One year and counting

July 4th, 2007: The day that a small Irish company dumbfounded the scientific community and changed the world by paving the way to complete independence from fossil fuels.

That’s the way Steorn would have liked to have seen history written, anyhow. Instead, the day produced just another in a long line of failed demonstrations of “free energy” devices. Just another brick slid cleanly into place in the skeptic’s narrative that Steorn is delusional at best, fraudulent at worst.

A glass-walled showroom in the center of London. A carefully thought out space. Several computer terminals around the periphery would allow awestruck witnesses to notify far way friends that the world is about to change forever. All lights converge on the raised pedestal in the center of the room, supporting a box housing a perpetually spinning disc. Everything is made of clear plastic so anyone can see there’s no power being piped in from elsewhere. Finally, to drive home the enormity of the moment (and entertain the waiting throngs of visitors) the room is decorated with a collection of quotes that are not subtle in celebrating the glorious victory of creative risk-takers over small-minded skeptics.


Much style, little substance: the Orbo showroom one year ago.


In retrospect, those quotes drip with arrogance and folly. They are some of the most delectably ironic morsels that day brought us, so I thought it would be appropriate to collect them here on this anniversary.


True science teaches us to doubt and in ignorance, refrain.

–Claude Bernard


Isn’t it astonishing that all these secrets have been preserved for so many years just so we could discover them!

–Orville Wright


People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it.

–George Bernard Shaw


If the facts don’t fit the theory, change the facts.

–Albert Einstein


The beginning of knowledge is the discovery of something we do not understand.

–Frank Herbert


The more original a discovery, the more obvious it seems afterwards.

–Arthur Koestler


I can believe anything, provided that it is quite incredible.

–James Joyce


It is the tension between creativity and skepticism that has produced the stunning and unexpected findings of science.

–Carl Sagan


Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.

–George Bernard Shaw


For an engineer, nothing is impossible.



When seen in the context of Steorn’s failed demonstration, these quotes are tragic, or darkly comic, depending on how much sympathy one has for Sean McCarthy’s crew. But the fact that they were there to begin with… the fact that all of this tremendous thought, effort, and expense was put into creating the perfect presentation space… means something. It means that Steorn, or at least some of the most important people there, really and truly believed that they were going to pull it off. Why did they believe that? And do they still believe that it will happen? As long as these questions remain unanswered, there’s still a story here.

One thought on “One year and counting

  1. Some GOOD news: Lots of people are seriously pursuing similar paths to achieve truly clean energy. I truly believe the needed device will soon come from somebody. I say that based on years of tracking this innovative effort using the very helpful Google news alerts service.
    The skyrocketing price of oil will be its own undoing. But in the meantime, the pain reaches into unimagined corners. An example of that was reported on the TV show “60 Minutes”. In Africa park rangers are responsible for protecting the endangered gorilla. It is estimated that there are only 700 left in the whole World. They are also responsible for stopping the illegal burning of forest to create charcoal, which people use for cooking [energy]. So the criminals who make money in the charcoal business kill gorillas to blackmail the park rangers into stop enforcing the laws against burning the trees.
    When we finally have clean, affordable energy on the planet the motivation for killing the endangered gorillas will disappear.

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