Argument 1

Talk:Wikiversity/Cold_fusion/Storms_(2010)/Radioactive_decay_of_contaminant

The argument here is that the reported heat from cold fusion could be due to a radioactive contaminant in the heavy water used, and he asserted radon as the possible source of heat and helium.

Kort (Caprice) was correct that Radon would produce both heat and helium.

If there is Radon contamination in the Deuterium gas, that Radon gas will enter the cell along with the Deuterium. Whatever Radon enters the cell will then decay with a half-life of 4 days, producing three Helium atoms inside the cell along with 23.9 Mev of heat from the decay sequence. In addition, the decay products will react chemically with the Deuterium to form metal deuterides, releasing some additional amount of exothermic heat.

This discussion went around and around, including participation by Dr. Storms, and Barry never acknowledged what was the utterly obvious and radical implausibility of this proposal. Instead, his last comment on the page was:

Abd are you familiar with the Ouroboros? For purposes of our (non-)discussion here, we can think of the Ourobouros sigil as a metaphor for a Baloney Ingestion Cult. —Caprice 10:54, 23 December 2010 (UTC)

CONCLUSION:

Kort displayed, in his comments, radical unfamiliarity with the experimental evidence in the field of cold fusion. He made hosts of counterfactual assumptions. He did not understand that there were many different kinds of experiments, and confused fact from one experiment with that from others. Instead, he focused on his theme, that “The null hypothesis had not been falsified.”

As I understand this, it would be that every “possible” alternative hypothesis had not been considered and shown to be false. Yet there is an unlimited number of possible alternative hypotheses. Normal scientific process focuses on what appears to be reasonably plausible. Kort invented an alternative hypothesis that was radically implausible from the outset, and never acknowledged that. Thus his Ourubouros image was appropriate for his behavior. I did not state this at the time, at least not on Wikiversity, but Kort was a troll, arguing for the sake of arguing, never conceding points.

Hypothesis: Radon contamination produced the heat and helium.

Inference: Heat and helium evolution would be greatest with new heavy water, and would steadily decline.

Experimental evidence: heat and helium do not appear in new experiments; with the Fleischmann-Pons protocol, they appear after weeks of electrolysis. The “contaminants” Kort talks about are not present in heavy water used for these experiments, but only after lengthy operation of the cell.

Conclusion: Radon contamination is not the source of heat in cold fusion experiments.

Additional comments

Kort had counterfactual concepts of what happens in the FP experiment:

To my mind, the most obvious explanation is that the Deuterium was not the reagent, but the solvent that carried all those contaminants into the cell. Almost surely those contaminants were in the heavy water from which the Deuterium was manufactured, and ended up as impurities in the Deuterium.

In the first quoted comment, Kort has the idea that deuterium gas is manufactured, and then enters the “cell” (which is the assembly of container, anode, cathode, electrolyte (heavy water plus a salt such as lithium deuteroxide), sometimes a recombiner, and temperature sensors).

I attempted to explain to Kort his many misconceptions. It was a waste of time, perhaps.

As far as I know, only two materials were introduced into the cells — the electrolyte and the deuterium.

The electrolyte is deuterium oxide (heavy water) and a salt, often lithium deuteroxide or lithium chloride. As well, the cell contains palladium metal, typically platinum as the anode, and, of course, the cell itself might be glass, which can (and does) introduce “contaminants.” However, Kort is not thinking quantitatively, and imagines that “contaminants” may be present at high levels. The heavy water used is typically 99.9 atom percent D. The major contamination is light hydrogen. There are other elements at very low levels. After the experiments, in some reports, there are increased levels of some other elements, but the levels are still extremely low. The only element being produced in these cells that was not there initially is helium, and the levels of helium are easily a million times higher than the next-most common new element: tritium.

How is loading ratio determined? Isn’t it the case that more fuel must be introduced (and supplied for a longer duration) to get higher loading ratios?

Again and again, Kort demonstrated that he had no clue as to fact, i.e,. what is actually done in cold fusion experiments. Yes, for the loading ratio to be increased, more deuterium must enter the palladium, but if we consider a cell with a recombiner, this is not “introduced” to the cell. Rather what is happening is that deuterium is moving from presence in the electrolyte into presence inside the metal.

The first major difficulty in cold fusion experiments is obtaining high loading, over 90% or so being where the effects might be seen. Above 70% or so, the reaction of deuterium with palladium starts to be endothermic. At the time that Pons and Fleischmann announced, it was commonly thought that 70% was the practical limit at STP. Hence the “negative replications” were content to reach that loading. They were, then, doomed to fail.

To reach the higher loading, extensive electrolysis was needed. There are, then, other artifactual possibilities that Kort did not here consider.

When you do electroplating, you expect the cations in the electrolyte to plate out on the cathode. When you find metals plated onto the cathode, the most plausible hypothesis is that the metals that plated onto the cathode were cations in the electrolyte. It’s the most plausible hypothesis because it’s exactly what one would expect. —Caprice 20:22, 21 December 2010 (UTC)

This was irrelevant to the basic discussion, because the levels of such findings are very, very low. In fact, the cations that plate onto the cathode do not come from the electrolyte, generally, but from other cell materials. They come from the glass and they come from the anode (a small amount of platinum dissolves in the electrolyte and then can be found on the surface of the cathode. In fact, some palladium dissolves and then plates back, which may actually be important (from much later discoveries).

But this was irrelevant because the levels are far, far below those necessary to explain heat and helium.

Kort did not continue to assert this radioactive contaminant hypothesis.

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