Thursday, August 14

Zefram Cochrane Would Be So Proud

Last Christmas I got something I'd seen in catalogs for decades. I got a Radiometer.

What's that, you say? You've probably seen them, too, just never occurred to you that it'd be a blast to have one. All you do is shine a flashlight on one and it spins. Put it on a windowsill and it'll spin even faster. Put it outdoors and it'll spin frantically.

Looks like free energy - so much so that you'd wonder why there aren't Radiometer farms all over creation, and they'd be a lot less intrusive and/or ugly than a windmill.

But wait, there's more.

I'd had my little Radiometer on the windowsill in the kitchen since December. All winter, through spring, and now in the heat of summer. Spinning most of the time, not so much at night as you'd expect, less so on cloudy days, and on those days when the air conditioning was putting out a bit too much cold, it... I'll let that slide for right now.

Last week, I decided to blog about my little Radiometer. But I wanted to get the story right. Googled it, I did. And stopped. Surely not...

Apparently, Radiometers have been around for far longer than I had thought - since 1892 when the first one was created by William Crookes. Scientific explanations abound as to how a Radiometer works; one such explanation is at the Naked Science Forum. Take a read of that then come back here. I'll wait...

So it's light energy, right? Photons and such. Sounds legit, right?

Going further into my googling, I found an experiment that made sense, and was easy to replicate - don't allow the Radiometer to get (much) light, and just wrap your hands around the globe. With the Radiometer vanes not spinning, nothing should have happened, or so I thought. With just the warmth of my hands, the vanes started spinning. Light? No, radiated heat!

A second experiment made me stop dead in my tracks. If the thing spins not because of light energy, but from heat, then what should happen if you you put a Radiometer in a dark environment, particularly in a freezer?

There will be a quiz.

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