X-Message-Number: 19932
Date: Wed, 28 Aug 2002 08:57:45 EDT
Subject: free energy

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Referring to my question about a technological project, meeting my criteria, 
that has been abandoned, Thomas Donaldson wrote in part (see below).

Seems to me he has answered his own question, mostly. We have--many 
times--discovered and exploited sources of "free" energy, i.e. free to us in 
the sense that, instead of using human muscle and sweat, we make cunning 
devices to harness available energy. Early on there were domestic animals, 
sails, and fire. Now we even have "free" mental "energy" in the form of 
computers. (We might also reflect that, in a sense, almost everything we have 
is free, since we as individuals have each contributed--at most--only a tiny 
fraction of the technology that maintains us.)

As for conservation of energy, that is now in doubt in the context of quantum 
foam. Whole "universes" may be "free."

As for ignoramuses or obsessives pursuing phantoms, that would not meet my 
criteria--I think I said knowledgeable, reasonable people using technology in 
the context of their own times. (But "obsessives" do sometimes win out and 
the "phantoms" sometimes turn out to be real.) 

Robert Ettinger

> What about perpetual motion? Yes, we abandoned it because we came
> to realize that energy could not be produced from nothing at all.
> But before we recognized (we collectively) the conservation laws,
> to look for some means of making energy from nothing was entirely
> reasonable.
> When you say that something is "totally abandoned" you also raise
> questions. It's now commonly accepted that perpetual motion is
> impossible (as a means of producing energy). Yet some people still
> want to work on it. Furthermore, others are constantly trying to
> find ways to get energy by putting in less energy than we take
> out --- nuclear or fusion energy would provide an excellent case.
> This is not the same as perpetual motion, but its basic aim, to
> minimize the amount of work/energy/matter/etc put out to get 
> energy in return, remains one that many people work on. The aim
> was modified when we understood conservation laws, but in one way
> never abandoned. So what is meant by "totally abandoned"?


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