“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle” - Often attributed to Plato but likely from Ian McLaren (pseudonym of Reverend John Watson)

Friday, June 05, 2009

A cornucopia of cluelessness

Not satisfied with the gems I located for A potpourri of cluelessness, my research has revealed more examples of complete misunderstanding of the nature of the physical world. If there's "illiteracy," and "innumeracy" then there should be "ill-physics-acy."

For the first, a hat tip to my friend Michael, the publisher of Only In It For The Gold. He posted this gem. The discussion related to the Zap-X electric car by ZAP, a California Corporation specializing in all types of electric vehicles. I've posted about their Zapino, a small electric scooter.

In any case, the post linked by Michael was to an Ecogeek discussion of the Zap-X, which is apparently a moribund concept. But in the comments, "free energy now" replied to a very rational demolition of the claims for the Zap-X with the following:

"Bruce Your comments in compairing the car to cold fusion means that you're assuming that technology can't change the 746w/hp. Is it at all possible that the cars engines are more efficient then your calculations allow for. There are also ways of using capacitors to increase efficiency in heavy load conditions. Technology is changing my friend, and in a lot of situations the nubers just don't add up. My friend has designed a heater which can run indefinitly after a couple of days of being pluged in. He heats his whole house with them, no they don't use cold fusion, just an ingenious design. So just because you can't figure out the math, doesn't mean it's immposible. Peace out"

Amazing. We're going to change a unit conversion factor using technology. Apparently, such a breakthrough will also enable us to develop overunity devices, overcome the Second Law of Thermodynamics, and achieve perpetual motion. I suggested in my comment on Michael's blog that perhaps we should also be looking into the technological possibility of getting more gallons per liter and more miles per kilometer. In fact, why stop there? I will look into employing technology to change the number of centimeters per inch and make myself taller and lengthen my.... But I digress.

Further, as has been pointed out in the comments to the "In It" post, turning electricity to heat is close to 100% efficient, so it's hardly likely to see dramatic improvements.

Moving on, a "Guest" on the CR4 forum replied to a thread entitled "Overall efficiency of gasoline powered cars" with the following:

"Here is a sample calculation of this... change as you need.. Assume the car travels 1 mile at 30m/sec on a flat road(highway speed... 60mph=88ft/sec about 30m/s) and that it gets 36.7 mpg (conveniently chosen to cancel with your 36.7 kw hour/gal). assume the car is 1000 kg. So energy in for 1 mile is 0.5m*v^2 = 450,000Joules Energy put in for 1 mile in terms of gas is 1gal/36.7miles * 36.7kWhr/gal =1kwhr or 1kJoules/sec*3600Sec = 3.6x10^6 joules... so overall efficiency is 0.45/3.6 = 12.5% for this example... change the parameters to get other results... i.e. mass of car, mpg, average speed etc.. adonaldson@calbaptist.edu engineering prof"

The questioner replied to this answer with "Thanks. That's what I was looking for." It's too bad that he or she found it because it's completely wrong. The "engineering prof" calculated the kinetic energy of the moving vehicle and then somehow decided that that's the energy required to move the vehicle one mile. Of course, the kinetic energy of a given vehicle depends only on its speed and has nothing to do with how far the vehicle travels at that speed. To start from a standstill and accelerate to speed requires turning chemical potential energy into kinetic energy, but so does overcoming aerodynamic drag, rolling resistance, etc., not to mention the kinetic energy of the various rotating masses (flywheel, tires, etc.). All of this was ignored.

If this is truly an engineering prof., I grieve for our future. Of course, even if it isn't I'm not all that sanguine. Anyway, I'm sure I'll find plenty of material for my semi-regular session of poking fun at the published factual ignorance on the 'net.


Tom said...

I believe this falls under the general affliction which Gary Larson called "Physics floundering"

King of the Road said...

Thanks for the comment, I haven't seen the Larson quote but I'd sure like to find it.

Uncle Al said...

Technolgical First World civilization sums to an obscene concatenation of social engineering and social advocacy disasters, an oozing putrescence of universal hate language. Poverty is the process by which opportunity requires personal responsibility. Universal opportunity creates pandemic poverty because only the productive earn money to spend.

Let God re-establish His dominion of poverty, hunger, disease, filth, death, and silk-clad priests with whips. Everybody was equal and nobody complained AD 476 to 1054. Non tamen solam intendit interiorem, immo interior nulla est, nisi foris operetur varias carnis mortificationes.

Shake rattles not differential equations.

King of the Road said...

Yummy! Word salad is my favorite!