This is a guest post from ‘Lucy Skywalker’ who has recently returned from a trip to Germany where she attended a seminar given by Roderich Graeff, the engineering concern owner who has been experimenting with equipment he has designed to test the Loschmidt gravito-thermal effect. This line of research is highly relevant to the theoretical work of Hans Jelbring, and also Nikolov and Zeller, who have proposed hypotheses to explain the thermal gradient found in the atmosphere causing the near surface air to be warm relative to higher altitudes.
SECOND LAW CHALLENGED? LOSCHMIDT VINDICATED?
Lucy Skywalker – May 28 2012
Few people know that in the last decade, there have been quite a number of serious challenges (as opposed to perpetual-motion challenges) to the hallowed Second Law of Thermodynamics. Dr Sheehan has organized conferences and written books about all this. He put me in touch with Dr Graeff, the one participant who has been running real experiments. These experiments appear to vindicate the theories of Loschmidt, who 150 years ago challenged his friend Maxwell’s belief that a vertical air column in equilibrium will be the same temperature top and bottom. Loschmidt maintained that gravity would cause the bottom molecules to be warmer than the top ones. But until Graeff, nobody had actually undertaken the experimental research needed to check these theories against measurements.
This work could be extremely important, not least for Climate Science, if it holds up to close scrutiny. After reading Graeff’s paper and his book, I went to Germany to join his seminar, and to examine for myself his apparatus that appears to measure vertical heat gradients in columns of air, water, and other substances in steady, non-convecting equilibrium, and appears to show that in isolation, they are warmer at the bottom than at the top.
On the journey, everything goes wrong. The plane fails to take off and we are abandoned in the airport. The lucky ones find a long queue waiting for help from two junior staff on broken-down laptops. I get new train tickets in Frankfurt, but cannot inform my host because I have the wrong number. The first train is late so it misses the second train. I swap for another ticket but the next train is also late so it misses the third train. Dr Graeff has been driving to the station and back for several hours. I tell him I know it is going to be special – it has to be, after all that.
And it is special indeed. But who am I coming to a seminar whose purpose is to question the hallowed Second Law of Thermodynamics and prove that heat can travel from cold to warm? That’s what my host asks me – and everyone else. Why am I here? and why are you here? and you? and you? Why do you think you can disprove the Second Law then? Who do you think you are to do this? And without a degree in physics too? And do you know what it says? Can you explain it to me please? Ah, but how many versions of the Second Law are there, and which one do you refer to?
I would have been thoroughly disconcerted by now. I never was out to disprove the Second Law – only to examine a modification to a common interpretation of it, that Graeff has spelled out as a result of thousands of hours of close experimental work. But there is a twinkle in mine host’s eye. At 84, Dr Roderich Graeff is as sprightly as the rest of us, listening intently and responding with a mixture of sharp challenges and a wicked sense of fun. We’re not going to let him get away with any slipshod experiments – and neither is he going to let us get away with slipshod challenges. When I ask him, how can he be sure the measurements are as accurate as he claims, he turns on me and says, well, what do you think? How are you going to check how accurate they are?
Nullius In Verba.
Beautiful. I will have to work for my understanding, as Graeff had to do, but I love every minute of it.
The visit is a magnificent extension of Graeff’s book which I cannot recommend too highly, if you are open to the challenge. It tells you far more than I can tell here, about Graeff’s story, his life of engineering work, his scientific interests, his surprising discovery, his simple but well-fitting theoretical backing, and enough details to tempt you to replicate his work. He is a genius in classical style, who also comes from a deep place of caring about humankind. After surviving the firebombing of Hamburg (40,000 dead in one night) he wants to end all “Mutually Assured Destruction” systems, proactively build peace, and use his scientific and engineering talents to look for alternative energy sources.
Graeff’s whole house has become a laboratory – and yet it is still the warm home that he designed and built in the beautiful Black Forest many years ago. Empty Thermos flask interiors of all sizes stand around like Russian dolls, waiting to be stacked inside each other, to provide affordable insulation to the vital core experimental columns, whose temperature gradients between top and bottom are going to be measured with homemade thermocouples and fine thermistors, using the finest insulated wire you have ever seen. Sheafs of labelled pairs of wires hang out of large polystyrene boxes holding their precious cargoes of alternate layers of insulating and conducting sheaths that enclose the central mystery: Dewar bottles aka thermos flask interiors containing the core columns of solid, liquid or gas to be tested.
