In physics, free energy is a mathematical function that quantifies the work performed by a closed thermodynamic system during a reversible transformation at constant temperature. That is, in any case, the definition that you can find in a textbook of physics. On the web, though, the term free energy refers most often to a new source of energy that is largely ignored by the scientific community but on which the future of humanity depends in the current context of energy and environmental crisis. Is it reality or Internet myth?
Based on what the Internet says, it would seem that this free energy abounds around us and that “the evidence of this free energy source is demonstrated by tens or even hundreds of people” (Wikistrike 2015). It would be available for free and occupy the “vacuum” that surrounds us. To implement it, no one needs to be an engineer or physicist, as you just have to apply what is described in one of the available books dealing with how to design a machine that will “transform something that we do not know how to detect into something usable” (Newman 2011). But as Aristotle stated, “the definition makes known what is the thing.” So, what is that thing?
Navigating several websites that recycle the same claims, we learn that free energy would be “an electromagnetic energy whose mean is zero and seems to be electrically neutral and whose origin is supposed to be related to the presence of fields of pairs of particles and antiparticles (photons), occupying the vacuum … creating a tension between them, and thus an energy that transforms into a wave that propagates in space”1 (Véringa 2015). Most physicists continue to deny its existence (Wikistrike 2015) while others, “courageous and disinterested researchers, are making the ‘miracle’ of free energy come true” (Ledoux 2015). But the technology developed by these courageous researchers—which would permit us to generate absolutely free electricity and to no longer pay a penny to energy suppliers—is suppressed by the big corporations that tyrannize researchers conducting research on free energy (L’énergie libre de Nikola Tesla 2010).
One example among others: Bruce DePalma is an electrical engineer and meditation devotee who retired to a farm to carry out research on rotating objects. He claimed to have invented a generator using rotating magnets to extract energy from a vacuum but did not dare to push his concept to the end, fearful of assassination (see www.arsitra.org). In spite of this “tyranny,” it is fortunately possible (but for how long, you will ask) to consult on the Internet many videos or descriptions of free energy machines that are presented as so much proof … mostly unverifiable. It’s like the revolutionary “magnet power generator” known as VTA for Vacuum Triode Amplifier, developed in the 1980s by a man named Floyd Sweet, who claimed it produced “much more energy than it consumed.” But its inventor has never subjected the VTA to independent tests, and free energy adepts now consider “that attempts to reproduce results … may face serious problems because we no longer find the kind of magnet used at the time” (see www.arsitra.org). The future of the world is definitely a matter of little concern.
Seeing these videos and reading about all the hopes aroused by the prospect of delivering humanity “from the evil lobbies supposedly controlling this world,” to restore scientific truth in the face of universities that “brainwash students” (see www.energie-sante.net), and to ensure a safer and cleaner planet (see www.quanthomme.info), one might be tempted to believe.
Alas, the laws of nature are badly done. In the eighteenth century, Antoine Lavoisier, the French father of modern chemistry, taking up a thesis proposed by Anaxagore, who lived 500 years bce, expressed a rule that became famous: “in nature, nothing is lost, nothing is created, everything is transformed.” This idiom was formalized during the nineteenth century by the fundamental principles2 of thermodynamics, in particular the first principle,3 also called the principle of conservation of energy, which does not allow energy to be created from nothing. The systematic use, by scientific “skeptics,” of this first principle of thermodynamics to nip in the bud the very idea of a free-energy machine is strongly denounced by its supporters who affirm that such a machine “does not violate the principle of conservation of energy” because it only “pumps a little of the energy of a vacuum” (L’énergie libre… 2013) that would fill the universe. Some cite the case of magnets suspended in magnetic levitation, wondering “what inexhaustible energy overcomes gravitation here?” (Petite expérience… N.d.) and assuming it is extracted from a vacuum.
