Will the Irish Save Civilization Again?
By Bill Moore
I am either the most prescient person at EV World or the most gullible. I think Sean McCarthy and his colleagues at Steorn in Dublin, Ireland just may be on to something.
What that something is still needs to be determined, not by me, of course, but by a jury of qualified scientists with a strong background in magnetism, a force we really still don't understand (1).
If you haven't heard the story, let me bring you quickly up to speed.
Last Thursday, August 17, 2006, McCarthy and company placed a full page advertisement in The Economist, one of the most prestigious business publications in the world. They issued a challenge for twelve scientists to step forward and independently examine their technology and publish the results, good or bad to the world.
By itself, this is a rather unusual step for a 6-year-old technology firm whose specialty is -- ironically -- the development of fraud detection and prevention equipment, according to McCarthy. But what really makes this move unique is that the technology the company claims to have developed has the ability to produce "free, clean and constant energy."
Yes, I know what you're thinking. Good gawd, Bill, you've gone off the deep end again and bought into this tripe about free energy. Don't you know that it is physically impossible?
Yes, I am well aware of it and so is McCarthy, the company CEO who tells EV World in this exclusive interview that they were just as skeptical when a small micro-generator they were developing for a wind-powered ATM security camera started producing more power than could be accounted for by conventional physics.
At first, they thought their equipment was faulty and continued to run numerous tests, but gradually through a process of "erosion", as McCarthy puts it, they came to the sobering conclusion over a six month period that they had developed technology that violates all the known laws of physics, including the conservation of energy.
What intrigues me isn't the technology itself -- which individuals far more qualified than I will have to vet one way or the other -- but the highly unusual manner in which the lads at Steorn chose to get the scientific community's attention. And get it they have. At last count more than 2,000 people -- a fair share of them pranksters -- have registered to be included in the 12 member scientific "jury."
At this point, I should put to the rest notion that this is just some marketing stunt to promote Halo 3, as suggested by one EV World reader. The company doesn't develop video games nor is it looking to raise money, at least not until AFTER its technology as been properly vetted.
Still, I couldn't help teasing McCarthy that like the Irish monks who "saved civilization" during the Dark Ages, it would appear -- if Steorn's claims are proven -- that the Irish may do it again because the technology purportedly can be scaled up from running portable electronics as small as a cell phone over its lifetime to powering an electric car that never needs recharging.
Extraordinary claims, of course, require extraordinary proof and McCarthy reports that over the last three years, he has invited scientists from some 80 universities to inspect their technology; 10 percent agreed. McCarthy claims that the technology worked as claimed every single time for these groups.
So, why haven't we heard about it until now? In large measure because no self-respecting scientist wants to be publicly identified with appearing to confirm what is tantamount to scientific heresy. Hence the unusual strategy of the international challenge in The Economist.
My interview with McCarthy is just over 24-minutes in length and you'll want to hear what he says in his own words. You make up your mind whether he's full of Irish blarney and I am the world's most gullible journalist. Use either of the two MP3 players to the right or download the 5.9MB file to your computer for playback on your favorite MP3 device: http://www.evworld.com/evworld_audio/sean_mccarthy.mp3.
(1) Coincidentally, I also had a conversation today with Ed Benjamin at Cyclelectric and we talked briefly about his previous experience with a group here in America who claimed to have invented a way to make use of "free energy." They turned out to have nothing, of course. But one question stuck in his mind, why is a permanent magnet permanent? He asked his colleague and my friend Dr. Frank Jamerson, a world-class physicist in his own right and a former senior research scientist at GM. Jamerson is reputed to have replied, "we don't know."
I came across the following excerpted comments on a Yahoo newsgroup that shed additional light on Steorn's claims.
Steorn Ltd. is a company based in Ireland that claims to have developed a "free energy technology". In August 2006 Steorn placed a full-page advertisement in The Economist, issuing a challenge to scientists to review their invention, what appears to be a perpetual motion machine. Steorn claims that their technology is patent pending.
According to the Irish Examiner, Steorn was founded in 2000. In May 2006, ThePost.ie reported that Steorn was a former dot com business, which was at that time researching "kinetic battery" technology as well as creating ecommerce websites for customers. They had also recently raised about €2.5 million from "high net worth individuals".
In October 2001, Steorn's website stated that: "Steorn is a specialist service company providing programme management and technical assessment advice for European companies engaging in e-commerce projects. Steorn aims to manage the risk and uncertainty associated with the technical implementation of e-commerce projects on behalf of its clients so as to deliver genuine benefits to them in terms of reliability, predictability and cost control." 
In August 2006, Steorn's website stated that: "The Steorn team brings together a wealth of experience from diverse industries including: Energy, Engineering and Information Technology. This unique skill-base has been instrumental in delivering many complex projects and technologies. [...] The company has been instrumental in the development of core technologies that address counterfeit crime in areas such as plastic card fraud and optical disc fraud. The company has also provided forensic and expert witness services to British, Irish and international law enforcement agencies."
According to information available from the Irish Companies Registration Office, Steorn has not filed accounts since October 28, 2004. Under current Companies Registration Office practice strike-off procedures could begin against Steorn by the end of October 2006. A strike-off would have serious consequences, such as the loss of Steorn's limited liability status. Furthermore, any assets of the company, including any patents or other intellectual property, would become the property of the Irish State.
