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Electricity from Air - Updates - Scott Adams' Blog

Electricity from Air – Updates

In my prior post I described a small company that claims it can harvest useful amounts of electricity directly from the atmosphere. Is this a case of a bold scam or is it simply an inventor who is more optimistic than qualified? Or – and this is the least likely possibility by far – could it be a legitimate breakthrough?

Whatever it is, I think we all agree on the following fact: Almost every part of the company’s pitch fits the pattern of a classic scam.

If you knew nothing except what has been presented to you so far, including the information and calculations provided by the sleuths who left comments, you would be generous to assume a 1% chance that this is a legitimate scientific breakthrough in green energy. On the face of it, you’d have to give it a 99% or better odds of being bullshit. If you tell me the odds are more like 99.9999% bullshit I’ll be happy to agree because I’m not that good at calculating the odds of things.

But here’s where it gets interesting.

Do you know what else can sometimes look exactly like a scam? Answer: A legitimate breakthrough.

If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and swims like a duck, it must be a duck, right? Unless it’s a hunter with a remote-controlled duck. There’s always the thing you didn’t consider.

What interests me most about this situation is that the company has been consistent from the start in asking for both public attention and qualified scientific scrutiny. They even offered to ship me a desktop prototype that I can witness lighting a bulb.

Are they bluffing?

That’s an interesting question. Let’s take a journey to find out. I hope you’d agree that unmasking scammers (if that’s what happens) would be interesting.

Based on your comments, I asked the company this question yesterday: “How much useful wattage does the prototype produce?”

If the wattage estimate is trivial, or for some reason unavailable, or delayed for a variety of excuses, I think we’re done. Would you agree?

The company claims that its technology is different from the devices you can see on YouTube that are harvesting too-trivial-to-matter electricity from the air. That technology is decades old. And they say their technology doesn’t use the EM from radio stations. There’s no way for me to verify that from a distance.

If the wattage estimate that they come back to me with is in the useful range, I would next ask for a video that tracks end-to-end from the antenna to the intermediate equipment to the working household device (light bulb, fan, etc.).

And I would also ask for their location relative to the nearest radio station.

If the video and the wattage estimate are still intriguing, and they aren’t too near a radio tower, I say we put a qualified expert in the same room as the prototype and have some more fun.

Would that plan entertain you?

[Update: Yesterday the inventor provided me with some wattage figures along the lines of “keeps a 15-watt bulb lit for x minutes.” I asked a follow-up question of how long the device needs to collect energy before releasing it for those x minutes. He informed me that he was called away on a family emergency and would follow up. If you are following along at home, this is exactly what a scammer would do. That doesn’t make it a scam. But the pattern is consistent with one.]
[Update 2: The comments that support the company didn’t show up for a few days because our comment system puts new accounts in a limbo zone for reasons I don’t understand. See comment from BrahmsKeith in particular]
[Update 3: I have received wattage information from the company in a few email exchanges but I am pressing to get that information in the form of “On average, my prototype produces enough wattage in x minutes to power a bulb of a certain type for Y minutes.” What I have received so far doesn’t tell me how long it takes to charge a capacitor to light a fluorescent bulb for a period of time. This is the response all of you predicted.]

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Scott Adams

Co-founder of CalendarTree.com

Author of a book with a name that doesn’t sell books.