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According to a recent advertisement named Nov 03 making its rounds on YouTube (I saw it today attached to another video I wanted to watch), a college student named Martin from Fairbanks, Alaska was expelled after developing EcoHeat, a "device that can heat a room 90% cheaper than traditional heating methods" and refusing to sell to "a heating company" that offered "millions" for the rights. According to the video, he was expelled "three days later" subsequent to refusing to sell the rights to his invention.

I'm actually very skeptical of the underlying technology, and also note that the video never actually claims that Martin's expulsion was due to refusing to sell and not another reason such as plagiarism or selling drugs on campus, but I think it is a very specific and verifiable claim and one that implies that US colleges have no tolerance for students who innovate and refuse to sell to industry.

Was a college student from Fairbanks, Alaska expelled from college three days after refusing to sell a heating invention that showed a 90% reduction in heating costs?

While I do have some interest in the accuracy of the 90% savings claim (which, given the ambiguity over the nature of "traditional heating methods", could be interpreted as giving a significant or notable cost savings), I'm more interested in Martin's story - whether he actually exists, is actually from Fairbanks as claimed, did invent a heating product or technology, and was expelled from college under the conditions described in the ad. If the story as presented in the advertisement is true, I should be able to find a reference to Martin's patent or a mention in the mainstream media of his expulsion from college three days after refusing to sell his invention to industry, but I cannot find either.

If Martin made his heating discovery as part of participation in an industry-funded research grant obligating him to give the rights to the discovery to the originator of the grant funds and his expulsion was a result of noncompliance with the terms of the grant (e.g. by attempting to prevent them from taking possession of the device's blueprints), that's an answer!

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    "Inside the Viral EcoHeat Portable Heater Scam Fooling Consumers" malwaretips.com/blogs/ecoheat-portable-heater "While I do have some interest in the accuracy of the 90% savings claim, I'm more interested in [verifying?] Martin's story [as a proxy for whether any of his claims are true?]" If you're skeptical, then why does this question have the most clickbait title ever?
    – smci
    Commented Jan 3 at 13:19
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    I'm in Britain and I've seen similar youtube ads claiming that the inventor was at Edinburgh university and separately a London university - also the claims made violate the laws of thermodynamics. There appears to be no sanctions against blatant lies told in youtube advertisements.
    – Dughall
    Commented Jan 3 at 16:02
  • Somebody has invention for billion dollars... and he has big problem that he lost student rights. Maybe the education is more valuable than billion dollars or the problem is he feels insulted?
    – i486
    Commented Jan 4 at 11:12
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    I don't see anything clickbait-y about the title. Yes it grabs attention, but not by misleading. What the title says is what the question is about.
    – LarsH
    Commented Jan 4 at 13:32
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    @smci I'm not sure what's the issue with the title, in fact I find it to be the best possible one. I also don't see why using a title that grabs attention (to the question, not to the product) would be in odds with OP's scepticism...
    – Neinstein
    Commented Jan 4 at 17:06

2 Answers 2

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The law of conservation of energy says that energy can be neither created nor destroyed.

Normally when we say that some machine, say an electric motor, is "85% efficient", we mean that 85% of the energy is used to make the motor turn and the other 15% gets "wasted" making it hotter. But an electric heater is only turning electricity into heat anyway. This means that all electric heaters are always 100% efficient: all the electricity they use gets converted directly into heat.

Any device that is supposed to extract extra heat from the electricity is therefore a scam. It's a bit like promising to fill your bath using 90% less water.

There are "heat pumps" which can do better than 100% by pumping heat in from outside (basically, like a refrigerator in reverse). This has been well understood for many years. Because the heat comes from outside the building it doesn't violate the law of conservation of energy. However doing that requires plumbing to a heat exchanger outside the building. The device here is being sold as a portable heater, so it can't be getting the heat from anything except the electricity it consumes.

Ecoheat has already been reported as a scam. What you actually get is a little ceramic heater. It "reduces" heating costs by using only a little electricity to produce only a little heat. However if you google for it you will find lots of sponsored links assuring you that it is amazingly good and heats a big room in 60 seconds (they just don't mention by how much).

According to this YouTube video these things are actually produced unbranded by a company called Sharewin, who sell them on Alibaba at $6.45. People are buying them and then selling them on under names like EcoHeat and AlphaHeat at a huge markup, promoting them with social media and fake review sites.

Sometimes the inventor is "Martin from Fairbanks". Other times he is an aerospace engineer, or a Norwegian architect. This inventor was fired or expelled for refusing to sell his work to greedy capitalists, but is now making out like a bandit selling these amazingly successful gizmos that have the energy companies quaking in their boots. Not.

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    @Oddthinking: Several of the comments pointed out errors in this answer that could be addressed/improved/removed. Do the admin tools not give you a way to retain such comments when doing a move-to-chat?
    – ruakh
    Commented Jan 3 at 3:28
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    It might be helpful if your last paragraph (which answers the OP's question) were moved to the very beginning. Commented Jan 3 at 12:06
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    To be a pedant, "Heating a room efficiently" and "Converting electricity to heat efficiently" aren't exactly the same thing. There are differences in convection vs radiation style heaters, as well as warming the air vs. warming surfaces and people in the vicinity.
    – Turbo
    Commented Jan 3 at 15:00
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    @ruakh The answer had already been edited to address the issue brought up in the comments (and, as as one of the moderators mentioned in the comments, most of those objections were just not really correct for any practical purpose.)
    – reirab
    Commented Jan 3 at 15:34
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    You should cross out "bandit" and replace it with "greedy capitalist" in that second to last sentence. (Ha!) Then we can ask the real questions, like why one greedy capitalist is worse than the others.
    – Azendale
    Commented Jan 3 at 18:43
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The footage of "Martin" in the video is actually of Taylor Wilson, a nuclear physicist and scientist who garnered attention in his teens for experimenting with nuclear fusion. The entire backstory/biography from the video is completely false and none of it applies to Wilson, who was born in Arkansas, went to school in (and resides in) Nevada, and has no known connection to Alaska.

Photo of Taylor Wilson speaking, taken from Wikipedia

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    Most of the footage seems to come from youtube.com/watch?v=PINttscIAEo
    – James
    Commented Jan 2 at 23:52
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    According to Wikipedia, when he was college age (18) he got a fellowship that requires its recipients to forgo college, so it sounds like he didn't even go to college, much less be expelled from one.
    – Laurel
    Commented Jan 3 at 13:37
  • @Laurel does that fellowship prevent him from going to college at any point after it is done? Just because people typically go to college after high school doesn't mean that he didn't go after the fellowship was over
    – Joe W
    Commented Jan 3 at 16:24
  • @JoeW The intent of the thing seems to be that the recipients launch straight into the real world doing bigger things than college. None of the online biographies mention anything about college either, and I have to think that he's famous enough that people would report about that (especially if something big happened, like being expelled).
    – Laurel
    Commented Jan 3 at 16:45
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    I know this dude and can confirm he did some work in the physics department at UNR. Footage of him working seems to pop up in a few scam ads.
    – johnDanger
    Commented Jan 4 at 5:49

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