that one when I created my /. account].

    I think I've seen the one you're refering to; it had a challenge (something like "do this and this to email me, even just to show you did it"). One time I was bored and decoded it (I didn't actually email him, but the address looked correct). I know mine is decodable, someone emailed me a few days ago (I'd feel pretty stupid if you couldn't get the right email addy out).

    I like the posters Perl script as well. Very clever, I think. Python is better tho. :P
  • > Yes, all in all, Mill is most likely wrong.
    > No one is asking us to swallow his line whole.

    Exqueezeme? Mills certainly is.

    The $25M he's conned people into giving him could also buy 25% of a small space probe to Mars.

    Which of those two "investments in science" offers the greater chance of a positive (scientific) return? Which of those experiments is more likely to teach us something about the way the world works?

    > What is the harm of allowing Mill and his investors to risk their money and effort?

    The harm in allowing investors to waste their money on cockamamie bunk like Mills' is that it takes money away from real research, and gives all research a bad name.

    Junk physics is very much like quack medicine - the harm in people spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on apricot pits to cure cancer isn't that the stupid people bankrupt (and kill) themselves, but that their support of such quackery may lead other people to do so as well.

    Money should be spent where there's a reasonable expectation that it'll do some good. Unlike philosophy or politics, in science, not all ideas are created equal, and not all theories are worthy of inquiry.

  • (I _REALLY_ hope he was misquoted..)

    Well you certainly misquoted the article. You shouldn't put quotes around your interpretation of a statement...it's very nearly libelous.

  • As explained to me by my physics prof:

    1)You can't win
    2)You can't try
    3)You'll always loose.

    She probably got it third-hand from an earlier version. The one I learned in the 60s from reading John Campbell was:
    1. You can't win
    2. You can't break even
    3. You can't quit the game

    Blacker and better physics.
  • What I meant was that the claim of a limitless, cheap, clean energy source sounded an awful lot like the claims made by the cold fusion guys.

    When his discoveries save all mankind from our woes (as he seems to think the will), I be considerably less cynical and skeptical :)

  • More accurately, "if hydrogen has a lower-energy state, that invalidates the fundamentals of quantum mechanics, which otherwise has a splendid track record of predicting phenomena like lasers, semiconductors, quantum optics, etc. etc. etc." Which in turn raises the interesting question: if Schroedinger's equation is wrong, then what is that scanner at the checkout counter doing?

    overshoot, wondering what the orbit state below h_bar/2 might be, and what would happen if all that Solar hydrogen discovered that it had somewhere to go?
  • by overshoot ( 39700 ) on Wednesday December 22, 1999 @03:21PM (#1451805)
    Think about this: if it were possible for hydrogen atoms to transition to a lower energy state, they would have already done so by now. Mother Nature likes to be in the lowest energy state possible. If she gould have squeezed more energy out of hydrogen atoms, she would have already done so.

    She's stingy, all right. Look at the merry Hob that the transition between cis- and trans- states cause for LH2.

    Background: the protons in a hydrogen atom can either align with parallel or antiparallel magnetic axes. The energy difference is miniscule, and at room temperature thermal exitation keeps them pretty much equally common. At liquid-hydrogen temperatures, though, the only stable state is antiparallel. Having a tank of LH2 drop from 50%/50% to ground state can be an exciting event!

    So Mums is really good at finding lower energy states -- but somehow missed something in the ultraviolet range?
  • A common thread in discussions like this one seems to be that the grand old institutionalized scientists have a vested interest in protecting the status quo and the sanctity of the theories they have built their careers around. And along comes some upstart threatening to tear down their favorite paradigms. While there is some rigidity that naturally comes when working under a particular worldview for so long, I don't think the perception of crusty scientists unwilling to accept new ideas is true at all.

    I saw a lecture not too long ago in which a Los Alamos physicist presented some work they had done with the Pioneer spacecraft now on the outskirts of the Solar System. Basically they were pinging it with radio signals, waiting for the return and thus measureing the spacecrafts acceleration and trying to match it with the gravitational acceleration due to the sun, other planets, etc. They found a systematic error that could not be accounted for. His conclusion: it's probably something prosaic that they hadn't thought of yet. In the followup question and answer many possible solutions were proposed, all of which had been checked out and discarded as possibilities. I made an interesting sociological observation. Every scientist in the room was hoping the solution to this dilemma was new physics. This despite the fact that General Relativity is one of the most tested and established theories out there. Of course maybe Mr. Mills has explained these results in his papers.
  • after all that work to make sure you keep your eMail free from the spambots... you put it unmodified in your post anyway.

    !PU EKAW
  • right. I'd like to see some production models of this new "amazingly infinite energy source". But it probably works about as well as the perpetual motion machine on my desk. He bashes quantum theory while saying he has a grand unification theory, that makes me more skeptical than before. A REAL grand unifying theory could do alot more than make better plastics. I'm an engineering student with a penchant for quantum theory, I know a bit about this subject and I think this guy is completely full of it. Or so it goes.
  • You will see, as responses, a number of statements made by people with one degree or another claiming that their education is what allows them to refute or substantiate these claims.

