Buying gifts is a pain in the ass. The giver wastes time, money, and mental energy. And the unlucky recipient normally sees the gift as what I call pre-garbage. Your pre-garbage is the stuff you plan to discard for one reason or another, but until that happy day it will take up space in a junk drawer, closet, or garage. Gifts are the walking dead of possessions.

Kids and newlyweds are still fair game for gifts. They generally appreciate what they get. And graduates are usually happy with their cash, laptops, and new cars if they are lucky. But for the typical adult-to-adult gift, it's hard to see it as a good use of time.

We humans have evolved with a reciprocity impulse, and a sharing impulse. So we can't stop giving even though the giver is not advantaged by the gift. We need a new solution for gift-giving. I have just the idea.

I call my idea the Money Toilet-Shredder.

It looks like a toilet, but it has no plumbing. Instead it has a shredder in the bowl area. It also has Wi-Fi, a processor, and a web cam to record what happens around it.

Just pull the flush handle to activate gift mode.

The camera comes on. The shredder powers up.

Now smile into the camera, toss a handful of your hard-earned cash into the shredder and say some version of "Happy birthday, Timmy. I'm shredding fifty dollars for you." Then you send your video to the lucky recipient of your generosity.

The theory behind this invention is that happiness is based on a comparison of your situation to your peers. When someone shreds their own money for you, your happiness should increase because your net worth is instantly higher on a relative basis.

Shredding your own money is also a sacrifice. People see sacrifice as a sign of love, affection, and respect. So it works on that level too.

They say it's the thought that counts with gifts. You'd still have to do some serious thinking before using the Money Toilet-Shredder in order to arrive at a proper dollar amount. You can't be sure how much the people in your life are worth until you think long and hard about their contribution to society, their general level of personality dysfunction, their life expectancy, and that sort of thing. If someone in your circle pencils out to seven dollars in gift value, no one can say that's your fault. You put in the thought and that's where the numbers fell.

I will grant you that this idea is only second-best compared to pretending you gave a gift in someone's name to an environmental cause. That's still the gold standard in this genre. But if you're not comfortable with lying, the Money Toilet-Shredder might be the solution for you. It's honest and it conforms to science. The only downside is that it associates a person's special day with a toilet. But let's be realistic about the so-called special days.

Consider your birthday. That commemorates a day you hurt your mother and did absolutely nothing useful for society. Should you be rewarded for THAT???

Then there's Christmas. I'm no religious scholar, but I'm fairly certain you did nothing to help out with the birth of the savior. And there's a good chance you're a sinner. Why should we reward YOU???

Valentine's Day is more of a practical joke on men than a real occasion.

I could go on. But it's probably better if I don't.


Scott Adams
Co-founder of CalendarTree.com

Author of How to Fail...


  • Print
  • Share
  • Share:

Here's a little trick you can use to amaze your family and friends. Before we start, you need to know three things:

1. This is not a prank on you.
2. I don't know why it works.
3. It has worked every time I have tried.

The setup happens when someone in your life asks you to open a stubborn jar. Ideally, that person has already tried several furious approaches to the jar and failed. He or she tries to hand you the jar for assistance. Here's what you do.

Wave off the jar that has been offered and make sure you don't ever touch it.

Now say the following:

"You can open that jar easily with a trick I learned. Want to try?"

Most people will say yes.

"Okay, put your hands on the jar as if you are about to twist open the top and close your eyes. For ten seconds imagine all of the power and energy of your body flowing down to your hand that is about to open the jar. When you can imagine all of your strength and energy in your jar-opening hand, give the lid a sudden, confident twist and it will come off as if it had never been hard in the first place."

Wait for the subject to concentrate for 10 seconds, then say, "Now give it a quick twist and open it."

The lid will come off as if it had never been seriously stuck in the first place. Your subject's eyes will be like saucers. It's a fun moment because it will feel as if something magic just happened.

I've been doing this trick for years. As I mentioned, I have no idea why it works, unless one can actually move energy around to different body parts. But I have never seen any scientific support for that hypothesis.

You'll want to try this trick on your own jars a few times before you talk someone else into trying it. Let me know how this trick works for you.

You might wonder how I discovered this phenomenon.

