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Saturday, 29 March 2008

Blacklight Power: sci-fi science rejected by UK-IPO


The rather mysteriously-named Blacklight Power, Inc. has come to the attention of the IPKat through a decision that was issued recently by the UK-IPO. The decision (BL O/076/08) resulted in refusal of two of Blacklight's UK patent applications relating to a computerised atomic modelling system, on the grounds that any contribution made was only that of a discovery or scientific theory, in line with the (by now very familiar) Aerotel/Macrossan approach.

This in itself was fairly unremarkable, and the IPKat would normally not think of bothering his readers with it. However, what piqued the Kat's interest was how far the UK-IPO went in reaching their decision, given the rather bizarre subject matter involved. The applications, both of which derived from international application WO 2005/067678, related to a very unusual scientific theory that, among other things, claims to be able to produce virtually limitless amounts of power (bringing to mind various other fantastical perpetual motion-type claims such as those made by Steorn). The hearing officer was, however, much more diplomatic in saying "the physics underlying the invention as disclosed in the applications and comprehensively explained by Dr Mills at the hearing is at the very limit of my understanding".

All this is the work of inventor and scientist Randell Mills (pictured), who has for many years been developing his theory of 'Classical Quantum Mechanics' (see Wikipedia for more details and links). The theory has been widely discredited by many conventional physicists for being, among other things, quite clearly wrong. Dr Mills is not to be dissuaded, however, and continues in his valiant efforts to convince the world that a new energy breakthrough is just around the corner thanks to his new 'hydrino' energy source. Blacklight, which appears to be a commercial vehicle for Dr Mills' ideas, has even been able to obtain investment money to pursue these ideas and attempt to get some patent protection. So far, it seems that Blacklight is not doing particularly well. Even the USPTO realised (eventually) that some of their claims were a bit too outlandish to justify granting a patent on.

As a slight aside, all this brings to the IPKat's mind the work of Arthur Pedrick, well known in patent circles for his outlandish ideas, which he publicised by means of many and various GB patent applications (see here for a selection). Dr Mills' claims look quite tame compared with some of Arthur's ideas.

35 comments:

Anonymous said...

There are two types of errors: To conclude something is true when it is false and to conclude something is false when it is true. To avoid the first one risks the second and to avoid the second one risks the first.
This dilemma is at the heart of all struggles over credibility. What does it mean for something to be at the limit of understanding? The truly novel must be truly novel to those most versed in the established view. They are just as likely in this case to be confounded as anyone else--perhaps, more so because they think they have all the answers. To have difficulty getting acceptance of an idea is not the same thing as having the wrong idea. The ability to distinguish between the two is is the mark of the truly perceptive observer. I would suggest you spend some time thinking about this.

David said...

And I would suggest that the last observer might like to think about getting some kind of grip on reality. Blacklight Power is clearly a scam, and I do not have to spend much time reading Dr Mills' theories to work that one out.

Anonymous said...

LOL David... you're not someone who determines what is real and what is not. It takes a little more effort than two seconds. Like for Randy it has taken 20 years or so and he's finally into many exciting new discoveries. While you, you're into silly blogs.

David said...

Very correct. I do not determine what is real, the laws of physics can do that quite well by themselves. What's funny though (peculiar, as well as haha) is that Dr Mills persists in his delusions. Mind you, if others are stupid enough to invest substantial amounts of money in his scams, then more fool them. Perhaps Dr Mills is merely laughing all the way to the bank.

As for me, I agree that this blog is silly. Fortunately though, I do not need it to earn a living.

Anonymous said...

David, what is your position now that Blacklight Power Inc. has announced the successful test of a prototype powerplant, with commercial application in 18-24 months? Still think it's a scam? ;)

David said...

Yes. Check the first law of thermodynamics.

Anonymous said...

Hello, David,

Right, we all now know all the laws of physics. Newton was wrong, but fortunately you're smarter than Newton. And Einstein was wrong, but again it's our luck that you're smarter than Einstein. Nope, there's nothing in the history of science that suggests maybe Dirac was wrong. No sirree.
But confidentially, I hope Dirac turns out to have been wrong after all. I hear he was kind of an asshole. Just like you.

David said...

Descending to the level of playground insults does not do your cause much good, in my view. My view happens to be that hydrino theory is plain wrong, and I don't have to be smarter than Newton, Einstein or Dirac to arrive at this conclusion. That does not make me an asshole, just someone with a sensible degree of scepticism for fantastical claims such as those Blacklight are making.

Anonymous said...

I withdraw the remark that you are an asshole and sincerely apologize. I respectfully point out that you labelled a person's work and claims as a scam, admitting you hadn't seriously examined them.

It's possible that it's a hoax; it's possible that the technology turns out simply to be impractical for some undisclosed reason. But I can't imagine that, after announcing an operational 25KW prototype, Dr. Mills could raise an additional nickel of further investment without definitively proving the prototype. And I can't believe that he could hoodwink board members of the caliber he has on his board.

