canaries in the sunshine: progress report

I’ve been tapping away each day on my latest project, a collection of poems focused on inventors of energy machines and some questions about science that this field raises. The working title is Canaries in the Sunshine (A Celebration of the Coming Century of Radiant Energy).

I set myself the goal of chronicling a few dozen inventors and their so-called free energy devices to create a cheap chapbook. But each time I researched one person I discovered two more. I went with the sonnet format most of the time. This makes the works more accessible. While I’m not forcing rhymes, a few sonnets conform to the Pushkin style. The names of the inventors, their machines and the ad hoc phrases they use to describe them are rich in language in themselves. From there, most of the poems are narrative in style, telling about their life efforts or a moment in their lives.

Ideally, I would like this to be a collection of science-related sonnets that can spark the imagination of high school students. I have spent hundreds of hours of research into these people’s lives and their machines and distilled some fine sonnets from it all. I want to give voice to some heroes often lost in history.

Now and then, I’ve also just stared at a page of prose, and thought, wow, here is a found poem, so I cut it out and reshape it into a sonnet. I have about a dozen such sonnets.

Why did I start this project?

I was fascinated by high school and undergraduate science, but it didn’t come easily to me. By the time I studied undergraduate philosophy, I began to see there were big questions about science which few of us ask. The biggest question I face right now, is cui bono? Who benefits?

Inventor, Joseph Newman, from Mississippi, came to my attention in the late 1980s when I was working in a health food store where we sold a range of health magazines. This included the alternative magazine Nexus. I have a clear memory of the founder of the magazine, coming into the shop in his laced-up army boots to do his sales pitch for us to carry the magazine. I gave it a try. Customers liked it and we kept a steady supply of each edition.

One edition carried an article on Joseph Newman and his ‘Impossible Machine’. I was fascinated by both Newman’s claims and his passion for the invention. He had also written a book, The Energy Machine of Joseph Newman. Curious about the man, I went to the bank and arranged a cheque in US dollars and mailed away for a copy of the book. Months later, the cheque was returned with a note to say the book was out of stock.

Years went by. In the mid-2000s I did a search for Joseph Newman on this new website called Youtube and I found a video showing him running a car at low speed with a version of his free energy machine. All I remember was his claim that he needed a small battery to start the machine and then it would run itself.

In about 2017, I was again prompted to check how Joseph Newman was going. I found a full documentary about his life. Despite him being as passionate as ever about his invention, in his final years, he was an angry and disappointed man. I suggested the video to a friend who prided himself on his great knowledge of scientific matters. As soon as I said Newman claims a machine that is over-unity, my friend say no, it must be bullshit. ‘That breaks the law of conservation of energy. Impossible.’ He didn’t even want to spend an hour to watch the documentary to consider Newman’s argument. This got me wondering about our blind adherence to the dogmas of science. I had been through all this before in the world of natural medicine.

Around that time, I was reading about the health benefits of colloidal silver, and the claim that many bacteria cannot live in the presence of silver. An author of a work on colloidal silver made a passing reference to a German naturopath, Hans Nieper. It turned out that Nieper had an interest in many energy-related subjects and had written a book Revolution in Technology Medicine and Society.

Before long, I found that there are a long list of inventors who have been labelled as kooks and nuts, but make outrageous claims about machines they have developed often over decades. Most go back to the granddaddy of the them all, Nikolai Tesla. The only thing I knew about him before this project was what I had seen in a television documentary in the mid-seventies.

I am a believer in a pluralist society and I believe in the value of diversity of opinion and belief because it is in this garden bed where the best ideas grow and we find our greatest clarity. Pluralism does require that we leave space for the other to be the other, and to know that we are also an other to others. This entails a type of allowing, or at the very least, a state of non-resisting. I do get a feeling there is a deal of resistance to inventors and innovators who challenge the comfortable status quo. Our way forward has to be to acknowledge diversity and know it is a strength, both locally and globally, and I hope that our next generation of thinkers are able to imagine more freely and realise their dreams more fully.

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