Tag Archives: entropy

Bad Science Journalism, Part 1: The Orbo.

It’s likely you won’t remember Steorn and their Orbo device – especially if you live outside the UK– so a little bit of memory-jogging in probably in order. Steorn is an Irish company that claimed, back in 2006, to have invented a device that would provide “free, clean, and constant energy” in contravention of the Second Law of Thermodynamics. In other words these guys were saying that they’d managed to break science by inventing a perpetual motion machine. Perpetual motion machines are impossible for a number of reasons – you can’t create energy out of nothing (the First Law of Thermodynamics), amongst others – but the Second Law of Thermodynamics is a bit special. It states that the net entropy of a closed system always increases, and Arthur Eddington had this to say about it:

The law that entropy always increases, holds, I think, the supreme position among the laws of Nature. If someone points out to you that your pet theory of the universe is in disagreement with Maxwell’s equations — then so much the worse for Maxwell’s equations. If it is found to be contradicted by observation — well, these experimentalists do bungle things sometimes. But if your theory is found to be against the second law of thermodynamics I can give you no hope; there is nothing for it but to collapse in deepest humiliation

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