Astroturf or idiocy?

I came across this from Tom Naughton’s Fat Head blog. I’ll be riffing on this. First, Naughton is not a careful reporter, he’s sloppy, but, then again, he’s a comedian, not a journalist or academic, and he is writing about topics that will be obscure to most, such as actual Wikipedia process. What he wrote:

Remember the kerfuffle when a rogue editor at Wikipedia targeted Fat Head for deletion? He was, you’ll recall, the same editor who deleted articles about Malcolm Kendrick, Uffe Ravnskov, Jimmy Moore, and pretty much anyone who recommends low-carb diets or disputes the Lipid Hypothesis.

The editor in question, originally “Skeptic from Britain,” (and my page) could not delete anything, he was not a Wikipedia administrator. Was Skeptic from Britain a “rogue editor”? Not really. There is a whole faction of editors (including some administrators) who act in similar ways, but SfB is actually a long-term banned editor (best known as Goblin Face), Darryl L. Smith in real life, according to my research (extensively documented on pages here). He is able to do what he does because of the cooperation of many editors.

He did propose articles for deletion (AfD). Links to the deletion discussions: Kendrick (deleted), Moore (deleted) and Fat Head (kept) — this was nominated as MatthewManchester1994, SfB renamed.

Ravnskov was not proposed by SfB, but by EEng, a snarky editor. (One of the problems with Wikipedia is that too many users with no life treat it like an MMRPG, an opportunity to display adolescent hyper aggression, to win by making others lose.) SfB, however was quite active in that AfD.

In the Fat Head deletion discussion, Jimbo Wales (co-founder of Wikipedia) commented about the nominator:

Strong keep – As others have noted, WP:IDONTLIKEIT is not a valid reason for deletion. It is worth noting that the proposer is a serial namechanger and POV pusher who has now apparently left the project.

When SfB “retired,” he claimed he had been outed on the internet. I was, in fact, accused of being SfB by his brother, on Encyclopedia Dramatica. That is how I came to look at SfB. What I found was that the only outing had been by troll socks, accounts that appear and create disruption (like outing), with no history of comment, and often repeating the same message under different names. The outing named the user who was the only Keep vote in the Jimmy Moore deletion. And that behavior then loudly rang the Darryl Smith bell. This was a sophisticated form of impersonation socking, Darryl’s standard MO, used to harass anyone who criticizes him.

So then I looked at edit timings, spending days compiling and studying data. This was clearly Darryl Smith, previously Debunking spiritualism, now moving from attacking spiritualism and parapsychology (and me, for the sin of having exposed his impersonation socking on Wikipedia, Wikiversity, and the WMF meta wiki), into exposing his “Dislikes = Fad diets, LCHF quackery, pseudoscience.” Did he find a new paymaster? I don’t know.

SfB, before going on a massive Wikipedia editing binge, ending with his “retiring” in December, 2018, had made a few edits to RationalWiki as John66, pursuing the anti-low-carb agenda, and when he did retire, John66 started up in earnest and is still quite active. There, he is now a sysop (RatWiki gives out that easily). The entire RatWiki site is largely dedicated to identifying and exposing “quacks, charlatans, pseudoscientists, and conspiracy theorists.” Is that astroturf? Well, maybe, to some degree. More likely it is a pile of nut cases itself (with a few exceptions).

On the conspiracy side, Darryl Smith has claimed (through socks identified behaviorally and sometimes with technical data) that he has been paid by “a major skeptical organization.” These organizations are dedicated to “debunking,” which is where the genuine skeptical movement went, losing its original scientific underpinnings and methods, becoming highly pseudoskeptical.

It is not skeptical at all, it is a “believer” movement, believing in “mainstream opinion,” even when it is not actually “evidence-based.” I.e., “evidence-based medicine” — what a great idea! — becomes “widespread opinion-based” — and widespread opinion can be highly vulnerable to astroturfing, or more deeply, to the effect of research funding and promotion.

Deletion discussions on Wikipedia, while they are sometimes influenced by opinions like “quackery,” turn on “notability,” which in Wikipedia policy is based on the availability of sources for verification of article content, and what sources are usable can be highly controversial, but if there are mainstream “secondary sources,” sources that review primary sources, or that have a business necessity for fact-checking, these will be considered “Reliable source.” Wikipedia policies are arcane to the uninitiated, because “Reliable” does not mean “reliable.” Get it?

The articles on Kendrick and Moore were deleted because of lack of adequate coverage in reliable source. That can change. “Quackery” as claimed by SfB was irrelevant, but it fires up his own support base. By guidelines, the number of votes doesn’t matter, it is the arguments that count, but in reality, some administrators are lazy as hell and just look at the votes. You can tell by the close comments. I have never seen an administrator even reprimanded for a “consensus is delete” close where it was not a “snow closure” — massively obvious — but actually not a true consensus. Sophisticated users will know how to appeal a decision, so, in theory, this is harmless. In practice, the project is slowly warped toward either majority opinion, neutrality be damned, or toward the opinions of a highly motivated faction, which can wear down and burn out users interested in creating a neutral project (i.e., following traditions of academia, that were the basis for the original encyclopedias, or of journalism, as represented by Sharyl Attkisson.)

So, that Wikipedia article on Attkisson. From the message she has in her TED talk, I expect to see her attacked on Wikipedia. Sure enough, this is how it is done (current version)

Anti-vaccine reporting

In her reporting, Attkisson has published stories linking vaccines with autism, despite the fact that the scientific community has found no evidence of such a link.[32][33] Seth Mnookin, Professor of Science Writing and the Director of the Graduate Program in Science Writing at MIT, described Attkisson as “one of the least responsible mainstream journalists covering vaccines and autism. Again and again, she’s parroted anti-vaccine rhetoric long past the point that it’s been decisively disproved.”[34]

I immediately notice a very unlikely claim reported as a “fact.” “The scientific community has found no evidence,” is essentially a lie. There is evidence, but it is also possibly countered by other evidence. “There is no evidence” is a common claim of fanatics, when there is evidence. When someone is guilty of a crime, they are likely to say, “They have no evidence,” but in court, a case will be immediately thrown out if there is no evidence. Rather, in an unbiased proceeding, plaintiff and defendant will present evidence (vetted for being admissible) and the judge or jury will balance and weigh it.

“No evidence” is rhetoric, fake news, and a tell-tale sign of someone attempting to influence opinion by lying or misrepresenting reality. So how is this allowed on Wikipedia? I will look at the process below, but the notes are:

32. politico.com: sharyl-attkisson-suggests-media-matters-was-paid-to-target-her

Former CBS News reporter Sharyl Attkisson has accused the liberal watchdog group Media Matters of targeting her reporting, and believes someone may have even paid for them to do it. […]

Attkisson’s reporting has come in for a fair amount of criticism as well, and not just because it frequently targets the Obama administration. She has previously published stories about possible links between childhood vaccinations and autism, and stood by those reports on Sunday even as Stelter noted that doctors believe framing the idea as a “debate” is dangerous and encourages parents to not vaccinate their children. (The majority of the scientific community disagrees with that assertion and the CDC says there is no evidence of a link between vaccines and autism. A famous 1998 study that did purport to find a connection between autism and a vaccine was retracted in 2010.)

“I’m not here to fight doctors,” Attkisson said. “I’m just saying that factually, I’m not here to advocate for one side or the other. I’m just saying factually, there are many peer-reviewed published studies that do make an association, and the government itself has acknowledged a link.”

The article’s expression was confused. The “assertion” just before the claim of majority disagreement was that framing the idea as a debate is “dangerous.” This is a classic fascist argument, by the way, used to suppress dissent. Socrates was condemned for “corrupting the youth” by asking dangerous questions. However, they mean that the majority disagree with a “possible link between vaccination and autism.” This is commonly not represented accurately. The claimed link is, as I understand it so far — I’m gradually becoming more informed on this — between MMR trivalent vaccine and autism. I am very skeptical about this claim. But I would not agree that it is impossible. In any case, “majority” implies that there is dissent within the scientific community, and not merely some single crank (or, for that matter, a single visionary). This is actually contradictory to “there is no evidence.” Rather, first of all, most of the scientific community is not specifically informed, that’s normal. Rather, what can be found is that certain organizations, possibly influential, have issued conclusions. Based on balanced weighing of evidence, or otherwise, these, as science, will stand as evidence for the conclusion, but it is opinion, interpretation, not fact. (Evidence is fact or “witnessing.”) It might even usually be correct, in some way, but “science” goes astray when what is interpretation and opinion becomes “evidence,” and is used to deny that evidence even exists.

Is Atkinsson correct? The CDC page cited now redirects to a different page, with no reference to autism. The Politico article was dated 04/21/2014.  The archive.org snapshot of that page the day before shows concern about autism, and then has:

a scientific review by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) concluded that “the evidence favors rejection of a causal relationship between thimerosal–containing vaccines and autism.” CDC supports the IOM conclusion that there is no relationship between vaccines containing thimerosal and autism rates in children.

That review clearly is about a weighing of evidence, and does not support the idea that “there is no evidence.” Is Attkisson correct that “the government itself has acknowledged a link”? The evidence shown above does not contradict her statement, which is vague and could mean almost anything. What Politico was reporting on was a CNN interview. 

(the interviewer there actually supported the idea that there is a campaign to discredit Attkisson. That, of course, does not end up on Wikipedia!)

In that interview, it is not impossible, nor would it even be surprising, if Attkisson’s views were not flawlessly expressed, or were obsolete. Her actual stand is that people should not blindly depend on her opinions or anyone else, but should dig and think for themselves, and carefully, because there is a great deal of intentionally or carelessly deceptive information available. On that stand, I agree with her completely. Even if the autism/vaccine link was a mistake. Demonizing critique (anti-vaxers are called “murderers”) “controversializes” the very process of free democratic review that is essential to science and to sane public policy.

It is fascist, and, yes, fascism can be on the left or the right. It always has “good reasons” for suppressing dissent. After all, who can be against trains running on time? Or, for that matter, the public being protected from “quackery” and “pseudoscience”? Those vague hazards are not actual risks except to those who choose to follow them, and so fascism protects the public from its own “wrongness,” which itself alienates elements of the public, which can see that forces are attempting mind control. The anti-vax hysteria is fueled by suppression. (And it can itself be fascist, see my fascism post linked above.)

Whew! That’s just the first footnote.

33. Anti-Vaccine Movement Causes The Worst Whooping Cough Epidemic In 70 Years. This is a Forbes blog story, it has apparently been taken down.  Archive.org. The author is Steven Salzberg. From his Wikipedia article:

Salzberg has also been a vocal advocate against pseudoscience and in favor of the teaching of evolution in schools, and has authored editorials and appeared in print media on this topic. He writes a widely read column at Forbes magazine[19] on science, medicine, and pseudoscience. His work at Forbes won the 2012 Robert P. Balles Prize in Critical Thinking.[20]

The “widely read” is editorial insertion, not sourced. The link is to the column itself, violating policy. (I.e., it does not establish notability of the column, though this can be allowed with editorial consensus.) The Prize is awarded by, surprise!, the Center for Inquiry, the descendant of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal, which became, contrary to its title, a debunking organization going after any fringe science. That “Critical Thinking” award is for “Skeptic Authors,” but the only “Skeptics” awarded are those who debunk skeptics as “pseudoscientific,” whether they are or not. (This faction would call “cold fusion” “pseudoscientific” on Wikipedia, and tried many times, even though the basic ideas are testable, have been tested, and the bulk of the evidence confirms that there is an anomaly and that it is nuclear in nature. But who cares about evidence, if you can simply attack “believers” as “die-hards” and “cranks,” and “pseudoscientists” ? and if you can exclude clear Reliable Source (so judged by Wikipedia policy and the community) as “biased” or “written by believers.” (RS policy has to do with publishers, not authors).

His first version of the Forbes post, 7/23/2012. His tag line:

Celebrating good science by fighting pseudoscience and bad medicine

This is an activist, with axes to grind. The headline is not science. Period. No evidence is advanced that “antivax” caused the rise in cases.  He wrote:

Sometimes it comes straight from the media itself, such as the credulous, anti-science, anti-vax CBS reporter Sharyl Attkisson.

That was a libel, but it demonstrates how the thinks. This is pseudoskepticism that, as Attkisson points out, becomes an extended ad hominem argument, as a red flag. It was changed later by the version cited on Wikipedia, to

Sometimes it comes straight from the media itself, such as the CBS reporter Sharyl Attkisson, who has repeatedly and persistently reported on the purported link between vaccines and autism long after such a link was widely discredited.*

Notice the use of weasel words on one side and affirmative statements with no evidence and actually contradicting some evidence on the other. “repeatedly and persistently,” is how many times, out of a very busy career. And she reported on the link, when, and has her reporting been complete. “Widely discredited” simply could mean that a few people have discredited her, or a vast mob of people like Szalzberg. It’s meaningless, showing only a mass of opinion.

Again, I’m not saying he is wrong. I’m saying that this is conclusory, opinion, not fact, and why was this cited?

It appears that the Attkisson article has been used as a coat-rack for attacking her and anti-vaxx. And that is what happens to anyone who offends the faction. I covered the like of this here, on another person who actually supports vaccination but dared to repeat what anti-vaxxers think. , same pattern with Sarah Wilson. Journalist reports fact (in this case, her idea of what some people think), and is attacked viciously. (in this case, all that undue nonsense was removed from the article a few days ago. But Wikipedia process is entirely unreliable, and initiatives that would have made it reliable have been strongly resisted.)

Still on the sources for the Wikipedia article:

34. A blog, The panic virus, entirely devoted to attacking criticism of vaccines. Not reliable source. Vaporized. Archived. More embarrassing anti-vaccine reporting from CBS News’s Sharyl Attkisson, by Seth Mnookin. In addition to much hysteria, what it had on Attkisson was conclusory and based on various concurring opinions (other bloggers!), not any kind of overall survey. This is an information cascade, not “science-based.” There may be some science referenced, to be sure, but science is not a body of conclusions, rather it is a large body of evidence (actual “knowledge”, much of it from, at best, controlled experiment, but interpretation is always conditional and subject to revision based on new evidence, as well as recognition of possible deficiencies in previous analysis. And that is how and why science moves on. Bottom line, this was correctly attributed as Mnookin’s opinion, and he might be considered notable. Is there any balancing evidence? I will look at the history below to see if any was asserted.

Mnookin, by the way, has a book and all this could be seen as pushing his point of view. Authors commonly display a bias toward their own point of view, big surprise? Not.

The book is The Panic Virus, so he could be seen as creating a business around this. (Much as Gary Taubes is accused of doing around low-carb, on the opposite side from the Wiki fanatics. It is plausible that Taubes has a bias, and Taubes actually calls his latest book, The Case Against Sugar, the “argument for the prosecution.” Biased. Now, does “biased” mean, “to be excluded from public discourse and respect”? People with one point of view commonly call opposing views “deluded” or “biased.” The defense very often claims the prosecution “has no evidence.”

Both of which are irrelevant arguments, conclusory, not related to fact.

The Wikipedia article on Attkisson continued:

In 2011, Paul Offit criticized Attkisson’s reporting on vaccines as “damning by association” and lacking sufficient evidence in his book Deadly Choices.[35] In the medical literature, Attkisson has been accused of using problematic rhetorical tactics to “imply that because there is no conclusive answer to certain problems, vaccines remain a plausible culprit.”[36] Attkisson said that she favors vaccinating children, but claimed that research suggests that “a small subset of children” have brains that are vulnerable to vaccines.[37] She has said that pharmaceutical companies are discouraging research into the vaccine-autism link, and that they pressured CBS News to stop covering the purported link.[37]

35. So, again, a book.  Deadly Choices: How the Anti-Vaccine Movement Threatens Us All

This is the argument of medical fascism. The choice not to vaccinate may, if the mainstream is correct, increase risk, but only very slightly for any individual. There is an increased collective risk only if the number of those making that choice rise to a significant percentage of the public. Vaccines are also not completely effective, complicating this.

If a vaccine were 100% effective, it would fully protect the public that chooses to be vaccinated, and others would be at risk, presumably with their own choice, or that of their parents. It is a common fascist practice to take over parenting from parents, in favor of something “better.”

The non fascist answer to the refusal problem would be education, but if the education is fascist propaganda (i.e., excludes and demonizes contrary opinion), it will increase the power of anti-vax arguments, because the oppression can be seen readily, and it does not increase trust in authorities, it has the opposite effect.

I do not conclude that because fascist suppression is used against the anti-vax movement, therefore the pro-vaccination evidence cannot be trusted, but many people will think that and support, then, conspiracy theories.

In any case, this source amounts to a very strong critic of anti-vax attacking a journalist for reporting the other side. It is clear that Attkisson has been criticized, but what is the overall balance? How notable is this, for a Wikipedia biography of a living person?

What is obvious is that critique has been collected, with weak sources being used.

36. Anti-vaccine activists, Web 2.0, and the postmodern paradigm – An overview of tactics and tropes used online by the anti-vaccination movement. Article in Vaccine, a peer-reviewed journal. Copy here.
This is a fascinating article and I could agree with much of it. (I.e, anti-vaxxers use “tactics and tropes.” But so to the critics of “vaccine denialism.” In any case, the article does not mention Attkisson in the body, but cites two sources in footnotes, i.e.,

[92] Gorski D.  Anti-vaccine propaganda from Sharyl Attkisson of CBS
News, . Anti-vaccine propaganda from Sharyl Attkisson of CBS
News, http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/index.php/anti-vaccinepropaganda-from-sharyl-attkisson-of-cbs-news-2; 2011 [accessed 25.08.11]. [Archived by WebCite at http://www.webcitation.org/61D4kploa]

[179] Attkisson S. Autism: why the debate rages, https://www.cbsnews.com/news/autism-why-the-debate-rages-15-06-2007/; 2007 [accessed 24.04.11] [link corrected]. [Archived by
WebCite at http://www.webcitation.org/5yAqYL0p2].

[92] was the “science-based medicine blog” which is affiliated with the debunkers at CSI and often is full of attacks on skeptics of mainstream ideas. Snark rules there, as it does in many “debunking” venues. From the Vaccine article:

Works critiquing the anti-vaccine movement are often accused
of being propaganda [89–91]; those on the other side of the issue
accuse anti-vaccine activists of propaganda as well [92,93].

The blog piece has been taken down. This comment about propaganda is certainly true of both sides. “Propaganda” is conclusory information designed to influence. Neutral reporting is not propaganda, through propaganda might refer to it. It is obvious that both sides of this issue create propaganda. That is normal for political activism. 92 establishes the obvious, but this is not what is supported by the Wikipedia article.

179 supports this from the Vaccine article:

4.2.4. “You can’t prove vaccines are safe”
This accusation demands vaccine advocates demonstrate vaccines do not lead to harm [178], rather than anti-vaccine activists having to prove they do. Claims such as “There is no definitive research proving a link between vaccines and autism or ADD, but there is also no definitive research ruling it out” or “Those who say autism and ADD are not linked to vaccines do not know what is causing the epidemics[179] imply that because there is no conclusive answer to certain problems, vaccines remain a plausible culprit. This involves arguing based on a lack of evidence – not knowing something is true is taken as proof it is false, or not knowing something is false is proof it is true. Likewise, because there have been no studies conducted with the specific conditions antivaccination groups ask for [180], this lack of knowledge means vaccines are not safe. Lists of questions to ask vaccine proponents [181] are circulated with the intention of stumping them, with the inability to answer taken as evidence against vaccination.

I have bolded the statement from Attkisson. The “trope” here is an alleged “implication,” that “vaccines remain a plausible culprit.” That should be a simple fact (about scientific process). If there were no evidence, this would be a terminally weak argument. At the time, however, 2007, the Wakefield et al article linking MMR vaccine to autism had not yet been retracted, and there is (I think) some other evidence. (Attkisson certainly claims it.) Behind this “trope” is an assumption that there is no basis for suspicion, hence the skeptical argument is converted to a straw man argument, essentially, “Because we are ignorant, I’m right.”

What is actually in the CBS source:

6. There is no definitive research proving a link between vaccines and autism or ADD, but there is also no definitive research ruling it out.

And, as well, what was quoted. That was a reasonable piece of reporting at that time, and might still be, the question has become more difficult.  The section then goes on to report more, all more or less standard journalism. She points to what was certainly, at the time, a live debate. She was pointing to the incompleteness of knowledge, and, yes, that would still leave vaccination as a “possible culprit,” but she certainly also asserted evidence to suspect vaccination. It’s worth reading that CBS report, it is an example of what she has been attacked for. Reporting.

Fascist attack on the media. It’s not just Donald Trump!

(Many other tropes in the Vaccine article are like the above. Yes, there are fanatics and those using logical fallacies, but, as noted in what was quoted above, this happens on all sides, except what might be called the “journalistic” or “academic side,” sometimes. When we become more interested in reality, as distinct from our opinions and interpretations, we move toward journalism. I like the Vaccine article, in part, but, as presented, it has a likely effect of “debunking” vaccine skepticism as if it were all based on such tropes. What is missing is a list of tropes on the other side. The article author has a clear position: the abstract concludes with: “Recognizing disingenuous claims made by the anti-vaccination movement is essential in order to critically evaluate the information and misinformation encountered online.”

This is an ad-hominem attack on an entire movement, when such movements will be internally diverse and will also be, for the most part, sincere, not “disengenuous.” The author of the article has a clear and strong position, and fails to recognize that behind most of the “tropes” is a reasonable core, a claim that has some truth, at least under some circumstances. It is necessary to recognize “disengenuous claims” by all sides, not just one side. Most urgently, when opinion is considered to rule instead of balanced evaluation of evidence — all the evidence! — we fall into the rabbit-hole of fascism, of the domination of factions and people who believe they are right, which is never “scientific.” In science, we attempt to prove we are wrong!

