Wishing for the end of the end times


It’s just about time for this year’s end of the world. On April 23, Earth will meet its demise, courtesy the rouge planet Nibiru. Sometimes going by the more sinister-sounding Planet X, Nibiru brings together two normally disparate groups: End-time Christians and those who prefer a more alien or deep space flavor to their ultimate mass extinction events.

These groups normally don’t get along, though the antagonism is mostly from the former camp, whose members consider the other bunch to be messing with demonic gateways akin to astrology, fortune telling, and Ouija Boards. The star searchers, meanwhile, are normally indifferent to the religious pronouncements of doom, although some occasionally use Biblical interpretations to bolster their case. Such persons are notionally religious and have undertaken a conversion of convenience because they can use one small aspect of a faith to support their cause.

For example, self-described Christian numerologist David Meade has interpreted upcoming celestial arrangements as a “sign exactly as depicted in the 12th chapter of Revelation. This is our time marker.” However, most Christians reject such definitive statements as, “The world will end on April 23,” because of Matthew 24:36. This verse declares of Earth’s final moments, “About that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”  Still, a  minority of Christians see it otherwise and will point to verses which suggest that discernment and signs in the skies make it possible to know when God is about to call them home.

The latest Nibiru cataclysm – there have been many – embraces the biblical apocalypse angle. An alleged alignment of planets on April 23 is said to be referenced by Revelation, which tells of a “great sign in heaven: A woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. She was pregnant, and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth.”

With their being no reference there to Earth, April 23, or the destruction of every man, woman, child, dog, ladybug, and fern, how does one manage such an interpretation? Elizabeth Howell at space.com wrote that Nibiru believers think the verse references the second coming of Christ and the advent of the rapture.  

Hence, believers conclude that on that day, the sun and moon will be in the constellation Virgo, as will Jupiter. The latter is said to be a euphemism for Jesus, though this conclusion seems to be reached only because Jupiter will be in Virgo, not because there would is any logical reason for our solar system’s largest planet to represent a Galilean Jewish religious leader.

In any event, Howell notes that celestial bodies will not be arranged the way doomsayers are expecting. “Jupiter is actually in Libra all day and night on April 23, while the moon is between Leo and Cancer,” she wrote. “The sun, out of view when Jupiter and the moon are in the sky, is by Pisces.”

While not occurring on April 23, the arrangement cited by believers does occur every 12 years, which would be a huge strike against the notion of it portending gloom and doom. This has led to an ad hoc rationalization that Nibiru represents the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, and that its addition to the alignment will push us over the cataclysmic brim.

This planet, for which there is no evidence of existence, is touted by enthusiasts as a rocky giant in a massive, haphazard orbit, which will eventually bring about our destruction, though the dates and methods keep changing. In fact, if we all wake up on April 24, the Nibiru doomsayers already have a backup apocalypse in place, as they say it is on target to pass near Earth in October and unleash volcanic fury. I’m not much on guessing the future, but somehow I think I’ll be writing about that prediction again in early November.



“Plastic Oh No Banned” (Bottled water hysteria)


While residents of Sub-Saharan Africa and Flint, Mich., strive for access to clean drinking water, some in the West are more concerned with the containers which house this liquid. While this could be seen as a First World problem, our focus here is not on affluent privilege but on how factual such worries are. We will examine if plastic water bottles release unsafe levels of chemicals when they are heated, cooled, or reused.

There have been a myriad of such claims on the Internet for at least 15 years and they often contain a nugget of truth, but leave out key facts while leaping to unfounded conclusions. The nuggets include a factoid about heat often releasing chemicals, usually identified in forwarded chain mail as dioxins. This is sometimes accompanied with calls that the bottles be banned. Some plastics do contain levels of chemicals that could be dangerous if released or which seep into containers when heated.

But plastic water bottles are usually made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET), which does not have those qualities. Water can be safely stored in them, whereas gasoline probably could not be and carbolic acid certainly couldn’t be. That’s why manufactures of containers for water, gasoline, and carbolic acid all utilize different types of plastics for their products. Because they are made from polyethylene terephthalate, water bottles will not become dangerous due to heating, freezing, or reuse.

