The online fund-begging havens of Kickstarter and Indiegogo (among quite a few others) are bursting with wild, fantastical visions of things once thought impossible. Some of them are awesome, some outlandish, some flat-out insane. These are but a few.
Whether these craziest of projects are scams or the masterminds behind them have actually lost their grip on reality, one thing remains true: These laws-of-physics-bending, absolutely preposterous projects are they're own strange works of delusional art. We've collected some of our favorite ones below, along with why they'll never work.
But hey—reality is overrated anyway.
"Once in a generation comes a project so audacious, so exciting, so impossibly challenging that just to dream that it could be achieved is pushing the boundaries of reason." Accurate? Probably not. The most fantastically creative definition of the word "delusion" we've ever heard? You bet!
In the words of Arc Island visionary Ben Way himself:
Arc Island will be the largest civil engineering project in history, to build an entire floating structure the size of Manhattan that can be moved to different locations in the world, can be built upon and using a completely modular approach expanded as it grows.
We are creating a new civilisation from scratch, the scientific, economic, social and technological implications are huge; this is not an extension of another country, this will be its own country, with its own economic, political and legal structure. We want to take all the cutting edge ideas from all disciplines and apply them to this idea, and we want you to be part of it.
Way apparently hopes to initiate the second coming of Noah's ark, but this being the 21st century, Ben's taking advantage of the many technological advances since the last time god tooketh away. His vision: A floating, moving mechanical superstructure the size of Manhattan that also happens to be completely energy dependent and self-sufficient. Because why not.
It combines all the hardest parts of marine engineering with many of the harder parts of producing a self-sustaining society from scratch. Any real implementation would not only lack the raw materials and land footprint for heavy industry; it would also be heavily reliant on terrestrial nations for resupply. This makes it susceptible to government pressure and dashes most of the more pie-in-the-sky claims.
Don't worry guys. This is all based on science; it explains it all in the video. See still below for further explanation.
Need the convenience of a handsfree gadget but can't stand the thought of donning Google Glass? You're in luck; pioneering Kickstarter Thomas King has your answer:
With ORBIT You can do everything that a smart phone/tablet does all the while hovering/flying close by. Being voice activated and intuitive you can now just speak commands and ORBIT goes to work. ORBIT can take pictures, Text, Make calls, Take Videos of an event for future viewing. ORBIT can display messages on its L.E.D screen play music and you can watch videos if you like, all the while its hovering in front of you. ORBIT- can be controlled remotely with an app via a cell or just hover waiting for your next command. Sound interesting? Yes it does.
Basically, King wants to give you a depth-perceptive, spatially-aware, voice-controlled autonomous hovering device that takes the place of your smartphone and so much more.
Ignoring the fact that there are two very different devices being displayed on the project page, King seems to be severely underestimating the challenges he'd face in building a three-propeller helicopter. As Jeremy, a design engineer and friend of Gizmodo (who chose to withhold his last name), points out:
It seems that the inventor has realized it will be quite a bit heavier than current quadcopter designs and will require more power. This as indicated by the three specified "high speed turbines," which will be producing a constant, strong wind and a very loud noise in any room they fly through.
You have to control it via an app on your phone, so it's basically just a second screen for your smartphone, except this screen sounds like a small jet engine and blows your papers everywhere. It will also need a lot of power to keep it in the air while the screens running, meaning there'd probably only be a few minutes of battery life, at best.
Yeah, but chicks, man. The chicks will love it.
So you want to know what a simple anti-gravity device is? That's a very good question. One that Peter Fred's Kickstarter page chooses not to answer. From what we can deduce, however, Fred seems to be proposing an alternate theory of gravity. Allow him to explain:
The gravity theory that I am trying to promote has the fundamental hypothesis that gravitational phenomena is the result of transferred momentum produced by "stopped wind" a term which will be described. We already know a lot about momentum and the dynamics of wind. Thus the fundamental idea of my theory is further interpretable in terms of familiar physics.
Thanks to this previously unknown understanding of gravity, Fred has created something he calls a Reactionless Thermal Drive. And it's "getting quite close to being able to levitate."
