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Perpetual Motion Machines Now Available on Indiegogo

by Brian Dunning

September 12, 2013

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Donate There is currently a campaign on the crowdfunding site Indiegogo to sell a perpetual motion machine.As discussed in-depth in this Skeptoid episode, and as fundamental physics proves, perpetual motion machines (aka "free energy" machines, aka "over-unity" machines) do not, and cannot, work. Thus, everyone who donates money to this project will receive no free energy.

My first reaction to this was "Outrage! How could Indiegogo allow such a project?" But upon reflection, I remembered that products that do not work as claimed are common in every marketplace. Every magazine advertises them (even prestigious science magazines) and every retailer, offline and online, sells them. Think of worthless vitamins and supplements, gimmicky exercise machines, love potions, gadgets to make your car run on water, etc., etc.). Just as it's impractical to expect every retailer to verify the utility of every product they sell, it's impractical for any online marketplace to do the same. Granted, a flagrant "free energy" machine is pretty obvious to you & I, but not so much to the average person. Any practical effort to turn every marketer and retailer into a science expert and consumer advocate would be doomed to disaster. It's just too far outside the ability of that many people worldwide. If Indiegogo attempted it, their effort would be just as clumsy and ill-fated as anyone's. Note Kickstarter's recent announcement that they would no longer accept biotech projects, an absolutely bizarre policy for a company that represents itself as forward thinking and pro-technology.

Free energy machines of the type this particular inventor imagines are everywhere; just do a quick YouTube search to see. Promoters who are consciously deceptive are out there to be sure, but in my experience, most of these inventors are well-intentioned cranks who do not understand physics. This Indiegogo project contains all the red flags of crankery: meaningless usage of the word "quantum", appeals to Nikola Tesla and other famous names from history, and claims of a conspiracy to suppress the truth (just watch the first 5 seconds of his YouTube video). It's also not compelling that he claims to have a major investor; investors are no more likely to be scientifically literate than anyone else.

Perpetual motion cranks always seem to trot out Tesla, thus betraying their own ignorance of power generation.Nikola Tesla proposed some pretty wacky ways to transmit electricity (that are now known to be impractical), but he never suggested the electricity didn't first have to be generated. It is flagrant misunderstanding of basic theory like this that characterizes the crank inventor.

At the time of this blog posting, the Indiegogo project is more than double overfunded and is soon to close. It's too bad that a lot of people are going to lose a lot of money, which this inventor is probably going to squander in an honest yet Quixotic effort to build the same miracle machine that has already driven so many of his colleagues to indigence. But, at the same time, for every penny spent on this project, thousands of dollars are spent throughout the world, every instant, for products just as worthless. What do you think? Should Indiegogo have accepted this project?

by Brian Dunning

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