If concerned about safety, remember to use products for their intended use. There are multitudinous plastics and what each is used for is dependent on their characteristics. The American Chemical Council has gone on record that there is no science to support the claim that PET bottles will release dioxins when frozen or heated. It stated, “Dioxins can only be formed at temperatures well above 700 degrees…and there is no scientific basis for expecting dioxins to be present in plastic food or beverage containers.” So unless you live on Venus, don’t worry about leaving bottled water in your car on a summer day.

Another claim is that the plastics additive diethylhydroxylamine may seep into whatever liquid a plastic container is carrying. However, this additive is not used in plastic water bottles, nor is it created through the breakdown of such bottles. And even if it did, the agent has been approved by the FDA for food-contact applications.

Addressing these concerns, civil engineer and biologist Rolf Halden noted the irony of persons being more concerned about the containers than the product inside. “Many people do not feel comfortable drinking tap water, so they buy bottled water instead,” Dr. Halden said. “The truth is that city water is much more highly regulated and monitored for quality. Bottled water can legally contain many things we would not tolerate in municipal drinking water.”

He noted that safety can usually be assured by following warning labels and directions. For example, heat can cause some plastics to release chemicals, which is why there are cautions on certain drinking straws to refrain from using them with hot beverages.

“If you put that straw into a boiling cup of hot coffee, you have hot water extraction going on and chemicals in the straw are being extracted,” Halden explained.

Maybe that’s why I’ve never seen anyone drink coffee with a straw.  


“No plane, no gain” (Pentagon attack)


Except for passing references when writing about conspiracy theories in general, I have never written about Sept. 11 truthers. For starters, it is one of the more hackneyed skeptic topics and so much has been written about it already.

Second, I’ve never understood what point the theorists were supposed to be making. Let’s allow that explosives brought down the twin towers. Where’s one piece of evidence that the devices were planted by Bush minions (or Israelis or Russians or Saddam henchmen, if favoring those alternatives to the alterative)? Perhaps bin Laden had his agents infiltrate the towers and hide explosives there as a backup in case the hijackings failed.

Third, I lack the technical knowledge to add anything to claims and counterclaims regarding building strengths, cut beams, how fires spread, and so on.

But after one of my passing references to truthers, I was challenged by a couple of them on what happened at the Pentagon on Sept. 11. Of course, it’s up to them to prove their claim; it’s not on me to disprove it. But in the spirit of generosity, I’ll examine some of what they say.

Islamic terrorists overpowered those aboard American Airlines Flight 77 and flew the hijacked plane into the Pentagon, killing 59 crew members and passengers, 125 military personnel, and the five perpetrators. Evidence for this includes communication between the airliner and air traffic control, phone calls from victims to those on the ground, and eyewitness accounts.

However, theorists dismiss what they call the “official story,” a term that carries no meaning and which is intended to disparage and cast doubt. There is no official story, merely a mainstream one. When the term is used, it is meant to suggest cover-up, tainted authorities, and a lie that enterprising conspiracy theorists must courageously break through and expose.

But such investigations are almost invariably threadbare in terms of actual, provable evidence. When theorists allegedly examine whether a particular mass shooting was fabricated, they fail to take even the rudimentary step of checking with the county clerk’s office where the tragedy took place to see if victims’ death certificates are on file. Another major problem with how they operates is that if such documentation is presented, it is considered to be part of the conspiracy. That also goes for any grieving family member, hospital worker, or reporter who corroborates the “official story.”  

Standards of evidence are so loose that one conspiracy website found it unusual that there would be a dozen reporters at the World Trade Center and Pentagon within minutes, even though that could be said of persons in most professions in cities that size. Additionally, most major news agencies have police scanners running 24-7 and reporters go to work each day ready to speed to the scene of breaking news.

There is overwhelming evidence that the Pentagon was hit by a hijacked airliner, but in event that momentous, there are going to be a few anomalies and conspiracy theorists seize on this half dozen or so while ignoring the hundreds of pieces of proof that deviates from their narrative.   

