Online panhandling is out of control. With Kickstarter and Indiegogo's tendencies to wash their hands of the garbage on their sites, scams and impossible projects are in a golden age. While fantastically impossible bullshit abounds, these are but a few of the most egregious.
Now don't get us wrong, going after your dreams and/or reaching for the stars is great—just not when you have to beg ordinary, unsuspecting people for the money to do it. Because no matter how many times you insist it to be true, the laws of physics won't bend the minute you reach your funding goal.
To help, we've compiled some of the most insane, impractical, and just plain impossible crowdfunding projects that have graced us with their special brand of crazy. Because if you can draw it in Paint, you can probably build it in real life.
What It Is
Free energy! Or more specifically, a provisional patent for a generator that uses the awesome power of gravity to run forever and ever and never stop. According to the creator Angel Santana, these large arms weighted with about 1,000 pounds will move up and down like a seesaw, harnessing the force of gravity and turning it into energy.
And since gravity is limitless, so is this machine. As creator Angel Santana explains:
Gravgens solve this problem by enabling a home using it, to disconnect itself completely from the power grid by using the force of gravity itself and no other outside mechanical or electrical forces of the unit itself. Also, depending on the size at which these units are built, they can be built and manufactured to replace not just power plants for individual homes, but also entire nuclear power plants and the like, also, they can be connected to the actual power grid around the world.
Why It Won't Work
Physics can be a real drag, man. And in this case, quite literally. Hydraulics engineer Ryan Carlyle explains:
This guy doesn't understand the physics behind the conservation of energy.
The basic issue is that he is ignoring the significant amount of torque required to turn the alternator when drawing the rated current. His design either assumes a magic gearbox that doesn't lose torque when raising the RPM 1000-fold, or he simply doesn't know what torque is.
So even if all conditions were impossibly perfect (i.e. friction magically didn't exist), raising one arm is going to require just as much energy as the other arm releases when it falls down. In other words, no excess energy and no magic generator.
Like what you see? The patent is currently on sale for "a considerable amount of money." Which is still a steal considering that the lucky owner "would stand to make trillions and revenue."
Also, this update from Angel's Gravgen blog should hopefully clear a few things up:
Well, what a day today. I just noticed that i was spelling winch wrong, it should be winch, instead of wench. Sorry about that everyone.
What It Is
Both wing and board, Wingboard is as close as you can get to being the monster outside the plane in that one Twilight Zone episode without (purportedly) dying. Our sister site Jalopnik called it "the next extreme sport," and the the board's Kickstarter page sets it up as your future waterski for the sky:
Remember Kit Cloudkicker? Scores of millennials grew up watching TaleSpin, dreaming of carving through the sky like Kit on his airfoil. With the Wyp WingBoard, surfing the clouds is finally a reality. Whether it's wakeboarding, gliding, skydiving, wing walking, or flying with a wingsuit, adventure enthusiasts continue to push the envelope. The WingBoard takes the thrill of these adventure sports to another dimension, combining the exhilaration of prolonged flight with the rush that comes when you're in control.
Of course, there isn't a real, working model yet, and they're still technically raising funds to build the 2/5 scale model. But if it works for the small, solid piece of plastic you see below, surely it'll work for living, removable human.
Why It Won't Work
One of the issues here, as creator Aaron Wypyszynski is one of the first to admit, is making this thing abide by FAA regulations. But the bigger issue here, as Jeremy, a design engineer and friend of Gizmodo, told us, is a little something called imminent death.
Considering that the slowest a small plane can go is about 80 miles per hour, your Wingboard is already going about four times as fast as the average wakeboarder. So assuming you somehow have superhuman strength and can manage to hold on the to the handle in the first place, the second you hit turbulence, you're probably going to lose one—if not both—arms. But a few missing limbs are the least of your worries. According to Jeremy:
Another thing to consider is the effect of the rider on the plane, the plane would probably be almost impossible to fly with a couple hundred pounds bouncing around behind it. The stability of a flying object decreases greatly as the center of mass of the flying vehicle moves from below the wings, to above the wings. That's why big heavy cargo planes have their wings attached near the top of the body—so they they can have the most stability possible while still flying with a lot of weight. Of course, a large plane would feel the effects less, but it would have to go a hell of a lot faster.
All things considered, the deployment of the rider is extremely dangerous, the stability of the rider's wing is null, the plane couldn't handle the dynamic weight behind it during flight, and the forces that the human body would endure throughout all this would cause serious damage and probably death.
The flap of paper made it. So can you.
What It Is
Our intrepid inventor here, Nicholas Calvano, sure uses a lot of words. Just under 5,000, to be exact. But don't worry, almost almost all of them basically boil down to the fact that the machine works by "creating magnetic lift inside the Magnetic Siphon due to magnetism." In other words, magnets.
But what does our magnetic Magnetic Siphon Electric Generator magnetic magnet actually do? Perpetually moves ferrofluid through a magnetic tube to give us a limitless source of energy while extending one big middle finger to the laws of physics in the process. The whole machine is explained in this easy-to-read diagram.
