Pseudo or Science

curmudgeon logo2Remember Stan Meyers?  No?  That’s OK.  I had to look up his name again when I started this post.   Stan Meyers claimed he had invented a water powered car way back in the 80’s.  He had a dune-buggy demo, took out patents, and went looking for investors.  Why bring up Stan?  Three reasons.   The first is an article I saw this week which stated that we have now reached the 400 ppm carbon dioxide level in the atmosphere that scientist have long predicted was a watershed moment.  Second, gas prices in my little part of the world just shot up $.50 in a week.  And third, another article involving a guy named Ronald Ace  (yep, Ace).

If scientists are right (and there are those who say they are not, because, after all, it’s a conspiracy, right?), 400 ppm carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is a tipping point.   Beyond this level and things begin to heat up at a much more accelerated pace.  Those who laughed at Al Gore’s charts might want to take another look.  For all of the climate change detractors out there, like it or not, Houston, we have a problem.

My gas price dilemma on the other hand is a horse of a different color.  Apparently the price hike is caused by the fact that western refineries can make more money selling their product overseas than they can here, so we have a spike in prices even though there is plenty of gas available.  All that aside, there is an energy problem facing the world, (one of which is that refineries would rather sell to China than to me) and it is tied into the whole climate change problem in complicated ways.

Enter Ronald Ace.   Ace is a little known inventor from Laurel, Maryland.  Mr. Ace has any number of patents and has recently been in the news because he claims to have invented a way to trap solar heat at an efficiency level unknown before.  He claims his “solar traps” are nearly 100% efficient and could meet the energy needs of 92% of the world.  That’s quite a claim.  There’s that old adage that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.  But, given the need for anything close to that sort of solar efficiency, his claim was worth checking out.

Interestingly, there is very little about Ronald Ace on the web.  He is apparently something of a hermit.  Most of the information about his solar traps comes from McClatchy news releases.  So why bring up Ace in the first place?  To start with, this isn’t some nut job working in his friend’s garage.  He not only has patents, but some of his patents are in use today.  And he not only claims to have a partial solution to the energy crisis, but he also claims to have a partial solution to the global warming phenomena.  And lastly, there seems to be some indication that both of these ideas might actually work!

Now, to be fair, he has revealed very little about his “solar trap” idea, but from what he has released some people seem to think he is onto something.  And he is currently working to get his idea into government labs for testing – not something your normal fraud attempts.  His ideas for cooling the earth seem crazy at first glance.  He wants to pump millions of gallons of seawater into the upper atmosphere with huge water jets.  It sounds crazy, but the same weather models that predict global warming also show that it would work… up to a point.  A side benefit is that it will increase rainfall in areas with too little.

Which brings me back to Stan Meyers.  Remember Stan Meyers?  There is a great deal on the web about my man Stan.  The courts ruled that his water powered car was a fraud and scientists claimed that the theory behind it was pseudoscience that violated both the first and second laws of thermodynamics.  But, Stan Meyers met an untimely end.  Apparently he was having a meal with some investors, took a drink of cranberry juice and then cried out “They poisoned me,” ran out into the parking lot, vomited, and died.  The coroner ruled that he died from a cerebral aneurysm.  His supporters, and there are a great many of them, claim that he was murdered by the oil industry to keep his invention from ever being developed.  And that sort of thing gets plenty of play time on the web.

That’s one of the problems with pseudoscience.  It is almost always tied up with conspiracy theories of some sort.  Aliens at Roswell?  Government cover up.  UFO’s in the skies over most of the world?  Ditto. Global warming?  Scientific conspiracy.    Ancient astronauts built the pyramids?  Historians rewrote history.  Water powered cars?  Oil industry will never allow it to happen.  They killed Stan Meyers, didn’t they?

Don’t believe it?  There’s a conspiracy theory for that.  Don’t like it?  Must be a conspiracy.  Either way, someone is covering up something.

And all of that tends to make us just a wee bit skittish about ideas that may seem to smack of pseudoscience.

So what about Ronald Ace and his extravagant claims?  At this point, I will reserve judgment.  What I will say is that many of the greatest inventors of all time were viewed as nut jobs at when they first put their ideas forward.  Later on, not so much.  Whether Mr. Ace will turn out to be the guy who puts solar energy at the forefront of our energy solutions remains to be seen.  But if I were him, I’d watch my back because the oil companies will never allow it.

Your Humble Servant,

The Willowbrook Curmudgeon

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