Friday, January 04, 2008

A Useful BS Detector Kit

In the absence of useful and/or hopeful news, I stumbled onto a thread a few days ago at in which the topic of discussion was alleged ultraconductors, discovered and named by one Dr. Leonid Grigorov, Ph.D., Dc.S, formerly of the Polymer Institute, Russian Academy of Sciences. This led to the discovery that the company in the U.S. hyperbolically claiming to be on the verge of commercializing this remarkable discovery is also one and the same as Magnetic Power, Inc., another of the zero-point energy loons. One of the useful things I did find, however, was a post in the Skeptics Society Forum detailing a useful BS detector kit, proffered by someone who claimed to work for venture capital. As a service to my reader(s?), I reproduce it forthwith:

I spent a lot of years in and around the venture capital industry. We developed our own baloney detection kits, tuned to use business plans and web sites to protect us from garbage businesses.

Here are some questions, cribbed from that kit:
1) Give me an authentic provenance to the idea. Show me the small steps others have made leading up to it.
2) Does it already have legitimate VC funding? (Military money is notoriously dumb, so it doesn't count.)
3) To whom does the principal give his or her time? (I would be much happier to see the AAAS than the American Antigravity folks: see ... message/64.)
4) Show me a credible reference client with a real application.
5) If you can't show me a reference client, show me a working prototype. If it's on the verge of being commercialized, it must be working somewhere ... in a house, in a car, in a flashlight, in an iPod. Show me! You have to know I will bring a plague of experts to bear on this prototype, so it had better be GOOD.
6) What is the history of ideas of the principals? What else are they involved in? (Zero Point Energy and energy from magnets are very, very bad signs. ... e&sid=1357)
7) Look at the language. Is the development always "on the verge" of being ready? Is the "establishment" always "wrong", and the principal always right? Do they make the "Chinese market" logical fallacy? (Read "Art of the Start" ... not enough space here.) Watch out for firms that miss "whopper deadlines" ( by a mile.
8) Show me peer-reviewed papers and presentations at mainstream scientific conferences by the principals. Better yet, show me serious scientists who respond to these papers. Papers by other people on collateral topics don't count. A paper on ZPE is not the same as a paper outlining an industrial process to capture it.
9) Give me reproducibility. I won't look at a company with "secret processes"; if you can't show me how someone else can do it, I won't even get up from my desk.
10) Give me competitors. If one person can do it, so can someone else. If one person is working on it now, you can bet two or three others are, too. You are defined by the quality of your cometitors, so the competitors had better look good to the baloney kit. If you compete with Boeing (even in a minor way), I am impressed. If you compete with Johann Bessler, I am much less impressed.