    Not so much that; it's more like they learned a few tricks for testing physics hypotheses while there. Often (althoug not always) less entertaining than some of the other tricks also learned in those ivy halls (and under various bushes, tables, on roofs, etc!)

    A degree is only proof that you have the economic power to attend a center of education and regurgitate what they want you to regurgitate.

    Perhaps a bit more than that. For instance, it also means that you've been exposed to some of the classical theory testing tools such as Carnot's little engine, Michaelson and Morley's elegant lightshow, the Hall effect, and Einstein's test cases involving FTL and causation. It's not the answers, you see; it's all those pesky questions.

    In addition it means that you've been exposed to handy concepts like, "if you don't see it happening in nature you can bet there's a reason why." Hydrogen fusion doesn't happen in all that seawater often enough to bother about because there's a huge activation energy. Mills' stuff, on the other hand, involves mixing common chemicals under conditions that are pretty common in the Universe -- which rather invites the question of why we haven't noticed those little hydrinos getting it on in e.g., fertilizer plants.
  • It stated that researchers are usually required to back up their research and request for grants with all kinds of proofs and peer reviews; then this guy comes along with wild unsubstatiated claims and ends up with all kinds of funding.

    You can imagine what's going through Dr. Anderson's mind. Maybe: Start heating the tar and get the feathers.
  • Hmmmm... sort of like a physics version of Quackwatch [quackwatch.com]?
  • by dew ( 3680 ) <david@week[ ]org ['ly.' in gap]> on Wednesday December 22, 1999 @04:01PM (#1451818) Homepage Journal
    I was reading through the user comments at Amazon.com on his book and I found the following detailed, precise, and helpful refutation of the Mills Theorem. I reprint it below.

    The Grand Unified Theory of Classical Quantum Mechanics
    Reviewer: Ulrich Gerlach from Dept of Mathematics, Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio
    December 21, 1999

    There are four aspects to the theoretical underpinning of this book, (i) philosophical, (ii) theoretically physical, (iii) experimentally physical and (iv) mathematical. The theoretical underpinning for this book are the six theory sections, which are also posted by the author on several of his web pages. My review is directed at these theoretical underpinnings. For the purpose of orientation, one may note that these six sections come as pdf files. Consequently, it is natural to label their pages in consecutive order. For example, the references would be on page 33. The ensuing seven remarks are labelled according to which of the above four aspects I am talking about.

    1.(iv) The expressions for the charge distribution given below Eq.(I.5), as well as those given by Eqs.(I.7) and (I.8) do not satisfy the author's wave equation, Eq.(I.6).

    2.(iii) By an appropriate rotation of the laboratory, any linear combination of the angular eigenmodes having the same l-value will become independent of the azimuthal angle \phi, i.e. will become a pure m=0 mode having the same l-value. (This is a consequence of the familiar "addition theorem" for spherical harmonics.) According to the Mills theory, the oscillation frequency of the system will therefore have changed from a non-zero value to the value zero. Putting these two observations together, one has the result that, by merely changing the orientation with which one looks at the charge distribution, say, by tilting one's head, one can change the frequency with which the system vibrates.

    3.(iii) The radial amplitude profiles given by Eqs.(I.25) and (I.26) are those of a hollow resonating sphere or those of empty spherically symmetric space. These profiles are not those that pertain to a system having a central charged nucleus, whose electrostatic potential U(r) is proportional to 1/r. As a consequence, vibrational frequencies (or energy levels) based on these (non-electrostatic) profiles are in conflict with the known levels of the hydrogen atom, the author's "alternative interpretation" on pages 11-13 notwithstanding.

    4.(ii) The sweeping negative assessments (after Eq.(I.46) down to the middle of the next page) of (1) quantum mechanics (q.m.), of (2) the relation between Schrodinger's equation and spin and the Pauli principle, and of (3) the impuned "assumption" of q.m. visavis macroscopic objects are very strange by any standard. I am sure that if the author had read and followed, for example, Feynman's (LECTURES ON PHYSICS, Volume III) exposition of quantum mechanics (but not necessarily ALL his philosophical comments), augmented by Wheeler's (Box 25.3 in "GRAVITATION" by C. Misner, K. Thorne, and J.A. Wheeler) exposition of the role of Hamilton-Jacobi theory in relating q.m. to Newtonian mechanics, then the author would have been led to a diametrically opposite assessment.

    5.(iii) The author claims that the hydrogen atom has energy levels below those already measured spectroscopically. He claims (e.g. on page 21) that these levels betray their existence only through atomic collisions. If that were indeed the case, then the atomic beam physicists would have seen these energy states a long time ago with the help, among others, of the Ramsauer effect. This effect is observed when electron having the right energy exhibit resonance scattering (only for the l=0 part of the electrons' angular momentum) when they scatter off a neutral atomic beam. Furthermore, these electrons would also reveal any of the author's "hydrino" states by the energy necessary to ionize the hydrogen atoms in these states.

