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?

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.

 

Hagelstein on theory and science

On Theory and Science Generally in Connection with the Fleischmann-Pons Experiment

Peter Hagelstein

This is an editorial from Infinite Energy, March/April 2013, p. 5, copied here for purposes of study and commentary. This article was cited to me as if it were in contradiction to certain ideas I have expressed. Reading it carefully, I find it is, for the most part, a confirmation of these ideas, and so I was motivated to study this here. Some of what Peter wrote in 2013 is being disregarded, not to mention by pseudoskeptics, but also by people within the community. He presents some cautions, which are commonly ignored.

I was encouraged to contribute to an editorial generally on the topic of theory in science, in connection with publication of a paper focused on some recent ideas that Ed Storms has put forth regarding a model for how excess heat works in the Fleischmann-Pons experiment. Such a project would compete for my time with other commitments, including teaching, research and family-related commitments; so I was reluctant to take it on. On the other hand I found myself tempted, since over the years I have been musing about theory, and also about science, as a result of having been involved in research on the Fleischmann-Pons experiment. As you can see from what follows, I ended up succumbing to temptation.

I have listened to Peter talk many times in person. He has a manner that is quite distinctive, and it’s a pleasure to remember the sound of his voice. He is dispassionate and thoughtful, and often quietly humorous.

Science as an imperfect human endeavor 

In order to figure out the role of theory in science, probably we should start by figuring out what science is. Had you asked me years ago what science is, I would have replied with confidence. I would have rambled on at length about discovering how nature works, the scientific method, accumulation and systematization of scientific knowledge, about the benefits of science to mankind, and about those who do science. But alas, I wasn’t asked years ago.

[Cue laugh track.]

In this day and age, we might turn to Wikipedia as a resource to figure out what science is.

[Cue more laughter.] But he’s right, many might turn to Wikipedia, and even though I know very well how Wikipedia works and fails to work, I also use it every day. Wikipedia is unstable, often constantly changing. Rather arbitrarily, I picked the March 1, 2013 version by PhaseChanger for a permanent link. Science, as we will see, does depend on consensus, and in theory, Wikipedia also does, but, in practice, Wikipedia editors are anonymous, their real qualifications are generally unknown, and there is no responsible and reliable governance. So Wikipedia is even more vulnerable to information cascades and hidden factional dominance than the “scientific community,” which is poorly defined.

We see on the Wikipedia page pictures of an imposing collection of famous scientists, discussion of the history of science, the scientific method, philosophical issues, science and society, impact on public policy and the like. One comes away with the impression of science as something sensible with a long and respected lineage, as a rational enterprise involving many very smart people, lots of work and systematic accumulation and organization of knowledge—in essence an honorable endeavor that we might look up to and be proud of. This is very much the spirit in which I viewed science a quarter century ago.

Me too. I still am proud of science, but there is a dark side to nearly everything human.

I wanted to be part of this great and noble enterprise. It was good; it advanced humanity by providing understanding. I respected science and scientists greatly.

Mixed up on Wikipedia, and to some extent here in Peter’s article, is “understanding” as the goal, with “knowledge,” the root meaning. “Understanding” is transient and that we believe we understand something is probably a particular brain chemistry that responds to particular kinds of neural patterns and reactions. The real and practical value of science is in prediction, not some mere personal satisfaction, and that reaction is rooted in a sense of control and safety. The pursuit of that brain chemistry, which is probably addictive, may motivate many scientists (and people in general). Threaten a person’s sense that they understand reality, strong reactions will be common.

We can see the tension in the Wikipedia article. The lede defines science:

Science (from Latin scientia, meaning “knowledge”) is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe.[1] In an older and closely related meaning (found, for example, in Aristotle), “science” refers to the body of reliable knowledge itself, of the type that can be logically and rationally explained (see History and philosophy below).[2]

There are obviously two major kinds of knowledge: One is memory, a record of witnessing. The other is explanation. The difference is routinely understood at law: a witness will be asked to report what they witnessed, not how they interpreted it (except possibly as an explanatory detail; in general, interpretation is the province of “expert witnesses” who must be qualified before the court. Adversarial systems (as in the U.S.) create much confusion by not having the court choose experts to consult. Rather, each side hires its own experts, and some make a career out of testifying with some particular slant. Those differences of opinion are assessed by juries, subject to arguments from the plaintiff and defendant. It’s a place where the system can break down, though any system can break down. It’s better than some and worse than others.

Science, historically and practically (as we apply science in our lives), begins, not with explanations, but with observation and memory and, later in life, written records of observations. However, the human mind, it is well-known, tends to lose observational detail and instead will most strongly remember conclusions and impressions, especially those with some emotional impact.

So the foundation of science is the enormous body of experimental and other records. This is, however, often “systematized” through the explanations that developed, and the scientific method harnesses these to make the organization of knowledge more efficient through testing predictions and, over time, deprecating explanations that are less predictive, in favor of those more precise and comprehensive in prediction. This easily becomes confused with truth. As I will be repeating, however, the map is not the reality.

Today I still have great respect for science and for many scientists, probably much more respect than in days past. But my view is different today. Now I would describe science as very much a human endeavor; and as a human activity, science is imperfect. This is not intended as a criticism; instead I view it as a reflection that we as humans are imperfect. Which in a sense makes it much more amazing that we have managed to make as much progress as we have. The advances in our understanding of nature resulting from science generally might be seen as a much greater accomplishment in light of how imperfect humans sometimes are, especially in connection with science.

Yes. Peter has matured. He is no longer so outraged by the obvious.

The scientific method as an ideal

Often in talking with muggles (non-scientists in this context) about science, it seems first and foremost the discussion turns to the notion of the “scientific method,” which muggles have been exposed to and imagine is actually what scientists make use of when doing science. Ah, the wonderful idealization which is this scientific method! Once again, we turn to Wikipedia as our modern source for clarification of all things mysterious: the scientific method in summary involves the formulation of a question, a hypothesis, a prediction, a test and subsequent analysis. Without doubt, this method is effective for figuring out what is right and also what is wrong as to how nature works, and can be even more so when applied repeatedly on a given problem by many people over a long time.

The version of the Wikipedia article  as edited by Crazynas:  22:30, 14 February 2013.

However, the scientific method, as it was conveyed to me (by Feynman at Cal Tech, 1961-63) requires something that runs in radical contradiction to how most people are socially conditioned, how they have been trained or have chosen to live. and actually live in practice. It requires a strenous attempt to prove one’s own ideas wrong, whereas normal socialization expects us to try to prove we are right. While most scientists understand this, actual practice can be wildly off, hence confirmation bias is common.

In years past I was an ardent supporter of this scientific method. Even more, I would probably have argued that pretty much any other approach would be guaranteed to produce unreliable results.

Well, less reliable.

At present I think of the scientific method as presented here more as an ideal, a method that one would like to use, and should definitely use if and when possible. Sadly, there are circumstances where it isn’t practical to make use of the scientific method. For example, to carry out a test it might require resources (such as funding, people, laboratories and so forth), and if the resources are not available then the test part of the method simply isn’t going to get done.

I disagree. It is always practical to use the method, provided that one understands that results may not be immediate. For example, one may design tests that may only later (maybe even much later) be performed. When an idea (hypothesis) has not been tested and shown to generate reliable predictions, the idea is properly not yet “scientific,” but rather proposed, awaiting confirmation. As well, it is, in some cases, possible to test an idea against a body of existing experimental evidence. This is less satisfactory than performing tests specifically designed with controls, but nevertheless can create progress, preliminary results to guide later work.

In the case Peter will be looking at, there was a rush to judgment, a political impulse to find quick answers, and the ideas that arose (experimental error, artifacts, etc.) were never well-tested. Rather, impressions were created and communicated widely, based on limited and inconclusive evidence, becoming the general “consensus” that Peter will talk about.

In practice, simple application of the scientific method isn’t enough. Consider the situation when several scientists contemplate the same question: They all have an excellent understanding of the various hypotheses put forth; there are no questions about the predictions; and they all do tests and subsequent analyses. This, for example, was the situation in the area of the Fleischmann-Pons experiment back in 1989. So, what happens when different scientists that do the tests get different answers?

Again, it’s necessary to distinguish between observation and interpretation. The answers only seemed different when viewed from within a very limited perspective. In fact, as we now can see it, there was a high consistency between the various experiments, including the so-called negative replications. Essentially, given condition X, Y was seen, at least occasionally. With condition X missing, Y was never seen. That is enough to conclude, first pass, a causal relationship between X and Y. X, of course, would be high deuterium loading, of at least about 90%. Y would be excess heat. There were also other necessary conditions for excess heat. But in 1989, few knew this and it was widely assumed that it was enough to put “two electrodes in a jam-jar” to show that the FP Heat Effect did not exist. And there was more, of course.

More succinctly, the tests did not get “different answers.” Reality is a single Answer. When reality is observed from more than one perspective or in different situations, it may look different. That does not make any of the observations wrong, merely incomplete, not the whole affair. What we actually observe is an aspect of reality, it is the reality of our experience, hence the training of scientists properly focuses on careful observation and careful reporting of what is actually observed.

You might think that the right thing to do might be to go back to do more tests. Unfortunately, the scientific method doesn’t tell you how many tests you need to do, or what to do when people get different answers. The scientific method doesn’t provide for a guarantee that resources will be made available to carry out more tests, or that anyone will still be listening if more tests happen to get done.

Right. However, there is a hidden assumption here, that one must find the “correct answers” by some deadline. Historically, pressure arose from the political conditions around the 1989 announcement, so corners were cut. It was clear that the tests that were done were inadequate and the 1989 DoE review included acknowledgement of that. There was never a definitive review showing that the FP measurements of heat were artifact. Of course, eventually, positive confirmations started to show up. By that time, though, a massive information cascade had developed, and most scientists were no longer paying any attention. I call it a Perfect Storm.

Consensus as a possible extension of the scientific method

I was astonished by the resolution to this that I saw take place. The important question on the table from my perspective was whether there exists an excess heat effect in the Fleischmann-Pons experiment. The leading hypotheses included: (1) yes, the effect was real; (2) no, the initial results were an artifact.

Peter is not mentioning a crucial aspect of this, the pressure developed by the “nuclear” claim. Had Pons and Fleischmann merely announced a heat anomaly, leaving the “nuclear” speculations or conclusions to others, preferably physicists, history might have been very different. A heat anomaly? So perhaps some chemistry isn’t understood! Let’s not run around like headless chickens, let’s first see if this anomaly can be confirmed! If not, we can forget about it, until it is.

Instead, because of the nuclear claim and some unfortunate aspects of how this was announced and published, there was a massive uproar, much premature attention, and, then, partly because Pons and Fleischmann had made some errors in reporting nuclear products, premature rejection, tossing out the baby with the bathwater.

Yes, scientifically, and after the initial smoke cleared, the reality of the heat was the basic scientific question. As Peter will make clear, and he is quite correct, “excess heat” does not mean that physics textbooks must be revised, it is not in contradiction to known physics, it merely shows that something isn’t understood. Exactly what remains unclear, until it is clarified. So, yes, the heat might be real, or there might be some error in interpretation of the experiments (which is another way of saying “artifact.”)

Predictions were made, which largely centered around the possibility that either excess heat would be seen, or that excess heat would not be seen. A very large number of tests were done. A few people saw excess heat, and most didn’t.

Now, this is fascinating, in fact. There is a consistency here, underneath apparent contradiction. Those who saw excess heat commonly failed to see it in most experiments. Obvious conclusion: generating the excess heat effect was not well-understood. There was another approach available, one usable under such chaotic conditions: correlations of conditions and effects. By the time a clear correlated nuclear product was known, research had slowed. To truly beat the problem, probably, collaboration was required, so that multiple experiments could be subject to common correlation study. That mostly did not happen.

With a correlation study, the “negative” results are part of the useful data. Actually essential. Instead, oversimplified conclusions were drawn from incomplete data. 

A very large number of analyses were done, many of which focused on the experimental approach and calorimetry of Fleischmann and Pons. Some focused on nuclear measurements (the idea here was that if the energy was produced by nuclear reactions, then commensurate energetic particles should be present);

Peter is describing history, that “commensurate energetic particles should be present” was part of the inexplicit assumption that if there was a heat effect, it must be nuclear, and if it were nuclear, it must be d-d fusion, and if it were d-d fusion, and given the reported heat, there must be massive energetic particles. Fatal levels, actually. The search for neutrons, in particular, was mostly doomed from the start, useless. Whatever the FP Heat Effect is, it either produces no neutrons or very, very few. (At least not fast neutrons, as with hot fusion. WL Theory is a hoax, in my view, but it takes some sophistication to see that, so slow neutrons remain as possibly being involved, first-pass.)

What is remarkable is how obvious this was from the beginning, but many papers were written that ignored the obvious.

and some focused on the integrity and competence of Fleischmann and Pons. How was this resolved? For me the astonishment came when arguments were made that if members of the scientific community were to vote, that the overwhelming majority of the scientific community would conclude that there was no effect based on the tests.

That is not an argument, it is an observation based on extrapolation from experience. As Peter well knows, it is not based on a review of the tests. The only reviews actually done, especially the later ones, concluded that the effect is real. Even the DoE review in 2004, Peter was there, reported that half of the 18 panelists considered the evidence for excess heat “conclusive.” Now, if you don’t consider it “conclusive”, what do you think? Anywhere from impossible to possible! That was a “vote” from a very brief review, and I think only half the panel actually attended the physical meeting, and it was only one day. More definitive, and hopefully more considered, in science, is peer-reviewed review in mainstream journals. Those have been uniformly positive for a long time.

So what the conditions holding at the time Peter is writing about show is that “scientists” get their news from the newspaper — and from gossip — and put their pants on one leg at a time.

The “argument” would be that decisions on funding and access to academic resources should be based on such a vote. Normally, in science, one does not ask about general consensus among “scientists,” but among those actually working in a field, it is the “consensus of the informed” which is sought. Someone with a general science degree might have the tools to be able to understand papers, but that doesn’t mean that they actually read and study and understand them. I just critiqued a book review by a respected seismologist, actually a professor at a major university, who clearly knew practically nothing about LENR, but considered himself to be a decent spokesperson for the mainstream. There are many like him. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

I have no doubt whatsoever that a vote at that time (or now) would have gone poorly for Fleischmann and Pons.

There was a vote in 2004, of a kind. The results were not “poor,” and show substantial progress over the 1989 review. However, yes, if one were to snag random scientists and pop the question, it might go “poorly.” But I’m not sure. I talk with a lot of scientists, in contexts not biased toward LENR, and there is more understanding out there than we might think. I really don’t know, and nobody has done the survey, nor is it particularly valuable. What matters everywhere is not the consensus of all people or all scientists, but all accepted as knowledgeable on the subject. One of the massive errors of 1989 and often repeated is that expertise on, say, nuclear physics, conveys expertise on LENR. But most of the work and the techniques are chemistry. Heat is most commonly a chemical phenomenon.

To actually review LENR fairly requires a multidisciplinary approach. Polling random scientists, garbage in, garbage out. Running reviews, with extensive discussion between those with experimental knowledge and others, hammering out real consensus instead of just knee-jerk opinion, that is what would be desirable. It’s happened here and there, simply not enough yet to make the kind of difference Peter and I would like to see.

The idea of a vote among scientists seems to be very democratic; in some countries leaders are selected and issues are resolved through the application of democracy. What to me was astonishing at the time was that this argument was used in connection with the question of the existence of an excess heat effect in the Fleischmann-Pons experiment.

And a legislature declared that pi was 22/7. Not a bad approximation, to be sure. What were they actually declaring? (So I looked this up. No, they did not declare that. “Common knowledge” is often quite distorted. And then, because Wikipedia is unreliable, I checked the Straight Dope, which is truly reliable, and if you doubt that, be prepared to be treated severely. I can tolerate dissent, but not heresy. Also snopes.com, likewise.  Remarkably, Cecil Adams managed to write about cold fusion without making an idiot out of himself. “As the recent cold fusion fiasco makes clear, scientists are as prone to self-delusion as anybody else.” True, too true. Present company excepted, of course!

Our society does not use ordinary “democratic process” to make decisions on fact. Rather, this mostly happens with juries, in courts of law. Yes, there is a vote, but to gain a result on a serious matter (criminal, say), unanimity is required, after a hopefully thorough review of evidence and arguments. 

In the years following I tried this approach out with students in the classroom. I would pose a technical question concerning some issue under discussion, and elicit an answer from the student. At issue would be the question as to whether the answer was right, or wrong. I proposed that we make use of a more modern version of the scientific method, which was to include voting in order to check the correctness of the result. If the students voted that the result was correct, then I would argue that we had made use of this augmentation of the scientific method in order to determine whether the result was correct or not. Of course, we would go on only when the result was actually correct.

Correct according to whom? Rather obviously, the professor. Appeal to authority. I would hope that the professor refrained from intervening unless it was absolutely necessary; rather, that he would recognize that the minority is, not uncommonly, right, but may not have expressed itself well enough, or the truth is more complex than one view or another, “right and wrong.” Consensus organizations exist where finding full consensus is considered desirable, actually misssion-critical. When a decision has massive consequences, perhaps paralyzing progress in science for a long time, perhaps “no agreement, but majority X,”with a defined process, is better than concluding that X is the truth and other ideas are wrong. In real organizations, with full discussion, consensus is much more accessible than most think. The key is “full discussion,” which often actually takes facilitation, from people who know how to guide participants toward agreements.

I love that Peter actually tried this. He’s living like a scientist, testing ideas.

In such a discussion, if a consensus appeared that the professor believed was wrong, then it’s a powerful teaching opportunity. How does the professor know it’s wrong? Is there experimental evidence of which the students were not aware, or failed to consider? Are there defective arguments being used, and if, so, how did it happen that the students agreed on them? Social pressures? Laziness? Or something missing in their education? Simply declaring the consensus “wrong,” would avoid the deeper education possible.

There is consensus process that works, that is far more likely to come up with deep conclusions than any individual, and there is so-called consensus that is a social majority bullying a minority. A crucial difference is respect and tolerance for differing points of view, instead of pushing particular points of view as “true,” and others as “false.”

The students understood that such a vote had nothing to do with verifying whether a result was correct or not. To figure out whether a result is correct, we can derive results, we can verify results mathematically, we can turn to unambiguous experimental results and we can do tests; but in general the correctness of a technical result in the hard sciences should probably not be determined from the result of this kind of vote.

Voting will occur in groups created to recommend courses of action. Courts will avoid attempts to decide “truth,” absent action proposed. One of the defects in the 2004 U.S. DoE review, as far as I know, was the lack of a specific, practical (within political reach) and actionable proposal. What has eventually come to me has been the creation of a “LENR desk” at the DoE, a specific person or small office with the task of maintaining knowledge of the state of research, with the job of making recommendations on research, i.e., identifying the kinds of fundamental questions to ask, tests to perform, to address what the 2004 panel unanimously agreed to recommend. That was apparently a genuine consensus, and obviously could lead to resolving all the other issues, but we didn’t focus on that, the CMNS community instead, chip on shoulder, focused on what was wrong with that review (and mistakes were made, for sure.)

Scientific method and the scientific community

I have argued that using the scientific method can be an effective way to clarify a technical issue. However, it could be argued that the scientific method should come with a warning, something to the effect that actually using it might be detrimental to your career and to your personal life. There are, of course, many examples that could be used for illustration. A colleague of mine recently related the story of Ignaz Semmelweis to me. Semmelweis (according to Wikipedia) earned a doctorate in medicine in 1844, and subsequently became interested in the question of why the mortality rate was so high at the obstetrical clinics at the Vienna General Hospital. He proposed a hypothesis that led to a testable prediction (that washing hands would improve the mortality rate), carried out the test and analyzed the result. In fact, the mortality rate did drop, and dropped by a large factor.

In this case Semmelweis made use of the scientific method to learn something important that saved lives. Probably you have figured out by now that his result was not immediately recognized or accepted by the medical and scientific communities, and the unfortunate consequences of his discovery to his career and personal life serve to underscore that science is very much an imperfect human enterprise. His career did not advance as it probably should have, or as he might have wished, following this important discovery. His personal life was negatively impacted.

This story is often told. I was a midwife, and trained midwives, and knew about Semmelweiss long ago. The Wikipedia article.  A sentence from the Wikipedia article:

It has been contended that Semmelweis could have had an even greater impact if he had managed to communicate his findings more effectively and avoid antagonising the medical establishment, even given the opposition from entrenched viewpoints.[56]

Semmelweiss became obsessed about his finding and the apparent rejection. In fact, there was substantial acceptance, but also widespread misunderstanding and denial. Semmelweiss was telling doctors that they were killing their patients and he was irate that they didn’t believe him.

How to accomplish that kind of information transfer remains tricky. It can still be the case that, at least for individuals, “standard of practice” can be deadly.

Semmelweiss literally lost his mind, and died when committed to a mental hospital, having been injured by a guard. 

The scientific community is a social entity, and scientists within the scientific community have to interact from day to day with other members of the scientific community, as well as with those not in science. How a scientist navigates these treacherous waters can have an impact. For example, Fleischmann once described what happened to him following putting forth the claim of excess power in the Fleischmann-Pons experiment; he described the experience as one of being “extruded” out of the scientific community. From my own discussions with him, I suspect that he suffered from depression in his later years that resulted in part from the non-acceptance of his research.

Right. That, however, presents Fleischmann as a victim, along with all the other researchers “extruded.” However, he wasn’t rejected because he claimed excess heat. That simply isn’t what happened. The real story is substantially more complex. Bottom line, the depth of the rejection was related to the “nuclear claim,” made with only circumstantial evidence that depended entirely on his own expertise, together with an error in nuclear measurements, a first publication that called attention to the standard d+d reactions as if they were relevant, when they obviously were not, and then a series of decisions made, reactive to attack, that made it all worse. The secrecy, the failure to disclose difficulties promptly, the decision to withhold helium measurement results, the decision to avoid helium measurements for the future, the failure to honor the agreement in the Morrey collaboration, all amplified the impression of incompetence. He was not actually incompetent, certainly not as to electrochemistry! He was, however, human, dealing with a political situation outside his competence. However, his later debate with Morrison was based on an article that purported simplicity, but that was far from simple to understand. Fleischmann needed guidance, and didn’t have it, apparently. Or if he had sound guidance, he wasn’t listening to it. 

If he was depressed later, I would ascribe that to a failure to recognize and acknowledge what he had done and not done to create the situation. Doing so would have given him power. Instead, mostly, he remained silent. (People will tell themselves “I did the best I could,” which is BS, typically, how could we possibly know that nothing better was possible? We may tell ourselves that it was all someone else’s fault, but that, then, assigns power to “someone else,” not to us. Power is created by “The buck stops here!”) But we now have his correspondence with Miles, and I have not studied it yet. What I know is that when we own and take full responsibility for whatever happened in our lives, we can them move on to much more than we might think possible. 

Those who have worked on anomalies connected with the Fleischmann-Pons experience have a wide variety of experiences. For example, one friend became very interested in the experiments and decided to put time into this area of research. Almost immediately it became difficult to bring in research funding on any topic. From these experiences my friend consciously made the decision to back away from the field, after which it again became possible to get funding. Some others in the field have found it difficult to obtain resources to pursue research on the Fleischmann-Pons effect, and also difficult to publish.

Indeed. There are very many personal accounts. Too many are anonymous rumors, like this, which makes them less credible. I don’t doubt the general idea. Yes, I think many did make the decision to back away. I once had a conversation with a user on Wikipedia, who wanted his anonymity preserved, though he was taking a skeptical position on LENR. Why? Because, he claimed, if it were known that he was even willing to talk about LENR, it would damage his career as a scientist. That would have been in 2009 or so.

I would argue that instead of being an aberration of science (as many of my friends have told me), this is a part of science. The social aspects of science are important, and strongly impact what science is done and the careers and lives of scientists. I think that the excess heat effect in the Fleischmann-Pons experiment is important; however, we need to be aware of the associated social aspects. In a recent short course class on the topic I included slides with a warning, in an attempt to make sure that no one young and naive would remain unaware of the danger associated with cultivating an interest in the field. Working in this field can result in your career being destroyed.

Unfortunately, perhaps, the students may think you are joking. I would prefer to find and communicate ways to work in the field without such damage. There are hints in Peter’s essay, to possibilities. Definitely, anyone considering getting involved should know the risks, but also how, possibly, to handle them. Some activities in life are dangerous, but still worth doing.

It follows that the scientific method probably needs to be placed in context. Although the “question” to be addressed in the scientific method seems to be general, it is not. There is a filter implicit in connection with the scientific community, in that the question to be addressed through the use of the scientific method must be one either approved by, or likely to be approved by, the scientific community.

Peter is here beginning what he later calls the “outrageous parody.” If we take this as descriptive, there is a reality behind what he is writing. If a question is outside the boundaries being described, it’s at the edge of a cliff, or over it. Walking in such a place, with a naive sense of safety, is very dangerous. People die doing such, commonly. People aware of the danger still sometimes die, but not nearly so commonly.

The parody begins with his usage of “must.” There is no must, but there are natural consequences to working “outside the box.” Pons and Fleischmann knew that their work would be controversial, but somehow failed to treat it as the hot potato it was, if they mentioned “nuclear.” It’s ironic. Had they not mentioned they could have patented a method for producing heat, without the N word. If someone else had asked about “nuclear,” they could have said, “We don’t see adequate evidence to make such a claim. We don’t know what is causing the heat.”

And they could have continued with this profession of “inadequate evidence” until they had such evidence and it was bulletproof. It might only have taken a few years, maybe even less (i.e., to establish “nuclear.” Establishing a specific mechanism might still not have been accomplished, but … without the rejection cascade, we would probably know much more, and, I suspect, we’d have a lab rat, at least.

Otherwise, the associated endeavor will not be considered to be part of science, and whatever results come from the application of the scientific method are not going to be included in the canon of science.

Yes, again if descriptive, not prescriptive. This should be obvious: what is not understood and well-confirmed does not belong in the “canon.”

If one decides to focus on a question in this context that is outside of the body of questions of interest to the scientific community, then one must understand that this will lead to an exclusion from the scientific community.

Again, yes, but with a conditions In my training, they told us, “If they are not shooting at you, you are not doing anything worth wasting bullets on.”

The condition is that it may be possible to work in such a way as to not arouse this response. With LENR, the rejection cascade was established in full force long ago, and is persistent. However, there may be ways to phrase “the question of interest” to keep it well within what the scientific community as a whole will accept. Others may find support and funding such that they can disregard that problem. Certainly McKubre was successful, I see no sign that he suffered an impact to his career, indeed LENR became the major focus of that career.

But why do people go into science? If it’s to make money, some do better getting an MBA, or going into industry. There would naturally be few that would choose LENR out of the many career possibilities, but eventually, in any field, one can come up against entrenched and factional belief. Scientists are not trained to face these issues powerfully, and many are socially unskilled.

Also, if one attempts to apply the scientific method to a problem or area that is not approved, then the scientific community will not be supportive of the endeavor, and it will be problematic to find resources to carry out the scientific method.

Resources are controlled by whom? Has it ever been the case that scientists could expect support for whatever wild-hair idea they want to pursue? However, in fact, resources can be found for any reasonably interesting research. They may have strings attached. TANSTAAFL. One can set aside LENR, work in academia and go for tenure, and then do pretty much whatever, but … if more than very basic funding is needed, it may take special work to find it.

One of the suggestions for this community is to create structures to assess proposed projects, generating facilitated consensus, and to recommend funding for projects considered likely to produce value, and then to facilitate connecting sources of funding with such projects.

Funding does exist. In not very long after Peter wrote this essay, he did receive some support from Industrial Heat. Modest projects of value and interest can be funded. Major projects, that’s more difficult, but it’s happening.

A possible improvement of the scientific method

This leads us back to the question of what is science, and to further contemplation of the scientific method. From my experience over the past quarter century, I have come to view the question of what science is perhaps as the wrong question. The more important issue concerns the scientific community; you see, science is what the scientific community says science is.

It all depends on what “is” is. It also depends on the exact definition of the “scientific community,” and, further, on how the “scientific community” actually “says” something.

Lost as well, is the distinction between general opinion, expert opinion, majority opinion, and consensus. If there is a genuine and widespread consensus, it is, first, very unlikely (as a general rule) to be seriously useless. I would write “wrong,” but as will be seen, I’m siding with Peter in denying that right and wrong are measurable phenomena. However, utility can be measured, at least comparatively. Secondly, rejecting the consensus is highly dangerous, not just for career, but for sanity as well. You’d better have good cause! And be prepared for a difficult road ahead! Those who do this rarely do well, by any definition.

This is not intended as a truism; quite the contrary.

There are two ways of defining words. One is by the intention of the speaker, the other is by the effect on the audience. The speaker has authority over the first, but who has authority over the second? Words have effects regardless of what we want. But, in fact, as I have tested again and again, every day, we may declare possibilities, using words, and something happens. Often, miracles happen. But I don’t actually control the effect of a given word, normally, rather I use already-established effects (in my own experience and in what I observe with others). If I have some personal definition, but the word has a different effect on a listener, the word will create that effect, not what I “say it means,” or imagine is my intention.

So, from this point of view, and as to something that might be measurable, science is not what the scientific community says it is, but is the effect that the word has. The “saying” of the scientific community may or may not make a difference.

In these days the scientific community has become very powerful. It has an important voice in our society. It has a powerful impact on the lives and careers of individual scientists. It helps to decide what science gets done; it also helps to decide what science doesn’t get done. And importantly, in connection with this discussion, it decides what lies within the boundaries of science, and also it decides what is not science (if you have doubts about this, an experiment can help clarify the issue: pick any topic that is controversial in the sense under discussion; stand up to argue in the media that not only is the topic part of science, but that the controversial position constitutes good science, then wait a bit and then start taking measurements).

Measurements of what? Lost in this parody is that words are intended to communicate, and in communication the target matters. So “science” means one thing to one audience, and something else to another. I argue within the media just as Peter suggests, sometimes. I measure my readership and my upvotes. Results vary with the nature of the audience. With specific readers, the variance may be dramatic.

“Boundaries of science” here refers to a fuzzy abstraction. Yet the effect on an individual of crossing those boundaries can be strong, very real. It’s like any social condition. 

What science includes, and perhaps more importantly does not include, has become extremely important; the only opinion that counts is that of the scientific community. This is a reflection of the increasing power of the scientific community.

Yet if the general community — or those with power and influence within it — decides that scientists are bourgeois counter-revolutionaries, they are screwed, except for those who conform to the vanguard of the proletariat. Off to the communal farm for re-education!

In light of this, perhaps this might be a good time to think about updating the scientific method; a more modern version might look something like the following:

So, yes, this is a parody, but I’m going to look at it as if it is descriptive of reality, under some conditions. It’s only an “outrageous parody” if proposed as prescriptive, normative.

1) The question: The process might start with a question like “why is the sky blue” (according to our source Wikipedia for this discussion), that involves some issue concerning the physical world. As remarked upon by Wikipedia, in many cases there already exists information relevant to the question (for example, you can look up in texts on classical electromagnetism to find the reason that the sky is blue). In the case of the Fleischmann-Pons effect, the scientific community has already studied the effect in sufficient detail with the result that it lies outside of science; so as with other areas determined to be outside of science, the scientific method cannot be used. We recognize in this that certain questions cannot be addressed using the scientific method.

If one wants to look at the blue sky question “scientifically,” it would begin backed up, for, before “why,” comes observation. Is the sky “blue”? What does that mean, exactly? Who measures the color of the sky? Is it blue from everywhere and in every part? What is the “sky,” indeed, where is it? Yes, we have a direction for it, “up,” but how far up? With data on all this, on the sky and its color, then we can look at causes, at “why” or “how.”

And the question, the way that Peter phrases it, is reductionist. How about this answer to “why is the sky blue”: “Because God likes blue, you dummy!” That’s a very different meaning for “why” than what is really “how,” i.e., how is light transformed in color by various processes? The “God” answer describes an intention. That answer is not “wrong,” but incomplete.

There is another answer to the question: “Because we say so!” This has far more truth to it than may meet the eye. “Blue” is a name for a series of reactions and responses that we, in English, lump together as if they were unitary, single. Other languages and cultures may associate things differently.

To be sure, however, when I look at the sky, my reaction is normally “blue,” unless its a sunset or sunrise sky, when sometimes that part of the sky has a different color. I also see something else in the sky, less commonly perceived.

2) The hypothesis: Largely we should follow the discussion in Wikipedia regarding the hypothesis regarding it as a conjecture. For example, from our textbooks we find that the sky is blue because large angle scattering from molecules is more efficient for shorter wavelength light. However, we understand that since certain conjectures lie outside of science, those would need to be discarded before continuing (otherwise any result that we obtain may not lie within science).  For example, the hypothesis that excess heat is a real effect in the Fleischmann-Pons experiment is one that lies outside of science, whereas the hypothesis that excess heat is due to errors in calorimetry lies within science and is allowed.

Now, if we understand “science” as the “canon,” the body of accepted fact and explanations, then the first hypothesis is indeed, outside the canon, it is not an accepted fact, if the canon is taken most broadly, to indicate what is almost universally accepted. On the other hand, this hypothesis is supported by nearly all reviews in peer-reviewed mainstream journals since about 2005, so is it actually “outside of science”? It came one vote short of being a majority opinion in the 2004 DoE review, the closest event we have to a vote. The 18-expert panel was equally divided between “conclusive” and “not conclusive” on the heat question. (And if a more sophisticated question had been asked, it might have shown that a majority of the panel showed an allowance leaning toward reality, because “not conclusive” is not equivalent to “wrong.”) The alleged majority, Peter is assuming is “consensus,” would be agreement on “wrong,” but that was apparently not the case in 2004.

But the “inside-science” hypothesis is the more powerful one to test, and this is what is so ironic here. If we think that the excess heat is real, then our effort should be, as I learned the scientific method, to attempt to prove the null hypothesis, that it’s artifact. So how do we test that? Then, by comparison, how would we test the first hypothesis? So many papers I have seen in this field where a researcher set out to prove that the heat effect is real. That’s a setup for confirmation bias. No, the deeper scientific approach is a strong attempt to show that the heat effect is artifact. And, in fact, often it is! That is, not all reports of excess heat are showing actual excess heat.

But some do, apparently. How would we know the difference? There is a simple answer: correlation between conditions and effects, across many experiments with controls well-chosen to prove artifact, and failing to find artifact. All of these would be investigating a question, that by the terms here, is clearly within science, and, not only that, is useful research. Understanding possible artifacts is obviously useful and within science!

After all, if we can show that the heat effect is only artifactual, we can then stop the waste of countless hours of blind-alley investigations and millions of dollars in funding that could otherwise be devoted to Good Stuff, like enormous machines to demonstrate thermonuclear fusion, that provide jobs for many deserving particle physicists and other Good Scientists.

For that matter, we could avoid Peter Hagelstein wasting his time with this nonsense, when he could be doing something far more useful, like designing weapons of mass destruction.

3) Prediction: We would like to understand the consequence that follows from the hypothesis, once again following Wikipedia here. Regarding scattering of blue light by molecules, we might predict that the scattered light will be polarized, which we can test. However, it is important to make sure that what we predict lies within science. For example, a prediction that excess heat can be observed as a consequence of the existence of a new physical effect in the Fleischmann-Pons experiment would likely be outside of science, and cannot be put forth. A prediction that a calorimetric artifact can occur in connection with the experiment (as advocated by Lewis, Huizenga, Shanahan and also by the Wikipedia page on cold fusion) definitely lies within the boundaries of science.

I notice that to be testable, a specific explanation must be created, i.e., scattering of light by molecules. That, then (with what is known or believed about molecules and light scattering), allows a prediction, polarization, which can be tested. The FP hypothesis here is odd. A “new physical effect” is not a specific testable hypothesis. That an artifact can occur is obvious, and is not the issue. Rather, the general idea is that the excess heat reported is artifact, and then so many have proposed specific artifacts, such as Shanahan. These are testable. That a specific artifact is shown not to be occurring does not take an experimental result outside of accepted science, this would require showing this for all possible artifacts, which is impossible. Rather, something else happens when investigations are careful. Again, testing a specific proposed artifact is clearly, as stated, within science, and useful as explained above. 

4) Test: One would think the most important part of the scientific method is to test the hypothesis and see how the world works. As such, this is the most problematic. Generally a test requires resources to carry out, so whether a test can be done or not depends on funding, lab facilities, people, time and on other issues. The scientific community aids here by helping to make sure that resources (which are always scarce) are not wasted testing things that do not need to be tested (such as excess heat in the Fleischmann-Pons experiment).  Another important issue concerns who is doing the test; for example, in experiments on the Fleischmann-Pons experiment, tests have been discounted because the experimentalist involved was biased in thinking that a positive result could have been obtained.

To the extent that the rejection of the FP heat is a genuine consensus, of course funding will be scarce, but some research requires little or no funding. For example, literature studies.

“Need to be tested” is an opinion, and is individual or collective. It’s almost never a universal, and so, imagine that one has become aware of the heat/helium correlation and the status of research on this, and sees that, while the correlation appears solidly established, with multiple confirmed verifications, the ratio itself has only been measured twice with even rough precision, after possibly capturing all the helium. Now, demonstrating that the heat/helium ratio is artifact would have massive benefits, because heat/helium is the evidence that is most convincing to newcomers (like me).

So the idea occurs of using what is already known, repeating work that has already been done, but with increased precision and using the simple technique discovered to, apparently, capture all the helium. Yes, it’s expensive work. However, in fact, this was funded with a donation from a major donor, well-known, to the tune of $6 million, in 2014, to be matched by another $6 million in Texas state funds. All to prove that the heat/helium correlation is bogus, and like normal pathological science, disappears with increased precision! Right?

Had it been realized, this could have been done many years ago. Think of the millions of dollars that would have been saved! Why did it take a quarter century after the heat/helium correlation was discovered to set up a test of this with precision and the necessary controls? 

Blaming that on the skeptics is delusion. This was us.

5) Analysis: Once again we defer to the discussion in Wikipedia concerning connecting the results of the experiment with the hypothesis and predictions. However, we probably need to generalize the notion of analysis in recognition of the accumulated experience within the scientific community. For example, if the test yields a result that is outside of science, then one would want to re-do the test enough times until a different result is obtained. If the test result stubbornly remains outside of acceptable science, then the best option is to regard the test as inconclusive (since a result that lies outside of science cannot be a conclusion resulting from the application of the method).

In reality, few results are totally conclusive. There is always some possible artifact left untested. Science (real science, and not merely the social-test science being proposed here) is served when all those experimental results are reported, and if it’s necessary to categorize them, fine. But if they are reported, later analysis, particularly when combined with other reports, can look more deeply. The version of science being described is obviously a fixed thing, not open to any change or modification, it’s dead, not living. Real science — and even the social-test science — does change, it merely can take much longer than some of us would like, because of social forces. Once again, the advice here if one wants to stay within accepted science is to frame the work as an attempt to confirm mainstream opinion through specific tests, perhaps with increased precision (which is often done to extend the accuracy of known constants). If someone tries to prove artifact in an FP type experiment, one of the signs of artifact would be that major variables and results would not correlate (such as heat and helium). Other variable pairs exist as well, the same. The results may be null (no heat found) and perhaps no helium found above background as well. Now, suppose one does this experiment twenty times. And most of these times, there is no heat and no helium. But,say, five times, there is heat, and the amount of heat correlates with helium. The more heat, the more helium. This is, again, simply an experimental finding. One may make mistakes in measuring heat and in measuring helium. If anodic reversal is used to release trapped helium, what is the ratio found between heat and helium? And how does this compare to other similar experiments?

