Two Epistemologists Fail at their Greatest Project
Andy Freund and Alberto Safra attempted to create an energy-producing floor using piezoelectric crystals. Let's take a look at what they did:
1) To start, Andy and Alberto brainstormed through the entire process of how and why the property of piezoelectricity worked. Piezoelectricity is a property that some substances possess, that converts mechanical energy to electrical energy and vice versa.
2) Next they began to build the circuit board; the circuit board consisted of two pieces of cardboard, copper wire and loads of staples to hold the wire in place. The piezoelectric crystals along with the long string of wire, would join together to create one huge series circuit.
3) Third, Andy cooked up a batch of Rochelle Salt (Potassium Sodium Tartrate) using baking soda, cream of tartar and distilled water. First, Andy baked 500 grams of baking soda for four consecutive hours, each hour raising the temperature 100 degrees Fahrenheit (starting at 150 degrees Fahrenheit). This process transforms baking soda (Sodium Bicarbonate) into washing soda (Sodium Carbonate). Now with the newly formed Sodium Carbonate, Andy mixed the washing soda with 250 milliliters of distilled water with 200 grams of cream of tartar (Potassium Bitartrate). Next, he put the mixture contained in a 600 milliliter beaker into a saucepan filled with approximately 1 centimeter of water until the water simmered. Then he added a half-teaspoon of washing soda until the mixture turned clear.
After this the mixture was put into a fridge for 72 hours until the crystals formed.
4) After the 72 hours, Andy brought the crystals to school. Andy, along with Alex Kershenbaum, separated the larger crystals from the “powder”, by crushing them gently.
Finally Andy and his dad made a crude oscilloscope to test the amount of voltage produced when they were hit with a screwdriver. The voltage peaked at around 200mV.
5) With similar trials done by Alberto, both quartz and amethyst failed the piezoelectric tests at well.
6) The crystals were tested with a simple method. Piezoelectricity converts mechanical energy to electricity and vice versa. Therefore, if one were to apply a charge to it there would be obvious shaking, loud noises, and vibrations. There were not. Therefore, Alberto and Andy concluded that if these primitive stones weren’t even capable of producing the shaking, noises, and vibrations, they couldn’t power a device.
Conclusion: In order for this project to work, Andy and Alberto would need to obtain a more piezoelectric material, which would produce a higher voltage. Although Andy and Alberto could have gotten the piezoelectric coefficients from many sources quite easily -- teachers, books, internet -- they decided that it would be better to LEARN BY DOING. No more would they be undermined by the falsehoods that plague the internet -- they know; they know the truth, because they performed every step of the experiment and understand all the things that worked and didn't work within it. Also, now Andy and Alberto know all the difficulties of producing prototypes, and, in addition, they've realized that in order to succeed, one must fail forward first.