    6.(i) Above Eq.(I.22) the author makes the physically and philosphically incorrect claim that Schrodinger's boundary condition leads to a "purely" mathematical model of the electron [emphasis via quotes are mine]. The correct statement should have been something like: "Schrodinger's boundary condition expresses (or captures) the dynamical behaviour of a bound electron". Thus, first of all, Schrodinger's boundary condition makes no statement about the structure of the electron. Secondly, and more importantly, there is no breach (as introduced by Plato and formalized by Kant) between reason and reality as is implied by the dismissive and subjective descriptor `purely mathematical model'. The phrase `purely mathematical model' or its philosophic equivalent, `purely mental construct', is an attempt to drive a wedge between theoretical physics and that which is observed or perceived in experimental physics. Such attempts should, for obvious reasons, be guarded against with vigilance. A very informative discussion of this issue can be found in L. Peikoff's article "The analytic synthetic dichotomy" in A. Rand's "INTRODUCTION TO OBJECTIVIST EPISTEMOLOGY".

    7.(i) In several places the author refers to the "interpretation" of the wave function, or the "interpretation" of quantum mechanics. This is bad physics and bad epistemology. Here again some philosophic detection is necessary. The underlying premise is the erroneous assumption that these concepts, or constellation of concepts, are a matter of revelation, and that our job is merely to "interpret" what they mean. The underlying premise consists of the assumption that (a) the concept `wave function' or (b) the constellation of concepts `quantum mechanics', both products of man's consciousness, are metaphysically prior or independent of existence. In fact, the opposite is the case. All products of our consciousness, including the above, are constructed by a mental process in which our consciousness digests the data and observations obtained through our senses. The fundamental aspects of this digestive process are in fact described in the above book by A. Rand

    Let me summarize this review by putting it into a wider perspective. As one can see from the issues I have pointed out, the author's work is grossly deficient from (i) the philosophical, (ii) the theoretically physical, (iii) the experimentally physical and (iv) the mathematical point of view. The author is terribly confused about all these issues and my suspicion is that he does not even realize it. I could cite additional instances, but I merely would be beating a dead horse.

    Based on the observations listed above, a more accurate assessment of the author's work is that it is an example of what, for good reasons, gives mathematicians, engineers, physicists, and philosophers a bad reputation in the eyes of prospective scientists or the public in general.

    David E. Weekly (dew, Think)

  • Tie him up and throw him in the lake. If he sinks, then he was a scientist and you should mourn his loss by naming a highway after him. If he floats, then he's a loon who weighs as much as a duck and is made of wood, and therefore you can build a bridge out of him, which was the point all along.
  • At the turn of the century, physicists figured they had everything pretty much wrapped up and all the interesting problems solved. Then along came relativity, quantum mechanics, innumerable new particles, nuclear energy, and everything else under the sun.

    Enormous strides will be made in the next fifty years, but the perennial human need to think "But this time, we'll get it right" is probably again misplaced.
  • I don't know about you, but I find it very annoying to have to use each individual's unmunging scheme. Munging is just irritating - my filters take care of incoming SPAM and I don't have to worry about munging addresses.
  • let's take item number one:
    "The major problem with this type of experiment is that you need to get close to a 1:1 (.9 as I recall) ratio of hydrogen atoms for each atom of the palladium crystal matrix before you get results. If you have cracks or other impurities you will NOT achieve that level of packing."

    I think maybe it's time to whip out my chemical engineering training (had to come in use some day). Okay, let's wrestle about palladium. We Chem E's have been using palladium and platinum for years now, with great effectiveness. So I know a few things that I feel I should share with you.
    1.a) Standard hydrogen soaking of platinum yields a ratio of about 700:1, hydrogen-to-platinum atoms. Palladium has similar numbers. None of your 1-to-1 nonsense. Think about the respective sizes of the atoms. Now think about the size of metallic matrices. Figure it out.
    1.b) We've had a ball with H-soaked Pl & Pt; they're really useful as a reaction surface. With a bit of effort, you could dig up any number of facinating papers on the subject. But you see, there's a big difference between chemical (electrons) and nuclear (baryons) reactions.

    Anyhow, just wanted to note that your pseudo-fact was bullshit.

    2) "One SRI researcher died from this."

    3) "to validate various aspects of his theory that have allegedly been confirmed "


    4) "He does have a comprehensive theory "

    so do christians, but that doesn't increase their credibility. Internal correctness means nothing without external proof.

    5) "a reprint of a recent Wall Street Journal article on BlackLight and its recent work"

    To repeat what has been said a thousand times before, anyone who seeks out the business & mainstream press, while scorning the scientific establishment & peer review, has been shown to be a fraud. I challenge you to provide 2 counter examples.

    It's 9 pm, I'm leaving work. Goodnight.
  • Obscenity is the crutch of inarticulate mutherfuckers.
  • by ralphclark ( 11346 ) on Wednesday December 22, 1999 @05:02PM (#1451843) Journal
    Mother Nature likes to be in the lowest energy state possible. If she gould have squeezed more energy out of hydrogen atoms, she would have already done so.

