As I noted in My Days with Baton Rouge Skeptics, in the late 1980s, when I was in law school, I joined a local skeptics’ group in Baton Rouge, which was somehow affiliated with the national CSICOP, the Committe for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal. I eventually left, in part because of their reticence to criticize religion (as if religion should be exempt from the same type of skeptical criticism we aimed at people who said they had ESP) and, more importantly, because of their refusal to recognize socialism and statism as types of irrationality.
During those days, I was a BSEE then MSEE student at LSU. One of my (and my wife’s) professors was a very smart, patient, soft-spoken man named Ali S. Mirbod. I think he was from Egypt. He died a few years later of a brain tumor. I remember after he would present some difficult issue he would stop and say, “is it clear?” and it sounded like “EEZ EET CLEE-ARR”? Anyway there was at the time this Mississippi guy named Joseph Newman who claimed he had invented a way to harness subatomic “gyroscopic particles” to get free energy. He had all kinds of contraptions wiht battery stacks connected to his machine which powered a light bulb, and he claimed it was some kind of net energy producer.
This is obvious nonsense. So a patent application for it was rejected by the US Patent Office, on the grounds that the invention lacked utility—that it did not work. Since perpetual motion machines are impossible. This led to Louisiana Rep. Bob Livingston getting involved on Newman’s behalf, tests of the machine’s efficacy by my professor Mirbod and by the NIS, and to me corresponding with Livingston about it and writing my own mini-report for the Baton Rouge Skeptics group. The documents are here.