When reviewing experimental findings, with decently-done work, the motivation of the workers is not terribly relevant. If they set out to show, and state this, that their goal was to show that heat/helium correlation was artifact, and they considered all reasonably possible artifacts, and failed to confirm any of them, in spite of diligent efforts, what effect would this have when reported?

And what happens, over time, when results like these accumulate? Does the “official consensus of bogosity” still stand?

In fact, as I’ve stated, that has not been a genuine scientific consensus for a long time, clearly it was dead by 2004, persisting only in pockets that each imagine they represent the mainstream. There is a persistence of delusion.

If ultimately the analysis step shows that the test result lies outside of science, then one must terminate the scientific method, in recognition that it is a logical impossibility that a result which lies outside of science can be the result of the application of the scientific method. It is helpful in this case to forget the question; it would be best (but not yet required) that documentation or evidence that the test was done be eliminated.

Ah, but a result outside of “science,” i.e., normal expectations, is simply an anomaly, it proves nothing. Anomalies show that something about the experiment is not understood, and that therefore there is something to be learned. The parody is here advising people how to avoid social disapproval, and if that is the main force driving them, then real science is not their interest at all. Rather, they are technologists, like robotic parrots. Useful for some purposes, not for others. If you knew this about them, would you hire them?

The analysis step created a problem for Pons and Fleischmann because they mixed up their own ideas and conclusions with their experimental facts, and announced conclusions that challenged the scientific status quo — and seriously — without having the very strong evidence needed to manage that. Once that context was established, later work was tarred with the same brush, too often. So the damage extended far beyond their own reputations.

6) Communication with others, peer review: When the process is sufficiently complete that a conclusion has been reached, it is important for the research to be reviewed by others, and possibly published so that others can make use of the results; yet again we must defer to Wikipedia on this discussion. However, we need to be mindful of certain issues in connection with this. If the results lie outside of science then there is really no point in sending it out for review; the scientific community is very helpful by restricting publication of such results, and one’s career can be in jeopardy if one’s colleagues become aware that the test was done. As it sometimes happens that the scientific community changes its view on what is outside of science, one strategy is to wait and publish later on (one can still get priority). If years pass and there are no changes, it would seem a reasonable strategy to find a much younger trusted colleague to arrange for posthumous publication.

Or wait until one has tenure. Basically, this is the real world: political considerations matter, and, in fact, it can be argued that they should matter. Instead of railing against the unfairness of it all, access to power requires learning how to use the system as it exists, not as we wish it were. Sometimes we may work for transformation of existing structurs (or creation of structure that has not yet existed), but this takes time, typically, and it also takes community and communication, cooperation, and coordination, around which much of the CMNS community lacks skill. Nevertheless, anyone and everyone can assist, once what is missing is distinguished.

Or we can continue to blame the skeptics for doing what comes naturally for them, while doing what comes naturally for us, i.e., blaming and complaining and doing nothing to transform the situation, not even investigating the possibilities, not looking for people to support, and not supporting those others.

7) Re-evaluation: In the event that this augmented version of the scientific method has been used, it may be that in spite of efforts to the contrary, results are published which end up outside of science (with the possibility of exclusion from scientific community to follow).

Remember, it is not “results” which are outside of science, ever! It is interpretations of them. So avoid unnecessary interpretation! Report verifiable facts! If they appear to imply some conclusion that is outside science, address this with high caution. Disclaim those conclusions, proclaim that while some conclusion might seem possible, that this is outside what is accepted and cannot be asserted without more evidence, and speculate on as many artifacts as one can imagine, even if total bullshit, and then seek funding to test them, to defend Science from being sullied by immature and premature conclusions.

Just report all the damn data and then let the community interpret it. Never get into a position of needing to defend your own interpretations, that will take you out of science, and not just the social-test science, but the real thing. Let someone else do that. Trust the future, it is really amazing what the future can do. It’s actually unlimited!

If this occurs, the simplest approach is simply a retraction of results (if the results lie outside of science, then they must be wrong, which means there must be an error—more than enough grounds for retraction).

The parody is now suggesting actually lying to avoid blame. Anyone who does that deserves to be totally ostracized from the scientific community! I will be making a “modest proposal” regarding this and other offenses. (Converting offenders into something useful.)

Retracting results should not be necessary if they have been carefully reported and if conclusions have been avoided, and if appropriate protective magic incantations have been uttered. (Such as, “We do not understand this result, but are publishing it for review and to seek explanations consistent with scientific consensus, blah blah.”) If one believes that one does understand the result, nevertheless, one is never obligated to incriminate oneself, and since, if one is sophisticated, one knows that some failure of understanding is always possible, it is honest to note that. Depending on context, one may be able to be more assertive without harm. 

If the result supports someone who has been selected for career destruction, then a timely retraction may be well received by the scientific community. A researcher may wish to avoid standing up for a result that is outside of science (unless one is seeking near-term career change).

The actual damage I have seen is mostly from researchers standing for and reporting conclusions, not mere experimental facts. To really examine this would require a much deeper study. What should be known is that working on LENR in any way can sometimes have negative consequences for career. I would not recommend anyone go into the field unless they are aware of this, fully prepared to face it, and as well, willing to learn what it takes to minimize damage (to themselves and others). LENR is, face it, a very difficult field, not a slam dunk for anyone.

There are, of course, many examples in times past when a researcher was able to persuade other scientists of the validity of a contested result; one might naively be inspired from these examples to take up a cause because it is the right thing to do.

Bad Idea, actually. Naive. Again, under this is the idea that results are subject to “contest.” That’s actually rare. What really happens, long-term, is that harmonization is discovered, explanations that tie all the results together into a combination of explanations that support all of them. Certainly this happened with the original negative replications of the FPHE. The problem with those was not the results, but how the results were interpreted and used. I support much wider education on the distinction between fact and interpretation, because only among demagogues and fanatics does fact come into serious question. Normal people can actually agree on fact, with relative ease, with skilled facilitation. It’s interpretations which cause more difficulty. And then there is more process to deepen consensus.

But that was before modern delineation, before the existence of correct fundamental physical law and before the modern identification of areas lying outside of science.

“Correct.” Who has been using that term a lot lately? This is a parody, and the mindset being parodied is deeply regressive and outside of traditional science, and basically ignorant of the understanding of the great scientists of the last century, who didn’t think like this at all. But Peter knows that.

The reality here is that a “scientific establishment” has developed that, being more successful in many ways, also has more power, and institutions always act to preserve themselves and consolidate their power. But such power is, nevertheless, limited and vulnerable, and it may be subverted, if necessary. The scientific establishment is still dependent on the full society and its political institutions for support.

There are no examples of any researcher fighting for an area outside of science and winning in modern times. The conclusion that might be drawn is of course clear: modern boundaries are also correct; areas that are outside of science remain outside of science because the claims associated with them are simply wrong.

That was the position of the seismologist I mentioned. So a real scientist, credentialed, actually believed in “wrong” without having investigated, depending merely on rumor and general impressions. But what is “wrong”? Claims! Carefully reported, fact is never wrong. I may report that I measured a voltage as 1.03 V. That is what I saw on the meter. In reality, the meter’s calibration might be off. I might have had the scale set differently than I thought (I have a nice large analog meter, which allows errors like this). However, it is a fact that I reported what I did. Hence truly careful reporting attributes all the various assumptions that must be made, by assigning them to a person.

Claims are interpretations of evidence, not evidence itself. I claim, for example, that the preponderance of the evidence shows that the FP Heat Effect is the result of the conversion of deuterium to helium. I call that the “Conjecture.” It’s fully testable and well-enough described to be tested. It’s already been tested, and confirmed well enough that if this were an effective treatment for any disease, it would be ubiquitous, approved by authorities, but it can be tested — and is being tested — with increased precision.

That’s a claim. One can disagree with a claim. However, disagreeing with evidence is generally crazy. Evidence is evidence, consider this rule of evidence at law: Testimony is presumed true unless controverted. It is a fact that so-and-so testified to such-and-such, if the record shows that. It is a fact that certain experimental results were reported. We may then discuss and debate interpretations. We might claim that the lab was infected with some disease that caused everyone to report random data, but how likely is this? Rather, the evidence is what it is, and legitimate arguments are over interpretations. Have I mentioned that enough?

Such a modern generalization of the scientific method could be helpful in avoiding difficulties. For example, Semmelweis might have enjoyed a long and successful career by following this version of the scientific method, while getting credit for his discovery (perhaps posthumously). Had Fleischmann and Pons followed this version, they might conceivably have continued as well-respected members of the scientific community.

Semmelweiss was doomed, not because of his discover, but from how he then handled it, and his own demons. Fleischmann, toward the end of his life, acknowledged that it was probably a mistake to use the word “fusion” or “nuclear.” That was weak. Probably? (Actually, I should look up the actual comment, to get it right.). This was largely too late. That could have been recognized immediately, it could have been anticipated. Why wasn’t it? I don’t know. Fairly rapidly, the scientific world polarized around cold fusion, as if there were two competing political parties in a zero-sum game. There were some who attempted to foster communication, the example that comes to my mind is the late Nate Hoffman. Dieter Britz as well. There are others who don’t assume what might be called “hot” positions. 

The take-home message is actually not subservience that would have saved these scientists, but respect and reliance on the full community. Not always easy, sometimes it can look really bad! But necessary.

Where delineation is not needed

It might be worth thinking a bit about boundaries in science, and perhaps it would be useful first to examine where boundaries are not needed. In 1989 a variety of arguments were put forth in connection with excess heat in the Fleischmann-Pons experiment, and one of the most powerful was that such an effect is not consistent with condensed matter physics, and also not consistent with nuclear physics. In essence, it is impossible based on existing theory in these fields.

Peter is here repeating a common trope. Is he still in the parody? There is nothing about “excess heat” that creates a conflict with either condensed matter physics or nuclear physics. There is no impossibility proof. Rather, what was considered impossible was d-d fusion at significant levels under those conditions. That position can be well-supported, though it’s still possible that some exception might exist. Just very unlikely. Most reasonable theories at this point rely on collective effects, not simple d-d fusion.

There is no question as to whether this is true or not (it is true);

If that statement is true, I’ve never seen evidence for it, never a clear explanation of how anomalous heat, i.e., heat not understood, is “impossible.” To know that we would need to be omniscient. Rather, it is specific nuclear explanations that may more legitimately be considered impossible.

but the implication that seems to follow is that excess heat in the Fleischmann-Pons experiment in a sense constitutes an attack on two important, established and mature areas of physics.

When it was framed as nuclear, and even more, when it was implied that it was d-d fusion, it was exactly such an attack. Pons and Fleischmann knew that there would be controversy, but how well did they understand that, and why did they go ahead and poke the establishment in the eye with that news conference? It was not legally necessary. They have blamed university legal, but I’m suspicious of that. Priority could have been established for patent purposes in a different way. 

A further implication is that the scientific community needed to rally to defend two large areas firmly within the boundaries of science.

Some certainly saw it that way, saw “cold fusion” as an attack of pseudoscience and wishful thinking on real science. The name certainly didn’t help, because it placed the topic firmly within nuclear physics, when, in fact, it was originally an experimental result in electrochemistry.

One might think that this should have led to establishment of the boundary as to what is, and what isn’t, science in the vicinity of the part of science relevant to the Fleischmann-Pons experiment. I would like to argue that no such delineation is necessary for the defense of either science as a whole, or any particular area of science. Through the scientific method (and certainly not the outrageous parody proposed above) we have a powerful tool to tell what is true and what is not when it comes to questions of science.

The tool as I understand it is guidance for the individual, not necessarily a community. However, if a collection of individuals use it, are dedicated to using it, they may collectively use it and develop substantial power, because the tool actually has implications in every area of life, wherever we need to develop power (which includes the ability to predict the effects of actions). Peter may be misrepresenting the effectiveness of the method, it does not determine truth. It develops and tests models which predict behavior, so the models are more or less useful, not true or false. The model is not reality, the map is not the territory. When we forget this and believe that a model is “truth,” we are then trapped, because opposing the truth is morally reprehensible. Rather, it is always possible for a model to be improved; for a map to become more detailed and more clear; the only model that fully explains reality is reality itself. Nothing else has the necessary detail.

Chaos theory and quantum mechanics, together, demolished the idea that with accurate enough models we could predict the future, precisely.

Science is robust, especially modern science; and both condensed matter and nuclear physics have no need for anyone to rally to defend anything.

Yes. However, there are people with careers and organizations dependent on funding based on particular beliefs and approaches. Whether or not they “need” to be defended, they will defend themselves. That’s human!

If one views the Fleischmann-Pons experiment as an attack on any part of physics, then so be it.

One may do that, and it’s a personal choice, but it is essentially dumb, because nothing about the experiment attacks any part of physics, and how can an experiment attack a science? Only interpreters and interpretations can do that! What Pons and Fleischmann did was look where nobody had looked, at PdD above 90% loading. If looking at reality were an attack on existing science, “existing science” would deserve to die. But it isn’t such an attack, and this was a social phenomenon, a mass delusion, if you will.

A robust science should welcome such a challenge. If excess heat in the Fleischmann-Pons experiment shows up in the lab as a real effect, challenging both areas, then we should embrace the associated challenge. If either area is weak in some way, or has some error or flaw somehow that it cannot accommodate what nature does, then we should be eager to understand what nature is doing and to fix whatever is wrong.

It is, quite simply, unnecessary to go there. Until we have a far better understanding of the mechanism involved in the FP Heat Effect, it is no challenge at all to existing theory, other than a weak one, i.e., it is possible that something has not been understood. That is always possible and would have been possible without the FP experiment. Doesn’t mean that a lot of effort would be justified to investigate it.

However, some theories proposed to explain LENR do challenge existing physics, some more than others. Some don’t challenge it at all, other than possibly pointing to incomplete understanding in some areas. The one statement I remember from those physics lectures with Feynman in 1961-63 is that we didn’t have the math to calculate the solid state. Hence there has been reliance on approximations, and approximations can easily break down under some conditions. At this point, we don’t know enough about what is happening in the FP experiment (and other LENR experiments), to be able to clearly show any conflict with existing physics, and those who claim that major revisions are needed are blowing smoke, they don’t actually have a basis for that claim, and it continues to cause harm.

The situation becomes a little more fraught with the Conjecture, but, again, without a mechanism (and the Conjecture is mechanism-independent), there is no challenge. Huizenga wrote that the Miles result (heat/helium correlation within an order of magnitude of the deuterium conversion ratio) was astonishing, but thought it likely that this would not be confirmed (because no gammas). But gammas are only necessary for d+d -> 4He, not necessarily for all pathways. So this simply betrayed how widespread and easily accepted was the idea that the FP Heat Effect, if real, must be d-d fusion. After all, what else could it be? This demonstrates the massive problem with the thinking that was common in 1989 (and which still is, for many).

The current view within the scientific community is that these fields have things right, and if that is not reflected in measurements in the lab, then the problem is with those doing the experiments.

Probably! And “probably useful” is where funding is practical. Obtaining funding for research into improbable ideas is far more difficult, eh? (In reality, “improbable” is subjective, and the beauty of the world as it is, is that the full human community is diverse, and there is no single way of thinking, merely some that are more common than others. It is not necessary for everyone to be convinced that something is useful, but only one person, or a few, those with resources.) 

Such a view prevailed in 1989, but now nearly a quarter century later, the situation in cold fusion labs is much clearer. There is excess heat, which can be a very big effect; it is reproducible in some labs;

That’s true, properly understood. In fact, reliability remains a problem in all labs. That is why correlation is so important, because for correlation it is not necessary to have a reliable effect, and reliable relationship is adequate. “It is reproducible” is a claim that, to be made safely under the more conservative rules proposed when swimming upstream, would require actual confirmation, of a specific protocol, this cannot be properly asserted by a single lab. And then, when we try to document this, we run into the problem that few actually replicate, they keep trying to “improve.” And so results are different and often the improvements have no effect or even demolish the results.

there are not [sic] commensurate energetic products; there are many replications; and there are other anomalies as well. Condensed matter physics and nuclear physics together are not sufficiently robust to account for these anomalies. No defense of these fields is required, since if some aspect of the associated theories is incomplete or can be broken, we would very much like to break it, so that we can focus on developing new theory that is more closely matched to experiment.

There is a commensurate product that may be energetic, but, as to significant levels, below the Hagelstein limit. By the way, Peter, thanks for that paper! 

Theory and fundamental physical laws

From the discussion above, things are complicated when it comes to science; it should come as no surprise that things are similarly complicated when it comes to theory.

Creating theory with inadequate experimental data is even more complicated. It could be argued that it might be better to wait, but people like the exercise and are welcome to spend as much time as they like on puzzles. As to funding for theory, at this point, I would not recommend much! If the theoretical community can collaborate, maybe. Can they? What is needed is vigorous critique, because some theories propose preposterousnesses, but the practice in the field became, as Kim told me when I asked him about Takahashi theory, “I don’t comment on the work of others.” Whereas Takahashi looks to me like a more detailed statement of what Kim proposes in more general terms. And if that’s wrong, I’d like to know! This reserve is not normal in mature science, because scientists are all working together, at least in theory, building on each other’s work. And for funding, normally, there must be vetting and critique.

In fact, were I funding theory, I’d contract with theorists to generate critique of the theories of others and then create process for reviewing that. The point would be to stimulate wider consideration of all the ideas, and, as well, to find if there are areas of agreement. If not, where are the specific disagreements and can they be tested?

Perhaps the place to begin in this discussion is with the fundamental physical laws, since in this case things are clearest. For the condensed matter part of the problem, a great deal can be understood by working with nonrelativistic electrons and nuclei as quantum mechanical particles, and Coulomb interactions. The associated fundamental laws were known in the late 1920s, and people routinely take advantage of them even now (after more than 80 years). Since so many experiments have followed, and so many calculations have been done, if something were wrong with this basic picture it would very probably have been noticed by now; consequently, I do not expect anomalies associated with Fleischmann-Pons experiments to change these fundamental nonrelativistic laws (in my view the anomalies are due to a funny kind of relativistic effect).

Nor do I expect that, for similar reasons. I don’t think it’s “relativistic,” but rather is more likely a collective effect (such as Takahashi’s TSC fusion or similar ideas). But this I know about Peter: it could be the theory du jour. He wrote the above in 2013. At the Short Course at ICCF-21, Peter described a theory, he had just developed the week before. To noobs. Is that a good idea? What do you think, Peter? How did the theory du jour come across at the DoE review in 2004?

Peter is thinking furiously, has been for years. He doesn’t stay stuck on a single approach. Maybe he will find something, maybe he already has. And maybe not. Without solid data, it’s damn hard to tell.

There are, of course, magnetic interactions, relativistic effects, couplings generally with the radiation field and higher-order effects; these do not fit into the fundamental simplistic picture from the late 1920s. We can account for them using quantum electrodynamics (QED), which came into existence between the late 1920s and about 1950. From the simplest possible perspective, the physical content of the theory associated with the construction includes a description of electrons and positrons (and their relativistic dynamics in free space), photons (and their relativistic dynamics in free space) and the simplest possible coupling between them. This basic construction is a reductionist’s dream, and everything more complicated (atoms, molecules, solids, lasers, transistors and so forth) can be thought of as a consequence of the fundamental construction of this theory. In the 60 years or more of experience with QED, there has accumulated pretty much only repeated successes and triumphs of the theory following many thousands of experiments and calculations, with no sign that there is anything wrong with it. Once again, I would not expect a consideration of the Fleischmann-Pons experiment to result in a revision of this QED construction; for example, if there were to be a revision, would we want to change the specification of the electron or photon, the interaction between them, relativity, or quantum mechanical principles? (The answer here should be none of the above.)

Again, he is here preaching to the choir. Can I get a witness?

We could make similar arguments in the case of nuclear physics. For the fundamental nonrelativistic laws, the description of nuclei as made up of neutrons and protons as quantum particles with potential interactions goes back to around 1930, but in this case there have been improvements over the years in the specification of the interaction potentials. Basic quantitative agreement between theory and experiment could be obtained for many problems with the potentials of the late 1950s; and subsequent improvements in the specification of the potentials have improved quantitative agreement between theory and experiment in this picture (but no fundamental change in how the theory works).

But neutrons and protons are compound particles, and new fundamental laws which describe component quarks and gluons, and the interaction between them, are captured in quantum chromodynamics (QCD); the associated field theory involves a reductionist construction similar to QED. This fundamental theory came into existence by the mid-1960s, and subsequent experience with it has produced a great many successes. I would not expect any change to result to QCD, or to the analogous (but somewhat less fundamental) field theory developed for neutrons and protons—quantum hadrodynamics, or QHD—as a result of research on the Fleischmann-Pons experiment.

Because nuclei can undergo beta decay, to be complete we should probably reference the discussion to the standard model, which includes QED, QCD and electro-weak interaction physics.

Yes. In my view it is, at this point, crazy to challenge standard physics without a necessity, and until there is much better data, there is no necessity.

In a sense then, the fundamental theory that is going to provide the foundation for the Fleischmann-Pons experiment is already known (and has been known for 40-60 years, depending on whether we think about QED, QCD or the standard model). Since these fundamental models do not include gravitational particles or forces, we know that they are incomplete, and physicists are currently putting in a great deal of effort on string theory and generalizations to unify the basic forces and particles. Why nature obeys quantum mechanics, and whether quantum mechanics can be derived from some more fundamental theory, are issues that some physicists are thinking about at present. So, unless the excess heat effect is mediated somehow by gravitational effects, unless it operates somehow outside of quantum mechanics, unless it somehow lies outside of relativity, or involves exotic physics such as dark matter, then we expect it to follow from the fundamental embodied by the standard model.

Agreed, as to what I expect.

I would not expect the resolution of anomalies in Fleischmann-Pons experiments to result in the overturn of quantum mechanics (there are some who have proposed exactly that); nor require a revision of QED (also argued for); nor any change in QCD or the standard model (as contemplated by some authors); nor involve gravitational effects (again, as has been proposed). Even though the excess heat effect by itself challenges the fields of condensed matter and nuclear physics, I expect no loss or negation of the accumulated science in either area; instead I think we will come to understand that there is some fine print associated with one of the theorems that we rely on which we hadn’t appreciated. I think both fields will be added to as a result of the research on anomalies, becoming even more robust in the process, and coming closer than they have been in the past.

Agreed, but I don’t see how the “excess heat effect by itself challenges the fields,” other than by presenting a mystery that is as yet unexplained. That is a kind of challenge, but not a claim that basic models are “wrong.” By itself, it does not contradict what is well-known, other than unsubstantiated assumptions and speculations. Yes, I look forward to the synthesis.

Theory, experiment and fundamental physical law

My view as a theorist generally is that experiment has to come first. If theory is in conflict with experiment (and if the experiment is correct), then a new theory is needed.

Yes, but caution is required, because “theory in conflict with experiment” is an interpretation, and defects can arise, not only the experiment, but also in the interpretations of the theory and the experiment and the comparison. What would be a better statement for me is that new interpretations are required. If the theory is otherwise well-established, revision of the theory is not a sane place to start. Normally.

Among those seeking theoretical explanations for the Fleischmann-Pons experiment there tends to be agreement on this point. However, there is less agreement concerning the implications. There have been proposals for theories which involve a revision of quantum mechanics, or that adopt a starting place which goes against the standard model. The associated argument is that since experiment comes first, theory has to accommodate the experimental results; and so we can forget about quantum mechanics, field theory and the fundamental laws (an argument I don’t agree with). From my perspective, we live at a time where the relevant fundamental physical laws are known; and so when we are revising theory in connection with the Fleischmann-Pons experiment, we do so only within a limited range that starts from fundamental physical law, and seek some feature of the subsequent development where something got missed.

This is the political reality: If we advance explanations of cold fusion that contradict existing physics, we create resistance, not only to the new theories, but to the underlying experimental basis for even thinking a theory is necessary. So the baby gets tossed with the bathwater. It causes damage. It increases pressure for the Garwin theory (“They must be doing something wrong.”)

If so, then what about those in the field that advocate for the overturn of fundamental physical law based on experimental results from the Fleischmann-Pons experiment? Certainly those who broadcast such views impact the credibility of the field in a very negative way, and it is the case that the credibility of the field is pretty low in the eyes of the scientific community and the public these days.

Yes. This is what I’ve been saying, to some substantial resistance. We are better off with no theory, with only what is clearly established by experimental results, a collection of phenomena, and, where possible, clear correlations, with only the simplest of “explanations” that cover what is known, not what is speculated or weakly inferred.

One can find many examples of critics in the early years (and also in recent times) who draw attention to suggestions from our community that large parts of existing physics must be overturned as a response to excess heat in the Fleischmann-Pons experiment. These clever critics have understood clearly how damaging such statements can be to the field, and have exploited the situation. An obvious solution might be to exclude those making the offending statements from this community, as has been recommended to me by senior people who understand just how much damage can be done by association with people who say things that are perceived as not credible. I am not able to explain in return that people who have experienced exclusion from the scientific community tend for some reason not to want to exclude others from their own community.

That’s understandable, to be sure. However, we need to clearly discriminate and distinguish between what is individual opinion and what is community consensus. We need to disavow as our consensus what is only individual opinion, particularly where that can cause harm as described, and it can. We need to establish mechanisms for speaking as a community, for developing genuine consensus, and for deciding what we will and will not allow and support. It can be done.

Some in the field argue that until the new effects are understood completely, all theory has to be on the table for possible revision. If one holds back some theory as protected or sacrosanct, then one will never find out what is wrong if the problems happen to be in a protected area. I used to agree with this, and doggedly kept all possibilities open when contemplating different theories and models. However, somewhere over the years it became clear that the associated theoretical parameter space was fully as large as the experimental parameter space; that a model for the anomalies is very much stronger when derived from more fundamental accepted theories; and that there are a great many potential opportunities for new models that build on top of the solid foundation provided by the fundamental theories. We know now that there are examples of models consistent with the fundamental laws that can be very relevant to experiment. It is not that I have more respect or more appreciation now for the fundamental laws than before; instead, it is that I simply view them differently. Rather than being restrictive telling me what can’t be done (as some of my colleagues think), I view the fundamental laws as exceptionally helpful and knowledgeable friends pointing the way toward fruitful areas likely to be most productive.

That’s well-stated, and a stand that may take you far, Peter. Until we have far better understanding and clear experimental evidence to back it, all theories might in some sense be “on the table,” but there may be a pile of them that won’t get much attention, and others that will naturally receive more. The street-light effect is actually a guide to more efficient search: do look first where the light is good. And especially test and look first at ideas that create clearly testable predictions, rather than vaguer ideas and “explanations.” Tests create valuable data even if the theory is itself useless. “Useless” is not a final judgment, because what is not useful today might be modified and become useful tomorrow. 

In recent years I have found myself engaged in discussions concerning particular theoretical models, some of which would go very much against the fundamental laws. There would be spirited arguments in which it became clear that others held dear the right to challenge anything (including quantum mechanics, QED, the standard model and more) in the pursuit of the holy grail which is the theoretical resolution of experiments showing anomalies. The picture that comes to mind is that of a prospector determined to head out into an area known to be totally devoid of gold for generations, where modern high resolution maps are available for free to anyone who wants to look to see where the gold isn’t. The displeasure and frustration that results has more than once ended up producing assertions that I was personally responsible for the lack of progress in solving the theoretical problem.

Hey, Peter, good news! You are personally responsible, so there is hope!

Personally, I like the idea of mystery, mysteries are fun, and that’s the Lomax theory: The mechanism of cold fusion is a mystery! I look forward to the day when I become wrong, but I don’t know if I’ll see that in my lifetime. I kind of doubt it, but it doesn’t really matter. We were able to use fire, long, long before we had “explanations.” 

Theory and experiment

We might think of the scientific method as involving two fundamental parts of science: experiment and theory. Theory comes into play ideally as providing input for the hypothesis and prediction part of the method, while experiment comes into play providing the test against nature to see whether the ideas are correct.

Forgotten, too often, is pre-theory exploration and observation. Science developed out of a large body of observation. The method is designed to test models, but before accurate models are developed, there is normally much observation that creates familiarity and sets up intuition. Theory does not spring up with no foundation in observation, and is best developed with one familiar with experimental evidence, which only partially includes controlled studies, which develop correlations between variables.

My experimentalist colleagues have emphasized the importance of theory to me in connection with Fleischmann-Pons studies; they have said (a great many times) that experimental parameter space is essentially infinitely large (and each experiment takes time, effort, money and sweat), so that theory is absolutely essential to provide some guidance to make the experimenting more efficient.

No wonder there has been a slow pace! It’s an inverse vicious circle: theorists need data to develop and vet theories, and experimentalists believe they need theories to generate data. Yes, the parameter space can be thought of as enormous, but sane exploration does not attempt to document all of it at once; rather, experimentation can begin with confirmation of what has already been observed and exploring the edges, with the development of OOPs and other observation of the effects of controlled variables. It can simply measure what has been observed before with increased precision. It can repeat experiments many times to develop data on reliability.

If so, then has there been any input from the theorists? After all, the picture of the experimentalists toiling late into the night forever exploring an infinitely large parameter space is one that is particularly depressing (you see, some of my friends are experimentalists…).

As it turns out, there has been guidance from the theorists—lots of guidance. I can cite as one example input from Douglas Morrison (a theorist from CERN and a critic), who suggested that tests should be done where elaborate calorimetric measurements should be carried out at the same time as elaborate neutron, gamma, charged particle and tritium measurements. Morrison held firmly to a picture in which nuclear energy is produced with commensurate energetic products; since there are no commensurate energetic particles produced in connection with the excess power, Morrison was able to reject all positive results systematically.

Ah, Peter, you are simply coat-racking a complaint about Morrison onto this. Morrison had an obvious case of head-wedged syndrome. By the time Morrison would have been demanding this, it was known that helium was the main product, so the sane demand would have been accurate calorimetry combined with accurate helium measurement, at least, with both, as accurate as possible. Morrison’s idea was good, looking for correlations, but he was demanding products that simply are not produced. There was no law of physics behind his picture of “energetic products,” merely ordinary and common behavior, not necessarily universal, and it depended on assuming that the reaction was d+d fusion. Again, this was all a result of claiming “nuclear” based only on heat evidence. Bad Idea.

“Commensurate” depended on a theory of a fuel/product relationship, otherwise there is no way of knowing what ratio to expect. Rejecting helium as a product based on no gammas depended on assumptions of d+d -> 4He, which, it can be strongly argued, must produce a gamma. Yes, maybe a way can be found around that. But we can start with something much simpler. I write about “conversion of deuterium to helium,” advisedly, not “interaction of deuterons to form helium,” because the former is broader. The latter may theoretically include collective effects, but in practice, the image it creates is standard fusion. (Notice, “deuterons” refers to the ionized nuclei, generally, whereas “deuterium” is the element, including the molecular form. I state Takahashi theory as involving two deuterium molecules, instead of four deuterons, to emphasize that the electrons are included in the collapse, and it’s a lot easier to consider two molecules coming together like that, than four independent deuterons. Language matters!

The headache I had with this approach is that the initial experimental claim was for an excess heat effect that occurs without commensurate energetic nuclear radiation. Morrison’s starting place was that nuclear energy generation must occur with commensurate energetic nuclear radiation, and would have been perfectly happy to accept the calorimetric energy as real with a corresponding observation of commensurate energetic nuclear radiation.

So the real challenge for Morrison was the heat/helium correlation. There was a debate between Morrison and Fleischmann and Pons, in the pages of Physics Letters A, and I have begun to cover it on this page. F&P could have blown the Morrison arguments out of the water with helium evidence, but, as far as we know, they never collected that evidence in those boil-off experiments, with allegedly high heat production. Why didn’t they? In the answer to that is much explanation for the continuance of the rejection cascade. In their article, they maintained the idea of a nuclear explanation, without providing any evidence for it other than their own calorimetry. They did design a simple test (boil-off-time), but complicated it with unnecessarily complex explanations. I did not understand that “simplicity” until I had read the article several times. Nor did Morrison, obviously.

However, somewhere in all of this it seems that Fleischmann and Pons’ excess heat effect (in which the initial claim was for a large energy effect without commensurate energetic nuclear products) was implicitly discarded at the beginning of the discussion.

Yes, obviously. What I wonder is why someone who believes that a claim is impossible would spend so much effort arguing about it. But I think we know why.

Morrison also held in high regard the high-energy physics community (he had somewhat less respect for electrochemist experimentalists who reported positive results); so he argued that the experiment needed to be done by competent physicists, such as the group at the pre-eminent Japanese KEK high energy physics lab. Year after year the KEK group reported negative results, and year after year Morrison would single out this group publicly in support of his contention that when competent experimentalists did the experiment, no excess heat was observed. This was true until the KEK group reported a positive result, which was rejected by Morrison (energetic products were not measured in amounts commensurate with the energy produced); coincidentally, the KEK effort was subsequently terminated (this presumably was unrelated to the results obtained in their experiments).

That’s hilarious. Did KEK measure helium? Helium is a nuclear product. Conversion of deuterium to helium has a known Q and if the heat matches that Q, in a situation where the fuel is likely deuterium, it is direct evidence that nuclear energy is being converted to heat without energetic radiation, unless the radiation is fully absorbed within the device, entirely converted to heat. 

Isagawa (1992)Isagawa (1995). Isagawa (1998). Yes, from the 1998 report, “Helium was observed, but no decisive conclusion could be drawn due to incompleteness of the then used detecting system.” It looks like they made extensive efforts to measure helium, but never nailed it. As they did find significant excess heat, that could have been very useful.

There have been an enormous number of theoretical proposals. Each theorist in the field has largely followed his own approach (with notable exceptions where some theorists have followed Preparata’s ideas, and others have followed Takahashi’s), and the majority of experimentalists have put forth conjectures as well. There are more than 1000 papers that are either theoretical, or combined experimental and theoretical with a nontrivial theoretical component. Individual theorists have put forth multiple proposals (in my own case, the number is up close to 300 approaches, models, sub-models and variants at this point, not all of which have been published or described in public). At ICCF conferences, more theoretical papers are generally submitted than experimental papers. In essence, there is enough theoretical input (some helpful, and some less so) to keep the experimentalists busy until well into the next millennium.

This was 2013, after he’d been at it for 24 years, so it’s not really the “theory du jour,” as I often quip, but more like the “theory du mois.”

You might argue there is an easy solution to this problem: simply sort the wheat from the chaff! Just take the strong theoretical proposals and focus on them, and put aside the ones that are weak. If you were to address this challenge to the theorists, the result can be predicted; pretty much all theorists would point to their own proposals as by far the strongest in the field, and recommend that all others be shelved.

Obvious, then, we don’t ask them about their own theories, but about those of others. And if two theorists cannot be found to support a particular theory for further investigation, then nobody is ready. Shelve them all, until some level of consensus emerges. Forget theory except for the very simplest organizing principles. 

If you address the same challenge to the experimentalists, you would likely find that some of the experimentalists would point to their own conjectures as most promising, and dismiss most of the others; other experimentalist would object to taking any of the theories off the table. If we were to consider a vote on this, probably there is more support for the Widom and Larsen proposal at present than any of the others, due in part to the spirited advocacy of Krivit at New Energy Times; in Italy Preparata’s approach looms large, even at this time; and the ideas of Takahashi and of Kim have wide support within the community. I note that objections are known for these models, and for most others as well.

Yes. Fortunately, theory has only a minor impact on the necessary experimental work. Most theories are not well enough developed to be of much use in designing experiments and at present the research priority is strongly toward developing and characterizing reliability and reproducibility. However, if an idea from theory is easy to test, that might see more rapid response.

I have just watched a Hagelstein video from last year it’s excellent and begins with a hilarious summary of the history of cold fusion, and Peter is hot on the trail and has been developing what might be called “minor hits” in creating theoretical predictions, and in particular, phonon frequencies. I knew about his prediction of effective THz beat frequencies in the dual laser stimulation work of Dennis Letts, but I was not aware of how Peter was using this as a general guide, nor of other results he has seen, venturing into experiment himself. 

Widom and Larsen attracted a lot of attention for the reasons given, and the promulgated myth that it doesn’t involve new physics, but has produced no results that benefited from it. Basically, no new physics  — if one ignores quantitative issues — but no useful understanding, either.

To make progress

Given this situation, how might progress be made? In connection with the very large number of theoretical ideas put forth to date, some obvious things come to mind. There is an enormous body of existing experimental results that could be used already to check models against experiment.

Yes. But who is going to do this? 

We know that excess heat production in the Fleischmann-Pons experiment in one mode is sensitive to loading, to current density, to temperature, probably to magnetic field and that 4He has been identified in the gas phase as a product correlated with energy.

Again, yes. As an example of work to do, magnetic field effects have been shown, apparently, with permanent magnets, but not studying the effect as the field is varied. Given the wide variability in the experiments, the simple work reported so far is not satisfactory.

It would be possible in principle to work with any particular model in order to check consistency with these basic observations. In the case of excess heat in the NiH experiments, there is less to test against, but one can find many things to test against in the papers of the Piantelli group, and in the studies of Miley and coworkers. Perhaps the biggest issue for a particular model is the absence of commensurate energetic products, and in my view the majority of the 1000 or so theoretical papers out there have problems of consistency with experiment in this area.

As a general rule, there is a great deal of work to be done to confirm and strengthen (or discredit!) existing findings. There are many results of interest in the almost thirty year history of the field that could benefit from replication, and replication work is the most likely to produce results of value at this time, if they are repeated with controlled variation to expand the useful data available.

As an example screaming for confirmation, Storms found that excess heat was maintained even after electrolysis was turned off, as loading declined, if he simply maintained cell temperature with a heater, showing, on the face of it, that temperature was a critical variable, even more than loading, once the reaction conditions are established. (Storms’ theory ascribes the formation of nuclear active environment to the effect of repeated loading on palladium, hence the appearance that loading is a major necessity.) This is of high interest and great practical import, but, to my knowledge, has not been confirmed.

There are issues which require experimental clarification. For example, the issue of the Q-value in connection with the correlation of 4He with excess energy for PdD experiments
remains a major headache for theorists (and for the field in general), and needs to be clarified.

Measurement of the Q with increased precision is an obvious and major priority, with high value both as a confirmation of heat, and a nuclear product, but also because it sets constraints on the major reaction taking place. Existing evidence indicates that, in PdD experiments, almost all that is happening is the conversion of deuterium to helium and heat, everything else reported (tritium, etc.) is a detail. But a more precise ratio will nail this, or suggest the existence of other reactions.

As well, a search should be maintained as practical for other correlations. Often, because a product was not “commensurate” with heat (from some theory of reaction), and even though the product was detected, the levels found and correlations with heat were not reported. A product may be correlated without being “commensurate,” and it might also be correlated with other conditions, such as the level of protium in PdD experiments.

The analogous issue of 3He production in connection with NiH and PdH is at present
essentially unexplored, and requires experimental input as a way for theory to be better grounded in reality. I personally think that the collimated X-rays in the Karabut
experiment are very important and need to be understood in connection with energy exchange, and an understanding of it would impact how we view excess heat experiments (but I note that other theorists would not agree).

