This is the story of a perpetal motion device which kept the U.S. officials busy for half a decade. It also shows how Internet can be used to track down sources about some obscure events which started more than 15 years ago and hasn't come to an end so far.
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My interest in the story of Joseph Newmans "Energy Device Producing Higher Output Than Input" started when I stumbled over a headline in SCIENCE, 10. Feb. 1984, pp. 571-572: Newman's Impossible Motor. The article was written by Eliot Marshall, and he or the SCIENCE staff had added the subtitle
The patent office does not believe that Joseph Newman has built a generator that is more than 100 percent efficient but New Orleans does.
This is a link to the document version of the SCIENCE article.
Since SCIENCE is one of the most famous scientific magazines worldwide, I wondered why they found it worthwhile to write on something which seemed to be a perpetual motion story to me. As we are in the '90s now and the world still heavily depends on fossil fuels, I wondered what had come out of the story, so I posted the article to several newsgroups. I chose severeal 'fringe' groups such as alt.alien.visitors, alt.conspiracy and alt.sci.physics.new-theories where I suspected netizens who are interested in this weird kind of stuff.
In my posting I included some questions. The most curious thing to me was that, according to a second article in SCIENCE, Newman actually had won his trial against the patent office. This document (R. Jeffrey Smith: An Endless Siege of Implausible Inventions. SCIENCE, 16 Nov. 1984, p. 817) is available in document format
Within three of four days, I received a couple of interesting e-mail letters and several followups. One thing I had been interested in was whether Newman still existed and what kind of guy he was. Did he try to fool the public as well as the patent office? Was he really convinced that his device fulfilled his claims or was he just making good money from public exibitions, interviews, talkshows and boo sales. his book? Here are some brief parts of information I received. My point of view is that Newman was convinced that his results were valid, an outlook shared by severall people who knew him personally. You may read the following comments on this.In some parts, Newman's story seems to be one of frustration caused by some little understood politics, He tried to get his device evaluated by academic institutions but was rejected. The court had ordered Newman to have his machine tested by the National Bureau of Standards, and this was finally done. The report was submitted in July 1986. It said that the output of the device never approached 100% (see corresponding article).
Newman didn't accept the result but alleged that the bureau rigged its tests (the Washington Post reported on this on July 23, 1986). Obviously he wasn't able to build a device that successfully passed the tests carried out by the U.S. Patent Office, but continued to apply for a patent - this time in Europe. He was also granted a patent in Mexico.
Most of the information presented so far and several other comments not listed here suggest that the Newman Generator is bogus. I could't track down the explanations Newman gave in his own publication (Newman, Joseph; "The energy machine of Joseph Newman: An invention whose time has come". 5th ed. Soule (?), Evan R. (ed). 1987 $38.45, ISBN 0-961 3835-5-2, J. Newman Pub.) Some people simply commented out that the book is crudely written but offered no further insights. Here is a commentary on the contents of the book, and this is a brief summary .
What could have been the 'working principle' of the generator? Given the fact that a bunch of professional scientists and engineers were fooled by the device and a significant amount of money seems to have been invested for license options and further development of the machine, it seems likely that it must have done at least something.
There were several comments concerning the possible working principles. Most of them were reasonable ad hoc explanations which present reasonable opportunitiesfor fast theory building. The most substantial comments which can be presented so far were posted to the sci.energy board (it's their job, after all ...). Here are two personal reports on testing Newman Generators. Jay James tracked down some official documents concerning newer (1989) developments in the Newman case. You can get an idea of the style of argumentation, oscillating between legal and scientific arguments. The document also includes Newmans objections against the tests carried out by the NBS. The document confirms that the tests were set up in a manner in which no surplus energy could be measured -- this was known from previous examinations. This could lead to the conclusion that the NBS test wasn't valid because it wasn't appropriate to the working principle of the machine. See Stefan Hartmann's comment on this. On the other hand, Newman must have been aware of this before the tests started, as pointed out in Carl Lydick's statement.
In the meantime (March 94), rumours came up that Newman finally got his device patented in the USA, although he never won his trial against the NBS. The inventor, however, has valid patents in several countries, including Mexico. Newman is convinced that the NAFTA treaty will force the US patent office to grant his patent - see this article from the Missisippi Press. However, John Berryhill's note states that NAFTA does not have the effect of making Mexican patents enforcable in the US.
Stefan, who admits having "wasted 3-4 years" of his life to study it, takes stock of his experiences This is, however, not a satisfactory answer to the question whether Newman's claims are valid. In my opinion, there is no hard evidence so far for it. The next step would be to find out the patent number of his device an start a discussion with respect to the original sources. This should be done by keeping in mind the the comments from the sci.sceptics FAQ concerning Strange Machines: Free Energy and Anti-Gravity, especially those on measurements of AC currents.
Any contribution concerning this story will be appreciated.