It all looks a mess, but in fact the experiments are well orchestrated. How many has Dr Graeff now done? About 852 1/2, this last decade or so, he tells me. Is this true? Certainly it may be, because he has carefully numbered each one. Why are there so many? Well, he has needed to check out the environment, vertical orientation, effects of size, effects of number of layers, the insulations, thermal equalizers, thermocouples, the instruments’ bias and sellotape fixings, the convectance impeders, substances actually tested, dataloggers, and software. You would think the universities would be fighting each other to have the priviledge of testing Graeff’s amazing work. But no. With a few notable exceptions like Prof Sheehan, the academics refuse to touch anything that challenges the Second Law, even if only to modify its interpretation. No, they cannot fault the experiments. And no, they cannot deny the results either. But still they fear… what? Leprosy? So Graeff goes back to his work, patiently testing over and over again, each tiny detail that might, just might upset the results. But they don’t. The results continue to hold. Tiny, but indisputable, like grit in the mouth.
Calibrate the thermocouples? You have to get the feel of the whole thing, Graeff says. And he is right. This is not 852 separate experiments, this is 852 facets of one basic experiment. Think the thermocouples might give a skewed result? Right, let’s reverse their connections and take the average to eliminate bias. Let’s also run a series of experiments in which the core is inverted. See how long the core needs to settle down… seems to take just under 2 days to invert its gradient if it’s convection-impeded gas or liquid (conductive metals are quicker to readjust), so let’s run a series of 4-day cycles and see how they average out. See how close the spots on the measurement lines are to each other? See what steady lines they make? All that is proof that the measuring devices are measuring true, not wild, and the fact that we can reverse the apparatus and get similar results suggests strongly that it is gravity that realigns the temperature of the inner core to a negative gradient, not a fault in the apparatus.
Still not certain about the thermocouple calibration? But that’s not the point, Graeff says. And he’s right again. The point of the experiments is that they are consistently showing a negative vertical temperature gradient at all in the core axis, even though that is surrounded by layers in which there is no gradient, which are surrounded by layers tending steadily towards the normal interior-of-room positive gradient, warmer at ceiling level than at floor level. Okay. So are all 852 experiments showing a negative temperature gradient at the core, surrounded by a positive gradient, that suggests gravity is, as Loschmidt suggested, affecting the thermodynamic equilibrium of all those core columns?
Well, perhaps a few experiments did not work. Perhaps a Dewar bottle broke. Perhaps a mouse got in and made a nest. Perhaps the cellar door was draughty and letting in the cold outside air. Perhaps the thermocouples were badly attached. Perhaps the Keithley datalogger was playing up. Perhaps the Excel program was faulty. Perhaps… but aren’t we forgetting Einstein’s words, to the effect that just one effective experiment was all that was needed to topple an accepted law? And aren’t 800 varieties of that experiment enough? What hoops has the man got to go through? Hasn’t he earned recognition? Why is no university even bothering to check those experimental methods and results, let alone replicate them or study Graeff’s theory which fits the results like a silk glove? How many laboratories are going to kick themselves because they didn’t recognize the telltale evidence of a genius at work, I wonder?
Perhaps it’s easier for me as an outsider to spot genius I can feel that frisson a mile off. I recognize the heavy, stuck shape of the doubts of the orthodox when “appeal to authority” is missing from the menu; I recognize the hoops and the highs; I have examined for myself what proofs and patience and precisions are really needed. Still not convinced? Read my Amazon review of Graeff’s book. Get the book itself and read it twice. Then come and meet Graeff and check out his tests for yourself, ask more questions. But by that time, you ought to have realized that he really is on to something important, and it’s something that we too can check and replicate and even publish.
James Clerk Maxwell would be proud.
Gathering an Experimental Replication Team. I will describe the experiments in more detail, with background about the 2nd Law controversies. I will describe Graeff’s theoretical underpinning that seems to work and requires omitting a commonly-held assumption about the Second Law, and allows for the effect of gravity as an unavoidable outside influence. Certainly there is no reason to abandon the 2nd Law or even rewrite it in essence. And I’m putting out word to gather a little local team to replicate Graeff’s work.