    According to Mills, she already has. He claims the apparent energy deficit in our Sun is due to the presence of these hydrinos.

    Consciousness is not what it thinks it is
    Thought exists only as an abstraction
  • The theory behind his energy source is quite interesting. He proposes that the everyday electronic state of hydrogen is not the lowest energy state, but a metastable state which is long-lived because the transitions to lower states are not radiative. His apparatus allegedly works by using a transition of equal energy in potassium to accept the energy from the hydrogen.

    I don't buy it, but what the hell, it's worth trying.

    Mr Mills has quite a few Australian patents, but you wouldn't want to suffer the Java 3270 emulation needed to view them. Below are the ones which are WIPO.


    A review of his book with a few useful footnotes is here [blacklightpower.com]

  • by Anonymous Coward
    To those of you calling Mills a fraud, I'm here to tell you that you're having a classic knee-jerk reaction. Now, I'm *not* telling you that his theory is correct or that he'll be pumping out cold fusion reactors any time soon -- just that he firmly believes in what he's doing and I don't think he's a fraud.

    A few of my friends and I were looking at investing in his company and we met with Mills at his offices in Philadelphia several years ago. We were introduced by a common friend who is an investment manager and who was interested in getting a third party opinion on what Mills was doing. Basically, he struck me as a very honest and forthright individual and it was abundantly clear that he's a very smart man.

    We also met his R&D Director who had a heavily bandaged hand/forearm -- one of the gas CF reactors they were putting together (basically a 1 foot high electrolysis tube) exploded on him.

    Anyway, they put on a very convincing presentation and we chatted for over 2 hours. He also gave me a copy of his "Theory of Everything" thesis -- I can't follow the math but the general principles are certainly very interesting (I have a B.Sc. in Physics so I know enough to be dangerous). This thesis is almost 500 pages long and is very detailed. He puts an interesting quote on the dedication page of this document: "And God said, 'Let there be light'; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness." I guess you can read a lot into this.

    Like most "mad" scientists, he's obsessed with his theory and clearly is very proud of what he has achieved; or, at least, what he thinks he has achieved. And indeed, if and when his theory proves correct, he will be remembered as one of our most important scientists. But it's still way too early to pass judgement. We should leave it to history to determine whether he's a visionary or just another dreamer. One thing I will say for him, he knows that he has a tough row to hoe. He knew that in postulating a new form of Hydrogen to explain everything from Cold Fusion to dark matter he was going to attract a lot of skepticism (if not outright hostility). To his credit, here we are 4 years later and he's still plugging away and we're still talking about him.

    I was a bit taken aback when I discovered that he wasn't a physicist. Not that he hid this fact or anything, just that given the nature of the theory I naturally assumed he had to be a physicist. I don't remember clearly but I think he has a degree in Medicine (thus the Dr.) and some other post-graduate degree (chemistry?). But this is another big strike against him -- physicists will *never* accept a theory of this magnitude from a non-physicist without a very convincing body of incontrovertible evidence to support his theory.

    Could it be that Mills' little "Hydrino" atoms and "Dihydrino" molecules will be the answer to everything? I really can't say. But I am willing to keep an open mind and I wish him well.

    BTW, we did not invest in the company for two basic reasons: 1. Even if his CF theories are correct, we thought the practical production of CF reactors was still a long way off, and 2. His finance guy (his brother) had a market cap on the company that was way out of whack for a high-risk enterprise like this (about 1/2 billion $) -- our investment would have diluted to nothing by the time (if ever) the company generated any revenue.

  • >Which of those two "investments in science" offers the greater chance of a positive (scientific) return?
    >Which of those experiments is more likely to teach us something about the way the world works?

    I'm not sure I like this line of thought -- boiled down to its core, it says "the safer and more known the results will be, the better an investment in science is." Unfortunately, applying the reduce-to-absurdity filter to that, you get "the best investment in science is the one where the results are pre-known," which is no science at all.

    Science is like any other investment -- you balance your risk with your potential returns. Fringe science is defintionally high-risk, but that's always where the largest expansions of knowledge come from when they pan out.

    >Unlike philosophy or politics, in science, not all ideas are created equal, and not all theories are worthy of inquiry.

    I've seen you say this a couple times in the comments to this story, and while I don't actually disagree, I'd be curious to know where you think a theory's 'betterness' springs from?

    Specifically, since the object of scientific method is to discover 'truth,' and since 'truth' has historically been a process of slow refining of knowledge punctuated by complete sea changes in our understanding of the world, the act of pre-judging theories by whether they fit our current thoughts and expectations locks us into those thoughts and expectations, keeps us from investigating potential sea change ideas when they arrive.

    Which is not to say that every theory is worthy of investigation -- as you say, some are and some aren't. But how do we pick? What about some ideas makes them 'worthy?' Where does the 'worth' live? With an infinity of possible ways to explain the universe out there, how do we select which to take time to look at? Can we truly stand up and say that science leads to 'objective truth' when we don't even take the time to TEST some ideas because they're pre-filtered by our biases?