The invention According to Steorn's advertisement in The Economist, "[Steorn] have developed a technology that produces free, clean and constant energy. Our technology has been independently validated by engineers and scientists—always behind closed doors, always off the record, always proven to work." 
McCarthy stated in an RTE radio interview that, "What we have developed is a way to construct magnetic fields so that when you travel round the magnetic fields, starting and stopping at the same position, you have gained energy, [...] The energy isn't being converted from any other source such as the energy within the magnet. It's literally created. Once the technology operates it provides a constant stream of clean energy." 
The device has been reported to be an all-magnet motor, with no electromagnetic component. 
Conservation of energy
Steorn acknowledges that their claimed technology appears to violate the principle of conservation of energy, a fundamental physical law. In effect, Steorn's claimed invention is equivalent, as with all free energy technologies, to a perpetual motion machine of the first kind, a device which is impossible to create. Given this, and the long history of hoaxes involving previous perpetual motion claims, such claims have hitherto met with skepticism (usually flat-out denial) from the scientific community.
For this reason, major patent offices such as the U.S. Patent Office, European Patent Office and the UK Patent Office have a policy of not issuing patents for perpetual motion devices. Steorn has stated that, because of this patent office policy, they are not filing for a patent for the whole technology, but are filing patents for its components individually, none of which of themselves constitute a perpetual motion machine.
Challenge to scientists
Steorn claims that their invention has already been assessed by un-named independent scientists, and found to work, but that none of these scientists were willing to publish their results. They claim that, within hours of their ad in The Economist, they were contacted by hundreds of scientists world-wide and many thousands of other interested people. 
According to Steorn's CEO Sean McCarthy, "We put in a small amount of mechanical energy and we get a large amount out ... but until this thing is validated by science we won't be doing anything commercial with it."
In an apparent reference to the idea of free energy suppression, McCarthy has been quoted as saying "We have to fight public opinion, we have to fight the scientific community and we have to fight the energy industry. We couldn't pick a worse battleground."
Steorn claims to have completely functional models to which the probing scientists will have complete access. "They will be given full access to the company's work, will be able to take the technology home to test in their own laboratories, or recreate the process themselves."
References and notes
"Steorn's free energy seems curiously expensive - Rupert Goodwins", ZDNet UK, Aug. 22, 2006. Retrieved on 2006-08-22.
"Irish energy miracle 'a joke'", The Age, August 20, 2006. Retrieved on 2006-08-20.
"Irish company challenges scientists to test 'free energy' technology", AFP (via Yahoo! News), August 18, 2006. Retrieved on 2006-08-19.
Steorn Infomational video. "Steorn launch revolutionary free energy", Google, August 19, 2006.
- a b Steorn advertisement (PDF). The Economist (19 August 2006). Retrieved on 2006-08-21.
- "Advertising Rates £" (PDF). Advertising Information. The Economist (2006). Retrieved on 2006-08-19. The usual cost for such an advertisement according to the Economist's published costings is GBP £85,200 (approx. €125,000 or USD $160,000).
- "Wanted: scientists to test free energy technology", Irish Examiner, 20 August 2006. Retrieved on 2006-08-20.
- Daly, Gavin, "Firm strives to extend mobile battery lifespans", ThePost.IE, May 21, 2006. Retrieved on 2006-08-19.
- "Steorn website, as of 2001-10-30". Internet Archive. Retrieved on 2006-08-22.
- "History". Steorn. Retrieved on 2006-08-19.
- a b "Involuntary strike-off procedure". Companies Registration Office. Retrieved on 2006-08-21.
- "Irish company challenges scientists to test 'free energy' technology" [Interview with CEO]", Yahoo! News, Aug 18, 2006.
- "Steorn to Push Tipping Point for Magnet Motor Technology" [Interview with CEO]", Pure Energy Systems News, Aug 21, 2006.
- "What is a Patent?" (section titled "Be capable of industrial application"). UK Patent Office (30 September 2004). Retrieved on 2006-08-19. "Articles or processes alleged to operate in a manner clearly contrary to well-established physical laws, such as perpetual motion machines, are regarded as not having industrial application."
- "706.03(a) Rejections Under 35 U.S.C. 101 [R-3 - 700 Examination of Applications: II. Utility"]. Manual of Patent Examining Procedure. U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (October 2005). Retrieved on 2006-08-19. "A rejection on the ground of lack of utility includes the more specific grounds of inoperativeness, involving perpetual motion. A rejection under 35 U.S.C. 101 for lack of utility should not be based on grounds that the invention is frivolous, fraudulent or against public policy."
- "Models, Exhibits, Specimens". U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Retrieved on 2006-08-19. "A working model may be requested in the case of applications for patent for alleged perpetual motion devices."
- "Guidelines for Examination C-IV, 4.1: Industrial Application". European Patent Office. Retrieved on 2006-08-20.
- "Technology Issues: Patent Application Viewable Online" (discussion board). Steorn (ongoing). Retrieved on 2006-08-19.
- "Scientists flock to test 'free energy' discovery". Guardian Unlimited (20 August 2006). Retrieved on 2006-08-20.
- "Irish tech firm throws down 'free energy' gauntlet", Reuters (via Yahoo! News), August 17, 2006. Retrieved on 2006-08-21.
- Berger, Eric (August 19, 2006). "Steorn and free energy: the plot thickens". SciGuy. Houston Chronicle blogs. Retrieved on 2006-08-21.
- "Perpetual Motion Claim Probed", Wired News, August 21, 2006. Retrieved on 2006-08-21.