What's up with Steorn's "Orbo" (free-energy perpetual-motion promises)?

Inspired by this thread on the “Oil Crash.”

Wikipedia article here.

Steorn website here.


  1. They’ve actually got something.

  2. It’s an elaborate fraud. But why? How can they make money out of it if they can never deliver the goods? You can fool a lot of investors . . . but only for so long.

  3. They’ve actually got something, but their optimism about getting free energy out of it is unwarranted.

What’s most likely?

Any other possibilities?

Most likely it’s a fraud or least self-deception.

No, that said it’s not impossible that they did discover free energy sources. It’s just fabulously unlikely. There is a trivial(but non-zero) chance that they accidentally discovered a principle which modern physics has overlooked. I’ll withhold my (giodlike, always-correct and awe-insiringly omniscient) judgement until such time as I see it in action myself. But let’s just say I won’t be giving them any money.

Certainly, their listed explanations make no sense.

In order for a free energy device to be more than a novelty that just keeps going and going, you’d need to extract energy from it in the form of electrcity or whatever. So it’s actually creating energy from nothing, which seems to me even more unbelievable than a violation of the second law.

Also if there are any mechanical parts at all, there’d be entropy from friction, wouldn’t there?

“Lisa, in this house we obey the laws of thermodynamics!”

When a scientific discovery is made, the work is published in scientific magazines for peer review.
It can also be duplicated all over the world.

When a scam starts, there is a lot of publicity and invitations to ‘invest now’. The discovery is always nearly ready - ‘just give us a little more money’.
There will also be scientific mumbo-jumbo.

From the Steorn site (bolding mine):

Following three years of development, in August 2006 Steorn issued a challenge to the world’s scientific community to test our technology and report the findings. The challenge was issued in a full page advert in the Economist magazine… :rolleyes:

Over 5000 people applied to become involved in the process of validation, including nearly 500 qualified scientists. :smack:

The validation process began in January 2007 and is **expected to conclude ** by the end of this year. :stuck_out_tongue:

Orbo is based upon the principle of time variant magneto-mechanical interactions. :confused:

The biggest scientific discovery of all time … or a scam - you decide!


If this is as big as they claim, peer review wouldn’t even be needed. Just set up a booth in Times Square and say “BEHOLD!”

If it works, it will sell. Henry Ford didn’t have to find 500 people to review the Model-T.

So, at first cuff it sounds like a scam, but one would think if you wanted to dupe people into investing in a scam, a technology that would rewrite the laws of physics seems a little too ambitious. I’d go for a pill that claims to make your junk bigger.

I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt and go with self-delusion.

If it’s a scam, how do they expect to get away with it? What’s their escape plan?

Here are previous threads on the subject.

What’s the usual escape plan for con artists? Excuses, excuses, and more excuses.

Yes, their PR push and completely nonsensical explanation are what make me think it’s a scam (that is to say, their entire conduct and product). If they actually could do what they could do, they could more or less walk down to any university and announce themselves and show off their machine or whatnot.

Scientists would love to see it work. They’ve heroes, and science textx throughout the world would have to be rewritten.

From the Steorn website:

Nope. It can’t happen - no external energy source in means no energy output. Given the reliance on magnetic energy, all I can figure is that they are trying to extract energy from the earth’s magnetic field. But to do so, they need to move the gadget, which will necessarily take more energy than can be extracted.

Relative to the patent discussion, I have seen a U.S. patent for a process that obeys the first law of thermodynamics (conservation of energy), but ignores the second law (generation of entropy). The process design did away with any heat rejection in the power plant cycle, which would more than double the output of any plant. Unfortunately, I can’t remember the title or the holder, but I spent considerable time corresponding with the inventor. He wanted me to support his proposal to license this to power plants for $10,000 at each plant. I said that if his process worked, then I would gladly quit my job and invest all my savings and my house in the process, because we’d be richer than Bill Gates. Just because someone has a patent doesn’t mean that the process will work in actuality.

Combined with a slow backward walk toward the door.

I agree that this is bogus, but we aren’t exactly dealing with a guy working out of the back of a truck. The principals are apparently known characters; I don’t really see how they expect to make it to Rio without getting caught. That’s why I have to lean towards self-delusion.

Wow, the guy was really setting his bar low with a 10 large pricetag. You could probably get a big power plant to spend 10,000 on better coffee machines.

Actually, I was once pointed to a worse U.S. patent than that in that it did just violate the 1st Law. Basically, it was some elaborate scheme of getting water back up to the top of a hydroelectric dam so that it could run through again and generate more power. Although the patent office apparently won’t accept patents for perpetual motion machines if the inventor states outright that this is what it is (or if the patent examiner figure out that this is what it is), you can still try to sneak it by!

All a granted patent means is that your idea is original and you have come up with some vague motivation that it could be useful. It doesn’t actually have to be demonstrated to work in practice.

Why do Nigerian ‘bankers’ make millions every year?
Why do Pyramid schemes never go out of fashion?

Gullible people are attracted in proportion to the ‘reward’ on offer. Make it a BIG thing and fools will think:

  • that’s really profitable
  • they can’t be making that up
  • even if it doesn’t work perfectly, it’ll still make me money

As for getting away with it, how about:

  • we spent your money on research
  • it just stopped working :smack:

That’s exactly where they want you to lean; you’re not gullible enough to invest, so they want you bemused. “but they seemed such honest young men” is the plaintive cry of scam victims the world over.

I don’t think they will necessarily vanish suddenly to some tax haven with suitcases full of cash - they might be playing a subtle long game that allows the venture to end in failure (in that the evaluation process concludes it won’t work after all) - but leave them nicely set up, having diverted some of the funds aside all the while.

Well, we’ll find out more next month; Steorn is supposed to do a public demo in London in July.

What do you want to bet that it gets delayed? :wink:

Oh, I’d bet damned good money it will be delayed, or there will be some sort of unspecified interference from some no-good big business or government apparatus. Or if it does happen it’ll be a limited demonstration without any sort of independent examination that nobody can get close to.