A Skeptical Scrutiny of the Works and Theories of WILHELM REICH

As related to

Orgone Motors

By Roger M. Wilcox

Last modified 31-March-2002

Orgone motors are devices which can supposedly turn atmospheric orgone energy into a useful motive force.

Unfortunately, the only documents that describe how to build an orgone motor are locked up in the Reich archives until 2007.  We can only go by what little information Reich published about them in other sources.  One such source is The Cancer Biopathy, chapter IV, section 7.  Here, Reich wrote (emphasis in the original):

"Geiger counter tubes that have absorbed orgone energy by being kept in an orgone atmosphere of high concentration for several weeks can produce 25 to 100 impulses per second in the impulse counter, at a 'rotation threshold' of 900-1000 volts.  This rate of impulses amounts to an even rotation of the pointer in an impulse counter.  In other words, ... orgone energy is capable of delivering a motor force.  Upon completion of control experiments, the relevant details will be published."
The relevant details, however, were never published.  They are still squirreled away in the Wilhelm Reich Archive, which, due to a clause in Reich's last will and testament, will not be open to public scrutiny until the year 2007.  In this account from The Cancer Biopathy, and in all of his subsequent descriptions of the orgone motor, Reich intentionally kept one crucial piece of his invention a secret.  He referred to this secret piece as the "Y Factor," perhaps because the inventions built by secluded geniuses in bad science fiction movies frequently contain a mysterious "X Factor."  The Y Factor may be among the oddities described in the papers now kept in the Reich Archive.  Only time will tell.

However, even without knowing what this Y Factor is, there are some visible flaws in the design of the orgone motor as Reich described it.  I describe what a Geiger-Müller counter is, and how one is supposed to be operated, in my critique of Reich's G-M counter technique.  As mentioned there, modern Geiger-Müller counters use digital pulse counters, but those in Reich's time probably used some kind of rotary dial that advanced, a tiny amount, each time a count was recorded.  From Reich's limited description above, it almost sounds as though his orgone motor utilized the smooth rotation of the impulse counter to provide the motor force.  If this is so, then we can dismiss this invention outright, because the energy of the radiation incident on a Geiger-Müller tube is not what causes the counter to turn.  To make a complete Geiger-Müller counter, the tube must be connected to an external voltage source.  It is this external source that provides the current pulse through the tube when ionizing radiation hits it.  The energy to turn the rotary pulse counter comes from these current pulses.  You can measure how much energy the external voltage source provides in making a current pulse, and it will always be at least as great as the miniscule amount of motor energy you could get out of the incremental turning of the rotary pulse counter.

However, in making this assessment, I may be jumping to conclusions.  Reich might have mentioned the counter's speed only as an indication of how strong the "radiation" field was in a region of high orgone energy concentration.  Perhaps he harnessed this "radiation" energy in some other way.  We don't know what his Y Factor was, after all.  But there are a few other writings about the orgone motor by people other than Reich, and some of these may give us some more clues as to how the orgone motor might have operated.

A pro-orgonomy webpage by Paul Rourke at http://www.orgone.org/articles/ax9rourke-a.htm says:

"Another problem of orgone physics and power technology of the future is how can this energy be utilized as or converted into a mechanical energy or motor force.  A possible solution began in 1947 when Reich purchased a Geiger Muller [sic] counter.  He placed the counter in a three-layer accumulator and after giving off several clicks per minute --background radiation-- it appeared to go dead.  Three months later Reich gave it a fresh try only to find the counter producing 6000 clicks per minute.  Tests showed these originated from the counter tube that apparently became saturated from the orgone in the accumulator.  A few months later Reich, utilizing vacuum tubes thoroughly soaked in orgone, registered impulses of up to 100,000 per minute turning the counter point 1,000 times per minute.  He thus theorized a new motor force since no ionization effects could be this powerful.  The next step was to link this force to a motor.  On June 24, 1948 in the presence of five witnesses Reich purported to have set a motor in motion.  'The power of the future,' cried Reich Joyfully."
    — Paul Rourke, Orgone Energy: A Power Alternative
A hundred thousand impulses per minute is a lot higher than the impulse counts Reich reported in The Cancer Biopathy.  This sounds very impressive — until you come to understand how a Geiger-Müller counter is calibrated.