The article begins with:

… a new postmodern paradigm of healthcare has emerged, where power has shifted from doctors to patients, the legitimacy of science is questioned, and expertise is redefined

“Power has shifted.” Shifts in power are always vociferously opposed by those holding excess power. “The legitimacy of science is questioned.” What the author is calling “science,” is not science, but “expert opinion,” which may or may not be based on science. Experts put their pants on one leg at a time, and are just as capable of attachment and bias, not to mention financial incentives, gross or subtle, as anyone else.

Most people don’t take the time to study issues, even when they are crucial to their health, they simply are looking for whom to trust, as if there is some infallible person to trust. Such people will be vulnerable to propaganda from either side, whichever they trust more, for reasons that can be complex, based on personal history.

What has happened with the internet is that minority opinion can still organize with relative ease. In response, the mainstream (which is loosely defined and there is always the possibility of a “silent majority”), has become more severely repressive and even punitive toward minority opinion (though it always has been to some degree).

In the vaccine debates, minority opinion is excoriated as highly irresponsible, if expressed, and murder at worst. And, of course, the minority, noticing the suppression, readily develops a conspiracy theory (which may or may not be real) and accuses the mainstream of murder. Of innocent children, of course. Both sides shout “Think of the children!”

One more source:

37. The Daily Beast.  Scandal blog. Sharyl Attkisson: ‘I Don’t Care What People Think’ About My Reporting

This is a fairly balanced story. It is used to support this text in the article:

She has said that pharmaceutical companies are discouraging research into the vaccine-autism link, and that they pressured CBS News to stop covering the purported link.[37]

Well, did they? I do remember that Wikipedia is not about truth, but about what can be verified. So the fact alleged fact here is that she said two things. What did she actually say ?

Attkisson says she is very much in favor of vaccinating kids, but that peer-reviewed studies have suggested the possibility of a “small subset of children” who suffer from difficult-to-detect immune dificiencies that might make their brains vulnerable to certain vaccines, much like some children are allergic to polio vaccines.

But she says Big Pharma has actively discouraged scientific research into possible linkages, and that pharmaceutical advertisers similarly persuaded CBS and other broadcasters not to run stories questioning the risk of vaccines for certain children.

Well, have they? I have not seen evidence either way on that, not yet, anyway. This is a personal interview, in which she may state her suspicions, or it might be knowledge. At this point, from the interview, I don’t know which it is. But the story of Big Pharma (and other established interests) influencing research is routine, an understanding of the problem has become widespread, with increased requirements for funding and conflict-of-interest disclosures.

Never mind that a CBS News veteran, who asked not to be named, says Attkisson’s vaccine-autism reports were eventually killed not because of advertiser pressure, but because they weren’t adequately supported by scientific evidence.

None of the reports I have seen so far were such. I.e, reporting what people think and claim need not be supported by “scientific evidence,” it is ordinary journalism, and the decision of whether or not a claim is “adequately supported” is for review panels of experts (and that itself can be flawed if the panel composition has been warped, which has happened.)

“The fact is, the government has acknowledged there’s a link,” Attkisson says, citing the recent admission by a senior Central for Disease Control epidemiologist that he and his colleagues improperly omitted from a 2004 study the data that tended to support such a link. “They simply say it’s not a causal link.”

No link, no way to check this yet.

What I see as factual here is that she suspects influence from large corporations. It is not black and white, i.e., advertiser pressure or “scientific” evidence or lack of same. What if the advertiser points out the alleged problem? What Attkisson is reporting is that she was prevented from reporting on what she found. Now, that’s an editorial decision, but she decided to give up a contract with a million dollars left on it, if I read the source correctly, effectively not being willing to work under those conditions. That increases her credibility, her stand was contrary to her personal interest. As presented on Wikipedia, this looks like “conspiracy theory,” a common pseudoskeptical trope, though it is not really a conspiracy theory to suspect that large interests would act (and spend money) to defend their interests, that the would support research likely to increase their profits and discourage or at least not support research that might damage profits.

But this little piece of the article does fairly present what she said.

Now, how did the article get this way? Looking at history, I see my old friend, JzG, a blatant and obvious and uncivil POV-pusher who has gotten away with it for years, one of the people who may have complained to get me globally office-banned by the Wikimedia Foundation. For what? Unknown. In any case, here are some fun JzG edits, in reverse date order

  • 20:48, 5 February 2019‎ Reverted good faith edits by 193.173.217.58 (talk): It’s significant that she broadcaSTS ON WINGNUT CABLE (TW)
  • 10:53, 27 January 2019‎ →‎Anti-vaccine reporting: don’t especially like primary sourcing but Mnookin is a published authority so probably OK in this case. [Yup. He knew it was a problem, but did it anyway].
  • 10:47, 27 January 2019‎ Reverted to revision 880322583 by Snooganssnoogans: Revert the usual whitewashing (TW) [what he reverted was closer to sources.]

There was a strong level of churning on the Vaccination section. That’s basically quite old news, why was it still in so much flux? (My answer: there is currently a great deal of hysteria about anti-vaxx as pseudoscientific misinformation causing epidemics, etc. From history, JzG’s point of view would be obvious. He is regular and very predictable, has been for years. Whenever a neutral presentation of sourced fact makes an  article subject look less crazy, the faction will call it “whitewashing,” as if the job of the project is to blacken reputations. To the pseudoskeptics, that is exactly their agenda, to attack “pseudoscience” and “quacks” and anyone who gets in their way.

  • 09:54, 26 January 2019Reverted to revision 879123820 by Ser Amantio di Nicolao: More neutral title since she is anti-vax (TW) [He just lied.]
  • 19:10, 10 January 2019 (→‎Reporting on vaccines and autism: more to the point) [Changes the head to “False reporting on vaccines and autism]

Yes, indeed to the “point,” the POV (point of view) that JzG has been pushing for years. The sources do not support that conclusion. Some of these things were discussed on the Talk page, on which JzG demonstrated his standard rigidity and contempt for other users. He was recently reprimanded by the community and may have gone off on in a huff, he has not edited at all for three weeks, from a pace of many edits per day. It has been noticed, see his talk page. 9 March, he was in Bangalore. So maybe he is travelling.

So what’s the point?

Until we wake up to our need for truly reliable journalism, that avoids unnecessary conclusions (or, more practically, that walls off and distinguishes between fact and opinion) — just as we need reliable government and reliable institutions of all kinds —  and until we become willing to work toward this goal, trustworthiness by design, little will change, my prediction. Existing structures are almost all vulnerable to corruption of various forms.

When we become aware of problems, what do we normally do? Most of us do nothing, we don’t believe that reform is actually possible. A few become activists and create organizations, which, of course, we create using standard models, which are intrinsically vulnerable, or in a few cases, we go for an anarchist model, which, without protective structure, predictably devolves into one of the standard models. See the Iron Law of Oligarchy.

It is known how to create organizations that are not as vulnerable to this, (it has been done here and there) but few know it and understand it. And what I’ve seen, when I have described the approaches to others, is that they will say something like: “I am so glad that someone is thinking about this.” Subtext: so that I don’t have to, end of topic.  One of my old questions:

How many people does it take to change the world?

Two, but most people won’t lift a finger. Literally.

Is there anyone out there willing to take responsibility for the future of humanity? Comments here are open. Let me know!

 

 

The core of fascism

I have been struck by news of late demonstrating what I have called “medical fascism.” The core of fascism, as I am coming to see it, is a collective conviction combined with intolerance of divergent views. Benito Mussolini was the stated author of The Doctrine of Fascism, co-written with Giovanni Gentile, a fascist philosopher.  From the copy published by the World Future Fund, allegedly copied directly from an official Fascist government publication of 1935, Fascism Doctrine and Institutions, by Benito Mussolini [my emphasis]

A party governing a nation “totalitarianly” is a new departure in history. There are no points of reference nor of comparison. From beneath the ruins of liberal, socialist, and democratic doctrines, Fascism extracts those elements which are still vital. It preserves what may be described as “the acquired facts” of history; it rejects all else. That is to say, it rejects the idea of a doctrine suited to all times and to all people. Granted that the XIXth century was the century of socialism, liberalism, democracy, this does not mean that the XXth century must also be the century of socialism, liberalism, democracy. Political doctrines pass; nations remain. We are free to believe that this is the century of authority, a century tending to the ” right “, a Fascist century. If the XIXth century was the century of the individual (liberalism implies individualism) we are free to believe that this is the “collective” century, and therefore the century of the State.

However, this source has from Fascism Doctrine and Institutions:

. . . this will be a century of authority. [no mention of the “right.”]

And an “official translation” published in the Political Quarterly, apparently 1933, has:

. . . this will be a century of authority, a century of the left, a century of Fascism.

Which is it, the “left” or the “right”?

My answer at this point is that fascism is opportunistically left or right, it is both and neither, it may be populist, thus it may even be “democratic” by some definitions (particularly majoritarian or strongest-faction forms of democracy), but key is that it is always authoritarian, intolerant of dissent, willing to use coercive power to enforce its vision of “truth” and “morality,” and Mussolini openly endorsed this.

Fascism may then be racist in some contexts, and anti-racist in others.

And it may be apparently skeptical in one context and pseudoskeptical, proclaiming the truth of “science” vs. “pseudoscience,” in another.

(The scientific method does not generate certainty, only, at best, probability, and there are many situations where “scientific consensus,” i.e., the apparent consensus of experts, was not formed through diligent application of scientific methods, but rather politically and socially; this “collective view” being enforced, with deviation sanctioned.

That is scientific fascism, pretending to “collective knowledge,” with all else being termed, not skepticism, but “denialism.”

The common thread in fascism is certainty, where the truth of some proposition is not to be denied, where it is not allowed under penalty of the strongest opprobrium or worse.

As well, movements and positions create their opposites that are just as convinced and certain and willing to censure and condemn opposing opinions.

I have recently seen many stories in the media about what might be called “anti-vaxx hysteria.” Those who suggest that there may be some risks or negative consequences from vaccination are being called “murderers.”

And then some anti-vaxxers are calling doctors who support vaccination the same.

Both movements are medical fascism, the “pro-vaccine” position commonly refusing to allow any possible critique of vaccination, and the anti-vaxx position claiming that all support for vaccination is coming from Big Pharma shills, with government in their pocket, uncaring about continued study of complications and individual rights.

So from the Guardian, New York county bans unvaccinated children from public spaces amid measles outbreak.

It is the latest region of the US to take drastic steps to counter the virus, with the spike in measles cases leading to concerns that anti-vaccine parents may be putting their children at risk. . . .

The state of emergency in Rockland county, which comes into effect at midnight on Tuesday, bars anyone under 18 who is not vaccinated against measles from public places for 30 days. . . .

. . . the county had traced the outbreak to seven “unvaccinated travelers” who had visited Rockland in 2018. The county has had 48 cases of measles in 2019 alone, according to a spokesman.

From 1 January to 21 March of this year 314 cases of measles were confirmed in 15 different states, according to the CDC. There were 372 cases in 2018, more than triple the number the previous year. The rise has been linked to “anti-vaxxers”, activists who claim, incorrectly but loudly, that vaccines can have negative effects.

Can vaccines have negative effects? The Guardian states as if it were fact that this is “incorrect,” yet that extreme position is preposterous.

The issue is not the existence of negative effects, but the rate. I had a friend die from polio when his daughter was given Sabin oral vaccine in about 1978 or so. By effectively claiming that anti-vaxxers are merely “loud,” and essentially liars and murderers — and I have seen that — authorities are taking a fascist approach to collective welfare, even if they are “right,” i.e., that the benefits of vaccination outweigh the harms.

That denial of any value to the “other side” is typical of fascist propaganda. I had all my children vaccinated and was vaccinated as appropriate for travel when I went to China and Ethiopia to adopt. But I chose to do that. If someone had told me that it was required or else I’d be charged with a criminal offense, I might reconsider! If it is necessary to enforce good sense with criminal penalties, maybe it is not good sense!

And in the other direction, but also from the Guardian:

Anti-vaxx ‘mobs’: doctors face harassment campaigns on Facebook

When the naturopath Elias Kass testified before a Washington state senate committee on 20 February with a baby on his chest and a pacifier in his hand, he knew that his arguments would be unpopular with the anti-vaccine activists in the room. Amid a measles outbreak that has infected 66 people so far, legislators were considering a bill to eliminate personal and philosophical exemptions for childhood vaccinations, and Kass was one of several practitioners to speak in support of the measure.

It astonishes me that good people support fascism, but it happens. I’m sure that Kass is sincere, but he is encouraging removing the right of choice over health care decisions from parents, instead assigning it to the state. Yet in a mature society, he would have the right to express his opinion without the kind of harassment he encountered.

Kass faced some anger in the hallway after the hearing, he said, with one person calling him “a disgusting liar”. But it wasn’t until several hours later that “the shit hit the fan”. That’s when Kass realized that his Facebook page was being flooded with one-star reviews calling him everything from a “disgrace” and a “pedophile” to a “Nazi pharma shill” and “scumbag shilling for infanticide”.

Now, the comparison here may be unfair. A social movement like anti-vaxx has no direct control over what “supporters” do. And I have seen impersonation trolling, where someone pretends the opposite of their own position, with extreme expression, intending to discredit those of that view as fanatics. (I.e., there is no proof that those harassers were actually anti-vaxxers. But there may be anti-vaxx organizers that may have responsibility, I have not investigated this.)

Impersonation can work because people often don’t read carefully and don’t realize that anonymous comments on the web are just that: anonymous, and not to be trusted ever.

(Edits on RationalWiki and Wikipedia, appearing to be from me, aren’t — or in the case of RatWiki, the vast majority are not. I don’t vandalize, I don’t spam, and I don’t harass and make legal threats with wiki edits. I might by certified mail.)

Yet structures have been created where anonymous positions can dominate. Wikipedia is a clear example, in fact. When it works, it’s great, but it can fail spectacularly.

The enemies of humanity here are two old allies: contempt and hatred.

Both poison human freedom, and “antifascism” can be just as full of contempt and hatred as “fascism.”

The vaccine skeptics, I’ll call them, point to an alleged lack of adequate testing of vaccines, claiming that drug companies were given exemptions in the public interest, and that kind of story has been all too common in the history of science and public health.

When dietary guidelines blaming dietary fat for heart disease were adopted and promoted, it was known that the science was not adequate to establish that as medical fact, but it seemed likely and we couldn’t wait, millions could die!

We did not actually know that making those recommendations would save lives, overall, and from what I’ve seen, so far, it seems quite possible that, instead, there were millions of premature deaths. Bad Science can do a lot of harm!

(Murderers? No, not unless they knew, or clearly should have known. But where and when do we become responsible for ignorance?)

How can we both protect public health and act to avoid harm? Any time millions of people are subjected to a medical procedure, there is risk of harm, the claim of “harmless” was crazy — yet there it was, in a major newspaper, as if fact.

It’s obvious to me that we need more research, and we need ongoing monitoring of all major health programs. Who is going to pay for this? We have a system that expects drug companies to do the research, and a public that then often blames them for being greedy. But we set that up — or relied on it and allow it to continue! It is clear that we need to fund research, but we don’t necessarily have trustworthy institutions to manage this. The nonprofits have themselves been corrupted — or appear to have been corrupted — by corporate support. We need to directly support and supervise collective institutions, or at least set up and fund watchdogs.

Instead, our habit is to blame others, rather than taking responsibility, by recognizing what is missing, and supplying it.

To declare an antifascist manifesto here, the future belongs to collective freedom, that creates cooperation and non-coercive, voluntary  coordination.

Impersonation of “Cold Fusion” supporter and “Friend of Lomax” on WMF wikis

Normally, I do not use blog posts to cover the issue of massive sock puppetry by Oliver and Darryl Smith, though there is a connection with cold fusion (which is why I even cover this in the less-visible pages here). Today I was notified by a friend of an account created on Wikipedia. He seems to have believed it was me. First, facts, then conclusions:

The WikiMedia Foundation banned me in early 2018, no reason given, and a mail to their registered agent was ignored. I did file a lawsuit over the announcement of that ban. The lawsuit names the WMF and Does 1-9. The WMF has not yet been formally notified of the suit (but anyone representing the Foundation is welcome to contact me. Perhaps the matter can be resolved with no further fuss and expense.

From Wikipedia:

Cold fusion deletion

Last year you got Abd Lomax banned and all his cold fusion research deleted on Wikiversity. Lomax has now filed a lawsuit against you and eight other John Does for his ban [2]. You had no reason to delete his cold fusion research project. Abd at the time was being funded by a cold fusion research institute who invested a lot of money into his Wikiversity project and you had it deleted because of your pseudo-skeptic viewpoint. Could you put the project back? I am not Lomax but I support his cold fusion research. He has been targeted by pseudo-skeptics. Cold Fusion 2019 (talk) 18:46, 14 March 2019 (UTC)

From Wikiversity:

Lomax has filed against you and 8 other John Doe
My collegue Abd Lomax has finally filed https://www.pacermonitor.com/public/case/27215121/Lomax_v_WikiMedia_Foundation,_Inc_et_al https://dockets.justia.com/docket/massachusetts/madce/3:2019cv30025/207020 Friend of Lomax (discuss • contribs) 17:46, 7 March 2019 (UTC)

I’m aware of that. –mikeu talk 17:48, 7 March 2019 (UTC)

    • 15:50, 8 March 2019 Mu301 filed a checkuser request
        • Friend of LomaxDiscussion: “Lomax has filed against you and 8 other John Doe” per No legal threats
          Reason(s): Suspected block evasion. Inappropriate notification of legal action that could reasonably be perceived as an attempt to harass and/or intimidate. mikeu talk 15:50, 8 March 2019 (UTC)
      • Confirmed with 19 other accounts, see Checkuser results for study.

Conclusions

The checkuser results are a red herring. Those accounts appear to be people who used a Tor node during the checkuser window. Except a few of them who created accounts in a short period of time, they are unrelated. The troll first pinged Mu301 on Wikiversity, then waited for the smoke to clear, then did the same, with more detail, to Jzg and ජපස (jps or Joshua P. Schroeder) on Wikipedia. All these were involved in the fracas over the deletion of the Cold fusion resource on Wikiversity.

I had been threatened by a sock puppet (later identified with Darryl L. Smith, very active in harassing targets) that if I did not stop documenting the Long Term Abuse of whoever was behind the impersonation socking I was confronting, he would get all of my work deleted. He did accomplish that on Wikiversity, in the process demolishing Wikiversity academic freedom, the whole sequence was contrary to policy and went against the strong traditions of that project.

The lawsuit, however, does not name anyone other than the WikiMedia Foundation. To have a claim against others, I would have to know that I was defamed by them. So part of the purpose of the lawsuit is to gain access to the records of the WMF through discovery, because the evidence they relied upon when making their decision would be relevant.

I did not create those accounts, and would not. By violating the ban, I would be clearly violating the terms of service, and part of my claim is that I did not violate the terms. That ban was immediately used for defamation in the article on me on RationalWiki (under the name Abd ul-Rahman Lomax), where very many sock puppets have been created like the two mentioned above.

This creation of abusive socks that appear to be those who are actually their targets is what got me involved with them in the first place. That’s a long story. They do this because it works. Studying Wikipedia activity, I’ve seen it again and again. Account appears, John Doe is the greatest, where there is a blocked user John Doe, and many assume that this must be John Doe! After all, who else would write that? They don’t actually ask that question!

In cases where I know what was happening, it was never John Doe!

The AN/I discussion was unaware of the prior checkuser activity:

Lawsuit talk by Cold Fusion 2019

Cold Fusion 2019 (talk · contribs · logs · edit filter log · block log)
This user contacted ජපස (aka jzg) about an ongoing lawsuit against Wikipedia ([86] [87]). WP:NLT seems to apply to this, but I’m honestly not 100% sure. EvergreenFir (talk) 19:05, 14 March 2019 (UTC)

Did you mean jps? -Roxy, the dog. wooF 19:12, 14 March 2019 (UTC)

I did… I don’t even have a good excuse for that. EvergreenFir (talk) 19:15, 14 March 2019 (UTC)

Actually, you have a decent excuse for that; CF19 left an identical message for JzG. –Floquenbeam (talk) 19:17, 14 March 2019 (UTC)

And a shorter version a few days earlier for Mu301 on Wikiversity.

Oh! That’s where I saw that… somehow mixed up ජපස’s signature with JzG EvergreenFir (talk) 19:19, 14 March 2019 (UTC)

I’ve indef’d Cold Fusion 2019 for NOTHERE. Their ONLY two edits are to post about a lawsuit filed against Wikipedia? Chances are it’s very likely a sock as well. Either way, block applied. RickinBaltimore (talk) 19:21, 14 March 2019 (UTC)

Yeah, my guess is SF-banned User:Abd. –Floquenbeam (talk) 19:22, 14 March 2019 (UTC)

Which is exactly what the sock master wants to be guessed. In fact, anyone who knows this person’s long term behavior would recognize it. And what I was really banned for was creating a Long Term Abuse study on Anglo Pyramidologist on meta. Most AP socks never make in into the SPI case.

I saw this elsewhere. CF2019 is not the one doing the suing. I am not sure NLT applies in this case. spryde | talk 19:31, 14 March 2019 (UTC)

Just because CF19 says they aren’t the ones doing the suing, doesn’t mean they aren’t the ones doing the suing. –Floquenbeam (talk) 19:35, 14 March 2019 (UTC)

That’s true, but just because an account says “I’m a friend of Lomax” doesn’t mean he is. Just because he uses “Cold fusion” in his name and claims to be a supporter doesn’t mean he is. 

FYI if you’re interested in the plaintiff’s perspective – I couldn’t access the actual lawsuit. [[88]] TimTempleton (talk) (cont) 19:40, 14 March 2019 (UTC)

The link is to my review of the RationalWiki article on me, which was created as revenge for that documentation of impersonation and other socking by the brothers behind AP. Thanks, Tim.

Anyone can access the documents using the U.S. Federal Court system. The first 150 pages are free. People probably need a U.S. address. And, of course, people can contact me directly. I am entirely unlike the socks involved here.

They figured that out on Wikipediocracy.

Not really. I just remember him from long ago in the WP community and other groups. spryde | talk 19:45, 14 March 2019 (UTC)

Even if this is not the person pursuing the legal case, they are making demands based on the legal case, and I’d say NLT very much applies. Boing! said Zebedee (talk) 19:47, 14 March 2019 (UTC)

[. . .]

This was not accurate. The comment does not make a threat. It lies about the users being named, “John Doe” does not name someone. It was, however, obvious socking of some kind. If it was me, it was a global ban violation, if not me, it was a “meat puppet,” or sufficiently clear to be one that one could block. But it was simply blocked for simpler reasons.

In fact, this was block violation by an Anglo Pyramidologist user, i.e., one of the two brothers, Oliver D. Smith (the original Anglo Pyramidologist) or Darryl L. Smith (best known as Goblin Face, originally Liveintheforests), almost certainly the latter. These are both widely-known and identified trolls.

This could be the same troll: Hallwang_Clinic

(A recent likely account of Oliver would be  Stronghold1990. For Darryl, it would be  Vanisheduser3334743743i43i434,  who created a huge mess on the internet over the deletion of a Wikipedia article, and who retired, claiming he had been outed. But he had not been outed, his sock puppets had accused someone else of being him, to harass the person. I did out him, exonerating that innocent target. He’s been doing stuff like this for years, and often getting away with it. He knows how to play wiki users like a fiddle.

While there is public information about the underlying facts, the only person on the planet, besides myself, likely to know enough to connect Mu301, jps, and jzg to that case would be the instigator, the one who privately complained to Mu301, socked at Wikiversity and canvassed Jzg and jps to show up there and probably to complain to the WMF, i.e., Darryl L. Smith (or, less likely, his brother).

But I have not named other defendants because the evidence is weaker than the very plain and simple evidence against the WikiMedia Foundation. They seem to have figured out much of the legal theory on Wikipediocracy.

And, yes, I have claimed damages. It’s a requirement for a diversity case, the legal minimum is $75,000. I paid the $400 filing fee out of pocket. Blasted my pocket all to hell, but who needs pockets if you don’t have any more money? After I serve the papers, I may open a GoFundMe. Those can work, the goal would be to retain a lawyer, and for other expenses.

Claim

Repeating the text of the sock edits on Wikipedia:

Cold fusion deletion

Last year you got Abd Lomax banned and all his cold fusion research deleted on Wikiversity.

How does “Cold Fusion 2019” know this? Besides the WMF, the only people who know who complained would be Darryl L. Smith, and any others who conspired in the defamation. Oliver Smith (probably) bragged about it, and there was mention of jps, JzG and Mu301 on another site, by either Oliver or Darryl.

Lomax has now filed a lawsuit against you and eight other John Does for his ban [2].

The lawsuit is against nine John Does, not eight and the one addressed. Only if that one actually defamed me, causing damage, would they be named as defendants, once evidence has been obtained.

You had no reason to delete his cold fusion research project.

He did not delete it. He argued for deletion.

Abd at the time was being funded by a cold fusion research institute who invested a lot of money into his Wikiversity project

My funding would be irrelevant, but this was untrue. No Infusion Institute funding was related to the Wikiversity project, which had been largely abandoned. In 2015, events convinced me that WMF wikis were not safe places to create content, not even neutral content. So I stopped nearly all work on the Cold fusion educational resource. When the deletion discussion was raised, in late 2017, I was being funded by the Institute (and I still am, for expenses), but this was entirely unrelated to Wikiversity.

and you had it deleted because of your pseudo-skeptic viewpoint.

It is unclear why it was deleted. The bureaucrat who deleted it violated policies and traditions, and he said he had received private complaints. The whole thing stank. But, as I had concluded, the community slept. I was blocked by that ‘crat, and an admin who planned to unblock was threatened privately with having his tools removed.

Could you put the project back? I am not Lomax but I support his cold fusion research. He has been targeted by pseudo-skeptics.

The two users targeted have no power to put it back, and this is irrelevant to the legal action. If Wikiversity were to decide to restore that resource, it would have no effect on the action for defamation.

This was all classic Darryl Smith socking. He does it to create impressions, in this case that Lomax is disruptive, vindictive, and demanding, as well as to strengthen the resolve of the “skeptical community” to resist coercion from “cranks.” Smith, pretending to be me, using troll sock names like these, has been threatening RationalWiki users with lawsuits for maybe a year.

Meanwhile, I have things to do, places to go ….

The ultimate pseudoscience

Materialism and spiritualism, both, if presented as “scientific.”Which would then lead us to the ultimate: a belief that our experience is real, and, as, in addition, that our interpretations of it are meaningful.

The Landmark Forum proposes setting the second part of this aside. They have warned that what they are going to say is not the truth. So then they announce a “distinction.” “Life is empty and meaningless, and it is empty and meaningless that life is empty and meaningless.”

This is a “distinction,” a concept that distinguishes and sorts. In this case, it sorts our experience into two categories: “what happened,” and “what we made it mean.”

It is not uncommon for participants at this point to be highly offended. They draw conclusions from the distinction, completely ignoring the second half, concluding that, as an example, “Therefore they are teaching us that Jesus’ crucifixion was meaningless.”

They are not teaching that, and I know advanced graduates who are also major Christian officials, and clearly “believers,” i.e., they have faith.

Landmark is not setting aside the “reality of experience.” But “reality” is not a “meaning.” And there is more to all this, much more. To the point here:

On Malcolm Kendrick’s blog, February 19, 2019 at 4:31 pm, I posted this comment: (I have slightly edited it).

Ah, but we should sell the *most effective* placebos. There is a Nasruddin story, I tried to find it, but failed, so I will have to tell it, with your gracious permission.

Nasruddin had set up as a physician and had an apprentice to help him. One day, as a man was opening the garden gate to walk to the office entrance, the apprentice said, “I can see, by how this man is walking, what he needs!” Nasruddin said, “You can take this case.” So when the man walked in, the apprentice immediately told him, “Eat some pomegranates, you will be healed!” The man huffed, “You didn’t even ask me about my pains!” and walked out. Nasruddin said, “Next time we see one of these cases, I’ll handle it.”

So it came to pass that another patient came with the same malady. Nasruddin welcomed him, had the apprentice serve some tea, and asked him, when they were sitting comfortably, to what he owed the honor of the visit. The man explained his symptoms, and Nasruddin listened, nodding his head in sympathy, asking questions that showed he had heard everything. He then rubbed his beard, obvious in deep thought, and then he exclaimed, “Pomegranates! You need pomegranates!” The man left a large payment and left, happy to know he could now have hope.

So the “placebo business” already exists and it already uses sugar pills, and openly so. Homeopathy is Andrew Weil’s article. It sets up the inquiry into symptoms, and with a good practitioner, all the supporting aspects of medical manner, including whatever will fit the patient.

Nowadays, an ethical homeopath will never recommend that “evidence-based medicine” — that which is truly so — be abandoned for some sugar pills. Some homeopaths may believe in “water memory,” or this or that concept of the “spirit” of materials, that survives and is even enhanced by huge dilution. Personally, I’d prefer one more thoughtful and less certain, but that holds for medical practitioners in general. And there are exceptions to everything.

Homeopathy doesn’t work — or does not work well — when double-blinded, which is a huge clue. That is the same with all placebos. Homeopathy, I suggest, treats the mind, and the body through the mind and through language, and as another article suggested in comments on this blog pointed out, it is not necessary to “believe” the theory of homeopathy, one can (and I would suggest, should) understand that the remedies are physically all the same, in effect. But they have different names and indications. If they are cheap, and if the patient is not encouraged to abandon effective therapies, they are, at worst, harmless.

However, a more expensive placebo tends to be more effective. High-dilution remedies are prescribed when a more powerful effect is desired, and they require more work to make.

If you want a powerful placebo, then, see a homeopath. From how the placebo effect operates, I expect it will generally be more effective if you see an actual, trained homeopath.

If you want a downer, for some reason I cannot fathom, consult a pseudoskeptic who is sure that anything involving belief is nonsense, but who misses all the crap that he, himself, believes. “Faith is for stupid people! I believe in science-based medicine,” as if it actually exists, just because of his imagination and fervent desire.

Yes, there is such a thing as real science. Unfortunately, the state of medical science is primitive, too often. In addition to Doctoring Data, I recommend Gary Taubes, Good Calories, Bad Calories, as the investigation of a science reporter, who, ironically, also wrote Bad Science about cold fusion, which is a field where another information cascade ensconced itself (with his assistance!), where the “mainstream” firmly believes in “facts” that have not been correct for almost thirty years.

Taubes may or may not be right about the “insulin hypothesis,” but he does not pretend there is proof when there is not. And he actually has facilitated funding for basic research.

There are two brothers, long term trolls, who eventually realized that they could be more effective as trolls, not only by harassing their targets, but by creating articles on them on RationalWiki that would then show up prominently in Google searches. They have been doing this for years. One of their practices is to track all contributions from their target, create sock puppets, and harass them. The brothers are Oliver and Darryl L. Smith, and the particular brother involved in the harassment of Malcolm Kendrick on Wikipedia and RationalWiki is Darryl. Since I have become a major irritant for them, by exposing what they have done, I have become a much higher value target for them than Dr. Kendrick. So two birds with one stone, they love it.

Sure enough:

Matthew

I am sorry to bring up guilt by association but sometimes this is justifiable. You can define a man by the kind of company he keeps.

This is definitely one of the Smith brothers, there are many signals. Why does he lead with a fake apology about “guilt by association”? I suggest it is because I have pointed out that he does this in his articles, including his article on Malcolm Kendrick, and we know that he has read that page. See John66 here.

This blog is filled with loons and quacks that support Kendrick’s ideas. I have been digging around on various blogs posts going back years on this website. There are anti-vaccine activists that comment here, people that on a regular basis quote from known conspiracy theorists like Joseph Mercola and Gary Null, yet commenters here never call out this kind of quackery they endorse it.

Kendrick clearly does not censor comments on his blog (as he points out in responses), and therefore he cannot be held responsible for “loons and quacks,” if any are posting there.

The author of this post has defamed the entire community of those who post on the blog. Defamation need not be personal, apparently, it can be collective, so anyone in a group defamed could have standing to sue. Truth can be a defense, though it is possible that if malice can be shown, there can be exceptions. I.e., a true fact, asserted in a context to create a misleading impression, can be defamation.

I’ll just call this troll Smith, because there is a small possibility that this is the brother, Oliver, but I’d give it more than 90%, this is Darryl. I.e., Skeptic from Britain, John66, and many hundreds of others. His name and at least one address for him are known, and his brother is currently being sued in the U.K. and if anyone wants to get in touch with the plaintiff, leave a comment here with a real email address, which will not be published absent necessity, and I will verify it and forward it. My opinion: if someone libelled by the Smiths pursues the matter, a civil suit will have legs, and in the U.K., there is also criminal defamation. That is more difficult in the U.S., but civil defamation is actionable and, in fact, I filed an action yesterday. Ask me if interested. The defendants include John Doe 1-9. I know who they are reasonably well, but decided not to name them in the suit, to allow evidence to be developed in discovery before amending the action to include them. Two live in the U.K. Guess who! I could also amend the action, but I needed to get the ball rolling, for fund-raising to support expenses, etc. Back to what this troll wrote:

There are people that promote unproven cancer cures here, basically any kind of reality denying nonsense is supported. There are alternative medicine proponents here. There was even a lady promoting the disproven ideas of Cleve Backster that plants have consciousness.

OMG! “I know that they don’t, because I am an accomplished plant mind-reader, and when I read the mind of a plant, I always come up with ‘thanks for the CO2!’ and that is just an automatic message, unlike my own spectacular intelligent consciousness.”

Watch them quote this and claim that I have agreed with Backster’s “disproven” ideas. I actually never heard of him.

There is a RationalWiki article that mentions Backster, The_Spirit_Science.

Investigating that led me to many interesting observations, but they are too off-point to report. Smith will mention Backster on Kendrick’s blog because it’s a dog whistle for RatWiki pseudoskeptics, not because it will be relevant there. Really, someone mentions “plant consciousness” and therefore Kendrick is keeping “bad company”? I don’t believe Rupert Sheldrake’s theories are scientific, but I’d sure welcome a chance to sit with him and laugh about it all, as, my guess, we would. One of my models is Marcello Truzzi, one of the founders of CSICOP, a genuine skeptic, and “believers in the paranormal” loved him because he actually listened and was interested in scientific investigation, which is quite distinct from the “debunking” that took over that organization. I’ve linked to the RatWiki article, which is only slightly weird, it’s a stub only, in spite of how significant Truzzi is in the history of skepticism. Wikipedia. has much more, and I’m glad I looked, there is a book I will want to get about correspondence between two of my favorite skeptics: Truzzi and Martin Gardner. (My third favorite skeptic: Carl Sagan. And then there is Gary Taubes, and since he calls himself a “skeptic,” Malcolm Kendrick and a host of what RatWiki calls “denialists” who are actually skeptics.

Why Truzzi? Well, if you really look at Truzzi, he coined the modern usage of “pseudoskeptic,” whereas I have seen pseudoskeptics deny that such exists. RationalWiki does have an article. By the standards given there, RatWiki reeks of pseudoskepticism. Long story.

David Bailey that regularly comments here is a paranormal believer and alleged psychic. He is an admin on the Skeptiko paranormal podcast owned by a paranormal nut Alex Tsakiris. Another commenter Abd ul-Rahman Lomax is a known conspiracy theorist and cold fusion pseudoscience nut.

RationalWiki articles:

  • Alex_Tsakiris started by David Gerard, who is not a Smith, but who has often supported them as a RatWiki functionary. Maintained by Forests, David1234, Trolling_Imposter, Crackpot_Hunter, and Skeptical, all probable Smith socks (and characteristically Darryl), and there may be more, as impersonation socks trolling for reaction against other users.
  • Abd ul-Rahman Lomax started by Marky (Darryl L. Smith), as part of threatened retaliation for exposing impersonation socking on Wikipedia and Wikiversity. Maintained by many Smith socks (both Darryl and his twin, Oliver), with trolling by impersonation socks. (I made one edit to that article, as Abd (when I was still a sysop on RationalWiki), but there are at least five impersonation socks in the history, using my name, or prior account names of mine elsewhere, or other names associated with me, such as the most recent, “Coldfusions,” not me, and the troll “Lomax is back” is also not me, of course. Who is doing this? One guess: Darryl L. Smith has a long history of creating impersonation socks, he has used them to high effect.

Basically this blog attracts proponents of pseudoscience and woo, not any rational individuals. There is virtually no science here, that is why these insane ramblings are almost limited to a blog on the forgotten side of the internet. I did some private emails to seven known cardiologists in the UK, they said Kendrick is on the extreme verge of fringe science and he is not taken seriously by the medical community as they lack evidence, four of them had never heard of him and two of them described him as a “quack”.

Not at all surprising. Smith also contacts media and creates responses elsewhere, where others repeat what he has written on RatWiki, and then he quotes them on RatWiki as evidence for his claims. Anyone who challenges mainstream views may be claimed to be a “quack,” and “fringe” is not a specific defamation. “Extreme verge” is an exaggerated statement, how many said that? This is the interpretation of possible comments (as little as one, or simply lying), by an attack dog. But I would not wonder to find that some cardiologist or other called Kendrick a “quack,” privately or even publicly.

Reading the blog, I’m led to read scientific papers, on all sides of the issues. Pseudoskeptics have no understanding of the value of diversity of opinion.

Leading doctors also called Semmelweiss a lunatic, and, in fact, he was, probably suffering from early-onset Alzheimer’s, but . . . he was also right, with quite strong evidence, and by ignoring the evidence he reported, they became responsible for many thousands of gruesome deaths. All to avoid being merely ignorant of a harm, tragic but not morally culpable. A responsible physician would have looked at the evidence. One did and realizing that he had caused the death of his niece, whom he loved, committed suicide, a truly unfortunate response, because he could have, instead, become committed to working to communicate the research, thus saving more lives than he harmed.

Here, Darryl is clearly trolling, not actually engaging in any serious communication, and that’s his MO. He does not provide any actual evidence (and that is typical). It’s all ad hominem, and in some places — not this –he would be trying to induce others to indulge in it. He also knows that sometimes his trolling will draw a target into response he can then quote for defamatory purpose.

He will research identity and find whatever he can use to assert “crackpottery.” A person who simply voices their personal opinion on a very personal issue (their own health! and what they found in their own research toward making persona decisions) will be called a “crackpot,” by one of the most cracked of pots, not useful for encouraging the growth of any thing of beauty, a deranged pseudoskeptic. Smith is not a real skeptic, obviously, he is a believer in “mainstream belief,” that is, anti-fringe, but skepticism is essential to science, and that includes skepticism of what is widespread belief, which RatWikians commonly redefine as “denialism.”

Göran Sjöberg is a metallurgical engineer he has no credentials in medicine and is another one of these low-carb high-fat crackpots.

He has not written an article on this person because it will take him some time to put together a collection of juicy quotes. I looked up Dr. Sjöberg, impressive. Smith will scour every contribution he can find, looking for snippets that can be quoted that will appeal to the juvenile pseudoskeptical community on RationalWiki. If the book he is working on is written, especially, Smith will scour the internet looking for negative comments, and those will be presented as “the response of the medical community,” or something like that. If Sjöberg has written anything that can look unconventional, it will be reported, cherrypicked. I was surprised at all the stuff he found on me, stuff I had forgotten. But, in fact, what I had actually written was fine! (In one case, he was directly wrong, attributing to me what had actually been written by someone else. I pointed that out on the talk page. It was ignored, because he wanted to make the point that I had been involved in an “abusive cult,” and to claim that I had called it that. I had not. If one reads the cited source, one can tell that I never wrote that.

But this is what he does, and few at RationalWiki restrain him in the least.

Nobody is required to have “credentials in medicine” to study a field of relevance to their personal health. One does not become a “crackpot” by concluding something different from “standard of practice.” If I had followed the standard of practice, I would be missing important parts of my anatomy, and, ten years later, I’m intact and the risk that I will regret the choice has become zero. My physicians have always encouraged and supported my study of evidence, and my taking of responsibility for my own decisions.

The course I decided on (“watchful waiting”) was actually recommended as reasonable, not high-risk, by an article in the New England Journal of Medicine, that had just been published, for my exact condition. But my specialist would not have recommended it, because of “standard of practice.” The risk was not zero, and, this was cancer, and if it spread, he could have been sued. (This will lead into a study of Smith’s article on Marika Sboros, where she made a similar recommendation and has been attacked for it.)

But my doctor could tell me the truth and give me his personal opinion when asked when I asked. One previous specialist I had consulted ridiculed what I’d found, and told me many things that showed he was actually ignorant of the state of research (it was shockingly bad), so I dumped him and found a doctor who was more informed — and a better listener.

“Standard of practice” would have had me go into a panic, and demand that the cancer be removed!!! Yesterday, if I can get an appointment!

Because I have a cardiac blockage, though no heart attack, standard of practice says I should have an angiogram, a complex and very expensive procedure, with many possible complications, and, for someone in my condition, no significant improvement of life expectancy. They don’t tell you that unless you ask! And sometimes what they honestly believe isn’t so. Read the studies! It’s your health! Is that important enough to tolerate some difficulty and to warrant spending some time reading complicated papers? (The language can be difficult if you are not used to reading papers. So, are you brain-damaged so that you cannot learn new words? Can you look them up, can you ask others to help you understand the paper? If you are brain-damaged, fine. Name a health care proxy and trust the person you name, pick your physician well and trust her or him. But if you are not brain-damaged, it is entirely rude to lay that burden on another. If my doctor lies to me, he’s risking malpractice, if I’m around to be the plaintiff, but if he tells me his opinion and includes information about the standard of practice, and lets me decide, no, no risk from me, even if it turns out he is wrong, and as to my family, little risk if he has done what I suggest. I have left the hospital more than once, AMA (Against Medical Advice) and I always sign the forms, because it is rude to make them responsible for my choices. (and it never caused harm, because they will be extremely conservative, whereas I can balance risk, cost, and benefit.)

And what would be the approach of a “rational skeptic”? Would it be, “believe the official dogma”?

Or would it suspend belief and investigate?

I could go through countless other commenters here but I will leave it there. This website is filled with absolute cranks and a crowd of reality denying anti-science kooks. It amazes me that people actually think they are pro-science here, delusions of grandeur! The place is a NUT-HOUSE. LOL.

What I see is many people citing actual studies, and pointing out good science and some, ah, questionable studies. This is — or can be — real skepticism.

(I also see a few people commenting with ideas I consider very fringe. But so what? I am not the “fringe police.” Darryl is, and has expressed at various times that he is on a mission. He has also bragged that he has been paid to expose “pseudoscience.” It would not be by Big Pharma. There is a whole community of cranks pseudoskeptics who wallow in the supposed idiocy of others, and there is money available. There are “professional skeptics,” who give talks on “skeptic cruises.” Ah, diversity. Sometimes I wonder, what does Reality mean by this? Some realities may remain forever mysterious, get over it.)

Many commenters have formed beliefs, that’s normal. Are those beliefs “pseudoscientific”? The pseudoskeptics on RatWiki do not distinguish between personal decisions and choices and claims of “science.” Those who actually study the science know that there is much that is not clearly understood, and that some come to premature conclusions, which sometimes become standard of practice, official recommendations, while the actual scientists have said, “We don’t know that yet, more study is needed.”

And because politicians have said, “We don’t have the luxury of waiting to find out more,” official recommendations were created based on what seemed like a good idea at the time, whether it actually was or not.

Gary Taubes, who is also under attack by Darryl, has documented thoroughly how all this happened, thirty to forty years ago. I just bought the last two books. I don’t believe something is “true” because Taubes writes it. He is a highly experienced journalist and is pretty careful, but analysis is his. Is he correct? Generally, I agree, but Taubes himself claims we need more research to form fixed conclusions. Some conclusions are obvious, though, such as the conclusion that cholesterol does not cause heart disease, if one looks at the history of the idea and then at the nature of the studies underneath the old conclusions and then how they evolved. The idea is pseudoscientific, in practice, because it appears to not be falsifiable, i.e., evidence after evidence appears, indicating no causality — or a weak one — and yet the cholesterol hypothesis is either kept the same, ignoring the evidence, or, slowly, it is revised to keep the core idea, but modify the details, moving the goalposts and continuing to claim that skepticism is dangerous and should be suppressed, even though the original guidelines are now known to be utterly preposterous. It was not long ago that eggs were considered to be terribly risky, because they have high actual cholesterol content. What happened with that? Fat in the diet was pronounced dangerous to be reduced, with the belief that this would save millions of lives. Did it? Originally, it was all fat. Hence the promotion of “low-fat diets.” Then it became saturated fats, especially animal fats. Then the kind of fat became more sophisticated. Then it was shown that fat consumption was poorly correlated with cholesterol levels and heart disease. If at all. With cholesterol, originally it was all cholesterol, then it was LDL cholesterol, then it became more sophisticated, such that the original recommendations, if followed, would be nonsense. Again, moving the goalposts. That is what pseudoskeptics and pseudoscientific believers both do.

(The definition of pseudoskeptic in the RatWiki article is warped against what they actually do, ignoring the fundamental characteristic of pseudoskepticism, which is belief as actually displayed, not merely some utterly untestable idea such as “no evidence would convince them.” That someone believes something is reasonably discernable. A hypothetical is imaginary, unless they claim it as their belief. What is common, though, among pseudoskeptics, is that they will claim a standard of proof that would satisfy them. With cold fusion, a device they can purchase at Home Depot to demonstrate the effect. So does that mean that they have no pseudoskeptical belief? Of course not! What they have done is to predetermine something that would convince them, so they won’t look like a Pseudoskeptic, which is Bad. But that is not the standard. It’s an excuse.)

Once guidelines were created, it then became “dangerous” to publish research that did not confirm the guidelines, that could suggest they were in error. Which could cause some ignorant people to disregard standard medical advice and, OMG, thousands will die! But they do not actually know that, it’s an imagination.

Dissent is suppressed, not as what we think of as some evil conspiracy, but, rather, people believe the nonsense they continue to support. It’s a collective delusion that this is “science-based medicine.” There is a distinct issue with conflict-of-interest research, promoted by people who will profit from certain conclusions. That is slowly being addressed, but it will remain as a problem until the public realizes that a system which requires to profit motive to fund research incentivizes such actions, and until we take responsibility, as the public, for research we need. Taubes got a few million dollars donated. Bake-sale funding. We need billions to do this right, and we need to study and develop methods to do it right. Until then, we are babes in the woods. The situation will not improve much by complaining, only by taking action, and we often err in understanding the problem, falling into blaming the bad guys instead of realizing that we have allowed a system to be maintained that creates and encourages “bad guys,” who are simply filling niches in they system, as biology will do with any environment.

Back to the titled subject:

Homeopathy is one of the favorite targets of pseudoskeptics. I am personally highly skeptical of the “theory of homeopathy.” I am, in practice, a materialist, but with a decision to keep in mind an opposing view, I will call “spiritual,” which holds that there is a “spirit” behind everything. A common name for that spirit is Mind.

And, in fact, all I experience is Mind. Behind that, I refer to Reality, and some atheists have criticized me for capitalizing the word. Why? This would show me that they believe that there is no unique entity, Reality. Do they really believe that?

And then, of course, there are connections between Mind and Reality. What I think affects my body, and vice-versa.

Both positions are pseudoscientific if asserted as scientific. Pseudoskeptics commonly assert that whatever they think is wrong is “pseudoscientific” without actually considering testability, which is crucial to the “official definition” of pseudoscience.

(“Cold fusion” is actually testable, and has been tested, with results that demonstrate, by a strong preponderance of the evidence, a nuclear reality to what was originally found as a heat effect, and those experiments are replicable, and have been rather widely confirmed (contrary to common opinion), with confirmation with increased precision possible, and actually fully funded and under way. So is this “pseudoscience”? On what basis?)

Materialism, if asserted as if a “scientific point of view,” is pseudoscientific, because it is untestable, and a basic skeptical principle is “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence,” and, in addition, pseudoskeptics often assert that “there is no evidence,” when there is plenty.

(They confuse evidence with proof, and there is a lost performative in their understanding of proof, which is the judge, the person interpreting the evidence. Proof is evidence that convinces a judge. It is actually subjective, but where that conviction becomes widespread, it is “social reality.” They commonly and very naively think that “proof” is material, with no subjective aspects, as if it is thing, with material weight and clearly distinct characteristics aside from a judge’s reaction to it.)

But social reality is not Reality, consensus can fall short. And so a true “scientific consensus” would remain open to contradiction, “anomalies,” studying which will generally expand understanding in some way. An anomaly means “something not understood.” What is not understood indicates an edge to knowledge, a frontier. A “scientific consensus” that rejects contrary evidence based on being “fringe” or “crackpot” is pseudoscientific, and “fringe” is the frontier, this is all well-known to sociologists of science who study the “demarcation problem.” RationalWiki, Wikipedia. The RatWiki article is far inferior, even though it is better than the run-of-the-mill RW article. They state the problem to emphasize religion, obviously because most Rats are antireligious, even though the demarcation problem is not about religion at all, it’s about science.

A genuine skeptic will hold as possibilities what can appear to be mutually contradictory hypotheses, and Reality can be approached this way, and that is ancient wisdom, ignored by these trolls who imagine that they understand what they shallowly read, better than those who have spent decades or more studying it. Socially disabled, they are.

Reality is reality, and is not confined by our ideas about it, and “material” and “spiritual” are ideas. These are polar opposites, and enlightenment is generally found in synthesis. One of my favorite questions to ask is:

What arises when we look at something from two different points of view at the same time?

I will see what answers appear in Comments, before giving one of my own.

Possibilities and perils

I just read an article that blew my mind. (Warning: paywall)

What Happens When Techno-Utopians Actually Run a Country | WIRED

Direct democracy! Universal basic income! Fascism!? The inside story of Italy’s Five Star Movement and the cyberguru who dreamed it up.

I will be blogging about it, but if we care to influence the future of the planet, we need to be aware of how the landscape has changed. It’s not just global warming, it’s not just a single populist leader, it is the development of fascism that masquerades as democracy.

I am very familiar with the “political philosophy” underpinning what the article is about, and wrote for years about the opportunity and the danger, and what it would take to create what I called direct/deliberative-representative democracy. Direct democracy on a large scale without protective structure is very, very likely to devolve into fascism, through the Iron Law of Oligarchy. Look it up if you are not familiar with it. Popular movements like term limits increase the power of the media and those who can buy the media. (Or, in this case, those who have developed the skill of manipulating popular, unprofessional social media. This is a current Very Big Story, about the 2016 U.S. Presidential election.)

There is no way around the Iron Law, but there are ways to harness it, but hardly anyone even recognizes the problem, much less solutions.

I may have been one of the writers who influenced the founder of that Italian movement; if not, it could have been one or more of a small group who pushed for similar ideas, such as Demoex in Sweden. This is stuff that is very appealing, but what is common is utter naivete about the dangers. The Italian experience demonstrates both the intense appeal and the depth of the danger.

“Leaderless” people are not free, they are in great danger of manipulation by people who have learned the lessons of mass psychology, and the behind-the-scenes founder of Five Star explicitly studied those concepts and used them to create personal power. Strong-Leader people are also not free, they are the slaves of the Leader. There is a synthesis possible, but it will not arise until the dangers are recognized and we pay attention to and develop structure that will ensure that we have the right to actually choose representatives we trust — and the right to take that delegation back at will if they lose the trust. The entire conventional system is based on win/lose, which defeats genuine chosen representation and becomes the dictatorship of the majority (or, often, worse, of a plurality). It can be done, but most people think and act, knee-jerk, from within the familiar, and strong-leader is familiar and so is direct democracy in small groups of highly interested people. More will be revealed.

The moment of truth has already passed

Mats Lewan continues to believe, long after the frauds of Andrea Rossi became crystal clear. From his blog, An Impossible Invention:

The moment of truth is getting close with launch on January 31st

“An Impossible Invention” is the title of Lewan’s book about Rossi and the “E-cat.” The reference is to the alleged impossibility of a device, an “energy catalyzer,” to generate heat from nickel and hydrogen. Lewan, a science journalist originally, was right, my opinion, to treat the “invention” as “possible,” not “impossible.” However, the problem isn’t impossibility, it is that Rossi was shown, by incontrovertible evidence in the trial, Rossi v. Darden, to have lied repeatedly. Case guide. 

On January 31, 2019, inventor and entrepreneur Andrea Rossi will hold an online presentation on the commercial launch of his heating device, the E-Cat. Thereby, the moment of truth is approaching for the carbon free, clean, abundant, cheap, and compact energy source that could potentially replace coal, oil, gas, and nuclear, and also solve the global climate crisis.

This is fluff. The moment of truth passed long ago. Rossi claimed to have a 1 MW reactor ready for sale before the end of 2011. That reactor was actually purchased by Industrial Heat, for $1.5 million, and delivered in 2013. With that, and a payment of $10 million, Rossi also agreed to disclose whatever was needed to build the reactors, and to license the technology to Industrial heat, for regions covering half the planet. In addition, subject to a “guaranteed performance test,” IH was to pay Rossi $89 million more. Rossi remained free to market or use the technology independently in the other half of the world.

It appears that Lewan has refused or failed to read the evidence from that trial, consisting of documents, almost entirely unchallenged, plus depositions under oath. We can assume that the unchallenged evidence is authentic, there are detailed responses from both sides, in motions to dismiss and answers to those.

The trial began, the jury was seated, and opening arguments were made. It was obvious to me how this was going to go. Rossi’s claim for $89 million was going to be rejected, for many reasons, IH was not going to be able to recover their investment paid to Rossi (because of estoppel), but IH would be able to claim fraud from the “Doral test,” and be able to collect damages from Rossi and those who assisted him perpetrate the fraud.

Obviously, Lewan could dispute that, but not reasonably unless he actually looks at the evidence, evidence that I studied and documented intensely, in order to make it available.

Since I started reporting on Andrea Rossi’s E-Cat technology in 2011, he always told me that his main goal, and the only thing that would convince people about the controversial physical phenomenon it was built on, would be to put a working product on the market.

What is truly odd about Lewan is that he says this, but actually ignores it. There was an allegedly “working product” on the market in 2011, with a price of $1.5 million, and it was purchased by an eager customer, IH. The guaranteed performance test did not take place in a timely fashion. Rossi blames IH for that, but the evidence shows otherwise, but Rossi then convinced IH to allow the reactor to be installed in Florida for a sale of power to a “customer” he had found, and he argued that an independent customer would be more convincing as a demonstration than what IH had proposed, an installation in North Carolina in a related company.

And Rossi clearly represented that the customer was actually Johnson-Matthey, Rossi’s emails show how he then attempted to create plausible deniability. A jury would have seen right through that. The customer was, in fact, a company set up by Rossi’s attorney, Johnson, who was also the President of Leonardo Technologies, Rossi’s Florida company. There was no “chemical company” other than Rossi’s activity, he controlled it entirely.

But if the reactor worked, so what? At least that is what many on Planet Rossi think. IH claimed that they had been unable to create any success with Rossi reactors, other than what appeared in some tests, later considered to be artifact (such as the Lugano test: IH had made that reactor).

This was the ultimate market test. IH was not about to pay $89 million for a “test” that did not satisfy the terms of the Agreement, but, because, the thinking would go, perhaps Rossi, known to be paranoid, had not disclosed to them the “secret.” So, having paid Rossi $11.5 million (and more in various ways), they would have wanted to keep the license, just in case it turned out to work.

They had four or five lawyers sitting there in the trial in Miami, it was costing them millions of dollars. They might not have been able to recover their legal costs, and there would be other reasons to avoid a trial. They are working to support inventors, and prosecuting a fraud claim against an inventor would not be the kind of publicity they would want.

So when Rossi, having claimed for a year that he was going to wipe the floor with Darden and Industrial Heat, proposed a walk-away, that no money change hands, he gives up his $89 million claim, and they give back the reactors (there were actually two 1 MW plants plus other prototypes), and the license was cancelled, they accepted.

They knew more about the Rossi technology than anyone other than Rossi. They had worked for about three years trying to get it to work. If it worked even modestly well, it would have been worth many billions of dollars, maybe trillions. With that knowledge, instead of spending a few million more, they chose to walk away, and focus on other LENR technology.

To me, this is beyond-a-reasonable-doubt evidence that Rossi technology was worthless. And the kicker: After the case settled, Rossi had people screaming for a plant, and he had two of them. If the technology actually worked, he could have installed it in a real customer’s facility, or could have sold heat to heating co-ops in Sweden. He’d have been making money hand over fist.

Instead, he dismantled the plants, destroying them, and focused on his “improved product,” which is what the upcoming demo is about.

Now, eight years later, after events taking unexpected and amazing turns which I told in my book An Impossible Invention and in this blog, Rossi claims to be ready to do so. His plan is to sell heat from remotely monitored devices at a price per kWh 20 percent below market price, with no carbon emissions from the operation of the devices.

The book did not cover the revealed information about the IH/Rossi affair. He has mentioned it on the blog, with shallow, very incomplete coverage that gives full voice to Rossi deceptive descriptions. Lewan has become a Rossi shill.

The Doral installation was a sale of power at $1000 per megawatt-day. So he already had, over eight years ago, a plant that could be installed to do what he now “plans” to do. Unless he was lying, then, and if he was lying then, why would we imagine he is not lying now?

(Note: The business model of selling a service rather than a product is a strong megatrend driven by digitalisation and by internet of things, making remote monitoring more effective, and it is already used by e.g. Rolls-Royce and GE, selling flight hours rather than aero engines).

This is basically irrelevant. Software is also licensed, not sold, etc.)

While this already implies a substantial cost-saving for the customers, it is most probably only the start of what the E-Cat technology can provide ahead, if it works as claimed.

There is no news here, only a “plan” which is not binding on anyone. On what basis does Lewan claim “probable.” Yes, he hedges it, “if it works as claimed.” Does he attempt to assess the odds of it working? Would past performance be a way of assessing this? Some who has failed many times to deliver what he promised, how much credence should be placed on new promises, in advance of a independently testable product?

At the online presentation (more info at http://www.ecatskdemo.com) Rossi plans to show a two-hour video of a device already in operation, reportedly heating an industrial premises of about 250 square meters in the US to 25°C since Nov 19, 2018. At the presentation, he will provide details regarding the commercial launch, but here is what I have been told and what I have concluded so far:

We know that what Rossi says is utterly unreliable. Does Lewan know that? Has he looked at the evidence, or does he just run on his gut?

A demonstration like that described can be faked six ways till Sunday. Rossi claimed that the reactor in Florida actually delivered a megawatt for most of the one-year period, based on measurements that he controlled, completely.

The problem was that a megawatt in that warehouse (is this the same “industrial premises”?), given the lack of a powerful heat exchanger, would have made it uninhabitable, fatal to occupants. That was one of the facts to be brought out at trial.

Rossi, last minute, as discovery was closing, contradicting what he had written on his blog for a year, claimed to have made a heat exchanger, didn’t keep receipts or take photographs, and he used the labor of guys who drive around in trucks looking for work, and … it would have had to have been there for the whole year, without anyone visiting noticing it, and it would have been noisy as hell and very visible.

No, he lied again, this time under oath, so that’s why his attorney had little trouble convincing him to settle if he could. He was facing not only losing millions of dollars, but also a possible criminal prosecution for perjury. Rossi was used to lying to the public, which is not necessarily illegal. He was playing a new game in U.S. federal court, where lying is a Very Bad Idea.

Lewan then goes on to give the alleged characteristics of the E-Cat SK. It is all “what he has been told,” and he reports what he was told with no sign of caution or skepticism. Lewan has had enough experience with Rossi to know he can be deceptive. This is my theory: if he were to ask inconvenient questions, he’d lose his access to Rossi. And he’s now made it a business, selling the book, which he is planning to update.

These characteristics are entirely Rossi Says. When we talk about generations of development of devices (Lewan calls the SK the “fourth generation”), it’s assumed that the earlier generations worked and the later generations are improved. If in mercato veritas, what is the truth of the earlier generations?

Bottom line, they were worthless. If they actually worked, they were worth, even as prototypes, at least hundreds of millions of dollars. The market has spoken the truth, but Lewan is ignoring it.

Lately, I have reported little on the E-Cat, simply because there has been essentially no new information that could be confirmed. Also in this case, in theory we will not be able confirm any of the claims presented, specifically since the existing customer will not be disclosed at the presentation on Jan 31, as far as I know.

There was a great deal of information revealed in 2016, in the trial. Lewan ignored it, relying only on what Rossi told him, apparently. Now, we still have no verifiable information. So why would January 31 be the “moment of truth”? Why is Lewan hyping this non-event, where Rossi will just present more smoke and mirrors?

But let’s assume that the there’s no working E-Cat device. Then either Rossi is fooling himself, and there’s nothing that makes me believe this now, or it’s a fraud, which hardly makes any sense at this point.

We already know that Rossi lies and that if the Doral plant worked, it was not working at anything like the level claimed. If it were a weak technology, but working, IH would have held onto it fiercely. They could afford it. (Prepping for the trial, Rossi claimed that IH wasn’t paying because they didn’t have the money to pay, but, in fact, IH had lined up $200 million ($150 million beyond what was already invested in other technology), plenty to pay Rossi and have money for development, but … they were not about to spend that when the frikkin’ reactors didn’t work!

It wasn’t even a weak technology. Before they made the deal with Rossi, they knew Rossi had a checkered past, but they decided they needed to find out. So they found out. It didn’t work.

It also “hardly made any sense” that a fraud would sue their defrauded customer. But he did. Basically, Lewan appears to have no idea how Rossi might actually think and operate, he has ignored the experience of those who worked closely with him for years.

In the fraud case, the E-Cat SK would be an electric heater consuming as much power as it outputs. But after at least a decade of hard work, without asking money from any third party, having earned USD11.5M from his ex US partner Industrial Heat, why would Rossi get back now and sell heat at a loss? To a customer that would immediately discover the fraud by looking at the electricity consumption of the device?

This is absolutely appalling. Rossi asked for and got funding from Ampenergo, so when IH bought the license from Rossi, Ampenergo was part of the deal, signed on, and IH paid Ampenergo millions in addition to what they paid Rossi. And then Rossi not only asked for and received $11.5 million from IH, he was also demanding $89 million. In Doral, there was no customer, but the fake customer agreed to pay $1000 per day for power, and Rossi approved invoice requests for IH to issue for those amounts. IH wasn’t convinced that there was a real power sale; for whatever reason, they didn’t issue those invoices, but the customer had no income, no business, so who would have paid those invoices?

Obviously, Rossi was willing to pay invoices, and it would then have strengthened his case to collect the $89 million. Spending $360,000 to gain $89 million? Lewan has the brain of a cockroach.

(Sorry, cockroaches, you are smarter than that.)

We don’t know anything about the conditions of a power sale. We don’t know how large the container for the reactor is. It must be large enough to protect the reactor from intrusion, and what kind of power source could be inside? We don’t know. This is all speculation, not news. Bottom line, a sale of power could be a fake demonstration of power generation, and, in addition, what if the “customer” is in collusion with Rossi? What would be the goal? Most likely, to gain investment.

Let’s suppose this is a 40 KW reactor.Say that power costs 10 cents/kW-h, that’s $4 per hour, $48 per day if it is 24/7, or under $18,000 per year, if the input power were free. Rossi could easily afford that for a time, and being able to report a satisfied customer — and he could create more than one –, how much more investment could he obtain?

(In this scenario, Rossi could smuggle fuel into the reactor, say propane, which would fuel an ordinary water heater.. So he could have apparent input power far below the heat output. He would be able to charge 80% of the going rate for heat, so, yes, he would be losing money, but not nearly as much as it might seem. Ponzi scheme!)

Clearly, only when at least one customer, having used the heat from the E-Cat SK for some time, will speak publicly about the service, the moment of truth will arrive.

No. There was “one customer” in Florida, apparently an independent company, with a lawyer representing it. In fact, it was a blind trust, in fact, it was not independent, and did not, contrary to the installation agreement with IH, measure the heat delivered independently. Lewan doesn’t think of the possible problems because he has paid no attention to what actually happened in Florida.

I looked above, and Lewan did hedge his claim. The moment of truth is not January 31. It is rather “the moment of truth is getting close with launch on January 31.” Except this is not a “launch.” With a product launch, the product becomes available. Is a product becoming available?

Once again, Rossi claimed an available product, a “1 MW reactor” in 2011. So was that “close to launch”? Lewan is more like “out to lunch.”

Meanwhile, everything else that I have observed and witnessed during these eight years, including my own measurements on the previous E-Cat versions, and the one-year test of a one megawatt plant in Doral, FL, during which Rossi started developing the E-Cat QX with its electronic/electromagnetic control system, indicates that the E-Cat is a working device, although many would call it An Impossible Invention.

About that “one year test” in Florida, it didn’t work, it was fraud. “Impossible Invention” is totally irrelevant. All the prior tests had glaring defects. Lewan was present for the Hydro Fusion test, which failed, and at which Rossi argued that they were not measuring input power correctly. Lewan argued with him, apparently think that this was just an honest mistake. But if Rossi could make that mistake with the Hydro Power test, how about with his own? Again and again, basic problems existed with the tests, never resolved because Rossi kept changing the device operation, so a possible artifact in one test could not be verified (or otherwise) in the next.

This is all obvious to many, many observers, so why not to Lewan?

By the way, I would like to share my impression that the groundbreaking control system of the E-Cat QX and the SK, is the result of a kind of dreamteam consisting of the genius Andrea Rossi, with elusive and creative ideas about physics and about what he thinks could be possible, and of electric engineer and computer scientist Fulvio Fabiani, not only being an expert on electronics but also being capable of interpreting Rossi’s wild and hard-to-grasp ideas, transforming them into real electronic circuits actually performing the job Rossi had in mind.

What a flack! Fabiani played a role in Florida, and I’m not going to go over it, but he was in line to lose substantial sums from his professional incompetence. He destroyed evidence belonging to IH.

I will develop this story further in the updated third edition of my book, which I hope to be able to conclude within a year or so, once the moment of truth has arrived.

And when the moment arrives, the E-Cat technology will most probably start providing clean, cheap, abundant, and sustainable energy to everyone in the world, in combination with solar and wind (which are a long way from replacing fossils on their own, and furthermore also require problematic large scale world-wide chemical battery implementations for energy storage).

Until then, the champagne remains on ice. And when I open it, I will be thinking of Sven Kullander and of late Prof. Sergio Focardi who played a fundamental role, helping Rossi to develop the E-Cat technology.

And Lewan has announced (twice, cancelled twice) a New Energy conference, featuring Rossi technology. He has lost all credibility. Here are his announcements:

UPDATE: The New Energy World Symposium was postponed in March 2017, waiting for an upcoming commercial launch of LENR based power. Read more here.

UPDATE 2: An online presentation regarding commercial launch of LENR based power will be held on January 31, 2019. Please get back to this blog for a report shortly.

I’m happy to announce that registration for the New Energy World Symposium is now open, with an Early Bird discount of EUR195 valid until February 17, 2018.

He knows that January 31 is unlikely to be the “moment of truth.” So why is he plowing ahead? (and this. scheduled for June, 2019, was also postponed indefinitely)

Update

Andrea Rossi today published, on ResearchGate, a “preprint,” E-Cat SK and long range particle interactions. This is a theoretical paper standing on unverifiable experimental results, but it does disclose some data not seen before.  The paper begins:

The E-Cat technology poses a serious and interesting challenge to the conceptual foundations of modern physics.

There is no challenge until there are confirmed experimental results. Previous reports of SK performance were based entirely on RossiSays, with no verification allowed of necessary measurements. The device demonstrated in Stockholm was periodically stimulated with a high voltage, which would strike a plasma, which would then have low resistance. That strike would be relatively high voltage and would input power into the system. No measurements were allowed of the full input power, or, in fact, even of operating power, i.e., both the voltage and current in steady state operation.

This paper gives this description:

5 Experimental Setup

The plausibility of these hypotheses is supported by a series of experiments made with the E-cat SK. The E-cat SK has been put in a position to allow the eye of a spectrometer view exactly the plasma in a dark room: an ohm-meter has measured the resistance across the circuit that gives energy to the E-Cat; the control panel has been connected with an outlet with 220 V , while from the control panel departed the two cables connected with the plasma electrodes; a frequency meter, a laser and a tesla-meter have been connected with the plasma for auxiliary measurements; a Van der Graaf electron accelerator (200 kV ) has been used for the examination of the plasma electric charge. Other instruments used in the experimental
setup: a voltage generator/modulator; two oscilloscopes, one for the power source and one for monitoring the energy consumed by the E-Cat; Omega thermocouples to measure the delta T of the cooling air; IR thermometer; a frequency generator.

There are no useful details in this. What was the experimental procedure? In what is a plasma created? How is the plasma created? “Energy consumed” is a standard Rossi trope. Energy is not consumed, unless there is an endothermic reaction, we could then use that language.

The voltage across the device is given as 0.25 volt and the current 3.2 mA. He claims a resistance of 75 ohms. Previously he claimed that the operating resistance was zero. 3.2 mA might maintain a plasma, but would not strike it. Periodically, in the Stockholm demonstration, there was a zapping sound and a flash of light. He was striking the plasma, which would take a far higher voltage. There is no mention of striking a plasma in the paper.

In any case, no confirmed experimental results, no challenge.

 

Jimbo Wales and “lunatic charlatans”

Looking at recent developments on Wikipedia with “fringe” and “quacks,” I’ve found many symptoms of a systemic corruption, and this will show how the project lost its direction, at core and in a failure to honor the original community intentions, it’s become quite explicit. This started with looking at the user page of Roxy the dog. Wikipedia made what may have been a fatal error in not only allowing anonymous edits (probably necessary and highly useful) but also in allowing advanced privileges for anonymous accounts. In this, it deviated widely from academic traditions. It eliminated the “responsible publisher” for itself, creating mob rule.

This protected the Foundation, but not the project. This is classic: organizations are formed for purposes, but their own survival, if it comes into conflict with the purpose, becomes a priority. So if the trial of “community governance” fails — in the absence of clear structures that create responsible actors — nothing can be done. It’s up to the community, not the site owners. Wikipedia is famously not a reliable source. Why not? Precisely because there is no responsible publisher!

The possibility existed for a community project to become more reliable than any such effort in history. That is, in fact, why I worked on Wikipedia as long as I did. But the radically unreliable governance, vulnerable to participation bias (whoever happens to show up in specific discussions, and where some kinds of factional canvassing are allowed, plus the possibly random nature of who closes discussions, where bias in closing could be very difficult to detect, and, if detected, they shoot the messenger), led to a conclusion that the situation was unworkable.

Wikipedia will be replaced by a project that harnesses what Wikipedia has done, but that adds reliable governance and responsibility. This may be for-profit or nonprofit, it could be done either way.

It was clear to me at one point that Jimbo Wales (with Larry Sanger the founder of Wikipedia) was interested in governance reform. However, something was missing, and I’m coming to think that what was missing was an understanding of neutrality. He almost had it, but it’s clear that knee-jerk “popular,” not academic or scientific, responses, very obviously not neutral, took over for him. And this then explains, in part, how “popular factions” came to dominate Wikipedia, as many have noted. They lose, sometimes, their control is not absolute, but it creates a steady pressure and, over time, it’s apparent to me, the project has devolved away from neutrality, and a particular faction has, many times, opposed neutrality and has declared allegiance to a point of view, and they act to push that point of view.

Anyone trained in journalism will recognize the problem, how it infects the language and overall tenor of pages. Blatant violations of neutrality policy, misrepresentations of sources, in favor of attempting to create in readers POV impressions, are, in some areas, practically the rule rather than a transient exception. Revert warring is tolerated, if done by factional editors, who are considered “valuable volunteers” precisely because they work tirelessly for their point of view.

Editors with contrary points of view are isolated and sanctioned and topic- or site-banned. Editors promoting SPOV (“Scientific point of view,” when they go beyond limits in that promotion, may be sanctioned, but also are regarded as heroes. And so if they are actually banned, they often come back. Wouldn’t you?

This is what Roxy the dog has from Wales:

“Wikipedia’s policies around this kind of thing are exactly spot-on and correct. If you can get your work published in respectable scientific journals – that is to say, if you can produce evidence through replicable scientific experiments, then Wikipedia will cover it appropriately.”
“What we won’t do is pretend that the work of lunatic charlatans is the equivalent of ‘true scientific discourse’. It isn’t.[1][2]

Roxy the dog uses this as I’d expect, to justify a series of claims of being justifiably biased. First, what exactly did Wales say, in what context.?

Wikipedia developed a procedure for creating a neutral project and he is referring to it, but he overspecifies that procedure, narrowing it in a way that favors the bias Roxy the dog displays. Was this merely accidental, incautious?

and, in fact, it’s obvious. From that page:

Wikipedia’s co-founder Jimmy Wales this week sent a clear signal to skeptics who edit the user-created encyclopedia – he agrees with our focus on science and good evidence. He did this by responding firmly in the negative to a Change.org petition created by alternative medicine and holistic healing advocates. His response, which referred to paranormalists as “lunatic charlatans”, was widely reported on Twitter.

I’ve been recommending skeptics pay close attention to Wikipedia since the earliest days of this blog, almost six years ago. Susan Gerbic took up that gauntlet and created her wildly successful Guerrilla Skeptics on Wikipedia project.

In the last year or so, the success of Susan’s project has gotten many paranormal and alternative medicine advocates riled up. They’ve repeatedly floated conspiracy theories that skeptics are somehow rigging the game on Wikipedia, or even bullying opponents off the site. Even personalities like Rupert Sheldrake and Deepak Chopra have gotten involved. None of these accusations have been supported by facts, and both Sheldrake and Chopra have been subsequently embarrassed by their own supporters’ rule-breaking behavior on the service.

This is common.

There is skeptic organization and this blog is proud of it. But if others point to organization, it’s a “conspiracy theory.”

Indeed, I have seen over-reaction, suspicion that, say, drug companies are paying editors to promote statin drugs and attack cholesterol skeptics. I find that implausible, but this is what happens where there are organizations that operate behind the scenes.

Sheldrake and Chopra have popular support, and people with popular support will be defended by some, often people with no real understanding of how Wikipedia works, and so they violate rules. But wait! Wikipedia Rule Number One, promoted by Wales himself, was “If a Rule prevents you from improving or maintaining Wikipedia, ignore it!” (WP:IAR)

I used to point out the Corollary, that if you have never been blocked for breaking the rules, you are not trying hard enough to improve the project.

The vision of the original Wikipedians has been lost, and this was practically inevitable (see  Iron law of oligarchy), if protective structure was not created, and it was not.

Wales response was to a petition asking for reform.

As is common with reform efforts, what might be a valid objection to the Wikipedia status quo was mixed with lack of understanding of how Wikipedia operates, and a point of view. The title of the petition shows a lack of understanding of the purpose of Wikipedia and the process of creating an encyclopedia.

Jimmy Wales, Founder of Wikipedia: Create and enforce new policies that allow for true scientific discourse about holistic approaches to healing.

I will list problems with this request:

  1. Wales was not in charge of Wikipedia, he was the Founder, not the Governor. (In the other direction, he remained influential.)
  2. Wikipedia is not a site for “scientific discourse.” Wikiversity was, and could have remained so, but that was demolished, ultimately, by the faction, early this year. It was trivial to create neutral discourse, and it worked for years.
  3. The policies on inclusion were not the problem, the problem was lack of workable enforcement structure. The structure worked, though very inefficiently, for handling vandalism and isolated point of view pushing, but, increasingly, as factions developed power, poorly with factional point of view pushing.

Wales responded. 

MAR 23, 2014 — No, you have to be kidding me. Every single person who signed this petition needs to go back to check their premises and think harder about what it means to be honest, factual, truthful.

Wikipedia’s policies around this kind of thing are exactly spot-on and correct. If you can get your work published in respectable scientific journals – that is to say, if you can produce evidence through replicable scientific experiments, then Wikipedia will cover it appropriately.

What we won’t do is pretend that the work of lunatic charlatans is the equivalent of “true scientific discourse”. It isn’t.

The blog claims that the organizers of the petition were “tone-deaf,” because they quoted Larry Sanger, thus, allegedly, irritating Wales. Sanger was quoted in the petition:

Larry Sanger, co-founder of Wikipedia, left the organization due to concerns about its integrity. He stated: “In some fields and some topics, there are groups who ‘squat’ on articles and insist on making them reflect their own specific biases. There is no credible mechanism to approve versions of articles.” 

Sanger’s comment was a simple conclusion matching what many, many, with high experience with Wikipedia, have found. That happens. It happens in all directions, but . . . factions that represent the “fringe” are, by definition, not popular, and that condition in the population will be reflected in the editorial community, so these factions are readily identified and their efforts interdicted, whereas the faction that is biased toward a popular point of view, can operate with far higher impunity, and in the absence of neutral enforcement, that bias can dominate.

This happened to some extent with traditional encyclopedias, but these were generally written with high academic integrity. Wales became confused on this issue, and was, himself, tone-deaf. Many have complained, and the complaints are routine and remain common. Wales only looks at what was wrong with the petition, and fails to practice what he preaches:

to check their premises and think harder about what it means to be honest, factual, truthful.”

So Wikipedia sails on, undisturbed by self-examination, supporting the “Scientific Point of View,” which is an oxymoron.

Rather, the Pillars of Wikipedia include one that would, if followed, establish journalistic and academic integrity:

Wikipedia is written from a neutral point of view
We strive for articles in an impartial tone that document and explain major points of view, giving due weight with respect to their prominence. We avoid advocacy, and we characterize information and issues rather than debate them. In some areas there may be just one well-recognized point of view; in others, we describe multiple points of view, presenting each accurately and in context rather than as “the truth” or “the best view”. All articles must strive for verifiable accuracyciting reliable, authoritative sources, especially when the topic is controversial or is on living persons. Editors’ personal experiences, interpretations, or opinions do not belong.

Wikipedia proposed a solution to crowd-sourcing, to allow it to be verifiable. “Reliable” source does not mean “correct.” It refers to independently published sources, presented with a neutral tone. Stating an interpretation as if fact without attribution is not “honesty.” It’s easy to convert, say, a non-neutral interpretation (which might be found in a reliable source) into a fact by attributing it. “According to . . . ”

Yet there are “skeptical faction” editors inserting their own interpretations as if fact, even about living persons, or entire fields. Because I just noticed it, here is an example, about Gary Taubes:

This is in the lead (current version), which should, by the guideline, be rigorously neutral, enjoying high consensus. The lead has:

Some of the views propounded by Taubes are inconsisent [sic] with known science surrounding obesity.[3]

The source is a book review, and such a review is the opinion of the author, particularly if it is an off-hand comment. What the review actually has, besides praise for the book (“… has much useful information and is well worth reading “):

some of the conclusions that the author reaches are not consistent with current concepts about obesity.

Are “current concepts” the same as “known science”? In fact, Taubes is challenging common concepts, explicitly and deliberately, as not being rooted in “known science,” i.e., known through the scientific method. This has been his theme for his entire career. The editor, however, believes what he has written and so considers that interpretation of the source to be a simple restatement.

The reviewer was not precise. “Current concepts” has a lost performative. Whose concepts? I used “common” as a vague term that would cover what I think is true. The concepts Taubes is challenging became common about forty years ago, through a political process that was only peripherally scientific. Documenting that has been much of Taube’s work.

This begins the lead:

Gary Taubes (born April 30, 1956) is an American journalist, writer and low-carbohydrate diet advocate.

Is he? This was there until a few days ago:

Gary Taubes (born April 30, 1956) is an American science writer.

To the faction, many examples can be shown, “low carbohydrate diet advocate” is a dog whistle to call skeptical attention to a person, who, in other contexts , might be called a “fad diet promoter,” “quack,” and “charlatan.”

Remember, verifiability not truth. The statement about “diet advocate” is not sourced. It’s misleading. What Taubes has been advocating is twofold:

  • improved public understanding of the history of the lipid hypothesis and the demonization of fat, as well as the evidence of the “diseases of civilization” being associated with high refined carbohydrate consumption,
  • but, more important (certainly to him), the encouragement and facilitation (read funding) of scientific research into diet. Taubes is not a ‘believer,” but he has drawn some conclusions and has been acting on them. That is normal in science. Wales wrote:

If you can get your work published in respectable scientific journals – that is to say, if you can produce evidence through replicable scientific experiments, then Wikipedia will cover it appropriately.

First of all, he was misstating the actual policy. “Published in respectable scientific journals” is not the actual standard, and such publication can happen without “replicable scientific experiments,” that is only one aspect of science, and the reliance is not on “replicable,” but on “confirmed,” i.e., actually replicated, as shown in peer-reviewed reviews of a topic, secondary sources. Many facts can be reported (with maximum freedom, by guidelines) if attributed. The attribution should be to a reliable source, but the source may be weaker, though still reliable. The skeptical faction uses their own factional publications, that focus on “debunking” and are not neutrally peer-reviewed by experts in the fields, as if reliable source, it’s been common for years, whereas independently peer-reviewed secondary source reviews are excluded by the faction as “junk” or “fringe believer author.”

These are obvious violations of the neutrality pillar, but are tolerated because of a false opp0sition as reflected in Wales’ defense of Wikipedia.

A paper that was invited by a major peer-reviewed journal of high reputation, with Gary Taubes as one of the authors:

Dietary fat and cardiometabolic health: evidence, controversies, and consensus for guidance June 13, 2018

This review treats the topic with academic tone. It presents a variety of major points of view. This is what Wikipedia could be like, were it actually supporting science. Instead, it is supporting a highly judgmental and often fanatic debunking point-of-view.

Another example: Wales wanted to see “replicable experiments.” That is not required for notability, Wales is actually substituting his own ideas for the policy, but . . . I was banned from cold fusion on Wikipedia and the claim was made that I was promoting it, and this was often connected with claims that “cold fusion” is “pseudoscience.” In fact, what I was promoting, what was actually important to me at the time, was Wikipedia neutrality and genuine consensus process. However, when I was banned from the topic, I then investigated “cold fusion” more thoroughly, and eventually wrote an article, published in a significant journal, which would, in theory, satisfy the claims Wales made:

Replicable cold fusion experiment: heat/helium ratio

Okay, a review. Check. Peer-reviewed. Check. Describes multiple confirmations of a crucial experiment, that demonstrates that there is a real anomaly, that looks like it could be fusion (but probably not what most physicists would think of). Check.

Okay, is that cited? I don’t know if anyone attempted it. It was cited on Wikiversity. Much older and weaker sources on claims of helium detection (deprecating them) have been cited on Wikipedia, and remain. As I was about to be topic banned for the second time, I put up another review in a journal of very high reputation for consideration on the Reliable Source Noticeboard. It was found usable as reliable source. And after all that, was the source allowed? No. Immediately removed every time presented.

Status of cold fusion (2010)

Peer-reviewed review in a major multidisciplinary journal, Naturwissenschaften. Check. Stronger source than any other source used in the article. If editors think it was a mistake, it could be attributed.

See the arguments against it on RSN. That discussion was narrow and focused but was never “closed.” Consensus was clear. The paper is RS, and as with all sources, to be used with appropriate caution. Just because something is in reliable source does not make it “truth,” it makes it notable. And wikipedia was properly founded on notability, established by what is found in responsible publishers.

So what happened then? I have made the point often that the major problem with Wikipedia has been inefficiency. To establish what should have been accomplished by a reference to policy and guidelines, a matter of a few sentences, took a massive discussion. A responsible publisher would go bankrupt if their editorial process were like this.

There are plenty of Wikipedia editors who understood the policies and attempted to apply them neutrally. They burn out, faced with editors who ignore the policies, are persistent, and who are enabled to continue this, year after year.

removes reference to Storms (2010) based on argument rejected at RSN. Editor: ජපස, who has changed his name many times. He is the one who made the argument about Storms being an editor. That was an attributed reference, clearly neutral. This reverted the edit of Enric Naval.

Eventually, in 2015, the bibliographic reference to Storms (2010), and another citation of it, were removed by JzG, a highly involved factional editor and administrator who had been reprimanded by the Arbitration Committee for his actions with regard to cold fusion. Apparently nobody noticed. Jzg removed the reference to the 2007 book, and the 2010 journal review of cold fusion. His edit summary:

(pruning some WP:PRIMARY, including for example a book review written by a True Believer. We have sufficient high quality sources that we don’t need to dumpster-dive.)

These are the arguments that completely failed to be accepted at WP:RSN. Are there stronger sources by Wikipedia RS standards and the standards for science topics? What was left was weaker, or if not weak, substantially older.

None of these were primary sources, and he’s highly experienced, so . . . he lied, they were all secondary. (2007) was published World Scientific, an academic press, and (2010) was discussed above. The Book Review reference is unclear. JzG also removed material cited in Simon (2002), which is an academic secondary source review (a book), not a “book review”). He did remove from the bibliography one primary source (at least arguably so), Shanahan (2006). There was an appalling discussion in talk, no consensus, and the editor objecting was “reminded” about discretionary sanctions, which was essentially a threat that he could be blocked. This was a blatant and smug display of factional POV editing, and, as usual, without consequence, JzG (and William M. Connolley), sailed on, undisturbed, as they have for years. (In two cases, I took them to the Arbitration Committee, JzG was reprimanded, Connolley was desysopped. But the net effect was, with extensive effort, long term, zero. Discretionary sanctions were established as a result of the second case, (with neutral enforcement, a good idea), but it has only been used to support the skeptical faction and threaten or block anyone appearing to have a different point of view.)

In 2015, Current Science published a special section on low-energy nuclear reactions. It included a number of reviews of aspects of the field, written by major researchers (and one journalist, me). There was mention of this in the article that resisted removal, it’s still there. However, none of those papers are cited in the article, in spite of being recent specific reviews of aspects of the field, on topics discussed in the article.

Wales is either ignorant about what actually happens on Wikipedia, or he’s lying. I prefer the former interpretation, but I also hold him responsible for maintaining his ignorance in spite of complaints. Instead of actually investigating the complaints, or setting up a review process, he smugly proclaimed an extreme interpretation of the policy that then, very clearly, encouraged the SPOV-pushers. I’ve seen a shift since that time, and this might explain it.