David said...

I did not say that I hadn't seriously examined the claims. I said that I didn't need to spend much time reading Dr Mills' theories to work it out. Any serious examination of the claims would start with the basic question of whether the first law of thermodynamics is obeyed. On the face of it, the claims violate this law, and can therefore quite safely be dismissed as the work of a crackpot or charlatan. I'm not sure which of these Dr Mills is.

However, the experimental results published to date are in any case not particularly persuasive that there is anything going on that cannot be explained by conventional science. The recently published test results (in the "Commercializable Power Sources..." document) relate to various complicated reactions involving metal hydrides. After applying an experimentally derived correction to calorimetry power measurement, which results in an apparent net positive energy output, a conclusion is arrived at (see page 27) that "the only exothermic reaction possible to account for the energy balance is that given by Eqs. (23-25)" (emphasis added). Equations 23-25, of course, relate to the hydrogen to hydrino reactions.

Deriving such a conclusion from small otherwise unexplained differences between expected and measured energy flows is just not good science, without providing at least some evidence that hydrino can itself be detected as an output of the experiment (I can see no evidence to this effect at all). A far more likely explanation is that the experimenter simply has not taken into account all possible energy balances. The experimental evidence put forward so far is therefore far from convincing.

Since the basis of the theory is that it effectively produces energy from nothing, I would happily be convinced by a megawatt-scale power plant commercially operating without any external energy inputs (and no sneaking in extra sodium hydride by the back door when nobody is looking). This would, of course, be impossible and will not happen. I therefore return to my original point, which is that the claims are false.

Filemot said...

You highlight a really difficult area for patent attorneys. We present the explanations our clients proffer. We do our best to verify and authenticate what we write, but it is not a peer review process. There are often cases where prototypes work and patent applications are still insufficient (not the objection here). In fact sometimes I think such specifications are the majority. The prototype could be working on a completely different principal from that described in the patent specification. I dont know whether that is the case here- just that that is a situation in a significant proportion of patent applications. Its an issue you often find when doing due diligence. There is a good product and a set of patents and the two are not in sync. The difficulty for a patent attorney is getting across that the busines may well be investable but that the investors should not place any great reliance on being able to use the patents to defeat the competition.
However the patent application was refused because it was not in respect of a prototype machine but in respect of excluded subject matter - scientific theory. Perhaps there are other applications for patentable contributions.

Anonymous said...

Why should a hydrogen atom have a ground state of 27.5eV ?- why shouldn't the electron orbit closer to the protron? I think it was Einstein who said he understood quantum theory before he could every prove it, because it made sense to him. Equally to say that a hydrogen atom has a set or defined ground state (orbit)doesn't make sense because we know there is space between the proton and electron. Hydrogen fusion as seen in the hydrogen bomb closes the space between atoms completely releasing incredible energies. If a catalyst can rob hydrogen on some of this ground state energy, then the electron will move closer to the proton. I honestly can't see anything wrong with this proposition. Critics of the science are all based in current quantum physics, but quantum physicists invent a new dimension every time they can't solve a function. To a casual observer, it is not BLP who are living in a fantasy (multi-dimensional) universe.

Anonymous said...

Does Blacklight Power have something that will work or not? I understand that Mills has allowed anyone to go over his material and test it. He doesn't seem secretive about anything. Maybe there's something going on here that is simply not understood just yet. It seems to me that when anyone discards an idea because it doesn't fit into what is presently understood/believed, then science is being treated more like a religion. I'm not a scientist so I guess I'm not restricted by what I was taught (I'm not very religous either). I would think a, lets see if there is anything to this attitude, would be inorder. He now claims to have actually has directly recorded the formation of hydrinos. Plus the successful testing of a new energy source. Are there companies out there who would view this with great alarm! who would not be very happy if this is true. Moner, power and greed rule. I imagine that all of the present energy companies would be very unhappy about this.
So, how bizzare would this be if it does actually work. I find the fact that we exist at all pretty bizzare. Where did all this matter/energy come from in the first place??God?? I think I'll take a wait and see attitude on this. I must admit though, I would like to see it work, not just because of cheap energy, but to also stir up the science world too. I get a kick out of messing with the religous types,whether its spiritual or scientific beliefs. :)

Anonymous said...

I have been to Blacklight in New Jersey and have followed them for 4years. I have met with Dr. Mills on numerous occasions. I have done a fair amount of due diligence, consisting mainly of talking to scientists. I am not a physicist. But I am an investment analyst. I can assure you this is not a hoax. It may or may not scale up, but it's not a hoax. And Dr. Mills is not a nut.

Anonymous said...

Actually I'm concerned about all the investment types involved with him. The pseudoscience of hydrinos is laughable. Criminal investment fraud is not.

