LENR theories, the good, the bad, and the ugly

Personally I’m a fan of (good) LENR theories. Many will say they are at the current state of understanding neither necessary nor sufficient. True. But when scientists have a mass of contradictory experimental evidence theory (or hypothesis) of a more or less tenuous sort is what helps them to make sense of it. The interplay between new hypothesis and new experiment, with each driving the other, is the cycle that drives scientific progress. The lack of hypotheses with any traction is properly one of the things that makes most scientists view the LENR experimental corpus as likely not indicating anything real. Anomalies are normal, because mistakes happen – both systemic and individual. Anomalies with an interesting pattern that drives a hypothesis in some detail are much more worthwhile and the tentative hypotheses which match the patterns matter even when they are likely only part-true if that.

Abd here, recently, suggested Takahashi’s TSC theory (use this paper as a way into 4D/TSC theory, his central idea) as an interesting possibility. I agree. It ticks the above boxes as trying to explain patterns in evidence and making predictions. So I’ll first summarise what it is, and then relate this to the title.

Continue reading “LENR theories, the good, the bad, and the ugly”

If I’m stupid, it’s your fault

See It was an itsy-bitsy teenie weenie yellow polka dot error and Shanahan’s Folly, in Color, for some Shanahan sniffling and shuffling, but today I see Krivit making the usual ass of himself, even more obviously. As described before, Krivit asked Shanahan if he could explain a plot, and this is it:

Red and blue lines are from Krivit, the underlying chart is from this paper copied to NET, copied here as fair use for purposes of critique, as are other brief excerpts.

Ask Krivit notes (and acknowledges), Shanahan wrote a relatively thorough response. It’s one of the best pieces of writing I’ve seen from Shanahan. He does give an explanation for the apparent anomaly, but obviously Krivit doesn’t understand it, so he changed the title of the post from “Kirk Shanahan, Can You Explain This?” to add “(He Couldn’t)”

Krivit was a wanna-be science journalist, but he ended up imagining himself to be expert, and commonly inserts his own judgments as if they are fact. “He couldn’t” obviously has a missing fact, that is, the standard of success in explanation: Krivit himself. If Krivit understands, then it has been explained. If he does not, not, and this could be interesting: obviously, Shanahan failed to communicate the explanation to Krivit (if we assume Krivit is not simply lying, and I do assume that). My headline here is a stupid, disempowering stand, that blames others for my own ignorance, but the empowering stand for a writer is to, in fact, take responsibility for the failure. If you don’t understand what I’m attempting to communicate, that’s my deficiency.

On the other hand, most LENR scientists have stopped talking with Krivit, because he has so often twisted what they write like this.

Krivit presents Shanahan’s “attempted” explanation, so I will quote it here, adding comments and links as may be helfpul. However, Krivit also omitted part of the explanation, believing it irrelevant. Since he doesn’t understand, his assessment of relevance may be defective. Shanahan covers this on LENR Forum. I will restore those paragraphs. I also add Krivit’s comments.

1. First a recap.  The Figure you chose to present is the first figure from F&P’s 1993 paper on their calorimetric method.  It’s overall notable feature is the saw-tooth shape it takes, on a 1-day period.  This is due to the use of an open cell which allows electrolysis gases to escape and thus the liquid level in the electrolysis cell drops.  This changes the electrolyte concentration, which changes the cell resistance, which changes the power deposited via the standard Ohm’s Law relations, V= I*R and P=V*I (which gives P=I^2*R).  On a periodic basis, F&P add makeup D2O to the cell, which reverses the concentration changes thus ‘resetting’ the resistance and voltage related curves.

This appears to be completely correct and accurate. In this case, unlike some Pons and Fleischmann plots, there are no calibration pulses, where a small amount of power is injected through a calibration resistor to test the cell response to “excess power.” We are only seeing, in the sawtooth behavior, the effect of abruptly adding pure D2O.

Krivit: Paragraph 1: I am in agreement with your description of the cell behavior as reflected in the sawtooth pattern. We are both aware that that is a normal condition of electrolyte replenishment. As we both know, the reported anomaly is the overall steady trend of the temperature rise, concurrent with the overall trend of the power decrease.

Voltage, not power, though, in fact, because of the constant current, input voltage will be proportional to power. Krivit calls this an “anomaly,” which simply means something unexplained. It seems that Krivit believes that temperature should vary with power, which it would with a purely resistive heater. This cell isn’t that.

2. Note that Ohm’s Law is for an ‘ideal’ case, and the real world rarely behaves perfectly ideally, especially at the less than 1% level.  So we expect some level of deviation from ideal when we look at the situation closely. However, just looking at the temperature plot we can easily see that the temperature excursions in the Figure change on Day 5.  I estimate the drop on Day 3 was 0.6 degrees, Day 4 was 0.7, Day 5 was 0.4 and Day 6 was 0.3 (although it may be larger if it happened to be cut off).  This indicates some significant change (may have) occurred between the first 2 and second 2 day periods.  It is important to understand the scale we are discussing here.  These deviations represent maximally a (100*0.7/303=) 0.23% change.  This is extremely small and therefore _very_ difficult to pin to a given cause.

Again, this appears accurate. Shanahan is looking at what was presented and noting various characteristics that might possibly be relevant. He is proceeding here as a scientific skeptic would proceed. For a fuller analysis, we’d actually want to see the data itself, and to study the source paper more deeply. What is the temperature precision? The current is constant, so we would expect, absent a chemical anomaly, loss of D2O as deuterium and oxygen gas to be constant, but if there is some level of recombination, that loss would be reduced, and so the replacement addition would be less, assuming it is replaced to restore the same level.

Krivit: Paragraph 2: This is a granular analysis of the daily temperature changes. I do not see any explanation for the anomaly in this paragraph.