Well, I have the optimist's curse. I have to confess that over the course of my entire life - or at least since reading my first Spiderman comic - I have periodically tested to see if I have an latent superpowers. For example, I like to see if I can levitate objects at a distance using nothing but my mind. That hasn't worked yet. And I have tried to predict or influence the next play in sporting events but that hasn't yielded any results. And I have tried to stand on a scale and will my weight to instantly decrease just to see if I have the start of flying powers. So far, no luck.

One day in my optimistic past I tried moving my entire body energy into my jar-opening hand to see if that was a thing. The jar lid popped off as if it had barely been attached. The first few times I tried this method on various jars it seemed as if perhaps the jar had not been so hard to open in the first place. But after I extended the trick to include other people who had already tried and failed to open stubborn jars, I started to wonder why it works.

I still have no idea. Do you?

Scott Adams

Co-founder of CalendarTree.com

Author of a book that is changing a lot of lives, or so I am told.


  • Print
  • Share
  • Share:


Scott Adams

Co-founder of CalendarTree.com


People keep telling me this book changed their lives




  • Print
  • Share
  • Share:
In a thousand years, assuming humans survive, it looks as if we might know how to make a human embryo using nothing but a 3D printer. Scientists can already grow ears, print blood and print teeth. I don't see why future humans won't someday be printing DNA.

In order to print DNA, you'd need to translate the entire human genome into zeroes and ones. That seems doable.

Now comes the interesting part.

Once you have the designs for 3D printers that can print anything organic, and you have the zero-and-one code for human DNA, you can transmit human life at the speed of light to other advanced civilizations. All you need to do is send out the plans for both the 3D printer and the human genome using pulses of lasers in every direction.

Any civilization advanced enough to decode the message would be advanced enough to build the 3D printer and start churning out humans. You'd want to send some extra instructions on the care and feeding of humans just to keep things safe. Perhaps the 3D printer can print whatever the human needs for food and healthcare as time goes by.

The only real risk is that the printed humans would become pets, slaves, or foods for the aliens. But hey, landing on the moon had risks too.

And there's also the risk that an advanced race of peaceful, tiny aliens will print a soulless monster of a human that grows up and wipes out their entire civilization like Godzilla on bath salts. That feels like a decent possibility on at least some of the planets that pick up the message from Earth.

Okay, SciFi fans, tell me the name of the printed human that wipes out the peaceful alien civilization.

Answer: Adam

What's the first thing Adam does after he kills all of the aliens?

Answer: Adam prints Eve

What's the next thing that happens?

The 3D printer breaks.


Scott Adams

Co-founder of CalendarTree.com

People keep telling me this book changed their lives.



  • Print
  • Share
  • Share:
Warning: This blog is written for a rational audience that likes to have fun wrestling with unique or controversial points of view. It is written in a style that can easily be confused as advocacy for one sort of unpleasantness or another. It is not intended to change anyone's beliefs or actions. If you quote from this post or link to it, which you are welcome to do, please take responsibility for whatever happens if you mismatch the audience and the content.


I can't provide 100% certainty that human life on Earth is the result of intelligent design. But I can get to around 99.99% certainty.

By intelligent design, I mean Earth is seeded with DNA provided by human-like inhabitants of another planet.

I'm borrowing my argument from others. None of this is original, and I've written about it before. What's new is that we're getting close to being able to seed another planet with our own DNA. And there's talk of doing just that because there's a non-zero chance that humans of the Earth variety won't survive unless we seed other planets.

I imagine we'd launch one big rocket into space that would leave the atmosphere and divide into thousands of small rockets that can make tiny adjustments to their direction but otherwise use the inertia of the mother rocket as propulsion. These tiny rockets can scan planets on the fly for earthlike properties and navigate toward ones that look promising, ending in a parachute landing.

If we decide to seed other planets with our DNA, which seems inevitable, it's likely we'd send thousands of seed rockets, not one. Sending one rocket would be a bad bet.

And since scientists are already talking of doing something like that now, and apparently we will have the ability to do so, it stands to reason that our genetic spawn on those planets will someday evolve to have the same impulses and capabilities. Then they will send out their own DNA seed ships.

