POSTSCRIPT / October 24, 1999 / Sunday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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DoST: Dingel defies thermodynamics laws!

HELLO! Our calls to the house of hydrocar inventor Daniel D. Dingel remain unanswered.

We had wanted to ask him a few questions, particularly his reaction to our proposal that we take his water-powered car on a 1,000-km test run to answer doubts that he has a hidden gasoline tank secretly fueling the engine.

We had figured that in 1,000 kms, even if his car had a gas tank, it would run out of gasoline and be forced to rely on nothing else but the water bubbling in the Dingelizer connected to the engine.

But on Friday, we heard him on DZMM saying that he was accepting the $50-million offer of Taiwanese businessmen to acquire rights to his invention that the Department of Science and Technology has been trying hard to either ignore or discredit.

(Psst: Just between us, our gut feeling is that the supposed sale to Taiwanese will not push through. But please don’t ask us why. Maybe later we can explain.)

* * *

PUT on the defensive, Undersecretary Rogelio Panlasigui of DoST had to agree in the same radio program of Ted Faylon and Korina Sanchez to test the Dingelizer. When this will happen, finally, is another guessing game.

In a recent DoST meeting on the Dingelizer, when Panlasigui was being asked questions about his hesitation to accept the gadget, he blurted out as if to summarize his skepticism: “It (the Dingelizer) defies all known principles of thermodynamics!”

Of course no scientist in the crowd worth his PhD asked what those thermodynamics principles were. In the ensuing brief silence, we laymen were intimidated enough by the big words and therefore just stared at our notebooks.

Now, away from the awesome presence f Panlasigui, we dare to fill in the blank. Harking back to our college physics, we think Panlasigui was referring to the principle that energy cannot be created or destroyed.

* * *

IN application, this means that the energy that Dingel uses to break up water into hydrogen and oxygen will be more than the energy he can generates when he forces the two elements back together in an explosion in the combustion chamber of the car engine.

So if Dingel claims to have used only a regular 12-volt car battery to split water into its elements, yet he is able to produce enough energy to run a 1600cc Toyota engine, where did the extra energy come from?

Since Dingel is not God who creates, Panlasigui cannot accept the claim that the tinkerer garbed in faded maong pants and t-shirt produced the additional energy. From where and from what?

If our college physics professor winces at this our attempt to explain this principle of thermodynamics, our lusot is that we’re just translating it into layman’s terms and the technical juice was probably lost in the translation.

* * *

THE proposal for a 1,000-km test run for the Dingelizer was not our original idea, by the way. It was Postscript reader Luis Razon who first broached it to us. In an email several weeks ago, he said among other things:

“I have just one more suggestion on challenging Dingel, very simple and non-technical. Ask him to take you to Baguio and back in his car. Bring along some water. Make sure… MAKE SURE… this is the only fuel he puts in his car.”

We have long wanted to revisit Baguio, but we altered his idea a bit and said let’s drive the hydrocar instead around a Magallanes-Calamba-Magallanes circuit on the South Luzon Expressway where we could be in better control of the situation.

We know that even such a test run may not settle the issue once and for all, but such a test drive with everybody watching could go a long way in dispelling some of the bad air. Or so we think.

* * *

ON our observation that there was water dripping out of the tailpipe of Dingel’s car, two readers – Glen N. Dizon and Rudy D. Paiso – pointed out that this was normal.

They reminded us of our college chemistry, that with pure hydrocarbon fuel (C, H, or gasoline, diesel, etc.) aside for carbon monoxide/dioxide, the other by-product is pure water.

Of course we knew that. Our intention in commenting on the liquid (we did not even check if it was water) coming out of the tailpipe was to call attention to the unusual quantity of the liquid in the exhaust and remarking that it might pose a problem.

Paiso went on to say: “If Mr. Dingel’s claim is true, the real breakthrough is in the boosting of the internal combustion engine efficiency from the present 25-35 percent to more than 100 percent. For this alone, he will deserve the Nobel prize.”

