A canna’ change the laws of physics

Scotty, The Naked Time, stardate 1704.3, Episode 7

Promoting The Impossible

Posted by apgaylard on October 19, 2007

It would seem that it’s not just newspapers that are prepared to believe whatever wild claims are made by purveyors of whacky technology.  BBC One’s Breakfast News carried a piece about Ecowatts‘ “Thermal Energy Cell“.  It comprised an interview with Ecowatts’ CEO Paul Calver.

To say that this was gentle would be an understatement.  There was absolutely no testing of his claims or remotely challenging questions.  You can see the piece on Ecowatts’ website.

Just compare some of the following statements, made by Mr Calver with what was already in the public domain; thanks to some very credulous reporting in the Daily Mail two days previously and a better article in the Daily Telegraph in 2003.

“… we have had this very carefully checked by a number of key universities to ensure that our measurements are right and our observations are correct…”

“… ‘The concept is very interesting and it could be a major breakthrough, but more tests are required. We will be doing further checks.’

Professor Saffa Riffat (Nottingham University)

This needs to be very carefully checked, as there could be far more energy going in than the makers think.”

Professor Stephen Smith (Essex University)

There’s no doubt that there was a heat rise but I’d like to see a more thorough investigation of the electrical energy supplied into the cell.

Dr Jason Riley (Then of Bristol University)

I do need to make it clear that Jim Lyons, of the University of York, was quoted in the Daily Mail as saying: “…we were getting 150 to 200 per cent more energy out than we put in, without trying too hard.” Nice.

However, although he is a Charted Engineer, he works for the University as a Business Development Manager.  He would also seem to be a man who is so “open minded” he’ll believe just about anything.  He is a dowser, a crop-circle researcher and a member of the very strange “Scientific and Medical Network“.  Here is part of his testimony on their website:

“… My research area is in the field of non-locality of Consciousness. The emerging new models describing an active Aether can begin to account for many phenomena such as Healing, Synchronicity, Psychometry etc, currently not even considered in mainstream Science …”

So we have three cautious comments from working scientists or engineers; one endorsement from a man with a credulous nature.  Calver’s statement is clearly premature, to say the least.

Was it challenged in any way? No it was not.

The one piece of consolation was that unlike the coverage in the Daily Mail, Calver didn’t claim to be violating the first law of thermodynamics.  Instead he said:

 “… we don’t think that this cell is producing something out of nothing …”

Then where is the extra energy coming from?  This is essentially a claim to have found a “new” source of energy.  If true, this would be worthy of a Nobel Prize.  And yet, no challenge was made as to what this new source of energy is.

In this comment we do, though, have a clue as to the mind-set behind this device:  It’s essentially cold fusion warmed over.  Calver then went on to say:

“… we can reproduce the cell; we can make it work; we make high power  …”

Once more, this bold assertion went unchallenged. 

Then the interviewer lost absolutely all objectivity: “Even it you don’t get to why it works, the point is it does …”   To which Calver responded:

“.. that’s absolutely true .. it will save significant costs …”

Not exactly a neutral point of view from the interviewer.  The point is that, as the majority of independent scientists who have tested the device have expressed caution, so this statement cannot be “absolutely true

The piece closed with various credulous comments by the presenters which are too painful to relate.

This was nothing more than an advert for a company trying to raise interest in a nonsense product, a puff-piece par excellence.

I thought that the BBC had a duty to be both accurate and balanced.  Where was the balance?  Where was the background research? Where were the testing questions? Where was the voice of a neutral expert?

A very little research would have shown that this “technology” has been around at least SEVEN years.  There was a patent application in 2000 and, as we have seen, an article making similar claims in the Daily Telegraph in 2003

Instead we had no research, no analysis, nothing more that what would be found on a corporate promotional film.  That’s probably why it’s on the website.

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