So the odds are that planet-seeding will happen not once but thousands if not millions of times as one seeded planet begets thousands of others and so on.

We have no reason to believe we're the original humans. Sure, we evolved from lower creatures, but that might have been exactly how the seeding works. You start with the lower forms of creatures and let them evolve until humans have plenty to eat when they come along later. That's how I'd play it.

Or maybe the dinosaurs were seeded by some alien species whereas mammals came from human-like aliens. There are lots of possibilities.

What seems least likely is that we're the first humans on the first planet with an original idea about seeding other planets. It's far, far, more likely we're somewhere in the middle of the trend. We might be one of thousands or one of millions of planets seeded.

You might be tempted to quibble with the timing of things. But perhaps evolution on the newer planets is sped up by the designers. The original humans might have taken a billion years of evolution to arrive. By the hundredth iteration of humans seeding humans, perhaps the process has been compressed to a million years. That seems within the realm of possible.

So I say there's a 99.99% chance we are the result of past seeding by earlier humans. If you still believe we're the first, perhaps that is a case of feeling special more than a case of rational thought.

What's wrong with this line of reasoning?


1. The seeders couldn't guarantee creating humans just like us. But we know, for example that eyes evolved in at least two separate lines of evolution on earth. I'll bet intelligence is also likely to increase over time in at least one species. And once intelligent, that creature would need less speed and strength and even hair covering. So I think evolution might create weak, hairless, intelligent creatures with eyes as often as not. Add some symmetry and limbs and you're close enough. 

I allow the possibility that the race seeding us looked more a customer in a Star Wars bar scene than like Brad Pitt. Close enough. 

2. I'm surprised how many people think we won't ever have the technology to launch rockets that can sniff out the remote signature of habitable planets. Not in a thousand years? Really?

3. As to whether we would be motivated to seed other planets, all you need is one billionaire who wants to give the universe a facial. You think that guy won't exist in the next thousand years?]


Scott Adams
Co-founder of CalendarTree.com

Author of the most thoughtful graduation present


  • Print
  • Share
  • Share:
Excuse the sloppy wording of this question, but I think you'll get the idea. Physics isn't my field.

This question is inspired by the discussion of ion harvesting in my prior posts.

If you were to instantly remove all of the positive charges from the particles in a given cubic meter of the atmosphere, what happens next?

Do those de-charged particles go someplace and reacquire a charge? And does that happen at the speed of light?

How fast does the cubic meter you drained of energy "refill" to the level before you drained it?

Does the space drained of electrical charge act like a vaccuum to suck in more charged particles? And if so, does the recharging happen at the speed of light or slowly?

I ask because I see a lot of folks saying there is a limited energy potential in the atsmosphere so no matter how efficiently you harvest the ions you have no hope of generating meaningful amounts of energy.

It seems to my physics-challenged brain that the rate of replenishing is as important as the quantity in existence at any given moment. Or to put it another way, if the energy you take out of the atmosphere is backfilling fast enough, and you are sucking it out fast enough, don't you have something like unlimited potential?

I assume the answer is no, but I'd like to hear it from an authority.

Who can give me the simple answer to these questions?

Follow-up question:

If I understand the answers so far, the speed with which a given space in the atmosphere can repopulate with electrons depends on the speed of the airflow and the physical composition of the air "dust."

So my follow-up question is whether you can boost the efficiency of an ion antenna by putting it in a natural wind tunnel (or high in the atmosphere) and perhaps introducing some type of optimal "dust" in that air to carry charge.

And is there any way to move charged electrons through a vaccuum that contains the ion antenna and also introduce new electrons into the vaccuum without opening it and without using more energy to do it than you create?

Thoughts on Scaling

According to yoru comments, the factors influencing the amount of ions you can harvest are wind speed, altitude, weather in general, and surface area of the antenna.

So let's say you "painted" a windmill with graphene and connected it to the same electronics handling the wind power. That saves you the expense of land, government approvals, elecronics, transmission, etc. 

You could have about a thousand times more area on the windmill compared to the hobbyist's antenna.

And since windmills are in windy places, and they have elevation, you get perhaps ten times more ions. Just a guess.

