Wednesday, September 12


When Facts Attack

Or, How the Continuing Merger of Reporting and Editorials Came to Produce Something Good

Pennsylvania Man Claims to Burn Salt Water

Oh, great.  There goes the Second Law of Thermodynamics.
ERIE, Pa. —  An Erie, Pa., cancer researcher says he has found a way to burn salt water, a novel invention that is being touted by a retired chemistry professor as the "most remarkable" water science discovery in a century.

John Kanzius says he happened upon the discovery accidentally when he tried to desalinate seawater with a radio-frequency generator he says he developed to treat cancer. He discovered that as long as the salt water was exposed to the radio frequencies, it would burn.

Yes, it would indeed be the most remarkable water science discovery in a century if it weren't total nonsense.
The discovery has scientists excited by the prospect of using salt water, the most abundant resource on earth, as a fuel.
Water isn't a fuel (unless you have a working fusion reactor).  Water is what you get when you're finished burning a fuel.
Rustum Roy, a Penn State University emeritus professor of chemistry, has held demonstrations at his State College, Pa., lab to confirm his own observations.
This might not mean anything to you, but it does to me.  Rustum Roy is a distinguished materials scientist, with published papers going back six decades.  Which makes him an octogenarian, yes.

He is also something of a crank - no, I take that back; he's all of a crank.  His written work also includes some... odd... opinions on various social issues, vitriolic attacks on the pure sciences (physics and chemistry) and bold predictions that these computer things are just a passing fad and that we will shortly all move back into villages.

On top of that, he's a supporter of homeopathy, and has recently attached his name to some astoundingly shoddy research purporting to support that particular brand of quackery.  (He may have been directly involved in the research; I don't know for certain.  But his name is on the paper.)

Which is how it goes.  Some crank claims some cranky thing, and some crank scientist (scientists are hardly immune from crankery) supports the claim.

What floored me is the very next line:
[Roy is also a specialist in "whole person healing" and Christian sexuality.]
Which is entirely true.

But...  Did a major news organisation just look up the references of source and make an editorial aside casting doubt on his competence?  Well, it looks that way to me.

But maybe FoxNews thinks that specialists in "whole person healing" are qualified to comment on matters thermodynamic - even though they themselves put the term "whole person healing" in scare quotes.

Or... maybe not:
[Internet commentary upon Kanzius and Roy's assertion points out that creating fire from salt water is possible by first separating it into hydrogen, oxygen, sodium and chloride, then burning the sodium. However, such a process would consume much more energy than it produces.]

Posted by: Pixy Misa at 03:48 PM | Comments (1) | Add Comment | Trackbacks (Suck)
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1 Yeah, I had that one forwarded to me by a co-worker, and my short explanation of why it was an obvious scam got the following answer: "yeah, maybe it does sound like a scam. Probably couldn't harvest much power anyway". crycrycry.

The Fox article really needs another aside checking up on the "cancer researcher" credential. By the power of Kinkos, you too can have business cards claiming this profession.


Posted by: J Greely at Wednesday, September 12 2007 10:58 PM (2XtN5)

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