How Ken Shoulders Cleared the Way for Our Future

Report from the Front: Tracking the News of the Coming Energy Revolution

How can an inventor of breakthrough energy technology outwit officials who want to classify it? As I think back on the contributions of a remarkable pioneer who died in the past year, I remember his strategy—quickly publish a book and distribute the knowledge around the world.

Ken Shoulders did just that. Recently a lifetime of his work that he put into public domain became accessible. It’s at both Rex Research and Keelynet websites, thanks to researchers who put it online and built the mirror site for a safeguard.

In announcing that the information is on the Internet, researcher and author Moray King draws attention to high-speed videos that Shoulders made about lightning. “Shoulders probably has done the best experimental work showing the energetic anomalies of microscopic ball lightning,” King explains.

Shoulders originally named the little balls of electrical charge EV (electrum validum, Latin for strong charge.) He later renamed them EVO (exotic vacuum object) after he became convinced that they cohered the energy of the “vacuum”—the universal background which the ancients called “aether.” He may have found a link to energy abundance—using EVOs to couple into the basic fabric of space.

Shoulders said an EVO is a “kind of Universal Clutch, as it actually clutches the basic fabric of the universe by biasing the medium with a dense, asymmetrical charge distribution.”

Through controlling the electrical fields to get that traction, he found that it’s possible to “propel the EVO in any desired direction, carrying along with it whatever is attached to the EVO.”

Until he was felled by cancer in the summer of 2013, Shoulders was a discoverer on the frontiers of science, and he let others worry about whether his findings fit into accepted boundaries of scientific theory.

He also excelled when working in mainstream science. In the early 1960s, Shoulders developed much of today’s microcircuit technology. He was at Stanford Research Institute (SRI) International for ten years as a staff scientist and started a field called vacuum nano-electronics. While at SRI he built specialized instruments such as advanced spectrometers—inventing the tools he needed. He also had a nonteaching staff position at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

William Zebuhr wrote in Infinite Energy magazine that it was during his time at MIT that Shoulders made the world’s first microcircuits “and later did some exotic and confidential work for the CIA and others.”

Shoulders’ workplaces included laboratories in private corporations as well as in universities. Along the way, he accumulated the scientific equipment he needed to set up his own laboratory in 1968.

Like Nikola Tesla, he made a discovery that could render his previous work obsolete. It was a discovery made by accident. Around 1980, he was introduced by physicists at the Stevens Institute in Hoboken, New Jersey, to strange strings of particles—what scientists call vortex filaments. After working on them for a while, Shoulders found that they weren’t strings at all, being about as broad as they were long. They showed up as strings on the instruments of most researchers because the researchers could never stop the motion of these extremely fast-moving blobs.

When Shoulders learned how to get clear pictures of the blobs, he found they were little bead-like structures. The simplest name for them is charge cluster, although Shoulders for years called them EVs.

A charge cluster is a tightly packed cluster of about 100 million electrons. He created conditions under which electrons break free from their nuclei and join together into remarkably stable ring-shaped clusters.

“It is the wildest electronic effect you will ever see,” Shoulders told me once, calling his creations “little engines of vast complexity that just don’t die!”

Conventional science has a hard time accepting the charge cluster’s existence because it violates a law of physics. Since all electrons carry a negative charge, conventional science says that they should repel each other and not cluster.

Fortunately Shoulders learned the high-density charge cluster’s characteristics in his own self-funded laboratory, so his research isn’t owned by any institution. The electricity involved is static electricity, as in the spark that snaps from a doorknob if you drag your feet across a carpet.

What inspired his awe about these tiny entities is that they almost seem to have an intelligence about them—they are self-organizing. The clusters appear to form into various sizes but are uniform in organization and behavior. They often look like a necklace of tiny donuts. “It’s some law of nature that’s just not spelled out for us yet,” Shoulders said in my first interview with him.

He discovered the link between charge clusters and what some call “zero-point energy” or “aether” when he tried to find out what could supply the large amounts of energy needed to make electrons cluster. Charge clusters are very powerful—they can bore holes through ceramic tile without losing strength.

While past attempts to base a patent on zero-point energy had been unsuccessful, Shoulders broke through with a 1991 patent titled, “Energy Conversion Using High Charge Density.”


‘Sorry, Spooks, The Computer Ate It’

The late Hal Fox, editor of the now-defunct Journal of New Energy, was for a while an insider in Ken Shoulders’ circle of colleagues. He said Shoulders had cleverly bypassed those who want to slap a secrecy order on energy breakthroughs.

Fox wrote me in a March 29, 2001 email, “The biggest stopper occurs at the U.S. Patent Office, where each incoming patent application goes to a government agent responsible to classify things that, supposedly, are of strong national interest. The government should have no right to classify work that was done without the use of federal funds! …Therefore, if one wants to ensure that his/her patent is not classified, one has to mail out or distribute widely the information as soon as the patent application is mailed.”

“Shoulders’ first patent application was immediately classified secret. The patent attorney worked with (wealthy Texan entrepreneur) Bill Church—who paid the money—and Ken Shoulders. They wrote a book and mailed it in to scientists in over 25 countries the day they filed the patent.”