This is not an attempt to wade through the muck of the multiple five-hour YouTube videos on the topic, but rather we will be hitting some of the lowlights.

Perhaps the most frequently-raised point is that security video showed a missile (or at least something that is not a 757) slamming into the Pentagon. There is only one frame showing a slender white streak approaching the building and then an explosion. Theorists assert the object is too small to be an airplane. Again, I’m unsure what this is meant to prove. Be it an airplane, missile, rocket, or unknown secret weapon, that still says nothing about who sent it barreling into the Pentagon.

But beyond that, there are reasons to reject the missile claim. Its apparent size was due not to object itself but what was capturing it. The security camera has an ultra-wide angle lens, which allows it to capture a wider area but which also distorts objects. It makes the Pentagon looked curved and this distortion is why the airplane appeared sleeker and narrower that what it was.

Onto the second point. The modus operandi of most theorists is to take two disparate facts and tie them together without seeing if there is a connection. One of the few times that I engaged a 9/11 truther, I raised my usual objection that even if explosives were smuggled into the World Trade Center, there was no evidence that the government did it. The totality of her response was that Marvin Bush was in charge of security for the Center on Sept. 11. This is where conspiracy theorists make their biggest error. They presume that any fact that might be consistent with their narrative constitutes evidence for it. Yes, if George W. Bush wanted to fly airplanes into the twin towers, having his brother in charge of security could conceivably aid in this, but that’s a long ways from meaning that this happened. She was content to throw out a fact, tie it to a wholly unsupported notion, then declare victory. She presented no conspirators coming forward, no video tape of the planning meeting, no unclassified documents, no purloined FBI or CIA letters, no forensic evidence of Bush DNA on explosives residue, and no criminal convictions from the deadliest crime in U.S. history.

Similarly, theorists make a big deal about Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s office being at the opposite end of the building from where the Pentagon was struck. Yes, if Rumsfeld plotted the attack, he may have taken steps to ensure his security. But by this logic, any military bigwig that wasn’t in the Pentagon that day could be tagged as a perpetrator. Or one could blame any Congressman or Senator since the Capitol was spared that day. Hell, just pin this one on Monsanto as well; after all, the company was completely unaffected.

Another frequent objection of theorists is that a 757 has a 125-foot wingspan, yet the hole it put in the Pentagon was barely half that size. Popular Mechanics tackled this issue and reported, “A crashing jet doesn’t punch a cartoon-like outline of itself into a reinforced concrete building. In this case, one wing hit the ground and the other was sheared off by the force of the impact with the Pentagon’s load-bearing columns.” This is consistent with what was seen by eyewitnesses, including USA Today eyewitness Mike Walter. There are dozens of such witnesses, compared to zero who report having seen a missile.

The three points we’ve examined so far were at least based, very tenuously, on things that were true: The image looked too narrow to be a plane, the hole it left was 75 feet wide, and it plowed into the part of the building that was away from where Rumsfeld worked. But now we look at claims that are 100 percent false, beginning with the insistence that there were no airplane parts on the ground.

Skeptoid’s Brian Dunning examined this claim and he found that even a rudimentary search showed this to be wholly in error. He wrote, “Debris from the plane was everywhere, including easily identified mechanical parts from the landing gear and engines and lots of twisted aluminum painted in Boeing BAC452 Green Epoxy Primer.” Further, wreckage was reported by Pentagon employees, rescue personnel, and reporters, and was even seen on live reports of the event.

Beyond this, there are transcripts of conversations between air traffic controllers and those onboard, in addition to graphs from the flight data recorder which show the plane’s descending altitude. Another falsehood is the claim that this descent would be impossible for a full-sized passenger plane. But this requires ignoring the graph data, calls from passengers to family members, eyewitnesses, and fight transcripts. Refuting all this, at least in the theorists’ bug-eyes, is one seeming anomaly, that of a Dulles air traffic controller saying, “You don’t fly a 757 in that manner.” Conspiracy theorists often cite this comment as evidence that the controllers knew it was not a 757.