What matters really is what is found by experiment. What is actually found, what is correlated, what are the effects of variables?

As a purely practical matter, rather than requiring a complete and global solution to all issues (an approach advocated, for example, by Storms), I would think that focusing on a single theoretical issue or statement that is accessible to experiment will be most advantageous in moving things forward on the theoretical front.

I strongly agree. If we can explain one aspect of the effect, we may be able, then, to explain others. It is not necessary to explain everything. Explanations start with correlations that then imply causal connections. Correlation is not causation, not intrinsically, but causation generally produces correlation. We may be dealing with more than one effect, indeed, that could explain some of the difficulties in the field.

Now there are a very large number of theoretical proposals, a very large number of experiments (and as yet relatively little connection between experiment and theory for the most part); but aside from the existence of an excess heat effect, there is very little that our community agrees on. What is needed is the proverbial theoretical flag in the ground. We would like to associate a theoretical interpretation with an experimental result in a way that is unambiguous, and which is agreed upon by the community.

I am suggesting starting with the Conjecture, not with mechanism. The Conjecture is not an attempt to foreclose on all other possibilities. But the evidence at this point is preponderant that helium is the only major product in the FP experiment. It is the general nature of the community, born as it was of defiant necessity, that we are not likely to agree on everything, so the priority I suggest is finding what we do agree upon, not as to conclusions, but to approach. I have found that, as an example, sincere skeptics agree as to the value of measuring the heat/helium ratio on PdD experiments with increased precision. So that is an agreement that is possible, without requiring a conclusion (i.e., that the ratio is some particular value, or even that it will be constant. The actual data will then guide and suggest further exploration.

(and a side effect of the technique suggested for releasing all the helium, anodic reversal, which dissolves the palladium surface, is that it could also provide a depth profile, which then provides possible information on NAE location and birth energy of the helium).

Historically there has been little effort focused in this way. Sadly, there are precious few resources now, and we have been losing people who have been in the field for a long time (and who have experience); the prospects for significant new experimentation is not good. There seems to be little in the way of transfer of what has been learned from the old guard to the new generation, and only recently has there seemed to be the beginnings of a new generation in the field at all.

Concluding thoughts

There are not [sic] simple solutions to the issues discussed above. It is the case that the scientific method provides us with a reliable tool to clarify what is right from what is wrong in our understanding of how nature works. But it is also the case that scientists would generally prefer not to be excluded from the scientific community, and this sets up a fundamental conflict between the use of the scientific method and issues connected with social aspects involving the scientific community. In a controversial area (such as excess heat in the Fleischmann-Pons experiment), it almost seems that you can do research, or you can remain a part of the scientific community; pick one.

There is evidence that this Hobson’s choice is real. However, as I’ve been pointing out for years, the field was complicated by premature claims, creating a strong bias in response. It really shouldn’t matter, for abstract science, what mistakes were made almost thirty years ago. But it does matter, because of persistence of vision. So anyone who chooses to work in the field, I suggest, should be fully aware of how what they publish will appear. Special caution is required. One of the devices I’m suggesting is relatively simple: back off from conclusions and leave conclusions to the community. Do not attach to them. Let conclusions come from elsewhere, and support them only with great caution. This allows the use of the scientific method, because tests of theories can still be performed, being framed to appear within science.

As argued above, the scientific method provides a powerful tool to figure out how nature works, but the scientific method provides no guarantee that resources will be available to apply it to any particular question; or that the results obtained using the scientific method will be recognized or accepted by other scientists; or that a scientist’s career will not be destroyed subsequently as a result of making use of the scientific method and coming up with a result that lies outside of the boundaries of science. Our drawing attention to the issue here should be viewed akin to reporting a measurement; we have data that can be used to see that this is so, but in this case I will defer to others on the question of what to do about it.

Peter here mixes “results” with conclusions about them. Evidence for harm to career from results is thinner than harm from conclusions that appeared premature or wrong.

“What to do about it,” is generic to problem-solving: first become aware of the problem. More powerfully, avoid allowing conclusions to affect the gathering of information, other than carefully and provisionally.

The degree to which fundamental theories provide a correct description of nature (within their domains), we are able to understand what is possible and what is not.

Only within narrow domains. “What is possible” cannot apply to the unknown, it is always possible that something is unknown. We can certainly be surprised by some result, where we may think some domain has been thoroughly explored. But the domain of highly loaded PdD was terra incognita, PdD had only been explored up to about 70%, and it appears to have been believed that that was a limit, at least at atmospheric pressure. McKubre realized immediately that Pons and Fleischmann must have created loading above that value, as I understand the story, but this was not documented in the original paper (and when did this become known?). Hence replication efforts were largely doomed, what became, later, known as a basic requirement for the effect to occur, was often not even measured, and when measured, was low compared to what was needed.

In the event that the theories are taken to be correct absolutely, experimentation would no longer be needed in areas where the outcome can be computed (enough experiments have already been done); physics in the associated domain could evolve to a purely mathematical science, and experimental physics could join the engineering sciences. Excess heat in the Fleischmann-Pons experiment is viewed by many as being inconsistent with fundamental physical law, which implies that inasmuch as relevant fundamental physical law is held to be correct, there is no need to look at any of the positive experimental results (since they must be wrong); nor is there any need for further experimentation to clarify the situation.

He is continuing the parody. “Viewed as inconsistent” arose as a reaction to premature claims. The original FP paper led readers to look, first, at d-d fusion and to reactions that clearly were not happening at high levels, if at all. The title of the paper encouraged this, as well: “Electrochemically induced nuclear fusion of deuterium.” Interpreted within that framework, the anomalous heat appeared impossible. To move beyond this, it was necessary to disentangle the results from the nuclear claim. That, eventually, evidence was found supporting “deuterium fusion” — which is not equivalent to “d-d fusion,” — does not negate this. It was not enough that they were “right.” That a guess is lucky does not make a premature claim acceptable. (Pons and Fleischmann were operating on a speculation that was probably false, the effect is not due to the high density of deuterium in PdD, but high loading probably created other conditions in the lattice that then catalyzed a new form of reaction. Problems with the speculation were also apparent to skeptical physicists, and they capitalized on it.)

From my perspective experimentation remains a critical part of the scientific method,

This should be obvious. We do not know that a theory is testable unless we test it, and, for the long term, that it remains testable. Experimentation to test accepted theory is routine in science education. If it cannot be tested it is “pseudoscientific.” Why it cannot be tested is irrelevant. So the criteria for science that the parody set up destroys “science” as being science. The question becomes how to confront and handle the social issue. What I expect from training is that this starts with distinguishing what actually happened, setting aside the understandable reactions that it was all “unfair,” which commonly confuse us. (“Unfair” is not a “truth.” It’s a reaction.) The guidance I have suggests that if we take responsibility for the situation, we gain power; when we blame it on others, we are claiming that we are powerless, and it should be no surprise that we then have little or no power.

and we also have great respect for the fundamental physical laws; the headache in connection with the Fleischmann-Pons experiment is not that it goes against fundamental physical law, but instead that there has been a lack of understanding in how to go from the fundamental physical laws to a model that accounts for experiment.

Yes. And this is to be expected if the anomaly is unexpected and requires a complex condition that is difficult to understand, and especially that, even if imagined, it is difficult to calculate adequately. This all becomes doubly difficult if the effect is, again, difficult to reliably demonstrate. Physicists are not accustomed to that in something appearing as simple as “cold fusion in a jam jar.” I can imagine high distaste for attempting to deal with the mess created on the surface of an electrolytic cathode. There might be more sympathy for gas-loading. Physicists, of course, want the even simpler conditions of a plasma, where two-body analysis is more likely to be accurate. Sorry. Nature has something else in mind.

Experimentation provides a route (even in the presence of such strong fundamental theory) to understand what nature does.

Right. Actually, the role of simple report gets lost in the blizzard of “knowledge.” We become so accustomed to being able to explain most anything that we then become unable to recognize an anomaly when it punches us in the nose. The FPHE was probably seen before, Mizuno has a credible report. But he did not realize the significance. Even when he was, later, investigating the FPHE, he had a massive heat after death event, and it was like he was in a fog. It’s a remarkable story. It can be very difficult to see anomalies, and they may be much more common than we realize.

An anomaly does *not* negate known physics, because all that “anomaly” means is that we don’t understand something. While it is theoretically possible — and should always remain possible — that accepted laws are inaccurate (a clearer term than “wrong”) it is just as likely, or even more likely, that we simply don’t understand what we are looking at, and that an explanation may be possible within existing physics. And Peter has made a strong point that this is where we should first look. Not at wild ideas that break what is already understood quite well. I will repeat this, it is a variation on “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence,” which gets a lot of abuse.

If an anomaly is found, before investing in new physics to explain it, the first order of business is to establish that the anomaly is not just an appearance from a misunderstood experiment, i.e., that it is not artifact. Only if this is established — and confirmed — is, then, major effort justified in attempting to explain it, with existing physics. As part of the experimentation involved, it is possible that clear evidence will arise that does, indeed, require new physics, but before that will become a conversation accepted as legitimate, the anomaly must be (1) clearly verified and confirmed, no longer within reasonable question, and (2) shown to be unexplainable with existing physics, where existing physics, applied to the conditions discovered to be operating in the effect, is inaccurate in prediction, and the failure to explain is persistent, possibly for a long time! Only then will new territory open up, supported by at least a major fraction of the mainstream.

In my view there should be no issue with experimentation that questions the correctness of both fundamental, and less fundamental, physical law, since our science is robust and will only become more robust when subject to continued tests.

The words I would use are “that tests the continued accuracy of known laws.” It is totally normal and expected that work continues to find ever-more precise measurements of basic constants. The world is vast, and it is possible that basic physics is tested by experiment somewhere in the world, and sane pedagogy will not reject such experimentation merely because the results appear wrong. Rather, if a student gets the “wrong answers,” there is an educational opportunity. Normally — after all, we are talking about well-established basic physics — something was not understood about the experiment. And if we create the idea that there are “correct results,” we would encourage students to fudge and cherry-pick results to get those “correct answers.” No, we want them to design clear tests and make accurate measurements, and to separate the process of measuring and recording from expectation.

The worst sin in science is fudging results to create a match to expectation. So it should be discouraged to, in the experimental process, review results for “correctness.” There is an analytical stage where this would be done, i.e., results would be compared with predictions from established theory. When results don’t match theory, and are outside of normal experimental error, then, obviously, one would carefully review the whole process. Pons and Fleischmann knew that “existing theory” used the Born-Oppenheimer approximation, which, as applied, predicted unmeasurable fusion rate for deuterium in palladium. But precisely because they knew it was an approximation, they decided to look. The Approximation was not a law, it was a calculation heuristic, and they thought, with everyone else, that it was probably good enough that they would be unable to measure the deviation. But they decided to look.

Collectively, if we allow it, that looking can and will look at almost everything. “Looking” is fundamental to science, even more fundamental than testing theories. What do we see? I look at the sky and see “sprites.” Small white objects darting about. Obviously, energy beings! (That’s been believed by some. Actually, they are living things!)

But what are they? What is known is fascinating, to me, and unexpected. Most people don’t see them, but, in fact, I’m pretty sure that most people could see them if they look, but because they are unexpected, they are not noticed,  we learned not to see them as children, because they distract from what we need to see in the sky, that large raptor or a rock flying at us.

So some kid notices them and tells his teacher, who tells him, “It’s your imagination, there is nothing there!” And so one more kid gets crushed by social expectations.

But what happens if an experimental result is reported that seems to go against relevant fundamental physical law?

(1) Believe the result is the result. I.e., that measurements were made and accurately reported.

(2) Question the interpretation, because it is very likely flawed. That is far more likely than “relevant fundamental physical law” being flawed.

Obviously, as well, errors can be made in measurement, and what we call “measurement” is often a kind of interpretation. Example: “measurement” of excess heat is commonly an interpretation of the actual measurements, which are commonly of temperature and input power. I am always suspicious of LENR claims where “anomalous heat” is plotted as a primary claim, rather than explicitly as an interpretation of the primary data, which, ideally, should be presented first. Consider this: an experiment, within a constant-temperature environment, is heated with a supplemental heater, to maintain a constant elevated temperature, and the power necessary for that is calibrated for the exact conditions, insofar as possible. This is used with an electrolysis experiment, looking for anomalous heat. There is also “input power” (to the electrolysis). So the report plots, against time, the difference between the steady-state supplemental heating power and the actual power to maintain temperature, less the other input power. This would be a relatively direct display of excess power, and that this power is also inferred (as a product of current and voltage) would be a minor quibble. But when excess power is a more complex calculation, presenting it as if it were measured is problematic.

Since the fundamental physical laws have emerged as a consequence of previous experimentation, such a new experimental result might be viewed as going against the earlier accumulated body of experiment. But the argument is much stronger in the case of fundamental theory, because in this case one has the additional component of being able to say why the outlying experimental result is incorrect. In this case reasons are needed if we are to disregard the experimental result. I note that due to the great respect we have for experimental results generally in connection with the scientific method, the notion that we should disregard particular experimental results should not be considered lightly.

Right. However, logically, unidentified experimental error always has a certain level of possibility. This is routinely handled, and one of the major methods is confirmation. Cold fusion presented a special problem: first, a large number of confirmation attempts that failed, and then reasonable suspicion of the file-drawer effect having an impact. This is why the reporting of full experimental series, as distinct from just the “best results” is so important. This is why encouraging full reporting, including of “negative results” could be helpful. From a pure scientific point of view, results are not “positive” or “negative,” but are far more complex data sets. 

Reasons that you might be persuaded to disregard an experimental result include: a lack of confirmation in other experiments; a lack of support in theory; an experiment carried out improperly; or perhaps the experimentalists involved are not credible. In the case of the Fleischmann-Pons experiment, many experiments were performed early on (based on an incomplete understanding of the experimental requirements) that did not obtain the same result; a great deal of effort was made to argue (incorrectly, as we are beginning to understand) that the experimental result is inconsistent with theory (and hence lies outside of science); it was argued that the calorimetry was not done properly; and a great deal of effort has been put into destroying the credibility of Fleischmann and Pons (as well as the credibility of other experimentalists who claimed to see the what Fleischmann and Pons saw).

The argument that results were inconsistent with established theory was defective from the beginning. There were clear sociological pathologies, and pseudoskeptical argument became common. This was recognizable even if an observer believed that cold fusion was not real. That is, to be sure, an observer who is able to assess arguments even if the observer agrees with the conclusions from the argument. Too many will support an argument because they agree with the conclusion. Just because a conclusion is sound does not make all the arguments advanced for it correct, but this is, again, common and very unscientific thinking. Ultimately the established rejection cascade came to be supported in continued existence by the repetition of alleged facts that either never were fact, or that became obsolete. “Nobody could replicate” is often repeated, even tough it is blatantly false. This was complicated, though, by the vast proliferation of protocols such that exact replication was relatively rare.

There was little or no discipline in the field. Perhaps we might notice that there is little profit or glory in replication. That kind of work, if I understand correctly, is often done by graduate students. Because the results were chaotic and unreliable, there was a constant effort to “improve” them, instead of studying the precise reliability of a particular protocol, with single-variable controls in repeated experiments.

Whether it is right, or whether it is wrong, to destroy the career of a scientist who has applied the scientific method and obtained a result thought by others to be incorrect, is not a question of science.

Correct. It’s a moral and social issue. If we want real science, science that is living, that can deepen and grow, we need protect intellectual freedom, and avoid “punishing” simple error — or what appears to be error. Scientists must be free to make mistakes. There is one kind of error that warrants heavy sanctions, and that is falsifying data. The Parkhomov fabrication of data in one of his reports might seem harmless — because that data probably just relatively flat — but he was, I find obvious, concealing fact, that he was recording data using a floating notebook computer to record his data, and the battery went low. However, given that it would have been easier and harmless, we might think, to just show the data he had with a note explaining the gap, I think he wanted to conceal the fact, and why? I have a suggestion: it would reveal that he needed to run this way because of heavy noise caused by the proximity of chopped power to his heater coil, immediately adjacent to the thermocouple. And that heavy noise could be causing problems! Concealing relevant fact is almost as offensive as falsifying data.

There are no scientific instruments capable of measuring whether what people do is right or wrong; we cannot construct a test within the scientific method capable of telling us whether what we do is right or wrong; hence we can agree that this question very much lies outside of science.

I will certainly agree, and it’s a point I often make, but it is also often derided.

It is a fact that the careers of Fleischmann and Pons were destroyed (in part because their results appeared not to be in agreement with theory), and the sense I get from discussions with colleagues not in the field is that this was appropriate (or at the very least expected).

However, this was complicated, not as simple as “results not in agreement with theory.” I’d say that anyone who reads the fuller accounts of what happened in 1989-1990 is likely to notice far more than that problem. For example, a common bete noir among cold fusion supporters is Robert Park. Park describes how he came to be so strongly skeptical: it was that F&P promised to reveal helium test results, and then they were never released.

The Morrey collaboration was a large-scale, many-laboratory effort to study helium in FP cathodes. Pons, we have testimony, violated a clear agreement, refusing to turn over the coding of the blinded cathodes, when Morrey gave him the helium results. There were legal threats if Morrey et al published, from Pons. Before that, the experimental cathode provided for testing was punk, with low excess heat, whereas the test had been designed, with the controls, to use a cathode with far higher generated energy. (Three cathodes were ion-implanted to simulate palladium loaded with helium from the reaction, at a level expected from the energy allegedly released.) The “as-received” cathode was heavily contaminated with implanted helium, may have been mixed up by Johnson-Matthey. And all this was never squarely faced by Pons and Fleischmann, and even though it was known by the mid-1990s that helium was the major product, and F&P were generating substantial heat — they claim — in France, there is no record of helium measurements from them.

It’s a mess. Yes, we know that they were right, they found an previously “unknown nuclear reaction.”But how they conducted themselves was clearly outside of scientific norms. (As with others, in the other direction or on the other side, by the way, there are many lessons for the future in this “scientific fiasco of the century,” once we fully examine it. 

I am generally not familiar with voices being raised outside of our community suggesting that there might have been anything wrong with this.

Few outside of “our community” — the community of interest in LENR — are aware of it, just as few are aware of the evidence for the reality of the Anomalous Heat Effect and its nuclear nature. Fewer still have any concept of what might be done about this, so when others do become aware, little or nothing happens. Nevertheless, it is becoming more possible to write about this. I have written about LENR on Quora, and it’s reasonably popular. In fact, I ran into one of the early negative replicators, and I blogged about it. He appeared completely unaware that there was a problem with his conclusions, that there had been any developments. The actual paper was fine, a standard negative replication. 

Were we to pursue the use of this kind of delineation in science, we very quickly enter into rather dark territory: for example, how many careers should be destroyed in order to achieve whatever goal is proposed as justification? Who decides on behalf of the scientific community which researchers should have their careers destroyed? Should we recognize the successes achieved in the destruction of careers by giving out awards and monetary compensation? Should we arrange for associated outplacement and mental health services for the newly delineated? And what happens if a mistake is made? Should the scientific community issue an apology (and what happens if the researcher is no longer with us when it is recognized that a mistake was made)? We are sure that careers get destroyed as part of delineation in science, but on the question of what to do about this observation we defer to others.

There is no collective, deliberative process behind the “destruction of careers.” This is an information cascade, there is no specific responsible party. Most believe that they are simply accepting and believing what everyone else believes, excepting, of course, those die-hard fanatics. There is a potential ally here, who thoroughly understands information cascades, Gary Taubes. I have established good communication with him, and am waiting for confirmation from the excess helium work in Texas before rattling his cage again. Cold fusion is not the only alleged Bad Science to be afflicted, and Taubes has actually exposed much more, including Bad Science that became an alleged consensus, on the rule of fat in human nutrition and with relationship to cardiovascular disease and obesity.

There are analogies. Racism is an information cascade, for the most part. Many racist policies existed without any formal deliberative process to create them. Waking up white is an excellent book, I highly recommend it. So what could be done about racism? It’s the same question, actually. The general answer is what has become a mantra for Mike McKubre and myself: communicate, cooperate, collaborate. And, by the way, correlate. As Peter may have noticed, remarkable findings without correlations are, not useless, but ineffective in transforming reaction to the unexpected. Correlation provides meat for the theory hamburger. Correlation can be quantified, it can be analyzed statistically.

Arguments were put forth by critics in 1989 that excess heat in the Fleischmann-Pons effect was impossible based on theory, in connection with the delineation process. At the time these arguments were widely accepted—an acceptance that persists generally even today.

Information cascades are instinctive processes that developed in human society for survival reasons, like all such common phenomena. They operate through affiliation and other emotional responses, and are amygdala-mediated. The lizard brain. It is designed for quick response, not for depth. When we see a flash of orange and white in the jungle, we may have a fraction of a second to act, we have no time to sit back and analyze what it might be.

Once the information cascade is in place, people — scientists are people, have you noticed? — are aware of the consequences of deviating from the “consensus.” They won’t do it unless faced with not only strong evidence, but also necessity. Depending on the specific personality, they might not even allow themselves to think outside the box. After all, Joe, their friend who became a believer in cold fusion, that obvious nonsense, used to be sane, so there is obviously something about cold fusion that is dangerous, like a dangerous drug. And, of course, Tom Darden joked about this. “Cold fusion addiction.” It’s a thing.

There is, associated with cold fusion, a conspiracy theory. I see people succumb to it. It is very tempting to accept an organizing principle, for that impulse is even behind interest in science. To be sure, “just because you are paranoid does not mean that they are not out to get you.”

What people may learn to do is to recognize an “amygdala hijack.”  This very common phenomenon shuts down the normal operation of the cerebral cortex. The first reaction most have, to learning about this, is to think that a “hijack” is wrong. We shouldn’t do that! We should always think clearly, right?

I linked to a video that explains why it is absolutely necessary to respect this primitive brain operation. It’s designed to save our lives! However, it is an emergency response. Respecting it does not require being dominated by it, other than momentarily. We can make a fast assessment: “Do I have time to think about this? Yes, I’m afraid of ‘cold fusion addiction.’ But if I think about cold fusion, will I actually become unable to think clearly?” And most normal people will become curious, seeing no demons, anywhere close, about to take over their mind. Some won’t. Some will remain dominated by fear, a fear so deeply rooted that it is not even recognized as fear.

How can we communicate with such people. Well, how do porcupines make love?

Very carefully.

We will avoid sudden movements. We will focus on what is comfortable and familiar. We will avoid anything likely to arouse more fear. And if this is a physicist, want to make him or her afraid? Tell them that everything they know is wrong, that textbooks must be revised, because you have proof (absolute proof, I tell you!) that the anomalous heat called “cold fusion” is real and that therefore basic physics is complete bullshit.

That original idea of contradiction, a leap from something not understood (an “anomaly”), to “everything we know is wrong,” was utterly unnecessary, and it was caused by premature conclusions, on all sides. Yet once those fears are aroused. . . . 

It is possible to talk someone down. It takes skill, and if you think the issue is scientific fact, you will probably not be able to manage it. The issue is a frightened human being, possibly reacting to fear by becoming highly controlling.

Someone telling us that there is no danger, that it is just their imagination, will not be trusted, that is also instinctive. Even if it is just their imagination.

Most parents, though, know how to do this with a frightened child. Some, unfortunately, lack the skill, possibly because their parents lacked it. It can be learned.

From my perspective the arguments put forth by critics that the excess heat effect is inconsistent with the laws of physics fall short in at least one important aspect: what is concluded is now in disagreement with a very large number of experiments. And if somehow that were not sufficient, the associated technical arguments which have been given are badly broken.

Yes, but you may be leaping ahead, before first leading the audience to recognize the original error. You are correct, but not addressing the fear directly and the cause of it. Those “technical arguments” are what they think, they have nodded their heads in agreement for many years. You are telling them that they are wrong. And if you want to set up communication failure, tell people at the outset that they are wrong. And, we often don’t realize this, but even thinking that can so color our communication that people react to what is behind what we say, not just to what we say.

But wait, what if I think they are wrong? The advice here is to recognize that idea as amygdala-mediated, an emotional response to our own imagination of how the other is thinking. As one of my friends would put it, we may need to eat our own dog food before feeding it to others.

So my stand is that the skeptics were not “wrong.” Rather, the thinking was incomplete, and that’s actually totally obvious. It also isn’t a moral defect, because our thinking is, necessarily and forever, incomplete.

In dealing with amygdala hijack in one of my children, I saw strong evidence that the amygdala is programmable with language, and any healthy mother knows how to do it. The child has fallen and has a busted lip, it’s bleeding profusely, and the child is frightened and in pain. The mother realizes she is afraid that there will be scars. Does she tell the child she is afraid? Does she blame the child because he was careless? No, she’s a mother! She tells the child, “Yes, it hurts. We are on the way to the doctor and they will fix it, and you are going to be fine, here, let me give you a kiss!”

But wait, she doesn’t actually know that the child will be fine! Is she lying? No, she is creating reality by declaring it. “Fine” is like “right” and “wrong,” it is not factual, it’s a reaction, so her statement is a prediction, not a fact. And it happens to be a prediction that can create what is predicted.

I use this constantly, in my own life. Declare possibilities as if they are real and already exist! We don’t do this, because of two common reasons. We don’t want to be wrong, which is Bad, right? And we are afraid of being disappointed. I just heard this one yesterday, a woman justified to her friend her constant recitation of how nothing was going to work and bad things will happen, saying that she “is thinking the worst.” Why does she do that? So that she won’t be disappointed!

What she is creating in her life, constant fear and stress, is far worse than mere disappointment, which is transient at worst, unless we really were crazy in belief in some fantasy. Underneath most life advice is the ancient recognition of attachment as causing suffering.

So the stockbroker in 1929, even though it’s a beautiful day and he could have a fantastic lunch and we never do know what is going to happen tomorrow, jumps out the window because he thought he was rich, but wasn’t, because the market collapsed.

The sunset that day was just as beautiful as ever. Life still had endless possibilities, and, yes, one can be poor and happy, but this person would only be poor if they remained stuck in old ways that, at least for a while, weren’t working any more. People can even go to prison and be happy. (I was a prison chaplain, and human beings are amazingly flexible, once we accept present reality, what is actually happening.)

In my view the new effects are a consequence of working in a regime that we hadn’t noticed before, where some fine print associated with the rotation from the relativistic problem to the nonrelativistic problem causes it not to be as helpful as what we have grown used to.

Well, that’s Peter’s explanation, five years ago. There are other ways to say more or less the same thing. “Collective effects” is one. Notice that Widom and Larsen get away with this, as long as their specifics aren’t so seriously questioned. The goal I generally have is to deconstruct the “impossible” argument, not by claiming experimental proof, because there is, for someone not very familiar with the evidence, a long series of possible experimental errors and artifacts that can be plausibly asserted, and “they must be making some mistake” is actually plausible,  it happens. Researchers do make mistakes. And, in fact, Pons and Fleischmann made mistakes. I just listened to a really excellent talk by Peter, which convinced me that there might be something to his theoretical approach, in which he pointed out an error, in Fleischmann’s electrochemistry. Horrors! Unthinkable! Saint Fleischmann? Impossible!

This is part of how we recover from that “scientific fiasco of the century”: letting go of attachment, developing tolerance of ideas different from our own, distinguishing between reality (what actually happened) and interpretation and reaction, and opening up communication with people with whom we might have disagreements, and listening well! 

If so, we can keep what we know about condensed matter physics and nuclear physics unchanged in their applicable regimes, and make use of rather obvious generalizations in the new regime. Experimental results in the case of the Fleischmann-Pons experiment will likely be seen (retrospectively) as in agreement with (improved) theory.

Right. That is the future and it will happen (and it is already happening in places and in part). Meanwhile, we aren’t there yet, as to the full mainstream, the possibility has not been actualized, but we can, based entirely on the historical record, show that there is no necessary contradiction with known physics, there is merely something not yet explained. The rejection was of an immature and vague explanation: “fusion! nuclear!” with these words triggering a host of immediate reactions, all quite predictable, by the way.

I just read from Miles that Fleischmann later claimed that he and Pons were “against” holding that press conference. Sorry! This was self-justifying rationalization, chatter. They may well have argued against it, but, in the end, the record does not show anyone holding guns to their heads to force them to say what they said. They clearly knew, well before this, that this would be highly controversial, but were driven by their own demons to barge ahead instead of creating something different and more effective. (We all have these demons, but we usually don’t recognize them, we think that their voices are just us thinking. And they are, but I learned years ago, dealing with my own demons, that they lie to us. Once we back up from attachment to believing that what we think is right, it’s actually easy to recognize. This is behind most addiction, and people who are dealing with addition, up close and personally, come to know these things.)

Even though there may not be simple answers to some of the issues considered in this editorial, some very simple statements can be made. Excess heat in the Fleischmann-Pons experiment is a real effect.

I do say that, and frequently, but I don’t necessarily start there. Rather, where I will start depends on the audience.  Before I will slap them in the face with that particular trout, I will explore the evidence, what is actually found, how it has been confirmed, and how researchers are proceeding to strengthen this, and how very smart money is betting on this, with cash and reputable scientists involved. For some audiences, I prefer to let the reader decide on “real,” and to engage them with the question. How do we know what is “real”?

Do we use theory or experimental testing? It is actually an ancient question, where the answer was, often, “It’s up to the authorities.” Such as the Church. Or, “up to me, because I’m an expert.” Or “up to my friends, because they are experts and they wouldn’t lie.”

What I’ve found, in many discussions, is that genuine skeptics actually support that effort. What happens when precision is increased in the measurement of the heat/helium ratio in the FP experiment? Classic to “pathological science,” the effect disappears when measured with increased precision.

That was used against cold fusion by applying it to the chaotic excess heat experiments, where it was really inappropriate, because, if I’m correct, precision of calorimetry did not correlate with “positive” or “negative” reports. Correlation generates numbers that can then be compared.

But that’s difficult to study retrospectively, because papers are so different in approach, and this was the problem with uncorrelated heat. Nevertheless, that’s an idea for a research paper, looking at precision vs excess heat calculated. I haven’t seen one.

There are big implications for science, and for society. Without resources science in this area will not advance. With the continued destruction of the careers of those who venture to work in the area, progress will be slow, and there will be no continuity of effort.

While it is true that resources are needed for advance, I caution against the idea that we don’t have the resources. We do. We often, though, don’t know how to access them, and when we believe that they don’t exist, we are extremely unlikely to connect with them. The problem of harm to career is generic to any challenge to a broad consensus. I would recommend to anyone thinking of working in the field that they also recognize the need for personal training. It’s available, and far less expensive than a college education. Otherwise they will be babes in the woods. Scientists often go into science because of wanting to escape from the social jungle, imagining it to be a safe place, where truth matters more than popularity. So it’s not surprising to find major naivete on this among scientists.

I’ve been trained. That doesn’t mean that I don’t make mistakes, I do, plenty of them. But I also learn from them. Mistakes are, in fact, the fastest way to learn, and not realizing this, we may bend over backwards to avoid them. The trick is to recognize and let go of attachment to being right. That, in many ways, suppresses our ability to learn rapidly, and it also suppresses intuition, because intuition, by definition, is not rationally circumscribed and thus “safe.”

I’ll end with one of my favorite Feynman stories, I heard this from him, but it’s also in Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman! (pp 144-146). It is about the Oak Ridge Gaseous Diffusion Plant (a later name), a crucial part of the Manhattan Project. This version I have copied from this page.

How do you look at a plant that ain’t built yet? I don’t know. Well, Lieutenant Zumwalt, who was always coming around with me because I had to have an escort everywhere, takes me into this room where there are these two engineers and a loooooong table cover, a stack of large, long blueprints representing the various floors of the proposed plant.

I took mechanical drawing when I was in school, but I am not good at reading blueprints. So they start to explain it to me, because they think I am a genius. Now, one of the things they had to avoid in the plant was accumulation. So they had problems like when there’s an evaporator working, which is trying to accumulate the stuff, if the valve gets stuck or something like that and too much stuff accumulates, it’ll explode. So they explained to me that this plant is designed so that if any one valve gets stuck nothing will happen. It needs at least two valves everywhere.

Then they explain how it works. The carbon tetrachloride comes in here, the uranium nitrate from here comes in here, it goes up and down, it goes up through the floor, comes up through the pipes, coming up from the second floor, bluuuuurp – going through the stack of blueprints, down-up-down-up, talking very fast, explaining the very, very complicated chemical plant.

I’m completely dazed. Worse, I don’t know what the symbols on the blueprint mean! There is some kind of a thing that at first I think is a window. It’s a square with a little cross in the middle, all over the damn place. I think it’s a window, but no, it can’t be a window, because it isn’t always at the edge. I want to ask them what it is.

You must have been in a situation like this when you didn’t ask them right away. Right away it would have been OK. But now they’ve been talking a little bit too long. You hesitated too long. If you ask them now they’ll say, “What are you wasting my time all this time for?”

I don’t know what to do. (You are not going to believe this story, but I swear it’s absolutely true – it’s such sensational luck.) I thought, what am I going to do? I got an idea. Maybe it’s a valve? So, in order to find out whether it’s a valve or not, I take my finger and I put it down on one of the mysterious little crosses in the middle of one of the blueprints on page number 3, and I say, “What happens if this valve gets stuck?” figuring they’re going to say, “That’s not a valve, sir, that’s a window.”

So one looks at the other and says, “Well, if that valve gets stuck — ” and he goes up and down on the blueprint, up and down, the other guy up and down, back and forth, back and forth, and they both look at each other and they tchk, tchk, tchk, and they turn around to me and they open their mouths like astonished fish and say, “You’re absolutely right, sir.”

So they rolled up the blueprints and away they went and we walked out. And Mr. Zumwalt, who had been following me all the way through, said, “You’re a genius. I got the idea you were a genius when you went through the plant once and you could tell them about evaporator C-21 in building 90-207 the next morning, “ he says, “but what you have just done is so fantastic I want to know how, how do you do that?”

I told him you try to find out whether it’s a valve or not.

In the version I recall, he mentioned that there were a million valves in the system, and that, when they later checked more thoroughly, the one he had pointed to was the only one not backed up. I take “million” as meaning “a lot,” not necessarily as an accurate number. From the Wikipedia article: “When it was built in 1944, the four-story K-25 gaseous diffusion plant was the world’s largest building, comprising over 1,640,000 square feet (152,000 m2) of floor space and a volume of 97,500,000 cubic feet (2,760,000 m3).”

Why do I tell this story? Life is full of mysteries, but rather than his “lucky guess” being considered purely coincidental, from which we would learn nothing, I would rather give it a name. This was intuition. Feynman was receiving vast quantities of information during that session, and what might have been normal analytical thinking (which filters)  was interrupted by his puzzlement. So that information was going into his mind subconsciously. I’ve seen this happen again and again. We do something with no particular reason that turns out to be practically a miracle. But this does not require any woo, simply the possibility that conscious thought is quite limited compared to what the human brain actually can do, under some conditions. Feynman, as a child, developed habits that fully fostered intuition. He was curious, and an iconoclast. There are many, many other stories. I have always said, for many years, that I learned to think from Feynman. And then I learned how not to think. 

Fantasy rejects itself

I came across this review when linking to Undead Science on Amazon. It’s old, but there is no other review. I did buy that book, in 2009, from Amazon, used, but never reviewed it and now Amazon wants me to spend at least $50 in the last year to be able to review books….

But I can comment on the review, and I will. I first comment here.


JohnVidale

August 7, 2011

Format: Hardcover|Verified Purchase

I picked up this book on the recommendation of a fellow scientist with good taste in work on the history of science. I’ll update this, should I get further through the book, but halfway through this book is greatly irritating.

The book is a pretty straightforward story by a sociologist of science, something Dr. Vidale is not (he is a professor of seismology). There are many myths, common tropes, about cold fusion, and, since Dr. Vidale likes Gary Taubes (as do I, by the way), perhaps he should learn about information cascades; Taubes has written much about them. He can google “Gary Taubes information cascade.”

An information cascade is a social phenomenon where something comes to be commonly believed without ever having been clearly proven. It happens with scientists as well as with anyone.

The beginning is largely an explanation of how science works theoretically.

It is not. Sociologists of science study how science actually works, not the theory.

The thesis seems to be that science traditionally is thought of as either alive or dead, depending on whether the issues investigated are uncertain or already decided.

Is that a “thesis” or an observation? It becomes very clear in this review that the author thinks “cold fusion” is dead. As with many such opinions, it’s quote likely he has no idea what he is talking about. What is “cold fusion”?

It was a popular name given to an anomalous heat effect, based on ideas of the source, but the scientists who discovered the effect, because they could not explain the heat with chemistry — and they were experts chemists, leaders in their field — called it an “unknown nuclear reaction.” They had not been looking for a source of energy. They were actually testing the Born-Oppenheimer approximation, and though that the approximation was probably good enough that they would find nothing. And then their experiment melted down.

A third category of “undead” is proposed, in which some scientists think the topic is alive and others think it is dead, and this category has a life of its own. Later, this theme evolves to argue the undead topic of cold fusion still alive, or was long after declared dead.

That is, more or less the basis for the book. The field is now known by the more neutral term of “Condensed Matter Nuclear Science,” sometimes “Low Energy Nuclear Reactions,” the heat effect is simply called the Anomalous Heat Effect by some. I still use “cold fusion” because the evidence has become overwhelming that the nuclear reaction, whatever it is, is producing helium from deuterium, which is fusion in effect if not in mechanism. The mechanism is still unknown. It is obviously not what was thought of as “fusion” when the AHE was discovered.

The beginning and the last chapter may be of interest to those who seek to categorize varieties in the study of the history of science, but such pigeonholing is of much less value to me than revealing case studies of work well done and poorly done.

That’s Gary Taubes’ professional theme. However, it also can be superficial. There is a fine study by Henry H. Bauer (2002). ‘Pathological Science’ is not Scientific Misconduct (nor is it pathological).

One argument I’m not buying so far is the claim that what killed cold fusion is the consensus among most scientists that it was nonsense, rather than the fact that cold fusion is nonsense.

If not “consensus among most scientists,” how then would it be determined that a field is outside the maintream? And is “nonsense” a “fact”? Can you weigh it?

There is a large body of experimental evidence, and then there are conclusions drawn from the evidence, and ideas about the evidence and the conclusions. Where does observed fact become “nonsense.”

“Nonsense” is something we say when what is being stated makes no sense to us. It’s highly subjective.

Notice that the author appears to believe that “cold fusion” is “nonsense,” but shows no sign of knowing what this thing it is, what exactly is reported and claimed.

No, the author seems to be believe “cold fusion is nonsense,” as a fact of nature, as a reality, not merely a personal reaction. 

More to the point, where and when was the decision made that “cold fusion is dead”? The U.S. Department of Energy held two reviews of the field. The first was in 1989, rushed, and concluded before replications began appearing. Another review was held in 2004. Did these reviews declare that cold fusion was dead?

No. In fact, both recommended further research. One does not recommend further research for a dead field. In 2004, that recommendation was unanimous for an 18-member panel of experts.

This is to me a case study in which many open-minded people looked at a claim and shredded it.

According to Dr. Vidale. Yes, there was very strong criticism, even “vituperation,” in the words of one skeptic. However, the field is very much alive, and publication in mainstream journals has continued (increasing after a nadir in about 2005). Research is being funded. Governmental interest never disappeared, but it is a very difficult field.

There is little difference here between the truth and the scientists consensus about the truth.

