This is an exciting episode! It is one that takes a positive look at the possible future of energy creation. Our blogger was a lot of help on this one in explaining some of the interesting facts behind the science of this episodes topic. Hopefully the E-CAT will not be under the topic of unexplained science for long. Enjoy!
Hey everyone! Just wanted to let you all know that our anonymous scientist blogger is going to be a bit delayed in writing their next article. They will still be blogging for us, but is currently busy traveling. You can expect to read some interesting articles in the not to distant future though. Also, feel free to post your comments on the current posted articles. They’d love to see your response and thoughts. Thanks!
In the early 1910’s, in a patent office in Switzerland, one of the clerks was thinking deeply about the speed of light. How could the speed of light be constant, he wondered, if you could run alongside a light beam (like being passed on the freeway by someone going slightly fast than you)? Wouldn’t the light be going slower from your perspective? Or what if you ran head-on into a light beam, in which case the light would appear to be going faster? Doesn’t the speed of light depend on how fast you are going, and in what direction? Or is it always the same no matter what…. and our concepts of distance and time are inaccurate? Though it may not seem related at first, these ponderings eventually led the humble clerk down a long, winding path to a revelation that completely changed the way scientists think about gravity.
That patent clerk was Albert Einstein – a name that has practically become synonymous with the word ‘genius’. But many don’t realize that in the beginning, physicists considered his theories outlandish…. an interesting curiosity perhaps, but nothing that was actually relevant to the real world. But it turns out Einstein was exactly right…. and by daring to question the prevailing worldview, he stumbled upon a more useful (and accurate) way of thinking about a force that scientists thought they already understood. His story serves as a reminder to remain open to new ideas, even in arenas we believe we’ve conquered.
A decade later in Florida, Latvian inventor Edward Leedskulnin was in the process of building his masterpiece – a garden of massive coral stones that he called “Rock Gate Park”. There’s no denying what he accomplished – to this day, anyone who wants to can visit the property and see his creation for themselves. The question, of course, is how did a 5 foot tall, 100 pound man carve, transport, and flawlessly position dozens of stones weighing many tons without the use of modern machinery?
Some propose that Leedskulnin was an unappreciated Einstein, in having discovered a way to somehow manipulate magnetism to overcome gravity and levitate the blocks into place. Using magnetism to levitate large objects is certainly no piece of science fiction…. this is exactly how magnetic trains work! The train literally levitates above the tracks due to magnetic force, enabling it to glide effortlessly at high speed towards its destination. But whatever innovation Leedskulnin took advantage of, he could not have used the earth’s magnetic field to move the coral stones into place for two reasons. First, the coral stones are not magnetic, and therefore wouldn’t have been susceptible to the influence of magnetic fields the way a magnet would. Second, the earth’s magnetic field is too weak. Using the equations of electromagnetism, we can calculate how much lifting power could be provided to a magnet near the earth’s surface. It turns out that the natural magnetism of our planet would be able to lift just 0.015 nanograms…. a magnet of only 1 micron in diameter (no larger than a particle of dust)! So even if Leedskulnin had found a way to endow the stones with magnetic properties, the earth’s magnetic field simply doesn’t provide enough lifting power for the job.
Another theory is that Leedskulnin simply used the known principles of leverage to his advantage, with techniques such as block and tackle. This is a technique that uses a system of multiple pulleys to reduce the force required to lift a heavy object. The pulleys provide some of the force for you, but in return, you must pull the rope a greater distance in order to lift the object. For example, a block and tackle with 2 windings on its pulley allows you to lift a 100 pound object with only 50 pounds of force – but you must also pull the rope twice as far as you otherwise would. So could a block and tackle with enough windings allow one to lift the stones of Coral Castle? It turns out that the more windings you have, the greater the friction you need to overcome, and for this reason pulleys with 4 windings are generally the most efficient used for commercial purposes. This would have enabled Leedskulnin to reduce the lifting force of his 27 ton stone down to around 7 tons….. but this is still a rather daunting task for a 100 pound man!
So where does the missing scientific principle lie that helped to build Coral Castle? Did Edward Leedskulnin make a discovery that could have revolutionized our understanding of electromagnetism? Would we be talking about Leedskulnin alongside Newton and Einstein had he not been so secretive about his methods? We may never know for certain. Or, did he just find a way to make better use of the principles of leverage and simple machines than anyone has yet imagined? Regardless of what theories you prefer to entertain, only one thing seems certain: Nearly a century ago, a reclusive Latvian immigrant understood something that the rest of us don’t.
Hey everyone! We are in the process of moving our recording studio so it may be another week before we can get another episode up. Sorry for the wait! Hopefully once things get set up, we’ll have plenty of great content rolling out for you!