As mentioned in my critique of Reich's Geiger-Müller counter technique, the setting of the voltage level on a G-M tube is crucial.  The higher the voltage across the electrodes, the more sensitive the tube will be to lower levels of ionizing radiation, and the higher the impulse count will be for the same amount of radiation.  Above the breakdown voltage, of course, the tube will conduct continuously and no individual impulses should be recorded at all.  Furthermore, the correct voltage level to use varies widely from one Geiger-Müller counter to the next.  The type of gas used in the tube, the length of the tube, the gas pressure in the tube, and even the temperature can affect the count rate at a particular voltage setting.  If, as the above paragraph from Paul Rourke states, Reich was using vacuum tubes (perhaps the VACOR tubes he'd used in other experiments) instead of the usual gas-filled Geiger-Müller tubes when he registered an impulse count of 100,000 per minute, this would introduce yet another variable into the voltage-and-count-rate mix.  There is simply nothing you can conclude from a high count rate, unless you have performed a control experiment with the same Geiger-Müller counter set to the same voltage level.  For all we know, a count rate of 100,000 impulses per minute on Reich's vacuum-tube Geiger-Müller counter could have been the normal reading one would expect for background radiation levels.

And of course, even if there were a higher-than-normal radiation level in an "orgone soaked" vacuum tube, the above quoted paragraph tells us nothing about how Reich harnessed it and turned it into a motor.

Other webpages containing information related to the orgone motor and Reich's experiments with Geiger-Müller tubes include Research Equipment in Orgonomy, and The Geiger-Mueller Effect of the Orgone - Revisited.  The former webpage does have a paragraph titled "motor force of orgone energy," but this paragraph actually only contains a brief description of Reich's VACOR experiments.  The latter webpage is more detailed, and actually raises some additional questions about Reich's experiments in its attempt to defend them — such as the fact that Reich actually did some of his Geiger-Müller experiments with voltages set intentionally above the breakdown-voltage threshold, so that the tube conducted continuously.

James DeMeo, head of the Orgone Biophysical Research Laboratory, has compiled perhaps the most extensive list of information known about Reich's orgone motor, which he titled The Orgone Energy Motor: Reference and Data Package and published in 1986.  On page 1 of this 11-page pamphlet, DeMeo claims that Reich was able to hook up a Western Electric KS-9154 (an AC motor designed for a 12-volt system, about 3 inches across and 4 inches long) to run, quote, "more directly from the orgone," without any Geiger-Müller or VACOR tubes at all.  Eyewitness accounts are included from Myron Sharaf, Elsworth Baker, and Lois Wyvell.  Two of these accounts tell of how the motor ran noisily, wobbily, and with a grinding motion when attached to a normal electrical source, but smoothly when "running off orgone energy."  Two of the accounts also tell of how the orgone-powered motor would occasionally switch direction.  DeMeo also claims to have seen films on display at the Reich Museum in Maine, taken while Reich was still alive, which show Reich demonstrating the orgone motor with the Geiger-Müller apparatus's high voltage wire detached.

None of the accounts in DeMeo's pamphlet, however, states unequivocably that no outside power sources were connected to or used by the motor when it was rigged up to be "orgone-powered."

Ultimately, we will not know if Reich's orgone motor actually works until the Reich Archives are opened in 2007 and the dreaded "Y Factor" is made public.  But I don't have very high hopes.  Many well-intentioned folks have been sure, absolutely sure, that they've stumbled upon a way to make a motor that runs on "free" energy or has an "over unity" efficiency, only to discover that some other non-free power source he had not fully taken into account was responsible.  (Eric Krieg keeps an extensive list of historical free-energy claims at http://www.phact.org/e/dennis4.html.  Most are charlatanry, but a few are the product of True Believers.)  More than likely, Reich's orgone motor does not harness any energy source not already well known to mainstream science, and will not produce excess energy or solve humanity's energy problems.

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