By the grace of Allah – a water-powered car!

Of course it’s August and it’s silly season but the bottom is reached when a Pakistani Minister of Religious Affairs and cabinet ministers endorse a water-powered car!!

New York Times:

…..  “By the grace of Allah, I have managed to make a formula that converts less voltage into more energy,” the professed inventor, Agha Waqar Ahmad, said in a telephone interview. “This invention will solve our country’s energy crisis and provide jobs to hundreds of thousands of people.” …… 

Federal ministers lauded Mr. Ahmad and his vehicle, sometimes at cabinet meetings. The stand-in minister for religious affairs, Khursheed Shah, appeared on television with him and took a ride in his small Suzuki rental, which was hooked up to a contraption that Mr. Ahmad described as a “water kit.” Respected talk show hosts suggested he should get state financing and protection. …..

The country’s most famous scientist, Abdul Qadeer Khan — revered inside Pakistan as the father of the country’s nuclear weapons program and reviled elsewhere as a notorious figure in the international nuclear black market — gave it his imprimatur, too. “I have investigated the matter, and there is no fraud involved,” he told Hamid Mir, a popular television journalist, during a recent broadcast that sealed Mr. Ahmad’s celebrity.

The quest to harness chemical energy from water is a holy grail of science, offering the tantalizing promise of a world free from dependence on oil. Groups in other countries, including Japan, the United States and Sri Lanka, have previously made similar claims. They have been largely ignored. Not so with Mr. Ahmad, even if he is an unlikely scientific prodigy. Forty years old and a father of five, he graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering in 1990 from a small technical college in Khairpur, in southern Sindh Province, he said in the interview. For most of his career he worked in a local police department. He is currently unemployed.

Most of the Pakistani media went ape. But Dawn at least kept its cool and represented the voice of sanity:

TALK-SHOW hosts feted it. Politicians rode in it. Cabinet ministers discussed it. Well-known scientists backed it. Those of a particularly conspiratorial bent called for him to be provided security against a threatened oil industry. While a lone voice calling foul was barely given a chance to be heard, Agha Waqar Ahmad and his ‘water car’ were being hailed as the invention that would free the world from the tyranny of fossil-fuel dependence and transform Pakistan’s image around the globe. As was bound to happen eventually, his scientifically impossible claim, which defies the basic laws of physics, is now being exposed as gobsmacked scientists begin to write and speak about it. A technical examination of the water kit, planned at the highest levels of government, has been delayed indefinitely. Perhaps the best proof has come from the man’s own bumbling attempts to defend his device.

What won’t change as quickly are the unfortunate truths this episode has exposed about Pakistani society. For one, it highlighted again how easily the media here buys into seemingly exciting, but always improbable, news stories without any background research or inquiries. Also left looking more ridiculous than Mr Ahmad are the politicians, ministers and especially scientists who jumped on the bandwagon and hailed the car as a giant leap for Pakistan, showcasing in the process the national love of shortcuts and easy glory and the lack of quality education that makes even our leading public figures susceptible to such bogus claims. Meanwhile, no real work, scientific, managerial, technical or otherwise, is being done to actually address the energy crisis. And the fact that at the same time the breakthrough science of an actual national hero — the Nobel-prize-winning Dr Abdus Salam — is being erased from our official history is a telling comment on Pakistan’s commitment to knowledge.

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