Perpetual Pause

There are unsmiling faces and bright plastic chains
and a wheel in perpetual motion
And they follow the races and pay out the games,
with no show of an outward emotion.

And they think it will make their lives easier
For God knows up til now it’s been hard.

Alan Parsons Project – Turn of a Friendly Card

The impossible dream, making money from nothing, winning the lottery, creating a perpetual motion machine. But some people are made to take chanced and bet millions on a long shot.

The latest highly publicised flop came last week when the company Steorn managed a very public belly flop.

You see, last week Steorn, a start-up company that took out a full page ad in last years Economist, had planned a very public demonstration of their newest form of the perpetual mobile. Skeptics, fans, and er- investors waited with baited breath to view one of the 24/7 video streams planned to go on the air on July 5th. Hopefully the bait wasn’t too good. The show was first delayed, then cancelled. Why? Just too hot. You know those pesky little TV lights. (Yeah. But it’s a dry heat!)

There is a wonderful video of Steorn CEO Sean McCarthy “Taking one on the chin” about how poorly the demonstration worked out. Forbes.com entitled the story they filed about the Dublin based company “Powered by Blarney?

Sad but true.

Unfortunately the general media reaction was perfectly summed up by Ben Goodacre in his Bad Science column in Saturday’s Guardian,

As we’ve already seen with the long history of perpetual motion claims you only need one or two experts, and as far as the media are concerned, there’s a story. And when the negative evidence comes in – like this week with Steorn, say – there is a deathly silence. Shh.

So, on July 4 a scaled down version of Steorn’s technology was to be displayed at the Kinetica museum in Spitalfields, east London, in front of live webcams and blinkered naysayers. But sadly the doors have remained locked, and the most you can see on the live webcam is an immobile perspex disc – designed to show some special arrangement of magnets – and a statement about technical difficulties possibly caused by “intense heat from the camera lighting”.

I was looking forward to it. At first the device was supposed to lift a weight, but then Steorn announced that it would simply rotate. Steorn’s chief executive, Sean McCarthy, said that the company “decided against using the technology to illuminate a light bulb, because the use of wires would attract further suspicion from a scientific community that has denounced the invention as heretical”.

I wonder what the penalty in Irland is for fraud? Perhaps the Alan Parson’s Project had it right. Just not in the first part of the song, but the reprise.

There are unsmiling faces in fetters and chains
on a wheel in perpetual motion,
who belong to all nations and answer all names
with no show of an outward emotion.

And they think it will make their lives easier,
but the doorway before them is barred.

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