Steorn's public demo of their Orbo technology, claimed to produce unlimited free energy, began this morning at 10am local time at the Waterway Center in Dublin, Ireland. Live streaming video of the event, as well as related videos, can be seen from Steorn's homepage.
For those interested in seeing Orbo up close and personal, the exhibit will be open daily from December 15th to the 23rd and from January 5th to the 31st, between the hours of 10am to 7pm. Information and directions can be found here.
Two men inspecting a spinning Orbo, live from Dublin.
For over three years, since Steorn first went public with their free energy claims, the company has acted as a sort of Rorschach test; different observers interpret what they're doing in vastly different, and often opposing, ways. Every action they've taken can be interpreted as part of a massive fraud, or as following from a prolonged delusion that they have something fantastic when all they really have is measurement error, or as an earnest step toward launching a genuine technology so revolutionary that the normal means of bringing a new technology to the attention of others capable of developing it further, simply fall short.
Today, however, is the big reveal — a spinning Orbo can finally be viewed up close by any Dubliner who wishes to wander by, or by anyone else on the planet with a web browser. This should be the moment that changes everything, right? Wrong. Amazingly, today's demo doesn't clear up the picture one bit.
The reason for the continued ambiguity is a simple battery. The Orbo device being demoed today is not the same as the version that was (almost) shown in the aborted July 2007 demo. The 2007 Orbo was made up of a simple arrangement of permanent magnets, that supposedly resulted in a perpetual motion machine. Orbo 2009 is similar in its basic design, but the outer ring of magnets are now electromagnets rather than permanent magnets, and these electromagnets are fed by a battery. That battery, it is claimed, is constantly recharged by a small electrical generator attached to the spinning Orbo. The net result, says Sean McCarthy, is that the Orbo produces some three times the energy it uses. The energy that isn't cycled back to the battery is dissipated as heat.
Sean's claim may be true — the Orbo may be generating three times the energy it is using, right in front of our eyes. Or, it may not be; there's no way to tell without being an experienced engineer and hooking the rig up to a lot of complex testing equipment. Because there's a battery in the loop, there's just no telling how much energy, if any, Orbo is actually generating. So Steorn may have what they claim. Or they may be lying about it as part of a scam. Or they may honestly believe they have it, but be wrong. There's still no way to tell.
Schematics of the demo Orbo, showing a generator at top to recharge the battery, at bottom.
The skeptics will be emboldened to discover that Steorn also today announced the opening to the public of the Steorn Knowledge Development Base (SKDB), a club of engineers privy to information about how Orbo works. It will be open to students, academics, hobbyists, and anyone else... who is willing to pony up €419.00 ($613.00). Sorry, no refunds. This sounds like the capstone of the scam, the part where they finally get around to cashing in on all their deceptions. But then again, how many people will have the necessary confluence of wealth, enthusiasm and gullibility to plunk down that much money on a technology that hasn't been verified? 100? 200? Even if 500 of these memberships are sold, Steorn still only makes some $300,000; chump change for even a company of their size. Even if Orbo is nothing but a scam, selling a few memberships and a smattering of testing equipment to those members can't be a profitable endgame.
So, once again, nothing has changed. But then, Steorn hasn't claimed that the demo should be what proves Orbo to be real. In the future supposedly imagined by Steorn, the demo attracts attention; engineers join the SKDB and learn how to build their own Orbos. Eventually people all over the world are replicating the technology, testing it, and finding out that it really does produce more energy that it consumes. That's when Orbo is proven — gradually, over the course of weeks and months, as a distributed effort spread out all over the world.
Three Orbo devices arranged around a plexiglass column.
Today may be the most eventful day for Steorn since they introduced themselves to the world with an ad in The Economist in the summer of 2006. But for the rest of us, it ends just the same as every other day Steorn has made a great reveal — we have no clearer a picture of what Steorn is really all about, and we have a new point in the future to wait for and look forward to. On February 1st 2010 many more people will be able to learn how Orbo works. Then at some point in the weeks, or months, or years after that, someone may replicate it, someone may demonstrate that it produces more energy than it uses. Then someone else, and then someone else. Or, maybe not. We'll see.
Continue to Sean McCarthy to discuss Orbo online tomorrow »