It’s related; in any case, Shanahan is approaching this as scientist, when it seems Krivit is expecting polemic. This gets very clear in the next paragraph.

3. I also note that the voltage drops follow a slightly different pattern.  I estimate the drops are 0.1, .04, .04, .02 V. The first drop may be artificially influenced by the fact that it seems to be the very beginning of the recorded data. However, the break noted with the temperatures does not occur in the voltages, instead the break  may be on the next day, but more data would be needed to confirm that.  Thus we are seeing either natural variation or process lags affecting the temporal correlation of the data.

Well, temporal correlation is quite obvious. So far, Shanahan has not come to an explanation for the trend, but he is, again, proceeding as a scientist and a genuine skeptic. (For a pseudoskeptic, it is Verdict first (The explanation! Bogus!) and Trial later (then presented as proof rather than as investigation).

Paragraph 3: This is a granular analysis of the daily voltage changes. I note your use of the unconfident phrase “may be” twice. I do not see any explanation for the anomaly in this paragraph.

Shanahan appropriately uses “may be” to refer to speculations which may or may not be relevant. Krivit is looking for something that no scientist would give him, who is actually practicing science. We do not know the ultimate explanation of what Pons and Fleischmann reported here, so confidence, the kind of certainty Krivit is looking for, would only be a mark of foolishness.

4. I also note that in the last day’s voltage trace there is a ‘glitch’ where the voltage take a dip and changes to a new level with no corresponding change in cell temp.  This is a ‘fact of the data’ which indicates there are things that can affect the voltage but not the temperature, which violates our idea of the ideal Ohmic Law case.  But we expected that because we are dealing with such small changes.

This is very speculative. I don’t like to look at data at the termination, maybe they simply shut off the experiment at that point, and there is, I see, a small voltage rise, close to noise. This tells us less than Shanahn implies. The variation in magnitude of the voltage rise, however, does lead to some reasonable suspicion and wonder as to what is going on. At first glance, it appears correlated with the variation in temperature rise. Both of those would be correlated with the amount of make-up heavy water added to restore level.

Krivit: Paragraph 4: You mention what you call a glitch, in the last day’s voltage trace. It is difficult for me to see what you are referring to, though I do note again, that you are using conditional language when you write that there are things that “can affect” voltage. So this paragraph, as well, does not appear to provide any explanation for the anomaly. Also in this paragraph, you appear to suggest that there are more-ideal cases of Ohm’s law and less-ideal cases. I’m unwilling to consider that Ohm’s law, or any accepted law of science, is situational.

Krivit is flat-out unqualified to write about science. It’s totally obvious here. He is showing that, while he’s been reading reports on cold fusion calorimetry for well over fifteen years, he has not understood them. Krivit has heard it now from Shanahan, actually confirmed by Miles (see below), “Joule heating ” also called “Ohmic heating,” the heating that is the product of current and voltage, is not the only source of heat in an electrolytic cell.

Generally, all “accepted laws of science” are “situational.” We need to understand context to apply them.

To be sure, I also don’t understand what Shanahan was referring to in this paragraph. I don’t see it in the plot. So perhaps Shanahan will explain. (He may comment below, and I’d be happy to give him guest author privileges, as long as it generates value or at least does not cause harm.)

5. Baseline noise is substantially smaller than these numbers, and I can make no comments on anything about it.

Yes. The voltage noise seems to be more than 10 mV. A constant-current power supply (which adjusts voltage to keep the current constant) was apparently set at 400 mA, and those supplies typically have a bandwidth of well in excess of 100 kHz, as I recall. So, assuming precise voltage measurements (which would be normal), there is noise, and I’d want to know how the data was translated to plot points. Bubble noise will cause variations, and these cells are typically bubbling (that is part of the FP approach, to ensure stirring so that temperature is even in the cell). If the data is simply recorded periodically, instead of being smoothed by averaging over an adequate period, it could look noisier than it actually is (bubble noise being reasonably averaged out over a short period). A 10 mV variation in voltage, at the current used, corresponds to 4 mW variation. Fleischmann calorimetry has a reputed precision of 0.1 mW. That uses data from rate of change to compute instantaneous power, rather than waiting for conditions to settle. We are not seeing that here, but we might be seeing the result of it in the reported excess power figures.

Krivit: Paragraph 5: You make a comment here about noise.

What is Krivit’s purpose here? Why did he ask the question? Does he actually want to learn something? I found the comment about noise to be interesting, or at least to raise an issue of interest.

6. Your point in adding the arrows to the Figure seems to be that the voltage is drifting down overall, so power in should be drifting down also (given constant current operation).  Instead the cell temperature seem to be drifting up, perhaps indicating an ‘excess’ or unknown heat source.  F&P report in the Fig. caption that the calculated daily excess heats are 45, 66, 86, and 115 milliwatts.  (I wonder if the latter number is somewhat influenced by the ‘glitch’ or whatever caused it.)  Note that a 45 mW excess heat implies a 0.1125V change (P=V*I, I= constant 0.4A), and we see that the observed voltage changes are too small and in the wrong direction, which would indicate to me that the temperatures are used to compute the supposed excesses.  The derivation of these excess heats requires a calibration equation to be used, and I have commented on some specific flaws of the F&P method and on the fact that it is susceptible to the CCS problem previously.  The F&P methodology lumps _any_ anomaly into the ‘apparent excess heat’ term of the calorimetric equation.  The mistake is to assign _all_ of this term to some LENR.  (This was particularly true for the HAD event claimed in the 1993 paper.)

So Shanahan gives the first explanation, (“excess heat,” or heat of unknown origin). Calculated excess heat is increasing, and with the experimental approach here, excess heat would cause the temperature to rise.

