Sunday, July 22, 2007

Newspaper Editor Knows A Crackpot When He Sees One

This newspaper editor restores a bit of my faith in popular media. There is a shred of hope of someone sensible in the publishing/media empire after all!

Several months back, I got a call from two gentlemen who claimed to have invented a new type of automotive engine. They stopped by the newspaper and I sat down to interview them. I quickly realized that what they were describing was a "perpetual motion machine," a machine that supposedly keeps running on its own power without the need for additional energy. Perpetual motion machines don't exist. They are a violation of the laws of physics.

And right he is! But what is more important here is that when strangers come calling out of nowhere and want to advertise something that contradicts an engineering or scientific principle BUT without first having experts looking into it, then all warning bells and whistles should go off immediately. It is unfortunate that many news media do not consider that. Fortunately, this editor did.

I didn't know whether the "inventors" are fooling themselves or trying to fool someone else, but I know that the machine could not possibly work the way they described it to me. I'm not an engineer, and I'm not qualified to look at the machine and tell you exactly what it's doing, or not doing, but I know the underlying scientific principle. I told them I wouldn't do the story.

That is exactly what should have been done. Ask them to get their invention verified by the experts FIRST. Science cannot and should not be done in the popular media. If it is, the public will be inundated with all these information and they can't tell which one is valid and which isn't. It is bad enough that many of them already believe in astrology.


No comments: