Thoughts/Questions on the ban of free energy discussion

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In summary, there is a frequent discussion on topics related to perceptual motion on this forum, often based on false theories. Some members have questioned the outright ban on these topics and suggest providing scientific explanations instead. However, the ban is in place due to past arguments and trolling on the forum. The moderators also suggest providing links to resources for self-education instead of rehashing the same arguments. Writing an FAQ on the topic is suggested as a better solution.
  • #1
donpacino
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Hi,

In my years spent on this forum, I have noticed that topics regarding perceptual motion are often brought up, sometimes indirectly. In many cases these posts are based on false theories bordering on "crackpot" level thinking. In others however they are posed in a "why is this not possible?" format.

I am curious as to why there is an outright ban instead of answering those questions asked with the scientific reason behind it. I feel that for new users especially having a post banned can seem like a "you're not intelligent enough to be here" response. Was there a history of arguments on the topic that led to members being tired of repeated questions on perpetual motion, or a history of people trolling the forum?

https://www.physicsforums.com/threads/perpetually-driven-electric-car.945482/

Take the above example, not that the moderator did anything wrong (he was following the rules after all). I get the feeling that the poster was genuinely curious as to why electric cars cannot be self sustainable. Had the post not been closed, more information could have been given or linked helping the poster to understand the science behind why what he said was impossible, or at least pointed him in the correct direction. I would make an argument that allowing the post to continue would lead to reduced ignorance of the subject, and better information for future posters who may have a similar question.

Thanks!
 
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  • #2
What we need is an FAQ Insight to point to instead of rehashing the same arguments.
 
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  • #3
Because it is such a waste of PF electrons, and is easily answered with standard links and web searches. That's why we put a few such links in the "Forbidden Topics" listing in the PF Rules, so that the OP can follow those to learn more on their own.
Forbidden Topics said:
Pseudoscience, such as (but not limited to):

Perpetual motion and "free energy" discussions
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perpetual_motion
http://www.skepdic.com/freeenergy.html
http://www.skepdic.com/perpetual.html
EDIT / ADD -- An Insights article sounds like a good idea.
 
  • #4
Greg Bernhardt said:
What we need is an FAQ Insight to point to instead of rehashing the same arguments.
That would actually be great!

berkeman said:
Because it is such a waste of PF electrons, and is easily answered with standard links and web searches. That's why we put a few such links in the "Forbidden Topics" listing in the PF Rules, so that the OP can follow those to learn more on their own.

While the links could help, I think it is the outright ban that's my point of contest. I've seen a lot of people with a fundamental misunderstand of basic mathematics or physics on this site. In fact the thing that brought me to this site was not understanding electromagnetism back when I was in college. My argument is in many cases these posters are asking questions based on a misunderstanding of friction, heat loss, etc. how is that different from other misunderstandings.
 
  • #5
donpacino said:
That would actually be great!
Interesting in writing one? :biggrin:
 
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  • #6
Greg Bernhardt said:
Interesting in writing one? :biggrin:
I can give it a shot
 
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  • #7
donpacino said:
Had the post not been closed, more information could have been given or linked helping the poster to understand the science behind why what he said was impossible, or at least pointed him in the correct direction. I would make an argument that allowing the post to continue would lead to reduced ignorance of the subject, and better information for future posters who may have a similar question.
Generally if a thread is closed while you have something valuable to add to it, you can ask any of mentors by PM to reopen it long enough for you add your contribution.

Of course it would be even better to, as @Greg Bernhardt points out, have a FAQ that would accompany the closing notice - but writing good FAQs is a lot harder than it looks, or we'd have more.

We have a lot of experience with threads on the banned-topics list - that's why they're on that list, and do remember that you only see the threads that haven't been removed after they've melted down beyond any hope of redemption. When we leave threads on these topics open, the result is not
more information could have been given or linked helping the poster to understand the science behind why what he said was impossible, or at least pointed him in the correct direction. I would make an argument that allowing the post to continue would lead to reduced ignorance of the subject, and better information for future posters who may have a similar question.
Instead, we find that we're just giving the crackpots a platform from which they will outshout the rest of us.
 