His complaint about assigning all anomalous heat (“apparent excess heat”) to LENR is … off. Basically excess heat means a heat anomaly, and it certainly does not mean “LENR.” That is, absent other evidence, a speculative conclusion, based on circumstantial evidence (unexplained heat). There is no mistake here. Pons and Fleischmann did not call the excess heat LENR and did not mention nuclear reactions.

Shanahan has then, here, identified another possible explanation, his misnamed “CCS” problem. It’s very clear that the name has confused those whom Shanahan might most want to reach: LENR experimentalists. The actual phenomenon that he would be suggesting here is unexpected recombination at the cathode. That is core to Shanahan’s theory as it applies to open cells with this kind of design. It would raise the temperature if it occurs.

LENR researchers claim that the levels of recombination are very low, and a full study of this topic is beyond this relatively brief post. Suffice it to say for now that recombination is a possible explanation, even if it is not proven. (And when we are dealing with anomalies, we cannot reject a hypothesis because it is unexpected. Anomaly means “unexpected.”)

Krivit: Paragraph 6: You analyze the reported daily excess heat measurements as described in the Fleischmann-Pons paper. I was very specific in my question. I challenged you to explain the apparent violation of Ohm’s law. I did not challenge you to explain any reported excess heat measurements or any calorimetry. Readings of cell temperature are not calorimetry, but certainly can be used as part of calorimetry.

Actually, Krivit did not ask that question. He simply asked Shanahan to explain the plot. He thinks a violation of Ohm’s law is apparent. It’s not, for several reasons. For starters, wrong law. Ohm’s law is simply that the current through a conductor is proportional to the voltage across it. The ratio is the conductance, usually expressed by its reciprocal, the resistance.

From the Wikipedia article: “An element (resistor or conductor) that behaves according to Ohm’s law over some operating range is referred to as an ohmic device (or an ohmic resistor) because Ohm’s law and a single value for the resistance suffice to describe the behavior of the device over that range. Ohm’s law holds for circuits containing only resistive elements (no capacitances or inductances) for all forms of driving voltage or current, regardless of whether the driving voltage or current is constant (DC) or time-varying such as AC. At any instant of time Ohm’s law is valid for such circuits.”

An electrolytic cell is not an ohmic device. What is true here is that one might immediately expect that heating in the cell would vary with the input power, but that is only by neglecting other contributions, and what Shanahan is pointing out by pointing out the small levels of the effect is that there are many possible conditions that could affect this.

With his tendentious reaction, Krivit ignores the two answers given in Shanahan’s paragraph, or, more accurately, Shanahan gives a primary answer and then a possible explanation. The primary answer is some anomalous heat. The possible explanation is a recombination anomaly. It is still an anomaly, something unexpected.

7. Using an average cell voltage of 5V and the current of 0.4A as specified in the Figure caption (Pin~=2W), these heats translate to approximately 2.23, 3.3, 4.3, and 7.25% of input.  Miles has reported recombination in his cells on the same order of magnitude.  Thus we would need measures of recombination with accuracy and precision levels on the order of 1% to distinguish if these supposed excess heats are recombination based or not _assuming_ the recombination process does nothing but add heat to the cell.  This may not be true if the recombination is ATER (at-the-electrode-recombination).  As I’ve mentioned in lenr-forum recently, the 6.5% excess reported by Szpak, et al, in 2004 is more likely on the order of 10%, so we need a _much_ better way to measure recombination in order to calculate its contribution to the apparent excess heat.

I think Shanahan may be overestimating the power of his own arguments, from my unverified recollection, but this is simply exploring the recombination hypothesis, which is, in fact, an explanation, and if our concern is possible nuclear heat, then this is a possible non-nuclear explanation for some anomalous heat in some experiments. In quick summary: a non-nuclear artifact, unexpected recombination, and unless recombination is measured, and with some precision, it cannot be ruled out merely because experts say it wouldn’t happen. Data is required. For the future, I hope we look at all this more closely here on CFC.net.

Shanahan has not completely explored this. Generally, at constant current and after the cathode loading reaches equilibrium, there should be constant gas evolution. However, unexpected recombination in an open cell like this, with no recombiner, would lower the amount of gas being released, and therefore the necessary replenishment amount. This is consistent with the decline that can be inferred as an explanation from the voltage jumps. Less added D2O, lower effect.

There would be another effect from salts escaping the cell, entrained in microdroplets, which would cause a long-term trend of increase in voltage, the opposite of what we see.

So the simple explanation here, confirmed by the calorimetry, is that anomalous heat is being released, and then there are two explanations proposed for the anomaly: a LENR anomaly or a recombination anomaly. Shanahan is correct that precise measurement of recombination (which might not happen under all conditions and which, like LENR heat, might be chaotic and not accurately predictable).

Excess nuclear heat will, however, likely be correlated with a nuclear ash (like helium) and excess recombination heat would be correlated with reduction in offgas, so these are testable. It is, again, beyond the scope of this comment to explore that.

Krivit. Paragraph 7: You discuss calorimetry.

Krivit misses that Shanahan discusses ATER, “At The Electrode Recombination,” which is Shanahan’s general theory as applied to this cell. Shanahan points to various possibilities to explain the plot (not the “apparent violation of Ohm’s law,” which was just dumb), but the one that is classic Shanahan is ATER, and, frankly, I see evidence in the plot that he may be correct as to this cell at this time, and no evidence that I’ve noticed so far in the FP article to contradict it.

(Remember, ATER is an anomaly itself, i.e., very much not expected. The mechanism would be oxygen bubbles reaching the cathode, where they would immediately oxidize available deuterium. So when I say that I don’t see anything in the article, I’m being very specific. I am not claiming that this actually happened.)

