No Violating Laws of Physics, Please

The biotech industry is famous for hype. But even the most enthusiastic sales-pitch should stop short of implying that a company can violate the laws of physics. For example:

From Nature Biotech (Jan. 2009) Biotech’s green gold?

Valcent Products, a public company located in Vancouver, is experimenting with a range of algal species in enclosed bioreactors. Valcent CEO Glen Kertz says he can sell a barrel of algal oil for less than a barrel of crude oil and that his system has the potential to produce 100,000 gal/ac/yr.

“I said to him [Kertz], ‘You are not doing anyone any favors by making absurd claims’,” says Scripps’ Mayfield. “That is five times the theoretical maximum energy from sunlight landing on an acre. It’s physically impossible to do that.” No outside experts have been allowed to validate the system yet, according to Kertz.

Yeah, telling prospective investors that you can violate the laws of thermodynamics probably isn’t fully ethical.


About Chris MacDonald

I'm a philosopher who teaches at Ryerson University's Ted Rogers School of Management in Toronto, Canada. Most of my scholarly research is on business ethics and healthcare ethics.
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