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  • #8
Nugatory said:
We have a lot of experience with threads on the banned-topics list - that's why they're on that list, and do remember that you only see the threads that haven't been removed after they've melted down beyond any hope of redemption. When we leave threads on these topics open, the result is not
Instead, we find that we're just giving the crackpots a platform from which the outshout the rest of us.
That is one point that I have not quite considered! It's unfortunate that bad actions of a few can affect the lives of many, but such is life.

I appreciate the feedback I've received from you all. as a follow up I'll attempt to write a FAQ (although I will likely request some input before posting).
 
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  • #9
donpacino said:
I appreciate the feedback I've received from you all. as a follow up I'll attempt to write a FAQ (although I will likely request some input before posting).
Awesome! Send it to me when finished and the mentors can review it. Thanks!
 
  • #10
donpacino said:
I appreciate the feedback I've received from you all. as a follow up I'll attempt to write a FAQ (although I will likely request some input before posting).
Thanks Don. You might also do a forum search for posts by @russ_watters that have the words "perpetual" or "free energy" in them. Russ likes to entertain a few questions from each poster and try to answer them before shutting down the thread. You may find some good resource links and some good fundamental points in his posts that you find on the subject.
 
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  • #11
Good for you @donpacino . This feedback forum is the appropriate place to air questions like yours. It shows that you are interested in PF betterment.

The limits to efficiency are dictated by the first and second laws of themodynamics and conservation of energy. It can be extremely difficult to explain how thermodynamics can be applied to a machine such as a car. But these abstract reasons are what enables engineers to instantly, and with confidence reject impossible schemes without digging very deeply into their internal details.

There are two cases to consider in your article or FAQ.
  1. The so-called over-unity cases where more energy comes out than goes in. Those violate conservation of energy. Conservation of energy is the easiest to explain.
  2. Under unity cases are more difficult to explain. In real life we find ways to improve the efficiency of machines every day. But in every case, we do so by reducing energy losses. I can think of two general ways to express that in the general case that may be understandable to those who haven't studied psysics. One involves where we draw the boundaries of "the system". Another involves applying conservation of energy to each separate component in a feedback loop chain of components.
If you PM me. I'll elaborate and see if I can help you.

Since this is a tricky area where even experts can easily say something incorrect, I suggest that any article be opened to comments by all the PF mentors before it is published.

Before starting, we should ask the others if there is a published paper that covers the same topic. It would be the perfect kind of subject for Scientific American.
 
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  • #12
I have not spent much time looking at the existing FAQs, but I would advise caution: I see that the 0.999... = 1 FAQ has 96 replies. I haven't read them, maybe they are constructive replies, I hope so. Still, I would expect the new perpetual FAQ might garner a lot of the replies you're trying to avoid by banning the topic.
 
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  • #13
gmax137 said:
I have not spent much time looking at the existing FAQs, but I would advise caution: I see that the 0.999... = 1 FAQ has 96 replies. I haven't read them, maybe they are constructive replies, I hope so. Still, I would expect the new perpetual FAQ might garner a lot of the replies you're trying to avoid by banning the topic.
We can handle that by locking the FAQ thread if necessary... and my comment about requesting a reopen if you have something good to add will still apply.
 
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  • #14
Just to clarify. We are talking about PM and free energy forbidden topics, not all forbidden topics, correct?
 
  • #15
Should also probably include a note that the term "free energy" has legitimate scientific meaning in thermodynamics (i.e. Gibbs free energy or Helmholtz free energy), in case people are confused about legitimate discussions of free energy on the forum.
 
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  • #16
A few thoughts (may be repeats...):

1. Yes, we've had problems with crackpots before. Most of our specific rules grew organically from problems we've had. We still have problems, but you won't see them because we don't keep them public. (hint, hint)

2. There are three types of people who ask about perpetual motion machines:
a. The legitimately curious about why they are impossible.
b. Those who don't realize they are impossible, but are willing to learn.
c. Those who already invented a PMM and want validation/funding and aren't interested in anything else.