What consensus, I must ask? The closest we have to a formal consensus would be the 2004 review, and what it concluded is far from the position Mr. Vidale is asserting. He imagines his view is “mainstream,” but that is simply the effect of an information cascade. Yes, many scientists think as he thinks, still. In other words, scientists can be ignorant of what is happening outside their own fields. But it is not a “consensus,” and never was. It was merely a widespread and very strong opinion, but that opinion was rejecting an idea about the Heat Effect, not the effect itself.

To the extent, though, that they were rejecting experimental evidence, they were engaged in cargo cult science, or scientism, a belief system. Not the scientific method.

The sociological understructure in the book seems to impede rather than aid understanding.

It seems that way to Dr. Vidale because he’s clueless about the reality of cold fusion research.

Specifically, there seems an underlying assumption that claims of excess heat without by-products of fusion reactions are a plausible interpretation, whose investigations deserved funding, but were denied by the closed club of established scientists.

There was a claim of anomalous heat, yes. It was an error for Pons and Fleischmann to claim that it was a nuclear reaction, and to mention “fusion,” based on the evidence they had, which was only circumstantial.

The reaction is definitely not what comes to mind when that word is used.

But . . . a fusion product, helium, was eventually identified (Miles, 1991), correlated with heat, and that has been confirmed by over a dozen research groups, and confirmation and measurement of the ratio with increased precision is under way at Texas Tech, very well funded, as that deserves. Extant measurements of the heat/helium ratio are within experimental error of the deuterium fusion to helium theoretical value.

(That does not show that the reaction is “d-d fusion,” because any reaction that starts with deuterium and ends with helium, no matter how this is catalyzed, must show that ratio.)

That Dr. Vidale believes that no nuclear product was identified simply shows that he’s reacting to what amounts to gossip or rumor or information cascade. (Other products have been found, there is strong evidence for tritium, but the levels are very low and it is the helium that accounts for the heat).

The author repeatedly cites international experts calling such scenarios impossible or highly implausible to suggest that the experts are libeling cold fusion claims with the label pathological science. I side with the experts rather than the author.

It is obvious that there were experts who did that; this is undeniable. Simon does not suggest “libel.” And Vidale merely joins in the labelling, without being specific such that one could test his claims. He’s outside of science. He’s taking sides, which sociologists generally don’t do, nor, in fact, do careful scientists do it within their field. To claim that a scientist is practicing “pathological science” is a deep insult. That is not a scientific category. Langmuir coined the term, and gave characteristics, which only superficially match cold fusion, which long ago moved outside of that box.

Also, the claim is made that this case demonstrates that sociologists are better equipped to mediate disputes involving claims of pathological science than scientists, which is ludicrous.

It would be, if the book claimed that, but it doesn’t. More to the point, who mediates such disputes? What happens in the real world?

Clearly, in the cold fusion case, another decade after the publication of this book has not contradicted any of the condemnations from scientists of cold fusion.

The 2004 U.S. DoE review was after the publication of the book, and it contradicts the position Dr. Vidale is taking, very clearly. While that review erred in many ways (the review was far too superficial, hurried, and the process allowed misunderstandings to arise, some reviewers clearly misread the presented documents), they did not call cold fusion “nonsense.” Several reviewers probably thought that, but they all agreed with “more research.”

Essentially, if one wishes to critically assess the stages through which cold fusion ideas were discarded, it is helpful to understand the nuclear processes involved.

Actually, no. “Cold fusion” appears to be a nuclear physics topic, because of “fusion.” However, it is actually a set of results in chemistry. What an expert in normal nuclear processes knows will not help with cold fusion. It is, at this point, an “unknown nuclear reaction” (which was claimed in the original paper). (Or it is a set of such reactions.) Yes, if someone wants to propose a theory of mechanism, a knowledge of nuclear physics is necessary, and there are physicists, with such understanding, experts, doing just that. So far, no theory has been successful to the point of being widely accepted.

One should not argue, as the author indirectly does, for large federal investments in blue sky reinvention of physics unless one has an imposing reputation of knowing the limitations of existing physics.

Simon does not argue for that. I don’t argue for that. I suggest exactly what both U.S. DoE reviews suggested: modest funding for basic research under existing programs. That is a genuine scientific consensus! However, it is not necessary a “consensus of scientists,” that is, some majority showing in a poll, as distinct from genuine scientific process as functions with peer review and the like.

It appears that Dr. Vidale has an active imagination, and thinks that Simon is a “believer” and thinks that “believers” want massive federal funding, so he reads that into the book. No, the book is about a sociological phenomenon, it was Simon’s doctoral thesis originally, and sociologists of science will continue to study the cold fusion affair, for a very long time. Huizenga called it the “scientific fiasco of the twentieth century.” He was right. It was a perfect storm, in many ways, and there is much that can be learned from it.

Cold fusion is not a “reinvention of physics.” It tells us very little about nuclear physics. “Cold fusion,” as a name for an anomalous heat effect, does not contradict existing physics. It is possible that when the mechanism is elucidated, it will show some contradiction, but what is most likely is that all that has been contradicted was assumption about what’s possible in condensed matter, not actual physics.

There are theories being worked on that use standard quantum field theory, merely in certain unanticipated circumstances. Quick example: what will happen if two deuterium molecules are trapped in relationship at low relative momentum, such that the nuclei form the vertices of a tetrahedron? The analysis has been done by Akito Takahashi: they will collapse into a Bose -Einstein condensate within a femtosecond or so, and that will fuse by tunneling within another femotosecond or so, creating 8Be, which can fission into two 4He nuclei, without gamma radiation (as would be expected if two deuterons could somehow fuse to helium without immediately fissioning into the normal d-d fusion products).

That theory is incomplete, I won’t go into details, but it merely shows how there may be surprises lurking in places we never looked before.

I will amend my review if my attention span is long enough, but the collection of objectionable claims has risen too high to warrant spending another few hours finishing this book. Gary Taubes’ book on the same subject, Bad Science, was much more factual and enlightening.

Taubes’ Bad Science is an excellent book on the history of cold fusion, the very early days only. The story of the book is well known, he was in a hurry to finish it so he could be paid. As is common with his work, he spent far more time than made sense economically for him. He believed he understood the physics, and sometimes wrote from that perspective, but, in fact, nobody understands what Pons and Fleischmann found. They certainly didn’t.

Gradually, fact is being established, and how to create reliable experiments is being developed. It’s still difficult, but measuring the heat/helium ratio is a reliable and replicable experiment. It’s still not easy, but what is cool about it is that, per existing results, if one doesn’t see heat, one doesn’t see helium, period, and if one does see heat (which with a good protocol might be half the time), one sees proportionate helium.

So Dr. Vidale gave the book a poor review, two stars out of five, based on his rejection of what he imagined the book was saying.


There were some comments, that can be seen by following the Unreal arguments link.

postoak6 years ago
“Clearly, in the cold fusion case, another decade after the publication of this book has not contradicted any of the condemnations from scientists of cold fusion.” I think this statement is false. Although fusion may not be occurring, there is much, much evidence that some sort of nuclear event is taking place in these experiments. See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VymhJCcNBBc
The video was presented by Frank Gordon, of SPAWAR. It is about nuclear effects, including heat.
JohnVidale  6 years ago In reply to an earlier post
More telling than the personal opinion of either of us is the fact that 3 MORE years have passed since the video you linked, and no public demonstration of energy from cold fusion has YET been presented.
How does Dr. Vidale know that? The video covers many demonstrations of LENR. What Dr. Vidale may be talking about is practical levels of energy, and he assumes that if such a demonstration existed, he’d have heard about it. There have been many demonstrations. Dr.  Vidale’s comments were from August 2011. Earlier that year, there was a major claim of commercial levels of power, kilowatts, with public “demonstrations.” Unfortunately, it was fraud, but my point here is that this was widely known, widely considered, and Dr. Vidale doesn’t seem to know about it at all.
(The state of the art is quite low-power, but visible levels of power have been demonstrated and confirmed.)
Dr. Vidale is all personal opinion and no facts. He simply ignored the video, which is quite good, being a presentation by the SPAWAR group (U.S. Navy Research Laboratory, San Diego) to a conference organized by Dr. Robert Duncan, who was Vice Chancellor for Research at the University of Missouri, and then countered the comment with simple ignorance (that there has been no public demonstration). 
Taser_This 2 years ago (Edited)
The commenters note is an excellent example of the sociological phenomenon related to the field of Cold Fusion, that shall be studied along with the physical phenomenon, once a change of perception of the field occurs. We shall eventually, and possibly soon, see a resolution of the clash of claims of pathological science vs. pathological disbelief. If history is any indicator related to denial in the face of incontrovertible evidence (in this case the observation of excess heat, regardless of the process of origin since we know it is beyond chemical energies) we shall be hearing a lot more about this topic.

Agreed, Dr. Vidale has demonstrated what an information cascade looks like. He’s totally confident that he is standing for the mainstream opinion. Yet “mainstream opinion” is not a judgment of experts, except, of course, in part.

Dr. Vidale is not an expert in this field, and he is not actually aware of expert reviews of “cold fusion.” Perhaps he might consider reading this peer-reviewed review of the field, published the year before he wrote, in Naturwissenschaften, which was, at the time, a venerable multidiscoplinary journal,  and it had tough peer review. Edmund Storms, Status of cold fusion (2010). (preprint).

There are many, many reviews of cold fusion in mainstream journals, published in the last  15 years. The extreme skepticism, which Vidale thinks is mainstream, has disappeared in the journals. What is undead here is extreme skepticism on this topic, which hasn’t noticed it died.

So, is cold fusion Undead, or is it simply Alive and never died?


After writing this, I found that Dr. John Vidale was a double major as an undergraduate, in physics and geology, has a PhD from Cal Tech (1986), and his major focus appears to be seismology.

He might be amused by this story from the late Nate Hoffman, who wrote a book for the American Nuclear Society, supported by the Electric Power Research Institute, A Dialogue on Chemically Induced Nuclear Effects: A Guide for the Perplexed About Cold Fusion (1995). Among other things, it accurately reviews Taubes and Huizenga. The book is written as a dialogue between a Young Scientist (YS), who represents common thinking, particularly among physicists, and Old Metallurgist (OM), which would be Hoffman himself, who is commonly considered a skeptic by promoters of cold fusion. Actually, to me, he looks normally skeptical, skepticism being essential to science.

YS: I guess the real question has to be this: Is the heat real?

OM: The simple facts are as follows. Scientists experienced in the area of calorimetric measurements are performing these experiments. Long periods occur with no heat production, then, occasionally, periods suddenly occur with apparent heat production. These scientists become irate when so-called experts call them charlatans. The occasions when apparent heat occurs seem to be highly sensitive to the surface conditions of the palladium and are not reproducible at will.

YS: Any phenomenon that is not reproducible at will is most likely not real.

OM: People in the San Fernando Valley, Japanese, Columbians, et al, will be glad to hear that earthquakes are not real.

YS: Ouch. I deserved that. My comment was stupid.

OM: A large number of of people who should know better have parroted that inane statement. There are, however, many artifacts that can indicate a false period of heat production. The question of whether heat is being produced is still open, though any such heat is not from deuterium atoms fusing with deuterium atoms to produce equal amounts of 3He + neutron and triton + proton. If the heat is real, it must be from a different nuclear reaction or some toally unknown non-nuclear source of reactions with energies far above the electron-volt levels of chemical reactions.

As with Taubes, Hoffman may have been under some pressure to complete the book. Miles, in 1991, was the first to report, in a conference paper, that helium was being produced, correlated with helium, and this was noticed by Huizenga in the second edition of his book (1993). Hoffman covers some of Miles’ work, and some helium measurements, but does not report the crucial correlation, though this was published in Journal of Electroanalytical Chemistry in 1993.

I cover heat/helium, as a quantitatively reproducible and widely-confirmed experiment, in my 2015 paper, published in a special section on Low Energy Nuclear Reactions in Current Science..

Of special note in that section would be McKubre, Cold fusion: comments on the state of scientific proof.

McKubre is an electrochemist who, when he saw the Pons and Fleischmann announcement, already was familiar with the palladium-deuterium system, working at SRI International, and immediately recognized that the effect reported must be in relatively unexplored territory, with very high loading ratio. This was not widely understood, and replication efforts that failed to reach a loading threshold, somewhere around 90% atom (D/Pd), reported no results (neither anomalous heat, nor any other nuclear effects). At that time, it was commonly considered that 70% loading was a maximum.

SRI and McKubre were retained by the Electric Power Research Institute, for obvious reasons, to investigate cold fusion, and until retiring recently, he spent his entire career after that, mostly on LENR research.

One of the characteristics of the rejection cascade was cross-disciplinary disrespect. In his review, Dr. Vidale shows no respect or understanding of sociology and “science studies,” and mistakes  his own opinions and those of his friends as “scientific consensus.”

What is scientific consensus? This is a question that sociologists and philosphers of science study. As well, most physicists knew little to nothing about electrochemistry, and there are many stories of Stupid Mistakes, such as reversing the cathode and anode (because of a differing convention) and failing to maintain very high cleanliness of experiments. One electrochemist, visiting such a lab, asked, “And then did you pee in the cell?” The most basic mistake was failing to run the experiment long enough to develop the conditions that create the effect. McKubre covers that in the paper cited.

(An electrolytic cathode will collect cations from the electrolyte, and cathodes may become loaded with fuzzy junk. I fully sympathize with physicists with a distaste for the horrible mess of an electrolytic cathode. For very good reasons, they prefer the simple environment of a plasma, which they can analyze using two-body quantum mechanics.

I sat in Feynman’s lectures at Cal Tech, 1961-63, and, besides his anecdotes that I heard directly from him when he visited Page House, I remember one statement about physics: “We don’t have the math to calculate the solid state, it is far too complex.” Yet too many physicists believed that the approximations they used were reality. No, they were useful approximations, that usually worked. So did Ptolemaic astronomy.)

Dr. Vidale is welcome to comment here and to correct errors, as may anyone.

Protecting the fringe allows the mainstream to breathe

Wikipedia is famously biased against fringe points of view or fringe science (and actually the bias can appear with any position considered “truth” by a majority or plurality faction). The pseudoskeptical faction there claims that there is no bias, but it’s quite clear that reliable sources exist, per Wikipedia definitions, that are excluded, and weaker sources “debunking” the fringe are allowed, plus if editors appears to be “fringe,” they are readily harassed and blocked or banned, whereas more egregious behavior, violating Wikipedia policies, is overlooked, if an editor is allied with the “skeptical” faction. Over time, the original Wikipedians, who actually supported Neutral Point of View policy, have substantially been marginalized and ignored, and the faction has become increasingly bold.

When I first confronted factional editing, before the Arbitration Committee in 2009, the faction was relatively weak. However, over the ensuing years, the debunkers organized, Guerrilla Skeptics on Wikipedia (GSoW) came into existence, and operates openly. People who come to Wikipedia to attempt to push toward neutrality (or toward “believer” positions) are sanctioned for treating Wikipedia as a battleground, but that is exactly what the skeptics have done, and the Guerrilla Skeptics (consider the name!) create a consistent push with a factional position.

There is increasing evidence of additional off-wiki coordination. It would actually be surprising if it did not exist, it can be difficult to detect. But we have an incident, now.

February 24, 2018 I was banned by the WikiMediaFoundation. There was no warning, and no explanation, and there is no appeal from a global ban. Why? To my knowledge, I did not violate the Terms of Service in any way. There was, however, at least one claim that I did, an allegation by a user that I had “harassed” him by email, the first of our emails was sent through the WMF servers, so if, in fact, that email was harassment, it would be a TOS violation, though a single violation, unless truly egregious, has never been known to result in a ban. I have published all the emails with that user here.

This much is known, however. One of those who claimed to have complained about me to the WMF posted a list of those complaining on the forum, Wikipedia Sucks. It is practically identical to the list I had inferred; it is, then, a convenient list of those who likely libelled me. However, I will be, ah, requesting the information from the WikiMedia Foundation.

Meanwhile, the purpose of this post is to consider the situation with fringe science and an encyclopedia project. First of all, what is fringe science?

The Wikipedia article, no surprise, is massively confused on this.

Description

The term “fringe science” denotes unorthodox scientific theories and models. Persons who create fringe science may have employed the scientific method in their work, but their results are not accepted by the mainstream scientific community. Fringe science may be advocated by a scientist who has some recognition within the larger scientific community, but this is not always the case. Usually the evidence provided by fringe science is accepted only by a minority and is rejected by most experts.[citation needed]

Indeed, citation needed! Evidence is evidence, and is often confused with conclusions. Rejection of evidence is essentially a claim of fraud or reporting error, which is rare for professional scientists, because it can be career suicide. Rather, a scientist may discover an anomaly, au unexplained phenomenon, more precisely, unexplained results. Then a cause may be hypothesized. If this hypothesis is unexpected within existing scientific knowledge, yet the hypothesis is not yet confirmed independently, it may be “rejected” as premature or even wrong. If there are experts in the relevant field who accept it as possible and worthy of investigation, this then is “possible new science.” There may be experts who reject the new analysis, for various reasons, and we will look at a well-known example, “continental drift.”

There is no “journal of mainstream opinion,” but there are journals considered “mainstream.” The term “mainstream” is casually used by many authors without any clear definition. In my own work, I defined “mainstream journals” as journals acceptable as such by Dieter Britz, a skeptical electrochemist. As well, the issue of speciality arises. If there is an electrochemical anomaly discovered, heat the expert chemists cannot explain through chemistry, what is the relevant field of expertise. Often those who claim a field is “fringe” are referring to the opinions of those who are not expert in the directly relevant field, but whose expertise, perhaps, leads to conclusions that are, on the face, contradicted by evidence gathered with expertise other than in their field.

With “cold fusion,” named after a hypothesized source for anomalous heat,  in the Fleischmann-Pons Heat Effect,  (also found by many others), it was immediately assumed that the relevant field would be nuclear physics. It was also assumed that if “cold fusion” were real, it would overturn established physical theory. That was a blatant analytical error, because it assumed a specific model of the heat source, a specific mechanism, which was actually contradicted by the experimental evidence, most notably by the “dead graduate student effect.” If the FPHE were caused by the direct fusion of two deuterons to form helium, the third of Huizenga’s three “miracles,” if absent, would have generated fatal levels of gamma radiation. The second miracle was the reaction being guided in to the very rare helium branch, instead of there being fatal levels of neutron radiation, and the first would be the fusion itself. However, that first miracle would not contradict existing physics, because an unknown form of catalysis may exist, and one is already known, muon-catalyzed fusion.

Evidence is not provided by “fringe science.” It is provided by ordinary scientific study. In cargo cult science, ordinary thinking is worshipped as if conclusive, without the rigorous application of the scientific method. Real science is always open, no matter how well-established a theory. The existing theory may be incomplete. Ptolemaic astronomy provided a modal that was quite good at explaining the motions of planets. Ptolemaic astronomy passed into history when a simpler model was found.

Galileo’s observations were rejected because they contradicted certain beliefs.  The observations were evidence, and “contradiction” is an interpretation, not evidence in itself. (It is not uncommon for  apparently contradictory evidence to be later understood as indicating an underlying reality. But with Galileo, his very observations were rejected — I think, it would be interesting to study this in detail — and if he were lying, it would be a serious moral offense, actually heresy.

The boundary between fringe science and pseudoscience is disputed. The connotation of “fringe science” is that the enterprise is rational but is unlikely to produce good results for a variety of reasons, including incomplete or contradictory evidence.[7]

The “boundary question” is an aspect of the sociology of science. “Unlikely to produce good results,” first of all, creates a bias, where results are classified as “good” or “poor” or “wrong,” all of which moves away from evidence to opinion and interpretation. “Contradictory evidence,” then, suggests anomalies. “Contradiction” does not exist in nature. With cold fusion, an example is the neutron radiation issue. Theory would predict, for two-deuteron fusion, massive neutron radiation. So that Pons and Fleischmann reported neutron radiation, but at levels far, far below what would be expected for d-d fusion generating the reported heat, first of all, contradicted the d-d fusion theory, on theoretical grounds. They were quite aware of this, hence what they actually proposed in their first paper was not “d-d fusion” but an “unknown nuclear reaction.” That was largely ignored, so much noise was being made about “fusion,” it was practically a Perfect Storm.

Further, any substantial neutron radiation would be remarkable as a result from an electrochemical experiment. As came out rather rapidly, Pons and Fleischmann had erred. Later work that established an upper limit for neutron radiation was itself defective (the FP heat effect was very difficult to set up, and it was not enough to create an alleged “FP cell” and look for neutrons, because many such cells produce no measurable heat), but it is clear from later work that neutron generation, if it exists at all, is at extremely low levels, basically irrelevant to the main effect.

Such neutron findings were considered “negative” by Britz. In fact, all experimental findings contribute to knowledge; it became a well-established characteristic of the FP Heat Effect that it does not generate significant high-energy radiation, nor has the heat ever been correlated (across multiple experiments and by multiple independent groups) with any other nuclear product except helium. 

The term may be considered pejorative. For example, Lyell D. Henry Jr. wrote that, “fringe science [is] a term also suggesting kookiness.”[8] This characterization is perhaps inspired by the eccentric behavior of many researchers of the kind known colloquially (and with considerable historical precedent) as mad scientists.[9]

The term does suggest that. The looseness of the definition allows inclusion of many different findings and claims, which do include isolated and idiosyncratic ideas of so-called “mad scientists.” This is all pop science, complicated by the fact that some scientists age and suffer from forms of dementia. However, some highly successful scientists also move into a disregard of popular opinion, which can create an impression of “kookiness,” which is, after all, popular judgment and not objective. They may be willing to consider ideas rejected for social reasons by others.

Although most fringe science is rejected, the scientific community has come to accept some portions of it.[10] One example of such is plate tectonics, an idea which had its origin in the fringe science of continental drift and was rejected for decades.[11]

There are lost and crucial details. Rejected by whom, and when? The present tense is used, and this is common with the anti-fringe faction on Wikipedia. If something was rejected by some or by many, that condition is assumed to continee and is reported in the present tense, as as it were a continuing fact, when an author cannot do more than express an opinion about the future.  Now, plate tectonics is mentioned. “Continental drift” is called “fringe science,” even after it became widely accepted.

Wegener’s proposal of continental drift is a fascinating example. The Wikipedia article does not mention “fringe science.” The Wikipedia article is quite good, it seems to me. One particular snippet is of high interest:

David Attenborough, who attended university in the second half of the 1940s, recounted an incident illustrating its lack of acceptance then: “I once asked one of my lecturers why he was not talking to us about continental drift and I was told, sneeringly, that if I could prove there was a force that could move continents, then he might think about it. The idea was moonshine, I was informed.”[47]

As late as 1953 – just five years before Carey[48] introduced the theory of plate tectonics – the theory of continental drift was rejected by the physicist Scheidegger on the following grounds.[49]

That rejection was essentially pseudoskepticism and pseudoscientific. There was observation (experimental evidence) suggesting drift. The lack of explanatory theory is not evidence of anything other than possible ignorance. “Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.”

The fact is that the continental drift hypothesis, as an explanation for the map appearance and fossil record, was not generally accepted. What shifted opinion was the appearance of a plausible theory. Worthy of note was how strongly the opinion of “impossible” was, such that “proof” was demanded. This is a sign of a fixed mind, not open to new ideas. The history of science is a long story of developing methods to overcome prejudice like that. This is a struggle between established belief and actual fact. Experimental evidence is fact. Such and such was observed, such and such was measured. These are truth, the best we have. It can turn out that recorded data was a result of artifact, and some records are incorrect, but that is relatively rare. Scientists are trained to record data accurately and to report it neutrally. Sometimes they fail, they are human. But science has the potential to grow beyond present limitations because of this habit.

Anomalies, observations that are not understood within existing scientific models, are indications that existing models are incomplete. Rejecting new data or analyses because they don’t fit existing models is circular. Rather, a far better understanding of this is that the evidence for a new idea has not risen to a level of detail, including controlled tests, to overcome standing ideas. Science, as a whole, properly remains agnostic. Proof is for math, not the rest of science. This does not require acceptance of new ideas until one is convinced by the preponderance of evidence. Pseudoskeptics often demand “proof.” “Extraordinary claims” require extraordinary evidence.” Yes, but what does that actually mean? What if there is “ordinary evidence?” What is the definition of an “extraordinary claim,” such that ordinary evidence is to be disregarded?

It’s subjective. It means nothing other than “surprising to me” — or to “us,” often defined to exclude anyone with a contrary opinion. For Wikipedia, peer-reviewed secondary source in a clearly mainstream journal is rejected because the author is allegedly a “believer.” That is editorial opinion, clearly not neutral. Back to the fringe science article:

The confusion between science and pseudoscience, between honest scientific error and genuine scientific discovery, is not new, and it is a permanent feature of the scientific landscape …. Acceptance of new science can come slowly.[12]

This was presented by formatting as a quotation, but was not attributed in the text. This should be “According to Michael W. Friedlander.” in his book on the topic, At the Fringes of Science (1005). He is very clear: there is no clear demarcation between “science” and “fringe science.”

Friedlander does cover cold fusion, to some degree. He hedges his comments. On page 1, “… after months of independent, costly, and exhaustive checks by hundreds of scientist around the world, the excitement over cold fusion cooled off, and the claim is probably destined to take its place alongside monopoles, N-rays, polywater, and other fly-by-night “discoveries” that flash across our scientific skies to end up as part of our folklore.”

He hedged with “probably.” On what evidence was he basing that assessment?  Cold fusion was not actually his primary investigation. On pp. 27-34, he reports the early days of the cold fusion fiasco, (with some errors), and doesn’t report on what came later. He doesn’t mention the later confirmations of the heat effect, nor the discovery of a nuclear product, published in 1993 in a mainstream journal (though announced in 1991, Huizenga covered it in 1993). He does not distinguish between the”fusion theory” and the actual report of anomalous heat by experts in heat measurement, not to mention the later discovery of a correlated nuclear product. He closes that section with:

To summarize briefly, the cold fusion “discovery” will surely be remembered as a striking example of how science should not be done. Taubes has compared “many of the proponents of cold fusion” to Blaise Pascal, the seventeenth century scientist who “renounced a life of science for one of faith>” [Bad Science (1993), 92] The whole episode certainly illustrates the practical difficulty in implementing an innocuous-sounding “replication” and points to the need for full and open disclosure if there are to be meaningful tests and checks. It has also exposed some unfortunate professional sensitivities, jealousies, and resentments. At least to date, the exercise appears to be devoid of redeeming scientific value — but perhaps something may yet turn up as the few holdouts tenaciously pursue a theory as evasive as the Cheshire cat.

I agree with much of this, excepting his ignorance of results in the field, and his idea that what was to be pursued was a “theory.” No, what was needed was clear confirmation of the heat anomaly, then confirmation of the direct evidence that it was nuclear in nature (correlated helium!), and then far more intensive study of the effect itself, its conditions and other correlates and only then would a viable theory become likely.

Cold fusion was the “Scientific Fiasco of the Century” (Huizenga, 1992) It looks like Friendlander did not look at the second edition of Huizenga’s book, where he pointed to the amazing discovery of correlated helium. There was a problem in cold fusion research, that there were many “confirmations” of the heat effect, but they were not exact replications, mostly. Much of the rush to confirm — or disconfirm — was premature and focused on what was not present: “expected” nuclear products, i.e., neutrons. Tritium was confirmed but at very low levels and not correlated with heat (often the tritium studies were of cells where heat was not measured).

Nobody sane would argue that fringe claims should be “believed” without evidence, and where each individual draws the line on what level of evidence is necessary is a personal choice. It is offensive, however, when those who support a fringe claim are attacked and belittled and sometimes hounded. If fringe claims are to be rejected ipso facto, i.e., because they are considered fringe, the possibility of growth in scientific understanding is suppressed. This will be true even if most fringe claims ultimately disappear. Ordinary evidence showing some anomaly is just that, showing an anomaly. By definition, an anomaly indicates something is not understood.

With cold fusion, evidence for a heat anomaly accumulated, and because the conditions required to create the anomaly were very poorly understood, a “negative confirmation” was largely meaningless, indicating only that whatever approach was used did not generate the claimed effect, and it could have been understood that the claimed effect was not “fusion,” but anomalous heat. If the millions of dollars per month that the U.S. DoE was spending frantically in 1989 to test the claim had been understood that way, and if time had been allowed for confirmation to appear, it might not have been wasted.

As it is, Bayesian analysis of the major “negative confirmations” shows that with what became known later, those experiments could be strongly predicted to fail, they simply did not set up the conditions that became known as necessary. This was the result of a rush to judgment, pressure was put on the DoE to come up with quick answers, perhaps because the billion-dollar-per-year hot fusion effort was being, it was thought, threatened, with heavy political implications. Think of a billion dollars per year no longer being available for salaries for, say, plasma physicists.

However, though they were widely thought to have “rejected” cold fusion, the reality is that both U.S. DoE reviews were aware of the existence of evidence supporting the heat effect and its nuclear nature, and recommended further research to resolve open questions; in 2004, the 18-member panel was evenly divided on the heat question, with half considering the evidence to be conclusive and half not. Then on the issue of a nuclear origin, a third considered the evidence for a nuclear effect to be “conclusive or somewhat conclusive.”

The heat question has nothing to do with nuclear theory, but it is clear that some panel members rejected the heat evidence because of theory. The most recent major scientific work on cold fusion terms itself as a study of the Anomalous Heat Effect, and they are working on improving precision of heat and helium measurements.

If one does not accept the heat results, there would be no reason to accept nuclear evidence! So it is clear from the 2004 DoE review that cold fusion was, by then, moving into the mainstream, even though there was still rampant skepticism.

The rejection of cold fusion became an entrenched idea, an information cascade that, as is normal for such cascades, perpetuates itself, as scientists and others assume that was “everyone thinks” must be true.

In mainstream journals, publication of papers, and more significantly, reviews that accept the reality of the effect began increasing around 2005. There are no negative reviews that were more than a passing mention. What is missing is reviews in certain major journals that essentially promised to not publish on the topic, over a quarter-century ago.

One of the difficulties is that the basic research that shows, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the effect is real and nuclear in nature was all done more than a decade ago. It is old news, even though it was not widely reported. Hence my proposal, beginning quite a few years ago, was for replication of that work with increased precision, which is a classic measure of “pathological science.” Will the correlation decline or disappear with increased precision?

This is exactly the work that a genuine skeptic would want to see.

I have often written that genuine skepticism is essential to science. As well, those who will give new ideas or reported anomalies enough credence to support testing are also essential. Some of them will be accused of being “believers” or “proponents,” or even “diehards.”

The mainstream needs the fringes to be alive, in order to breathe and grow.

Diehard believers have hope, especially if they also trust reality. Diehard skeptics are simply dying.

(More accurately, “diehard skeptic” is an oxymoron. Such a person is a pseudoskeptic, a negative believer.)

Reviews

 

RationalWiki had a wide reputation as a joke wiki, where skeptics and atheists — and adolescents — fully engaged in unrestrained snark. There are many reviews, but start with the Wikipedia article. It will be fun to compare that article to the favorite targets of the RatWikians and their allies, the Guerilla Skeptics on Wikipedia. Any socks there? Some much to research, so little time…. That one is for later. I immediately see POV-pushing in the editing….

This was reasonable, on the face, this was not, it involves synthesis, unless there is reliable source for the claim that criticism is because “beliefs” are challenged. That kind of claim is difficult even when reliable source can be found for it, it should be attributed … unless there was a formal study!

Lets start with a list of reviews. First, from Wikipedia:

http://firstmonday.org/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/5597/4652

At first glance, this source is misrepresented in the article. (note 13). What the article has is synthesis from the source. The source does not actually say that.

  •  Smith, Jonathan C. Critical Thinking: Pseudoscience and the Paranormal. John Wiley & Sons, 2017, pp 77. 9781119029489
  • Shvets, Alexander (October 2, 2014). Filev, D.; Jabłkowski, J.; Kacprzyk, J.; et al., eds. Intelligent Systems’2014: Proceedings of the 7th IEEE International Conference Intelligent Systems IS’2014, September 24–26, 2014, Warsaw, Poland, Volume 2: Tools, Architectures, Systems, Applications. Series: Advances in Intelligent Systems and Computing, Vol. 323Springer Publishing. A Method of Automatic Detection of Pseudoscientific Publications, page 533 et seq. ISBN 978-3-319-11310-4.

This is a conference paper, such are often not carefully reviewed. This is the sourced text:

In Intelligent Systems’2014, Alexander Shvets stated that RationalWiki is one of the few online resources that “provide some information about pseudoscientific theories” and notes that it attempts to “organize and categorize knowledge about pseudoscientific theories, personalities, and organizations”.

What RationalWiki does is to organize, not knowledge (Wikipedia does that), but snark, loosely based on very irregularly collected sources, often terminally weak.

This is a conference paper as well. The mention of RationalWiki is shallow, the authors do not appear to have done more than look at the stated purposes, and a hosted essay by Carl Sagan. The impression one would get from reading the article is not the impression I would see from the source.

  • https://www.americanthinker.com/articles/2014/11/rationalwiki_emamerican_thinkerem_is_a_wingnut_publication.html
  • https://www.cato.org/blog/ten-things-every-economist-should-know-about-gold-standard
  • Einspruch, Franklin (September 6, 2016). “Cultural Marxists Are Actually Pomofascists”The Federalist. Retrieved August 14, 2017

These are sources that mention a specific RationalWiki article to expose it or argue against it. No source so far is actually a review of the site, anything more than a passing mention. I’ll keep looking.

Dissertations are not generally considered reliable source, they would be primary sources. This dissertation simply mentions an idea taken from RationalWiki, and it describes the purpose of the site, with no analysis of whether or not the site actually accomplishes that purpose.

This went on with links showing that someone referenced RationalWiki in some way. Actual reviews? None (neither positive nor negative.)

Okay, I know to look at history. Did anyone attempt to add actual reviews? Wikipedia does not make it easy to search history. While that could easily be done from the database, no priority has been given it. Someone might take advantage of that and create a site with full-database search access. It would make certain kinds of wiki studies far easier!

I found a brief review that had been added and immediately removed, as it was a “blog” and thus “not reliable source.” This was only a superficial analysis of “site bias,” not actually controversial and not very informative.

There was an Articles for deletion discussion on RationalWiki. I find no assertion of source sufficient to establish notability. Passing mentions don’t count. It was kept, though there was much opinion to keep it as a redirect to the Conservapedia article. In the discussion I found these sources:

  • http://blastmagazine.com/2007/09/03/thoughts-on-a-conservapedia/
  • http://articles.latimes.com/2007/jun/19/nation/na-schlafly19/2 (page 2 is important. I couldn’t find this at first.)

Those are passing mention, really about Conservapedia. This was weak, but that’s Wikipedia. An admin takes a glance at a discussion, makes a snap decision, and unless someone cares enough to appeal it, there it goes, enshrined as a community decision (which it didn’t look like to me! Most wanted to see better sources. My own opinion as an inclusionist would do something very different…. )

https://www.ripoffreport.com/reports/the-rationalwiki-foundation/albuquerque-new-mexico-87106/the-rationalwiki-foundation-rationalwiki-rational-wiki-rw-rationalwikiorg-rationalwi-1143383

Not considered reliable source, but an actual review! With details! This report describes RatWiki as it was when I was active there. Some of that atmosphere is still there. the report was by “Rational Wiki Exposed,” not exactly an encouraging author if one is looking for neutrality. But it was fairly sober.

Okay, I found a genuine revert war, starting with [ this edit], adding a review.  The user, an SPA, was warned for edit warring and disappeared. The source:

RationalWiki guts a reader’s attempt to correct its article on female genital mutilation

This is another source that is based on “RationalWiki is wrong on X.” This happens to be a topic I know a great deal about. Many sources misrepresent the position of Islam on the topic. What upsets people so much is not what is allowed or approved, and the majority opinion is that the extreme practices are prohibited. But this is not our topic here. The RatWiki article on this topic is far from the worst there.

I round a reference to the RW article where they brag report about mentions.

That quotes from many mentions. Indeed, it quotes from the book mentioned above:

Smith, Jonathan. Critical Thinking: Pseudoscience and the Paranormal, 2nd Ed. John Wiley & Sons, 2017. 9781119029489. Lists RationalWiki as a logical fallacy library.

This is hilarious. I’m not really sure what the author intended. The instructions are to “select an example of a logical fallacy.” So RatWiki is a place to find the expression of logical fallacies. The training that I can imagine is to teach students how to spot logical fallacies. If a site is merely a list of logical fallacies with examples given, there would be little or no challenge. Rather, each of those sites, it is highly likely, expresses logical fallacies. The Nizkor.org site is not about logical fallacies, as such, it is political. If one’s political beliefs align with the beliefs of a source, one is far less likely to spot the fallacies.

Sound training will practice identifying logical fallacies in our own thinking or argument, or in the arguments and thinking of those we might agree with. I generally agree with the substance of what is on the Nizkor site. But there is at least one blatant logical fallacy on the home page. Can you spot one?

5.4 Group Exercise: Identify the FallacyIn this exercise, divide into two teams. Each team selects an example of a logical fallacy (from this chapter) from one of these websites:

Team 1 presents its example to Team 2. Team 2 has five minutes to identify it and explain it. If the explanation is acceptable to the moderator, Team 2 gets a point. Repeat for Team 2. Complete until each team has a chance to identify five logical fallacies. The team correctly identifying the most fallacies wins.

I have created a link for each site. How the exercise would be done is unclear. There is a form of logical fallacy, “straw man,” where one presents an argument that is allegedly the argument of another, but it is not actually what the other says, thinks, or believes. So if students pick a description of someone else’s argument, they would be explaining a fantasy. Much more interesting, I’d think, to identify logical fallacies presented as factual or logical, and RatWiki is full of those, it is practically the norm in some articles.  For extra credit, identify logical errors in the thinking of people you agree with, and for a doctorate, identify them in your own thinking, because everyone does this (at least until it is distinguished). A loglcal fallacy does not mean that the conclusion is wrong, set that right/wrong mess aside. It merely means that the conclusion doesn’t follow from the premises. Something may be missing.

from other sources:

This refers to the RW article, Michael Prescott

(If Mr. Prescott sees this and requests that the link be removed, I’ll do it. Links raise Google ranking. Unfortunately, to study RationalWiki and create something verifiable, I need to place links, but I can find less convenient ways to do it, on request. I have not yet studied the Prescott article, but I’ve certainly seen worse on RatWiki!)

The public comments are interesting…. I decided to look at who created this article.

This then led me to more socks…. another day, another set of socks documented. There are certain red flags, easy to see, sometimes. Some identifications are not so easy, and there are probably some errors. The Smiths have no monopoly on snarky defamation.

to be continued ….

SOS Wikipedia

Original post

I’ve been working on some studies that involve a lot of looking at Wikipedia, and I come across the Same Old S … ah, Stuff! Yeah! Stuff!

Wikipedia has absolutely wonderful policies that are not worth the paper they are not written on, because what actually matters is enforcement. If you push a point of view considered fringe by the administrative cabal (Jimbo’s word for what he created … but shhhh! Don’t write the word on Wikipedia, the sky will fall!) you are in for some, ah, enforcement. But if you have and push a clear anti-fringe point of view — which is quite distinct from neutrally insisting on policy — nothing will happen, unless you go beyond limits, in which case you might even get blocked until your friends bail you out, as happened with jps, mentioned below. Way beyond limits.