But this misrepresents what the controller, Danielle O’Brien, said in totality. The full quote was, “All of us experienced air traffic controllers thought that it was a military plane. You don’t fly a 757 in that manner. It’s unsafe.” She wasn’t asserting that a 757 was incapable of flying in the manner she was observing. Rather, she was saying it would be dangerous to do so. And obviously, flying the aircraft in a dangerous manner is what the hijackers intended.

Another fabrication is that Pentagon missiles would have shot down any approaching kamikaze aircraft. But this missile defense system exists only in the mind of author Thierry Meyssan, who referenced it in his book 9/11: The Big Lie. Dunning wrote, “If such a defense system existed but was not used and not a single Pentagon employee complained about it. Even the friends of the 125 employees killed raised no objection. None of the hundreds of thousands of photographs and videos of the Pentagon show a missile defense system, nor do the blueprints nor construction photographs. No one has ever worked there has reported knowledge of such a thing.”

There are also logistical considerations. The Pentagon is situated very close to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. Planes landing at the airport fly over the Pentagon at low altitude and two of its runways are barely half a mile from the Pentagon. Any missile defense system would have no time to react if a rouge airliner came its way. And again, even if there was a missile defense system, theorists have given us no evidence as to who it should have been aimed at.

“A bird in the scam” (Emu oil)


The emu is a large, flightless bird endemic to Australia. Despite an awkward physique, they are faster than Usain Bolt and the females lay giant, Dr. Seuss-worthy green eggs. They are interesting animals but only merit mention in this forum because of claims that emu oil can cure or mitigate a wide range of maladies, including acne, arthritis, rosacea, hemorrhoids, baldness, bee stings, diabetes, bed sores, multiple sclerosis, and even cancer.

Such broad assertions are invariably evidence of a product’s inefficiency. Authentic medicine has an active ingredient that has been identified, extracted, and inserted into a product that is meant to serve a specific purpose, be it attacking a viral invader, reducing an inflammation, or soothing an aching muscle. The biological change it affects is understood, as is mechanism behind the active ingredient. Moreover, the risks and rewards are known. Advil can be taken for knee pain, Aveeno for eczema, and Antivan for anxiety. There is no magic potion that knocks out all of those, especially not from a product that has never been shown in testing to do any of this. Genuine medicine is the reward for doing sound research, following the Scientific Method, and double blind testing. It is supported by empirical evidence and repeated clinical trials.

No product or procedure can treat the dozen-item lists associated with emu oil and similar quackery. And for many serious diseases, there is no cure, only methods to manage symptoms or control flare ups. The more deadly the condition is, the more likely a scammer is to find a desperate patient to peddle to.

If scientists and doctors were seeing consistent, wide-ranging, and significant curative properties in emu oil, there would be multiple double blind studies and peer-reviewed articles highlighting this. Major breakthrough announcements would be made, Nobel Prizes would be awarded, and there would be a rewriting of medical, biology, and pathology textbooks.

Instead, we get claims from Dr. Axe that emu oil boosts the immune system, which is neither possible nor desirable. A heightened immune system is what plagues sufferers of autoimmune conditions such as lupus, celiac, and multiple sclerosis, which emu oil is supposed to fix. We also have an assertion from Wellness Mama that the oil “supports overall health,” an impossibly vague claim, and is without side effects. That last part may be true, but is also a giveaway that emu oil lacks medical value. Medicine, by nature, is going to impact the body is some way and that carries the risk, however slight or rare, of unpleasant side effects.

Another alt-med giveaway is that emu oil proponents prefer anecdotes over data. On wonderoil.com, there are dozens of testimonials insisting that the oil cured just as many conditions. By contrast, the only reference to double blind studies is a paragraph of ad hoc reasoning as to why there aren’t any such studies affirming the viability of emu oil as medicine.

The most frequent emu oil testimonies rave about its ability to soother minor wounds, cuts, and burns, and to provide arthritic relief. But these are cyclical pains and persons are more likely to try something different if previous treatments have failed. This means that seeming successes are likely the result of the discomfort running its usual course. Further, seemingly favorable experiences could result from earlier or concurrent use of genuine medicine. Worse, the claim could be fabricated and there would be no way to know.