* * *

DIZON, for his part, said that if the Dingel process involves electrolysis, it was not practical. He said:

“The amount of energy expended using electrolysis to break up water molecules (into hydrogen and oxygen) is greater than the amount of energy that can be harnessed when this two elements are recombined in the process of oxidation.

“You are better off using that electricity directly to power the car rather than using it to obtain hydrogen from water and then using that as fuel. That is the reason why electrolysis has never been used in this type of application, although this process has been around for a long, long time.

“If Mr. Dingel has stumbled on a more complicated process that involves electrolysis in some way and at the same time produces a net gain of energy, I wish him well. But I doubt it very much — this field has been researched rather extensively.”

* * *

LET’S stir up more scientific dust. Remember we dropped that prolonged debate on the start of the new millennium –will it be on Jan. 1, 2000, or on Jan. 1, 2001? – without any categorical conclusion. Here’s a little postscript on the question.

In his email about the Dingelizer, reader Dizon mentioned a reference to the start of the next millennium in the respected Scientific American magazine. So we hied over to the site.

We caught up with Wilton R. Abbott of Los Altos Hills, California, asking: “In the February issue of Scientific American, Phil and Phylis Morrison repeat the ‘purist’ claim that the next millennium will start on Jan. 1, 2001. This seems naive. When we count, we implicitly start with zero, not one. So why is the year 2000 not the first year of the third millennium?”

* * *

SCIENTIFIC American answered: “For better or for worse, there is no year zero in our calendar. Rather, the chronology runs directly from 1 B.C. to 1 A.D.—and nothing in between. Therefore, the first century A.D. (or C.E., for Common Era) began on Jan. 1 of the year 1, not of the year 0.

“The start of the second century would have been precisely 100 years after that, on Jan. 1 of the year 101 A.D. By similar reasoning, the 21st century begins on Jan. 1 of the year 2001, not of 2000. Thus goes the unassailable argument of the mathematical purists.

“Mathematical logic is no match for human custom, however, which greatly complicates matters.

“Over the centuries, the calendar has been revised repeatedly. When Britain and its colonies switched from the Old Style Julian calendar to the more astronomically correct Gregorian calendar in 1752, by act of Parliament Sept. 14 immediately followed Sept. 2–a loss of 11 days. Strictly speaking, then, the 18th century was 11 days shorter than previous and subsequent centuries.

“Moreover, the packaging of years into decades, centuries, millennia or other units is more often a convention of convenience than of precision, and so may not be bound by strict rules of mathematical rigor.

“So although the purists have reason on their side, the 21st century will probably begin when most people decide to celebrate it. Yet even that popular decision may not affect the date historians choose.”

* * *

AS far as we’re concerned now, this Scientific American explanation settles the question — in our mind – until somebody comes around to rake it up again.

Among the many readers who wrote to explain their views on the next millennium’s start, we found most convincing the presentation of Dr. Emmanuel P. David of the NPC Pantabangan Hydroelectric Plant in Nueva Ecija.

He showed us with the use of detailed diagrams why the next millenium starts with the first tick of the clock on Jan. 1, 2000, not 2001. A few other readers also sent charts, but David’s drawings illustrated the point most clearly to us.

However, he had a caveat (which many other readers also gave): The new millennium starts in 2000 if we began to count upon the birth of Christ in Year 0000, but if we began counting in Year 0001, the next millenium rolls in in 2001.

With the Scientific American explanation, however, the matter is finally settled – in our mind at least.

* * *

STILL exchanging notes with readers, we’re sharing an advice of Lito Kagaoan, AVP for Information Technology of Bayantel, on a free alternative to or substitute for Microsoft Office.

MS Office bundles Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook. In the upgraded MS Office 2000 version, other useful software were also integrated.

The alternative mentioned by Kagaoan is called StarOffice 5.1 (62.5 mb) downloadable from According to the Sun website, at least 750,000 users have downloaded this free StarOffice suite. We haven’t tried it.

* * *

(First published in the Philippine STAR of October 24, 1999)

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