So an example pushed against my eyeballs today. It’s not about cold fusion, but it shows the thinking of an administrator (JzG is the account but he signs “Guy”) and a user (the former Science Apologist, who has a deliberately unpronounceable username but who signs jps (those were his real-life initials), who were prominent in establishing the very iffy state of Cold fusion.

Wikipedia:Fringe_theories/Noticeboard


Aron K. Barbey ‎[edit]

Before looking at what JzG (Guy) and UnpronounceableUsername (jps) wrote, what happened here? What is the state of the article and the user?

First thing I find is that Aron barbey wrote the article and has almost no other edits. However, he wrote the article on Articles for creation. Looking at his user talk page, I find

16 July 2012, Barbey was warned about writing an article about himself, by a user declining a first article creation submission.

9 July 2014, it appears that Aron barbey created a version of the article at Articles for Creation. That day, he was politely and properly warned about conflict of interest.

The article was declined, see 00:43:46, 9 July 2014 review of submission by Aron barbey

from the log found there:

It appears that the article was actually originally written by Barbey in 2012. See this early copy, and logs for that page.

Barbey continued to work on his article in the new location, and resubmitted it August 2, 2014

It was accepted August 14, 2014.  and moved to mainspace.

Now, the article itself. It has not been written or improved by someone with a clue as to what Wikipedia articles need. As it stands, it will not withstand a Articles for deletion request. The problem is that there are few, if any, reliable secondary sources. Over three years after the article was accepted, JzG multiply issue-tagged it. Those tags are correct. There are those problems, some minor, some major. However, this edit was appalling, and the problem shows up in the FTN filing.

The problems with the article would properly suggest AfD if they cannot be resolved. So why did JzG go to FTN? What is the “Fringe Theory” involved? He would go there for  one reason: on that page the problems with this article can be seen by anti-fringe users, who may then either sit on the article to support what JzG is doing, or vote for deletion with opinions warped by claims of “fringe,” which actually should be irrelevant. The issue, by policy would be the existence of reliable secondary sources. If there are not enough, then deletion is appropriate, fringe or not fringe.

So his filing:


The article on Aron Barbey is an obvious autobiography, edited by himself and IP addresses from his university. The only other edits have been removing obvious puffery – and even then, there’s precious little else in the article. What caught my eye is the fact that he’s associated with a Frontiers journal, and promulgates a field called “Nutritional Cognitive Neuroscience”, which was linked in his autobiography not to a Wikipedia article but to a journal article in Frontiers. Virtually all the cites in the article are primary references to his won work, and most of those are in the Frontiers journal he edits. Which is a massive red flag.

Who edited the article is a problem, but the identity of editors is not actually relevant to Keep/Delete and content. Or it shouldn’t be. In reality, those arguments often prevail. If an edit is made in conflict of interest, it can be reverted. But … what is the problem with that journal? JzG removed the link and explanation. For Wikipedia Reliable Source, the relevant fact is the publisher. But I have seen JzG and jps arguing that something is not reliable source because the author had fringe opinions — in their opinion!

What JzG removed:

15:48, 15 December 2017‎ JzG (talk | contribs)‎ . . (27,241 bytes) (-901)‎  . (remove links to crank journal) (undo)

This took out this link:

Nutritional Cognitive Neuroscience

and removed what could show that the journal is not “crank.” There is a better source (showing that the editors of the article didn’t know what they were doing). Nature Publishing Group press release. This “crank journal” is Reliable Source for Wikipedia, and that is quite clear. (However, there are some problems with all this, complexities. POV-pushing confuses the issues, it doesn’t resolve them.

Aron Barbey is Associate Editor of Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, Nature Publishing Group journal.[14] Barbey is also on the Editorial Board of NeuroImage,[15] Intelligence,[16] and Thinking & Reasoning,.[17]

Is Barbey an “Associate Editor”? This is the journal home page.

Yes, Barbie is an Associate Editor. There are two Chief Editors. A journal will choose a specialist in the field, to participate in the selection and review of articles, so this indicates some notability, but is a primary source.

And JzG mangled:

Barbey is known for helping to establish the field of Nutritional Cognitive Neuroscience.[36]

was changed to this:

Barbey is known for helping to establish the field of Cognitive Neuroscience.[35]

JzG continues on FTN:

So, I suspect we have a woo-monger here, but I don’t know whether the article needs to be nuked, or expanded to cover reality-based critique, if any exists. Guy (Help!) 16:03, 15 December 2017 (UTC)

“Woo” is a term used by “skeptic” organizations. “Woo-monger” is uncivil, for sure. As well, the standard for inclusion in Wikipedia is not “reality-based” but “verifiable in reliable source.” “Critique” assumes that what Barbey is doing is controversial, and Guy has found no evidence for that other than his own knee-jerk responses to the names of things.

It may be that the article needs to be deleted. It certainly needs to be improved. However, what is obvious is that JzG is not at all shy about displaying blatant bias, and insulting an academic and an academic journal.

And jps does quite the same:

This is borderline Men who stare at goats sort of research (not quite as bad as that, but following the tradition) that the US government pushes around. Nutriceuticals? That’s very dodgy. Still, the guy’s won millions of dollars to study this stuff. Makes me think a bit less of IARPA. jps (talk) 20:41, 15 December 2017 (UTC)

This does not even remotely resemble that Army paranormal research, but referring to that project is routine for pseudosceptics whenever there is government support of anything they consider fringe. Does nutrition have any effect on intelligence? Is the effect of nutrition on intelligence of any interest? Apparently, not for these guys. No wonder they are as they are. Not enough kale (or, more accurately, not enough nutritional research, which is what this fellow is doing.)

This is all about warping Wikipedia toward an extreme Skeptical Point of View. This is not about improving the article, or deleting it for lack of reliable secondary sources. It’s about fighting woo and other evils.

In editing the article, JzG used these edit summaries:

  • (remove links to crank journal)
  • (rm. vanispamcruft)
  • (Selected publications: Selected by Barbey, usually published by his own journal. Let’s see if anyone else selects them)
  • (Cognitive Neuroscience Methods to Enhance Human Intelligence: Oh good, they are going to be fad diet sellers too)

This are all uncivil (the least uncivil would be the removal of publications, but it has no basis. JzG has no idea of what would be notable and what not.

The journal is not “his own journal.” He is merely an Associate Editor, selected for expertise. He would not be involved in selecting his own article to publish. I’ve been through this with jps, actually, where Ed Storms was a consulting editor for Naturwissenschaften and the claim was made that he had approved his own article, a major peer-reviewed review of cold fusion, still not used in the article. Yet I helped with the writing of that article and Storms had to go through ordinary peer review. The faction makes up arguments like this all the time.

I saw this happen again and again: an academic edits Wikipedia, in his field. He is not welcomed and guided to support Wikipedia editorial policy. He is, instead, attacked and insulted. Ultimately, if he is not blocked, he goes away and the opinion grows in academia that Wikipedia is hopeless. I have no idea, so far, if this neuroscientist is notable by Wikipedia standards, but he is definitely a real neuroscientist, and being treated as he is being treated is utterly unnecessary. But JzG has done this for years.

Once upon a time, when I saw an article like this up for Deletion, I might stub it, reducing the article to just what is in the strongest sources, which a new editor without experience may not recognize. Later, if the article survives the AfD discussion, more can be added from weaker sources, including some primary sources, if it’s not controversial. If the article isn’t going to survive AfD, I’d move it to user space, pending finding better sources. (I moved a fair number of articles to my own user space so they could be worked on. Those were deleted at the motion of …. JzG.)

(One of the problems with AfD is that if an article is facing deletion, it can be a lot of work to find proper sources. I did the work on some occasions, and the article was deleted anyway, because there had been so many delete !votes (Wikipedia pretends it doesn’t vote, one of the ways the community lies to itself.  before the article was improved, and people don’t come back and reconsider, usually. That’s all part of Wikipedia structural dysfunction. Wasted work. Hardly anyone cares.)

Sources on Barbey

Barbey and friends may be aware of sources not easily found on the internet. Any newspaper will generally be a reliable source. If Barbey’s work is covered in a book that is not internet-searchable, it may be reliable source. Sourcing for the biography should be coverage of Barbey and/or Barbey’s work, attributed to him, and not merely passing mention. Primary sources (such as his university web site) are inadequate. If there were an article on him in the journal where he is Associate Editor, it would probably qualify (because he would not be making the editorial decision on that). If he is the publisher, or he controls the publisher, it would not qualify.

Reliable independent sources
  • WAMC.org BRADLEY CORNELIUS “Dr. Aron Barbey, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign – Emotional Intelligence  APR 27, 2013
  • 2013 Carle Research Institute Awards October 2013, Research Newsletter. Singles out a paper for recognition, “Nutrient Biomarker Patterns, Cognitive Function, and MRI Measures of Brain Aging,” however, I found a paper by that title and Barbey is not listed as an author, nor could I find a connection with Barbey.
  • SMITHSONIAN MAGAZINE David Noonan, “How to Plug In Your Brain” MAY 2016
  • The New Yorker.  Emily Anthes  “Vietnam’s Neuroscientific Legacy” October 2, 2014 PASSING MENTION
  • MedicalXpress.com Liz Ahlberg Touchstone “Cognitive cross-training enhances learning, study finds” July 25, 2017

“Aron Barbey, a professor of psychology” (reliable sources make mistakes) Cites a study, the largest and most comprehensive to date, … published in the journal Scientific Reports. N. Ward et al, Enhanced Learning through Multimodal Training: Evidence from a Comprehensive Cognitive, Physical Fitness, and Neuroscience Intervention, Scientific Reports (2017).
The error indicates to me that this was actually written by Touchstone, based on information provided by the University of Illinois, not merely copied from that.

Iffy but maybe

My sense is that continued search could find much more. Barbey is apparently a mainstream neuroscientist, with some level of recognition. His article needs work by an experienced Wikipedian.

Notes for Wikipedians

An IP editor appeared in the Fringe Theories Noticeboard discussion pointing to this CFC post:

Abd is stalking and attacking you both on his blog [25] in regard to Aron Barbey. He has done the same on about 5 other articles of his. [26]. He was banned on Wikipedia yet he is still active on Wiki-media projects. Can this guy get banned for this? The Wikimedia foundation should be informed about his harassment. 82.132.217.30 (talk) 13:30, 16 December 2017 (UTC)

This behavior is clearly of the sock family, called Anglo Pyramidologist on Wikipedia, and when I discovered the massive damage that this family had done, I verified the most recent activity with stewards (many accounts were locked and IPs blocked) and I have continued documentation, which Wikipedia may use or not, as it chooses. It is all verifiable. This IP comment was completely irrelevant to the FTN discussion, but attempting to turn every conversation into an attack on favorite targets is common AP sock behavior. For prior edits in this sequence, see (from the meta documentation):

This new account is not an open proxy. However, I will file a request anyway, because the behavior is so clear, following up on the 193.70.12.231 activity.

I have private technical evidence that this is indeed the same account or strongly related to Anglo Pyramidologist, see the Wikipedia SPI.

(I have found other socks, some blocked, not included in that archive.)

I have also been compiling obvious socks and reasonable suspicions from RationalWiki, for this same user or set of users, after he created a revenge article there on me (as he had previously done with many others).  It’s funny that he is claiming stalking. He has obviously been stalking, finding quite obscure pages and now giving them much more publicity.

And I see that there is now more sock editing on RationalWiki, new accounts with nothing better to do than document that famous troll or pseudoscientist or anti-skeptic (none of which I am but this is precisely what they claim.) Thanks for the incoming links. Every little bit helps.

If anyone thinks that there is private information in posts that should not ethically be revealed, please contact me through my WMF email, it works. Comments are also open on this blog, and corrections are welcome.

On the actual topic of that FTN discussion, the Aron Barbey article (with whom I have absolutely no connection), I have found better sources and my guess is that there are even better ones available.

JzG weighs in

Nobody is surprised. Abd is obsessive. He even got banned from RationalWiki because they got bored with him. Not seeing any evidence of meatpuppetry or sockpuppetry here though. Guy (Help!) 20:16, 16 December 2017 (UTC)

This is a blog I started and run, I have control. Guy behaves as if the Fringe Theories Noticeboard is his personal blog, where he can insult others without any necessity, including scientists like Barbey and a writer like me. And he lies. I cannot correct JzG’s lies on Wikipedia, but I can do it here.

I am not “banned” from RationalWiki. I was blocked by a sock of the massively disruptive user who I had been documenting, on meta for the WMF, on RationalWiki and on my blog when that was deleted by the same sock. The stated cause of the block was not “boring,” though they do that on RW. It was “doxxing.” As JzG should know, connecting accounts is not “doxxing.” It is revelation of real names for accounts that have not freely revealed that, or personal identification, like place of employment.

“Not seeing any evidence of meatpuppetry or sockpuppetry here.” Really? That IP is obviously the same user as behind the globally blocked Anglo Pyramidologist pushing the same agenda, this time with, likely, a local cell phone provide (because the geolocation matches know AP location), whereas with the other socking, documented above, was with open proxies.)

Properly, that IP should have been blocked and the edits reverted as vandalism. But JzG likes attack dogs. They are useful for his purposes.

Joshua Cude

I came to suspect that Joshua Cude was Joshua P. Schroeder. The basic reason was that JC was the most knowledgeable allegedly skeptical writer on cold fusion anywhere on the internet. Most skeptics simply don’t know enough to make clear cases, and if they do write about cold fusion, display ignorance. Joshua often did that, but … was able to go far deeper, and was quite familiar with the arguments. Back in 2011 or so, I knew less about the history of Joshua P. Schroeder than I now know, but still saw him as the most knowledgeable critic of cold fusion on Wikipedia. The coincidence of first names, the unusual level of knowledge, and timing as well reinforced the suspicion.

Timing: Schroeder was indef blocked on Wikipedia, 21 January 2011. He had maybe over 35,000 Wikipedia edits at that point, which is high if one isn’t doing bot-assisted editing. Many high-contribution users, blocked, start socking, as he did, but as enforcement ramps up, such will often take up activity elsewhere. Did he do this? Where?

The earliest comment I have found from Cude was  Thu, 10 Feb 2011 11:51:14 -0800 on Vortex-l.

As well, Joshua Cude was highly knowledgeable about physics, and Schroeder was a PhD candidate in astrophysics (and did receive his doctorate). From the extensive contributions on various fora, documented below, he had a high interest in countering what he saw as pseudoscience. That such a person would not be active on Wikipedia, if not blocked there, would be unusual. He would, in fact, be welcomed there by the faction that supported JPS. He might get into trouble with his high level of incivility toward those with differing views, but JPS survived doing that and also was supported enough to become unbanned, 10 August 2013. I intend to look at the combined contribution history of both accounts, to find possible correlations (though studying the arguments is more important than “real identity.”

I have found no candidates for “Cude on Wikipedia” or “jps elsewhere.” Both lacunae would be odd. I have no proof, merely grounds for suspicion. The arguments of Cude, which I begin to examine anew below, are blatant pseudoskepticism that has a high knowledge of cold fusion claims, and, as well, a high knowledge of true skepticism, which he uses.

This is not relevant to Wikipedia, his activity elsewhere should not be mentioned there (unless he mentions it). Sometimes administrators and others I was dealing with on Wikipedia referred to my Wikiversity and Wikipedia Review activity; that was generally improper.

Sometimes Cude is debunking the comments of “believers” who don’t really know what they are talking about. He is often right in some way. That is, there is some fact behind much of what he says, but he also makes categorical statements, without evidence, or with misleading evidence, that are just plain wrong, and if one does not know the field, a reader may not know the difference.

I wrote about JPS and Joshua Cude on newvortex:

648 ScienceApologist and Joshua P. Schroeder Sep 15, 2013

I have many times mentioned that Joshua Cude is almost certainly Joshua P. Schroeder, who was ScienceApologist on Wikipedia. Joshua Cude appeared immediately after Schroeder was 
site-banned. The arguments were identical. The real Schroeder has never denied the identity.

This is no longer true. I recently emailed Schroeder and he responded. He did not actually deny being Joshua Cude.  Rather he wrote:

The fact that you think I’m “Joshua Cude” still is just more evidence of your continued paranoia. Stay in your lane.

This was a private mail in which I was attempting to cooperate with Cude. I still have reasons to think Cude might be Schroeder. As with any hypothesis, it could be wrong, but accusing me of “paranoia” is exactly what a troll would do. What I had stated was:

I have not been writing “long screeds” about you on the internet. I have written much more about Joshua Cude, which I do suspect is you from a number of evidences. That was old. Mostly he’s smart and relatively knowledgeable, like you. I said we have issues, and I’d hope we can talk about them and possibly come to some agreement, but if you prefer to maintain hostility, I don’t predict a good outcome.

He maintained hostility, so far. Maybe he will smell the coffee. Studying his Wikipedia contributions, what stands out is a maintained hostility, toward many. His problem, not mine.

As I wrote, I had written extensively about Cude, but only a little about jps. Occasionally I mentioned that I thought Cude was jps, but the long posts were about Cude and Cude’s arguments, so that Schroeder thinks it was about him shows a connection. I have seen similar with the studies on Anglo Pyramodilogist. A sock appears who claims I am doxxing him, but denying that he is Anglo Pyramidologist, a known sock master who is known to lie. It’s either about him or it is not. It is possible — barely — that he is one of the socks incorrectly identified as AP, which is possible. But I have direct evidence that this sock was connected with many others. If there was some confusion, it was far back, in around 2011 or 2012, on Wikipedia. Anglo Pyramidologist had specific interests, then. Recent AP socks have very much the same interests. Duck test.

Here I will be interested in the arguments Cude made, which may be also compared with those made on Wikipedia by JPS. I have studied Cude’s arguments extensively in the past, communicating with him on moletrap and other places. I documented the arguments on newvortex.

https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/newvortex/search/messages?query=joshua%20cude

Joshua Cude’s record of comments:

vortex-l

first comment:

total comments: 933 for  Joshua Cude

last comment:

Tue, 04 Jun 2013 05:21:46 -0700 Re: [Vo]:Adding Energy to get Energy

moletrap

  • joshua cude 
  • Account Created Jan 12th 2012
  • Last Active Oct 29th 2014
  • Visit Count 283
  • Discussions Started 0
  • Comments Added 107

Most cold fusion pseudoskeptics are relatively ignorant. Cude was not. He was clearly aware of much evidence that most pseudoskeptics would not have seen. What he does is present a series of arguments that are true, or half-true, sometimes (or absolutely wrong sometimes), presented as fact, all in a particular implied or stated direction, which is a sign of pseudoskepticism rather than skepticism. I see that, in 2013, I thought he had maybe two posts after registering, then this,  joshua cude, Feb 3rd 2013, jumped in with this:

Posted by Abd:

Rather, heat/helium is the single replicable experiment that skeptics were demanding, for years, and it was first done almost twenty years ago.

Like most of what you’ve written here, your heat/helium account is a gross misrepresentation of the facts.

That is a variety of ad hominem argument. Is that a “gross misrepresentation”? My Current Science paper, published in February, 2015, essentially made that same claim. The reviewer, apparently a physicist, did not like the paper. I rewrote it to clearly address his objections, and he turned 180 degrees. Of course, that would be an argument from authority. Perhaps I did misrepresent, but Joshua had not shown that. Does he show it here? Or is he himself grossly misrepresenting the situation? Cude, often, lies with facts and concedes nothing.

A correlation between heat and helium is clearly an important and definitive experiment for cold fusion.

Indeed. Has it been done? Let’s start with the fact that before Miles, 1991, there was no attempt to correlate heat with any nuclear product. Many papers showed, however, that expected nuclear products that could possibly explain the heat were absent. Many of those papers though, didn’t look for heat at all, or didn’t see heat, so they did not test correlation. Correlation would only be measurable if there was a finding of anomalous heat (artifact or not). Correlation can cut through noise, i.e, measurement error.

And yet, the best you can point to is a review by someone who took (and possible still takes) Rossi seriously. Anyone who suggests Rossi’s demos represent evidence for nuclear reactions is not to be taken seriously.

This is pure ad hominem argument, and ignoring what another (jps) ignored on Wikipedia. Wikipedia looks for Reliable Sources based not on authors, but on publishers. First of all, taking Rossi “seriously” was done by many, including a physicist who was on the Nobel Prize committee (Kullander). He was also wrong, but being wrong does not then disqualify anyone from presenting opinions or research.

Joshua is here talking about Ed Storms, who did think it was possible that Rossi had something, even though he knew that the “demos” were misleading garbage. It’s a complex question. Rossi is probably insane, and a con artist, knowingly or instinctively. And that is completely irrelevant here beyond showing pseudoskeptical, dedicated debunking behavior. Having studied the lawsuit (Rossi v. Darden, documented heavily here) in depth, it is clear that there is no sustainable evidence for nuclear reactions in what has been published by or about Andrea Rossi. There was also, clearly, outright fraud, gross misrepresentation. And this has nothing at all to do with the topic here.

In Storms’ review, the most recent peer-reviewed results used to demonstrate a heat/helium correlation come from a set of experiments by Miles in the early 90s.

The review is Storms (2009). Cude is technically correct, but highly misleading, if one doesn’t notice the “peer-reviewed.” Most cold fusion work has not been published under peer review. The strongest heat/helium work was published by SRI International as an EPRI report. Both of these (SRI and EPRI) would qualify as reliable source publishers under a fair interpretation of reliable source rules, because of publisher reputation at stake. Miles went on and did more work.

In a review of the field, invited by the editors of a major mainstream multidisciplinary peer-reviewed publication, should Wikipedia rules for sourcing be followed? They are not. Writers of peer-reviewed papers often cite unpublished material, attributing it sometimes as “private communication.”

Reviewers of such papers decide whether or not to allow these sources, on behalf of the responsible publisher. Pseudoskeptics will often claim “there is no evidence,” when there is evidence. A genuine skeptic might point out weakness, but not deny that evidence exists.

Storms cites on, heat/helium. the work of

  • Arata and Zhang (1999; 2000)
  • Case (McKubre et al. 2000)
  • Bush, Lagowski et al 1991
  • Morrey et al.(1990)
  • Miles and Bush 1992; Miles, Bush et al 1994; Miles, Bush et al 1991)
  • Miles and co-workers (1990)
  • Chien and co-workers (1992)
  • Karabut and co-workers (Karabut, A. B. , Kucherov et al 1992; Savvatimova, I. ,
    Kucherov et al 1994)
  • Zhang and co-workers (1992)
  • Stringham (2003)
  • Aoki et al. (1994)
  • Botta and co-workers (Botta, E., Bracco et al 1995; Botta, Bressani et al 1996)
  • Takahashi and co-workers( Takahashi 1998; Isobe, Uneme et al 2000; Matsunaka,
    Isobe et al 2002; Uneme et al 2002;)
  • Gozzi and co-workers (Gozzi, Caputo et al 1993; Gozzi, Caputo et al 1993)
  • Apicella et al. (2005)
  • De Ninno and co-workers (De Ninno, Del Giudice et al 2008; DeNinno, Frattolillo
    et al 2004)
  • Miles and co-workers (1994)
  • Bush and Lagowski (1998) cited in Storms (1998)
  • McKubre and co-workers (McKubre, Tanzella et al 2000; McKubre, Tanzella et al
    2000)

(This list may include redundancies. The actual sources may be found in the Storms review paper.)

These were very crude experiments (by Storms’ and your admission) in which peaks were eyeballed as small, medium, and large, the small taken as equal to the detection limit (which seemed to change by orders of magnitude over the years). The correlation was all over the map, and barely within an order of magnitude of the expected DD fusion value.

Again, technically correct but highly misleading. The early helium work was indeed as described. Later work used more precise measurements. I am not here reviewing all the results from Miles, but Storms did so in the review for most of them. There is one outlier, probably calorimetry error, and there were two samples only that showed no measured helium but anomalous heat, which could be, again, calorimetry error, but those samples were from a palladium-cerium cathode which may behave differently with helium, if a surface layer is formed that resists helium escape. Huizenga, in his review of this, considered an order-of-magnitude correlation astonishing, but because of the lack of gammas, expected that Miles would not be confirmed. Miles was confirmed. In only two experiments, however, were efforts made to capture and measure all the helium, and that was McKubre, SRI M-4 and Apicella et al Laser-4. In those experiments, the ratio of heat to helium showed the theoretical fusion value within 4% (M-4) and roughly 20% (Laser-4).

There are difficulties in this work, and many problems, but my claim is that, at this point, the preponderance of the evidence is that the Fleischmann-Pons Heat Effect is the result of the conversion of deuterium to helium, exact pathway and mechanism unknown. And, for me, that conclusion leads to a suggestion for more research to measure that ratio with increased precision, and how to do that is indicated by the M-4 and Laser-4 results.

Cude points to the difficulties as if they are some kind of proof of bogosity — and that I’m being misleading, but my claim has been published under peer review and Cude could get a peep into a journal on this topic. There are outliers, to be sure, but no evidence sufficient to impeach the finding, so far.

Shanahan wrote a critique of a review of LENR in Journal of Environmental Monitoring that criticized the heat/helium results of Miles et al as reported by Storms in his book (2007). That critique completely misread the data, it was embarrassing. Shanahan acknowledged the error — eventually.

Miles results’ were severely criticized by Jones in peer-reviewed literature.

As Storms pointed out:

Miles and co-workers(Bush, B. F., Lagowski et al 1991; Miles and Bush 1992; Miles, Bush et al 1994; Miles, Bush et al 1991) at the China Lake Naval Weapons Center (USA) were the first (1990) to show helium production in an electrolytic cell while it was making energy. Pyrex flasks were used to collect the gases (D2+O2+D2O+He) evolving from the cell but the resulting values for the amount of helium in the gas were crudely measured. Even so, a clear presence of helium was found when heat was produced and no helium was detected when heat was absent. Although many critiques (Miles and Jones 1992; Miles 1998; 1998) were offered at the time to reject the results, subsequent studies support their conclusion that helium is produced by a typical F-P electrolytic cell when it makes extra energy.

I have a copy of the Jones critique but it is not readily available, I may upload a copy here for review. Jones, S.E. and L.D. Hansen, Examination of claims of Miles et al in Pons-Fleischmann-Type cold fusion experiments. J. Phys. Chem., 1995. 99: p. 6966. Miles response would normally be on lenr-canr.org, but seems to be missing. I’ll see if I can fix that. Meanwhile, as I recall Jones ignored the correlation, and only critiqued the calorimetery and the helium measurements. Correlation generally confirms the measurements. That is we might be mistaken about heat, and we might be mistaken about light, but heat and light together and absent together demonstrates fire unless some independent mutual cause can be shown. Storms says about the Miles-Jones interchange (2007, p. 86):

This investigation was debated in a series of papers between Miles and Jones, in which Miles successfully defended his work.

That is in a book published by World Scientific. an academic publisher, and is not a passing mention or tertiary in nature. That does not prove that the conclusion is “true,” but it does establish notability, and all this points out that Cude is actually outside current consensus, as to what is being published in journals and academic publications. But if someone depends on “general scientific opinion,” which is not actually “expert opinion” but just sounds like it, one could think otherwise. As the author of Bad Science, the best critical book on cold fusion, Gary Taubes, later pointed out, “scientific consensus” can be formed by other than knowledgeable examination of evidence and can be dead wrong. Cude is finding whatever arguments he can dredge up to impeach the knowledgeable consensus. Back to Cude:

There was considerable back and forth on the results, and in Storms view (of course) Miles successfully defended his claims, but the DOE panel in 2004 agreed 17 to 1 with Jones, that there was no conclusive evidence for nuclear effects.

That is a deceptive summary of the review. Many times, many users on Wikipedia attempted to present the actual review results, and were frustrated by the anti-CF faction, which included jps, I think. I’ll be documenting that, I assume. First of all, the review did not consider the Miles results, apparently, and especially not the reported correlation, but rather the material in the Case appendix, which was misread and misreported. There were 18 experts in various fields on the panel. From the report:

The hypothesis that excess energy production in electrolytic cells is due to low energy nuclear reactions  was tested in some experiments by looking for D + D fusion reaction products, in particular 4He, normally produced in about 1 in 107 in hot D + D fusion reactions. Results reported in the review
document purported to show that 4He was detected in five out of sixteen cases where electrolytic cells
were reported to be producing excess heat. The detected 4He was typically very close to, but reportedly above background levels. This evidence was taken as convincing or somewhat convincing by some reviewers; for others the lack of consistency was an indication that the overall hypothesis was not justified. Contamination of apparatus or samples by air containing 4He was cited as one possible cause for false positive results in some measurements.

First of all, it was confusing to refer to the search as a search for D +D fusion reaction products. The helium reported is clearly not from D + D fusion, or if it is, the reaction is radically different from the known reaction, because of the lack of gamma emissions. Rather, the legitimate search was for any nuclear products that might be an “ash” from the reaction. The only one that has been found at significant levels is helium. It should be noted that the conversion of deuterium to helium is extraordinarily energetic, and only a little helium — close to background levels — would be produced to explain the modest levels of heat reported.

Secondly, the “results reported” were synthesized from the Case appendix, as “4 He was detected in five out of sixteen cases where electrolytic cells were reported to be producing excess heat.” That was an error. There were sixteen cells, and half were controls, producing no significant excess heat. They were not electrolytic cells, they were gas-loaded. So there were, if I have it correctly (this information was only presented very sketchily in that appendix) eight experimental cells, of which 5 showed excess heat. The excess heat results were not reported except for one cell. So the claim of “sixteen” cases showing excess heat, with only five showing helium, was a radical misunderstanding, and that this misunderstanding arose and was not corrected in the review process shows how defective that review was. From what would be, properly understood and explained, a strong correlation, was converted by the error into an anti-correlation, so of course any reviewer who made this mistake (it was easy to make, I had to read that Case paper several times to notice the reality, and then I found other references to that work confirming my view, and confirmed it with McKubre himself. What the anonymous review summarizer reported repeated the error of one reviewer and compounded it. The Case work, unfortunately, was done for a governmental client and was never formally published. It was a mistake to include it in the DoE review without first vetting it thoroughly, but that review was rushed.

Remarkably, the cold fusion community did not notice the error and focused on other issues. Assuming that the summary error was true, the review conclusions are remarkably favorable to cold fusion! My emphasis:

Evaluations by the reviewers ranged from: 1) evidence for excess power is compelling, to 2) there is no convincing evidence that excess power is produced when integrated over the life of an experiment. The reviewers were split approximately evenly on this topic. Those reviewers who accepted the production of excess power typically suggest that the effect seen often, and under some understood conditions, is compelling. The reviewers who did not find the production of excess power convincing cite a number of issues including: excess power in the short term is not the same as net energy production over the entire of time of an experiment; all possible chemical and solid state causes of excess heat have not been investigated and eliminated as an explanation; and production of power over a period of time is a few percent of the external power applied and hence calibration and systematic effects could account for the purported net effect. Most reviewers, including those who accepted the evidence and those who did not, stated that the effects are not repeatable, the magnitude of the effect has not increased in over a decade of work, and that many of the reported experiments were not well documented.

“Not well documented” is certainly true for some reports, maybe even many. It is not true for all. The general problem with “cold fusion” — a possibly misleading name — is that reproducing the originally-reported effect was very difficult, and many workers were unhappy with the low reported heat and attempted to “improve” the experiment, mostly failing, but sometimes still confirming some possibly related heat effect. Few actually attempted to “replicate” the original reports, given that those weren’t considered convincing, and certainly would not be an indication of possible power production. However the original DoE review (1989) pointed out that even a single incident of significant anomalous heat woudl be remarkable. Investigating “all possible causes” could take centuries. Rather, what has developed as known from, now, almost three decades of study, based on a preponderance of evidence, and what, then, remains to be tested and confirmed? By fragmenting the discussion into excess heat alone as a finding, the presence of correlations (helium is only one of several) was ignored. With correlations, a small effect can be confirmed. Without them, yes, one can speculate on noise and various errors, but few of those artifacts would create a clear correlation. Nevertheless, “split approximately evenly” is a vast shift from 1989, where it appears that very few reviewers thought the work was even worth the time of day.

Now, if one thinks that there is no evidence for excess heat, of course they would not think the origin of the non-existent heat was nuclear! The next finding should be seen in that light:

Two-thirds of the reviewers commenting on Charge Element 1 did not feel the evidence was conclusive
for low energy nuclear reactions, one found the evidence convincing, and the remainder indicated they were somewhat convinced. Many reviewers noted that poor experiment design, documentation,
background control and other similar issues hampered the understanding and interpretation of the results presented.

Cude translates all this into ” the DOE panel in 2004 agreed 17 to 1 with Jones, that there was no conclusive evidence for nuclear effects.’

They did not “agree with Jones.” Again, what Cude claims has some literal truth to it, if we include the word “conclusive.” That is not a clear and crisp claim, because what is conclusive to one is not conclusive to another. First of all, the reviewers were evenly divided on the heat evidence being “compelling.” Given the known physics, if one doesn’t find “compelling evidence” that there is excess heat, one will be unconvinced by evidence of low levels of helium. To have another opinion would require much more study. The general “scientific consensus” without personal study is that cold fusion was a big mistake, and “nobody could replicate.” With that background, then, reviewers randomly chosen would tend to be biased ab initio. The “nuclear” opinion would then be expected to be negative for half the reviewers from the lack of positive conclusion that the heat anomaly is probably real. So, then, what we have is about two thirds of those who accepted that the heat evidence was at least “somewhat compelling” did think the nuclear evidence was at least “somewhat convincing.” And that is with the misleading interpretation of the Case data standing in front of them.

Cude refuses to accept a preponderance of the evidence conclusion of reality for a nuclear effect as being at all plausible and attacks every evidence advanced. That is pseudoskeptical. If he is not convinced, that is within reason (though some supporters of cold fusion disagree with me on that). But his apparent certainty and dedication to accusations and debunking, that is clear pseudoskepticism. Further, as I recall the matter, Cude continued to advance misleading arguments over and over, in new fora, as if nothing had been explained. That is, again, characteristic of pseudoskepticism, it is resistant to evidence and to the finding of agreement. My goal has never been to “prove” that cold fusion is real, but rather to present the evidence — to be sure, with my own conclusion as to preponderance, which generally agrees with a major portion of the U.S. DoE panel in 2004 — and then to support and facilitate what they also recommended: more research. In particular, because it’s a replicable experiment (properly stated), replication with increased precision, the classic test of “pathological science.” Does the effect go away with increased precision?

Precision was, in fact, increased, and the effect did not go away but seems to have settled closer to the theoretical value. Again, this is testable, though Cude and friends will call it pseudoscience. At some point, that becomes a lie.

In any case, that kind of disagreement and large variation in such a critical experiment simply cries out for new and better experiments. So what have we got since?

Many experiments. He names one which was inconclusive.

A very careful set of experiments looking for helium by Gozzi, which was published in peer-reviewed literature in 1998, concludes that the evidence for helium is not definitive.

The only results since Miles that Storms has deemed worthwhile (i.e. cherry-picked) to calculate energy correlation come from conference proceedings, and the most recent of them from year 2000. Nothing that Storms considers adequate quality in this critically important experiment has met the (rather modest) standard of peer review. And they’re not good enough to allow Miles results to be replaced; Storms still uses some of Miles results, one assumes because it improves the average.

Again, “peer review” is desirable but evidence from outside of peer review is citable in peer-reviewed reviews.

The SRI work was, in fact, published under internal review, which would be as stringent or more stringent than normal peer-reviewed publications, and it was then passed on to EPRI members through that organization’s process. These were people with a need to know.

Mile’s extended work was the only work with enough experiments to look at more than an anecdote. It is not the best work, which would be SRI M-4 and Apicella et al (ENEA) Laser-4, where attempts were made to capture all the helium. In Laser-2 and Laser-3, there were

In writing my own paper, I considered compiling the results of all the experiments. It’s extremely difficult because of the varieties of work involved, results were not necessarily reported in ways that can be compared. Hence my hopes for the new work, using a hopefully maintained and identical protocol, taking steps to recover all the helium (variation in the recovery ratio probably explains the extant variation in results as to ratio — and Storms is emphasizing the general correlation, not the ratio itself, and all that work is general confirmation on that point, which Cude is ignoring —

Most of the results come from McKubre’s experiments, which Krivit claims to show (with considerable evidence) were cooked. McKubre has very little scientific cred anyway with his interest in the Papp engine and willingness to support cons like Dardik and Godes, and (if I recall correctly) Rossi.

Again, a series of ad hominem arguments, with assumptions that “McKubre has very little scientific cred,” contradicted by the trust place in him by the Duncan project in Texas, and by EPRI over many years, and governmental organizations, and  that someone finds something “interesting” does not establish any kind of lack of scientific integrity, in spite of the fervent beliefs of pseudoskeptics, and then that Dardik and Godes are “cons,” which they are not, and as to Rossi, McKubre never “supported” Rossi. He found the Lugano test interesting (as did many) but also pointed out the glaring deficiency.

Cude clearly has a collection of strongly-held beliefs which he asserts in a farrago of arguments without actual evidence. (He accepts Krivit’s ignorant critique and yellow journalism, without any actual examination of Krivit’s “evidence,” which is mostly innuendo and sometimes dead wrong.) This is all libel, actually. Of course he wants to remain anonymous!

And then there’s this from the review: “The paper provided insufficient information to check the claimed values, so the values in Table 3 are based on detailed information communicated to Storms by Bush in 1998 (Storms 1998).” Translation: The results didn’t fit, so I called Bush up, and suggested adjustments, which he accepted. Talk about confirmation bias.

Lies. No, the results without Bush and Lagowski were fine. The claim that he “suggested adjustments” is libelous. These are scientists and that would be highly unethical behavior. What Storms reports asking for is “detailed information,” so the “adjustment” would simply be more information. So Cude presents asking for additional information as “suggested adjustments,” implying data falsification. Shame on him!

The error in the end result, even if you accept Storms’ cherry-picked, dubious analysis, which I don’t, is still 20%. On an experiment that removes the dependence on material quality. Heat, it is claimed, can be measured to mW, the helium, it is claimed, is orders of magnitude above the detection limit, and yet the errors are huge.

The major variation is in capture ratio, not in the heat or helium measurements themselves. If Cude were a genuine skeptic, he would see the actual problem.

One of the best sets of experiments is Apicella et al (2004). There were three experiments reported. (Unfortunately, ENEA has often not reported all results, only “positive” ones, which in my view is a serious error. McKubre has generally reported all experiments, so one can see the situation far better. But this is what we have.) In the first two, there was relatively substantial heat, and helium was reported at about 60% of the expected level from the 24 MeV/4He hypothesis. That is generally consistent with Miles and other work, including the first part of SRI M-4. With the third experiment, heat results were much lower. My sense is that in an attempt to stimulate heat production, they stripped the cathode (“anodic erosion”) which sometimes works for that. They found more helium released, the level came up to roughly the expected value, but the error bars would be about 20%, as I recall. Krivit did not understand what they did and made all kinds of accusations. What I noticed with SRI M-4, which also made attempts to strip the cathode, also more or less inadvertently, the helium levels rose as well, to within 4% of the expected value under that hypothesis. Hence I suggested that future work would also strip the cathode before completing. The hypothesis here is that helium is trapped in the cathode (which would be expected), that something more than half of the helium is not trapped), and that the rest is trapped near-surface, where only a thin etch will release it.