One anecdote I found focused on headaches, which is another hurt that fluctuates. But as McGill University science professor Joe Schwarcz noted,”There’s no component in emu oil that could be absorbed into the blood vessels and make it to the brain and influence the dilation or constriction of blood vessels.”

This demonstrates the importance of double blind studies, which determine if placebos produce the same results as the medicine being tested. If there was an ingredient and mechanism in emu oil that cured headaches, experiments and testing would locate this ingredient, extract it, determine the proper dosage, and put in pill, powder, or lotion form. If it worked, patients would need to know how much to use. Too little would be ineffective and too much could be dangerous. But since no research has attested to emu oil’s effectiveness as medicine, supplements that contain it lack standardization and the amount per dose varies depending on which brand one buys.

Many of the claims about emu oil rest on its omega 6 and omega-3 content. These are both essential fatty acids, meaning we can only get them from our diets. But according to obstetrician-gynecologist and skeptic leader, Dr. Jen Gunter, we in the  west consume far too much omega-6 and there’s no evidence that emu oil is especially high in omega-3.

Between Australian origins, a comical appearance, and eggs that resemble massive avocados, there are plenty of emu traits to appreciate, but a byproduct that cures gout, gastritis, and gingivitis isn’t one of them.



“Doubt of a shadow” (Shadow people)


Shadow People are beings that appear to be flitting about in one’s periphery. Heidi Hollis has been the main perpetrator of the notion that such visions are of real creatures and she views Shadow People as malevolent types out to annoy, scare, or even harm us, though they stop short of inflicting grievous bodily injury or death.

Whether it comes from Hollis or another believer in Shadow People, the gist of it is that these beings are seen furtively from the corner of one’s eye, then are gone when the viewer turns to get a better look. This could be caused by an animal, such as a mouse in the house or something larger in the wilderness, but most instances of Shadow People likely stem from perception errors. This is more likely in places that are heavily-shadowed or low-lit. That is because those surroundings overwork the brain as it tries to pick out a pattern.

For those favoring the sensational over the scientific, there are suggestions that the glimpses are of extraterrestrials, reptilians, demons, time travelers, astral projectors, or multi-dimensional entities. Or perhaps the Lucky Charms leprechaun. Since the image is so fleeting and peripheral, it can be twisted into just about anything. More important, these ideas are untestable, unfalsifiable, and unprovable. Explaining Shadow People as interlopers from another planet, time, or dimension is using one unknown to explain another. This represents the lowest- quality research and is similar to those who try to establish Bigfoot as a hybrid of a Kodiak and an unknown large mammal. Or those who say that the lack of evidence for auras is owed to another unproven notion, blocked chakras.

Sketoid’s Brian Dunning noted a further problem with supposed solutions that employ phenomena we know nothing about, including whether they exist. He wrote, “Let’s make an outrageous leap of logic and allow for the possibility that interdimensional beings or astral projectors are real. What characteristics would they have? How would we detect their presence? What level of interaction would they have with those in our dimension?”

With no way to know, test, or even reasonably speculate on these answers, we are left to pursue a more rational approach to explain the apparent apparitions. Consider, for instance, hypnogogic hallucinations, which are vivid, lucid, and occur when drifting off to slumberland. Its twin is sleep paralysis, which take place when one is waking.

Another possibility was raised in a Science Magazine article, which reported what happens when a particular section of the brain is excited. From the story: “When the left temporoparietal junction is stimulated, it can create the illusion of a shadow person. Given that such experiences are often heightened in psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia and paranoia and those who believe they’ve been abducted by aliens, the results could lead to a better understanding of these neurological conditions.”

According to the article, Swiss scientists were trying to determine why a patient was experiencing seizures when they applied a mild current to her left temporoparietal junction. This caused her to report the she felt the presence of a silent, stationary person behind her. Such delusions are common in schizophrenia sufferers, who  have illusions of being watched by a stranger, alien, or demon.

The article further explains, “In order to recognize its own body, the brain uses sensory information, such as visual and proprioceptive cues. The TPJ is known to put some of these cues together. When this function is disrupted, the brain perceives two bodies instead of one and mistakes the second for that of a stranger.”