3. Yes, I like to try briefly to explain the issue, particularly if I sense I'm seeing someone from group a or b. Trouble is, many are group c, in stealth mode.

4. Even if I lock a thread I tend to provide an explanation of the issue. Sometimes via PM, not in the thread.

As for the insight, I'm genuinely interested to see what you come up with. My thought is that you might need to identify a small handful of common types(there really are only a handful) and explain the common pitfalls. I'd like to point out though that it is sometimes tough to know where the error is because it could be anywhere. Example:

1 kW motor -> 1:2 gear drive -> 2 kW generator

Many people will interpret the error to be in the understanding of mechanical advantage for the gear drive. It may be, but it could also be in not understanding that a generator applies a torque to the drive in proportion to its power (that COE applies to a generator). For very long and complicated trains of devices, it may be impossible to know where the error is, and that's often the point: PMM inventors typically just keep adding complexity until they lose track of the COE relationships and make an error somewhere that results in PM.

Also, I've taken an approach I think I saw someone else use when trying to let down a crackpot easy and avoid an argument. It goes like this:

If PM exists, it must be based on physics not yet understood. PF is staffed by experts in known physics and therefore we can be of no assistance in evaluating a PMM claim.

It may not be quite true/relevant, but it is often accepted because it is aligned with the way they already view us.
 
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  • #17
Greg Bernhardt said:
What we need is an FAQ Insight to point to instead of rehashing the same arguments.
Not sure how much is this relevant, but after about a year on this forum I noticed that mentors often have to repeat their answers many times, so about a week ago I started making a list of those answers:

1. There is no such thing as "fabric of spacetime".
2. There is no such thing as "pure energy".
3. "Theoretical physics" is vague, and encompasses more than just high energy theory.
4. [Insert situation] is a perpetual motion, which is wrong because conservation of energy... (etc)

Once the list gets sizeable, I was going to message it to you, so you and mentors can edit it as necessary and post it on a blog. Unless, of course, the list already exists somewhere and I have missed it entirely.
 
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  • #18
Another thing that should be mentioned in the FAQ is that many generators do not produce much power anyway, especially something that produces power based off your motion such as a wind turbine producing power while the vehicle it is attached to moves thus creating wind, in fact back in middle school I "designed" a rocket that would produce power like a supposed perpetual motion machine, remembering it often makes me laugh since it wasn't really a design it was more like throwing stuff together and thinking that it would work.

Also it may be worthwhile to create an override of sorts that allow mentors to give a privilege to members that allows them to post in locked threads or FAQs so that if they get something worthwhile they do not need to bother a mentor since they may come up with additions periodically
 
  • #19
russ_watters said:
a. The legitimately curious about why they are impossible.
b. Those who don't realize they are impossible, but are willing to learn.

My thought is that you might need to identify a small handful of common types(there really are only a handful) and explain the common pitfalls.

I agree with that approach. It's tempting to base an anti-perpetual motion, anti-free energy article on general physical principles such as the Conservation Of Energy or The Second Law Of Thermodynamics. However, presenting such general physical principles as dogmas might not satisfy a legitimately curious reader and arguing the empirical truth of general physical principles is a big task. For example, the conservation of energy as a generality entails many different "forms" of energy and citing experimental or mathematical evidence for the conservation of total energy involves treating a lot of cases.

It's appropriate to point out how generally accepted physical laws rule out getting useful work for nothing - as a generality. However, the most convincing use of general laws is to show how assuming the truth of those laws focuses attention on flaws in perpetual motion machines. A genuinely curious person is more likely to understand a particular flaw than to comprehend the weight of evidence behing a general physical principle, such as the Conservation Of Energy. (If a person had the educational background to understand the justification for the Conservation Of Energy, he would be unlikely to be genuinely curious about getting useful work for nothing.)
 
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  • #20
Stephen Tashi said:
A genuinely curious person is more likely to understand a particular flaw than to comprehend the weight of evidence behing a general physical principle, such as the Conservation Of Energy. (If a person had the educational background to understand the justification for the Conservation Of Energy, he would be unlikely to be genuinely curious about getting useful work for nothing.)