No, if one does research and gets it published in peer-reviewed journals, it is inadequate to shift the Wikipedia balance, because the balance is maintained in the impressions and interpretations of editors, and it’s very well-known that when people have committed themselves to a position (by using language like “charlatan” and “fringe believers” and “crank”) they become resistant to change, and will continue to invent justifications and reasons to continue to believe the same.

Ironically, this is what this faction believes about others, that they are “die-hards” and “pseudoscientific.” If someone calls them “pseudoskeptical” or “pathoskeptic,” they will block or arrange for the person to be blocked, but claims in the other direction are routine and tolerated. Enforcement is biased, creating a long-term pressure away from neutrality.

Wikipedia could be transformed, but what has been created is so highly entrenched that it might take a major event.

I’ve suggested that a new encyclopedia could be created that uses Wikipedia content, routinely, but that creates a filter and process for reviewing it. I’ve suggested that such a site might pay authors and editors, and that it might sell itself as “Wikipedia, but more reliable.” And it would solicit donations, but would also sell advertising, carefully vetted to be reliable, itself, which is quite doable. (The advertising would pay for the writing and editorial work.)

Sometimes, you get what you pay for. If you use volunteers, they work for their own purposes. It can be great, but large human organizations pay management, even when they use many volunteers.

Everipedia looks like an effort in that direction, but it utterly fails to attract me, so far, nor does it look like it could attract the kind of massive use and participation that could take it beyond Wikipedia. The Everipedia article on cold fusion is a fork of the Wikipedia article (so far, what I’d expect, but, then, if I read the article, does it invite me to improve it? If so, I don’t see how or where.)

To succeed, an improved project must present something clearly better than Wikipedia, such that users would have an incentive to look up a topic there rather than on Wikipedia. There are also complications, Google being a major supporter of Wikipedia. But a better product does not have to be better in every way, just in some, and it could flag what has been fact-checked and reviewed for neutrality, for example, and what was merely copied from Wikipedia. (Everipedia may do that, I can’t tell, but Everipedia seems to be focusing on selling access to businesses or people who want to control articles about themselves. Not on setting up an expert review process or other structure that would create reliability.)

It would use Wikipedia’s process to create a level of reliability, and then improve it. It would make comparisons with Wikipedia easy, as an example, so that changes to Wikipedia would be imported as (1) automatic if the fork article has not been validated, or as (2) reviewed, as with the contributions of any non-empowered editor on Wikipedia.

The focus appears to be on how to preserve one of the major weaknesses of Wikipedia, anonymity. That’s a double-edged sword. The new project, if linked to Wikipedia, would already have a way for anonymous editors to contribute: on Wikipedia! It could also allow suggested edits on its own versions.

(Wikipedia could also bring in content the other way, through a process that was used on wikipedia when a banned user created an article elsewhere, and then there was a Request for Comment on importing that (radical change) as a single edit. This is actually a far simpler question than the one-edit at a time process Wikipedia follows: “Is A or B better?” )

It would need to have layers of detail. It could have better editorial review tools than Wikipedia. An example of something missing from Wikipedia is an ability to search history, the entire history of the project or of an article, or of user contributions. Now, you can obtain logs, but they are not generally searchable, except primitively. I do it, but by downloading histories (the logs will not retrieve more than 5000 operations), merging them, and then using search in a text editor or in Excel, and that doesn’t give me the editorial text, only edit summaries.

It is possible to search project full-history XML, but it can be incredibly cumbersome.

Everipedia is not showing signs of being well-designed and implemented. The FAQ I find far too complicated. Wikipedia made it easy and quick for anyone to edit. While “anyone can edit” fell apart to some extent, becoming more like “anyone can waste time trying to improve the project,” that ease of use was crucial to Wikipedia’s initial success. Wikipedia failed not from that, but from failure to establish reliable review process, something that is normally crucial for serious publishers.

Another issue is that Wikipedia not only failed to reward expert attention, it actually became hostile to ordinary experts. Wikibooks and Wikiversity were much friendlier, but then I discovered something. Most experts were not terribly interested in sustained free contributions to books or educational resources, if there was no benefit for them other than simply being able to write. And if what was written was fragile, and easily hacked up by Randy from Boise, and if they have plenty of other places to publish, why should they contribute? Many people will do it occasionally just because people are mostly nice. But regularly and reliably? No.

(To assist someone who wanted to study the subject, I set up a Parapsychology resource on Wikiversity, and it actually attracted some notable scientists. But they did not regularly contribute, nor did they watch the pages. That project was deleted early this year when the skeptical faction extended its reach to Wikiversity. Long story. JzG was involved. They also deleted the Wikiversity resource on cold fusion, all based on the action of a single bureaucrat, not supported by the community. Efforts like that had always failed in the past. But the Wikiversity community that had always supported academic freedom and the inclusive neutrality of Wikiversity as distinct from the exclusive neutrality of Wikipedia (i.e., academic standards rather than encyclopedic) was, as usual, asleep. Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom.

I rescued those resources. Cold fusion. Parapsychology. Wikiversity showed how resources could be inclusively neutral. (A clearer example, where there would have been, on Wikipedia, or any other single-level wiki, edit warring, is Landmark Education.) Parapsychology was neutral, I’d been very careful to set it up that way. Cold fusion might not have been completely neutral, (I’d written most of it) but it would have taken about five minutes, with no harm being done, to rigorously neutralize it. The Wikiversity cold fusion article was often attacked on Wikipedia, but it was open for editing, and it had not been at all disruptive. Real neutrality is not disruptive, certainly not in itself. Real neutrality, with good-faith participants, can normally find complete consensus, even in the presence of major controversies. Wikipedia never understood this.

If I just want to shoot off my mouth, or to enjoy writing, I’ll start a blog, not start up an account on a wiki. It is far, far easier and, believe me, far more fun. And I can actually obtain funding for it. (Thanks!)

As an example, I know much of the cold fusion research community. Only very small number have ever attempted to edit Wikipedia. Met with entrenched hostility, for the most part, the handful who tried it simply gave up quickly. The field needs funding, and funding is not obtained by writing about cold fusion on Wikipedia. The inefficiency of Wikipedia makes it seriously wasteful.

Ignorance is bliss

There is at least one physicist arguing that LENR research is is unethical because (1) LENR does not exist, and (2) if it is possible, it would be far too dangerous to allow.

This came to my attention because of an article in IEEE Spectrum, Scientists in the U.S. and Japan Get Serious About Low-Energy Nuclear Reactions

I wrote a critique of that article, here.

Energy is important to humanity, to our survival. We are already using dangerous technologies, and the deadly endeavor is science itself, because knowledge is power, and if power is unrestrained, it is used to deadly effect. That problem is a human social problem, not specifically a scientific one, but one principle is clear to me, ignorance is not the solution. Trusting and maintaining the status quo is not the solution (nor is blowing it up, smashing it). Behind these critiques is ignorance. The idea that LENR is dangerous (more than the possibility of an experiment melting down, or a chemical explosion which already killed Andrew Riley, or researchers being poisoned by nickel nanopowder, which is dangerous stuff) is rooted in ignorance of what LENR is. Because it is “nuclear,” it is immediately associated with the fast reactions of fission, which can maintain high power density even when the material becomes a plasma.

LENR is more generally a part of the field of CMNS, Condensed Matter Nuclear Science. This is about nuclear phenomena in condensed matter, i.e., matter below plasma temperature, matter with bound electrons, not the raw nuclei of a hot plasma. I have seen no evidence of LENR under plasma conditions, not depending on the patterned structures of the solid state. That sets up an intrinsic limit to LENR power generation.

We do not have a solid understanding of the mechanisms of LENR. It was called “cold fusion,” popularly, but that immediately brings up an association with the known fusion reaction possible with the material used in the original work, d-d fusion. Until we know what is actually happening in the Fleischmann-Pons experiment (contrary to fundamentally ignorant claims, the anomalous heat reported by them  has been widely confirmed, this is not actually controversial any more among those familiar with the research), we cannot rule anything out entirely, but it is very, very unlikely that the FP Heat Effect is caused by d-d fusion, and this was obvious from the beginning, including to F&P.

It is d-d fusion which is so ridiculously impossible. So, then, are all “low energy nuclear reactions” impossible? Any sophisticated physicist would not fall for that sucker-bait question, but, in fact, many have and many still do. Here is a nice paradox: it is impossible to prove that an unknown reaction is impossible. So what does the impossibility claim boil down to?

“I have seen no evidence ….” and then, if the pseudoskeptic rants on, all asserted evidence is dismissed as wrong, deceptive, irrelevant, or worse (i.e, the data reported in peer-reviewed papers was fraudulent, deliberately faked, etc.)

There is a great deal of evidence, and when it is reviewed with any care, the possibility of LENR has always remained on the table. I could (and often do) make stronger claims than that. For example, I assert that the FP Heat Effect is caused by the conversion of deuterium to helium, and the evidence for that is strong enough to secure a conviction in a criminal trial, far beyond that necessary for a civil decision, though my lawyer friends always point out that we can never be sure until it happens. The common, run-of-the-mill pseudoskeptics never bother to actually look at all the evidence, merely whatever they select as confirming what they believe.

“Pseudoskepticism’ is belief disguised as skepticism, hence “pseudo.” Genuine skeptics will not forget to be skeptical of their own ideas. They will be precise in distinguishing between fact (which is fundamental to science) and interpretation (which is not reality, but an attempt at a map of reality).

This immediate affair has created many examples to look at. I will continue below, and comment on posts here is always welcome, and I keep it open indefinitely. A genuine study may take years to mature, consensus may take years to form. “Pages” do not yet have automatic open comment, editors here must explicitly enable it, and sometimes forget. Ask for opening of comment through a comment on any page that has it enabled. An editor will clean it up and, I assume, enable the comments. (That is, provide a link to the original page, and we can also move comments).

This conversation is important, the future of humanity is at stake. Continue reading “Ignorance is bliss”

Abd in the San Francisco Bay Area this week, for two weeks

I’m visiting my children and grandchildren for Thanksgiving, flying to San Francisco, November 14, scheduled to return to Massachusetts November 28. I will be meeting with researchers, as well. There’s a lot going on, a major shift in understanding developed around ICCF-21. It’s actually old stuff, but somehow remained obscure.

A new lab is starting up, run by a familiar face, but I’m not giving details until I have permission.

If you will be in the Bay Area, and would like to meet, contact me.

Meanwhile, I’ve prepared several transcripts from the ICCF-21 videos. Michael Staker’s presentation was a bombshell. It’s not the Fleischmann-Pons Heat Effect replication he did — though interesting, that has been done so, so many times — it is the metallurgy, the understanding of super-abundant vacancies, and, yes, that’s a thing: SAV.

This is not your grandfather’s metal hydride. We’ve gone beyond A and B and even C (gamma phase). This is getting interesting.

Staker’s video transcript, with abstract, slides, and time-links to the video.

Other video transcripts done:
Darden
McKubre
Tanzella
Storms

Lines to ICCF-21 videos, plus abstracts and slides, are linked from ICCF-21/videos.

Bridges into the unknown

I woke up this morning afire with ideas. Happens sometimes. Some of these I will be implementing, but the best ideas involve community, how to create and strengthen community, and, in particular, the LENR community, and especially the young, with life and career ahead of them. They are the future, I merely am a dreamer and observer. Well, I’ve done more than that.

Then I touched my computer and my screen lit up with the Windows “screensaver,” and it was the image above. That led me to the work of Zaha Hadid, who, somehow, had escaped being noticed by me before. What … an … amazing … woman! The world is larger than I imagine, and, in line with that:

The future does not exist yet. But it’s possible, and I declare that the future will be better than anything we can imagine.

Because we say so. Join me?

Continue reading “Bridges into the unknown”

ICCF-21 Slides and Video, Transcripts available

The organizers of ICCF-21 have released oral presentation slides and video. The page to access them is at https://www.iccf21.com/videos-oral-presentations

There are actually three pages, with a graphic display of links that vary with the page. The link above is to the video link graphic, there are two others:

The slide graphic, and the abstract graphic.

However, our video index page is searchable. and will be a single page with all links.  That is where links to transcripts and other related resources will be placed. It takes about an hour to create a presentation transcript in the format I am using, and about a day to clean it up and polish it.

I will be creating indexes to this material, to make it more accessible for search and study.  For the first time, Darden’s keynote is available. The video I’ve seen is high quality and far surpasses the poor audio we had for some presentations (which was still appreciated, people provided what they had.)

Because there is Close Caption working with the videos (at least what I saw), I will also be preparing transcripts.

UPDATE:Done. This is the video page here.

The first transcript I started with was of Tom Darden, but I happened to complete the Michael Staker transcript first.  I will now go back and present the Darden video in the same way. I will also integrate the slides and abstracts, so one will be able to read the transcripts and make sense out of the references to slides.

This process is highly enlightening. In the case of the Staker video, I had already worked extensively on SAV sources, so everything he was saying made sense (and I could more accurately decode the automated transcription text). I had already worked with a draft of Staker’s ICCF-21 paper and Mike McKubre’s presentation at Greccio, which was co-authored with Staker, collecting all the sources. So it’s now all quite clear to me, amazingly so, from being obscure and “hard to understand.”

How to capture a YouTube transcript (general and ICCF-21 specific).
  1. Go to the YouTube page. The ICCF-21 videos are all listed in a single YouTube channel.
  2. [Below the title is a menu button ( . . . ). Press it and select “Open Transcript.” A window will open with the closed caption transcript. Ctrl-A within that window to highlight it, and Ctrl-C to capture it in your clipboard.] The italicized description worked when I was writing this. I just tried it again, and instead of just selecting the text in the transcript window, it selected much else on the page. To capture just the transcript text I needed to put the cursor at the beginning, maybe select a little text at the beginning — left-mouse-hold at the beginning and then move a little — and then shift-left-click at the end after scrolling to the end. (ctrl-home places the cursor at the beginning of the transcript and ctrl-end places it at the end). Then ctrl-C will copy the selected text.
  3. [Paste this into a word processor or other editor. I found that if it is straight pasted (which includes formatting) into the WordPress visual editor, every line is a link to the video, with the brief transcript for the time shown as the next line.] Again, that’s what I was able to do earlier, and I was unable to reproduce this behavior. So the text doesn’t have the links, those will be introduced in Excel.
  4. At this point the text is useful. If I have this text for a video, I can then proceed to create the WordPress page. The further this is taken, the less work for me.
  5. I copy the youtunr transcript to Excel, to massage that copy into the format I want on the page. The URLs are translated to specific jumps to the specific times, by adding “&t=12m34s” to the URL. (that would be a timestamp for 12:34. My guess is that “h” is used for hours.) The time, from the next line, is moved to the text portion of the “a” tag, and the </a> tag closing is moved to just after the time, leaving the transcript text open, unformatted.
  6. This will give a transcript with the timestamps as links followed by a space and the text.. I then add in the HTML code to display the time in 6 point type, to make it less obtrusive but still readable. Replace {<a}  with {<span style=”font-size: 6pt;”><a} (don’t copy the curly braces!) and {</a>} with {</a></span>}. 4 point can be used for this, it is sort-of readable. However, it’s useful to have it be more readable when editing the transcript.
  7. To speed up editing of this into continuous text, paragraphed, I replace all the LF/CR codes (represented in Word search and replace as “^p”) with spaces, so it becomes one huge “paragraph.” Then, editing the transcript, I paragraph it, simply by adding punctuation and a return (“Enter↵”).
  8. The HTML code is then copied back to my WordPress editor.
  9. I clean up the transcript in WordPress. At any time, I can follow a timestamp link to find the exact point in the video. If I press the link just before some text, there it is, quickly. However, because it takes some time for my computer to load the video, when editing, I have WordPress open in one window, and the YouTube video in another, so I can immediately press the stop/run button in the video, and so if I want to adjust the time, usually to go back, I use the YouTube slider and I know what time to go to, approximately, by the displayed link in WordPress.
  10. Once the text is paragraphed, I can add (in word) spacer code, to reduce the space. I’m using ten pixels instead of the default space (which I think is 20 pixels.) I’m using a WordPress shortcode from the Spacer plug-in for that. It’s a little tricky.
  11. The ICCF-21 has the slides available, and the presentations can make much more sense with the slides! I downloaded the slide PDF, renamed it with a simpler but still unique name, and used ILovePDF to convert this to individual JPEG images, Powershell to change the filenames to simple followed by the page number, and then I uploaded the files to the blog domain in a slides directory, uploads/slides, then I used MediatoFTP to register these as images. I used to manually upload all the images within WordPress, which puts them into dated media directories with much longer names. This gives me immediate access from the editor to the slides, searchable by slide number, and the Media facility remembers the last search, so I can just bump the number of to insert the next slide.
  12. So I watch the video again, inserting the slides. The normal place is in the time sequence when the speaker clicks to the next slide. For clarity, I vary this. Some speakers use many slides where another will use one, the many slides each adding something to the display.
  13. I add the slide numbers in Excel when I’m done. It’s too much work to add them when placing the image, and I found that if the slide number is put as a caption, it’s weirdly place. It was much easier to place the slide number as small text just before the image.
  14. You can see the results on two pages at this point: Staker and Storms.
  15. Comments are invited.
  16. Participation is invited.

I cannot imagine a better way to develop deep understanding of CMNS than work like this. To do this work well requires deep attention to detail. If you are unfamiliar with terms, you will become familiar, or you will make mistakes in editing the transcript.

I have the brain of a 74-year old.  They must have made some mistake!

It takes more repetition to learn than when I was younger, but I can still learn and the results are little short of amazing, certainly for me!

As to those mistakes, we hope, someone will find and correct them, and we will learn if we pay attention. Making mistakes is generally the fastest way to learn, and any error in these transcripts can be quickly fixed. I am considering putting them on the wiki, which would stand as a working draft.

I see that the following is somewhat redundant to what is above, but, hey, it’s only a paragraph. . . . The Staker and Storms videos are particularly significant now, considering discussions in the community about Super Abundant Vacancies. From working with sources, a presentation in Greccio this year and those two videos, I have enough familiarity with the findings that, to my great surprise, at least one major expert has deferred to my opinion. But I’m certainly not a full expert, just an opinionated reporter who loves to inform my readers as to what exists in sources, so that they can come to their own conclusions. I will report my opinions, sometimes, but they matter much less. Increasingly, they are informed.

The related fields are complex and can take advanced study and training, but, by continual exposure to the material, I become familiar with it.

I learned years ago to notice and drop the “this is too complicated” reaction that creates an obstacle to familiarity.

Our strong tendency is to remember what generates feelings, particularly feelings of dislike, rather than what is actually happening.

I actually don’t “try” to understand, I just keep looking, more or less like a child. Maybe I look something up if it seems interesting.

If I write, I check sources, over and over, I don’t just rely on memory, usually.

Since I have the sources, I cite them. All this can make my writing long. I write polemic in a different way.

I learned electronics and made it into a successful profession, when I was about 30, by having a basic background (but from many years before, obsolete, hey vacuum tube radios!), and then just looking at electronics magazines, and having a work opportunity allowing me to focus and learn some specifics. I did not “study” it.

I learned Arabic by reading the Qur’an in Arabic. (That simply requires learning the symbols, Qur’anic orthography is phonetic. Understanding Arabic came much later, after familiarity was developed. That’s a theme: familiarity.) Again, I did not learn by studying it. The fastest increase in comprehension actually came when I memorized a large chunk of the Qur’an. Before then, when I tried to study Arabic with grammars, etc.., it went in one eye and out the other. (Hah!) Arabic is famously difficult for non-Semitic language natives. But children learn it just as easily as other languages. Familiarity. Once I was familiar with the patterns of the language, the grammars then made far more sense. Otherwise they seemed like a pile of arbitrary rules to memorize.

Alternate channel

Some internet fora pretend to represent a community, and, sometimes, to some extent, they do. But it is common that the collection of users that would consider itself the community has no real power except to make a fuss (and maybe get banned) or walk away.

The Wikipedia community is a great example. There is a real community, but there is also a corporation which, for years, hid behind the trope that the community was in charge. Several years ago, they appear to have abandoned that, and the problems show up in quite a few ways.

Bottom line, the WikiMedia Foundation can and does, on its own, globally ban users, with no explanation and using a crude tool that disables account access and incoming email, cutting the user off. They announce to the world that the person is banned (without explanation but generally implying that the Terms of Service have been violated, which is sometimes false). In fact, the community is banned from communicating with the user! At least using the open email access that is normal through the MediaWiki interface. (Some time back it was discovered that a globally locked user could receive mail if they had email enabled, and so the Foundation quietly fixed that.)

And they do this arbitrarily, with no notice to the user, no warning, and they claim, no appeal possible. They ignore requests for review or to correct errors. It’s a lifetime ban of the person, not the account, and one person was banned with no account, banned by his real name.

Lenr-forum also bans users. For most bans, there is a fairly obvious reason, but occasionally, it’s personal and arbitrary and lenr-forum administration is opaque. But they cannot stop people from reading the site and commenting, and I’m not talking about creating sock puppets. Some time ago, I started occasionally commenting on lenr-forum, using hypothes.is. This tool was designed for academic use, largely. Comment on any web site, and share the comments with a group or with the world. I highly recommend it for the possibilities. I have the tool installed in my browser, so I can add a comment anywhere, with no fuss or special log-in, and I can make it private or publish it.

So, some links:

All comments on lenr-forum.com (by anyone using hypothes.is)

All my comments on lenr-forum

(at this point, both links return the same 116 comments. They are returned in reverse date order, so, as you can see, I made 7 comments recently.)

All my comments anywhere.

I just added new comments on a Shanahan post.