    What makes a better idea 'better?' "Because it proves to be valid and repeatable" isn't a good answer, because I'm asking about how we choose which ones to validate and repeat, my questions come _before_ truth-tests. Where do we get our idea of what makes a 'good idea?'

  • One of the more interesting aspects of any "new" theory is that it needs to supply some testable predictions in order for anyone to have a chance at falsifying it. As it turns out, what the experimentalists are looking for are one of two things, either agreement with the predicitions of the theory, or disagreements. Seems obvious, but it is important to note that agreement between measurement and theory does not prove the theory, yet disagreement between measurement and theory does disprove the theory.

    Moreover, many people seem to have problems in general with the concept of a theory. I will give you an example of a theory: Sum over the all of the Forces = Sum over all the masses * accelleration of each mass This theory gives me predictive power, if I assign velocity to be the time integral of acceleration, and the position to be the time integral of velocity. Now using this theory (actually all of these theories) together, I get a simple predictive equation that relates position to velocity and acceleration (or in this case applied force per unit mass).

    X=X0 + V0*t + (1/2)*(Total Force/Mass)*t*t

    With this theoretical predictive equation, I can model position changes as a function of time. All the measurements I do may seem to indicate or in the parlance of the experimentalist, lend support to the theory, but no number of measurements can prove the theory correct. But I can always disprove it, simply by showing where it does not predict accurately.

    People mistakenly believe that when something is a theory, it is not accepted/acceptable as a representation of reality. This is not correct. A theory is a predictive system which can and is tested, and is intrinsically falseafiable. That is the very nature and heart of science, that one can falsify a theory by finding out where it doesn't work. A theory that is not falseafiable is not scientific, it is a religious issue. This is precisely why on other threads the poor folks who posit creationism as an alternative to an evolutionary like process are beating their heads against a wall that they shouldn't be wasting their time on. Creationism is religion not science, evolution and related theories are testable, falseafiable, and modifiable.

    When a theory is found to be false, some significant salvage work goes on to see what parts are useful and accurately predict observations, and where it fails. This post-mortem analysis is usually hidden from view of most of us, but practitioners of the science want to know what works and what doesn't. The parts the seem to work are usually kept for empirical reasons, as it is easier to explain regions of validity without subscribing to the theories deeper innards.

    There is a great example of this. I just gave above a brief descrption of Newton's laws. (note: A law is in this case a widely accepted theory). That equation I gave above is used by millions of school kids in order to figure out where the car stops, or the cannon ball lands, etc.

    That equation (actually the theory underneath it) is false. Or, stated another way, it has limited regions of applicability. One cannot and should not use that underlying theory to calculate Hohmann transfer orbits (minimum energy orbits for visiting our neighboring worlds). You can get most of the details right, but due to relativistic effects associated with curved space-time, a small error in calculation can spell disaster for the mission. NASA just had an issue just like this crop up (though theirs was more along the lines of showing the stupidity we have here in the US in still using the english measurement system... the English are not using it themselves!!!). You need to deal with relativistic effects, solar wind effects, magnetic effects, etc. That is to say that the theory is at best incomplete, and at worst wrong. On the other hand, no one is going to haul out the Einsteinian equations in order to calculate this orbit (or last time I checked they wouldn't do it), even though that theory (GR) is more accurate than Newton's theory of gravitation.

    Ok, why have I said all this? Simple. As it turns out, many people have posited fractional quantum numbers for many years. All sorts of properties and measurements have been postulated, all sorts of behaviors have been theorized. To this date, in the system that is under study, none has been observed as far as I know. I do not know of any confirmation of this fellows work, but I do know of much disparagement of his methods (e.g. pointing out the flaws in his efforts).

    If I were the average non-scientist on the street, I would be seriously skeptical about these things. There is always a romantic notion about some forgotten scientist somewhere finding something where no one else could, but largely this doesn't happen. I can tell you from personal experience that most scientists have enough built in skepticism to avoid the eureka factor if at all possible. It is better to be cautious than to be labelled a charlatan.

    No body knows what this fellow found. However, he has been making claims of fractional quantum number stuff in hydrogen for quite some time. As it turns out, Hydrogen is the one element for which we have a very workable theory. This theory specifically precludes fractional quantum numbers. The reason for that is that they would be observable in the spectra of the atom. They are not observable. Either there is a complicated reason for non-observability, or they don't exist. My bet is on the latter.

    As a side note, there is such a thing as a fractional quantum effect (the fractional quantum hall effect) though it is quite difficult to explain. There are also filling of fractional quantum Landau levels. There is nothing sacred about the integer versus the fraction in physics. We are not diophantinians.

    My best guess is that this stuff is fake or another effect is poisoning his results. We see that all the time. That is precisely the purpose of the journal article, to call attention to a specific thing, and get smart people thinking about this. Why hasn't he published? I would be asking this.