See, those little swastikas are generators and the arrows show you its's working. More free energy! What an age to be alive.
Why It Won't Work
Putting the whole "physics" thing aside for a minute, there are red flags all over this thing. First and foremost, this is not his first free energy attempt. That one was perhaps even spectacular:
But while Nicholas may have given up on his $100 black hole singularity dreams, the laws of physics still seem to elude him. Even if we give him the benefit of the doubt in his claim that the generator relies on good ol' fashioned, impossible "potential kinetic energy," there's still a more basic issue at hand. As Jeremy explains:
Simply put, "free energy," or "over unity" machines are not possible. Energy is always conserved and never created nor destroyed.
People have been coming up with complicated devices to create energy from nothing for a long time. They always get really close to producing as much energy as they put in, but a system will never put out more energy than it receives because of the first law of thermodynamics. 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.
It's apparently taken him $20,000 and 11 years of his life to get to this:
What It Is
An umbrella made entirely of air. Or in the words of its creators, who, as far as we can tell, have refused to speak to anyone about their 10x over-funded project:
This is a real "invisible umbrella," which takes advantage of the air flow as shelter from the rain.
So presumably, it does the exact same thing as a regular umbrella, just 1,000-times more complicated.
Why It Won't Work
Unlike our friends above, this one at least doesn't attempt to kill you and/or defile the memory of Sir Isaac Newton. It will, however, piss off absolutely everyone in your immediate vicinity—for the 15 minutes you have before it runs out of battery, that is. Jeremy explains:
Using a light and compact rod to create a rain stopping force field that could never be blown inside out sounds like an amazing alternative to an umbrella! Unfortunately, it would probably be wildly heavy because most of the stick would have to be stuffed with batteries to run the powerful and (very) noisy fan for a brief amount of time. You would have to charge it after every 15-minute use.
Plus, while you sit under the comfort of your air powered force field, everyone within a few feet of you would feel the small hurricane blast of cold water in their face as you pass. The durability of this thing would have to be impressive enough to withstand being taken away and smashed on the ground by everyone you walk by.
Not to mention, they seem to be overlooking weather's notorious variability. According to Dr. Andrea Albert, an astrophysicist at Stanford's particle accelerator:
I think they will have trouble making this work for a large variety of "raininess". For example, you'll need more force for heavier raindrops. I figure they will need to think about making it work for the occasional heavy drop from a tree or else their umbrella will have "holes".
Plus, this isn't actually the first attempt of its kind. And just like the other air-powered umbrellas that came before it, we have yet to see proof of any actual working prototype.
If you're thinking it looks like an awful lot like the "Magic Wand" sex toy...
... it's because it does.
What It Is
A $1.5 million dollar obscure type of engine that sounds great on paper and that's about it:
The HiSCOrE, formost, is a "High Torque, Silent, Closed-Cycle, Orbital Engine'. It is an external combustion engine (ECE). Unique steam-powered rotary-piston engine technology. A new fuel-efficient and low-emissions technology = a climate friendly green engine technology.... Being an external combustion engine it is flexi-fuel, that is it can burn any fuel, liquid or gaseous, or a combination of both (dual fuel).
In other words, it's a steam engine for your car that can burn any type of fuel (be it liquid or gaseous), to boot.
Why It Won't Work
As creator Alan Thom says over and over again, the theory behind the engine has been proven. The problem comes in actually executing the damn thing, which judging from Alan's description, isn't something he's poised for quite yet. According to Jalopnik's Jason Torchinsky:
It's a type of engine that has been experimented with for quite a while. There are some theoretical efficency gains that could be had, but it's generally been too complex to get right, and hasn't really offered enough of an advantage over traditional piston engines They're pulling all these stats ex recto, if you ask me—the power, consumption, and efficiency numbers here are all wildly optimistic guesses.
And the reason he says "no lubrication needed" is because you really CAN'T lubricate these engines well, which is a big problem.
As for the actual boiling of the water for steam for the engine, which they show here:
They don't go into the energy it would take to compress the air for the air compressed version, which, you'd know f you've ever pumped up a bike tire, takes a lot of energy. And the boiling of water, of course, takes burning SOMETHING.
Because as our friend Alan explains, steam is great. And best of all, it's just kinda there when you need it: " When boiling water reaches 100C boiling point it turns into steam and expands 1600 times, the most of any medium known to man."
Where does the boiling water come from? Who cares! Our un-lubricated engine is probably going to catch fire anyway.
Talk about preachy rewards. For every level of donation, you get the gift of smugness:
Congratulations! you are now a founding funder member and support partner. Your name will be entered in our Founding Funder Register. We offer you a personal reward, it is rewarding for you to know that by your funding contribution you have made a statement to the world about a concern that is important to you and through that contribution your voice will be heard. You can proudly say, "I made the HISCORE happen".
Additionally, this photo presumably explains something probably:
But hey, look at the pretty colors.
Illustration by Tara Jacoby