“The patent office asked for the mailing list, but the computer had eaten it. After three days and $10,000 later, the patent office gave up and removed the classification.”

Working in his home laboratory with his son Steve, Ken Shoulders continued to make breakthroughs. What they saw under the microscope is another world, hinting of future machines that will be thousands of times more powerful than our current machines. Unlike some other energy inventions, charge clusters don’t need magnetic fields or low temperatures to work.

Providing abundant clean energy is not the only thing that charge clusters were expected to do. There’s a range of possible products that could be based on charge-cluster technology.


Vision of ‘Personal Flyers’

Aside from his charge-cluster research, one of Shoulders’ innovations was a design for a machine that could fly one person anywhere—to a river for fishing or a mountain for backpacking. “The hovering capability will let you land on a flagpole if that is desirable, or scoot along at 300 m.p.h. on a cross-country trip of over 600 miles. There is absolutely no need for an airport. Fuel up at any gas station and eat anywhere that looks good.” However, he needed business partners to get it built.

In 1989 he wrote a letter as guidance for the sons of a deceased friend. The two were planning to go into the “personal flying machine” business and asked Shoulders what he would do.

Instead of just promoting his flyer design, Shoulders’ written reply gave the young men a reality check about everything that could go wrong—from hotshots who run into things and give the field a bad name, to politicians stumping for restrictions to current laws—legislation against aircraft landing and taking off without written consent of local authorities.

Ingredients for a viable business would not be in place in the beginning of such a business, he wrote. Mistakes would be made and the pioneers who wanted to provide a better solution than helicopters or airplanes would pay a price.

“I probably answered their questions very successfully because one of them remained with Boeing Aircraft Company for many years after my letter arrived, and the other one took off for Tahiti in a sailboat with a beautiful lady.”

Of course Shoulders would have liked to work on the flying machine he had designed, but he was realistic about the inertia of the aircraft business. “Violent changes are not allowed: and as normal as this design seems to me, it is radical to almost all others.”

Like many science mavericks, Ken Shoulders had a glint of mischief in his eyes and I wasn’t surprised that he enjoyed the company of risk-taking inventors such as our mutual friend John Hutchison. He took an interest in Hutchison’s levitation/disruption-of-metals experiments, and presented a paper about it at the 2005 M.I.T. Cold Fusion Conference.

The effect from Hutchison’s electrical treatment of metals includes bending, shredding, fracturing, and melting of structures without heat, and propulsion. Afterward, the metal samples show evidence of what Shoulders recognizes as EVO strikes—track marks. Shoulders said the common “energetic basis” of the Hutchison Effect, cold fusion, and certain other technologies, is electron clustering.

In his last interview, filmed by Nancy Lazaryan Hutchison, Ken Shoulders talked openly on camera with John Hutchison. You can find the video on Keelynet’s pages for Shoulders.

I have memories of the two frontier-explorers at meetings in California along with other colleagues; there was an abundance of light laughter. In one private event in San Francisco, a small group of us had lunch with His Royal Highness Prince Alfred von Liechtenstein. (Liechtenstein is a small country on the banks of the Rhine River in Europe.)

I later learned that Shoulders had loyally but unsuccessfully tried to get Alfred’s relative, the reigning Prince Hans-Adam von Liechtenstein III, to fund Hutchison’s experiments.

On that trip I also had the privilege of staying overnight at the Shoulders’ house in Bogeda, California, and meeting his wife Claire. Although brief, those memories make it harder to accept that his lifetime ended without his groundbreaking research receiving the help needed to get products engineered from it.

In 2004, he posted a note about the funding problem faced by individuals exploring scientific frontiers, and said the note particularly applied to “free energy machines, ‘cold fusion’ or nuclear waste remediation.” There was no bitterness in his mind regarding the gulf between the inventor’s world and academic methods that he discussed. That separation is probably “the only way to preserve the much needed thought independence required for creative thinking and invention in truly new areas.”

Shoulders didn’t advocate attaching the frontier-science explorers to institutions. Even if it at first funded advanced research, he said, being part of an institution would likely take away their freedom to roam into uncharted and unexplored areas.


Funding Dilemma

William Zebuhr also has insight into why such brilliant pioneers don’t receive funding to get their discoveries out in the marketplace. In a 2005 editorial for Infinite Energy, he noted that Shoulders’ technology has promise of yielding exciting results with a modest amount of funding. Zebuhr recognized that it would require a special type of investor with “a very long-range vision and deep pockets. These are hard to find.”

Discoveries in the new energy field face a long timeline to market, compared to conventional investments. The investor must be willing to take risks. Zebuhr concluded that the new energy field needs more people willing to give grants to promising ideas—with minimal strings attached.

Much of Ken Shoulders’ knowledge about many topics—such as how to create vertical flight technology, experimental aircraft—didn’t get out into the world during his lifetime. Perhaps a new generation will take on the challenge of developing it.

Most importantly, I hope they’ll continue along the clean-energy path that he pointed toward.

Jeane Manning is co-author of Breakthrough Power: How Quantum-leap New Inventions Can Transform Our World. The book is available through Amazon and Atlantis Rising and as an e-book at

By Jeane Manning