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Like Escher’s “Drawing Hands”

The Revision3 show Systm recently did an episode on one of the many do-jiggers to increase gas mileage by using possibly-legit science to inject hydrogen into the air-fuel mixture in the engine to increase fuel efficiency.

A couple of things strike me about this. The first is that I can’t find any documentation either way on if the hydrogen has a disproportionate effect on efficiency. Essentially, for the purpose of simplicity, let’s say hydrogen gas burns twice as “well” as a proper air-fuel gasoline mixture. So if you have 99% gas-air, and 1% hydrogen, it seems to me that you would get a 1% better engine because the 1% of hydrogen is worth 2% of gas-air (twice as good). But really, that’s all beside the point — I just like to sound like I know what I’m talking about.

So even assuming Hydrogen does increase efficiency, the problem comes back to the same problem facing Hydrogen cars: where to get the gas.

Well, this particular do-jigger uses the same magic bullet that has been so often proposed as the solution to all of our hydrogen woes: electrolysis. If you run a current through water, you can cause the water to split into its components: hydrogen and oxygen. Capture the hydrogen and voila: “free energy.”

Except it isn’t. You have to run a beefy current through the water to split the water, so all the hydrogen does is simply “store” the energy in chemical potential energy. You release that energy it by setting it on fire.

Anyways, back to the do-jigger. It siphons current from your battery to conduct this electrolysis. This is where you science nerds are finally catching up with me. See, it’s a zero-sum game.

By draining the battery to put that energy into gaseous hydrogen, the engine then has to burn more gas to recharge the battery. It sounds perfect to the layman, because it’s easy to think that free energy exists: except it doesn’t. Everything costs something, until you’re all outta money.

(Comments telling me how wrong I am are quite welcome. Interestingly enough, my collegiate-level chemistry class has given me very little help in this, so I’m essentially going on inherited knowledge.)

But I was going to Revision3’s website to see if anyone had expressed the same flaw in the reasoning that seemed so apparant to me, and found the forum thread for this particular episode.

What I found particularly alarming here is the same thing that I’m sure the MythBusters discovered in their days of covering psuedo-science: you can find loons in even the most normal bunch.

For example, in that forum thread, there’s this Hklax character whose posts are a little peculiar. One, in particular, sounds like a commercial for this one type of electrolysis aparatus, which seems rather trivial. The fuel cell produces so-called “brown gas”, which is water in gaseous form, which is to say 2:1 gaseous Hydrogen:Oxygen. But we don’t need gaseous Oxygen. It’s everywhere around us. Even in an internal combustion engine, having the Oxygen in the “brown gas” would be redundant.

But Hklax really seems to show his stripes when another poster points to the debunking of the magic fuel-saving devices done by the MythBusters. He really lashes out at them for crushing his dreams of a hydrogen utopia, responding thus:

when talking about the myth busters, you also need to think about the fact that they’re ENTERTAINERS, the results are rarely actual, the show is made to ENTERTAIN you, they also often seem to leave out convenient important facts. like when they tried out the Bedini-engine in the “free energy” episode, there they somehow didn’t attach the magnets of which this engine is so famous for, also, if that “professor” they used, actually was some kind of real professor in alternative energy, he’d tell them right away that they had forgotten the magnets.

On a side note, when referring to myth busters as a reliable source, you need to take into account that they have been, and ARE STUNT coordinators, meaning that they plan and organize stunts for entertainment purposes ONLY. Another thing to note is that they are “well funded” which means that they have OTHER people in charge of the show, these other people isn’t always interested in showing real results, often they are interested in making more MONEY.

I know that someone posting gibberish on a forum isn’t news in any way, but this was just too good to pass up. The MythBusters being a front for The Man? “Real professor in alternative energy”?

I think the word he’s looking for there is “wizard”, given that that is the word I use to refer to practicioners of magic.

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