Steorn challenge

Everyone with even a passing interest in science will have heard about the challenge to science published as a full-page ad in The Economist by Irish company Steorn. Steorn has developed a system it reckons challenges the First Law of Thermodynamics, one of the fundamental principles of science. Such a challenge offers the possibility of limitless clean energy and Steorn is keen to recruit twelve of the most sceptical scientists to test their technology.

The technology is essentially an all-magnet motor, with no electromagnetic components. Physicists would say that such a device should be impossible, even theoretically. Steorn CEO Sean McCarthy told Ireland’s RTE radio that, “What we have developed is a way to construct magnetic fields so that when you travel round the magnetic fields, starting and stopping at the same position, you have gained energy.” Cynics will recognise the hints of perpetual motion machinery in that description and conspiracy theorists will nod knowingly to learn many scientists asked to test the device simply hang-up.

The response of Martin Sevior, a physicist at Melbourne University is typical, “Oh, goodness, what can I say?” he told The Age, “It violates a very fundamental principle of physics, and flies in the face of 2000-years-plus of physics. It’s an incredibly big claim.” It certainly is, Steorn is claiming to have found either a way of either tapping into an unknown form of energy or else it is creating energy from nothing with its technology.Modern physics throws out countless theories that fly in the face of common sense, but this seems different. Even quantum physics doesn’t claim to create energy from nothing…oh wait a minute, what’s that about particle-anti-particle pairs spontaneously appearing in a vaccuum, you say? The scientific jury is yet to convene, but we will endeavour to keep you informed of the latest developments. Stern stuff indeed.

For more on the Steorn story, check out the site.

You can read their ad here (available as a pdf.

12 thoughts on “Steorn challenge

  1. Hi David, as I sit here reading your last post looking out over the pasture watching my equine buddies frolicing, I must admit that your associative humour is truly appreciated.


  2. That’s right. I’m all for stepping outside the box, but worried about being a neighsayer, does that mean it was a horsebox?

    Sorry, had to get that in.

    Steorn didn’t apparently come up with the goods in the end, they seemingly demonstrated and proved nothing. There is nothing to explain.

  3. After reading the postings made here, I truly had to interject. There will always be many neighsayers, more so from our so called scientific community. It goes a little like this… a law was writen by a man (woman) or men etc. and it has been taught in our educational systems as the gosspel truth without exception. Thus leaving us with a narrow minded bunch of so called scientists who are to unable to step outside of the proverbial box … even for just a moment.
    I am of the belief that if what Steorn is claiming has any ring of truth to it, then there will be no difficulty observing these so called aberations, through practical testing. If our so called scientific community can not explain, nor dismiss his findings… then it just is what it is, and we need to find a practical apllication for this device.

    Moving along, I to have been working off another man’s theory and unfulfilled dreams, inexcess of five years. I have studied what information is available and began my work. After too numerous to mention, design modifications and testing it would appear as though my final design will function and produce a useable amount of f e. I have not asked for any publicity nor any public funding. I should have the primary sytem built by December 2009. If all goes as predicted based upon preliminary testing, I will repost and send out invitations to the scientific community to come and observe the testing, and general function of this unit.

    In short not everythig has to come out of a labratory in a University the reciprocating engine would be a fine example of this.

  4. So Alex18c, what you’re trying to say is that chunks of magnetic materials formed deep in the earth’s crust over millions of years are somehow “worn out” after a couple of millennia or so..? Hmmm…

    And, “tapping off” energy from a recently formed magnetic material will wear it out, sooner rather than later, so that we will never see the full potential of Steorn-type free-energy?

  5. l really don’t want to be a pessimist but a magnet loses its magnetic capability after only 1 or 2 thousand years and this machine in that time hasn’t even produced half of the necessary energy used to create its magnets.

    I hope I was wrong.

  6. Alex18c, I’m not entirely sure what point you are making, the laws of electromagnetism are pretty well understood, are you saying that somehow we can “tap off” pent up atomic alignments in a magnetic material without doing work? That seems to be the claim of the inventors of such magnetic perpetual motion machines. If that is the case, then that is impossible without losing those alignments and the magnet failing to sustain its magnetic character.

  7. A machine that creates energy it’s completely absurd, more if we think what phenomenon is happening, I mean, we’re talking about magnetism and more specifically we’re talking about a kind of magnetism that was created thousand of years ago under extreme forces that aligned the atoms or artificially with the same amount of energy in some laboratory.

    Steorn isn’t breaking any law of thermodynamics it is only using an energy container, it is in fact using the usable energy in the magnet that may be consumed passed some time, possibly the machine stopped working for a mechanical magnet malfunction.

    And again it isn’t a new idea, this kind of machine has had a very long history since the 1960s.

  8. Re: “nothing more than the technological equivalent of snake oil.”

    Even with the tremendous physics knowledge you may have, neither you nor I *know* whether it’s “snake oil”. And referencing some bluddy “Law” doesn’t necessarily support your contention. “Laws” are codified by humankind, yes, based on empirical experience, sometimes over 2000 years worth. Let another emprical event with a slightly different parameter set come about, and that “Law”, at the very least, must be modified to be only a special case, even if it applies 99% of the time. It’s been done before. To be a true physicist is to try to identify the anomaly, and come to some hypothesis as to how and why it functions. For the event in question, the slightly different parameters have to be identified. It would, if today’s physics was honest and, just for a moment got away from pure theory which it is wont to do today (Kaku et al.), and return to empirical work, result, to the chagrin of many, in a changed theory , or even a changed “Law”.

    So what to do? The device must be observed in action for a time long enough to note that there is a phenomenon at work, an “unknown” source of energy, which the observers usually don’t understand. But if one knows about:

    a) the Earth’s magnetic field

    b) magnetic field dynamics

    c) Quantum Electrodynamics

    one should be able to derive hypothesis as to how the device keeps going like the “Energizer Bunny” … and even longer. Find out why the device keeps going longer than it should.

    Re: “why don’t they just build a car that doesn’t need any fuel”

    Answer: lack of money to engineer the scaled-up version, and build it.
    When they get the money, McCarthy et al. said that would come. It’s in their plans.

    Tom Fenton

  9. I have not heard or read of Streorn actually claiming that they can create new energy. I have heard them state that they have been unable to identify the source of the energy. Some would claim that is the same thing. It could be that they have developed an energy transducer for a new source of energy. Or it could be that they have deluded themselves with an experimental mistake! I do not think it is a hoax/fraud. We will all just have to wait and see.

  10. If they’re right, why don’t they just build a car that doesn’t need any fuel, and drive it up and down the country taking bets. They could solve the world’s energy crisis and make billions into the bargain.

    They really are just after publicity for something that will inevitably turn out to be nothing more than the technological equivalent of snake oil.

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