This is what passes for conclusive in the field of cold fusion.

The issue is not “conclusive.” It is “preponderance of the evidence.” According to whom? Cude? Lomax?

Well, sometimes, according to the editors of peer-reviewed journals, but even more significantly, those who make funding decisions for research. What I know is that I was promoting heat/helium research, encouraging replication with increased precision, way back. I was asked to write my Current Science paper by a physicist, at the end of 2014. But before the end of 2014, the project led by Robert Duncan at Texas Tech was funded, with $6 million from an anonymous donor and $6 million from State of Texas matching funds. The donor is known, and is no dope. This is exactly the kind of research that both U.S. DoE reviews suggested and I assume that, when complete, it will be published in the “journal system.”

This is good enough that no measurements of helium-heat in the last decade entered Storms’ calculations.

No, Storms considered all that. His figure for the heat-helium ratio is obviously an estimate, not a “calculation.” He gives 25 +/- 5 MeV/4He.

These are clearly pseudo-scientists, one and all. Real scientists obsess about details, especially in critical experiments like this. Any real scientist thinking there is anything to cold fusion would not rest until this error was nailed down. Millikan’s experiment was not accepted as good enough, but was repeated endlessly. Scientists are still toiling to reduce the limit of error on measurements of Einstein’s time dilation, and improve the value of the gravitation constant, and so on.

Cude has no idea. Cold fusion research and especially heat/helium research is expensive. Measuring helium at the predicted levels is difficult. Setting up the FP Heat Effect is difficult. But it’s being done. what Cude is more legitimately describing is not “pseudoscience,” but “pathological science,” at best. There is plenty of it around, sometimes supporting the “mainstream views.” That’s a long story, and coldfusioncommunity.net is telling some of it. Cude would actually be welcome to contribute, if he would tone down the pseudoskepticism and ad hominem arguments. There are real problems with many cold fusion experiments. One of the goals of the research I am supporting is to identify possible artifacts and test them. Pseudoskeptics are content to identify some “possible artifact” and then blame researchers for not ruling it out, but what is being demanded is more than available funding and time may permit. Until it is ruled out by controlled experiment, a “possible artifact” cannot be completely excluded.

What is offensive about Cude is not the criticism of some cold fusion work, but the general debunking rejection of all work, without discrimination, based on knee-jerk, unsupported claims of “con men” and guilt by association and all the other techniques of “debunkers.”

No, the pseudo-scientists are not pursuing it (or not admitting it) because they’re afraid that more careful results will be negative, and they would rather remain ignorant than to have to admit they wasted 2 decades of their life chasing wild geese.

Actually, my suggestions for confirmation of heat/helium were opposed by some in the field because they believed that work was already sufficient to establish the correlation, and scarce research dollars should not be spent on confirming what is already known. I disagreed, and, thankfully, funding sources also disagreed. A new result with increased precision should be publishable, and I would argue strongly for publishing results, if carefully done, no matter what they show. My trust is in reality itself, not in “cold fusion” or any particular scientist. Anyone can make mistakes. Bauer did a good job of deconstructing “pathological science,” but the pseudoskeptics on Wikipedia covered that up. It’s worth reading his paper.

I have argued for a long time that cold fusion researchers should publish all work, not just “positive results.” (If results are boring, fine, publishing on-line is enough.) Recently, I’ve been going over certain “replication failures,” they have been called. JCMNS has been publishing some of these. Real science is not about “positive” or “negative.” It is about actual results, and then careful analysis. “Replication failure” is usually a failure to replicate, not a proof of original error, but, obviously, it can raise some suspicion of that. Cude elsewhere calls cold fusion the same as “N-rays” and “polywater,” but with those, there was positive replication that, then, showed by controlled experiment that the original results were artifact. That never happened with cold fusion (other than as to some level of speculation, Cal Tech speculated that excess heat was the result of failure to stir, but that was shallow. Yes, with failure of electrolyte circulation, hot spots can develop and be mistaken for excess heat, with some forms of calorimetry. That the Pons and Fleischmann results, and other results using, say, flow calorimetry, were such artifacts was never shown. Heat/helium measurement cuts across protocols and should clearly distinguish between artifactual heat and helium and heat and helium as products of the same effect.

Instead of supporting confirmation, Cude attacked me and prior work. He was a pseudoscientist when it comes to cold fusion, asserting scientific belief without evidence. He attacked real people, real professionals, from behind a screen of anonymity. Which may have come unravelled, for which he blames everyone else, not taking responsibility for what he’s done.

Isn’t it an amazing coincidence that of all the possible products of nuclear reactions, the only one they claim to observe commensurate with the heat is the only one that is present in the background at about the right level?

As Huizenga pointed out, the experimental results are indeed amazing. However, the results show that this is not background helium. Miles was very careful about that. In the Case work, helium levels rose with accumulated excess heat, and continued rising in two of the experiments, showing no sign of slowing as they approached the background level and then exceeded it. So to explain it requires some hypothesis of sequestered helium, somehow released with the experimental conditions, rather Rube Goldberg, but I would not rely on the Case work, myself, because it was a gas-loaded protocol.  I used a diagram from Case in my Current Science paper because I was asked for “eye candy,” and it was the best thing I could come up with on short notice. I’d have preferred something more like the histogram that Storms later produced, showing results from many experiments. There are problems with that. There are problems with anything. The newer work, if I have any say, and I might, will address many of the old objections, but there is already enough evidence for what is important: a conclusion that either the preponderance of the evidence shows the heat/helium correlation already, or at least enough evidence to encourage new efforts to study it.

The within-the-field opinion contrary to this was based on another need: to develop a “lab rat,” a protocol that will demonstrate the FP Heat Effect with reasonable reliability. Long-term, this is very important, but my position was that as long as the reality of the effect was in serious question, as it is in the eyes of many, nailing that issue first would then open up and broaden interest and make more funding easier to obtain. Years ago, the genuine skeptic, Nate Hoffman, skewered the argument that because it was difficult to reproduce, cold fusion was therefore unreal, in his Dialogue book.

All the more plausible products that can be detected easily at levels orders of magnitude lower, are found, surprise, surprise, at orders of magnitude below the expected level. Nature is toying with them. (The transmutation situation is similar: all the precursors and products are stable, when of course, only a tiny fraction of radionuclides are stable.)

The FP Heat Effect produces heat and helium, the experimental evidence indicates, without those other effects. The other effects are reported, but at levels far below helium. The one most persistently reported is tritium. Often no attempt was made to correlate with heat, a mistake, in my opinion. That was because the levels were not “commensurate” with the heat, very far from it, but that reason depends on a theory of mechanism. Tritium is obviously not a major product, my standard rough estimate is that tritium is a million times down from that idea. And then neutrons are also reported at very low levels, which often gets people excited. A million times down from tritium. Basically, tritium, neutrons, and transmutations are generally a side-show, if real. The plethora of “nuclear effects” reported actually confused the entire field greatly. It is possible that there is more than one possible nuclear reaction under FP conditions. One of the benefits of improved heat/helium measurements would be setting limits on other reactions.

Deeper understanding will likely have to await the development of lab rats, so that various groups can be studying the same animal. Until then, the corpus of cold fusion research is largely, though not entirely, a collection of anecdotes, and anecdotes are properly indications for further research, not proofs of anything.

To sum up: An objective look at the heat/helium results does not provide even weak evidence for cold fusion. And given its extraordinary nature, that means it is almost certainly not happening.

Cude has not come close to an “objective look.” That summary conclusion, at variance with what has been published in not just one peer-reviewed review, but many, is clearly pseudoscientific and highly biased, relying on nonscientific argumentation and imprecation. This is typical. “Not even weak evidence” is obviously biased polemic. It is Cude believing in his own ideas — unless he actually knows better and is purely trolling.

I find no way to search moletrap for comments by joshua cude. Google for “joshua cude” site:moletrap.co.uk I get five hits. But cude has 107 posts made there according to the statistics. A search on-site for cude generates 77 hits, but only finds responses to him, not his posts. I can still compile a list, but it will be tedious. Maybe tomorrow, maybe never. 

disqus blogs

earliest post:

joshuacude November 6, 2011 11:32 AM

So what you’re saying is that the following people are total idiots;

that was a comment from cmoo, and the listed people were:

• Physicist professor Foccardi [sic]
• Physicist professor Levi
• Physicist professor Loris Ferrari
• Physicist professor Sven Kullander
• Physicist professor Hanno Essen
• Professor Roland Petterson
• Physicist professor Christos Stemmenos [sic]
• Professor Enrico Campari
• Professor Ennio Bonetti
• Professor Pierre Clauzon
• Chemistry professor Edward Jobson
• Matt Lewan (Physics Phd) [sic]
• All the staff and Board of Defkalion
• All the staff and Board of Ampenergo
• And finally most recently the scientist employed by the purchaser to oversee the latest test, Domenica Fioravanti [sic]

[sic] is for spelling errors that leap out at me. I don’t know all the names mentioned….

If the shoe fits…

Whether you want to call them idiots or not, it is clear that on the question of the ecat, they have demonstrated incompetence, and have failed to do their jobs, if their jobs were to extract a useful evaluation of the ecat performance. And you don’t have to believe maryyugo or anyone else to come to this conclusion. You only have to read a freshman physics or chemistry or thermodynamics text book, to realize that claims of nuclear reactions in the ecat are simply *not* supported by the evidence presented.

This was misleading, though, in fact, there was probably no nuclear reaction. There is no information in a those textbooks that would allow an a priori evaluation of such a claim. The issue with nuclear reactions is not possibility (they are possible) but rate. To calculate the rate, one must know the reaction and conditions, and with Rossi, at that point, the claimed reactants were not known and the conditions were secret. It was clear by this time (late 2011) that the Rossi tests were inconclusive, and it appeared to be very possible that (1) Rossi was a con artist or (2) Rossi was a real inventor paranoid about his invention being stolen and (3) Rossi was attempting to look like a con artist to discourage imitation. There was no way to truly distinguish these possibilities. By 2012, a group of investors decided they need to know, and it was worth risking a substantial sum to find out. They found out. Rossi lies.

But were all those people “idiots”? Well, Ampenergo was paid a lot of money for the investment they made. They may have made a profit. The goal of Industrial Heat was to facilitate the development of cold fusion in general, and their risk with Rossi — they knew it was a long shot — appears to have inspired an investment of $50 million for cold fusion research (not for Rossi!), so it paid off for them (not personally, that wasn’t their goal, this was all high risk, and they have reported nothing so far that would be an immediate commercial possibility (nor do I know of any such. Brillouin has some results, nothing spectacular, they have a long way to go, if they ever succeed. What I know is that cold fusion is, preponderance of the evidence, a real effect, nuclear in nature, but difficult to control, and without control, commercial possibilities remain elusive. So, anyway, Cude sits in his chair and condemns others for not immediately “knowing” that this was bogus, imagining that he has a better grasp of physics. He doesn’t. He is simply young and arrogant.

All but one of the semi-public ecat tests (including the megawatt test) rely on the claim that all (or nearly all) of the water passing through the ecat is converted to steam. However, credible evidence for this claim is never presented. That several of the named professionals accept visual inspection or measurements of relative humidity as evidence for complete vaporization, alone impeaches their competence on evaluating the ecat. Instead of looking for evidence for dry steam, they measure the temperature every few seconds, even though the temperature (always near the boiling point) tells us nothing about the fraction of liquid that is vaporized. Pure incompetence!

They were, in fact, outside their field. The relative humidity meter had a g/m^3 function, which some of those people named apparently assumed was measured. Quite simply, they did not know how the meter worked. That was simply a calculated reading from the humidity. Devices that can measure steam quality are very expensive and complex. Any steam engineer would know that. Rossi kept steam engineers far away from his demonstrations. He also rejected a visit by Jed Rothwell, who was quite sympathetic, because Rothwell said he would bring his own instruments. The last thing Rossi wanted! He was famous for shutting down demonstrations when anyone attempted to verify what he was claiming.

If you read a physics textbook, you will learn that when you pass water through a system, it takes a certain power to raise its temperature *to* the boiling point. You will also learn that (if you are starting from room temperature), it takes about 8 times as much power to convert all the water to steam.

All this is true and well-known.

None of those professionals seem the least bit bothered by the fact that the ecat takes on the order of hours to deliver the power required to reach the onset of boiling, but only a few more minutes to deliver 8 times that power to vaporize all the liquid.

And that could possibly be explained. (To produce the necessary power, the fuel must reach a certain temperature, and at a critical temperature, power rapidly increases and the problem is preventing runaway. Yes, it’s bullshit. Cude’s objection was reasonable. It’s an issue. However, mysteries prove little, this is the “how come” argument that pseudoscientists use to argue for, say, flat earth theory. Something unexplained is found that may imply the pseudoscientific theory.

One of the problems with Rossi is another unwarranted assumption. To attempt a fraud as Rossi was attempting, “he would have to be crazy.” He even sued his major investor, and his followers said, if he didn’t have a real technology, “he’d have to be crazy.” Well, he’s still alive, and didn’t go to jail, and he got to keep the money he had been paid. How crazy is he?

At this point, though, with all the evidence that is now available, someone who invests in his technology, thinking it is real, would “have to be crazy.” But we know that with high certainty now because some investors were willing to take the risk. They could afford it. These are people who invest $25 million in a long shot, commonly, and who only need to occasionally win the bet.

The reason that this is so easily accepted appears to be because both of those scenarios occur at the same *output* temperature.

That would explain acceptance by the ignorant, not those who know the basic physics.

But if you take a little time to think about it, then you should understand that the two scenarios require vastly different temperatures of the ecat heating element. In fact, the power transfer scales with the temperature difference between the water and the heating element.

It is obvious that the internal design of the e-cat, for it to mean anything, required substantial thermal resistance between the “heating element” (i.e., the fuel) and the cooling water. The fuel must be a lot hotter than the water. If we assume a constant thermal resistance (it might not be), then, yes, the transfer would “scale with the temperature difference.”

This kind of a discontinuous change in the temperature of the heating element is simply not plausible, given the time it takes to reach the onset of boiling.

We were allowed no information on the temperature of the heating element. We were allowed no information on the heating protocol. Perhaps, for example, the heating was slowly ramped up to approach a critical temperature. My own analysis was that the Rossi design practically required water overflow if the flow rate was constant. So was water overflow measured? No. Kullander and Essen did not look for overflow water, apparently trusting the humidity meter. Huge mistake. And to compound it, they never acknowledged the error. (And, later, the other so-called “independent professors” made huge mistakes in the Lugano test, and never acknowledged them.) All this was glorious idiocy for Cude. I’m somewhat sympathetic. But … apparently scientists are human.

What makes it even more implausible is that the discontinuous change in the heating element temperature is presumed to happen exactly at the onset of boiling. How does it know? That these professionals can believe this means the shoe fits.

Cude has not established that change. I agree that a detailed analysis wasn’t done.

Finally, the notion that power is so accurately regulated indicates that the output fluid is almost certainly a mixture of phases at the local boiling point. The variation in power that corresponds to the variation in temperature corresponds to about +/- 1 %, which seems a little rich, given the variations reported in the February run (that didn’t rely on steam), and from the fact that the various demonstrations give powers that are all over the map.

Something was always fishy about every Rossi demonstration. That was obvious by the end of 2011.

(By the way, the only semi-public test that did not rely on conversion to steam, claimed a much lower COP, and used an inexplicably indirect method to measure the water temperatures, which almost certainly resulted in errors in favor of the ecat.)

Rossi seems to have found many ways to create an appearance of significant power.

It is indeed surprising that so many scientists and engineers can miss these simple considerations. I think it speaks to Rossi’s skill at vetting the observers that he invites to the demonstrations.

Indeed. Rossi also strongly resisted the presence of independent experts as requested by his actual customer (in 2013), and they allowed that, because they knew that if they objected, I infer, Rossi would simply have pulled the plug, as he had many times. They wanted to give Rossi every chance to prove the technology was real by teaching them how to create the reaction. He never did. Always some excuse or other, and then he faked a megawatt plant. But …. he’d have to be crazy! How can you fake a megawatt?

You probably can’t, but you can create distractions and confusion and the appearance of expert testimony. In actual court, they were setting up to present the opening arguments when Rossi’s attorney suggested a settlement. Many critics of Rossi were disappointed that Industrial Heat agreed to a walk-away. My own analysis was that, legally, they would not be able to recover their original investment because of estoppel. They could have recovered as much as a few million dollars from the later 1 MW frauds, not enough to recover their legal expenses, and some level of risk that Rossi’s attorneys might have been able to sway a jury. I was there and I’d already seen the opening arguments and the jury and my opinion is that, no, IH would have prevailed, but at high cost. A month of trial with four or five high-paid attorneys sitting there. Not cheap. Was anyone ready to pay their legal expenses? I don’t think so.

In fact, what came out in the trial — it is all on this site — was quite enough to expose Rossi as a fraud. He is still continuing to snow some of his followers, but some of them are bailing.

Some of them of course are LENR advocates from before,

That is not true for almost all on the list. In fact, had they been “LENR” knowledgeable, they might not have been so vulnerable. The majority opinion among CMNS researchers was that Rossi was not at all to be trusted. Some were much more negative than that. Focardi is the major name who had done prior LENR research, and he was old and shortly to die. Nobody had every shown anything like what Rossi was claiming. It was outside the box. But if one had an existing opinion that LENR was real, from having seen it oneself, yes, one might be more vulnerable to thinking Rossi had something.

some have been associated with him for a long time (including the customer consultant in the megawatt test), and some have made public statements in support of the ecat.

there was no customer yet. Defkalion was the initial customer and bailed (and then fell into massive disrepute themselves). Rossi claimed to have sold many 1 MW plants. The only actual sale was to Industrial Heat in 2012, delivered in 2013, and returned, apparently as worthless, in the Settlement Agreement in 2017.

If Rossi really had confidence in his ecat, the invitees would include scientists on the record as being skeptical. For example, he could invite Steven Krivit to bring a few scientists of his choosing. Convincing them would carry some weight.

Rossi had already rejected Krivit as a “snake and clown.” The assumption here is that if the technology were real, Rossi would want to prove that in his demonstrations, by doing what Cude thinks he would do.

Cude does not consider an opposing argument, that Rossi had a real technology but also knew that someone else, highly motivated, seeing such proof and willing to put millions of dollars (or hundreds of millions or billions) could do what he did, and find it. So he would want to make it look like he was a con artist. So why have any demonstration at all, until he is ready for market? Well, perhaps to attract enough interest and investment to carry on until market-ready. This is what people who could see the problems were thinking in 2011. My personal opinion back then was that “fraudulent and insane” was more likely, but I could not rule out the possibility of “real inventor and insane,” i.e., paranoid. Everyone agrees, including Rossi’s friends, that he’s paranoid. A few think it is justified.

Storms apparently still thinks Rossi had something, but that he lost it. That has apparently happened in the history of LENR. Something works, they keep trying to improve it, and then it doesn’t work any more and they can’t get back to what works. Basically, some original condition was not recognized as important, the original materials that worked were lost and it never worked again. The Case material may have been like that. A particular batch of coconut charcoal. There are aspects to the history of LENR that might forever be mysteries. Or not. Until we know what the reaction actually is and know how to reliably create it, true knowledge is likely to remain elusive.

Of course, we could simply ask Joshua Cude, the authority, who doesn’t need facts but can assess truth through personalities and who supports what.

There were a total of 19 comments under this Disqus account. The rest of them:

Discussion on NetworkWorld  91 comments

Cude jumped in with this: Feb 17th 2016

Abd wrote:

No, what is needed, ordinarily, and even with something like cold fusion, is preponderance of the evidence. It is not necessary to prove every detail, and unless one has unlimited funding, it is probably impossible.

Cude did not link to the original, so here it is.

A preponderance of evidence is a legal term, but used descriptively, presumably it means that, based on the evidence, someone judges something to be more likely than not. You are saying, presumably, that in your judgement, the evidence indicates cold fusion is more likely to be real than not.

Yes. And from my study, that evidence is not weak and not merely circumstantial. To be sure, we need a definition of “cold fusion.” I use that to refer to the Fleischmann-Pons Heat Effect, and it appears that half the U.S. DoE review panel agreed with this in 2004. However, I go further. That review, as reported by the summarizer, did not understand the helium evidence and radically misstated it. The production of correlated helium is direct evidence that the heat is generated by a nuclear reaction, Pons and Fleischmann called it “unknown.” Calling it fusion was quite misleading. I use this term, instead of the more neutral LENR, because the helium evidence does indicate that the reaction is converting deuterium to helium, by unknown mechanism. That is a fusion result, so … until we know better, it’s like some kind of fusion. But it is very unlikely, for reasons Cude knows well, to be “D-D fusion.”

But you are not in a position of authority to make such a judgement for anyone else.

That is correct, unless I am placed in that position. I am a journalist, primarily, and an activist. My responsibility is to my readership. In general, I present evidence for readers to judge. I also disclose my own judgments, and I am responsible for them. However, this is a truly remarkable argument to make, I would call it trolling.

You don’t have a science degree or any experience in scientific research. Moreover, you have admitted that your advocacy has been paid for.

If I had such a degree, would it make any difference? Would I therefore be qualified to “judge for someone else”? I have an education, which has been disclosed. I have a great deal of experience writing for an expert audience (on the CMNS mailing list).

As to being “paid for,” that is a report that shows that Cude either doesn’t understand what he has read, he confuses his interpretations with truth, or he has believed trolls who make that claim. What actually happened that could be taken that way is that I wrote, in private email with a scientist, about Wikipedia and how it worked, the policies, and how it doesn’t work. There was someone on cc who then asked me to bill him. I told him that he could donate to my nonprofit, $50 or $100, it would be fine. He then asked me to bill him for a far higher figure, through the nonprofit. So I did. He did not pay for advocacy, there was one request, that I review a certain web site, but it wasn’t ready yet. I’ve still not been asked to complete that, and the review would have been for him, not for publication.

I have not been paid to advocate anything. Advocacy is my choice, and what I am advocating is not “Cold Fusion is Real!” but research; as part of that deciding what research is to be supported is important, and, years ago, I identified confirming heat/helium determination as crucial, as the only direct evidence that the Anomalous Heat Effect, it is also being called, is both real and nuclear in nature. Determining the value of the ratio is difficult, something Cude doesn’t seem to realize. Part of the problem is capturing all the helium, and then there are issues in the mass spectrometry, which is expensive. Etc.

Recently, I was also crowd-funded to report on the Rossi v. Darden trial, such that I actually met Rossi and Darden and Vaughn and other involved people. Because that trial settled unexpectedly on the fourth day, I have money left over, so I have funding for expenses and travel. Cude it attempting his classic move: ad hominem argument. It’s false and it is trolling.

Those who do have relevant expertise and experience, for the most part, are not convinced cold fusion is real, so that means that, in their judgement, the preponderance of evidence fails to make cold fusion more likely to be real than not.

And who is Cude to be making this judgment? I am known, I have a long public history, people can review it readily. Cude is an anonymous skeptic/pseudoskeptic/troll. His “for the most part” is a complex judgment. Is it based on evidence? What evidence, and when was that evidence collected? How would we know?

I was aware of the Pons and Fleischmann announcement in 1989, and knew the basic issues, but not the experimental details. In fact, nobody knew other than a few, at that point. When what we know of as early cold fusion history came down, I assumed that it had all been a mistake. Much later, I had become quite involved with Wikipedia, and came across an abusive blacklisting. I request that the administrator undo it. He blew me off. Eventually, this went to the Arbitration Committee and they confirmed my assessment and the admin was reprimanded. And then his faction came after me.

I had started to work on the Cold fusion article. I was not a “believer.” (It is still not fair to call me that and I consider it very possible that I will never see a commercial cold fusion device, it is possible –though perhaps unlikely — that such will never exist, so “wishful thinking” (Cude’s classic explanation for the belief of scientists and others “in cold fusion” — that is a radical insult to a scientist) has nothing to do with it. Because I realized the potential importance I bought all the major books, something I had never done before researching a Wikipedia article. Taubes is one of my favorites, for his historical research. Cude has no clue.

Genuine skeptics support what I’m doing. Trolls attack it.

Such experts are of course considering the copious and consistent and reproducible evidence from a century of nuclear physics that collectively suggests strongly that nuclear reactions would not happen in the context of cold fusion experiments.

That argument was known to be defective in 1989. (Teller, Schwinger, Cold fusion is not a “nuclear physics” topic, in origin. It was a finding in electrochemistry, of anomalous heat. The first and foremost question was the reality and origin of this heat. Not “is it theoretically possible,” that is a Cargo Cult question. Science does not ask if experimental results are “possible,” and a science that rejects experimental results in favor of its own theoretical construct has lost science and has become scientist.

(Experimental results are experimental results and are distinct from their interpretation.)

Yes. The heat was very much unexpected. Pons and Fleischmann were looking at a problem that I remember from Feynman: we cannot calculate the solid state, it is far too complex. They knew that certain simplifying assumptions were made to calculate fusion rates in the solid state. (i.e., in a material like PdD). They suspected that the actual rate might be different. This was ordinary science. They expected that there was a difference (that is practically inevitable), but they also thought they would probably be unable to measure it. Nevertheless, they decided to look. And then their experiment melted down. They spent almost five years attempting to create controlled experiments, and it was … difficult. They were not ready to announce. But Jones was actually investigating along the same line of thinking, and thought he was finding neutrons. That pushed the university into announcing, prematurely. The rest is history.

What happens when experts are charged with investigation and report? Cude is quite unspecific. He is asserting a vague consensus, as if it is fact. It is probably true that “most scientists” or “most nuclear physicists” think “cold fusion was rejected long ago.” This was mentioned in my paper and in other reviews in Current Science in 2015. That is what Tiernan called an “information cascade” (referring to the “scientific consensus” on fat in the diet and obesity and heart disease). It is an opinion that spread without ever being scientifically confirmed.

The most recent public expert panel was the 2004 DoE review. It does not support Cude’s idea of some massive scientific rejection. That review as brief and badly managed, I’ve written extensively about that. But it was a sea change from 1989. And 1989 did not conclude impossibility. It noted the theoretical difficulty, and, to my mind, both reviews focused far too much on theory. There is no satisfactory cold fusion theory as to mechanism. It’s an enormous challenge. There is a hypothesis, that falls out of the heat/helium work: the heat is from the conversion of deuterium to helium. That is testable. It does not require “reliable experiments.” It does require setting up the AHE, at least occasionally. It is known how to do that, but it’s still largely an art. There is no “lab rat” you can go out and buy or put together from instructions. But if one is determined, one can see the effect.

And that work is under way in Texas.

Next to this, the erratic, marginal, inconsistent, and irreproducible results associated with such experiments are far more plausibly explained by artifacts. Which is to say, in the mainstream view, the preponderance of evidence points to artifact, and by a vast margin.

Helium production correlated with anomalous heat is reproducible and has been confirmed many times by many groups. Cude knows this, so he is lying. Where does the “mainstream view” exist?

In the minds of some. In the Sixty Minutes report on Cold fusion, Richard Garwin is quoted, about SRI calorimetry, the work of experts, “They must be making some mistake.”

That is an understandable, though knee-jerk, opinion. There is a belief in the impossibility of “cold fusion”, but like many such beliefs, it requires a definition. How would we know that “cold fusion” is impossible? We would have to know what it is. Or we would have to have such thorough and deep knowledge of all the possible conditions that can arise to be able to claim, sensibly, that if it was real, we would already know about it. That assumption of adequate knowledge is common and ordinary, but … if accepted, such that experimental evidence is simply discarded because “impossible,” science could not advance beyond the limits of the already-known.

The basis of Cude’s position, then, is belief. Rational skepticism would sit with “I’m not yet convinced,” but not advance into the arrogant, confident, rejection of the work of others, that Cude so often indulges in.

“Scientific opinion” is properly, the opinion of the knowledgeable. Cude is more knowledgeable than any other skeptic I have encountered. Shanahan is actually published, but is common unable to see his hand in front of his face. Cude has collected an armory of arguments. I have collected these before, on newvortex, I’ll probably pull that in.

Cude is not, however, practicing science. He is not seeking to test his ideas. He advances arguments that appeal to some audiences, but that are not at all scientific, such as his obvious ad hominems.

He is dissmissing the work of hundreds of scientists as all “artifact.” He has elsewhere claimed that cold fusion is “N-rays” and “polywater,” but those were found to be artifact through replication and then a showing of artifact, not through simple claims and replication failure.

The work on those topics that led to rejection was actually replication first. Creating the artifact! So what happens when careful calorimetry is done? Many fail, that’s what Cude relies on, but he is ignoring that many have succeeded in seeing the heat. And then he is ignoring the extensive work showing helium correlation. Again, there must be some mistake, and it’s easy to postulate that the helium is from leakage. But that explanation does not fit well with the actual results. It’s just an idea without foundation in the experimental evidence. And, then, “artifact” does not fit well with the observed correlation. Wouldn’t helium also leak in hydrogen or other control experiments? Why does helium show up with heat, and not with no heat? The “heat” involved is not “higher temperature,” necessarily, or if it is higher, it is a few degrees C., not a major heating that could affect seals.

No, Cude is essentially ignoring any inconvenient evidence, or attacking it with pseudoscience.

Of course, absolute proof of anything is not possible, but something like cold fusion could surely be proved to arbitrary certainty if it were real, much as high temperature superconductivity was not doubted by any experts after the first publication became available.

Reasoning by defective analogy. I would say that “cold fusion” has been shown to be real by extensive experimentation by many different research groups. That it is not accepted as HT superconductivity was accepted is an issue for the sociology of science, and there are books on this. It is not about science, per se, but about people and how people behave collectively.

And what matters is not my opinion, or Cude’s opinion, but the opinion of those who decide on research funding. The DoE recommended modest research funding, but the only research we know of that was funded by the DoE was Shanahan’s Abortion. Why were there no fundamental projects funded? Probably, politics.

But there are other sources of funding. EPRI needed to know, and they funded McKubre’s work at SRI, and published it. Cude completely disregards that SRI was charged with sober investigation, by people who needed to know. DARPA needed to know, and also funded SRI. Others managed to continue research out of discretionary funds. I’m told that the SPAWAR program was shut down because a manager freaked out over Rossi. I just read the other day on E-Catworld a 20aa claim that SPAWAR was the “military customer” that Rossi pretended to have tthen. That might just have led to that program cancellation. It was completely false.

And, more recently? Industrial Heat needed to know, and was willing to put money into finding out. Their interest was LENR in general, and Rossi was depressing research. (Why fiddle with milliwatts or a few watts if Rossi is claiming kilowatts?)  They raised and invested in Rossi, $20 million.

Woodford Fund investigated LENR and decided to invest. In Rossi? No. They gave Industrial Heat $50 million for LENR research, which was spent, maybe $25 million of it, on other LENR projects, with theory and experiment. One of the projects they supported for a time was the Letts work with dual laser stimulation, which I had also suggested as scientifically significant. (That work was unsuccessful, apparently, but inconclusively so, and it was stopped, apparently because IH needed to focus on the lawsuit. Rossi did a lot of damage! IH is mostly secretive, so I don’t really know what is happening now.(

And then, a major donor gave $6 million to Texas Tech for a project that featured heat/helium replication, to be matched by $6 million in Texas State funds.

Those are the people who need to look at “preponderance of the evidence,” and in some cases, even weak evidence might be worth investment. The reason for that is that cold fusion, if real, could be extraordinarily valuable. Sane investment does not require certainty. It requires a sober estimate of risks.

It is almost inconceivable that an energy density a million times that of dynamite, accessible at ordinary conditions could not be made obvious in 27 years,

The conditions of cold fusion are far from “ordinary.” He means “not at temperatures of millions of degrees.” That energy density is apparently in a thin layer under not-well-understood conditions. This paradox appeared in the attempts to replicate Pons and Fleischmann: the Japanese though that they should use the purest palladium. It flat-out did not work.

When people do see the effect, it’s often obvious. Cude knows that. The truth behind his claims is that it’s quite difficult to set up the conditions. He is demanding, not mere obviousness, but readily repeatable and reliable obviousness.

I proposed the new heat/helium work because it does not require that we have what Cude demands. If one experiment out of ten, say, with a confirmed protocol, were to produce XP (and some protocols have done much better than that), and then one were to run a hundred trials, producing 10 examples of excess heat, and one were to analyse the outgas from those experiments, what would it show?

From the history, I expect that heat and helium would  be correlated and if these are FP-class experiments, about 60% of the helium expected from the conversion of deuterium to helium for that energy release would be measured. And if the surface is stripped, dissolving palladium and releasing trapped helium, the rest would be measured. Within experimental error.

That would be as close to “proof” as I can imagine.

And then the focus can turn to creating the lab rat, because further investigation requires commensurability across the work of multiple groups.

What I have found is that genuine skeptics are interested and support this approach. Pseudoskeptical trolls attack my lack of a degree and my age and my alleged this and that.

but it is completely plausible that artifacts producing a variety of confounding effects that look like cold fusion if you squint would be too elusive to be nailed down in 27 years.

Plausible but not likely. There are artifacts that afflict the research, but there are also studies that were quite careful, where artifact is unlikely.

EPRI also funded Hoffman’s study, published as a book in 1995 by the American Nuclear Society, A Dialogue on Chemically-Induced Nuclear Effects, Guide for the Perplexed about Cold Fusion. Hoffman goes over the evidence that existed as he began. He does not mention the later Miles work, and I’m not sure why. But Hoffman was a skeptic, not a “believer,” but he knew that the question or reality was open. He considered the calorimetry, in general, to be sound.

So is the heat a chemical effect? The calculations of energy density, I do not find convincing. There are too many assumptions being made. (In fact, though, it appears that the effect is a surface one, and so the energy density is higher than estimated by Pons and Fleischmann based on their idea that the effect was in the bulk.) The problem is generally the level of the effect compared to some possible unexpected recombination.

Shanahan makes the general point that there is an anomaly, something unexpected, but he assigns it to chemistry, not a nuclear reaction. Shanahan’s ideas are rejected by experienced electrochemists, but … that would be an argument from authority, so we have been and will be looking at details.

But Shanahan’s chemical anomaly does not approach an explanation of correlated helium.

Many cold fusion students will also point to tritium (often found, but correlation with heat has not been studied), neutrons (found at extremely low levels, no far above background, at least not generally), and transmutations. I consider all this a distraction, mysteries that will become far easier to resolve with the existence of a lab rat. The main show is heat and helium and apparently almost nothing else being produced. No gammas, or if there are significant gammas, they are low-energy.

Cude went on to generate a total of 261 posts on LF. The last was July 16. 2016.

Skeptoid

On February 27, Cude dumped a huge text bomb on that blog….  There were followup posts. Nothing appeared like what was commented the first time.

Cold Fusion Now

March 12, 2012

April 12, 2013
“Your historical analogy is not accurate. The energy released by Ra-226 is not fission; it’s alpha decay.”
This is bizarre. As usual, Cude is half-right. The energy is from alpha decay. But alpha decay is obviously a form of fission, a special case. This is typical trolling. Cude’s argument was irrelevant. French was correct. All analogies are inaccurate in some way, so this objection was purely pedantic (and only correct within a very restricted use of language).

April 13, 2013
April 14, 2013

Mass Use of Cold Fusion in One Year – or Less


October 24, 2011
October 26, 2011
October 26, 2011
October 26, 2011

Letters to the Senate request hearings on DOE and USPTO.

Electron capture by a proton – Where would the energy come from?


March 18, 2013 (Except for the “attorney” comment, he is totally correct.)
March 19, 2013
March 20, 2013
March 19, 2013
March 19, 2013
March 20, 2013
March 18, 2013
March 19, 2013

Scientific American Attacks Cold Fusion Research with Twenty-Year-Old Claims

In this case, Jennifer Ouelette wrote a critique of cold fusion on her Scientific American blog, then left comments open and censored them without cause. It does appear that she deleted a comment by Joshua Cude, of which one line is quoted by Rothwell.

I’m not aware of a single major university that has expressed the opinion that evidence for the claims of P&F is overwhelming.

Ouelette refers to pro-cold fusion fanatics, as if these are the only trolls infesting fora.

That Cude statement is a great example of how Cude argues. I am not aware of such an expression either. Notice all the qualifications. “Major,” which then allows Cude to claim, if one points to a counterexample, that it’s not a “major university.” Then, universities rarely express opinions and then not opinions like that. Then, what are the “claims of P&F”? What claims? Some of their claims were erroneous. And finally, is the evidence “overwhelming,” presumably, “beyond a shadow of doubt”? — or is it merely convincing or even reasonably conclusive?

Jed responded with his own hyperbolic polemic:

Professors at universities and at other institutions express that opinion. For example, the Chairman of the Indian Atomic Energy Commission said that, as did the world’s top expert in tritium at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (NSF p. 13-3). In 1991, The Director of the Max Planck Institute for Physical Chemistry in Berlin wrote: “. . . there is now undoubtedly overwhelming indications that nuclear processes take place in the metal alloys.”

Hundreds of other distinguished experts in nuclear physics and other related disciplines have said they are certain cold fusion is real. They know this because they have conducted experiments and detected the reaction at high signal to noise ratios, and their experiments have survived rigorous peer-review. That is the only way anyone ever knows anything for sure in science. Replicated, high sigma experiments are the only standard of truth.

He has not read the Cude comment carefully, so he responds to a different claim, and I could suspect that Ouelette recognized this and thus dismissed his comment, which is unfortunate. As is not uncommon with Jed (there are many examples in the discussions I have been linking to in studying Cude), his comments overstate the case. Usually the ‘case’ would be reasonable, but not the details of how he presents it, so a troll like Cude can take it apart, and a pseudoskeptic like Ouelette can dismiss it. Jed’s response to critique on this point is often “I don’t care what skeptics think.”

That is where we differ. I do care what genuine skeptics think, and will also attempt to carefully address even some pseudoskeptical arguments, because the boundary between pseudoskepticism and genuine skepticism can be obscure. In the end, my target is ultimately decision-makers (for funding, publication, and other issues), who will properly be skeptical.

Jed gives three references.

  1. A BARC publication. 8 pages. I searched it while having migraine symptoms. So maybe I missed it, but I found nothing in that publication that supported the claim of “overwhelming evidence.”
  2. EPRI publication. 13-3 (pdf page 266) does not support the statement. This is not looking good.
  3. This reference is a note from Bockris about Gerischer, about a shift in Gerischer’s position that took place in the Como Conference, 1991. A fuller quote than Jed gave:

In spite of my earlier conclusion, – and that of the majority of scientists, – that the phenomena
reported by Fleischmann and Pons in 1989 (3) depended either on measurement errors or were of
chemical origin, there is now undoubtedly overwhelming indications that nuclear processes take
place in the metal alloys. The early publications were so full of errors in measurement technique and
in the interpretation that the euphoria to which the discovery gave rise was rapidly replaced by
disappointment when it turned out that the laboratories with the best equipment could not reproduce
the results. Only very few groups found similar effects, but even these groups could not find
reproducibility in their own laboratory.

And then:

AN EVALUATION OF THE RESULTS OBSERVED SO FAR

Although there are many discrepancies in the reports which are at hand, and although there
are many open questions, there now lie before us several indications that fusion reactions do occur
between deuterides in metals. This gives rise to a new situation. It is entirely an open question
whether such processes could be used as the source of energy but this, of course, can only be
decided if the processes which have been revealed in the work discussed here are researched and
given a theoretical basis. In any case I consider it absolutely necessary that these phenomena are
systematically researched and the conditions for their reproducibility cleared up. That a nuclear
reaction can be stimulated by interaction with a solid lattice and made to take another path from that
which it would take in the plasma, is an entirely unexpected discovery with possibly wide-ranging
consequences. It demands confirmation and further experimental evaluation. In the following a
number of experimental and theoretical questions are raised which are at the present time entirely
open.