So then, hypnogogia, sleep paralysis, and temporoparietal junction stimulation are  plausible explications for those who receive regular visits from Shadow People. For those who have this experience infrequently, the answer may be apophenia and pareidolia. This refers to humans’ distaste for randomness and our tendency to see patterns even where none exists.

As the Polite Skeptic wrote, “Our brains…are the most advanced computers on the planet, but they’re processing gargantuan heaps of data every second. Everything we see, hear, feel, taste and smell depends entirely upon our brain’s passive, running-in-the-background interpretation of what’s going on around us. These are based on light waves, vibrating air, particles floating near our faces, and electrical signals from the skin.”  

Understanding all these points is the one way that Shadow People, at least metaphorically, can be brought into clear focus.







“Bridge under the water” (Lemuria)


Lemuria is doomed to always be the scrawny kid brother of lost continents. Atlantis has appeared in culture for millenniums, from Plato’s Republic to a 1970s television program starring Patrick Duffy. It shares its name with a Bahaman resort and a Donovan song. Lemuria, meanwhile, is mostly found only in reddit threads and on obscure skeptic blogs.

But Lemuria, while fictitious, was born from a plausible scientific theory. Nineteenth Century Zoologist Philip Sclater proposed the existence of a now-sunken land bridge in the Indian Ocean that might account for apparent inconsistencies in human and animal migrations and in ecosystems. He was especially perplexed as to why lemur fossils were found in Madagascar and India but not in mainland Africa or the Middle East. Eventually, plate tectonics solved the puzzle of lemur fossils, as  Madagascar and India had split and drifted apart.

That’s the way science works. Ideas are tested and researchers go where the evidence leads. Pseudoscience on the other hands meanders down a myriad of alternate paths, all while being loose with the facts or dismissing them altogether.

For example, Lemuria has been adopted by Tamil nationalists, who speak of a great landmass that once connected Madagascar, India, and Australia. In this tale, bigger means better and the lost continent is portrayed as home of an advanced culture with mighty warriors, tireless inventors, and exemplary artists. The upshot of claiming that all this took place on a sunken landmass is that no one is going to go descend to the ocean floor and seek contrary evidence.

Another nationalist connection associates Lemuria with Kumari Kandam, a fictional landmass in Tamil literature. While Kumari Kandem was originally presented as make-believe, it is embraced by Tamil nationalists in the same way that Ken Ham will cite ancient drawings of dragons as proof the fire breathing creatures were real. Trying to transform fictional writings and drawings into fact is a common ploy in psuedo-archeology, Zermantism, ancient alien hunting, and among those out to validate religious writings, such as the Book of Mormon.

Lemuria is tied to still another Indian myth, which teaches that the islands between Sri Lanka and India are the remains of a bridge built for the Hindu deity Rama.

While Tamil nationalists appropriated the idea of a sunken Indian Ocean continent in the early 20th Century, they were beaten to it by the forerunners of today’s New Age movement. Most of the blame goes to Helena Vlavatsky, who in the 1880s proposed that humans had evolved from seven humanoid species who lived on various lost lands. To make it more interesting, our ancient ancestors were described as mentally-challenged, seven-foot tall, egg-laying hermaphrodites. Sounds like a Sleestak. Vlavatsky further labeled them as spiritually aware, not bothering to define this term nor offering evidence for any of this.

While there likely were no such egg-laying giants on a lost continent, Vlavatsky herself gave birth to the Lemuria cottage industry. It has since added many branches. In one version, the truth of Lemuria is being repressed by the Catholic Church. In another, the lost continent somehow explains Easter Island. It is telling that Lemuria is not said to be aligned with Vanuatu, Tuvalu, Kiribati, or any other South Pacific locale except Easter Island – the one with a mysterious, mystical bent. Without the Moai, the location would be little known and would not be a focus of New Age spiritualists.

Still another version has Lemuria being a confirmation of Edgar Cayce predictions. If none of those excite you, it is also associated with alien travelers or is envisioned as a peace-loving utopia. While these differing shades of Lemurian thought mostly attempt to promote to positive ideas, a darker version warns that the geological calamity that befell the continent and could happen again, sending us to a watery mass grave.