Liberty or Death said...

I find "David" to have shown his lack of understanding here... Go back and look at the theory because there is no violation of the First Law of Thermodynamics, and that argument is plain lazy. I like the commentary about such arguments being similar to theology. Anyway, they have made the statement that there will be commercially available products in the next 12 to 18 months so rather than bickering about the possible, lets wait and see what time makes inevitable.

Liberty or Death said...

Well you will either be eating your words in 12 to 18 months, or not. The disconcerting part is your complete lack of any kind of openness to the theory. It has been very disappointing to see the reaction of the science community to this. None of the opponents of this theory have tried the experiments, nor have they even tried to observe them. Yet they make the same absolute denial of it. Another group denied Copernicus and Galileo when they tried to say there was something more to existence than what was here on Earth. I'm not saying that Randell Mills is anything like them- I'm saying the science community has been very much like the theocratic authorities of their time period.

Anonymous said...

Here's a question: What's the (electrical) utility bill look like for their Cranbury facility?

Anonymous said...

Science doesn't require your detractors to be open minded, only that you be right. If you are right, you prove it, and any scientist I work with would be thrilled to begin work on such a potentially earth-shatteringly new field. Galileo was proven right, and even his staunchest critics agreed with him eventually.

Now, how many invesment bankers are really educated enough about science to tell if he is pulling the wool over their eyes? Are these the same invesment bankers who thought subprime mortgage backed securities were a good idea?

Anonymous said...

Perhaps we are asking too much to expect people to drop their skepticism. According to current belief systems Mills theories dont fit. Current belief systems have been build by a great deal of intelligent thought and effort. It is the skeptics job to express their doubts as clearly as possible because unrationality is like a cancer that corrupts our abilities to construct valid thought processes at all. Since we are at the edge of the rational with interpreting experimental evidence from quantum science it would seem wize to remain open to some degree but also to hold strongly to those hard won gains we collectively agree upon.
Mills is claiming a theoretical basis and physical proof of new forms of matter. This is extraordinary and revolutionary if true.
Let us wait and see, but let us be prepared to learn. Not just to accept new science if it emerges, but if it does not - to acknowledge the knowledge of those who have rejected these theories upon the basis of the weight of their prior knowledge. We may also take this oportunity to learn how we all individually react to these issues and to people holding other positions and perhaps reevaluate these postures in future.

Anonymous said...

Ha Ha Ha Ha!

Ho ho ho!

Ha ha ha!

'Doctor Mills' - only takes a Masters degree to be a Doctor!

Ha Ha Ha!

Z said...

This has made for interesting reading David. Do you perhaps have any update on your views?

David said...

No. Why?

David said...

Actually, I do have some updates. See here and here. Blacklight continue to provide good entertainment for patent attorneys looking for a bit of light relief.

Luigi Semenzato said...

"Blacklight Power is clearly a scam, and I do not have to spend much time reading Dr Mills' theories to work that one out."

Unfortunately David is right. By necessity, true scientists have to open-minded about science that defies conventions. But they also have to be selective, because there is a lot of crap around. In this case, it is correct that Dr. Mills theories can be dismissed quickly. Consider the following.

1. There is no disagreement with quantum theories in any known experiment. People have looked at a lot of stuff happening at a lot of energy scales. Not one tiny bit of disagreement. What is this guy doing that's so different from what has been tried?

2. If there are additional states of the hydrogen atom beyond the known ones, how come we don't observe them in nature? A lot of stuff happens. Surely some natural processes would produce hydrino. So where's the hydrino?

3. Wait... perhaps there is no hydrino because it's not stable and it quickly reverts to a well-known state? Oh. How convenient. We get energy for free. Conservation of energy doesn't apply. There is a free lunch after all.

So one doesn't have to be an expert in QED to dismiss this crap. Certainly, one has to believe the "established" scientific community, which involves a certain amount of faith. But there are good reasons to put one's faith in it, the first one being that there is no contradiction between science and engineering. Even though I can't understand the theory and run most of the experiments, I can observe their application (as I type this message, for instance) and it's all consistent.

It's interesting that the fact that Dr. Mills theories are so obviously wrong to serious scientists may actually play in his favor. Serious scientists have better things to do than waste their time bothering with this, so he is able to navigate these dangerous waters relatively undisturbed. Or, I should say, he WAS able... then blogging started. :-)

Liberty or Death said...

No disagreement? Is that why string theory was replaced by M-theory? Is that why they have so much trouble reconciling Einstein's relativity calculations with the Quantum theories? The explanation of how that additional state of hydrogen comes about is also explained by Dr. Mill's theory. It naturally occurs in the coronal atmosphere of a star. I think it is pretty limited to suggest that there are limits on the states of particles, but every time they find something difficult to explain by quantum theory, they create another dimension of reality. HA.