The fact that this project's entire premise is one big middle finger to the laws of physics presents a bit of a problem. Basically, Peter Fred's device operates under the idea that, were you to put a wall between an area of high pressure and an area of low pressure, the higher pressure will still attempt to equalize, creating "momentum" in that direction. Or what Fred describes as gravity. Dr. Andrea Albert, an astrophysicist at Stanford's particle accelerator, lets him down gently:
I think a main flaw in the author's proposal is he presents a thermal mechanics problem in the context of gravitational force. I'd like to see how he would explain gravitational lensing with his "stopped wind" theory. Einstein's General Relativity theory predicts that the gravity (or warping of spacetime) of a foreground galaxy literally bends light from background galaxies like a lens.
Despite the fact that gravity continues to work in space, Peter Fred insists that gravity is caused by high and low pressure systems. So just to be sure, we also asked Gizmodo-friend Jeremy if Fred here might be on to something.
Absolutely not. If you contain a high pressure area inside a low pressure area, the walls around the high pressure area will create an outward force on the wall that's equal in all directions. This nets a force of zero, not a force in one direction that provides levitation. He has then taken this incorrect interpretation of pressure systems and applied it to solids, which do not exert pressures and flow around like gases.
There's really no way to explain exactly why it wont work because it's so insane. It'd be like saying, "Well, hot air rises… so maybe if I heat myself up so I'll rise, too!"
You seem skeptical. This diagram should change your mind.
Unfortunately, because people are still afraid of progress, Peter Fred only raised $443 of his $15,000 goal.
Free energy! For your home!
In basic terms, our machine reverses the conventions used to build electric motors, i.e., instead of using low voltage/high current construction, which wastes energy, our designs use high voltage/low current construction, which gives us a HUGE surplus of energy. A portion of the surplus energy is fed back to self-power the motor, and the excess energy is collected in capacitors and converted into house current (120 or 240 volt, at 50-200 Amperes, depending on scaling). This is known as over-unity (more output than input) which traditional educational institutions have historically taught us was impossible. It is not at all impossible, and does NOT operate outside the laws of physics.
In other words, James Robitaille is certain that his non-existent perpetual motion machine will put out more energy than it takes in.
Even if you're someone who's comfortable playing fast and loose with the laws of physics, red flags abound. With what seems to be a heavily moderated-for-positivity comments section, a reward system of keychains and sweatshirts, and absolutely no working prototype whatsoever, the whole thing reeks of a thinly veiled, New Age televangelism scheme sleazy enough to make even Jim Bakker jealous.
And then there's that whole "physics" thing. Jeremy points out:
"Free Energy" violates the laws of physics. There are tons of videos on YouTube of people with devices that are ALMOST producing free energy, and they will always ALMOST be producing free energy because you can't get more energy out of a system than you put in. The law of the conservation of energy rules this one out. As you make your device more and more efficient, it can run on less power, but it will never actually run on zero power or output additional power.
Oh my god, the comments.
At least in this one, our bold inventor knows he's insane. Mr. Dennis Cravens is setting out to prove every reputable science in history wrong with a cold fusion-powered car.
It is bold. It is daring. It is crazy but I have to try. I have a few "hot" samples and I have a '28 Model A Ford that I will use for a standalone test of the concept. It will take about $25,000 to get fancy Lithium Iron Phosphate batteries, steam engine, a generator, mechanical and electrical items. I need to raise $20,000 for it.
Once again, physics rears its ugly (though scientifically-sound and evidence-based) head. Basically, cold fusion (or Low Energy Nuclear Reaction aka LENR) is the idea of generating energy through nuclear fusion without all that pesky, multi-million degrees heat. Which, hey, sounds pretty nice! Too bad it's not happening. According to Carlyle:
LENR-type cold fusion is, at this point, in disagreement with the Standard Model of Physics and is generally believed to amount to a mix of fraud and instrumentation error.
Why does he want to power a car? Why can't he use it to just charge a battery? Why can't he just prove excess heat production by boiling a pot of water? Nobody EVER does anything practical with LENR. In my opinion, that's because it's not a legitimate phenomenon. If he can actually generate 100W of excess heat as claimed, that is itself a massive scientific breakthrough and there's no need for the Model A schtick.
Coupled with how willing Cravens is to admit that his idea is perhaps not entirely based in reality, the fact that he's opted for flexible funding—which lets him keep his profits even
if when his project doesn't meet its goal—doesn't bode well for his 30-ish backers.
Support cold fusion so our troops can come home. Or something.