A canna’ change the laws of physics

Scotty, The Naked Time, stardate 1704.3, Episode 7

Seduced by Water

Posted by apgaylard on April 5, 2008

//www.youtube.com/watch?v=dWAAArAiXGc)Water has a powerful allure.  It’s essential to life on this planet: our bodies are around 60% water, by weight.  It has many well documented anomalous properties, when compared to other chemically similar compounds. The undoubted importance of water imbued it with mystical powers in the minds of the ancients; this persists in unschooled modern minds – sometimes wrapped up with misapplied or misunderstood science.

Hence we have the unfounded, but sciencey sounding, idea of water memory wrapped up with the magical thinking of homeopathy; the perennial attraction of water as an energy source and, the topic of this post, the many misunderstandings of Viktor Schauberger (the bearded chap in the background of the image above).

A quick trawl through You Tube reveals that Schauberger’s misunderstanding of a well-known physics experiment has encouraged some to think that water contains a mysterious energy that can be tapped to provide a novel method of power generation. [note: video is in German and the water dropper appears after 3 minutes 43 seconds]

The experiment is a version of the “Kelvin Water Dropper“.  As its name suggests this was originated by Lord Kelvin (a.k.a. William Thomson).  A description, complete with a mathematical analysis was published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society of London in 1867 (Vol. 16, June 1867, pp 67-72).

Photograph of William Thomson, Lord Kelvin.It demonstrates a fascinating physical phenomenon, but this is – as Kelvin knew in over 140 years ago – a function of electrical charge rather than any mystical energy.

In the classic version two water taps are set to produce a stream of droplets.  They each drop through a conductive ring and into a conductive container.  The rings are each electrically connected to the opposite container.  The containers usually feature a discharge rod in proximity to each other.

What happens?  Quite amazingly a static charge builds in each of the containers that periodically arcs across the discharge rods, like small bolts of lightening.

What is causing this?  The physical mechanism is known as charge separation.  Usually, in most objects positive and negative charge balances out; the number of electrons matches the number of protons.  However, there are exceptions.  Chemical processes produce ions; mechanical rubbing can cause some objects lose electrons.  So, there is the potential to separate charge – exploiting both the repulsion of like charges and the attraction of opposite charge.

Kelvin’s water dropper is one way of doing this.  With the taps dropping water through the rings, eventually a water droplet will be released that has a net charge.  As it falls through the conductive ring it either repels or attracts some electrons in the ring, depending on its charge.  The ring now has a net charge and will tend to attract opposite charge leading to more charged droplets (of opposite sign) falling through it.

The charged water droplets fall into the container, transferring their charge to it.  The electrical connection between each container and its opposite ring allows charge to be transferred to the ring, providing positive feedback that reinforces the process.  The reverse process happens at the other tap.  The result is an accumulation of electrostatic charge in each of the containers; one positive, the other negative.  This periodically arcs across the discharge rods.

There is a really good animated explanation on the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory’s website.

Schauberger’s version apparently uses metal plates instead of buckets and replaces the rings with spirals.  This is very pretty: water droplets are spun around the spiral structures, as the forces of electrostatic attraction, gravity and aerodynamic drag fight it out.  The spiral motion, so beloved by Schauberger, is a result of the dynamic balance of the three physical forces we have just identified: not the source of the phenomenon.  The basic physics remain unchanged from Kelvin’s experiment.

Schauberger and his fans see this experiment as a demonstration of something essentially mystical.  If only he had read the work of Kelvin he would have found that this phenomenon was well understood, having been explained some 18 years before he was born.

Modern-day followers of this so-called ‘water wizard’ have even less justification for seeing the mystical at work in Kelvin’s Water Dropper.





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