8. This summarizes what we can get from the Figure.  Let’s consider what else might be going on in addition to electrolysis and electrolyte replenishment.  There are several chemical/physical processes ongoing that are relevant that are often not discussed.  For example:  dissolution of electrode materials and deposition of them elsewhere, entrainment, structural changes in the Pd, isotopic contamination, chemical modification of the electrode surfaces, and probably others I haven’t thought of at this point.

Well, some get rather Rube Goldberg and won’t be considered unless specific evidence pops up.

Krivit: Paragraph 8: You offer random speculations of other activities that might be going on inside the cell.

Indeed he does, though “random” is not necessarily accurate. He was asked to explain a chart, so he is thinking of things that might, under some conditions or others, explain the behavior shown. His answer is directly to the question, but Krivit lives in a fog, steps all over others, impugns the integrity of professional scientists, writes “confident” claims that are utterly bogus, and then concludes that anyone who points this out is a “believer” in something or other nonsense. He needs an editor and psychotherapist. Maybe she’ll come back if he’s really nice. Nah. That almost never happens. Sorry.

But taking responsibility for what one has done, that’s the path to a future worth living into.

9. All except the entrainment issue can result in electrode surface changes which in turn can affect the overvoltage experienced in the cell.  That in turn affects the amount of voltage available to heat the electrolyte.  In other words, I believe the correct, real world equation is Vcell = VOhm + Vtherm + Vover + other.  (You will recall that the F&P calorimetric model only assumes VOhm and Vtherm are important.)  It doesn’t take much change to induce a 0.2-0.5% change in T.  Furthermore most of the significant changing is going to occur in the first few days of cell operation, which is when the Pd electrode is slowly loaded to the high levels typical in an electrochemical setup.  This assumes the observed changes in T come from a change in the electrochemical condition of the cell.  They might just be from changes in the TCs (or thermistors or whatever) from use.

What appears to me, here, is that Shanahan is artificially separating out Vover from the other terms. I have not reviewed this, so I could be off here, rather easily. Shanahan does not explain these terms here, so it is perhaps unsurprising that Krivit doesn’t understand, or if he does, he doesn’t show it.

An obvious departure from Ohm’s law and expected heat from electrolytic power is that some of the power available to the cell, which is the product of total cell voltage and current, ends up as a rate of production of chemical potential energy. The FP paper assumes that gas is being evolved and leaving the cell at a rate that corresponds to the current. It does not consider recombination that I’ve seen.

Krivit: Paragraphs 9-10: You consider entrainment, but you don’t say how this explains the anomaly.

It is a trick question. By definition, an explained anomaly is not an anomaly. Until and unless an explanation, a mechanism, is confirmed through controlled experiment (and with something like this, multiply-confirmed, specifically, not merely generally), a proposals are tentative, and Shanahan’s general position — which I don’t see that he has communicated very effectively — is that there is an anomaly. He merely suggests that it might be non-nuclear. It is still unexpected, and why some prefer to gore the electrochemists rather than the nuclear physicists is a bit of a puzzle to me, except it seems the latter have more money. Feynman thought that the arrogance of physicists was just that, arrogance. Shanahan says that entrainment would be important to ATER, but I don’t see how. Rather, it would be another possible anomaly. Again, perhaps Shanahan will explain this.

10. Entrainment losses would affect the cell by removing the chemicals dissolved in the water.  This results in a concentration change in the electrolyte, which in turn changes the cell resistance.  This doesn’t seem to be much of an issue in this Figure, but it certainly can become important during ATER.

This was, then, off-topic for the question, perhaps. But Shanahan has answered the question, as well as it can be answered, given the known science and status of this work. Excess heat levels as shown here (which is not clear from the plot, by the way) are low enough that we cannot be sure that this is the “Fleischmann-Pons Heat Effect.” The article itself is talking about a much clearer demonstration; the plot is shown as a little piece considered of interest. I call it an “indication.”

The mere miniscule increase in heat over days, vs. a small decrease in voltage, doesn’t show more than that.

[Paragraphs not directly addressing this measurement removed.]

In fact, Shanahan recapped his answer toward the end of what Krivit removed. Obviously, Krivit was not looking for an answer, but, I suspect, to make some kind of point, abusing Shanahan’s good will. Even though he thanks him. Perhaps this is about the Swedish scientist’s comment (see the NET article), which was, ah, not a decent explanation, to say the least. Okay, this is a blog. It was bullshit. I don’t wonder that Krivit wasn’t satisfied. Is there something about the Swedes? (That is not what I’d expect, by the way, I’m just noticing a series of Swedish scientists who have gotten involved with cold fusion who don’t know their fiske from their fysik.

And here are those paragraphs:


I am not an electrochemist so I can be corrected on these points (but not by vacuous hand-waving, only by real data from real studies) but it seems clear to me that the data presented is from a time frame where changes are expected to show up and that the changes observed indicate both correlated effects in T and V as well as uncorrelated ones. All that adds up to the need for replication if one is to draw anything from this type of data, and I note that usually the initial loading period is ignored by most researchers for the same reason I ‘activate’ my Pd samples in my experiments – the initial phases of the research are difficult to control but much easier to control later on when conditions have been stabilized.

To claim the production of excess heat from this data alone is not a reasonable claim. All the processes noted above would allow for slight drifts in the steady state condition due to chemical changes in the electrodes and electrolyte. As I have noted many, many times, a change in steady state means one needs to recalibrate. This is illustrated in Ed Storms’ ICCF8 report on his Pt-Pt work that I used to develop my ATER/CCS proposal by the difference in calibration constants over time. Also, Miles has reported calibration constant variation on the order of 1-2% as well, although it is unclear whether the variation contains systematic character or not (it is expressed as random variation). What is needed (as always) is replication of the effect in such a manner as to demonstrate control over the putative excess heat. To my knowledge, no one has done that yet.

So, those are my quick thoughts on the value of F&P’s Figure 1. Let me wrap this up in a paragraph.

The baseline drift presented in the Figure and interpreted as ‘excess heat’ can easily be interpreted as chemical effects. This is especially true given that the data seems to be from the very first few days of cell operation, where significant changes in the Pd electrode in particular are expected. The magnitudes of the reported excess heats are of the size that might even be attributed to the CF-community-favored electrochemical recombination. It’s not even clear that this drift is not just equipment related. As is usual with reports in this field, more information, and especially more replication, is needed if there is to be any hope of deriving solid conclusions regarding the existence of excess heat from this type of data.”


And then, back to what Krivit quoted:

I readily admit I make mistakes, so if you see one, let me know.  But I believe the preceding to be generically correct.

Kirk Shanahan
Physical Chemist
U.S. Department of Energy, Savannah River National Laboratory

 Krivit responds:

Although you have offered a lot of information, for which I’m grateful, I am unable to locate in your letter any definitive, let alone probable conventional explanation as to why the overall steady trend of increasing heat and decreasing power occurs, violating Ohm’s law, unless there is a source of heat in the cell. The authors of the paper claim that the result provides evidence of a source of heating in the cell. As I understand, you deny that this result provides such evidence.

Shanahan directly answered the question, about as well as it can be answered at this time. He allows “anomalous heat” — which covers the CMNS community common opinion, because this must include the nuclear possibility, then offers an alternate unconventional anomaly, ATER, and then a few miscellaneous minor possibilities.

Krivit is looking for a definitive answer, apparently, and holds on to the idea that the cell may be “violating Ohm’s law,” when it has been explained to him (by two:Shanahan and Miles) that Ohm’s law is inadequate to describe electrolytic cell behavior, because of the chemical shifts. While it may be harmless, much more than Ohm’s law is involved in analyzing electrochemistry. “Ohmic heating” is, as Shanahan pointed out — and as is also well known — is an element of an analysis, not the whole analysis. There is also chemistry and endothermic and exothermic reaction. Generating deuterium and oxygen from heavy water is endothermic. The entry of deuterium into the cathode is exothermic, at least at modest loading. Recombination of oxygen and deuterium is exothermic, whereas release of deuterium from the cathode is endothermic.  Krivit refers to voltage as if it were power, and then as if the heating of the cell would be expected to match this power. Because this cell is constant current, the overall cell input power does vary directly with the voltage. However, only some of this power ends up as heat (and Ohm’s law simply does not cover that).

Actually, Shanahan generally suggests a “source of heating in the cells” (unexpected recombination).  He then presents other explanations as well. If recombination shifts the location of generated heat, this could affect calorimetry, Shahanan calls this Calibration Constant Shift, but that is easily misunderstood, and confused with another phenomenon, shifts in calibration constant from other changes, including thermistor or thermocouple aging (which he mentions). Shanahan did answer the question, albeit mixed with other comments, so Krivit’s “He Couldn’t” was not only rude, but wrong.

Then Krivit answered the paragraphs point-by-point, and I’ve put those comments above.

And then Krivit added, at the end:

This concludes my discussion of this matter with you.

I find this appalling, but it’s what we have come to expect from Krivit, unfortunately. Shanahan wrote a polite attempt to answer Krivit’s question (which did look like a challenge). I’ve experienced Krivit shutting down conversation like that, abruptly, with what, in person, would be socially unacceptable. It’s demanding the “Last Word.”

Krivit also puts up an unfortunate comment from Miles. Miles misunderstands what is happening and thinks, apparently, that the “Ohm’s Law” interpretation belongs to Shanahan, when it was Krivit. Shananan is not a full-blown expert on electrochemistry — like Miles is — but would probably agree with Miles, I certainly don’t see a conflict between them on this issue. And Krivit doesn’t see this, doesn’t understand what is happening right in his own blog, that misunderstanding.

However, one good thing: Krivit’s challenge did move Shanahan to write something decent. I appreciate that. Maybe some good will come out of it. I got to notice the similarity between fysik and fiske, that could be useful.


Update

I intended to give the actual physical law that would appear to be violated, but didn’t. It’s not Ohm’s law, which simply doesn’t apply, the law in question is conservation of energy or the first law of thermodynamics. Hess’s law is related. As to apparent violation, this appears by neglecting the role of gas evolution; unexpected recombination within the cell would cause additional heating. While it is true that this energy comes, ultimately, from input energy, that input energy may be stored in the cell earlier as absorbed deuterium, and this may be later released. The extreme of this would be “heat after death” (HAD), i.e., heat evolved after input power goes to zero, which skeptics have attributed to the “cigarette lighter effect,” see Close.

(And this is not the place to debate HAD, but the cigarette lighter effect as an explanation has some serious problems, notably lack of sufficient oxygen, with flow being, from deuterium release, entirely out of the cell, not allowing oxygen to be sucked back in. This release does increase with temperature, and it is endothermic, overall. It is only net exothermic if recombination occurs.)

(And possible energy storage is why we would be interested to see the full history of cell operation, not just a later period. In the chart in question, we only see data from the third through seventh days, and we do not see data for the initial loading (which should show storage of energy, i.e., endothermy).  The simple-minded Krivit thinking is utterly off-point. Pons and Fleischmann are not standing on this particular result, and show it as a piece of eye candy with a suggestive comment at the beginning of their paper. I do not find, in general, this paper to be particularly convincing without extensive analysis. It is an example of how “simplicity” is subjective. By this time, cold fusion needed an APCO — or lawyers, dealing with public perceptions. Instead, the only professionalism that might have been involved was on the part of the American Physical Society and Robert Park. I would not have suggested that Pons and Fleischmann not publish, but that their publications be reviewed and edited for clear educational argument in the real-world context, not merely scientific accuracy.)

