Monday, January 02, 2006

Pseudoscientists in my own back yard?

I noticed an article in the Trenton Times on physics, it seemed interesting so I read on. Apparently in the next town over (My hometown is West Windsor, this town is East Windsor) is a company called Blacklight Power Inc. They claim to have discovered a new way to generate power using hydrogen.

unfortunately their claims are in contrast with quantum mechanics. They claim to be able to put hydrogen into a lower energy state then the base state. This releases energy and creates a substance they call hydrinos. They explain it thus:
According to standard quantum mechanics, in a hydrogen atom there is one proton (positive charge) and one orbiting electron (negative charge) that are separated by a fixed distance between the electron and the atom's nucleus.

But BlackLight's Mills contends that by exciting hydrogen gas with a catalyst gas, the electron actually moves closer to the proton, creating a previously unrecognized state of hydrogen dubbed a "hydrino." This hydrino formation releases up to 1,000 times as much energy as ordinary hydrogen combustion, Mills said.


Dr. Randell Mills, the founder of the company, wrote a book on the theory he calls Classical Quantum Mechanics (CQM). That book is where (supposedly) all the theory necessary for this to make sense is and since I don't have the book I can't prove them wrong yet (and I may lack the knowledge to do so even if I did have the book). I do however have a hypothesis that Dr. Mills is a pseudoscientist. I also have some supporting evidence for this theory:
  1. Dr. Mills is a medical doctor, with some electrical engineering and chemistry training. This isn't a fatal point, but doesn't give me much confidence in his work.

  2. In order for him to be right all of physics has to be changed. That is a lot to swallow. This is actually one of the classic signs of a kook, a replacement of all of physics (or whatever field they are working in) with their own pet theory.

  3. What physics can be seen from his website contradicts many observed features of quantum mechanics. For example he claims there is no zero-point vibration (basically a wiggle required by Heisenburg's uncertainty principle), that quantum entanglement doesn't exist, and that Heisenburg's uncertainty principle is incorrect. All of these have observable consequences that have been confirmed to exist, (though not without controversy in the case of quantum entanglement).

  4. Selling a book for the popular audience before being accepted by the scientific community is a common tactic of pseudoscientists. He has also raised $40 million to develop his process, mostly from energy companies.

  5. The article said that he has sued people who have claimed that he's wrong. Real scientists don't work like that.


I'm sure Dr. Mills is a very intelligent fellow, but he is almost certainly wrong. His work is much closer to real science than most pseudoscience I've seen, but he still doesn't have any real experiments to back up his assertions, and from what I've seen of his theories there is not much of worth there either. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence is what it comes down to, and these are some extremely extraordinary claims. The suing of critics is especially damning, as in science criticism is expected, not fought.

Anyways, it's scary to think about the fact that I've driven by a pseudoscience research lab multiple times, that it's practically in my hometown. I feel so... dirty.



Oh, by the way, Blacklight is even listed in Crank dot net.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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