My ideal is better than your reality

Much criticism is based on this comparison between real-world expression and the critic’s ideas, which, of course, may be revised, ad hoc.

This extends far outside science. Our ideas of perfect morality may be, for example, compared with the real behavior of (some) formal members of a religion, as if this demonstrates the superiority of our religion (or our ideals) over the other.

Because there was only one major and relatively deep critique of the Fleischmann-Pons calorimetry, published in a mainstream journal, one debate where there was original publication, critique (by D.R.O. Morrison), and author response, last year I began a page hierarchy to study the debate. The original as-published documents are behind a pay-wall, so I used copies from lenr-canr.org, that were based on a copy of the Morrison critique from sci.physics.fusion, an internet newsgroup, an obsolete form similar to a mailing list.

I first observed the issue of paper integrity in that the FP paper was not identical to the lenr-canr.org copy, which is likely a copy supplied to that library by an author. That is routine for lenr-canr copies of journal-published papers, for copyright reasons. The changes seemed quite minor (I will check this again more thoroughly). But for no decent reason, I did not check the Morrison critique against the later as-published version, and because that as-published version is not widely available, I preferred to use a version that anyone could check against my copy.

And that was an error. I was then distracted by other business, and as continued participation in the review did not appear, I did not return to my study of the debate until yesterday. I started by completing the adding of URLs for references, and then began going over the Morrison paper. It was full of errors or non sequiturs, immature argument, etc. And I started to wonder how this had gotten past peer review. Journals do not necessarily review critiques as strongly as original papers, and I have seen blatant errors in such critiques. Ordinarily, it is left to the authors to correct such errors. In one case where a blatant error was left standing (the Shanahan review in the Journal of Environmental Monitoring), the error was so ridiculously bad that the authors and others responding completely missed it, instead focusing on Shanahan’s conclusion from his seriously defective analysis. Argument from conclusion, naughty, naughty!)

The Morrison document from the newsgroup had this at the top:
5th DRAFT – Scientific Comments Welcomed.

There were no serious responses to that post, threaded with it. (There were other responses that can be found with some searching, made more complicated by some very poor Google archiving practices, what they did when they took over the newsgroups. I will cover other responses (some of it is interesting) elsewhere.

What Morrison was doing was, in part, to be commended, he was putting his work out there for critique before final submission. However, by this time, the scientific community had become highly polarized, and serious discussion, what might be called collaborative critique, good scientific process, was often missing. It still is, too often. Morrison’s critique would be useful, even if “wrong” in this way or that, because what Morrison wrote would be what many would think, but not necessarily write.

I came back to this issue because I noticed a mention of my study on lenr-forum.com. The remainder of this post is a detailed response to that. Continue reading “My ideal is better than your reality”

Right and wrong at the same time

may be subject to copyright

The cold fusion horizon

Is cold fusion truly impossible, or is it just that no respectable scientist can risk their reputation working on it? — Huw Price

I’ve been reading about Synthestech, blogged about it, and now Deneum, more of the SOS, but a step up in professional hype.

Steve Krivit was right about Rossi, he was — and remains — , ah, how shall I express it? The technical phrase is “liar, liar, pants on fire.” But Krivit’s evidence was weak on the subject, mostly raising obvious suspicions, and Tom Darden and  his friends knew that they needed much better evidence, which they proceeded to obtain.

They found quite enough to conclude that if Rossi had anything, it was so certainly useless and so buried in piles of deceptions and misleading information that they simply walked away, it wasn’t worth the cost of completing the trial in Rossi v. Darden in order to keep the rights, which they could rather easily have done.

Krivit was “right,” certainly in a way, but his claims were obvious, in fact. He was right to report what he found, but it was misleading, and useless, to label everything with approbation and contempt, the habits of yellow journalism.

It is not clear that Industrial Heat could have avoided the cost of their expedition. What I find remarkable is how few have learned anything from the affair, and some of those who clearly have learned, have learned how to better extract money from a shallow, knee-jerk public.

The post today is inspired by a photo I found on the Deneum twitter feed. I will be writing about Deneum, there is a real scientist behind Deneum, but is there real science as well? That’s unclear, but what is very clear is the level of hype, that Deneum is representing itself in ways that will lead a casual reader to imagine they already have a product and merely need to start manufacturing it. So $100 million, please. Here is where to send it.

It’s a rich topic for commentary, but today, I’m following some breadcrumbs found, a blogger who was right and wrong, in a different way, more or less from the other side. The photo above, and the headline is from a post by Huw Price, 21 December, 2015

That date is important. At that point, Thomas Darden had been interviewed at ICCF-19, and had made some positive noises. By that time, Darden knew that something was very off about Rossi, and some — or all — of his positivity may have been about technology other than Rossi’s. At the time, I noticed how vague it was. In early 2016, Rossi claimed to have completed the “Guaranteed Performance Test” and was billing Industrial Heat for $89 million. And it was all a scam, a tissue of lies and deceptions. So, now, because of the lawsuit Rossi filed,  we know, to a reasonable degree of certainty, how the Rossi affair worked and did not work. How does Dr. Price’s essay look in hindsight, and has he ever commented?

I’m using hypothesis.is to comment on that essay, because I don’t want to pay $500 to syndicate it, though it is an excellent essay, in the general principles brought out. I may also, later, copy some excerpts here.

The annotations

. (To see them, one must install a tool from hypothes.is, which I highly recommend. Hypothes.is is not intrusive. To start.)

Having written that, I now find that Huw Price also blogged this himself, as

My Dinner with Andrea. Cute title.

A few months later, Huw Price wrote another essay for Aeon:

Is the cold fusion egg about to hatch?

His speculations were off. Has he followed up?

I’ve been unable to find anything, so far. Will the real Huw Price please stand up?

 

 

 

 

Impressive, eh? How could that be a scam?

But it was. So how was

Synthestech scam?

It’s come to my attention that there is a company, Synthestech, which has, for about a year, been running an Initial Coin Offering, as an investment in “Cold Transmutation of Chemical Elements.”

Low Energy Nuclear Reactions, which Sythestech is promoting, are real, or at least there are reports by competent and reputable scientists that there are such reactions. However, the state of the art is far, far from any commercial potential, and there have been many scammers in the history of LENR. Reading the Synthestech material, I see no sign that they have a clue how to make this work, reproducibly and practically. There have been many, many researchers working on the problems for many years, and hundreds of millions of dollars have been invested, with little practical result. If this does show up, it is unlikely to be through an activity using very shaky fundraising techniques.

If one wants to invest in LENR, which must be considered extremely high risk at this time, –expect to lose your money  I would suggest Industrial Heat, which does not accept most private investment at this time. At least, though, they are supporting genuine research and it is possible they will get lucky. For the general public, Woodford Patient Capital Trust is invested in Industrial Heat, so it’s possible to buy in, I know a few people who have modest stakes — and a few with much larger stakes. This is, however, more of a way to spend one’s money than to get rich. There was a revaluation lately that looked good. It may or may not mean anything.

Again, I’ll emphasize, this is truly high risk, I am aware of no technology close to commercialization. Andrea Rossi was (and remains) a fraud.

Speaking of Rossi, Sythestech uses his name. In their “White Paper,” they have:

Andrea Rossi was one of
the first entrepreneurs who adopted the LENR technology. In collaboration with Sergio Focardi, he created a device based on the principles of LENR-reactions, which generated electricity. In recent years, many installations that generate electricity have been built secretly.

That’s total BS. Rossi has not claimed the generation of elecricity. He did claim to be operating a megawatt reactor in Florida, and it was secret for a time, but all this blew up in 2016, becoming highly public in the lawsuit, Rossi v. Darden. There was a plant, but it was not generating a megawatt, if it was generating anything, and the odds are high that it was generating nothing, it was just a big electric water heater, maybe 30 KW.

Rossi comes up again in the interview in Entrepreneur

Your whitepaper ICO mentions modern nuclear technology. Do you also develop advanced nuclear technologies? Could you tell us more about this?

In fact, the field has become more popular than ever. Latest advancements in portable power generation devices developed by Andrea Rossi and progress in obtaining platinum from tungsten by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, indicate that Cold Transmutation has gained real-world traction.

There are no “portable power generation devices developed by Andrea Rossi.” There has been work on certain transmutations by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (the work of Iwamura), but it was not “platinum from tungsten” and was not even close to commercial possibility. Synthestech is doing a lot of name-dropping, making it seem like there is support for their plans. There is not, not from the scientists in the field, not as far as has been shown.

There are so many signs of scam, frenzied hype, that I’m not researching this further, there are many more interesting things to work on, with the real science of LENR. I’m putting this up to warn investors that, while LENR is real, that is, there are real nuclear effects at apparently low initiation energies, the evidence has become overwhelming, the effects remain very difficult to control, they are “unreliable,” generally, in spite of many years of effort to develop control. The best minds in the field are searching for a “lab rat,” a simple experiment that could be widely confirmed. It does not yet exist.

(The evidence for the reality of LENR does not depend on reliability of generating the effect. Rather, the circumstantial evidence is the many reports of anomalous heat, the many reports of anomalous tritium, and then the direct evidence that measured helium is correlated with the heat, at a ratio consistent within experimental error of that expected from fusion. (This does not require that the reaction be “d-d fusion.” Any process that starts with deuterium and ends with helium will show that ratio, it must, if there are no leakages.)

David Gerard, not exactly a friend, has a post on Synthestech. He has his head wedged in a dark place on LENR, but he’s right that Synthestech is a scam. It has many, many marks of deception. However:

Karabanov announced his breakthrough in a press release and press conference in August 2016 — because science by press conference, rather than a published paper detailing an experiment and how to reproduce it, is standard in cold fusion:

It is not “standard in cold fusion.” There were press conferences in 1989, on both sides of the cold fusion controversy, but the real science is not conducted by press conference. There are over 1500 papers on cold fusion published in mainstream journals and if we add in conference proceedings, which sometimes include papers of equal or better quality than what is in journals, it’s roughly 5000 papers. David Gerard is repeating a series of tired old arguments against cold fusion. He has no clue what really happened in 1989-1990 and later, just a pile of vague ideas, second-hand knowledge, not actually researched, repeating the common opinions of the ignorant as if fact.

The problem is not that “cold nuclear transmutation” is impossible, it’s not, but that it is, so far, at best, a laboratory curiosity, not a commercial possibility, except in the most remote sense.Maybe. Some day. If.

Dismissals like that of David Gerard are obviously pseudoskeptical and will have no effect or influence on those who might be interested in investing. Steve Krivit was correct that Rossi was a scammer, but because his evidence was circumstantial and vague, dependent on ad-hominem arguments and inferences, it did not prevent investment in Rossi.

There are many Russian researchers working with LENR, they have long been prominent in the field. I see no sign, so far, that Synthestech is working with the real scientists in the field, though they drop their names, such as Vysotskii and Kornilova. I found that apparently Yuri Bazhutov, the late well-known Russian LENR researcher, has been called an “advisor” to Synthestech. See this obituary.

That points to a Sythestech interview of Bazhutov. I had noticed that Sythestech has claimed to have been an observer at RCCNT&BL in 2017, and the interview was allegedly conducted there. There is only one very brief mention of Synthestech in the interview:

What can you say about “Synthestech” and your visit to the Sochi laboratory?

We were pleased to know that there is a new group in Russia that is studying the same phenomena. It’s very pleasant that there is such a team as “Synthestech”, because the winner is the one who moves.

That is simply a casual comment, non-committal, and not surprising. This is far from an endorsement of the actual company, or its accomplishments. Many entrepreneurs have induced scientists to be called “advisors.” It’s basically meaningless, particularly when the company is unknown and the scientist has little reason to suspect a scam. I have seen scientists, later, distance themselves from such companies, when the way they were operating became clear.

Again, if one wants to support LENR research, I recommend becoming knowledgeable as a first step. There are many ways to support increased awareness of the real work that has been done. Tossing money at overheated investment scams is not one of them. Contact me if interested in supportive activity.

On more point: the original research that Karabanov of Synthestech appropriate was biological transmutation. To those that believe cold fusion or cold nuclear transmutation is impossible, biological transmutation will seem preposterous.

However, there are nuclear effects in condensed matter, that appear to involve unusual structures that allow a collective effect, rather than the brute-force collision effect of hot fusion. This is all poorly understood, but the evidence of nuclear anomalies is overwhelming, and if it can happen in the lab, at low energies, it is easily conceivable that life would find a way to use it, and there is substantial work on biological transmutation, by serious and highly experienced scientists (such as Vysotskii, whose name gets dropped by Karabanov). Most of this is not yet confirmed.

Karabanov is attempting to sell something that might be possible, almost certainly before its time. Here is a page covering some of that research by those identified as Karabanov’s partners. It looks like Karabanov abandoned the biological approach, and he claims to have industrial processes. No evidence has appeared of this. When challenged with, “If you can transmute elements, why do you need the bitcoin investments?” (he could just make precious metals), his answer is that the experiments only produce milligrams of material. I think he is exaggerating even there, if not outright lying, but what is a few orders of magnitude among friends?

Looking for “boring,” finding gold

I’ve been spending most of my days, lately, compiling bibliographic material, and setting up archives of LENR conference papers, as well as a full LENR Library. Where I can find an on-line copy of the Proceedings, it’s easy, merely a bit time-consuming. In other cases proceedings may only exist in a few libraries, and it may take time to find those copies. Sometimes scans are made of books, but the cheap way of doing this, at $0.01 – $0.02 per page, involves destroying the book. These volumes, where they exist, may sell for on the order of $300. It is not necessary to destroy the book to read it, and if it can be read, it can be photographed, and that is now easy with smart phones. My 64 GB iPhone could hold high-resolution photos of every page of a 1000-page book, without breaking a sweat. I might get a little tired, I figure I could, with a simple setup, maybe 2 pages per minute. So 500 minutes for a 1000 page book, 8 hours. To avoid RSI, not less than two days. Doable. I will only do this if necessary, and will attempt to share the work.

All needed, perhaps, because nobody bothered to keep and make available original copies of computer files. Material is still being lost. As an example, abstracts and proceedings have recently disappeared from iscmns.org. Documents once hosted by newenergytimes.com have vanished. Sometimes these can be found on the internet archive, sometimes not.

Below, I report benefits of working with this material. Continue reading “Looking for “boring,” finding gold”

Being right is not enough

or How “fusion” created confusion.

We now have strong evidence that the Fleischmann-Pons Heat Effect, sometimes known as the Anomalous Heat Effect, is nuclear in nature and accomplishes the transmutation of deuterium into helium, as the main reaction generating heat, but this evidence was not available in the early days of the field. Skeptics and “believers” conspired (albeit not realizing what they were doing) to call what was actually observed — or claimed, and the two were heavily confused — by Pons and Fleischmann, “cold fusion.” Even when a little careful thought would have exposed the distinction.\

What Pons and Fleischmann observed, in experiments with extreme loading of palladium with deuterium, was anomalous heat, with an apparent energy density or net energy production higher than they could explain with chemistry. They also saw weak signals associated with fusion, specifically, they believed they had seen evidence of neutrons, they detected tritium, and also helium. They did not have quantitative correlations, and  the quantities found of tritum and neutrons and the ratio of heat to tritium and neutrons, and tritium to neutrons, was far different from that expected if they had succeeded in creating normal fusion.

So what they had found, if it was nuclear in nature, was not “d-d fusion,” almost certainly, which is very well known, and which is believed to necessarily produce those products.

I just came across some remarkable language from 1990 that shows the issue. This is in a report to ICCF-1, by Iyangar and Srinivasan, from BARC, the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, Bombay, India. These were nuclear experts, and there was, for a time, a massive effort to investigate cold fusion.

Wait, to investigate “cold fusion”? What’s that? Getting little details like exactly what one is investigating and why can be, ah, let’s call it useful.

From the abstract, and, remember, I have the benefit of an intervening three decades of history, a huge dollop of hindsight. What I’m seeing here as a misunderstanding that fostered confusion and conflict was something that many, many thought, it was language in common use. From the abstract:

A wide variety of experiments have been carried out by twelve independent teams employing both electrolytic and gas phase loading of deuterium in Pd and Ti metals to investigate the phenomenon of cold fusion first reported by Fleischmann and Pons in March 1989. The experiments were primarily devoted to the study of the emission of nuclear particles such as neutrons and tritium with a view to verify the“nuclear origin”of cold fusion.

Did Fleischmann and Pons report “cold fusion”? It was quite unfortunate that they mentioned the classical fusion reactions in their first paper, because it was totally obvious that what they were seeing, whatever it was, was not those reactions. The evidence that a nuclear reaction was happening was circumstantial, not enough to overcome strong expectation that such reactions would be impossible in the conditions of their experiments

That is, there was heat that they could not explain. If the heat were regular and predictable and reproducible, that could have been enough. But it wasn’t. The heat effect was elusive. “I can’t explain these results with chemistry” is not evidence with which one could convince a physicist. One would first need to convince the physicist that the evidence is clear and not artifact, because if one has telegraphed that you think this is something the physicist will think is impossible, they will examine all the evidence with a jaundiced eye. It’s just human nature.

So “cold fusion” started off with a handicap. It really didn’t help that the neutron evidence that Pons and Fleischmann adduced was artifact. What we know now is that very few neutrons, if any, are generated with their experiment.

(We need to realize that many difference kinds of experiments get lumped together as “cold fusion,” but different experiments may actually show different results, different reactions might be happening under conditions that are sometimes not adequately controlled. By conceptualizing the object of study as “cold fusion,” an assumption is created of a single phenomenon, and then when results differ, the reality of the alleged phenomenon comes into question.l)

What was reasonably being investigated was the possibility of nuclear phenomena in certain metals loaded with deuterium. The first issue to investigate was, for most groups, heat. But groups with a particular interest in nuclear physics often investigated neutrons, and when it was found that many replication attempts produced very few neutrons, this strengthened skepticism. There was also a common assumption that if nuclear reactions were happening, there must be neutrons. That is simply false, but the absence of neutrons from what was being assumed to be deuterium-deuterium fusion, that’s actually a very dificult puzzle.

The first order of business was to detect, measure, and correlate phenomena, not to interpret the results, but this was all pre-interpreted. They were investigating “cold fusion.” Not, say, “the Fleischman and Pons reports of anomalous heat.”

Ask a physicist, could there be deuterium fusion in palladium deuteride at room temperature, and he or she is likely to tell you, straight out, “No.” But ask this scientist if there could be a heat effect of unknown origin, and if they are worth their salt, they would tell you, well, we don’t know everything and sometimes it can take time to figure out what is happening.

Tbe report desperately needing confirmation was what Pons and Fleischmann had actually observed, once the confusion over their neutron reports was cleared up. “Cold fusion” was an interpretation, not an experimental fact, or certainly not yet.

Tritium was widely observed, it wasn’t just BARC. But was the tritium connected with the prime Fleischmann=Pons effect, the heat? And then things really got crazy when reports started to show up of a heat effect with light hydrogen. Again, the concept of a single phenomenon caused confusion. It is not that we know there is more than one reaction, we don’t know that yet. But it is quite possible, the “law of conservation of miracles” is not a law, and cold fusion is not a miracle. It’s something that doesn’t happen very often, and while I use the tern “cold fusion,” often, I would not use it academically without clear definition. At least I hope not!

By “cold fusion” i mean the FP Heat Effect and other possible affects commonly associated with it or believed or claimed to be related. I justify the use of the term because the known product from the FP Heat Effect is helium, which is, Ockham’s Razor with the evidence we have, coming from the conversion oi deuterium to helium. That is fusion in effect, which must be distinguished from “deuterium fusion,” i.e., two deuterium nuclei fusing. Why? That reaction is very well known and the products are well known, and there are reasons to consider that even if this happens somehow at low energy, the products will be the same.

(When a physicist claims that “cold fusion” is impossible, because of the Coulomb barrier making the fusion rate be so low as to be indetectable, they are being sloppy, because muon-catalyzed fusion takes place at extremely low temperatures. Muons act as catalysts, so the immediate question arises, could something else catalyze fusion. An inability to imagine it is, again, not evidence. The universe is vast and possibilities endless, we cannot know all of them, only what is common.)

In 22 different electrolytic experiments whose cathode surface areas ranged from 0.1 to 300 cm2 , large bursts of neutrons and/or tritium were measured. Some of these gave clear evidence that these two nuclear particles were being generated simultaneously. The neutron-to-tritium yield ratios in the majority of these experiments was in the range of 10-6 to 10-9.

“Large bursts” is suspicious. Large compared to what? I have not read the report in detail yet. (I will). But tritium is a minor effect associated with the FP Heat Effect. It may be the case that tritium is enhanced if there is substantial light hydrogen in the heavy water, but even a little light water tends to suppress the FP Heat Effect. Even if there is some single mechanism, it behaves differently when presented with different fuels. The norm with cold fusion experiments, though, is that high-energy radiation and radioactive products are found only at very low levels. The rule of thumb, I state as tritium being a million times down from helium, and neutrons a million times down from helium. Helium production, with deuterium fuel (helium is not reported with light hydrogen as fuel, and we don’t know the product of light hydrogen “cold fusion.”

Those ratios are strong evidence that “cold fusion” is not d-d fusion, because the operation of d-d fusion, how and why the nucleus normally fragments, is well understood. I.e, the fused nucleus, the product of that fusion, is highly energized, it’s hot. That is true even if the reaction is not hot fusion (and the kinetic energy involved with fusion from the velocity of impact is dwarfed by the energy of collapse, as the nucleons collapse under the influence of the strong force. (Very strong force!)  There is so much energy that normally the nucleus breaks into two pieces and there are only two ways it can do that. It can eject a proton or it can eject a neutron, to carry away that energy and leave the nucleus in the ground state, cool. That’s the two branches, and it is mostly equal which nucleon ends up being odd man out. Hence the two common branches,

1H2 (deuterium)+ 1H2 -> 1H3 (Helium-3)+ 1H(light hydrogen, a proton) + energy

1H2 + 1H2 -> 2He3 (Helium-4) + 0N 1 (a neutron) + energy

And then the third branch is very rare. If the nucleus happens to be exactly balanced (I think, maybe balance is not an issue, just the odds), and manages to live intact long enough to generate a photon, the nucleons can stay together and almost all the energy is dumped into the photon, which is very high energy, 23.8 MeV. (The rest of the energy is in the recoil of the helium nucleus.) I think the branching ratio for that is one in 10^-7 reactions. One in ten million.