Conversations: Simon Derricutt

This comment by Simon Derricutt is worth review in detail. So, below, my comments are in indented italics.


In reply to Abd ulRahman Lomax.

Abd – I suspect the Journal of Scientific Consensus exists as Wikipedia. Generally, Wikipedia is pretty good at stating what is generally-agreed, and where there’s disagreement there will be a lot of editing going on as the factions try to get their view to be the one that’s visible.

Ah, favorite topic! We then cover many issues. Continue reading “Conversations: Simon Derricutt”

OMG! An *actual* conversation based on knowledge!

I saw a great post by Alain Coetmeur on lenr-forum. I looked back a little and found cogent comments from Eric Walker and H.G., but the conversation sprouted like the lotus, in muck from Axil, a Reliable Source of strong opinion using snow-blower scientific word salad. Continue reading “OMG! An *actual* conversation based on knowledge!”

Focardi’s TedX talk

Translation from E-Catworld.

(The video may also be viewed with CC translation on YouTube, cursor at the bottom of the screen, press the CC button.)

My comments are indented.


The following Transcription and Translation of “TEDxBologna – Sergio Focardi – L’E-cat e la fusione nucleare con il Nichel e l’Idrogeno “ is released under Public Domain by its author Mirco Romanato its author.

Anything wrong in the transcription and in the translation is my fault. 

I have often pointed out that there is work that can be done to support investigation of LENR, and that deep knowledge is not required, only some level of effort and attention — and it can be fun. Translating a video can seem like work, but, in fact, one who does translations will learn a great deal. Ask Jed Rothwell. Or me, for that matter: I don’t do translations, but I often reformat and copy-edit documents. Seeing the text, even if I don’t “study” it, creates exposure and exposure creates familiarity, and familiarity develops understanding. Those who are interested in following this path through the wilderness, ask me! There are millions of entry points, you can find your own, but having some guidance can help you get started. My thanks to Mirco, and as to any errors, we wisely never let the possibility of error stop us, trusting that our friends will point them out. In fact, our enemies also will, so, if we frame this usefully, our enemies can also be our friends, provided we pay attention.

00:24 The talk I want to do, I’m starting from the origin, is about what today is called Cold Fusion.

The term can lead to confusion. Martin Fleischmann regretted mentioning it. It was premature, and in some ways it is still premature, until the reaction is clearly understood based on verified confirmation and strong evidence, and it is not. We may be close to clear and unmistakable confirmation of what the reaction discovered by Pons and Fleischmann does, but not how it does it. With NiH reactions, Focardi’s primary subject here, we don’t know the ash, what he states was an error, possibly a result of deceptive diversion, but no longer claimed even by Rossi.

00:30 It started around 22 years ago when an American researcher, an American chemist, stated to have produced energy using a nuclear fusion process obtained using Palladium, a metal, and Deuterium, a heavy Hydrogen.

The “statement” was an error, in that it was premature. Fleischmann was not an American chemist, but was working with one, Stanley Pons, and the work was done at the University of Utah, which is, of course, an American university. Martin was British. In fact, the first paper did not claim fusion, though the title was misprinted; Martin claimed. In the rush to publish, Electrochemically induced nuclear fusion of deuterium? dropped the question mark. However, that may have been a later rationalization, because the second document published, 29 June 1989, had a title claiming cold fusion. Fleischmann, M., et al., Measurements of gamma-rays from cold fusion. Nature (London), 1989. 339(622): p. 667.

The gamma ray findings were blatant error, and Petrasso, in that issue, apparently demolished the argument. What Pons and Fleischmann actually found was anomalous heat, which, as chemists, they considered implied too high an energy density to be chemical in nature. The first paper actually claimed, in the text, after some speculation about known fusion reactions — all an error, unwarranted (in hindsight) — “an hitherto unknown nuclear process or processes (presumably again due to deuterons).” The “presumably” was probably misleading as well, certainly it was premature. Using circumstantial evidence when exploring something totally new is … weak, useful only for speculation and creating questions to be addressed experimentally. What seems likely to me — we still do not know for sure — is that molecular deuterium is involved, the electrons are crucial to the process, but “deuterons” implies the ions and the reaction being located inside the palladium lattice, which, AFAIK, Fleischmann continued to believe, another probable error.

01:00 After this, many started to work on his path, and after 22 years  they have not obtained big results.

“Big” in the sense of high power. However, most experimental work has not been aimed at high power, it is aimed at studying the conditions of the reaction and how to control it. Until the reaction is controlled, high power is dangerous and can be counterproductive. Big, though, is impressive. If one is reacting to skepticism, one may want “impressive.” Much cold fusion research was diverted and damaged by this goal, which is essentially unscientific, it is a polemic purpose requiring motivation toward some particular conclusion. This has affected some otherwise excellent scientists, and the motivation can be visible, which then feeds pseudoskeptics grist for their mill. They can smell it.

01:11 For what regard me, with a friend of the Siena University, decided to work in the same way but using Hydrogen and Nickel and obtained a number of results: production of energy by interactions between Hydrogen and Nickel.

