The above video is infuriating to say the least. Unquestionably, John Kanzius did something cool. But the lead-in of an inventor did something that could change the world is patently false. Basically, he found a way to break the chemical bonds of water using radio waves to form hydrogen and oxygen which promptly recombines, producing water. The reaction is purely chemical, not nuclear. In short, it is a Rube Goldberg machine, a complicated means of generating power when an electric motor would have been sufficient. The reason for the amazement is that we don’t see the intense radio waves necessary to break the chemical bonds in the first place and semi-amazing feat of making water burn. However, basic scientific principles such as conservation of energy should be broadly apparent even in the most basic observation. The most important question to whether saltwater is an viable energy source is also unasked: how much energy does it take to run the machine that generates the radio waves, and how much energy is produced? It is safe to say the answer is: it takes more energy to run the machine than is produced because some of energy is wasted, radio waves that missed chemical bonds and went elsewhere, heat lost in the reaction, etc.
The “news” report as it stands is merely sensationalist. It isn’t news, it is entertainment. It doesn’t represent the best thinking in society. It represents the basest. How could anyone involved in that report have passed high-school, let alone college? The probable answer is: they didn’t think about it. They just reported the most wild speculation and qualified it. Although, they implied much stronger claims and desperately tried to shore up validity of the report and the findings, but it was merely all appearance. Why hasn’t a business picked up on Kanzius’ invention? Because they are not that stupid, and if they were, they would quickly go out of business!
That said, I don’t blame Mr. Kanzius at all. He had a good idea for curing cancer. However, the difficult part is developing the nano-machines or viruses that will attach themselves to cancer cells, not killing the cancer cells after they have been tagged. Although, he was probably just working in the area that he understood better first.
So, the problem isn’t with Mr. Kanzius, the problem is with the news station that ran the report. The one that put out speculation, mindless blather and fabricated fantasy without the most basic consultation with the equivalent of a high-school physics teacher.
This type of reporting damages society. People with no understanding of science will use this report as evidence that technology will save us. I can’t dissuade them. I don’t own a television network. This blog doesn’t generate that much traffic. Simply put, I can’t undo the damage Channel 3 has done. They are actively misinforming people. As, Harry Frankfurt argues in “On Bullshit,” bullshit is more damaging to the truth than lying. In lying, one knows the truth but seeks to actively hide it. Bullshit, on the other hand, is what this report is. It shows a capricious disregard for what the truth actually is, as if it is irrelevant. I would be highly surprised if WKYC Channel 3 ever mentioned the report again.
The report speaks to energy superstition instead of reason. With the end of the Cold War and the fall of communism, energy is the single most important environmental, economic and political issue of my life-time. The view broadcast of energy is so shallow. Energy is something that comes out of outlet, much like meat comes from the store. Not something to be understood, but esoteric magic. How did the media develop into a conduit of such mindless blather? Is it because of advertising, or because people do not demand better?
Correction: it is Kanzius not Kansas