Now because the wind mill blades are turning perpendicular to the incoming wind, you have the speed of the wind on top of the speed of the propeller cutting sideways throug the wind. 

It can't be cheap to cover a windmill in graphene, but those costs will naturally come down.

I believe none of this gets you to good economics, but I just got you closer.

  • Print
  • Share
  • Share:
Don't read this update unless you are familiar with the topic from my posts here and here. And be sure to read the comments as well.

Okay, if you are playing along at home, you know I asked the company to do two things to demonstrate the credibility of their claims:

1. Tell us how much wattage the device produces over X period of time. 

2. Provide a video that is a continuous tracking shot of the working prototype from antenna to operating appliance, with no edits. 

I'll pause to remind you that 99% of claims "like this" turn out to be complete bullshit. I'm not backing the claims, just giving them their time in the sun to see what happens. I find this fascinating no matter the outcome.

I predicted that if this is a scam, the wattage estimates would be delayed or there would be some excuse for why they can't be produced. And if this is a scam, I predicted that the video of the continuous tracking shot of the prototype would never arrive.

So how'd they do?

The company produced for me a video of the technology from antenna to capacitors but it included an edit break before the working appliance. I rejected that video as being exactly what a scammer would produce. They acknowledge my point and plan to reshoot without an edit. The reason given for the edit break is that the camera had to be put down because it takes two hands to start the appliance safely in the lab environment. They will shoot again with one camera person and one operating the appliance.

Keep in mind that a video would not show how long it took to charge the capacitors, and one could never be sure there are no hidden power cords or batteries. But if the company can't produce a video showing the prototype working from antenna to appliance without an edit break, there's nothing here.

The company also offered this video, taken this week by another hobbyist who visited their lab because he works on the same sort of stuff. This video doesn't have the continuous shot either, but you'll see a lot more detail about the company's claims.

Next, I asked about the average wattage produced. Their lawyer, who has an electrical engineering background, produced what follows. I don't understand any of it, and I'm intensely curious whether they would dare to publish complete bullshit about electronics on this particular blog. That would be the worst scam strategy of all time.

My personal bullshit filter says that anything this complicated is intended to confuse. But that's just a bias based on pattern recognition. I'll let you decide how real it is.

Here's the LinkedIn profile of the lawyer/EE:

And here is his website.

And here is his wattage estimate analysis.

Analysis Procedure:

The Median Values Estimate, far bottom, is derived from calculations averaging a highly active ion harvesting period with a low active ion harvesting period to arrive at a Median Values Estimate.


Highly Active Ion Harvesting Period:

15 minutes to charge 75uF to 17.5kV.  With those numbers:

We have charged 75uF of capacitance to 17.5kV in 15 minutes. To calculate the current it takes to charge the capacitors to that voltage in that time, we use the following formula:


I= 75x10^-6  x 17500 / 15(60)   The factor of 60 is introduced because the formula uses seconds, so we multiple 15 minutes by 60 to get the amount of seconds.

So, I=1.45mA

To calculate the power available, then, we multiply 1.45mA by 17,500 and we get 25.4W from the single collector.

Multiplying this by 4 to get an hour, a single collector produces approximately 100Wh or 360,000 Joules.


Slow Ion Harvesting Period

In the case in which it took 2 hours to charge 75uF to 4kV:

We have charged 75uF of capacitance to 4kV in 2 hours. To calculate the current it takes to charge the capacitors to that voltage in that time, we use the following formula:


I= 75x10^-6  x 4000 / 120(60)   The factor of 60 is introduced because the formula uses seconds, so we multiple 15 minutes by 60 to get the amount of seconds.

So, I=41.7uA

To calculate the power available, then, we multiply 41.7uA by 4000 and we get 167mW from the single collector.

Dividing this by 2 to get an hour, a single collector produces approximately 83mWh or 300 Joules.


