|June 10, 2013||deeplink||respond|
I guess it has been long enough that I can reveal some
secret insider details of my favorite pseudoscience yarn,
the saga of the magic lamp.
The only "correct" way of measuring power in a changing
waveform is to take very small samples and multiply their
instantaneous voltage times their instantaneous current.
This is called a "RMS" or a "Root Mean Square"
Until recently, true RMS measurements were outrageously
expensive and virtually all cheap instruments measured
average rather than RMS values. On a full and clean
sinewave, the difference was only eleven percent or so.
Which the meter people dealt with simply by stretching
their scale and most everybody else simply ignored.
What was little known and eventually became Beginning
EE Student Blunder #001-A was that the differences
between average and RMS could become utterly outrageous
for low duty cycle waveforms. Ferinstance, a half wave
phase control set in the 130 degree range would have an
average to RMS error of around 3:1!
An individual was playing around with a circuit pretty much
the same as a half wave thyratron phase control from a 1939
industrial electronics text. On the cheap meters they were
using, they noted a 3:1 voltage difference and a 3:1 current
difference, which led them to the conclusion that their
"magic" circuit only was drawing one ninth of the normal
power. The key waveform involved had a very low duty cycle,
which let them run a 28 volt light bulb off the 110 volt line.
At this point, they could have saved bunches of hassle and
trouble by touching the lamp and noticing that it was not any
cooler than normal. Or simply recognizing that a 9:1 energy
savings in an old stock and popular circuit might have been
noticed by somebody else somewhere along the way.
In general, perpetual motion machines are frowned upon and
the immediate question that should have been asked was
"Exactly where and how did I fuck up?"
Instead, they went out and patented their miracle energy
saver. The fact that the patent was granted was sort of
strange since it was an old textbook circuit that I alone had
published nationally in one form or another in dozens of
projects over several decades. Albeit without any energy
At any rate, they offered a construction story and kits in a
national magazine, not recognizing that what they had was
criminal fraud rather than an earth shaking new energy
The magazine managed to work out from under their part
of the four paw by coincidentally having the story run in
an April issue and later publishing disclaimers in their
The closest that I personally dared to get to all of this
was this column and this column in a related magazine.
But finding out exactly where and how they screwed up was
certainly a highlight of my ongoing pseudoscience bashing
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