But that's the tedious part we're trying to avoid; analyzing and identifying the flaw in each individual scheme. We could devote the rest of our lives to that, and still new schemes would pop up. That is the base argument behind all forbidden topics; they waste our time to discuss them.

A teacher stands in front of the class and delivers his lecture. He designs the lectures, and the curriculum. He does not allow the students to run the classroom, offering their own ideas and challenging the teacher to refute them. Imagine an engineering class with 300 students, with each student bringing 3 PM pet ideas they would like to discuss. There would be no time to teach anything else.
 
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  • #21
Stephen Tashi said:
It's tempting to base an anti-perpetual motion, anti-free energy article on general physical principles such as the Conservation Of Energy or The Second Law Of Thermodynamics. However, presenting such general physical principles as dogmas might not satisfy a legitimately curious reader and arguing the empirical truth of general physical principles is a big task. For example, the conservation of energy as a generality entails many different "forms" of energy and citing experimental or mathematical evidence for the conservation of total energy involves treating a lot of cases.

It's appropriate to point out how generally accepted physical laws rule out getting useful work for nothing - as a generality. However, the most convincing use of general laws is to show how assuming the truth of those laws focuses attention on flaws in perpetual motion machines. A genuinely curious person is more likely to understand a particular flaw than to comprehend the weight of evidence behing a general physical principle, such as the Conservation Of Energy.
I agree in principle, but I don't think that's as often productive as you might think. In my experience even most crackpots will claim to accept COE and will acknowledge simple examples like how COE applies to a gear ratio. But they still go down the path of making a device so complex they can no longer apply the basic principles and unknowingly discard them or accept an error in analysis as some sort of exception. We really don't want to follow them down that rabbit hole. I might craft a response like:

"That device is a combination of pulleys, gears, levers and electric motors/generators. It appears most closely related to the "overbalanced wheel" type of device, found here:
https://lockhaven.edu/~dsimanek/museum/unwork.htm
If you accept that each of these components obeys COE, then you must accept that the device as a whole also obeys COE. I don't want to waste anyone else's time trying to find where the error in analysis is, so this thread is locked."

There actually shouldn't be a need to go further because a truly willing to learn but misguided individual should be willing to accept that answer without having the error pinpointed for him. And someone who really doesn't accept COE isn't going to be convinced by finding the error anyway; they'll just make a change to the device to discard that error and create a different one. That's how the rabbit hole becomes unending.

If I spot the error without too much effort, though, I almost always point it out.
anorlunda said:
But that's the tedious part we're trying to avoid; analyzing and identifying the flaw in each individual scheme. We could devote the rest of our lives to that, and still new schemes would pop up.
Exactly. I tend to provide a bit more detail than most moderators (per my above example), but either way a fast lock is generally preferred. It is truly remarkable how fast the rabbit hole gets deeper.
 
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  • #22
anorlunda said:
A teacher stands in front of the class and delivers his lecture. He designs the lectures, and the curriculum. He does not allow the students to run the classroom, offering their own ideas and challenging the teacher to refute them.

Writers of articles may attempt to be so authoritarian, but they don't have such a captive and submissive audience.

If the best course is to be authoritarian, then it's simplest to ban questions and discussions about getting useful work for nothing without having any FAQ about it. There are probably many FAQs on that topic elsewhere on the internet.

The Cosmoquest forum has a novel way of attempting to deal with crackpots. They have a section of the forum called "Against The Mainstream". Crackpot discussion are confined to that section and "ATM" advocates are required to present evidence and answer direct questions. If they don't obey the stringent rules of that section, they are banned. I myself have no interest in playing a game of "Let's torture the Crackpot", but some people might.
 
  • #23
Stephen Tashi said:
The Cosmoquest forum has a novel way of attempting to deal with crackpots. They have a section of the forum called "Against The Mainstream".
Bookmarked. We get questions all the time from posters with deleted posts, "But where can I post my theory?". Bingo! :smile:
 
  • #24
Stephen Tashi said:
The Cosmoquest forum has a novel way of attempting to deal with crackpots. They have a section of the forum called "Against The Mainstream". Crackpot discussion are confined to that section and "ATM" advocates are required to present evidence and answer direct questions. If they don't obey the stringent rules of that section, they are banned. I myself have no interest in playing a game of "Let's torture the Crackpot", but some people might.

