Jun
22
2007

Scientists steal my idea. Only minor alterations made.

Well, well. It’s happened again.

Members of the so-called “scientific community” have molted from their crusty pupae and emerged as the wriggling little thieves and plagiarists I’ve always known them to be.
I’m sure this sounds a little bit harsh, and it is, but deservedly so, for the crime committed is most egregious. Let me explain, and I think you will agree…
The solution to all transportation fuel problems.: This man somehow got into my head and stole my idea. Possibly metaphorically.      (photo by Richard Faverty, permission for use granted by Bob Arno)
The solution to all transportation fuel problems.: This man somehow got into my head and stole my idea. Possibly metaphorically. (photo by Richard Faverty, permission for use granted by Bob Arno)

A team based out of the University if Wisconsin-Madison has recently announced its “discovery” of a two-stage process for turning the sugar fructose into “a liquid transportation fuel with 40 percent greater energy density than ethanol.” The first set of quotation marks here are for irony, the next are meant to give credit where credit is due, something often overlooked among certain scientists.

We are all aware of the increasing focus being placed on renewable fuels, especially those for transportation. Ethanol is currently the only one being produced on a very large scale, and it is not without problems. Ethanol contains relatively little energy compared to fossil fuels, it evaporates quickly, and it readily absorbs water from the atmosphere, which must be separated from the fuel through an energy intensive process before it can be used.

DMF, the fructose-derived fuel, is not water-soluble, it is stable in storage, and it costs less energy to produce. The article I read also seems to suggest that DMF is carbon-neutral (that us to say, it doesn’t contribute to the global warming CO2 in the atmosphere), but I’m not sure that this is accurate.

DMF itself is not new, but the process developed at UW is. Using acid and copper catalysts, and salt and butanol as a solvent, the new process is much more effective at deriving the DMF than previous methods, adding to its potential as a commercial fuel.

This all sounds great to you, I’m sure, but I think we should get back to the real meat of this story: shameless thievery.

Every night I dream about falling asleep on a silk bed that floats in a pool of some kind of liquid gold (not real liquid gold, though, because that would probably burn the bed). The means of achieving this dream I have always kept secret, until now, when it seems there is no more point to it: converting simple sugars to pure energy. My novel method is only slightly different than that of the UW “scientists.” Using seven and eight-year catalysts, and five and six-year-old solvents, I could solve the world’s transportation problems.

The children - with the consent of their parents, of course - would be given fructose rich fruit-flavored drinks, or bowls of pure sugar (also fructose rich), and then harnessed to cars. Cars with empty gas tanks! The fired-up kids would tow the vehicles! Current production model cars could use the new technology with only minor adjustments (although larger vehicles would require a greater child-power rating to reach optimal speeds – somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 mph). The control interface would be entirely voice activated – I’m thinking something like “If you don’t get me to the mall by the time I count to three, you will be in so much trouble, JGordon! One… Two… Two and a half…” And you’re off!

It could have been win-win-win! The kids would have gotten the sugar they want so badly (as well as healthy exercise), drivers would have had plenty of fun, and I would have been rich, rich as Reagan. But no. My genius idea has been stolen, stolen and perverted to the point where I want nothing more to do with it. Oh well.

A side thought – as I understand it, one of the problems with ethanol can be growing plants that efficiently produce carbohydrates. Corn, obviously, is the main candidate around here, but I guess sugar cane is one of the best things to use (Brazil makes tons of ethanol, and they use sugar cane). These crops, however, can be pretty rough on the land, and the various steps in farming and harvesting can create a fair amount of pollution. I wonder if producing the fructose needed for DMF could be similarly problematic.

There are some issues here that aren’t generally what we think about in association with fuel production. Anyone know more about this?

DMF – More or less my idea.

Just some stuff on Brazil’s alternative fuel industry.

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

JGordon's picture
JGordon says:

Upon further investigation, it appears that this idea was not, in fact, stolen from me.
It now seems much more likely that the Madison scientsts are very smart, and that I am a liar.

Also, my team of ethicists have informed me that the notion of strapping children to the outside of cars, to be used as a power source, is perhaps a very bad one, and that all related statements should be redacted. Apparently they've never watched The Flintstones.

posted on Fri, 06/22/2007 - 11:35pm

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