NiH is sometimes called “Piantelli-Focardi.” From lenr-canr.org and newenergytimes.com, with some corrections:

1993 F. Piantelli, Atti Accad. Fis., Serie XV, Tomo XII, pag. 89-96 (1993)
1994 Focardi, S., R. Habel, and F. Piantelli, “Anomalous heat production in Ni-H systems.” Nuovo Cimento Soc. Ital. Fis. A, 1994. 107A: p. 163.
1996 S. Focardi, V. Gabbani, V. Montalbano, F. Piantelli, S. Veronesi, [title unknown], Atti Accad. Fisioc, Serie XV, XV 109 (1996)
1998 Focardi, S., et al., Large excess heat production in Ni-H systems. Nuovo Cimento Soc. Ital. Fis. A, 1998. 111A: p. 1233.
1999 Focardi, S., et al. On the Ni-H System. in Anomalies in Hydrogen/Deuterium Loaded Metals. 1999. Bologna.
1999 A. Battaglia, L. Daddi, S. Focardi, V. Gabbani, V. Montalbano, F. Piantelli, P. G. Sona, S. Veronesi, Nuovo Cimento A 112, 921 (1999).
2000 E. G. Campari, S. Focardi, V. Gabbani, V. Montalbano, F. Piantelli, S. Veronesi, [title unknown], ICCF8, Conference Proceedings 70, F. Scaramuzzi editor, (2000) 69E.
2002 E. G. Campari, S. Focardi, V. Gabbani, V. Montalbano, F. Piantelli, S. Veronesi, Atti [sic] TESMI Workshop, Lecce, december 6-7 2002, A. Lorusso and V. Nassisi editors, 35-42 (2004).
2004 Focardi, S., et al. Evidence of electromagnetic radiation from Ni-H Systems. in Eleventh International Conference on Condensed Matter Nuclear Science. 2004. Marseille, France.
2004 E. Campari, S. Focardi, V. Gabbani, V. Montalbano, F. Piantelli, S. Veronesi, “Overview of H-Ni Systems: Old Experiments and New Setup,” 5th Asti Workshop on Anomalies in Hydrogen- / Deuterium-Loaded Metals, Asti, Italy, (2004)
2004 Focardi, S. and Piantelli, F., “Produzione Di Energia E Reazioni Nucleari In Sistemi Ni-H A 400 C,” XIX Congresso Nazionale UIT, 2004 (PPT)
2010 Focardi, S. and A. Rossi, A new energy source from nuclear fusion. www.journal-of-nuclear-physics.com, 2010.01:30

What I immediately notice is the dramatic shift. In 2010, now with Rossi as co-author, Focardi is making a fusion claim, but has no strong fusion evidence, only anomalous heat, “too high for any chemical process.” Before that, he followed scientific prudence in his article titles, at least, only the 2004 slide presentation refers to “nuclear reactions”. I have not reviewed the articles themselves, yet.

Following this I restarted the work with the Engineer Rossi and we started to work on the same path: building system able to produce energy using hydrogen and nickel
01:54 Now, what we can see are the results of this work.
02:07 There are, this is the first picture, this is one of the first experiments done with Engineer Rossi
02:20 And you can see, at right, there is a small red bucket, containing water and some materials and left the hydrogen canister used to put hydrogen inside this capsule where we had put the nickel.
02:50 Heating together nickel and hydrogen we obtained energy and, as result the heating of the water.
02:58 The experiment is, obviously, very crude, because it was not worth, for this experiment to build more refined objects.
03:10 This is the next experiment. This time, instead of the bucket of water, there is that donut-like object to the right where some water circulated and there was the capsule containing nickel and hydrogen.
03:35 The tube you see at the lower right is to bring hydrogen, at the center there is a canister of hydrogen, and in this way we obtained a confirmation about the previous experiment with a cleaner system than the previous.
03:53 The third picture, it is another, third, method to measure. This time there is a closed circuit. You are able to see well, in the background at the right, the tube, where is inserted the cylinder, again at the right. In the tube some water was circulated. In this cylinder happen this heating process and it is a nuclear reaction between nickel and hydrogen
04:30 and what we observed experimentally was the difference of temperature between the two extremes of the cylinder
04:37 So, the three experiments confirmed that the system was really able to produce energy under the form of heat. We obtained the heating of the water.
05:00 This it was one of the latter objects built by the Engineer Rossi, that take the name of e-cat, where “cat” is a shorthand for catalyzer, that is used usually and currently, to experiment with the reaction between nickel and hydrogen and produce heat. And the heat produced is demonstrated heating water with various devices and this is one example.

None of this is going to be strongly convincing in itself, because there are many ways in which demonstrations can be faked, and some where the illusion can fool even the inventor. However, Focardi was no dummy, and it would be unexpected that major error would escape his notice. However, major fraud might. Scientists are not trained to recognize fraud, generally.

Science is heavily based on trusting experimental reports; a scientist who fakes data loses all credibility and may have demolished his or her career. Errors are made, yes, lots of them. But Focardi might not be looking thoroughly and carefully for failure modes. We saw Sven Kullander miss the obvious, that a humidity meter cannot measure steam quality, and, then, that there could be overflow water, not evaporated, under the observed conditions. We saw the “independent professors,” with the Lugano test, overlook what was clearly visible, apparent color temperature showing that their temperature calculations were far off, indicating a need for a strong calibration, which they did not do, believing a story that made no sense. Scientists, in general, are not trained to deal with skilled deception. As well, some forms of insanity are “high-functioning” and such people can be extraordinarily convincing.

It is totally understandable why anyone seeing this talk could become highly interested and even convinced that the Rossi Effect must be real. From ordinary considerations, regarding scientific testimony, the burden of evidence shifted. I still do not consider the matter closed entirely. From evidence not available in 2011, however, the burden has shifted back.

However, even then there was cause for caution. That Focardi published with Rossi in a faux journal, created and controlled by Rossi, was a red flag. That, without clear evidence, he shifted from careful scientific presentation to a dramatic claim was a red flag. His behavior with Steve Krivit was a red flag. His avoidance of true independent testing was a red flag. All of these had possible “explanations,” as long as direct evidence was missing.

05:50 Now, this is the next product built by  Engineer Rossi, again based to the same process, similar to a train wagon (NdR a shipping container) but smaller. Inside we see some boxes and everyone is a generator producing the same effects I described before.