Median Values Estimate:

So for median values, we have

I = 745uA with a /- 25% tolerance gives a range of 559uA to 931uA

P = 12.78W with a /- 25% tolerance gives a range of 9.59W to 15.98W

W= 50Wh or 180kJ with a /- 25% tolerance gives a range of 37.5Wh (135kJ) to 62.5Wh (225kJ)

Scalability and Economy of Scale:

A preliminary test indicates that 1 ion collector of determined length located at 300 feet altitude approximates similar output compared to the combined proof-of-concept harvesting towers at 130 feet altitude, subject to repeatability tests and confirmation. The "two balloon" experiment conducted in 2006 strongly suggests that this technology is scalable, subject to repeatability tests and confirmation.

Preferred Method:

The preferred method of determining an average output is through the use of a Data Logger/Recorder. In the absence of owning a Data/Logger Recorder, the above estimates have been substituted.

------------ end ------------

Did they answer my question of how much wattage is produced on average?

Some of you asked why they don't just get a local university or other experts to take a look and validate their technology. I can confirm from my own experience trying to find an expert for that task that no one who answers to a boss knows how to get permission for this sort of thing. It looks like a career suicide mission.

So while failure to get an expert's opinion fits the pattern of a scam, it also fits the pattern of an inventor with no credibility and a lab in a cow field.

I'll remind you again that things "like this" turn out to be bullshit 99% of the time. Don't lose that context. But let's reject ideas based on data, not pattern.

My personal view comes down to this. The basic idea of getting energy from the air is proven science. You can see other experiments of this type on Youtube. The company's claim is that they tried different antennae until they found one (graphite/graphene) that works far better than others. That seems plausible to me because it would be surprising if all antennae performed the same.

What we don't know is whether the new antenna is so much better that it could make this technology economical. The inventor doesn't know that either. He's asking for money to find out.

The critics among you have pointed out that it is unlikely there is enough energy in the air to be harvested economically. I say that if the invention can (for example) collect ions for three hours and light a bulb for half an hour then that feels like something worth developing further. But the company hasn't shown that it can do what I described in a way I find credible.

I'll close by reminding you again that this sort of thing turns out to be bullshit 99% of the time. Skepticism is warranted.

What do you think now?


Scott Adams

Co-founder of CalendarTree.com

Author of a great graduation present




  • Print
  • Share
  • Share:

Update: China is building pyramids. Sort of. Well, they're tall and pointy. The concept is similar.

You hated my idea of building canals all across America. And you don't trust the company that claims to harvest usable energy from the atmosphere. But you'll love my pyramid idea.

Imagine an enormous pyramid in the middle of a desert, miles wide and reaching miles into the sky. The purpose of the pyramid is energy production. And it does so in a variety of ways.

For starters, the inner core of the pyramid is hollow from the ground to the sky. Air enters through holes in the base and is drawn up through the hollow center because warm air rises. That gives you enough airflow to generate electricity.

If you put some scrubbers in the device I think there's a way to deal with pollution and climate change too. I saw some sort of tube-to-the-sky concept that was supposed to do that but I'm too lazy to search for the link. So let's say we fix climate change with our pyramid as a bonus. Perhaps that requires a separate hollow tube in the same pyramid.

We'd also cover the sunny sides of the pyramid with motorized mirrors to reflect sun down to generate solar-steam power on the ground. I think that's more economical than using photovoltaic cells but maybe not.

If it's possible to collect ions from the air in useful quantities (which most of you doubt) then we know there is a higher concentration at high altitudes. So perhaps someday we have ion antennas near the top of the pyramid too.

And let's not forget the temperature differential between the desert floor and the top of the pyramid. That difference could power Stirling generators.

And I would expect lots of natural wind a few miles up, so maybe we can have windmill-type generators on whichever side of the pyramid gets the least sun.

If your desert is within pipeline access to the ocean, I think that turning salt water into steam gets you desalinization. I would think you could make fresh water with the byproduct of your solar steam generator.

None of this works if building the pyramid is too expensive. So I wonder how hard it is to fashion suitably strong bricks out of sand. If it's only a case of heating the sand until it becomes hard as glass, all we need is giant magnifying glasses aimed at our brick-making oven on site.

We'd need robot laborers, and lots of them. Their job would be moving and placing each brick of the pyramid, which isn't terribly complicated work. That seems feasible with current technology.

To power the robots, you need to start your project by first building a solar power plant on the desert floor. That too would be the type that concentrates the sun to create steam power. And the solar power plant wouldn't go to waste because if the first pyramid works, you can keep building more nearby and power the robots continuously. When you're done building pyramids, the power plant connects to the grid.