So that becomes another miracle that exercised Huizenga. If somehow the fusion happens (spectacularly unlikely!), and somehow it manages to produce helium (very unlikely), there must be a gamma ray, a very energetic one. This would be, at the heat levels reported, very dangerous. It’s not observed. That’s strong evidence that d+d fusion is no happening.

Something else is happening. In that context and with that understanding, and given the mishegas about “cold fusion” it was important to be investigating phenomena, not explanations. Tritium was actually contradictory to the FP Heat Effect, in general. It was lumped together with it because if tritium was being produced, “something nuclear” was happening. But what is the evidence that the heat was nuclear. Maybe if we look carefully, we will see nuclear reactions happening at low levels in unexpected places.

A unique feature of the BARC electrolysis results is that the first bursts of neutrons and tritium occurred (in 8 out of 11 cells) on the very first day of commencement of electrolysis, when hardly a few amp-hrs of charge had been passed.

This is evidence that the effects they are seeing are not the FP Heat Effect! It doesn’t happen that early, in FP type electrolysis experiments. There are rapid effects reported with codeposition, a different approach.

But the occasion for this post was the linguistic anomaly here. I’ll repeat it:

The experiments were primarily devoted to the study of the emission of nuclear particles such as neutrons and tritium with a view to verify the“nuclear origin”of cold fusion.

“Fusion” is a nuclear reaction. So they are looking to verify the nuclear origin of a nuclear reaction. It’s a tautology. As to looking for nuclear particles associated with what was called “cold fusion,” the FP Heat Effect, they are missing, mostly. What BARC found was at very low levels. Helium was suspected early on, but (because of no gammas) was not given a great deal of credence, and there was an additional reason to doubt helium evidence: helium is present in the atmosphere at levels normally greater than those expected if the FP Heat Effect were producing helium. So in many experiments (not all), leakage can be a possible artifact. It took careful work (beginning with Miles as to what I know so far) to actually show that helium is the main product of the FP Heat Effect.

That has been done, and confirmed many times. Tritium, however, is interesting, scientifically, and there is much work still to be done with tritium, and in particular, investigating tritium correlations with other products and conditions.

 

Consensus is what we say it is

But who are “we”?

HM CollinsA BartlettLI Reyes-Galindo,  The Ecology of Fringe Science and its Bearing on Policy, arXiv:1606.05786v1 [physics.soc-ph],  Sat, 18 Jun 2016.

 In this paper we illustrate the tension between mainstream ‘normal’, ‘unorthodox’ and ‘fringe’ science that is the focus of two ongoing projects that are analysing the full ecology of physics knowledge. The first project concentrates on empirically understanding the notion of consensus in physics by investigating the policing of boundaries that is carried out at the arXiv preprint server, a fundamental element of the contemporary physics publishing landscape. The second project looks at physics outside the mainstream and focuses on the set of organisations and publishing outlets that have mushroomed outside of mainstream physics to cover the needs of ‘alternative’, ‘independent’ and ‘unorthodox’ scientists. Consolidating both projects into the different images of science that characterise the mainstream (based on consensus) and the fringe (based on dissent), we draw out an explanation of why today’s social scientists ought to make the case that, for policy-making purposes, the mainstream’s consensus should be our main source of technical knowledge.

I immediately notice a series of assumptions: that the authors  know what “consensus in physics” is, or “the mainstream (based on consensus)”, and that this, whatever it is, should be our main source of “technical knowledge.” Who is it that is asking the question, to whom does “our” refer in the last sentence?

Legally, the proposed argument is bullshit. Courts, very interested in knowledge, fact and clear interpretation, do not determine what the “mainstream consensus” is on a topic, nor do review bodies, such as, with our special interest, the U.S. Department of Energy in its 1989 and 2004 reviews. Rather, they seek expert opinion, and, at best, in a process where testimony and evidence are gathered.

Expert opinion would mean the opinions of those with the training, experience, and knowledge adequate to understand a subject, and who have actually investigated the subject themselves, or who are familiar with the primary reports of those who have investigated. Those who rely on secondary and tertiary reports, even from academic sources, would not be “expert” in this meaning. Those who rely on news media  would simply be bystanders, with varying levels of understanding, and quite vulnerable to information cascades, the same as everyone with anything where personal familiarity is absent. The general opinions of people are not admissible as evidence in court, nor are they of much relevance in science.

But sociologists study human society. Where these students of the sociology of science wander astray is in creating a policy recommendation — vague though it is — without thoroughly exploring the foundations of the topic.

Are those terms defined in the paper?

Consensus is often used very loosely and sloppily. Most useful, I think, is the meaning of “the widespread agreement of experts,” and the general opinion of a general body is better described by “common opinion.” The paper is talking about “knowledge,” and especially “scientific knowledge,” which is a body of interpretation created through the “scientific method,” and which is distinct from the opinions of scientists, and in particular the opinions of those who have not studied the subject.

1ageneral agreement UNANIMITY

the consensus of their opinion, based on reports … from the border—John Hersey

bthe judgment arrived at by most of those concerned

the consensus was to go ahead

2group solidarity in sentiment and belief

Certainly, the paper is not talking about unanimity, indeed, the whole thrust of it is to define fringe as “minority,” So the second definition applies, but is it of “those concerned”? By the conditions of the usage, “most scientists” are not “concerned” with the fringe, they generally ignore it. But “consensus” is improperly used, when the meaning is mere majority.

And when we are talking about a “scientific consensus,” to make any sense, we must be talking about the consensus of experts, not the relatively ignorant. Yet the majority of humans like to be right and to think that their opinions are the gold standard of truth. And scientists are human.

The paper is attempting to create a policy definition of science, without considering the process of science, how “knowledge” is obtained. It is, more or less, assuming the infallibility of the majority, at some level of agreement, outside the processes of science. 

We know from many examples the danger of this. The example of Semmelweiss is often adduced. Semmelweiss’s research and his conclusions contradicted the common opinion of physicians who delivered babies. He studied the problem of “childbed fever” with epidemological techniques, and came to the conclusion that the primary cause of the greatly increased mortality among those attended by physicians over those attended by midwives, was the practice of doctors who performed autopsies (a common “scientific” practice of those days) and who left the autopsy and examined women invasively, without thorough antisepsis. Semmelweiss studied hospital records, and then introduced antiseptic practices, and saw a great decrease in mortality.

But Semmelweiss was, one of his biographers thinks, becoming demented, showing signs of “Alzheimer’s presenile dementia,” and Semmelweiss became erratic and oppositional (one of the characteristics of some fringe advocates, as the authors of our paper point out). He was ineffective in communicating his findings, but it is also true that he met with very strong opposition that was not based in science, but in the assumption of physicians that what Semmelweiss was proposing was impossible.

This was before germ theory was developed and tested by Pasteur. The error of the “mainstream” was in not paying attention to the evidence Semmelweiss found. If they had done so, it’s likely that many thousands of unnecessary deaths would have been avoided.

I ran into something a little bit analogous in my personal history. I delivered my own children, after our experience with the first, relying on an old obstetrics textbook (DeLee, 1933) and the encouragement of an obstetrician. Later, because my wife and I had experience, we created a midwifery organization, trained midwives, and got them licensed by the state, a long story. The point here is that some obstetricians were horrified, believing that what we were doing was unsafe, and that home birth was necessarily riskier than hospital birth. That belief was based on wishful thinking.

“We do everything to make this as safe as possible” is not evidence of success.

An actual study was done, back then. It was found that home birth in the hands of skilled midwives, and with proper screening, i.e., not attempting to deliver difficult cases at home, was slightly safer than hospital birth, though the difference was not statistically significant. Why? Does it matter why?

However, there is a theory, and I think the statistics supported it. A woman delivering at home is accustomed to and largely immune to microbes present in the home. Not so with the hospital. There are other risks where being at home could increase negative outcomes, but they are relatively rare, and it appears that the risks at least roughly balance. But a great deal would depend on the midwives and how they practice.

(There is a trend toward birthing centers, located adjacent to hospitals, to avoid the mixing of the patient population. This could ameliorate the problem, but not eliminate it. Public policy, though, if we are going to talk about “shoulds,” should not depend on wishful thinking, and too often it does.)

(The best obstetricians, though, professors of obstetrics, wanted to learn from the midwives: How do you avoid doing an episiotomy? And we could answer that from experience. Good scientists are curious, not reactive and protective of “being right,” where anything different from what they think must be “wrong.” And that is, in fact, how the expertise of a real scientist grows.)

Does the paper actually address the definitional and procedural issues? From my first reading, I didn’t see it.

From the Introduction:

 Fringe science has been an important topic since the start of the revolution in the social studies of science that occurred in the early 1970s.2 As a softer-edged model of the sciences developed, fringe science was a ‘hard case’ on which to hammer out the idea that scientific truth was whatever came to count as scientific truth: scientific truth emerged from social closure. The job of those studying fringe science was to recapture the rationality of its proponents, showing how, in terms of the procedures of science, they could be right and the mainstream could be wrong and therefore the consensus position is formed by social agreement.

First of all, consensus in every context is formed by social agreement, outside of very specific contexts (which generally control the “agreement group” and the process). The conclusion stated does not follow from the premise that the fringe “could be right.” The entire discussion assumes that there is a clear meaning to “right” and “wrong,” it is ontologically unsophisticated. Both “right” and “wrong” are opinions, not fact, though there are cases where we would probably all agree that something was right or wrong, but when we look at this closely, they are situations where evidence is very strong, or the rightness and wrongness are based on fundamental human qualities. They are still a social agreement, even if written in our genes.

I do get a clue what they are about, though, in the next paragraph:

One outcome of this way of thinking is that sociologists of science informed by the perspective outlined above find themselves short of argumentative resources for demarcating science from non-science.

These are sociologists, yet they appear to classify an obvious sociological observation as “a way of thinking,” based on the effect, this being argument from consequences, having no bearing on the reality. So, for what purpose would we want to distinguish between science and non-science? The goal, apparently, is to be able to argue the distinction, but this is an issue which has been long studied. In a definitional question like this, my first inquiry is, “Who wants to know, and why?” because a sane answer will consider context.

There are classical ways of identifying the boundaries. Unfortunately, those ways require judgment. Whose judgment? Rather than judgment, the authors appear to be proposing the use of a vague concept of “scientific consensus,” that ignores the roots of that. “Scientific consensus” is not, properly, the general agreement of those called “scientists,” but of those with expertise, as I outline above. It is a consensus obtained through collective study of evidence. It can still be flawed, but my long-term position on genuine consensus is that it is the most reliable guide we have, and as long as we keep in mind the possibility that any idea can be defective, any interpretation may become obsolete, in the language of Islam, if we do not “close the gates of ijtihaad,” as some imagine happened over a thousand years ago, relying on social agreement, and especially the agreement of the informed, is our safest course.

They went on:

The distinction with traditional philosophy of science, which readily
demarcates fringe subjects such as parapsychology by referring to their ‘irrationality’ or some such, is marked.3
For the sociologist of scientific knowledge, that kind of demarcation comprises a retrospective drawing on what is found within the scientific community. In contrast, the sociological perspective explains why a multiplicity of conflicting views on the same topic, each with its own scientific justification, can coexist. A position that can emerge from this perspective is to argue for less authoritarian control of new scientific initiatives – for a loosening of the controls on the restrictive side of what Kuhn (1959, 1977) called ‘the essential tension’. The essential tension is between those who believe that science can only progress within consensual
‘ways of going on’ which restrict the range of questions that can be asked, the ways of asking and answering them and the kinds of criticism that it is legitimate to offer – this is sometime known as working within ‘paradigms’ – and those who believe that this kind of control is unacceptably  authoritarian and that good science is always maximally creative and has no bounds in these respects. This tension is central to what we argue here. We note only that a complete loosening of control would lead to the dissolution of science.

They note that, but adduce no evidence. Control over what? There are thousands upon thousands of institutions, making decisions which can affect the viability of scientific investigation. The alleged argument, stated as contrary “beliefs,” misses that there could be a consensus, rooted in reality. What is reality? And there we need more than the kind of shallow sociology that I see here. Socially, we get the closest to the investigation of reality in the legal system, where there are processes and procedures for finding “consensus,” as represented by the consensus of a jury, or the assessment of a judge, with procedures in place to assure neutrality, even though we know that those procedures sometimes fail, hence there are appeal procedures, etc.

In science, in theory, “closure” is obtained through the acceptance of authoritative reviews, published in refereed journals. Yet such process is not uncommonly bypassed in the formation of what is loosely called “scientific consensus.” In those areas, such reviews may be published, but are ignored, dismissed. It is the right of each individual to decide what information to follow, and what not, except when the individual, or the supervising organization, has a responsibility to consider it. Here, it appears, there is an attempt to advise organizations, as to what they should consider “science.”

Why do they need to decide that? What I see is that if one can dismiss claims coming under consideration, based on an alleged “consensus,” which means, in practice, I call up my friend, who is a physicist, say, and he says, “Oh, that’s bullshit, proven wrong long ago. Everybody knows.”

If someone has a responsibility, it is not discharged by receiving and acting on rumors.

The first question, about authoritarian control, is, “Does it exist?” Yes, it does. And the paper rather thoroughly documents it, as regards the arXiv community and library. However, if a “pseudoskeptic” is arguing with a “fringe believer,” — those are both stereotypical terms —  and the believer mentions the suppression, the skeptic will assert, “Aha! Conspiracy theory!” And, in fact, when suppression takes place, conspiracy theories do abound. This is particularly true if the suppression is systemic, rather than anecdotal. And with fringe science, once a field is so tagged, it is systemic.

Anyone who researches the history of cold fusion will find examples, where authoritarian control is exerted with means that not openly acknowledged, and with cooperation and collaboration in this. Is that a “conspiracy”? Those engaged in it won’t think so. This is just, to them, “sensible people cooperating with each other.”

I would distinguish between this activity as a “natural conspiracy,” from “corrupt conspiracy,” as if, for example, the oil industry were conspiring to suppress cold fusion because of possible damage to their interests. In fact, I find corrupt conspiracy extremely unlikely in the case of cold fusion, and in many other cases where it is sometimes asserted.

The straw man argument, they set up, is between extreme and entrenched positions, depending on knee-jerk reactions. That is “authoritarian control” is Bad. Is it? Doesn’t that depend on context and purpose?

But primitive thinkers are looking for easy classifications, particularly into Good and Bad. The argument described is rooted in such primitive thinking, and certainly not actual sociology (which must include linguistics and philosophy).

So I imagine a policy-maker, charged with setting research budgets, presented with a proposal for research that may be considered fringe. Should he or she approve the proposal? Now there are procedures, but this stands out: if the decider decides according to majority opinion among “scientists,” it’s safer. But it also shuts down the possibility of extending the boundaries of science, and that can sometimes cause enormous damage.

Those women giving birth in hospitals in Europe in the 19th century. They died because of a defective medical practice, and because reality was too horrible to consider, for the experts. It meant that they were, by their hands, killing women. (One of Semmelweiss’s colleagues, who accepted his work, realized that he had caused the death of his niece, and committed suicide.)

What would be a more responsible approach? I’m not entirely sure I would ask sociologists, particularly those ontologically unsophisticated. But they would, by their profession, be able to document what actually exists, and these sociologists do that, in part. But as to policy recommendations, they put their pants on one leg at a time. They may have no clue.

What drives this paper is a different question that arises out of the sociological perspective: What is the outside world to do with the new view?

Sociologists may have their own political opinions, and these clearly do. Science does not provide advice, rather it can, under the best circumstances, inform decisions, but decision-making is a matter of choices, and science does not determine choices. It may, sometimes, predict the consequences of choices. But these sociologists take it as their task to advise, it seems.

So who wants to know and for what purpose? They have this note:

1 This paper is joint work by researchers supported by two grants: ESRC to Harry Collins, (RES/K006401/1) £277,184, What is scientific consensus for policy? Heartlands and hinterlands of physics (2014-2016); British Academy Post-Doctoral Fellowship to Luis Reyes-Galindo, (PF130024) £223,732, The social boundaries of scientific knowledge: a case study of ‘green’ Open Access (2013-2016).

Searching for that, I first find a paper by these authors:

Collins, Harry & Bartlett, Andrew & Reyes-Galindo, Luis. (2017). “Demarcating Fringe Science for Policy.” Perspectives on Science. 25. 411-438. 10.1162/POSC_a_00248. Copy on ResearchGate.

This appears to be a published version of the arXiv preprint. The abstract:

Here we try to characterize the fringe of science as opposed to the mainstream. We want to do this in order to provide some theory of the difference that can be used by policy-makers and other decision-makers but without violating the principles of what has been called ‘Wave Two of Science Studies’. Therefore our demarcation criteria rest on differences in the forms of life of the two activities rather than questions of rationality or rightness; we try to show the ways in which the fringe differs from the mainstream in terms of the way they think about and practice the institution of science. Along the way we provide descriptions of fringe institutions and sciences and their outlets. We concentrate mostly on physics.

How would decision-makers use this “theory”? It seems fairly clear to me: find a collection of “scientists” and ask them to vote. If a majority of these people think that the topic is fringe, it’s fringe, and the decision-maker can reject a project to investigate it, and be safe. Yet people who are decision-makers are hopefully more sophisticated than CYA bureaucrats.

Collins has long written about similar issues. I might obtain and read his books.

As an advisor on science policy, though, what he’s advising isn’t science, it’s politics. The science involved would be management science, not the sociology of science. He’s outside his field. If there is a business proposal, it may entail risk. In fact, almost any potentially valuable course of action would entail risk. “Risky” and “fringe” are related.

However, with cold fusion, we know this: both U.S. Department of Energy reviews, which were an attempt to discover informed consensus, came up with a recommendation for more research. Yet if decision-makers reject research proposals, if journals reject papers without review — Collins talks about that process, is if reasonable, as it is under some conditions and not others — if a student’s dissertation is rejected because it was about “cold fusion,” — though not really, it was about finding tritium in electrolytic cells, which is only a piece of evidence, not a conclusion — then the research will be suppressed, which is not what the reviews purported to want. Actual consensus of experts was ignored in favor of a shallow interpretation of it. (Point this out to a pseudoskeptic, the counter-argument is that “Oh, they always recommend more research, it was boilerplate, polite. They really knew that cold fusion was bullshit.” This is how entrenched belief looks. It rationalizes away all contrary evidence. it attempts to shut down interest in anything fringe. I wonder, if they could legally use the tools, would they torture “fringe believers,” like a modern Inquisition? Sometimes I think so.

“Fringe,” it appears, is to be decided based on opinion believed to be widespread, without any regard for specific expertise and knowledge.

“Cold fusion” is commonly thought of as a physics topic, because if the cause of the observed effects is what it was first thought to be, deuterium-deuterium fusion, it would be of interest to nuclear physicists. But few nuclear physicists are expert in the fields involved in those reports. Yet physicists were not shy about giving opinions, too often. Replication failure — which was common with this work — is not proof that the original reports were false, it is properly called a “failure,” because that is what it usually is.

Too few pay attention to what actually happened with N-rays and polywater, which are commonly cited as precedent. Controlled experiment replicated the results! And then showed prosaic causes as being likely. With cold fusion, failure to replicate (i.e., absence of confirming evidence from some investigators, not others) was taken as evidence of absence, which it never is, unless the situation is so obvious and clear that results could not overlook notice. Fleischmann-Pons was a very difficult experiment. It seemed simple to physicists, with no experience with electrochemistry.

I’ve been preparing a complete bibliography on cold fusion, listing and providing access information for over 1500 papers published in mainstream journals, with an additional 3000 papers published in other ways. I’d say that anyone who actually studies the history of cold fusion will recognize how much Bad Science there was, and it was on all sides, not just the so-called “believer” side, nor just on the other.

So much information was generated by this research, which went all over the map, that approaching the field is forbidding, there is too much. There have been reviews, which is how the mainstream seeks closure, normally, not by some vague social phenomenon, an information cascade.

The reviews conclude that there is a real effect. Most consider the mechanism as unknown, still. But it’s nuclear, that is heavily shown by the preponderance of evidence. The contrary view, that this is all artifact, has become untenable, actually unreasonable for those who know the literature. Most don’t know it. The latest major review was “Status of cold fusion, 2010,: Edmund Storms, Naturwissenschaften, preprint.

Decision-makers need to know if a topic is fringe, because they may need to be able to justify their decisions, and with a fringe topic, flak can be predicted.  The criteria that Collins et al seem to be proposing — my study isn’t thorough yet — use behavioral criteria, that may not, at all, apply to individuals making, say, a grant request, but rather to a community. Yet if the topic is such as to trigger the knee-jerk responses of pseudoskeptics, opposition can be expected.

A decision-maker should look for peer-reviewed reviews in the literature, in mainstream journals. Those can provide the cover a manager may need.

The general opinion of “scientists” may vary greatly from the responsible decisions of editors and reviewers who actually take a paper seriously, and who therefore study it and verify and check it.

A manager who depends on widespread but uninformed opinion is likely to make poor decisions, faced with an opportunity for something that could create a breakthrough. Such decisions, though, should not be naive, should not fail to recognize the risks.