On LENR Forum, there is a thread on Shanahan’s critique of cold fusion experiments, and this post appeared by THHuxleynew:
I’ll give his last comment first:
PS – I don’t make these arguments often here, since I feel they are perhaps known by those interested in them, and strongly disliked by others. So I will not continue this argument unless new facts are added to make it worthwhile.
In fact, THH addresses an issue that I have never before seen raised. It is of limited impact, but it proposes a possible artifact that could afflict some experiments, that should probably be explicitly ruled out (or confirmed!)
Jed was arguing something familiar, common, and … incorrect, and THH nails that.
It may help to look closely at the strands of argument here:
I agree with Jed, he makes a number of true statements, but his point does not address mine. My point was that measuring salt balance does not determine the amount of entrainment, because entrained liquid can be either condensed (no salt) or non-evaporated (with salt). Condensation does not change the heat balance. But entrainment, in an open cell as we discussed here, does. Jed trying to argue that F&P can know there is no entrainment (and therefore no resulting change in heat balance) by measuring salt content. This is false.
He is correct. We will explain. Measuring the salt assumes that entrained liquid is unvaporized electrolyte, and the electrolyte is salty. However, that is not the only possibility!
Jed: Condensation is exothermic, so the heat lost to boiling is added back into the cell by condensation. You can test this by measuring the heat of vaporization in a cell with some condensation. It does not change from the textbook value. The null experiments by F&P all had condensation and they all produced the textbook value.
Jed is completely correct that condensation does not change the heat balance. However, this is missing THH’s point. The problem is not condensation alone, but condensation followed by entrainment of the condensed vapor (which would have no salt in it). The PF cell has a long, thin tube as a vent. if the vent is at a lower temperature than the cell interior, I would expect condensation to take place within it (heating it up).
This requires more than a little care to examine! It does seem possible that condensate (salt-free) could then be blown out of the cell. It would be, in boil-off cells close to the boiling point and would then evaporate outside the cell as it hits the unsaturated air. This water was not expelled as vapor, though, as it left the calorimetric envelope. If it is treated as having been vaporized, the heat of vaporization would then incorrectly enter the calculations.
And this cannot be ruled out by measuring the remaining salt. That would apply to “splash,” i.e., perhaps boiling or bubbling electrolyte that tosses it into the head space and then flow carries it out. The cell design militates against this as to any major quantity, but condensed electroyte might well be preferentially expelled. The devil is in the details.
The problem is that such results can be over-generalised. They only apply when conditions remain the same. The entrainment issue applies to unusual boil-off conditions. By definition the control, which does not have such extreme boil-off, will have different conditions, in a way likely to alter this result.
THH’s argument gets a bit iffy here. If the control is lacking an “extreme boil-off,” why? The point of the PF “simplicity” was that the boil-off time would be the experimental result. The loss of unevaporated water would indeed decrease the boil-off time, but only as an additional effect. That the boil-off is more rapid is a result, not a set condition. Presumably the conditions were set so that without XP, the boil-off times would be the same.
Jed: In a closed boiling cell with 100% condensation, the heat balance from vaporization is always zero. There is no heat lost to vaporization, because no vapor escapes.
I agree – but this is not relevant to the matter at hand which is discussion of F&P open cells in boil-off phase.
Both seem correct.
Jed: You are wrong about the salts,
I don’t believe you have shown that?
Jed often argues from conclusions based on evidence outside the argument. This then creates sprawling disagreements that never resolve. In this case, THH’s original point is very simple: the salt measurement does not definitely rule out liquid entrainment, liquid leaving the cell while unevaporated.
Jed: and you ignore the fact that they did several other tests to ensure there was no entrainment.
This is an offensive “you ignore” argument, common with trolls. Jed is not a troll, but … he’s not careful. He is very knowledgeable but has stated many times he doesn’t care about communicating clearly with skeptics. It’s unfortunate. Jed has paid his dues, to be sure, doing an incredible level of work to maintain the lenr-canr.org library (and he has been personally supportive to me in many ways). But we should keep him away from outreach to the mainstream! — Unless he is willing to develop better communication skills, dealing with genuine skeptics, and here, THH certainly resembles a genuine skeptic.
No – I point out that it is not possible to know which tests are done on which experiments, and note the danger of over-generalising results. That is addressing this fact, not ignoring it.
He is correct, and there are such dangers.
Jed: It would make no difference whether they did each of these tests every time: once every 10 tests would be fine. Note that they ran hundreds of cells, 16 at a time.
Only if the one in 10 included the (1 in 10 – I’m not sure?) cells that showed this special boil-off. We don’t know this.
This problem is addressed with random sampling and controls. I am not claiming Jed is wrong, only that his arguments are far less conclusive than he makes them out to be. Jed was correct, it is not necessary to verify every instance, but in doing that one would need to look out for possible sample bias.
THH is correct to at least suspect that rapid-boil-off cells would be more likely to entrain condensed water, which would again shorten the boil-off time. Obviously, one would want to see tests for expelled liquid, though that isn’t necessarily easy. I think measuring the heat of condensation on an external trap might be necessary. I’ve seen no descriptions of this.
THH is also not paying attention to the primary phenomenon, the rapid boil-off, treating it as an experimental condition, rather than a result. If there is the rapid boiloff changing the cell conditions, yes, entrained water could cause calorimetry error, but Pons and Fleischmann were not depending on the calorimetry at that point. The possible level of error could be estimated, and it is limited to the correction made to heat measurement for vaporized water. Looking at cell conditions, one could estimate the range of possible values.
Jed: They also tested closed boiling cells where the heat of vaporization plays no role (as I just said), and these cells also showed excess heat.
This kind of thinking fries my brain. Jed is arguing for the correctness of a conclusion (real heat, not artifact), which is the opposite of scientific process. There can be different artifacts in different experiments. What is needed is something that can be measured across all experiments, or at least most of them. We have that.
The heat/helium ratio. I remember when I started proposing measuring that with increased precision, there were arguments within the field that this was unnecessary, we already knew that helium was the ash.
However, if there is a single phenomenon that produces both heat and helium, in a consistent way, i.e., with a constant ratio, within experimental error, each measurement validates the other, again within the error bars. Ideally, helium should be measured in every D20 cold fusion experiment. At this point it’s too expensive, but that could change. It would kill all these arguments about various possible artifacts. If the heat/helium ratio holds in the experiment, the calorimetry was almost certainly correct, in spite of all the i’s not being dotted and the t’s crossed.
It has been pointed out that there is no end of possible artifacts, which is why the “they must be making some mistake” argument is so offensive. It’s pseudoscientific, proposing theory as creating a conviction of error. That makes sense when one must make some quick decision, but it makes no sense when one is examining experimental results to see if there are possible reasons to reconsider one’s beliefs.
(Cold fusion is not actually theoretically impossible, the arguments all require assuming a specific reaction and then calulating the rate for that reaction, which completely fails to be relevant if that is not the reaction.)
When Storms’ 2010 review was published in Naturwissenschafter, I winced when I saw the abstract: “reaction between two deuterons to make helium.” That was Storms opinion (generally rejecting multibody reactions, largely out of ignorance of the possibilities, and then thinking of two nuclei coming together, though, in fact, his theory is multibody, merely in a different way. It is not the simple two-body reaction that the abstract suggested.
That would be a different paper, with results and conditions we would need to look at afresh. Shanahan’s affect might be relevant here, or something else. Or perhaps this other sustem would be solid evidence. We would need to consider it. Either way, it does not change the arguments here relating to F&P open cell results.
Jed: Unless you have a scientific reason to believe there was entrainment, you should stop beating that dead horse. You have not given a single reason other than “maybe” “I suppose” “we can imagine” or “some scientists think they may eventually find a reason.”
This was way off. The explanation of how entrainment was ruled out was simply wrong. Testing the remaining salt does not show lack of liquid entrainment. I’m sure Jed can understand this, so, why not simply recognize that this particular argument has not — so far — been addressed.
