10 July 2007

That darned scientific consensus again...

From Rob Day's Always On post: 'Update on the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics... it still applies.'

What's clear is that all the hyperbole surrounding "free energy" and the like isn't helping the adoption of any such efficiency-improvement technologies. It's making potential customers even more skeptical, and holding back adoption for these and any other similar-sounding approaches. And thus, VCs are forced to consider the Steorns of the world when they see a new electric motor concept promising significant gains...

[The examples mentioned in the post] serve as good illustrations of the kinds of reputation-endangering activities out there in the broader world of cleantech that VCs are having to pay attention to. Because serious or not, when such overly-aggressive claims are put out there it competes with more sober claims being made by VC-backed startups. And if and when these companies fall flat on their face, it could hurt overall market adoption of next generation technologies, making it that much more difficult for VC-backed startups to get traction in the marketplace.

I get that companies working on alternative energy don't want to be embarrassed or discredited by companies doing work in 'silly' areas, and zero-point energy is almost universally accepted as a silly area, except by those who think it will solve our energy problems forever. What's the big deal, though? There have been snake-oil salesmen before, and there have been inventions that, by respected scientific consensus, were completely impossible until they turned out to work. Why not let the market sort things out here, since scientific consensus invariably operates as a repressive force where inventions are concerned?