When aliens helped the early Egyptians build the original pyramids perhaps they were leaving a clue for future generations. That conversation probably went like this:

Alien: We need to tell future generations of humans about pyramids. It will save them.

Egyptian: I can write a message on a wall.

Alien: I've seen your hieroglyphics. They're shit. Look at that one. (Points at wall.) I can't tell if that guy is winning a war or trying to date his ox.

Egyptian: I just realized you guys are made of meat. And if I'm not mistaken, you're boneless.

And that's why the pyramids exist but there is no evidence of aliens.


Scott Adams

Co-founder of CalendarTree.com

Did you buy a graduation gift yet? Don't forget this book.




  • Print
  • Share
  • Share:

Where have I seen this advice before?
  • Print
  • Share
  • Share:
In my prior post I described a small company that claims it can harvest useful amounts of electricity directly from the atmosphere. Is this a case of a bold scam or is it simply an inventor who is more optimistic than qualified? Or - and this is the least likely possibility by far - could it be a legitimate breakthrough?

Whatever it is, I think we all agree on the following fact: Almost every part of the company's pitch fits the pattern of a classic scam.

If you knew nothing except what has been presented to you so far, including the information and calculations provided by the sleuths who left comments, you would be generous to assume a 1% chance that this is a legitimate scientific breakthrough in green energy. On the face of it, you'd have to give it a 99% or better odds of being bullshit. If you tell me the odds are more like 99.9999% bullshit I'll be happy to agree because I'm not that good at calculating the odds of things.

But here's where it gets interesting.

Do you know what else can sometimes look exactly like a scam? Answer: A legitimate breakthrough.

If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and swims like a duck, it must be a duck, right? Unless it's a hunter with a remote-controlled duck. There's always the thing you didn't consider.

What interests me most about this situation is that the company has been consistent from the start in asking for both public attention and qualified scientific scrutiny. They even offered to ship me a desktop prototype that I can witness lighting a bulb.

Are they bluffing?

That's an interesting question. Let's take a journey to find out. I hope you'd agree that unmasking scammers (if that's what happens) would be interesting.

Based on your comments, I asked the company this question yesterday: "How much useful wattage does the prototype produce?"

If the wattage estimate is trivial, or for some reason unavailable, or delayed for a variety of excuses, I think we're done. Would you agree?

The company claims that its technology is different from the devices you can see on YouTube that are harvesting too-trivial-to-matter electricity from the air. That technology is decades old. And they say their technology doesn't use the EM from radio stations. There's no way for me to verify that from a distance.

If the wattage estimate that they come back to me with is in the useful range, I would next ask for a video that tracks end-to-end from the antenna to the intermediate equipment to the working household device (light bulb, fan, etc.).

And I would also ask for their location relative to the nearest radio station.

If the video and the wattage estimate are still intriguing, and they aren't too near a radio tower, I say we put a qualified expert in the same room as the prototype and have some more fun.

Would that plan entertain you?

[Update: Yesterday the inventor provided me with some wattage figures along the lines of "keeps a 15-watt bulb lit for x minutes." I asked a follow-up question of how long the device needs to collect energy before releasing it for those x minutes. He informed me that he was called away on a family emergency and would follow up. If you are following along at home, this is exactly what a scammer would do. That doesn't make it a scam. But the pattern is consistent with one.]

[Update 2: The comments that support the company didn't show up for a few days because our comment system puts new accounts in a limbo zone for reasons I don't understand. See comment from BrahmsKeith in particular]

[Update 3: I have received wattage information from the company in a few email exchanges but I am pressing to get that information in the form of "On average, my prototype produces enough wattage in x minutes to power a bulb of a certain type for Y minutes." What I have received so far doesn't tell me how long it takes to charge a capacitor to light a fluorescent bulb for a period of time. This is the response all of you predicted.]

Scott Adams

Co-founder of CalendarTree.com

Author of a book with a name that doesn't sell books.


  • Print
  • Share
  • Share:
Showing 21-30 of total 1067 entries
Get the new Dilbert app!
Old Dilbert Blog