That “evaluation” shows what was already reasonably concluded from what Jed quoted. There are “indications.” Jed synthesizes it into “that opinion” (what Cude claimed did not exist, perhaps correctly), and then goes on to consider it, probably, as an example of what he then claimed about hundreds of scientists, “they are certain cold fusion is real.” Gerischer didn’t say that and did not mean that.

As Jed well knows, there was a rejection cascade, where an unscientific scientific consensus appeared, and incorrect or misleading opinion became common. It is not fair, but to counter this requires extraordinary evidence, and those who seek to transform any broad consensus need be particularly careful. If you are going to shoot the King, don’t miss.

Jed became cynical, and just expresses his opinion, without that caution. The “certainty” expressed, if that is the actual position, and without being careful about what “certainty” means, would be pseudoscientific. There is no successful cold fusion theory. There is no lab rat allowing wide and ready confirmation. Gerischer points out the problems, he does not think they have been solved. His actual claim is that the “indications” are strong enough to justify further research. This is not, as Cude claims in his “poetic” post (great catch, Ruby!) N-rays or polywater, where controlled experiment revealed the artifact under the original claims. But it is not the confident conclusion Jed imagines.

So, in a discussion that will be read by a general audience, including those who are ordinarily and reasonably skeptical, but perhaps they are not aware of the developed evidence, as Gerischer became, and you make a claim that appears to contradict what they thought was commonplace, what “everybody knows,” you have made a major accomplishment, if they bother to check your sources (most won’t!). But if the sources do not clearly show what you claimed, you have completely blown the opportunity, poisoned the well, and they may think the same about anyone else who makes the same claims. They won’t even look. They will think, with Garwin, “They must be making some mistake.”

Pogo: we have met the enemy, and he is us.

An Impossible Invention

Aleklett’s blog

misc

http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2011/12/05/the-nuclear-physics-of-why-we/

Mats Lewan’s blog

Cude also acknowledged writing as “popeye”. (lovely comment, by the way, on Skeptoid. If Cude/Schroeder ever wonders why some might be motivated to document his activity, he could look at that.) Retrieving posts from ecatnews.com may be difficult or impossible. It has also been claimed that “fact police” was Cude. I found a post on E-Catworld, but the user did not create a profile. While this could be Cude, it is far from obvious.

 

 

Mary Yugo, Sniffex and the Blindness of Reactive Certainty

On LENR Forum, maryyugo bloviated:

When James Randi’s foundation exposed Sniffex as a fraud, he was sued. The suit was similarly dropped before independent technical experts could perform tests on the device. Strange how that works. You may recall that Sniffex was sold as an explosive detector but was really a dowsing rod which when tested by many different agencies, detected nothing. It and similar devices did and probably still do maim and kill many people who rely on them to detect explosives and IED’s, especially in S. E. Asia and the Middle East and IIRC Africa where they can still be promoted and sold. Amusingly, Lomax the abdominable snow man, still thinks these things have merit. I propose giving him one and turning him loose with it in a minefield so he can prove it if he thinks we are slandering the makers.

I know the Sniffex case and have researched it fairly deeply. Much of what Mary Yugo has claimed is not verifiable, but some is. It does appear that the Sniffex was a very expensive dowsing rod (about $6,000, though there are sources saying as high as $60,000).

However, dowsing rods can detect something, this is where Mary goes too far. What they detect is entirely another issue, I call it “psychic.” Meaning “of the mind,” not  meaning woo. A “psychic amplifier” or “sensor” will fail a double-blind test, the kind that Mary considers golden. However, in real life, there are often what are called “sensory leakages,” in parapsychological research. Information that comes through in ways that are not necessarily expected.

In medicine, there is the placebo effect, but, then, are there approaches which amplify the placebo effect? Clinical manner certainly would. Anything else?

I never claimed that the Sniffex “had merit.” This is Mary’s corrupt interpretation, radically misleading, like much of what Mary writes.

And I never claimed that Yugo was “slandering the makers.” Mary made all that up. Continue reading “Mary Yugo, Sniffex and the Blindness of Reactive Certainty”

Examples

CSICOP (now CSI) is, on the face, a skeptical organization, originally dedicated to the “scientific investigation of claims of the paranormal,” but which rapidly became a “debunking” organization with a very clear political agenda, not neutral and scientific. This can clearly be seen on RationalWiki, which is generally very sympathetic to CSI positions and treats them as, more or less, gospel. So, examples, listed under fields.

Diet

Searching for CSICOP-related pronouncements on the Atkins Diet, I found this Skeptical Inquirer article, by Reynold Spector. It’s quite good, though I wouldn’t agree with everything in it, and it uses “pseudoscience” rather loosely.

However, the fanatic skeptics at RationalWiki may not be reading Skeptical Inquirer. So, from the RW article on me, under “Diet woo,”

Lomax is an advocate of the Atkins Diet, a low-carb fad diet that most of the medical community have rejected as quackery.[34]

Spector is pointing out that the opinions of the “medical community” are largely based on poor research, he actually calls it “pseudoscience,” which is further than my major source, Gary Taubes, would go. Bad Science, is his theme. That something is “fad” has nothing to do with its scientific or pseudoscientific character, though usually fads have some kind of evidentiary basis, at least in practical experience, or it wouldn’t become a fad. That is not the same as “proof,” and ideas that are fads are not therefore factually-based. I don’t interact with “most of the medical community,” I interact with doctors and medical professionals that my insurance will pay for, and most of them are quite aware, and have told me, that “Atkins works.” The RationalWiki article itself covers this to a degree. After a shallow coverage of the Atkins Diet, it has:

The reality of low carb, higher protein diets

First of all, this makes a common error: an assumption that LCHF (low-carb, high-fat) diets are “higher protein.” That depends on the choices a follower of the food plan makes.

There is a two fold reality to truly low carb diets: 1) They work[27] 2) They are dangerous[28][29]

So perhaps I have generally followed an Atkins Diet is because it works, and certainly because it worked in my experience. (What does “works” mean? It means, for me, loss of unwanted weight and improvement of cardiac risk factors. Not to mention being able to eat my favorite foods, which, since childhood, were high-fat. I moved away from them many years ago because of the “low fat fad” that was promoted by the “mainstream.” Then I woke up!

Is Atkins “dangerous”? What is shown is very weak and unscientific, not based on actual research, just imagination. Woo, if you like, only carried and promoted by “authorities,” as described by Spector. (And, in far more detail, Taubes.)

The reality with any “Very high protein”(VHP)[30] or “Very low carbohydrate”(VLC)[31] is that they are helpful for short periods of time, but pushing the body into ketosis for extended periods, or asking the body to process high levels of protein leads to a variety of mild to major conditions, including: increased risk of heart disease; kidney dysfunction, liver dysfunction, bone density loss, arthritis, water retention, kidney stones and bad breath (ketoacidosis causes a fruity smell on the breath due to increased acetone in the body) and body odor[32]. So while it does work, it is something best done under the guidance of a physician or dietician (not a nutritionist) and only for short periods of time.

I have seen no evidence that extended ketosis is harmful. “Ketosis” simply means “burning fat,” i.e., as ketone bodies, which the body mobilizes from stored fat. There are cultures that eat very little carbohydrate, without apparent harmful consequences. The problems with a high-protein diet are known (I think). If one only eats protein, the body goes into the third metabolic system, burning protein for fuel. It can do that to survive, for short periods. But fat may be the primary system, largely not active when there is plenty of carbohydrate in the diet, i.e., the modern standard diet. “Bad breath” is culturally determined. So RationalWiki is giving unscientific advice, thinking that this is “rational.”

The other problem with high protein diets is that according to several studies, the weight is more quickly regained than with dieters who followed a moderate reduction in calories over a longer time, presumably due to the fact that the weight was lost under the body’s “duress”, and not simply because more calories were spent than eaten.

The real problem with science and diet and nutrition is the paucity of high-quality studies. Losing weight with an HFLC diet is not stressful, they made that up. It is easy and comfortable. Again, many studies are poor and poorly interpreted.

Atkins is sustainable as a long-term food plan because it allows highly satisfying meals, thoroughly enjoyable. If one stops following the food plan, the result is largely predictable: gain of weight. That is true for almost any diet. They have not cited sources for the alleged studies.

Granted, low-carb diets can be astonishly [sic] effective. But given their side effects, they can be suggested only when the overweight itself presents graver dangers to the health of the patient than the risks of the diet. Morbidly obese patients (weight index 38+) may benefit from low carbohydrate diets in order to normalize their body weight. Such diet should always be considered only as the means, not the end.

This is unencyclopedic fluff. Back to the point, that I “advocate” Atkins (I suggest people look into it) was used as evidence that I am a “woo” promoter. The paragraph above relies on assumptions that Atkins is dangerous (it was common for low-fat promoters — and low fat can be very dangerous, since fat is an essential nutrient — to say that Atkins might work, but has not been proven safe, which, of course, neglects that LCHF diets are very old and some cultures have eaten that way for very long periods of time; the alleged dangers, if they exist at all, can be monitored. For example, I used Ketostix to monitor ketone levels, which would reveal any dangerous ketoacidosis, even though that is very rare and not expected in my general health condition. I also more carefully monitored blood lipids and even got a cardiac CAT scan, since I had hypercholesterolemia, which sounds bad but which can also be simply familial and harmless. Atkins appears to be reasonably safe, compared to the dangers of the standard American diet.

So, that’s RationalWiki. Anything else?

Okay, Skepticblog. Not bad, but uninformed, makes ignorant assumptions to make unscientific recommendations.

Found a nice article by the Skeptical Cardiologist about the death of Atkins (i.e., it had nothing to do with his diet). The guy has some other interesting posts, such as there being no problem with saturated fats from dairy. An actual skeptic! Does he remember to be skeptical of his own ideas? (That is the acid test!) I don’t know, but he is a good writer.

While I found some skeptics spouting unscientific “knowledge,” I did not find an organized anti-Atkins effort, and quite  a bit of positive material that accepted at least part of what Atkins recommended.

Cold fusion

Here is a link to a page presenting a Randi video on cold fusion. Randi claims not to have a priori bias; however, what is shown here is his name-dropping of Carl Sagan, with whom he witnessed (and walked out of) a Martin Fleischmann press conference in which Fleischmann was evasive. This is all well-known, at that point, Fleischmann was under instruction from lawyers, apparently, not to reveal too much. It’s meaningless, but apparently Randi thinks it’s important. Then he turns to the topic of Andrea Rossi. This was November, 2011. Rossi is introduced by the interviewer as an “Italian physicist,” which was quite incorrect, Rossi is an inventor and entrepreneur with a shady past. By this time most LENR researchers had dismissed Rossi as unverifiable and very possibly a fraud. Randi’s predictions were not accurate, Rossi did not go to a public stock offering, and he has never sold stock. He did attract private investment, sale of licenses, based at least in part on something Randi did not anticipate: some real scientists appearing to confirm Rossi’s claims.

They had great fun with “University of Baloney.” The University of Bologna, according to the Wikipedia article, “founded in 1088, is the oldest university in continuous operation[2], as well as one of the leading academic institutions in Italy and Europe[3]. It is one of the most prestigious Italian universities commonly ranking first in national rankings.”

A skilled con artist can fool many regular scientists, including “skeptics.” Such an artist will also carefully avoid close examination by anyone with true expertise, and Rossi did that (Randi did predict this). Knee-jerk dismissal, however, and expectation of fraud was useless. What it took to truly and definitively expose Rossi was actual investment, by people who knew what they were doing (consciously taking risks). The result is thoroughly documented on this blog, the gateway is Rossi v. Darden docket.

Even this is not proof that there is no Rossi Effect. However, at this point, it is clear that Rossi is deceptive and that any demonstration that he can manage in any way is untrustworthy.

Carl Sagan’s real opinion was far more nuanced.

It is clear from his last quoted statement on cold fusion, however, that he was not informed. Claims of neutron production had been largely abandoned by then: if neutrons were being produced (and there is some evidence for that), the levels were a million million times down from the actual measured (and correlated with heat) product, helium. Further, his original idea that science would prevail was incorrect, he did not sufficiently realize the power of the information cascade. (That combined with the difficulty and unreliability of replication, the drastic variability of the effect, which, among other things, made commercial application remote and not yet attainable.)

In a book on Carl Sagan’s Universe, 1997, James Randi wrote about cold fusion.

People are still fussing about cold fusion, which in my opinion and the opinion of many of my colleagues probably just does not work, but it does work in one respect. It gets a lot of funding, at least from Toyota, who just gave them $7 million to pursue cold fusion studies. Wonderful! I must also announce a diistressing bit of news that I am currently arguing with my very good friend, Arthur C. Clarke, in Sri Lanka. I’m glad that he is a considerable distance from me. We might be in a fistfight, because he is quite supportive of cold fusion. He has spoken to the founders of this wonderful notion and is pretty well convinced by them, so I may have to go over and clast that icon too!

This is all personal and is actually the kind of thing that Sagan wrote against. Why does Randi’s opinion matter? What does he know? He was a magician, and could indeed be an expert on the generation of illusion. He will also be senstitive, from his predelictions, to possible fraud and delusion. So … who are his “colleagues”? Magicians? CSICOP members? He isn’t a physicist, but so-called “cold fusion” was not actually a physics topic, it was an experimental result in electrochemistry. The “them” he refers to would be Pons and Fleischmann, funded to continue their research in France. Is that about “cold fusion.” Pons and Fleischmann did not claim that what they found was “fusion.” They claimed it was an “unknown nuclear reaction.” They actually had no real “nuclear evidence,” only more heat than they could explain by chemistry (and they had been mistaken about low-level neutron radiation, later work completely deprecated that claim).

It was not until 1991 that clear nuclear evidence was found; before that, there were mysterious reports of tritium, never correlated with heat, unlike the 1991 work which found a clear correlation between anomalous heat and helium. By that time, cold fusion was already heavily rejected by “consensus,” which, of course, excluded contrary opinion, and, here, Randi talks about a strong argument with Clarke. Over what? Clarke was aware of the evidence, Randi was not, was operating on his own reactivity.

Randi’s opinion is totally nonscientific. However, he writes something else there I find remarkable, see Parapsychology, below.

Parapsychology

This is remarkable, James Randi saying that parapsychology is a legitimate science. This is in a book published on Carl Sagan’s Universe, in 1997.

I speak to a great number of lay audiences and academic audiences, and we have to get some terminology straight. Pseudoscience and crackpot science are differentiated in certain ways. Examples of pseudoscience in my estimation are things like homeopathy, which is diluting a medicine down to the point where you’re beyond Avogadro’s Limit, and there’s none of the original medicine left, but the vibrations are still there. …

I agree with Randi here, that the “explanations” of homeopathy are legitimately called “pseudoscience.” His description of what homeopathy is, however, neglects clinical practice and studies that show that homeopathy is an effective modality. Because the “explanation” which he focuses on, as if it were the entire issue, is truly “woo,” and disconfirmed, as far as I know, by double-blind studies, there being no discernable difference when the placebo effect is ruled out, homeopathic theory is not “scientific.” However, there remains an issue, the effect of the mind and human presence and interaction, and the possibility that some mythical modality might still be effective, amplifying, as it were, the placebo effect, the effect of language and thought. The “vibrations,” he demeans sarcastically, could simply be thought, the idea of the substance, that then has an effect on the practitioner and patient. This is not so simple to test! Is it “pseudoscientific”?  Unfortunately, I don’t know how to test it. Are we pseudoscientists if we propose untestable explanations? Only, I’d say, if we pretend that they are scientific.

In general, pseudoskeptics dismiss evidence that is other than peer-reviewed and confirmed blind studies; yet human beings routinely order their lives based on anecdotal evidence, and I have seen no evidence that refusing to do this is at all conducive to survival. Pseudoskeptics often reject what is ordinary, common human practice, as if “wrong,” imagining that they have the enlightened view and everyone else is stuck in darkness and ignorance. Randi goes on, my emphasis:

Some parapsychology, in fact, I think most of parapsychology, is also pseudoscience because of the way it is approached, but parapsychology is a legitimate science, no question of that, and it must be pursued.

Randi is obviously aware of the definitional problem ignored by the RationalWikians. Parapsychology is the scientific investigation — using the methods of science — of the “paranormal,” which essentially means phenomena that are not yet explainable by “natural physics” or the like. The term has come to refer to “psychic phenomena,” but that is interpretive. The core meaning of “psychic” is “of the mind.” From my point of view, it’s not clear that the mind exists other than in a realm of ideas and impressions. I.e., does the smile of Mona Lisa exist? It’s just some oil paint on canvas, in some patterns. The “smile” exists in our interpretation of those patterns. The idea that the mind is an illusion is very old. But we routinely trust in the reality of the mind. It is entirely possible to move beyond that, to something far more “grounded,” but pseudoskeptics, in general, are utterly naive about all this.

When Randi refers to “most of parapsychology,” he is referring to theories and the possible concepts of some students or researchers in parapsychology, not to parapsychology itself. In the end, his definition of “pseudoscience” relies on his own opinions and judgments, not an objective standard, from what I’ve seen. Genuine parapsychologists, like real skeptics, postpone judgment, possibly forever. Randi then argues practicality.

It is in an unfortunate positions. It’s been around for something like a hundred and twenty years, no necessarily under the name, parapsychology, but scientific research directed in that way has been around for that amount of time. When I speak to parapsychologists, they usually say, “Well, I still have a feeling there is something there,” in spite of the fact that they have not had one positive experiment yet, in more than a century, that has been replicated. Strange! It is very much like, in my estimation, being a doctor for 120 years, and everyone of your patients has died.

All patients die eventually. Perhaps Randi has not realized this.

His essential claim here is that investigations of the paranormal have produced no results, which is nonsense. Some results have indicated, for example, that no effect of statistical significance was present in reports that earlier seemed to show some paranormal phenomenon. Those are parapsychological results, and they are of value. However, there are other results, claimed and published under peer review, that seem to show some paranormal effect, and some of these have been replicated. Randi simply denies that these exist. Parapsychology would continue to investigate these. As with cold fusion, above, it is not clear to me that Randi is aware of those claimed results.

I am not confirming or denying those claims. I simply don’t know enough, it’s quite a bit of work! I’m generally quite skeptical, and choose not to invest the time; however, what I actually did was stand for the right of those interested in parapsycholgy to create educational resources on the topic on Wikiersity, and that includes “beleivers” and “skeptics” and anyone else interested. In setting that up, I did write that parapsychology was, by definition, a science, and that was attacked by RationalWikians as being my “promotion” of pseudoscience, as if I believed in some parapsychological theory or hypothesis. I don’t. Some of the results I have seen are interesting, that’s all. I don’t draw conclusions from that, other than noticing knee-jerk rejection without actual consideration of evidence. I.e., the inverted kind of pseudoscience, practiced by those who imagine they are promoting “critical thinking” and “science.”

After the first thirty years, wouldn’t you get an idea that maybe you should seek a different line of work? …

That’s a choice for individuals to make. What is sometimes offensive from “believers” is a demand that others pay attention to what they believe. If a physicist thinks cold fusion is bogus and doesn’t want to pay attention to it, that’s his or her choice. What is offensive is when those who do actually pay attention, or actually invest time and resources in research, are attacked as “pseudoscientists” and “deluded believers.”

 

CSICOP

The SoS page, following, gets the current name not quite right. It is Committee for Skeptical Inquiry

Has CSICOP Lost the Thirty Years’ War?

This is the best article I’ve ever read on the history of CSICOP/CSI. The name change actually reflects the take-over that Truzzi objected to. “Scientific Investigation” — which would be, by definition, as a field, parapsychology — becomes “skeptical inquiry,” which, in practice, readily favors an unbalanced and unscientific, highly critical approach, even though CSI claims it “Does not reject claims on a priori grounds, antecedent to inquiry, but examines them objectively and carefully,” CSI activists and authors blatantly and sometimes explicitly do this, and CSI does not correct or balance this. This is common for ideological activists, they will quote their ideals as if those are evidence as to actual behavior.

I’m going to explore Examples on the subpage, from my own study. CSI, in general, attacks as unscientific or pseudoscientific, people and fields based on the alleged opinion of the “majority of scientists,” whereas it would be rare that the “majority of scientists” would be aware of the evidence involved. CSI activists often assert “there is no proof,” sometimes taking that down to “there is no evidence.” There is no “proof” is true of much of science, at the edges or “fringe.” Only in mathematics is proof abundant, and mathematics is ordinarily highly cautious about assumptions and logic. To say “there is no evidence,” however, is to completely neglect the most common legal evidence: human testimony. Pseudoskeptics commonly confuse evidence with proof, discounting evidence because they do not consider it proof. The reality would be “I have not seen evidence that convinced me,” sometimes shortened just to “convincing,” perhaps extending this to “me and my friends or those who think like me.”

This is often visible in Wikipedia editing. In the case of cold fusion, the position of cold fusion in the journals flipped many years ago. In the first year after announcement, “negative” papers — as assessed by Dieter Britz, a skeptical electrochemist — outnumbered “positive” ones. The next year they were about equal. After that, positive papers dominated and negative papers almost entirely disappeared. Pseudoskeptics claim that this is because “most scientists” no longer considered it worthwhile to even consider the subject. (There may be some truth to that).

However, years ago, I did a study of mainstream publications from 2005 on, and found not just primary sources, but many reviews, with critical response being rare to non-existent. Supposedly peer-reviewed secondary sources, i.e., reviews, are golden for Wikipedia articles on science, but uniformly and rapidly, citations of these were removed by the “skeptical” faction.

Somehow, authors on cold fusion were able to pass peer review, and in one case, one of the Wikipedia  editors called that “something strange.” Policy has not been followed. An editor there, Manul, shows up in my studies of an editor who appears to support extreme skeptical positions, and when his name was mentioned, that disruptive editor went totally ballistic, as if Manul had been attacked (which was not the case, he was merely mentioned) Manul claimed that he was being harassed off-wiki and had changed his user name (which is pretty useless), and that was mentioned, because he had filed sock puppet reports attacking a favorite target of the disruptive editor, and without that knowledge, it could be assumed that this was two independent editors. Manul has since disappeared, but what I notice here is the threat of reporting the editor he is arguing with for “personal attack.” This was a common tactic of the entire skeptical faction. I see here that Manul is actually a disruptive editor (I would have been blocked in a flash if I had behaved like that), but he has apparently retired, which, when attention might start to be focused on them, disruptive editors, especially those acting in collaboration with a faction, often do.

In one case, in a mainstream chemistry journal, which had published a review of the field of LENR or “cold fusion,” there was a critical Letter published, and one of the original authors and a phalanx of scientists in the field responded, and the critic was left sputtering that the journal would not publish his rebuttal. I find it fairly obvious that journals were refusing to publish knee-jerk pseudoskeptical rejection, and that the shallow (and blatantly incorrect, in a critical way) Letter was the best they got.

“Most scientists” would be completely unaware of this situation, so they would base their opinions on what became widely believed in 1989-1990, that it was all a mistake. I thought that until I actually started to review the field, not as a believer, but as neutrally skeptical (and understanding the theoretical reasons for rejection, they are rather obvious to anyone with knowledge of nuclear physics.)

Something is happening that we don’t understand. For people who have based their identity on “Scientism,” that is terrifying. In theory, humanists and skeptics don’t have a belief system, but in reality, humans do, and denial of it leads to much mischief.

And here is an example of how I learn by writing. To link to the Wikipedia article on Scientism, I needed to look at it, at least briefly. There I saw reference to Schumaker, A Guide for the Perplexed. (1977) And that, for me, immediately brought to mind a book by Nate Hoffman, A Dialogue on Chemically Induced Nuclear Effects, A GUIDE FOR THE PERPLEXED About Cold Fusion (1995). This was one of the first books I read on cold fusion.

(Schumaker’s title was itself a reference to a 12th century book by Maimonides.)

Hoffman has been excoriated by at least one “cold fusion believer” for being Wrong about this or that and probably hostile. However, the book is written from a genuine skeptical point of view, one that does not demand conformance to “expectations” and it actually skewers common pseudoskeptical arguments. Hoffman, I see now, was clearly referring to Shumaker’s book in his title, and skewering scientism in general, i.e., the smug, satisfied belief that challenges to orthodoxy (what “scientists believe,” generally neglecting diversity of opinion among scientists) can be a priori dismissed.

Skeptical about Skeptics

Skeptical about Skeptics 

Googling “pseudoskepticism,” I was presented with this image at the top of the results. I followed it, and found the site. On the face, this is professional-quality presentation. My interest: what is the content? Is it “believer” or “skeptical” or “pseudoskeptical”? It is possible to be a mixture, and some believers can also be skeptical at the same time, the words are not precise. And the site claims to be “skeptical about skeptics.” Or is it pseudoskeptical?

PSEUDOSKEPTICS REVEALED

Genuine skepticism is a virtue in science. Unfortunately, some self-proclaimed guardians of science are committed to conventional taboos against psychic phenomena, despite many promising lines of evidence. Although they call themselves skeptics, they are in truth fundamentalists who attack any challenge to their beliefs, even if it means contradicting the core scientific principles of paying attention to evidence and keeping an open mind. They assume psychic phenomena cannot exist, and remain ignorant of the relevant research. They are pseudoskeptics.

“Many promising lines of evidence,” unqualified, could be a “believer” comment. it is not qualified. Lines of evidence for what? Well, “psychic phenomena,” which means what? The term “psychic” can be used in many ways. The core meaning is “of the mind.” However, it comes to mean, in some contexts, “relating to or denoting faculties or phenomena that are apparently inexplicable by natural laws, especially involving telepathy or clairvoyance.”

There are “phenomena” that are called “psychic,” but by definition (the second definition), that is not a “natural” explanation, and I’m not sure that “laws” explain anything of weight, to depth. They allow us to make certain kinds of predictions; the core scientific question would be verifiability. From a study of conditions, can results be predicted?

The idea that phenomena (i.e., what can be observed) given the name of “psychic” cannot exist is obvious nonsense.

However, the “scientific investigation of claims of the paranormal” seeks causes, it does not deny the phenomena. So a cause of a “clairvoyant’s” surprising knowledge could be “cold reading,” a skill that can be trained, which might be a hypothesis. Testing this could be well-done or otherwise, but the investigation can certainly be scientific. The pseudoskeptics who are the topic of this web site claim otherwise and for this reason they are outside of science, themselves.

Skeptical About Skeptics examines their ill-informed attacks with articles by well-known scientists and thinkers, revealing their faulty critiques and the underhanded methods they employ. We highlight controversies in specific fields of research and shine a light on prominent pseudoskeptics and skeptical organizations.

We are pro-science, and we are in favor of open-minded inquiry.

First of all, are there “attacks,” as distinct from ordinary critique? Are there “underhanded methods” being used? I’ve been, the last few weeks, researching and handling the a family of sock puppets that impersonate their targets, to make impeach them and make it appear that they are disruptive fanatics and cranks, or to confuse deliberation on wikis and other fora. So, yes. That happens. In my study, I have not yet come to the case of Craig Weiler, who appears to be a principal at our topic web site, but he has certainly been a target, see his RationalWiki article, and, looking through the history of that and its talk page, and seeing how much his name is raised by these sock puppets, I see ample confirmation. (I’ve been documenting the “single-purpose accounts” — obvious attack sock puppets — who often create articles like this; see, here, the obvious Strawberry Smoothie and then the most recent editor, Marky — look at his contributions!

His article follows a common trope. If anyone presents evidence “for” some phenomenon being psychic, psedoskeptics will claim that “proof” is being asserted. This runs through many long-standing debates. for example, what really amount to atheist activists, those who are far to the right of ordinary non-believers, will say that “there is no evidence for the existence of God,” leaving out what would be crucial, what is “God”? “God” is a high-level abstraction that might actually mean something different to each person. I use the word as a personal name of Reality, along with many other such names. So, is there no evidence for the existence of Reality? What would that even mean? Pseudoskeptics reduce difficult issues, such as the demarcation problem, to sound bites and snarky comment, especially on RationalWiki. They are anti-science, reducing science, a method for developing effective predictability, to a body of “established knowledge,” while leaving behind the method that maintains and expands that knowledge. The RationalWikians are pretty explicit that they follow the “mainstream,” i.e., the majority of “scientists,” a rather fuzzily-defined group that excludes anyone with differing opinions, no matter what their individual qualifications.

If their targest have a view that seems to differ from the mainstream, they are “cranks” and “pseudoscientists.” Weiler is pouring out some of their own medicine.

As I have mentioned, I’m skeptical about claims of psi being not explainable consistently with known science (experimental results might require some unexpected explanation). It is clear to me, though that some attempted explanations are inadequate for at least one set of experimental results that I’ve looked at. This is far from “believing in pseudoscience,” or “promoting it.” On Wikiversity, I facilitated the formation of an article on Parapsychology, neutral by inclusion and editorial consensus, so far. The pseudoskeptics have no patience for that, the ones that have showed up want a quick victory or else they go away, to come again another day with some new twist, like bogus disruptive editing on Wikipedia.

This SoS article I found quite well-written: Zen … and the Art of Debunkery Or, How to Debunk Just About Anything

I have seen most of the tactics that he sarcastically presents. His lede:

“While informed skepticism is an integral part of the scientific method, professional debunkers — often called ‘kneejerk skeptics’ — tend to be skeptics in name only, and to speak with little or no authority on the subject matter of which they are so passionately skeptical.”

So, I have seen an undergraduate student, with some physics courses, actually considered the resident expert on RationalWiki, ridicule a theory paper on cold fusion by a physicist with over forty years of experience, a standard (hot) fusion expert, because the man used a term he had never seen. It was an ordinary term, “platonic solid.” That student had no understanding of what he was reading, but was certain that there was something wrong with it. The paper was simply an exploration of a possibility that nobody had calculated before, of multibody fusion, just looking at the math of quantum field theory.

I may review various articles on that SoS site as subpages here. I’m critical of some claims, but science advances through academic freedom (and civil discussion), not through ridicule and suppression of alternate views.

So what about homeopathy? After all, the theory seems ridiculous! The idea of some kind of structure in water, some kind of “water memory,” is not quite as ridiculous as it sounds, but water memory operating as claimed with homeopathic medicines seems colossally unlikely to me.

Here is a problem: There are clinical studies showing that the *practice* of homeopathy is effective, even if double-blind tests show that the remedies are not more effective than placebo. That may be challenged, there may be studies, and then there is the question of how to interpret them. This is not a task for fanatics of either kind!

I have used homeopathic remedies on occasion (because I trust in trust itself, which can be created, I’m actually trained to do that.) So I had an injury and someone gives me a remedy, with care and love, and it would be totally rude to reject it. And, in fact, I felt better, healed quickly, etc. Anecdotal, of course. Proves nothing.  I use words alone to accomplish those results, often without a “token.” It’s really about how the brain works).

Homeopathic practice includes training in the “law of similars.” It is entirely possible that a treatment modality based on something, that is not literally accurate, still works. I had this discussion with Andrew Weil in Tucson, something like 1974. It occurred to me that homeopathy might, through the nature of the study and practice, be amplifying the placebo effect. Skeptics generally stop with a finding that a medicine is no better than a placebo, but medicine is practically never prescribed or used without knowledge of what it (supposedly) is.

That could be called a “psychic phenomenon,” though it requires no unnatural explanations, only a possibly different understanding of what “medical practice” is — and how treatments are most effectively applied.

Is cold fusion a fraud?

In a recent post here, I documented the temporary ban of Ascoli65 on LENR Forum. As a result, there was discussion of this site, of Levi and UniBo, and of cold fusion, on fusionfredda.

As part of that, one user gave a series of arguments, ignoring what I’d written, that cold fusion was rejected by mainstream science (both true and stupid in context), and one user, after I pointed out that nobody understands cold fusion, claimed that, no, cold fusion was simply a fraud, representing that as an understanding. I’m not going to continue that conversation unless specifically invited. Because these arguments are old, and I haven’t written about them in quite a while, I’m posting this here.

Beyond that, I’m not concerned if some fanatics have weird opinions on a blog that is rapidly becoming obsolete, designed from the beginning to be useless except for transient bloviating that generates no enduring value. Continue reading “Is cold fusion a fraud?”

OT: Nutritional science

I have at various times mentioned Gary Taubes and the scientific initiative he started, NuSi. The relevance to cold fusion is that Taubes was the author of Bad Science, a book which contributed to the cold fusion rejection cascade; so it is ironic that Taubes, later, confronted a series of information cascades. Sometimes his work is thought of as a defense of the Atkins Diet. It is, far more, an indictment of Bad Science in the field of nutrition, and in this case, Taubes is exposing the dark side of public science, whereas with his book on cold fusion he was aligned with it.

Taubes, it is safe for me to say, is not informed on subsequent developments with cold fusion, and appears not to have been thoroughly informed as to developments even before he closed out his book; rather, he mostly focused on the early history, which was, let’s say, quite a mess, with mistakes made on all sides. I intend to engage Taubes when the field is ready. Not quite, not yet. (I have already communicated with him, and he wanted what he wrote to me to be confidential, but I believe, again, I can say that he was friendly, and gave me a fair bit of his time, and he was supportive of my work. The work he is doing with nutrition is extremely important, and I would not want to distract him from it unless the potential value were very high.

Some involved with cold fusion treat Taubes as … let’s say, “not nice.” My experience differs, but I am informed by his later work and his integrity with respect to it, I look back at his cold fusion work and frame it as that of a young, struggling writer, with a family to support and a tendency to put far more work into a project than he’s likely to be paid for. He needed to finish it.

There is a review of Taubes in Beaudette’s excellent book, Excess Heat (2002), page 319 in the 2nd edition. I agree with all or at least most of the criticisms; however, for the other side, he says:

“Taubes contribution was considerable. He did the heavy legwork needed to write the who-struck-John part of the story. Without his book, the history of the saga would have lost much.”

Where comments elsewhere are sufficiently off-topic of a post or page, I will move them here. If some agreement appears, I may update this page. Meanwhile, just a little background on the Atkins diet:

Wikipedia: Atkins diet.

The Atkins diet, also known as the Atkins nutritional approach, is a low-carbohydrate fad diet promoted by Robert Atkins and inspired by a research paper he read in The Journal of the American Medical Association. The paper, titled “Weight Reduction”, was published by Alfred W. Pennington in 1958.[1]

The Atkins diet is classified as a fad diet.[2] There is only weak evidence supporting its effectiveness in helping achieve sustainable weight loss.[3][4]

This is actually an outrageous bias in the lede, which should be rigorously neutral by consensus. A sign of this is the references in the lede; in theory, everything in the lede should be established in the body of the article, and supported there for verification, with no reference being necessary in the lede itself. However, the reality is that editors — including administrators — often are not adequately informed about the topic to understand the difference between neutral coverage and biased coverage, they may easily think that the bias is “factual.” I have not yet checked the references, but it should be fairly easy to find references to Atkins as a “fad diet,” because that is a fairly common opinion. Just as one can find references to cold fusion as “pathological science.” But it is offensive to refer to cold fusion as “pathological science,” because that is reporting, without attribution, an opinion, a judgment. They are claiming “is,” i.e., definition and it is not part of the definition of Atkins that it’s a “fad diet.” Fad is something that happened to the diet, not the diet itself. Notice that the passive “is classified” is used. Classified by whom? Yes, the reference should supply that, but cold fusion is classified as a scientific reality that was improperly rejected. By some. Fact, but certainly not appropriate in the lede of an article on cold fusion!

The issue of where Atkins got the diet from is too much detail for the lede. I’ll see if it is in the article. The “only weak evidence” ignores the massive evidence that Taubes amassed, and that there is even weaker evidence for alternative approaches to weight loss. “Weak,” then, can be misleading the reader. Atkins was a cardiologist. Is that relevant?

When I began following the Atkins approach, over a decade ago, I found general agreement among my own health care practitioners that the approach was effective, and my own experience confirmed that, and what I read — and because my health was at stake, I read extensively — also confirmed it. Yet some of my first edits on Wikipedia were to the article (or a related one) and that is where I discovered, for the first time, that Wikipedia administrators were overworked and underpaid, making snap judgments that did not actually understand the issues. So the notes:

[1] Pennington AW (1958). “Weight reduction”. Journal of the American Medical Association. 166 (17): 2214–2215. ISSN 0002-9955. doi:10.1001/jama.1958.02990170112033. Retrieved 2014-07-14.

Taubes goes into the history of seeing problems with over-consumption of carbohydrates, it’s actually quite old, and with carbohydrate restriction as a useful approach. I’d need to do more research into the history of Atkin’s ideas, but this would belong in the article, not in the lede. It’s hard to find good help.

[2] Thalheimer J (2015). “Ketosis fad diet alert: skip low-carb diets; instead focus on nutrient-rich choices like whole grains, fruits and vegetables”. Environmental Nutrition. 38 (9): 3.

This is not a journal article, Environmental Nutrition is a newsletter. That is why I could not find this article in Google Scholar. The article begins with:

The Ketogenic, Atkins, and South Beach diets. These diets are all examples of the trendy low-carbohydrate, high-protein eating plans that claim you’ll lose lots of weight in little time. If you are eating less than 20 grams of carbohydrate a day, you’re following a ketogenic diet. Carbs are the body’s preferred fuel, so if you aren’t eating enough, your body will create an alternative energy source called ketones. The goal of an extremely low-carb diet is to get your body into this state, called ketosis, which is thought to speed weight loss.

This is all shallow and assumes we know more about nutrition than we do. “Carbs are the body’s preferred fuel,” is established according to what standard? The fact is that most people have never experienced the alternate metabolism, burning fat, when it’s dominant. There are cultures where fat is the basis of the diet, and I have seen how desirable fat was in a third-world country. When I really looked at my own history of food preferences, I realized that my favorite foods were fat or fatty.

There are three basic nutritional pathways: we can burn carbs, fat, or protein. The protein pathway is for emergencies, as an alternative to starvation. It will burn our own protein stores, i.e., muscle, mostly. Very dangerous, but it could save one’s life, after the fat stores have been burned.

Carboyhdrates are generally digested into glucose in the bloodstream. The resulting high levels of glucose are toxic, but … insulin is released which catalyzes the storage of glucose as fat, thus eliminating the toxicity and providing a store of energy for the future. As long as there is sufficient glucose in the food, we will not burn fat. We will burn some at night, when there may be a prolonged reduction.

When one is not eating sufficient glucose to support ongoing activity, the body will shift to burning fat. When it does this, there is a side-effect, the generation of “ketone bodies” in the bloodstream, easily tested in the urine, and Atkins plan followers will often buy and use “Ketostix.” There are two reasons: the first is a confirmation that one is actually eating low-carb, and the second could be to avoid ketone levels rising high enough to be dangerous. “”Ketoacidosis.” I have never heard of this actually happening to someone from following an Atkins plan, but it could happen, I’d think, of someone tried to eat Atkins but also making it low-fat. The objection that Thalheimer makes in this article is a common one among those who have not actually studied the diet and how it affects patients.