That is where we disagree about the nature of skepticism. F&P posit some new effect (LENR) to explain anomalous results. It is they who must show there is no plausible mundane explanation – as they try to do – not others who must prove such an explanation.
Nevertheless, THH here takes on standard pseudoskeptical cant. “It is they who must show.” Must according to what? Someone can assert some evidence for something new, and can show evidence that they think supports it. There is no “must.” Both skeptics and believers fall into this trap. They become demanding, attached to a position, and the position of “wrong until proven true” or close equivalents, is pseudoskeptical. The moral imperative “must” deludes us. People need freedom to change their minds, we resist attempts to force us to accept based on coercive arguments. THH has the complete right to be skeptical, which is properly an agnostic position. He isn’t convinced yet, and he is the world’s foremost authority on whether or not he is convinced. Jed has the complete right to believe or accept whatever he wants … and to disbelieve skeptical arguments until and unless he is convinced.
The problem arises when one party or side attempts to claim the other is “wrong.” “Wrong” — like “Right” — is a complex judgment that does not exist in reality, and that gets into deeper ontology. The naive will think my statement preposterous!
Jed: Oh, and “condensation in a cell changes the heat of vaporization.” No, it doesn’t. Try it.
If THH said that, he misspoke. But I don’t think he said it. Rather this was Jed’s interpretation, and if so, the use of quotation marks was an error.
Condensation in the cell, as above, can affect open cell experiments by allowing entrainment not discovered from salt balance check.
This does not change the “heat of vaporization, which is a constant for a particular liquid. Rather it changes the correction made for vaporization, if and only if the liquid actually leaves the cell as a liquid, condensed, instead of as vapor. One would need to look at a particular experiment to see if this is relevant. I don’t think THH explained the problem well enough, I can see Jed continuing to think that it is the condensation that matters, and thus that THH is wrong wrong wrong. But that is not what THH is talking about. He is talking about the possibility of water leaving the cell as liquid instead of as vapor, having first been condensed inside and only then blown out. Thus the amount of water leaving the cell unvaporized would not be determined by measuring salt loss.
I don’t have the experience to say much more about this, about how much of an effect this might be. But I agree with THH on the primary issue, and it seems clear enough. Against this would only be argument from authority (they were experts and could not possibly make such a stupid mistake). Or other arguments that depend on there being a single effect without having actually shown that.
For closed cells we have other issues, and specifically, unless the calorimetry calibration is known independent of cell temperature distribution, ATER/CCS. But it does not help to mix up different cases – open and closed.
Each approach must be evaluated separately. Because of problems with confirmation bias and the file drawer effect, there are many problems in interpreting cold fusion experimental results. I remain satisfied as to the reality of the effect by the heat/helium reports, which actually point to a testable hypothesis, which has been confirmed by many, even though there is also room for improving the work, increasing precision, etc.
This is much more definitive than a pile of anecdotes, using varying experimental methods, showing heat but without being able to predict it. The multiplicity of excess heat reports is evidence, all right, but circumstantial. The correlation of conditions with results (such as loading ratio with heat) is supportive, but also subject to other possible interpretations. Heat/helium, by comparison, ices it.
We are discussing F&P’s open cell results. I’m not going to address directly here the question of whether condensation in the cell can ever affect the heat balance (by indirect means), it is not what I’m arguing now. Given more space we could however consider it. I’ve never stated or implied that condensation changes the heat of vaporisation.
THH is the clearest, best, and most civil of all the skeptics I have encountered in about eight years of discussing cold fusion. He, and people like him, are important to the progress of cold fusion, more important than “believers,” unless the latter are scientists practicing real science, where the goal is to prove oneself wrong. (I.e., that the hypothesis fails to predict results). Those have paid their dues, and it is actually their work that is of ultimate importance, not their conclusions as such.
Author: Abd ulRahman Lomax
See http://coldfusioncommunity.net/biography-abd-ul-rahman-lomax/ View all posts by Abd ulRahman Lomax