Okay, this one's for all the geeks out there (I'm a part-time geek myself),
It's been commonly accepted, in fact, as law, that one cannot get more energy out of a reaction than has been put into it. In other words it is not possible to break a water molecule (hydrogen and oxygen) apart and then burn the hydrogen (re-combining it with oxygen) and extract more energy than it took to break apart the water molecule.
However, there are many who claim to have done just that. John Kanzius' recent discovery that one can burn seawater by exposing it to certain radio frequencies may be the latest demonstration, although official results are still pending. Assuming at least one of these cases is verified (granted a big assumption), the law has been broken. Or has it?
Some believe that these systems are taking advantage of "zero point energy" that is, the lowest state of energy a system can have. The energy of "empty space". One theory is that "empty space" isn't really empty at all, but that the particles that comprise it are of a nature we don't yet understand. Thus they've been dubbed "virtual particles". These particles resonate at a wavelength too low to be of any consequence unless particles come within about 10 nanometers of each other. At this point the "virtual particle pressure" between the two particles becomes significant enough to impact the system.
Another possibly related theory used to explain other observations is quantum physics is that nuetral particles in very close proximity, become polarized for a time.
The two ideas might blend well in explaining where all this excess energy might be coming from. As for the polarization, electrons travel in a probablity field rather than at a specific point along an orbit at any given time. Perhaps in very close proximity, the probable location of an electron at any given time is more refined, meaning it's more likely to be on one side of the nucleus than on the other. This would cause one side of the molecule to be positively charged with respect to a very close object during part of the orbit of the electron(s). When particles are forced even closer together or pushed farther apart, the rythm of the polarization becomes out of the ordinary. The system could become unbalanced. Molecules could break down.
Perhaps the catalysts and radio frequencies used in these experiments and inventions are forcing molecular particles into close enough proximity that the zero point energy makes the molecules unstable and easier to break apart.
This begs the question: If we extract zero point energy in one part of a system, shouldn't the zero point field simultaneously extract energy from somewhere else? As far as we know, the law is still in effect. What might the consequences be of extracting zero point energy in very large scales? Could we cause some kind of zero point turbulence? Zero point waves? Would matter disintegrate if exposed to a sudden drop in zero point pressure? Or could it have just the opposite effect? Would we be "burning space" thus forcing virtual particles to condense into matter, or forcing particles closer together by shrinking the zero point field? In this hypothetical universe, there can be no truly empty space. Therefore if you remove virtual particles, you reduce the volume of space, unless/until they are replaced.
Here's an even cooler possibility: What if you could travel at ridiculously fast speeds through space by using a zero point engine? In the process of extracting zero point energy from the space in front of you, you actually reduce the volume of space in front of you. You'd be both traversing and eliminating space at the same time. More bang for your buck. Of course you'd want to replace the zero point energy
behind you. I'll leave that to the engineers.
It seems to me that all the confusion in quantum physics stems from the assumption that if we can't detect it, it's not there. As I've said before it's analogous to trying to explain the motion of clouds while being totally ignorant of the existance of air. You'd have to give the clouds properties and forces that may work out mathematically and may well predict their behavior, but which still would not be an accurate depiction of what's going on.
Virtual particals "blinking in and out of existance" sounds very mystical. However, precipitating and evaporating sounds more familiar and may be more accurate.
Whether you call it a zero point field, virtual particals or aether, once you accept the premise of entities existing on a much smaller scale than previously imagined, it all comes down to pressure dynamics. Stuff under higher pressure moving toward lower pressue.