That was the idea, yes. However, the project was crazy, part of a plan to create something dramatic. It made no real business sense. The idea would be that a megawatt plant would demonstrate reliability, and that it would be difficult to fake a megawatt. Nice big round number. but suppose COP were 6 — as actually claimed. That would then require 160 KW power input. With electrical power, ordinary service is perhaps 20 KW. I think 40 KW or so is available. The thing could not be powered to produce an actual megawatt, at that COP. So … when Rossi demonstrated this, he needed a 500 KW or so genset on site. And what power did he measure? About 500 KW. Focardi was not, in his TedX talk, claiming that the megawatt plant had actually been tested.

A sensible plan would have been to test individual reactors more thoroughly, generating reliability data. Much easier to handle, and much easier to measure the output heat, and if that measurement is done independently, which could have been arranged, even with a “black box” reactor, data actually needed to confidently design and manufacture a megawatt plant, or a plant of any capacity, would have been developed.

Something else was happening than ordinary business sense. This was all visible by the end of 2011. I do not know how much of this became known to Focardi before he died, June 22, 2013, not quite 80 years old. At that point, the Validation Test was about to be performed under Rossi supervision, by Fabio Penon. IH had, the previous year, bought that megawatt plant, apparently. (Skeptics generally assume there was only one plant. I do not know the fact.) Focardi would have been happy to see the recognition, knowing that the truth would come out. At my age (72), I find that kind of impression comforting. I don’t have to know the truth, I only need to trust it.

06:31 making work together all these elements, we would have 1 MW of power produced
06:45 This was not already started with all the generators together; it will be before the end of this month. At this time we can say there is a change in the sizes we are talking about. But every box we can see is like the old generators we used to react hydrogen and nickel to obtain heat.
07:17 This is clearly a nuclear reaction as in the experiments we did – we are doing them by two years, two years and half, I don’t remember the exact date we started. At the end of the experiment, when we analyze the materials used, the material put in the capsule, that originally was nickel and hydrogen we find again nickel but also copper.

Unfortunately, “clearly” was subjective and personal. The copper finding, he considers important evidence here, was abandoned and may have been deliberate deception, I am not documenting that here, only that this claim did not persist, and that this idea shows Focardi jumping to conclusions, losing his objectivity. To come to a scientific conclusion about this alleged transmutation, one would need many samples, and for something so remarkable, independent confirmation. Yet Forcardi talks about this being “proof.”

07:57 Now, the copper is the element following nickel on the periodic scale. It is at its side and the nucleus of copper differ from the nucleus of nickel only because it have a single proton more. Proton that was introduced, captured, by the nickel in a process of nuclear reaction. So when we affirm this is a nuclear reaction between nickel and hydrogen, this is another proof it is not a fantastic statement. We have the proofs, because as result in the end copper is formed.

That would be a great reason for dropping some copper in, wouldn’t it? Focardi befriended Rossi or did Rossi select Focardi as someone easy to fool? Once again, listening to the talk, not knowing the later fact of the claim being abandoned or acknowledged as error, this is very convincing!

08:43 Now, one of the problems when we talk about these topics is the problem of safety. And, in this case the danger for the safety is the radioactivity, because being a nuclear reaction people foresee radioactivity emitted in the reaction. This is real, but we are lucky this process produce only gamma rays and not neutrons.

Does it produce gammas? If confirmed, that would be “nuclear evidence.” It could be faked, by the way. In the original Rossi-Focardi paper, “no radiation was observed at levels greater than natural radiation background.” This is somewhat in contradiction with what Focardi claims in the talk about Bondeno; this, then, reveals a certain lack of precision and clarity. No careful testing, using control experiments, is described. He saw some elevation above background, so the claim in the paper was incomplete, at least. It looks like he never followed up. Gammas from neutron activation, if that is what was happening, have characteristic energies, which can be measured. Rossi prevented Celani, was it?, from using a portable instrument at the first 2011 test that could have measured gamma energies.

I must say I pointed to the danger of neutrons from the start with the collaboration with Rossi; and Rossi, obviously, took the measures needed because, if there would be neutrons, the things would be difficult, because neutrons can be shielded but it is not a simple problem. Luckily there are not neutrons. But there are gamma rays. The presence of gamma ray I have experienced directly, in the first experiments in the laboratory Rossi had in Bondeno, because often I did the measures when Rossi was occupied doing his bidding. I, in the first measures used an instrument detecting radioactivity and measured the gamma rays. Not very dangerous, not big compared to the normal background, but anyway present. And it is obvious there was no reason to raise the natural radioactivity level.

So from a single observation, Focardi makes a definitive claim, “there are gamma rays,” instead of merely noting that there was one measurement, with no details given, that indicated the presence of gamma radiation.

10:40 But we never detected neutrons as this was my main fear because neutron are difficult to shield. But hey never showed. The problem of the gamma rays was solved simply adding, around the generators, small sheet of lead that are able to shield the gamma ray. So we can say, there is no risk of radioactivity when we work in this way. This is good not only for us but for when there will be commercial applications.

In a more careful study, a gamma detector would be designed together with the reactor, so that it could measure the unshielded gammas. As a precaution, researchers do often have neutron detectors around, but the evidence for neutron radiation in LENR experiments, aside from muon-catalyzed fusion, a different animal that resembles hot fusion in its behavior, is that if it exists, or when it exists, it is at extremely low levels, not harmful.

Critique: Widom-Larsen Theory

Theoretical Standard Model Rates of Proton to Neutron Conversions Near Metallic Hydride Surfaces

This is a Widom-Larsen paper, published on arXiv in 2006, last version 2007. From comments by Widom and Larsen on New Energy Times, the intention was to submit this to a refereed journal. That apparently never happened.

This is the beginning of a review of that paper.
Continue reading “Critique: Widom-Larsen Theory”