This type of reasoning comes from a misunderstanding of the very concept of energy: it is often imagined as an exchangeable fluid present in us and around us. But energy is an inherent property of matter, and it has no existence of its own. This identity between matter and energy is one of the fundamental concepts underpinned by the famous and yet often misunderstood equation produced by Albert Einstein that can be written:4 E = mc2. In addition, energy is a relative concept: a car in its garage, immobile in relation to the terrestrial reference system, will not bring you anywhere, nor will it hurt anyone because its kinetic energy in this system is zero. However, its kinetic energy is immense in the heliocentric system since the Earth drags it along on its journey around the Sun at 30 km/s. One cannot isolate a packet of pure energy, and seeking to make a representation of energy through imagination or intuition is only an impasse generating paradoxes and mystical interpretations: as physics professor Sadri Hassani5 reminds us in his recent Skeptical Inquirer article, “if there are paradoxes, it is only because we try to understand a physical phenomenon on the basis of our limited, incomplete, and mostly wrong intuition” (Hassani 2016). We should just consider energy as it appears to us in the experiments of physics: as a quantification of the changes in the organization of matter that is transformed, exchanged, and moved by the action of the four fundamental interactions (gravitational, electromagnetic, strong nuclear, and weak nuclear) in a given reference system. Risking a human-centered comparison, I would say that if the atoms were money, then the energy would be the exchange rate.
A Waste of Time and Energy
We cannot create energy from the vacuum; it would be creating matter. That is why the first principle of thermodynamics could never be overcome. To assume the contrary would be to assert the possibility of the spontaneous creation of matter. And to believe that the energy industry is fighting against advances in the field is to ignore the electrical equipment industries, especially portable electrical tools manufacturers, that dream of being able to develop tools without batteries. This would make them lighter and less expensive to produce and would constitute a considerable breakthrough. Work to create energy from a vacuum or to violate the principle of conservation of energy are thus done for nothing. The only result of the efforts of all these people, persuaded to be able to diffuse energy as Jesus multiplied bread, is the confirmation of man’s immemorial inclination for profusion and gratuitousness, nothing differentiating the modern myth of the free energy from the old—the eternal lamp.
- This talk is riddled with errors and approximations that are difficult to list while keeping a calm mind. Let us emphasize simply that an electromagnetic wave carrying a zero energy density can only correspond to a wave whose electric field is zero and therefore is not an electromagnetic wave. And that if the photons were indeed antiparticles, then the light rays of our sun would brutally reduce our lifetime.
- A principle in physics is a fundamental law that has not been demonstrated but that experiments have never been able to contradict.
- The first principle of thermodynamics states that the increase in energy of a system is equal to the quantity of heat that the system receives from the exterior from which the work the system furnishes to the exterior is subtracted. When the system is isolated, exchanges with the outside are zero and the increase in energy of the system is therefore zero. The universe itself seems to be an isolated system.
- For a particle at rest and that can of course also be written m = E / c2, which implies, for example, that by heating an object of mass m (i.e., by increasing the stirring of its atoms) and thus raising its internal energy of e, then we increase the mass of the object of e / c2 (which does not mean that one creates matter). But this increase in mass is indistinguishable to us given the value of c (c is the velocity of light in a vacuum).
- Professor emeritus of physics at the University of Illinois State, author of the blog skepticaleducator.org.
- Hassani, Sadri. 2016. Does E=mc2 imply mysticism? Skeptical Inquirer 40(4) (July/August).
- L’énergie libre de Nikola Tesla. 2010. La Grande Revelation (October 11). Available online at www.la-grande-revelation.com/l-energie-libre-de-nikola-tesla-a1772220.
- L’énergie libre, ILLIMITÉE et NON POLLUANTE disponible pour tous! 2013. Planète Révélations (February 26). Available online at www.electra2zeiss.tonempire.net/t12686p15-l-energie-libre-illimitee-et-non-polluante-disponible-pour-tous.
- Ledoux, Aurélia. 2015. L’énergie libre : elle va changer la face du monde. Une Petite Lumière pour chacun (October 22). Available online at www.unepetitelumierepourchacun.com/2015/10/l-energie-libre-elle-va-changer-la-face-du-monde.html.
- Newman, Joseph. 2011. Energie libre. La machine à énergie de Joseph Newman (April 13). Available online at josephnewman.unblog.fr/2011/04/13/energie-libre/.
- Petite expérience avec deux aimants pour comprendre ce que peut être l’énergie libre. N.d. MagnetoSynergie. Available online at www.magnetosynergie.com/Pages-Fr/Dogmes/FR-Dogmes-04.htm.
- Véringa, Sandra. 2015. Plusieurs scientifiques confirment la réalité de l’énergie libre. Esprit Science Metaphysiques (February 16). Available online at www.espritsciencemetaphysiques.com/plusieurs-scientifiques-confirment-realite-lenergie-libre-en-voici-preuve.html.
- Wikistrike. 2015. Energie libre: mode d’emploi (September 23). Available online at www.wikistrike.com/article-energie-libre-mode-d-emploi-83072190.html.