Andrea Rossi, an Italian inventor, has constructed a version of his E-Cat invention — a new source of energy — that produces 1 gigawatt/hour. A test to verify this claim satisfied an unknown customer, who bought the device. This is easily the most impressive physics/chemistry news of my lifetime. It remains to be determined how long the device can run on a given amount of fuel (supposedly the fuel is cheap), but the evidence that a new source of energy has been found is much better (in my eyes) than anything else I have ever heard. The (previous) evidence for cold fusion, for example, never came anywhere close to this. (More I learned more after writing this and no longer take E-Cat seriously. For details see end of post.)
The recent BBC documentary Shock and Awe: The Story of Electricity (great, by the way) tells of one big misleading demonstration: Edison’s demonstration of direct current near Wall Street. As everyone knows, the world uses alternating current, not direct current. But Edison’s demonstration was far less astonishing than Rossi’s. Edison’s misleading demonstration was no engineering miracle. It was just costly. Again and again, the documentary tells of inventions and demonstrations that appeared miraculous (the battery, wireless transmission) based on the common knowledge of the time. They turned out to predict the future.
According to Wikipedia, Rossi has a doctorate from Kensington University, California, a diploma mill. His nonsense-doctorate is in chemical engineering. His discovery is not chemical engineering. But who better than me to ignore this? My doctoral degree, although real, came from research on animal learning, which is quite different than weight control, mood, sleep, nutrition, all the stuff I claim to have learned new things about. And now I am commenting on physics! What I have learned from my experience of science is that major discoveries require knowledge and freedom — freedom to try a thousand things. It appears that Rossi — who wasn’t a professor at a major university, worrying about his next grant — had both.