I have been asking the following question on the final exam of our Instrumentation and Measurement course since 2001. After going through a semester of various transducers, models, and calibration routines for all kinds of instruments I always get a couple of students that would still part with their money because of how much profit there could be made if it actually worked (or if they could convince others that it worked). The problem I am having is that as our smartphones continue to improve, I feel like Professor Harold Hill in the Music Man -- somebody may actually invent one...
"Soon after returning home for break, a good friend of yours from high school tells you that they plan to invest in a new invention they saw on the Internet. They invite you to get in on the action. The new invention is a small hand-held device about the size of a smartphone called the "Diecorder". The Diecorder is a new aid for people on a diet. You simply aim the device at a plate of food and it automatically scans it for the number of calories, grams of fat, and names and amounts of all of the vitamins contained in the food. You can get in on the ground floor of this invention for only 2000 bucks. Assuming that you have $2000 to invest, do you think this is a wise investment? Please state why or why not."
Obviously the highly distorted waveform on the output would cause significant errors with a common average calibrated meter and high crest factors >3:1 will cause increasing errors even with true RMS meters although to a much lower error rate than average reading meters. Average responding meters are only good for reading sine waves.
After having just come out of the political campaign season, why should any of us be surprised that there are a sizable number of people willing to part with their money in order to pursue an idea they want to be true, no matter how little logic was involved. During my entire adult life, I'm 66, there have been charlatans able to dupe a segment of our society to pay good money for ridiculous schemes. Yeaterday's PT Barnum is today's politician and they have the bottomless pit of our tax dollars to chase their impossible energy sources, mythological energy saving device, or whatever the flavor of the day is. At least this guy had the sense to submit his ideas to tests before pouring endless sums of money in a snake oil scheme.
The "turbo" attachment for the vacuum cleaner does need a good bit of flow a,d some pressure drop in order to work. And while it is by no means "free power" it does provide the rotating brush mechanism that is able to clean things that can't otherwise be cleaned. So it is a worthwhile accessory. The spinning air cleaner concept is a lot stranger and certainly gives the impression that the inventor had no clue as to the actual purpose of a turbo, or any other, kind of supercharger. I did see a really neat one that used a verturi-effect system along with a scuba-type of air bottle. It would only work for a few seconds, but since those cars using it would do the quarter mile in less than five seconds that was not a problem. But it would not be useful for most other applications.
I did not yet investigate the patent about sending waves faster than light speed, but I did disprove the transmission of sound through a solid at almost light speed. That was an instance that lead me to add periodic reality checks to most of my experimental procedures. I did not wish to be embarrased like that consultant was.
If you really want to have a fun read, have a look at patent number 6025810 by Strom. I have never been a fan of the entire patent "process"; this one put the proverbial "nail" in it. At some point I'm going to have this printed on some very nice paper and professionally framed for my office wall. I'll give you a "teaser"; the last line of the "Abstract" portion of the patent reads "...thereby sending the signal at a speed faster than light". Enjoy.
I can follow the "logic" by looking at my "turbo" vacuum attachment. Instead of a motor-driven brush, the air being sucked in drives the brush. Obviously (he said sarcastically) the brush is being driven for "free" so the energy saved is what would have powered the brush motor.
I was involved, briefly at my decision, with an inventor who dreamed up a method of supercharging an automobile engine. This was over 30 years ago when an automobile engine used a carburator or throttle body fuel injection and the air cleaners were of the "drum" design with a square donut-shaped air filter inside. His novel design was to put small "cups" on the outide diameter of the filter to catch the air as it rushed into and around the sheet metal outer can. Somehow, this would make the air filter rotate, and he wanted my company to supply the bearings to allow this. Next, he reasoned that if the air filter could spin, it would also supercharge the engine, giving it more power and the obligitory increase in mileage - MPG. Amazing, I always thought a supercharger had to be driven by the engine or its exhaust gases - turbocharging.
Well, a couple years later I saw that he actually obtained a patent for this idea. Makes one lose repsect for the Patent Bureau doesn't it? It was also advertised for sale by J.C. Whitney: no surprise here. I don't think too many were sold.
I came across a product that I pointed out to my customer must have been magic. It was an electronic replacement for the neon sign (cold-cathode discharge lights) transformer. The failed unit was marked "120 volts, 360 watts" input, and 12,000 volts, 100Ma output, while the markings on the replacement were "120 volts, 75 watts, and the output was described as 12,000 volts, 100Ma, which equals 120 watts. Thus the replacement device was claiming to deliver 55 more watts than the input power. My somewhat non-technical customer said that it was good to have such a more efficient replacement part. I installed it and it did work, but I always wonder about that.
As for those electric heaters said to reduce heating bills, there is an element of falshood and misrepresentation in them, since they never mention the input wattage in any of the descriptions. And of course, using an electric heater will indeed cut down on ones GAS HEATING expenses, but as somebody else stated, you can only save money if you turn down the heat to the rest of the house and only heat the one room. In normal systems that is called "zone heating" and it does save money. But it is not simple and it is not cheap to add.
Using wireless chips and accessories, engineers can now extract data from the unlikeliest of places -- pumps, motors, bridges, conveyors, refineries, cooling towers, parking garages, down-hole drills and just about anything else that can benefit from monitoring.
With strong marketplace demand for qualified engineers across the board that currently outstrips the available supply, there may never be a better time for engineers and project managers to advance their careers and salaries. Whether those moves are successful in the short-term and long-term is likely to depend on how the transition from one job to the next is handled.
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