There are even a few who say Lemurians are still with us. Ramtha is described as a Lemurian warrior whose spirit is channeled by J.Z. Knight. Another tale has flesh-and-blood Lemurians living under Mount Shasta, Calif.

Which of these Lemuria variants are embraced is determined by the interests of the believers, not by the amount of evidence produced. I have no bias for or against any of them. They are all equally worthless.


“H2No” (Water-fueled vehicles)


A water-fueled car is a hypothetical but unworkable devise that runs on dihydrogen monoxide.  About a dozen persons or organizations have claimed to invent  this. Some were genuine believers who thought they had found a breakthrough and others were fraudsters who were scamming investors. In either case, pseudoscientific ideas were the focal point.

The best-known claimant was Stanley Meyer, who also tinkered with an attempted perpetual motion machine. He died in 1998 of an aneurysm, which conspiracy theorists translate as “murdered.”

Like many pseudosciences, the water-fueled car features genuine terms being bandied about but being misapplied. One example would be “electrolysis.” Though this means, it is possible to split the hydrogen and oxygen within a water molecule and this is presented as a potential working mechanism for a water car. But doing so uses as much energy as is released when hydrogen is oxidized to form water.

The laws of thermodynamics are in play here. Releasing chemical energy from water in equal or greater amounts than the energy required to manage such a production negates the fantasy of a water-fueled car. There’s no free lunch and no free energy, either.

Meyer’s cell involved modifying existing internal combustion engines so that they could receive fuel directly. The supposed mechanism involved using hydrogen-oxygen reactions to power the engine and consume electricity in the fuel cell to split water into these components. Now, it’s true that hydrogen gas will react with oxygen to produce energy and that the only product of this reaction is water. Indeed, that is a rudimentary description of what goes on inside a fuel cell. But while energy results, it id first necessary to input energy.

If interested in hearing the other side, kindly visit YouTube or the website of Henry Makow, who insists that, ““Humanity is being held hostage by the Illuminati bankers who control the oil cartel.”

The problem with claims of repressed water-fueled cars, perpetual motion machines, or hidden cancer cures is that researchers, from amateur dreamers to post-doctoral fellows, are all working within the same laws of physics and chemistry. And most are following the same Scientific Method. Brilliant minds and forward thinkers have tried to accomplish all of these and they likely would have if the notions were possible. And it would have happened more than once, so trying to repress it would necessitate being aware of each time it occurred and silencing the inventor, through intimidation or bribery, before he or she announced it.

I had a great uncle who was naturally gifted in mechanics and who spent years trying to perfect a replacement for the eternal combustion engine. If it were possible to devise a water-fueled automobile, he or someone like him would find it. So if Meyer was killed for his creation, only the man would have been destroyed, not the idea.

Another flaw in the repressed invention theory is that oil company executives would never decline the chance to embrace a lucrative innovation. Doing so would  cost them billions and they would run the risk of their competitors discovering the invention.

One variant of the water-fueled car centers on supposed generators that turn water into HHO gas. From this gas, it is alleged that resulting electrons can be used to power automobiles. This is the claim made by the Japanese company Genepax, who tellingly made this claim to a press conference of mainstream reporters instead of submitting it for peer review to mechanics experts.

The holes in this idea are similar to what were present in Meyers’  device. Dr. Steven Novella of the New England Skeptical Society wrote, “It takes energy to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. When you then burn the hydrogen by recombining it with oxygen, you generate some of that energy back. But the laws of thermodynamics stipulate that the energy you get back must be less than the energy you put in.”

In what passes for its explanation, Genepax throws around the word “catalyst,” a typical pseudoscientific tactic where a science word is used in an attempt to impress, not educate. But Novella noted that a catalyst in merely a means to enable a reaction to run more quickly or efficiently. It would not be the avenue for a reaction to go from a low energy state such as water to a higher energy state such as hydrogen and oxygen.

Alas, the only major water-related automotive invention has been the cup holder.