Anonymous said...

As a researcher you must not close your mind to any possibility without proper investigation. So now I ask you to open your mind and consider that your belief in Mr. Mills' claims are not based on a true understanding of them, but rather an emotionally driven cause. You are either Mr. Mills himself, or you have your own money, or pride, wrapped up in his scheme.

We will see what happens when they try to build this thing, but my guess is Mills and others will disappear with the money long before that.

Vaughan Wynne-Jones said...

Why is it that every generation of scientists believes they know everything there is to know, that those who went before were simply
not enlightened enough to understand 'The Truth', and that any novel theory the next generation comes up with is crackpot?

If someone could invent a procedure to perform an arrogance-ectomy on people when they get a PhD, I think the world would be a better place...

Rob said...

This can all be boiled down to a Sagan phrase: 'extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence'.

The alchemist in question has offered the first but has not offered the second. Until he does, any scientist must look at the available facts vs the claims and make an assessment, which is logically 'bullshit'.

Anonymous said...

I happen to believe that there may be something to Blacklight power. It is interesting to me and I at least like to follow the company to see what happens. Classical physics seems neat and tidy whereas quantum physics seems strange and contradictory. However, I do like the one question someone asked. What does their power bill look like? They should be on the power sell back program. Right?

Anonymous said...

Real? I don't know. We only know what our limited minds can understand. If we measure new science by the established knowlege base. We will never evolve. I am not saying this is not a scam, 99% chance that is the case. However all new science came from bucking established science and theory. There is just a great deal we don't know. 2cents

Amos said...

Randell Mills completed the work that Einstein was working when he died, the very work that had him osctracized from the scientific community the last 20 or so years of his life; the Unified Field Theory.

As far as Einstein was concerned, Quantum mechanics as it is today is much less science, much less based upon direct experimental observation, than it is mathematics and based on a bunch of therotical probabilities. In the words of Einstein himself:

I still do not believe that the statistical method of the Quantum Theory is the last word, but for the time being I am alone in my opinion. (Albert Einstein, 1936, 'The Born-Einstein Letters' Max Born, translated by Irene Born, Macmillan 1971)

Quantum mechanics is certainly imposing. But an inner voice tells me that it is not yet the real thing. Quantum theory says a lot, but does not really bring us any closer to the secret of the Old One. I, at any rate, am convinced that He (God) does not throw dice. (Albert Einstein, On Quantum Physics, Letter to Max Born, December 12, 1926)

Even the great initial success of the Quantum Theory does not make me believe in the fundamental dice-game, although I am well aware that our younger colleagues interpret this as a consequence of senility. No doubt the day will come when we will see whose instinctive attitude was the correct one. (Albert Einstein to Max Born, Sept 1944, 'The Born-Einstein Letters')

Some physicists, among them myself, cannot believe that we must abandon, actually and forever, the idea of direct representation of physical reality in space and time; or that we must accept the view that events in nature are analogous to a game of chance.
(Albert Einstein, on Quantum Physics, 1954)

http://www.spaceandmotion.com/quantum-theory-albert-einstein-quotes.htm

Quantum mechanics contains numerous paradoxes and inconsistences (such as the requirement that two or more contradictory results exist simultaneously or that a photon can be everywhere at the same time). It is man's way of explaining physical phenomena they don't understand and that's why scientists come up with extra dimentions for every inconsistency they bump into and conjure up terms such as entanglement and "spooky action at a distance."

Basically, if Albert Einstein was a crackpot and a scam for believing physics has been headed the wrong direction, then so is Randell Mills. Let's also not forget that a few years ago physicists believed the sun went round the earth, or that 23 years ago Cold Fusion was utterly discredited as junk science which it obviously is not.

Here's a video to show that Cold Fusion is hot again:

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2009/04/17/60minutes/main4952167.shtml

David said...

All very fascinating, Amos. Thank you for your contribution. I am eagerly awaiting news of the functioning power plant based on Dr Mills' technology.

Anonymous said...

PLEASE DEFINE ACRONYMS

All readeers of this forums are not English. We don't know the acronyms you use. Also sometimes people use acronyms wrongly. Do you mean UK intellectual property office or perhaps something else?

It is a good internet practice to always define acronyms by writing the full name plus acronym in parenthesis the first time it appears in the text (not heading).

Anonymous said...

I realize this is an older post but wanted to put my two cents in.
Yes the scientific community as a whole has been very skeptical about dr Mills project... because it goes against most of what they have learned/taught over the years. But if you ask some of the scientist who worked on the LEP program in switzerland, they were not taken seriously either... I am sure that Einstein was called a quack more than once for his idea and now he is regarded as a genius!!
they have done demonstrations at their facilities as well as having a university duplicate the experiment and have had positive results. my family and I continue to follow his progress and look forward to a lot of people having to eat their words.

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