Isn't this similar to the "Theory Development" forum that we had, that also collapsed spectacularly?

All I can say to them is "Good luck!"

Zz.
 
  • #25
Stephen Tashi said:
The Cosmoquest forum has a novel way of attempting to deal with crackpots.
As ZZ has replied, we had that for several years. Few interested in that forum could even meet our minimal standards. We're not going back.
 
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  • #26
ZapperZ said:
Isn't this similar to the "Theory Development" forum that we had, that also collapsed spectacularly?

Not all of us are familiar with that PF history. Care to elaborate?
 
  • #27
I forget the name of the forum, but at first it was a place where the normal PF rules for sources, etc., did not apply. You could post your theory and others would comment.

It didn't work very well (lots of noise in that forum), so then we tried a system where you submitted your OP for review, and if it was more or less okay to discuss, it would get approved for posting in that forum. But that took even more Mentor time, and the rejections were always argued about by the OPs, so we finally just gave up.
 
  • #29
Stephen Tashi said:
The Cosmoquest forum has a novel way of attempting to deal with c********. They have a section of the forum called "Against The Mainstream" [ATM] .

I looked at that forum and it is far from free-and-open, it is tightly regulated. Although it invites challenges to mainstream science, it requires the OP to promptly defend his/her theory against every objection. Of the 6 ATM threads I looked at, all 6 were closed after post #2 when the OP could not explain how their theory explains existing observational evidence. When they get a personal theory post on another forum, they move it to this ATM forum making it subject to the ATM rules. Via strict enforcement of that rule, they do not allow wild discussions to go on and on. The main different between ATM and PF is that they just close the threads after post #2, rather than deleting them at post #1.
 
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  • #30
Oh, yeah! The IR forum. Guess I just blanked that name out of my memory for some reason... :biggrin:
 
  • #31
anorlunda said:
I looked at that forum and it is far from free-and-open, it is tightly regulated. Although it invites challenges to mainstream science, it requires the OP to promptly defend his/her theory against every objection. Of the 6 ATM threads I looked at, all 6 were closed after post #2 when the OP could not explain how their theory explains existing observational evidence. When they get a personal theory post on another forum, they move it to this ATM forum making it subject to the ATM rules. Via strict enforcement of that rule, they do not allow wild discussions to go on and on. The main different between ATM and PF is that they just close the threads after post #2, rather than deleting them at post #1.
Meaning it's an unproductive waste of good member's time. :biggrin:
 
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  • #32
Hey Everyone,

Sorry for taking so long to respond. Work had a flareup last week and I never got to respond. I have read through all the responses and am almost done with an initial draft, using quite a few of your suggestions. I will follow up in a few days!
 
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Related to Thoughts/Questions on the ban of free energy discussion

1. What is free energy and why is it banned from discussion?

Free energy refers to the concept of generating energy from sources that are considered unlimited and free, such as solar, wind, and water. The ban on discussing free energy is due to the lack of scientific evidence and feasibility of these claims.

2. Who banned the discussion of free energy?

The ban on discussing free energy is not a widespread or official ban. It is mainly enforced by scientific communities and organizations that require evidence and rigorous testing before accepting new ideas and theories.

3. Can free energy be a solution to our energy crisis?

While the idea of free energy may seem appealing, there is currently no scientific evidence to support its feasibility. Additionally, even if free energy sources were to be discovered, it would take significant time and resources to develop and implement them on a large scale.

4. What are some potential dangers of promoting free energy without scientific evidence?

Promoting free energy without scientific evidence can lead to false hope and misdirection of resources. It can also harm the credibility of the scientific community and hinder progress towards finding real solutions to our energy crisis.

5. Is there any ongoing research or discussion about free energy?

There are ongoing discussions and research about alternative energy sources, but they are focused on scientifically proven and feasible options. Free energy is not a widely accepted or studied topic in the scientific community.

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