    Be smart. Be skeptical.

  • "Ah," I hear you say, "but this free-energy theory could be true! Who are you, Tackhead, to say what's worthy or not?". Well, yes, it could be true. And the earth could be carried on the back of a giant turtle, but is it worth investigating when there are better theories to work with? The relativist notion that "all ideas are equally worthy of debate" is great for politics and art, (issues on which Village Voice reporters spend a lot of time writing, and writing well), but a complete flop when you try to extend them to science. The evidence we have makes it pretty bloody clear that world is not sitting on the back of a giant turtle, and any attempt to claim that this "theory" is "just as valid as the big bang theory" is hogwash.

    I completely disagree. The way the scientific process works is that everything is equally worthy of debate, but some items tend to be more easily disproven than others. I could say that water has the property of being able to carry my spirit to the star Vega in less than two minutes, but it wouldn't be worthy to research that since an offhand glance shows that it could be readily disproven (we know water can't do this). This guy's claims probably fall marginally into that realm, which is why they haven't been deemed worthy of research. But this guy said, "Hold on a second, let me look at this closer," and what would happen if he found something? Too many scientists have already dismissed this guy because of what they know about current theories but his claim is certainly worthy of being researched. The great thing about theories is that they are often wrong and despite the theory of relativity's incredible experimental strength it is still a theory (and lest I remind you of Newton's laws).

    The claims are certainly worthy of being researched, if only to be disproven. I, for one, would be very happy to see the results of the research, positive or negative, because it means one more possible answer has been researched (and frankly, his work seems a helluva lot more plausible than the idea of superstrings and eleven dimensions and all other sorts of perfectly imaginary but mathematically possible 'ideas').
  • The connotation commonly attached to the word 'fuck' in this context does work; at least, in my opinion. He was being both negative and questioning the thought and actions of this research, in a playful manner.

    Of course, words as general as fuck often make for confusion due to its connotation being open to such wide interpretation. He could have just as easily meant for the word to exert power, obsession, or the foolishness involved in seeking out and the action of...
  • Somebody has to believe 'em. For all we know he could be the greatest genius the world's ever known.. i mean, if he was That big a crackpot could he really write a thousand page technical book on quantum physics and have it discussed intellectually by the leaders of the field?
    I mean, if he just said "I have a theory that explains everything and will also create thinking machines, anti-gravity, super-nukes, and self-toasting bread.. but I won't tell you about it" i'd say yeah, he's insane.. but this guy's published his work and built working models.. and not All the physicists out there disagree. Even if he's only 10% correct (for instance, all his astrophysics stuff is wrong, but he got the bit about electron shells right.. or the other way around or something) he's Still made a huge breakthrough.

    *shrug* science has always progressed by leaps.. cause-effect thinking, aristotlian physics, einsteinian physics, quantum mechanics.. it's just been a matter of time before someone came along and shoved everything we thought we knew down the drain. Maybe Mills isnt him, but i'd rather give the more promising ones the benefit of the doubt rather than burn 'em at the stake for being too ambitious.

    Look at Thomas Edison. Admittedly he was more of a tinkerer than a scientist, but he lept from project to project.. sometimes he would forget to sleep or eat because he had so many ideas in his head that he had to try. So this guy has gone from power to chemicals to programming to whatever rather than delving into the depths of theory. Is that so horrible? If he gets results (which he is so far) where's the harm?
  • > > [Tackhead sez "some theories aren't worth investigating"]
    > [emerson sez "how do we choose which are worth investigating and which aren't, and how do we do it in such a way
    > as to avoid only doing science in areas where we already know the results"]

    Your point about "rejecting theories out of hand can lead to boringly-safe science" is well-taken, as well as your insight that "what makes a better idea better" is an - is the - important question.

    The key - also as you point out - is to screen out the chaff before spending a fortune trying to repeat the experiments of crackpots. The thing I've not fully articulated is "how do you screen the wheat from the chaff in absence of experiment". So here are some random thoughts:

    • My original post (Asimov's Corollary to Clarke's Law) is actually a pretty useful guideline -- if the reason you want to test a theory is that it's Really Really Appealing To Laypeople, odds are it's bunk that can't stand on its own merits and must appeal to human emotion to get approval. Apricot pits for cancer, free energy, and the like.

    • Following closely in the footsteps of "Really Really Appealing To Laypeople" is often "putting the cart before the horse". The other reason people believe apricot pits cure cancer is because "science has been working on a cure for cancer for decades and I need something I can buy NOW!". The quack sells you an answer for now, and promises the research to back it up later. The scientist performs the research first, and only worries about productizing it later.

    • By "research", I don't mean "going away for 20 years and emerging with a theory out of thin air". Although Einstein was a clerk in a patent office, he wasn't wholly divorced from the scientific community, even though his theory was pretty revolutionary.

    • Another indication of junk science - sort of a combination of all of the above - is the "I understand everything and you don't" effect. Most great scientific discoveries didn't start with "I know the Answer to Life, The Universe, And Everything, and You Don't!", but with a guy looking at an experimental or mathematical result and saying "huh? that's funny..."

