POSTSCRIPT / October 21, 1999 / Thursday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Let’s test-run Dingel’s hydrocar for 1,000 kms

THE Filipino inventor of the water-powered car engine does not trust some top officials of the Department of Science and Technology who had dismissed his gadget even before they could test it in earnest.

On the other hand, these DOST officials continue to be skeptical, because Daniel D. Dingel the inventor will not allow them to touch his baby except in a manner that he wants.

There have been some superficial tests and some preliminary conclusions, but the circuitous discussions lead to nowhere but more confusion and irritation. There should be some way of cutting short the debate and satisfactorily resolving the matter.

If the Dingel device is a fraud, it should be exposed and the man punished. But if it is worth even half of what he claims, we should slap down the obstructionism and rush its commercial production.

* * *

TO break the impasse, we suggested weeks ago that we run his hydrocar an agreed number of kilometers (not less than 1,000 kms.) on a predetermined route under the watchful eye of an independent group that includes media.

The main idea is to see if Dingel’s car really runs on water and nothing else. If we drive it that far, even if he had a gasoline tank hidden somewhere, the gasoline would have run out and his car would have to gasp its way along on plain water.

There will be no side trips, no deviating from the agreed route (we suggest a Magallanes-Calamba-Magallanes circuit). There will be LTO escorts so Dingel and his monitors will have an easier time driving up and down the South Luzon Expressway.

There must be an independent group of monitors that include media to make sure that the agreed rules (like “no gassing up”) are followed. We are volunteering to join the monitoring group.

* * *

PARDON our bias, but we suggest that no politician be in on the event – before, during and after – except the congressman and the senator who have separately filed resolutions in their respective chambers for the proper government agencies to help Dingel. They are Rep. Leovigildo B. Banaag of Agusan del Norte and Senate Majority Leader Franklin Drilon.

Come to think of it, there should also be a security group to discourage or foil any attempt to sabotage the test run or to destroy or hijack the car and the gadget attached to it. (We suggest, in all seriousness, Gen. Ping Lacson and his K-B triggermen as security.)

Before the proposed test run becomes unwieldy, before every operator in town tries scrambling onto the bandwagon, before the drive turns into a circus, a simple and no-nonsense plan should be agreed upon, put down on paper and published.

* * *

WE can imagine that the professional gimmick guys would want to elbow their way into the proposed test run.

For instance, some imaginative water firm may want to donate the all-important fuel, the water, not straight from a leaking Nawasa pipe but from a newfangled purifying machine.

Our suki from Bridgestone might want to install new tires, plus a spare, with a warranty written in blood that their tires’ thin sidewalls will into burst this time. Citra, the builder and operator of the Skyway and the SLEx, can waive toll fees.

Toyota is a shoo-in, as Dingel had attached his hydrogen-producing mini-reactor to a 1600cc red Corolla (plate number UGA222). Toyota might want to donate a newer model for the test of the millennium.

Why not Sarao donating instead a stainless jeepney? After all, di ba?, this invention is supposed to benefit the ordinary Filipino. And can anything be more ordinary and more Filipino than a jeepney embellished with the usual borloloys?

* * *

IF we bring in the jeepney, can Erap be far behind? Yucks!!! Just between you and me and our 371 other readers, some people near Dingel are a bit allergic to Hirap, so maybe he should be out of the picture muna.

But since Dingel is seeking government support, we might tap our rarely used persuasive powers to convince Dingel to wear an “Erap” wrist band and then request cameramen to make sure the thing is caught in their viewfinders every now and then.

Brace yourself for a variation, though. To lend “prestige” to the whole exercise, Malacañang might ask Dingel to use instead a newly-smuggled luxury van straight from Customs, complete with registration papers, a vanity plate and a press release defending its being used in the test run.

We may have to discard the vanity plate since Dingel, who goes around in faded maong pants and a t-shirt, is poles apart from Palace-type vanity.

Now that we’ve mentioned his pants and t-shirt, the apparel people might rush in with their own sponsorship. But supposed Dingel is convinced to wear a jacket on top of the t-shirt?

Why not arrange various legs in the circuit to accommodate everybody? Then Dingel would be able to change costume, este, driving attire every now and then, and thereby please all the sponsors. Wow, this is getting complicated!

* * *

WHERE are we now? Oh yes, the Dingel gadget.

We thought of the Nothing-But-Water test run, because Deputy Science Secretary Rogelio Panlasigui remarked in a recent meeting that he was not so sure that only water was fueling the car since, he said, there were traces of carbon in the car’s exhaust.

For the benefit of those who dropped out of school before they reached the chemistry part, what the secretary was asking in effect was that if only hydrogen and oxygen were fed into the fuel combustion chamber of the engine, why is there oxidized carbon in the exhaust?

Theoretically what should come out are hydrogen, oxygen, some compound (like water) of those two elements, and possibly remnants of any reagent used. The implication is clear: Something else with carbon, possibly gasoline, is also being fed into the car engine.

* * *

AFTER Panlasigui declared before us trembling laymen in the room that he was a scientist, had a doctorate and was this and that at the University of the Philippines, et cetera, that ex cathedra comment of his about carbon by-products in the exhaust should have demolished right then and there Dingel device.

But we pointed out that the exhaust could not be traced solely to the fuel. The car — whose engine is not perfectly leak-proof — also uses oil (which has carbon components) and could have oily grime in its deep recesses, and some of these could also burn or somehow be sucked out with the exhaust together with the burned fuel.

Panlasigui looked at the ceiling, and said, “You have a point there.” Dingel (who was not in that meeting) was saved by the bell there, but he cannot keep dodging the jabs of Panlasigui and other PhDs in the DOST.

Whatever… the public and we in media want this debate brought to a conclusion either way. If he is a fake, let’s expose him. But if he has something there, let’s go all out for it and help him!

* * *

BY the way, we noticed water (or something that looked like water) dripping out of the exhaust of Dingel’s car.

We could be wrong, but we think this is water produced when hydrogen and oxygen are melded back together with the high explosion in the combustion chamber – in a process that is the reverse of the initial splitting of the water into hydrogen and oxygen.

If this is indeed water, it raises the possibility of the exhaust system rusting away too early. A change to stainless steel may be in order.

This was one of the details we had in mind when we said in a previous column that the Dingel machine needs refinements that could be worked on faster if only he could get substantial support.

Another area is the metallurgy of the engine block itself. The Toyota engine was designed for gasoline as fuel. What would be the long-term effects on the block of exploding hydrogen gas?

The already harassed inventor will need assistance in this and various other areas if we give him the tall order of creating a new engine design incorporating his device.

* * *

WE realize, of course, that the test run we’re proposing will not settle the question with finality. Panlasigui types are even likely to dismiss the run as unscientific or not adhering to the strict “protocol” of scientific research.

Like final decisions of the Supreme Court now being subjected to review and possible reversal by the Conscience Committee invented by a president straying into judicial waters, the test may even fuel a bigger debate.

In which case, then maybe we should just turn over the matter to the Entertainment Editors (no offense mean to our colleagues) — like somebody in Annabel’s kapihan in Quezon City suggesting that the Malacañang beat be assigned to showbiz writers.

When people are going through hard times, clever politicians feed them entertainment. Diversion. The masa cannot hear the grumbling of their empty stomachs amid high-decibel entertainment. They cannot see their own plight amid the showbiz glitter.

* * *

(First published in the Philippine STAR of October 21, 1999)

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