    • Finally, Occam's Razor. Relativity was a revolutionary theory, but it was worthy of investigation. Why? Because physicists at the time already had reason to believe that classical mechanics wasn't quite what it was cracked up to be. The canonical example would be the Michelson-Morely experiments on the speed of light to see what the preferred frame of reference for the universe was - but unfortunately, the speed of light seemed to be constant no matter which way the experimental apparatus was moving.

      Yes, Einstein threw Newtonian physics for a loop, but there was ample evidence that there were things going on that couldn't be explained by Newton's vision of the world. Einstein did some funky math and came up with a better explanation. Newtonian physics works for most problems, but Einsteinian physics works just as well for those problems, and much better for problems where you're moving really quickly or near big heavy things.

      (And the quantum physicists came up with a better explanation still when they showed that, contrary to Einstein's famous quip, God does in fact play dice with the universe, and that He sometimes throws them where they can't be seen... and so on, through QCD, superstrings, and whatever's at the forefront of physics research today.)

    ...and Mills? What - known and reproducible - phenomenon, unexplainable by conventional physics or chemistry, does his theory purport to explain? Show me evidence to suggest that the laws of thermodynamics are bunk, and I might be interested, but thermodynamics is pretty basic stuff.

    So's the hydrogen atom. (Cue the "If you fuck with hydrogen, you fuck up the rest of the natural world" thread - which is merely a snarky way of saying "If you change basic physical properties of matter, you end up with a universe that's wholly unlike the one we observe around us."

    I don't mean "unlike commonsense results for slow objects", as was Newtonian physics, nor "unlike commonsense results for big objects", like physics before quantum theory, but "wholly unlike anything we observe", in the sense of nuclear fusion in the sun working, basic chemical processes essential to life working, etc.) This is a reductio ad absurdum argument - if Mills' theory were true, yes, we'd have free energy -- which is all well and good, but if the truth of his theory also implies that the sun would be a diffuse cloud of goo at three times its mass and half of its radiation output, or that water is a highly-unstable explosive compound when it comes into contact with nitrogen, his theory must be an absurdity.

    Which reminds me of one more "good way to tell what's worth investigating and what's not":

    • Good science doesn't throw out old theories, it builds upon them.

    And speaking of theories, what is his theory? Does he even have one? Is he even interested in any aspect of physics whatsoever, for that matter, apart from its ability to provide him with a product to hawk to the world?

    Recommended reading for anyone who's put up with my ramblings thus far:

    The Demon-Haunted World - Carl Sagan. If you read only one book on the philosophy of science in this millenium, read this one.

    Anything that looks related to "what constitutes good science" on CSICOP's web site [csicop.org].

    For medical analogies to the "junk physics" problem, Quackwatch [quackwatch.org]

    I'll close off with a Sagan quote that I saw buried in one of the subthreads on Slashdot today - more relevant to my initial post on Clarke and Asimov than this post, but worth repeating: "They laughed at Galileo. They laughed at Columbus. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown."

  • This stuff is great!

    It produces limitless energy! Use it for bombs or rocket fuel or just to heat your home!

    It also keeps ships from rusting while giving them stealth ability, AND you can use it for artificial intelligence to fly your light-speed flying saucer! Yes, you too can soon invest in this wonderful technology... just send your chek for $100 (plus $24 S/H) to:


    Sorry, no CODs.

  • Sigh, I don't know why I bother with this..

    1. Sorry working from memory here. Maybe it was a ratio where they needed to get to 90% of the theoretical maximum possible. Anyway this is more or less antique technology in this area. See this page [mv.com] for a synopsis of important experiments.

    2. See near bottom of this page [wired.com].

    3. Allegedly - until published and peer reviewed. However, the work was convincing enough to get conservative investors coughing up 25 million.

    4. It is a theory with alleged (see above) experimental confirmation repeated by independent labs. A slightly different situation.

    5. I am too tired and irritated by your attitude to provide specific counter examples. However, there is one story I came across that summarizes what I see happening in this field. The Wright Brothers were ignored or denounced as frauds by 'authorities' for 5 years in America even though they could be seen to be flying regularly by Long Island commuters. They only got attention from institutions like the US DOD after they moved to Europe and became an instant press sensation. (sorry no links).
  • You said, "Money should be spent where there's a reasonable expectation that it'll do some good." This all sounds fine and good in theory, but how exactly to propose to do this? Would you advocate a central board of "science" that makes all funding allocations? Do you honestly believe this is the best policy? History has shown us time and time again that you simply can't innovate like this. Particularly if it is to be run by bureaucrats and academics (e.g., those who are not "naturally" chosen based on their performance). How many scientists would have never made it if the popular consensus had its way? Or better yet, which revolutionary scientists HAVEN'T been exposed to great opposition.

    I believe it was Eistein who said "great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds." Perhaps, i'm taking this out of context; however, look at your history. The most revolutionary ideas tend to be the ones that run most contrary to widely held beliefs from the so-called experts. Not until they proved them wrong, developed a product, shown the many empirical proof, did they believe. Science has been wrong before, and it will be wrong again. You can be sure of that. Yet, you would tie our hands, put all our eggs in one basket (That of scientists "reasonable expectations"), in the name of what? Efficiency?

    The investors are hardly naive spinsters spending their retirement money. They are institutional investors who are making a calculated risk. This company could go poof tomarrow and none of the investors would be in trouble. Furthermore, you can be sure that their investment portfolio offers a significantly positive expected value. That is to say that if you take the aggregate of all their investments, they're statistically more likely to profit and, most likely, do so better than less risky investments on the whole, than they are to fail.

    The capital market is not a zero sum game. These particular investors are pursuing money. Where there is a "reasonable expectation" of profit in other lines of R&D, you can be sure money will be available. In other words, the pool will grow.

    Our economy, our very innovation, would be no where if we allowed this sort of conventional thought process to dominate all scientific work. I, for one, am not willing to only allow for only the conventional, as cookoo as it might seem to most of us.

    You are free to disagree with this man, call him a fool, bring undeniable proof to the table, speak out against him, or whatever you wish. However, you may absolutely not impinge on his freedom or that of his investors. He is doing you, nor anyone else, any harm. The argument that his failure will discredit "real" research is weak at best. None of these concerns are substancial enough to warrant such instrusions into his life.
  • An excellent reply. If I hadn't already posted and had moderator points, I'd spend at least one on this.

    I do want to counter a little bit, again, because I can, mostly, but also because I'm a little bit on about the more epistological implications of my questions -- how, exactly, do we choose to value one idea over another? Obviously we DO, but where does this valuability reside in an idea? How do we select?

    >if the reason you want to test a theory is that it's Really Really Appealing To Laypeople, odds
    >are it's bunk that can't stand on its own merits

    Yes. Agreed. But the larger question is whether science 'playing the odds' is a good idea. Odds are it's bunk, but popularity shouldn't throw ideas out a priori. That's just science being stodgy. IMHO. Are we then valuing ideas based on their conformity to our current idea of statistics?

    >Most great scientific discoveries didn't start with "I know the Answer to Life, The Universe, And
    >Everything, and You Don't!", but with a guy looking at an experimental or mathematical result
    >and saying "huh? that's funny..."

    Oh, totally. That moment of enlightenment is such a deeply-rooted concept that we still use the work that the inventors of rationality, the Greeks, gave it -- eureka, I have found it. The danger is in assuming that only 'trained professionals' in science can have those moments; that a cocky lay person can't change the universe with a single profound insight. But, again, somehow the out-of-left-field idea has to be VALUED, has to be deemed 'worthy,' and that acceptance/rejection process is woefully misunderstood, to my eyes.

    >...it was worthy of investigation. Why? Because physicists at the time already had reason to
    >believe that classical mechanics wasn't quite what it was cracked up to be.

    And physicists today have all SORTS of weird little anomalies that are pointing to cracks in the tidy bundle of quantum foo we're so used to. Dark matter, for instance. Again, I don't know if Mills is onto something or if he's just a crackpot, but it's sometimes disturbing to see the scientific community (and more predictably, the lay-science community like the Average Sophomoric Slashdotter) instantly rejecting new ideas just because they don't fit. Often it seems to me that Organized Science is actually doing the exact opposite of its stated goal of seeking truth at all costs. Value patterns based on accumulated experience, yes, but that is very roughly synonymous to 'stagnation.'

    >"They laughed at Galileo. They laughed at Columbus. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown."

    That's wonderful. Yes. An excellent reality check. I'm just tilting at windmills, trying to make the point that just because it's laughable doesn't _automatically_ mean it's the clown.

    Good discussion. Nice to meet you.

  • Do not taunt Happy Fun Hydrino...
  • Average /.'r: "Patents are evil, but he's a huge liar and stuff, since everyone else thinks he is, though I never read the articles. Oh yeah - First Hydrino Powered Post!!!"

    Hmmm... I don't think I'm helping the signal/noise ratio today. Moderate me to oblivion - it's better than where I am now...
  • There is one and only one way to clear this up. He *must* publish his theory and experimental method in sufficient detail for someone to verify his results. Until then no-one can say if he is the next Edison or Archimedes Plutonium.

    As has been pointed out by other posters, the alphabet soup of external lab tests are nothing more than bog standard analytical work. Only one of the tests is related to energy measurements.

    His reputation, origin and presentation ultimately mean nothing. His critics reputations mean nothing. The only thing that matters is what happens in the lab. THAT is real science.

    That said, this does look a great deal like Pons and Fleichman again.

    Kind Regards,
  • (see list)
    33. 100 points for a "Grand Unified Theory"
    34. 150 points for mentioning Cold Fusion, if only to create more interest.

    "Bah!" --Dogbert

Today is a good day for information-gathering. Read someone else's mail file.