Ketosis risks. People on ketogenic diets can lose weight, at least in the short term, although scientists aren’t entirely sure why. It’s thought that production of ketones may help control hunger or improve the breakdown of fat. But there are risks and side effects involved in losing weight this way. Ketones are meant to be an emergency back-up system for your body, not a long-term energy source. They increase the body’s acidity, which can lead to low blood phosphate levels, decreased brain function, and increased risk for osteoporosis and kidney stones. People on ketogenic diets report higher rates of headaches, bad breath, constipation, diarrhea, general weakness, rash, insomnia, and back pain.

He is simply displaying ignorance. First of all, he acknowledges the weight loss. He makes it out as “short term.” That could be based on studies that show return of weight among people that don’t continue the food plan. That should be a no-brainer: go back to the way you were eating that led to the weight gain, and you will regain the weight and maybe even more. Often more.

The behavior is like that of addicts: the problem is considered something that will go away, all it takes is “will power.” This does not work for any addiction. What works is to find alternate ways of living that are even more satisfying than the dysfunctional ways.

He hints at why the Atkins diet may work, but doesn’t realize the full significance, because his thinking is mired in beliefs about the way things are “meant to be.” I.e., high-carb diets. Those are actually quite modern. We are omnivores, we can eat different kinds of foods (though we, unlike ruminants, cannot digest fiber, which is considered a carbohydrate. Fiber intake is excluded from “carb-counting” in Atkins diets.) Which kind of food is “preferred.” That turns out to be culturally sensitive.

He says that “the production of ketones may help control hunger.” This is what I know from my own experience: if I eat fat and protein and fiber, any hunger than I might have is sated. Fat, in particular, is satiating. It is actually difficult to “eat too much.” What I’ve found with long-term low-carb is that this effect declines to some extent, and I am finding that it may be necessary to pay attention to quantity. I eat far less food, as to weight, than I would have been eating were I eating normal carbs (like bread or pasta). I am still finding weight loss to be very slow, and I suspect that the initial appetite suppression is not so effective any more. However, this is remarkable: I don’t actually get “hungry.” So I’m largely eating for pleasure. “Getting hungry”, some think, is largely  a product of being habituated to glucose, from the “insulin crash.”

“People on ketogenic diets” do report the side-effects mentioned. However, many of these side-effects will be reported in any population. “Bad breath” is a symptom of ketosis, and is generally harmless, and ketosis tends to fade as one becomes, long-term, accustomed to the diet. I must be in ketosis, from what I eat, but ketone test strips no longer show it. To be sure, I need to buy some more, mine are expired…. I have fewer of the symptoms than, probably, the general population. I’ve never met anyone for whom the sometime “side effects” have been a deal-breaker. Constipation? Getting enough fiber? Treating constipation also tends to be very simple and effective.

And losing weight isn’t the same thing as gaining health. Cutting carbs from your diet means cutting out (or drastically cutting back on) proven health-promoting foods, like whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, and all of their vitamins, minerals, fiber, antioxidants and phytochemicals. Replacing those carbs on your plate means loading up on protein and fats, so low-carb diets often cause increased consumption of less-healthful red meats and saturated fats.

Of course losing weight is not the same thing as gaining health. It is more of a symptom, (and could also be a sign of some disease process). First of all, he is not distinguishing Atkins “induction phase,” from maintenance, when the diet opens up; his concept of Atkins is just the very low-carb initiation. Long term, the food plan will still restrict “grains,” but the eating of whole-grain products will be encouraged over the highly processed forms. It does mean loading up on fats. Is that healthy or harmful. If he knows the basis for “nutritional science,” he would know how shaky is the evidence on that, and how contrary evidence was largely ignored. Atkins is not a “high protein diet,” this is a common error. It’s high fat. Are “red meats” unhealthy? Again, the evidence? What there is was in cherry-picked epidemiological studies. Are saturated fats unhealthy? The original mantra became that fat was Bad. Then, gradually, it became more sophisticated, but still clung to the Big Fat Lie. The relationship between butter consumption and death rates has been studied. What did those studies find? Does he have any awareness of the science? He’s not showing a sign. Rather, he is an “expert” writing recommendations for others, but not based on actual study, just knee-jerk reactions and ideas.

The bottom line. Carbs are the best way to fuel your body

He assumes that this would be true for everyone, but he cites not one piece of evidence for it. There are effects of habitually fueling your body with carbs, and effects of fueling your body regularly with fat. What are they? What is his definition of “best”? No clue. He assumes the reader will know what he means. If you don’t eat carbs, you won’t get diabetes, or if you have it, the symptoms will tend to abate. That’s been known for almost a hundred years. Does he have any clue?

(I would not consider this article Reliable Source for a scientific topic. It’s just his opinion, this wasn’t peer-reviewed, I’d bet. An editor approved it, but this could never appear in a scientific journal, it’s a popular article. When I saw the reference, I assumed “journal,” and wasted time checking Google Scholar. The guy has papers on ketosis, particularly about it as pathology, but that is almost completely irrelevant to the Atkins diet, which leads to what is commonly called “Benign dietary ketosis.”

Before I move on, has this been discussed on the article Talk page? Years ago, there were extended edit wars on related articles. Yes. Useless, but you can read it.

Citation doesn’t support claim.

This appears to have resulted in an improvement, this study is cited now.  Information has, however, been cherry-picked from the study. Overall, the evidence does not seem conclusive at all. What is reported is synthesis (a common Wikipedia problem: contrary to policy, but Wikipedia also demands that material that is not quoted be paraphrased; this often results in the introduction of an interpretive bias.)

As to the second source now cited on this, there is vandalism in the reference, demonstrating that those who might have edited this article at one time are no longer watching. I edited the article in 2005, it was on my watchlist. I’d have seen the vandalism. But, of course, I’m banned. I proposed and demonstrated a method for banned editors to make useful contributions without complicating ban enforcement. It worked. It was then attacked, probably because Abd proposed it. This resulted in significant damage!

But anyone could fix the vandalism. So I looked for the edit. OMG! Impossible! Here is the edit.

This is not a vandal editor, it’s worse. Doc James was not only an arbitrator, but a good friend of mine. So is that the author’s real name? It’s not given in citations. I still think this was vandalism, but done by a child or young relative of James with access to his computer when he was adding the reference. I’ll let him know. (I’d congratulate the kid on knowing how to type “poo,” and ask him not to do it again! I actually dealt with a user somewhat like this on Wikiversity, as an admin there. He responded and eventually became … a WMF administrator at a ridiculously low age. Good one, too.

Meanwhile:

The entire gist of the article that the diet is a fad is incorrect has no proper source.

These all went nowhere because Wikipedia structure does not support the stated policies. People who know and understand the topic are often unwelcome as “POV pushers.” People who know how to use Wikipedia dispute resolution structure may get banned if they step on any admin toes. (Admins do not like to see their decisions reversed!). What was called “Wikipedia Rule Number One” is kept for nostalgia, “If a rule prevents you from improving an article, ignore the rule.” People who try that get stomped on, unless their actions are popular with administrators. (In the early days, it worked. What happened? Problems of scale, plus the Iron Law of Oligarchy.)

[3]  Gudzune, KA; Doshi, RS; Mehta, AK; Chaudhry, ZW; Jacobs, DK; Vakil, RM; Lee, CJ; Bleich, SN; Clark, JM (7 April 2015). “Efficacy of commercial weight-loss programs: an updated systematic review.”. Annals of Internal Medicine. 162 (7): 501–12. PMC 4446719 Freely accessible. PMID 25844997. doi:10.7326/M14-2238.

Yes. This is a review of studies that showed that Akins was as effective or sometimes more effective than common “standard” recommendations. None of these are actually conclusive, because of the problems noted.

[4] Harper A Poo; Astrup, A (2004). “Can we advise our obese patients to follow the Atkins diet?”. Obesity Reviews (editorial). 5 (2): 93–94. PMID 15086862. doi:10.1111/j.1467-789X.2004.00137.x. Despite the popularity and apparent success of the Atkins diet, documented scientific evidence in support of its use unfortunately lags behind.

“Poo” is some kind of vandalism. This study asked a practical question for physicians, and assumes that something must be proven before being recommended, which ignores that people have to eat something, low-fat diets was strongly recommended and pushed, and the avoidance of saturated fats is still heavily promoted (I know, because I just went through cardiac rehab, and nutritional advice was pushed that included this), but this was never conclusively established.

I have found that physicians are — sensibly — loath to recommend anything that is not “standard of practice,” even when they know much better. Any patient could die, that’s a standard risk of being alive, and the best advice can fail. If they have recommended standard of practice, they cannot be successfully sued. If they have recommended anything else, they can. To get better advice from doctors, I needed to be pro-active, because, even from the best, the first advice I’d get was standard. So I needed to research the issue and then ask lots of questions, and good doctors would answer the questions honestly. If a doctor didn’t do that, I got a different doctor! I’m responsible for my health, and I need honest advisors.

Now, this is beautiful. From that article’s abstract:

Low-carbohydrate diets have been regarded as fad diets, but recent research questions this view.

This is what happens on Wikipedia with articles on controversies. Instead of building deep content, with the article being a neutral summary of deep content (which is what really happened with most paper encyclopedias), the article becomes patchwork pieces, often promoting some point of view or other, but typically not completely obvious about it, except to someone who actually knows the topic. Instead of seeing “POV pushers” as resources (someone with a POV, a Point of View, can be an excellent POV detector for differing points of view), Wikipedia decided to ban them because they could not, it was believed, be supervised effectively. This is the issue that I attempted to take to the Arbitration Committee. All attempts at Wikipedia reform went down in flames, or at least it was common. The structure became highly inflexible, in the name of flexibility.

How could Wikipedia be a summary? Where would the deep content be?

Wikiversity! Wikiversity was (and generally still is) neutral by inclusion, rather than neutral by exclusion, like Wikipedia. There was a question asked about the topic on that Talk page. Instead of giving the person a place to ask their question, they told the person they were wrong for asking it. It was behavior like this, all too common, that led my choice to abandon Wikipedia. I came to actively dislike too much of the community, and I saw that changes to structure that might stop enabling and encouraging abuse were opposed by an entrenched faction, with too few users realizing the issues, almost everyone just looked at the immediate case, and how it appeared, instead of looking at the structure, and when I pointed to structural defects, it was though that I was blaming the individuals.

When I tried to link the Wikiversity cold fusion resource from the Wikipedia cold fusion article, that was immediately removed, in spite of sister wiki links being normal. The arguments made no sense. Another Wikiversity admin attempted to add the link, it was immediately removed as well.

Yet anyone who attempted to discuss the article on the Talk page was slapped on the wrist. Sometimes the article and talk page were semi-protected to stop this. Nobody was ever told, as far as I recall, that they would be free to discuss the topic on Wikiversity, under the WMF umbrella, with a neutrality policy.

Nor were external links that were obviously useful allowed, again, on arguments that were not actually policy-based. (And that exclusion continues.) Whatever excuses could be dredged up were used. For a few years, lenr-canr.org was globally  blacklisted at the request of a Wikipedia administrator who was actually reprimanded for personally blacklisting it, and there was no legitimate reason for it. Eventually, I requested the lifting of the blacklisting and it was sanely granted, but I was, before the request was granted, I was banned from the topic for “writing too much.” Never mind that the comments there had been made necessary by bull-headed and repetitive argument from that same administrator…. who also was deeply involved in the bans of number of users who had exposed his ignorance. Even when they went about it civilly; indeed, the term “civil POV-pusher” was coined to refer to people like this.

Ah, Favorite Topic.

That review, though it is a bit old, directly questions what is reported in the article as if it were fact, i.e., “fad diet.” It is not difficult to neutrally present all this. Much of this is generic, about low-carb diets, not just Atkins.

My intention in pointing to the Wikipedia article was to point to some resources on Atkins and related diets, but, ah, I got hung up. It often happens when I look at Wikipedia, particularly where I have knowledge of the topic. “Poo” is pretty funny. These things are all over, actually. If vandalism is not immediately caught, it can often last for many years. What this shows is that few are actually reading the references! I remember a reference I caught about Attention Deficit Disorder, I think it was, where something seemed wrong to me about the usage of an article, but I could not find an on-line copy. So I went to a medical library. Sure enough, the article had been misunderstood, which commonly happens with Wikipedia editors, with or without an axe to grind. This is why “convenience copies” are important, when they exist, and that is why the legally hosted copies of articles on lenr-canr.org were useful to link.

The articles were reliable source (not lenr-canr.org). A host of misleading arguments to the contrary, that, by the time I was finished, had become lies, were presented and continued to be presented. They are not only still excluded, but that source for reading such papers, actually recommended in peer-reviewed papers, such as Storms (2010), was not allowed as an external link. Why not? Basically, a faction that includes administrators with a strong point of view, prevented it. And when that was actually confronted, the Arbitration Committee shot the messenger.

I worked for weeks, at one point, to get one single link approved, in the article on Martin Fleischmann. I set up consensus process, and strong consensus did appear, the link was used, and stood for years. It was eventually removed. Weeks of effort, pushing that boulder up the hill. The faction just keeps on and eventually pushes the boulder down the hill, or someone else pushes it, not realizing how much work went into it. The result is that working on Wikipedia can be a huge waste of time, and many long-time users have figured that out. (In theory, it should not be so difficult, but in practice, against an entrenched faction, it is extraordinarily difficult.) In this case, the reference was removed with the entire section containing it with this edit. Looks like nobody noticed. Again, I’d have seen this edit, but, of course, I stopped watching Wikipedia long ago. Heavily discussed content was removed with no reason given, no talk page discussion. The user appears to have an interest in electrochemistry. No user page.

The fact is that adding convenience copies to all or nearly all of the Fleischmann papers cited would be trivial. I only worked heavily on that particular one because, in it, Fleischmann explained their goals in doing what they did, that found an anomalous effect. It is not what is commonly claimed (without evidence, just conjecture).

So, some more links on low-carb diets or Atkins:

The Atkins Diet: Everything You Need to Know (Literally)

This is quite good, though some claims are overstated. Basically, the “as much as you want” is not necessarily true, because if we keep eating beyond natural appetite, we can still consume too much. What is true is that normally, appetite on an HF moderate protein diet will self-regulate. I never, ever feel deprived. But I can still eat too much! When I realize this, that I’m eating out of some kind of habit, and lower how much I eat, I am not left hungry!

They don’t really talk about what makes an Atkins program fail, but they give hints.

I found that I needed to make sure that I always had delicious foods that I would thoroughly enjoy, and I also learned how to create enjoyment. Both. Before I eat anything, I look at it and tell myself how great it’s going to taste. I start to salivate, just thinking about it. I won’t do this with cardboard, no matter how much good I think the fiber will do. I do it with foods that are *normally considered delicious or at least very decent.” And I use spices that I like, etc.

I think most Atkins diet failures (i.e., the people go off the diet and gain the weight back, as they mention) are due to people not having adequate coaching. Just handing someone a brochure isn’t enough. People tend to think of a “diet” as meaning deprivation. You can see claims that the Atkins diet is “boring.” OMG! For me, at least, it’s the opposite! I don’t need to eat a lot. Today, I took a chicken thigh and broiled it lightly, cut it up and tossed it in a pan with some butter and green beans (nuked from frozen in one of those microwaveable packages), and added a TIkka Masala sauce (moderate carb, high fat) and cooked it a little. It was absolutely delicious. I doubt I’ll eat anything else today but, of course, the heavy cream in my morning coffee, which I call “my fuel.” My guess is that I’ll lose a little weight today, maybe. I do the same basic recipe with Brussel sprouts or broccoli florets or asparagus spears. Or I use boneless beef ribs, very fatty and delicious, in this stir-fry.

I tend to eat cashews or almonds as snacks and can easily rack up too much food doing that. I don’t think “too many calories,” but that could be one measure of it.

Atkins Diet Plan Review from WebMd, generally reliable.

This is decent. It includes some “standard of practice” recommendations, like avoiding salt, which is apparently not necessary for anyone without established disease or special conditions. If avoiding salt harms appetite and enjoyment, I’d personally suggest going ahead and eating a salted food. Of course, if you have high blood pressure, all bets are off. Pay attention to your health and your unique needs! One size does not fit all.

My favorite foods as a kid were steak and baked potato with plenty of butter and sour cream. So, now, I rarely eat the potato, but once in a while (every few months, perhaps), I do. Atkins also did, with that butter and sour cream. And the skin, of course, the best part if crispy. (Fat slows down digestion of carbohydrates, apparently, as does fiber, so when I eat carbs, it is often with butter or the like. Coconut oil is fantastic!)

As the article notes, “Does bacon and eggs for breakfast, smoked salmon with cream cheese for lunch, and steak cooked in butter for dinner sound like a weight-loss menu too good to be true? If you love foods like these and aren’t a fan of carrot-filled diets, Atkins may be right for you.”

Bacon and eggs sounds great to me, but I’m a Muslim, so forget the bacon, unless it’s beef bacon or turkey bacon. I sometimes eat eggs with mayonnaise and maybe a little mustard, or with cheese, and stir-fried (fritatta style) with mushrooms or perhaps garlic or whatever I want to put in. Quick and easy, and I always have the ingredients in my refrigerator or on my kitchen shelves.

Smoked salmon with cream cheese? Darn! You mean I have to eat it? Please don’t throw me in the briar patch! Steak cooked in butter? I’m not Jewish, but I’d just skip the butter if I was, and use something kosher and delish, and choose steak with lots of fat (the best kind, and everyone knows that!), maybe just broil it, and not overcooked. The Keyes study that was used to claim Fat is Bad For You excluded France….

How about shrimp, lightly cooked, with some kind of sauce, maybe. Mayo with a little catsup is great (not too much, they put SUGAR in catsup. But don’t run screaming from the room. Atkins dieting need not be fanatic, and a tablespoon of catsup has about 5 g of carbs. Don’t eat too much!) Or I could use Tikka Masala sauce, the one I’ve found has 6 g of carbs in a 2 oz serving. Heh! I probably used twice that much with that chicken! The green beans I included would be 6 grams of carb minus the 3 grams of fiber. If I want a snack, I may eat two olives stuffed with bleu cheese. Less than 2 grams total and delicious.

I could make my own sauces without sugar, but today I’m still under 20 grams. No stress, no worry.

A relatively recent article by Taubes in the New York Times:

(Diet advice that ignores hunger).

 

 

 

 

What is scientific consensus?

Cold fusion debates often assert that there is this or that scientific consensus. What would this mean?

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/consensus

1 a : general agreement : unanimity • the consensus of their opinion, based on reports … from the border — John Hersey
b : the judgment arrived at by most of those concerned the consensus was to go ahead
2 : group solidarity in sentiment and belief

So what, then, is scientific consensus? Because consensus is about opinion or judgment, there must be someone with opinions or judgments. Who?

Well, “scientists,” of course! Just any scientist? Continue reading “What is scientific consensus?”

Ruby Carat releases Storms video on HYDROTON A Model of Cold Fusion

Edmund Storms HYDROTON A Model of Cold Fusion

Transcript at Storms 2017 video transcript.

Comments welcome. My commentary will be added.

This is an excellent video explaining Storms’ theory. Ruby, at the beginning, treats cold fusion as a known thing (i.e., will provide energy for a very long time, etc.) — but that’s her job, political. Cold Fusion Now is an advocacy organization.

Our purpose here, to empower the community of interest in cold fusion, can dovetail with that, but we include — and invite — skeptical points of view.

As to cold fusion theory, there is little agreement in the field. Criticism of theory by other theoreticians and those capable of understanding the theories is rare, for historical reasons. We intend to move beyond that limitation, self-imposed as a defensive reaction to the rejection cascade. It’s time.

For cold fusion to move forward we must include and respect skepticism, just as most of us want to see the mainstream include and respect cold fusion as a legitimate research area.

At this point, I intend to put together a review of the video, which first requires a transcript. Anyone could make such a thing. If a reader would like to contribute, I’d ask that references be included to the video elapsed time (where a section begins) … though this could also be added later. Every contribution matters and takes us into the future.

I have done things like this myself, in the past, and I always learned a great deal by paying attention to detail like that, detail without judgment, just what was actually said. So I’m inviting someone else to benefit in this way. Let me know!

(I did make a transcript, then checked my email a day late and found Ruby Carat had sent me one….)

(There is a “partial” transcript here. I’ll be looking at that. If someone wants to check or complete it, that would be useful.)

Transcript ( from YouTube CC, edited by Abd ul-Rahman Lomax)

Transcript moved to Storms 2017 video transcript.

Questions on that video may be asked as comments on that page.

How to shoot your credibility in the foot

Simple. Follow Alan Fletcher’s example. He hasn’t done the testing yet, he claims, but when I saw Alan’s announcement of the pool, my immediate reaction was “Ew! WTF?”

Missing in action: self-critique. What could be a problem with this? How could this pool create doubt regarding the work Alan has undertaken?

This obvious lack of self-critique is a prominent feature of the models of Rossi behavior that I use. Rossi seems totally naive about how his work would appear to others. If he is criticized, they are snakes and clowns. A simple desire to verify is full-on grounds for exclusion. Jed Rothwell wanted to bring his own measuring equipment to a demonstration (such as thermometers.) No, visit not allowed. Rothwell at that time was a strong supporter of Rossi. He didn’t take it personally, remained supportive, because he had friends who privately told him they had witnessed impressive tests, and he trusted them.

Fletcher seems to think that nobody could question his honesty. It is not that I’m questioning it, and the most likely source of mistrust would be from Planet Rossi. And I will explain below what I suspect may happen.

Continue reading “How to shoot your credibility in the foot”

How to beat the law

Don’t try to do it to often, don’t push your luck, but it’s actually easy to experience. Just buy lottery tickets (as a weak example, but easy to understand) until you win. Look at that transaction only: you beat the odds but you won. With some games, you might win immediately, you’ll have a net lifetime gain, unless you continue playing, having decided that you are lucky or smart or whatever. Then it becomes

Usually, anyway. This post is inspired by Simon Derricut’s defense of his ideas, and because he’s exposing some basic principles, worth looking at, and commonly misunderstood, I’m giving this a primary post here, instead of it merely being discussion on posts that aren’t on the point. So below is his last effort, responding to me:

(The Laws of Thermodynamics are statistical: they may be violated with isolated interactions, and this is all well-known, except that people forget and say things, quite commonly, that are inconsistent with that, giving impossibility arguments that are not actually the Laws as understood by those who know them well. This sometimes impacts LENR discussions.)

Take it away, Simon: (my comments are in indented italics): Continue reading “How to beat the law”

On desperation, genius, and developmental disorders

Learn something every day. Yesterday, I encountered Miles Mathis, from a post on LENR Forum.

I think Mathis is way cool, for the same reason my daughter, at 14, thought Donald Trump was way cool, or something like that. (And then she actually met Bernie face-to-face). Mathis is definitely thinking and investigating out-of-the-box. This is actually the evolved task of many or most teenagers, and some of us never grow up. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is considered a developmental disorder. It can also be seen as a genetic variation, an adaptation more successful in hunter-gatherer conditions than for a settled, agricultural and centrally structured society. From the post of Eli on LF:

The world desperately needs a new source of energy. (Governments, banks and energy companies, ARE AGAINST).

I already know where this is going from the first sentence. Desperation creates very poor thinking, where the associative power of the cerebral cortex is reduced to supporting the immediate demands of the amygdala, which routinely will confine that vast power to figuring out how to justify the emotional reaction, in this case, a sense of desperation and the wrongness and animosity of “governments, banks, and energy companies.” In other words, the collective; yet there is a paradox here, a different collective that is not organized, it’s fuzzy. Elisha wrote:

We need to unite us, share what we have, and open business opportunities to all!, United we are Strong!

Obviously. We would be strong if united. However, we are already united in some ways, and this unity is manifest through governments and other organizations, but the writer here doesn’t see that; rather he sees and is talking about something else, an unorganized unity. Unity of what? Well, all right-thinking people, of course! People who think like us!

When such a unity does manifest, with sufficient motivation, it can and has created vast social tragedy. I immediately think of China and the Communist revolution there, which replaced the “bad people” — landlords — with “good people,” right-thinking, the “vanguard of the proletariat.” and then which purged all defective elements within itself, and on and on until the society finally vomited and began to actually create synthesis, i.e., what Marx would have predicted, instead of fixing itself in opposition. Or I think of Adolf Hitler, who appealed to the sense of some terrible conspiracy behind every perceived disaster, or, say, Donald Trump. And I am not comparing Trump to Hitler, except to note that both were populists, appealing to what was called the “silent majority.”

On the internet, it becomes easy to find others with whom we will agree, and thus the “social test of reality” becomes possible, putting off the “ultimate test,” allowing us to believe in a reality without substance, merely created by what is called “conspiracy,” in my training. Example of conspiracy: “My wife doesn’t understand me.” Conspiracy: “Yeah, women are like that!”

If science is simple, common, and accessible to all, that they can not suppress it. That is the advantage for the world, but the disadvantage for manufacturers, since anyone can copy it.

Again, I notice the polarization that does not characterize true inspiration with genuine transformative power. This is not Mathis writing, this is Elisha, who has apparently attached himself to Mathis-as-authority, which is ironic. The teenage me didn’t and doesn’t attach to anyone as authority, but … I did actually meet and spend substantial time with Feynman, and what Feynman inspired in me was not belief in his conclusions, but excitement over his approach, and his writing still does that for me.

Mathis is approaching physics, in some ways, like Feynman, but with something else that contaminates his work. It shows in his “polemic.” Feynman loved people, you can see this in, for example, his imitation of Italian, and many other stories. At the same time as he recognized and confronted “institutional stupidity,” he loved the people and maintained a high sense of humor.

The SECRET of LENR is this.

Nickel with monohydrogen, excited with Electrical current in one direction and Magnetic stimulation at Larmor frequency at or below 90 deg.

Aw, hogwash. Sure, there could be some effect, but the conditions described do not apply to the most basic and most confirmed LENR phenomena. First of all, there is, in gas-loaded work, no “electrical current in one direction” and how one would get “magnetic” Larmor frequency stimulation in a conductor (nickel and hydrogen) without induced AC current is beyond me. Larmor frequency stimulation is apparently used in the Letts dual-laser work, involving a teraherz beat frequency, but Letts dual-laser has not been confirmed and is clearly not related to the basic confirmed LENR results — and IH did apparently attempt to confirm Letts, and the Murray deposition implies that they had no success — except that they may have considered low XP findings “only low level,” which is scientifically irrelevant, if the XP correlates with a much lower laser power (as I think it does in Letts’ reports)

Elisha is not standing on science, but wants us to unite in science? What is wrong with this picture?

(Mathis is not responsible for the fawning extension of his idea into LENR.)

The polarization of nuclear spin axes with static magnetic field does not affect nuclear beta “decay” rates, but the addition of a perpendicular high frequency alternating field at the Larmor frequency, does. With maximum stimulation, does not occur exactly at 90deg nuclear spin precession, but at some angles a little below and a little above 90deg ….

This is the source: http://milesmathis.com/main2.pdf

This does not establish any connection with cold fusion. That’s Elisha’s idea. The source is Mathis’ praise of himself, reflecting his assessment of his communications with genuine scientists. Any genuine scientist is likely to appreciate and benefit from out-of-the-box thinking, it can be hard to find. However, that does not translate to “Mathis is right,” though Mathis himself seems to be promoting that idea. And what does he seek?

My new solutions to old problems are being talked about and seriously considered by working physicists. Do you know any other “internet crank” that can say that? I don’t.

Mathis’ ignorance of the range of human experience and behavior is not a proof of anything, it is hardly even evidence. Mathis is obviously an internet crank, which does not mean he is wrong on any particular idea.

If you want the real numbers applied to specific experiments, I guess you will have to hire me.

And someone might, and that will not prove anything other than possible curiosity and willingness to invest some resources in investigation (money or time). However, seeing this has the effect on me of suppressing interest in his ideas about physics. Caring about being paid is not what I’m accustomed to seeing from the real vanguard; rather, that arises with frauds and a certain kind of self-obsessed crank.

Our own joshg (Josh Guetzkow) wrote an article on “Mathisian physics.”

What will the advent of cold fusion mean for establishment physicists? Will they be able to bend over backwards with ad hoc band-aids to patch up the same theories that keep telling us cold fusion is “impossible?” Or will it require a massive overhaul of our understanding of the physical universe? In that case, we will need a new paradigm and new theories to rebuild it from the ground up. As it happens, someone already has rebuilt physics from the ground up. His name is Miles Mathis, an independent, self-taught polymath. I believe his revolutionary theories hold the key to a comprehensive explanation of all LENR processes, and I am writing this to explain why.

In the “believer community,” which overlaps the “cold fusion community” and the “CMNS community,” there is a concept that is shared with the “skeptical community,” they actually agree on it — and it is, rather obviously, false, and has been known to be false, by the best scientists, since 1989. This idea is that “known theory” somehow proves that “cold fusion” — what’s that? — is “impossible.” We see this idea over and over in Huizenga (1992 and 1993), and it is clearest in his second edition. Huizenga clear has a concept of what process must be occurring if “cold fusion is real.” Yet the actual claim, from the first FP paper, is of an “unknown nuclear reaction.” The analysis that Huizenga applies is to, not an unknown reaction, but a known reaction, or some alternative known reactions, such as d+d -> 4He, the direct and simple fusion by overcoming the Coulomb barrier between two deuterons.

Looking at the Miles results on the heat/helium correlation, he says, in the second edition that this result is amazing, and, if confirmed, would solve a major mystery of cold fusion (i.e., the ash, which was unknown until then, with only a few speculations that it might be helium). Then he says that he expects it will not be confirmed, “because no gammas.” The conversion of deuterium to helium almost certainly requires a high-energy gamma, known to be produced when this conversion occurs as a rare branch of normal hot fusion. The gamma appears to be required by conservation of momentum; but that is only true under two conditions: first, that this is the specific reaction, for if some unexpected catalysis allows, as an example, the fusion of four deuterium atoms to form one 8Be atom, this would generate no high energy gamma (which is what Huizenga expects, low energy photons, if nuclear in origin, are called “gammas” but those are not known to be missing, and would be difficult to detect, leading us to the second condition: that there are no halo states capable of storing the energy for what may only require something in the femtosecond range.

The point is not that multibody fusion is the explanation, but that the impossibility argument fails, as it must, and as was well-known in 1989, being well expressed by Schwinger and others.

What we call “cold fusion” is an “unknown reaction,” now known by a preponderance of the evidence, with very little contrary evidence, to be the conversion of deuterium to helium with no other major persistent products other than heat. (So tritium and transmutation evidence, which may relate to rare branches and secondary effects, can confuse).

There is no violation of “existing physics,” in this, other than the general idea, easily in error — and in error many times in the history of science — that if an “unknown reaction” possibility existed, it would have been observed. In fact, such phenomena are observed, often, but the observations can be missed because they are unexpected. There is a great example of this in Mizuno’s book, a major PdD heat event, before the Pons and Fleischmann announcement, that he passed over as one of those unexplained things that will never be understood.

Was that LENR? From his description, probably.

To examine the vast body of work by Mathis would be tedious. I watched two videos of his on the “Pi = 4” trope. He is crazy, that’s really obvious. That isn’t coming from a belief that pi is not 4, but rather from his redefinition of pi. Pi is used in certain calculations, and may then generate some incorrect results if the calculations do not take into account all relevant conditions. Mathis’ demonstration is blatantly flawed, which is covered over with poor explanation; essentially he assumes that two ball bearings with the same initial velocity, rolling in two tubes on a flat surface, will continue to move with the same velocity, when one tube is straight while the other is curved into a circle. What he finds, summed up, is that the ball bearing in the circular path takes longer than that in the straight path. This is utterly unsurprising and the unstated assumption underneath his argument is obvious: that the ball bearings will move with the same velocity in each case. What he does is only to show that the circular motion slows the ball bearing, as it must, from some simple physical arguments. But he assumes constant velocity to “measure” distance travelled. This is so obvious that I wonder about Mathis’ sincerity.

His explanation of the circularity of a rainbow is more interesting, and less easily punctured. His presentation of rainbows as being images of the Sun is interesting and supported by photographs. It is entirely possible to find long-standing explanations of things that are unreal. If anyone might do this, it could be Mathis. He’s smart, he actually is a polymath, but his conclusions, his personal attachments to being right, if he has them, as appears, are no more likely to generate wisdom than what he’s rejecting.

Feynman did what he did, often, by examining problems ab initio, not looking first for explanations from others. Doing so, he invented new approaches, he found things that had been overlooked. But he did not fix on himself always being right, and warned about attachment to being right. Mathis, if he could recognize his personal psychology as being rooted in a developmental “disorder,” — a misleading characterization for a possibly genetic variation that is called a developmental disorder because it can be disabling in some ways, but that also creates an ability to do things that “normies” don’t seem to be able to do — might be able to make far more progress, and might be far more useful for the development of science as a social phenomenon.

Ratwiki — as it is affectionately known — has an article on Mathis.

Rational wiki is a site dominated by pseudoskeptics, originally organized to ridicule Conservapedia.

Ratwiki is dominated by adolescent psychology, polemic, and the kind of pseudoskepticism, “scientism,” found among, say, “modern atheists” and those who came to dominate CSICOP, the “debunkers,” highly sarcastic and supremely sure of self. One will not find articles there that are overall, “objective,” and “rational.” They are having fun, ridiculing others. That’s the goal, not objectively and neutrality, which they strongly dislike.

I have admin privileges there, which is completely useless except it will allow me to read deleted content. They grant those privileges to almost anyone that any administrator likes in any way, and any admin can grant or remove admin privileges. It’s a formula for vast waste of time, if anyone is interested in confronting the “community point of view.” Been there, done that! Mostly, what I found useful there was in seeing how certain prominent Wikipedians actually thought, what they actually believed, which was much more visible there than on Wikipedia, where they would pretend to be neutral.

I just checked, I still have the sysop privilege, I could still waste my time at great length. Once in a while, I make an edit there. I haven’t in three years.

In any case, joshg ignores the Pi fiasco. His idea is that Miles may make some mistakes, but that his “physics” may contain the clues to LENR reality that the world needs. Joshg is free to discuss this here, but …. this isn’t what the CMNS community needs, to be associated with the radical fringe. It needs the opposite: it needs synthesis, integration, genuine and effective communication. If you believe that an entire community is wrong, you will be, almost certainly, unable to communicate with them. Effective communication requires understanding and sympathy, and that is why this blog welcomes genuine skeptics. Skepticism is rational, to a point. As is pointed out on Ratwiki, “Rational wiki is not rational.” It is almost a parody of itself (that’s the best thing about it.)

I just now went to Mathis’ mathematical “proof” that Pi=4. Proofs like this are familiar to anyone with substantial math experience, I was looking at these before I was a teenager. If anyone is tempted to accept this argument, comment and I’ll look at it and explain it in more detail, but the flaw is completely obvious, and that Mathis still defends it speaks worlds about his psychology, if he isn’t just pulling our chain.

Mathis assumes that a zig-zag path, with an obvious and stable path length, independent of step size, equal to the sum of the two directions, will approach the path length along the circle. In fact, the nifty videos linked below avoid something obvious: if you lay out the circular tubing along the straight tubing, it will not extend to four diameters, but to pi diameters. That is the ordinary meaning of path length along a circle. How much tubing is needed to create a circle with diameter D? Not 4 D, for sure.

This is pure confusion and fog, and Elisha apparently believes it. Zephir_AWT pointed to the Pi confusion, with photos he believed to be Mathis. He wrote:

Miles Mathis suffers with macromanic inventory delusions. He thinks Pi equals 4.0 and other crazy stuffs. This is what disease does with talented people.

The first source is a video by DraftScience, who is implied to be Mathis. (In fact, DraftScience is a critic of Mathis.) The second source does not explain “macromaniac inventory delusions,” whatever they are, but is simply the RatWiki article. The third link is to an article by Miles Mathis on Stephen Hawking being an imposter, fake, (and the original deeper source would be on milesmathis.com.) The last link is to Mathis’ art from google images, and that points to a mathis art page where one can find, for example, a bio of Mathis with photos.

Elisha was unfazed:

First, What is your contribution ?, since emotional critiques serve to entertain us, but they do not serve to advance in science.

There are relatively objective critiques on or linked from the RatWiki page.

Second, this man in not miles mathis. He is a follower of him.

Miles Mathis can be seen at the RatWiki article, taken from a book cover. This image is claimed to be roughly 17 years old. The image on LF is recent. Mathis writes this about the “man”:

ANNOUNCEMENT, added 8/25/16, some of my readers have been confused by a guy on youtube with a channel called DraftScience. They think that is me. It isn’t. He links to me and discusses my stuff a lot, apparently, although I haven’t watched more than a couple of minutes. I don’t know him, have never talked to him, and have no links to him. Although there is some resemblance, since he is about my age and blond, that is about it. His hair is much longer and less curly, he doesn’t sport a goatee, and he smokes. I don’t.

Here is Mathis’ “extended biography,” and it includes more photos of him. Unless these are fake — hey, if Stephen Hawing is fake, why not Miles Mathis? — Mathis is right, and so is Elisha, on this point. However, being right on one point doesn’t rub off on other points, even though the opposite, being spectacularly wrong on a point, and persistently so, does color everything.

Third, there is a experiment that confirm that pi is 3.14 and 4 this depend of the use case.

Now, first of all, we see these sweaty claims, frequently, and often from people whose English is extremely poor. What does the command of English have to do with one’s cogency? In theory, not at all, but in practice, poor English is associated with lack of care and caution, lack of concern for accuracy, lack of clear thinking, all that. When it is combined with arrogance, it’s ugly.

Elisha points to a video of the “experiment,” which does not do what it purports to do; rather it gives a result that will confuse those who make a basic unstated — and incorrect — assumption, that if a ball rolls with a particular velocity in a level straight path, it will roll with the same velocity in a circular path. That assumption would not, by itself, generate “pi = 4,” but no analysis is given of how linear momentum is converted to angular momentum, but it’s quite clear that converting the motion to circular would slow the ball, yet for the video to make any sense at all, the ball velocity must remain the same, since distance is being measured (marked off) by time.

This is not “skepticism,” it is straightforward and clear analysis, easily done by a careful child. The discussions on that video are appalling.

DraftScience comments on the proof video, imagining that the difference in velocity is due to friction. At least he understands that the velocity is different, but I doubt that the difference is from friction, even though friction would also slow the ball. His argument is incorrect, so if one understands it, that’s a clue one is confused.  Joshg shows up commenting there.

Listening further, DraftScience does recognize that the friction argument is missing something: bottom line, he’s “explaining” off the top of his head, a video blogger, and in this is like many bloggers who just blabber on without developing coherence. Further, DraftScience is not a “follower” of Mathis. Quite the opposite. So this whole conversation was bonkers. Rather, DraftScience realizes, at least in some ways, the error. However, he does not address the math, AFAIK.

The original math summary, again. RatWiki points to an allegedly clear exposition. It’s not wrong. The writer’s frustration is apparent. This is not coming from “belief in the mainstream” or any other such nonsense. It is coming from grounded common sense, easily verified experimentally. Mathis redefines words to confuse himself and/or readers. Instead of the “circumference of a circle” being a distance — representing, in practical terms, how much material one would need to build the circle, how much ink it would take to draw it using a compass, etc., like ordinary distance, it becomes a vastly complicated entity. Reality, ordinary reality, is much less complex than Mathis’ world, and that is why children can understand it. I derived most of this stuff as a child, I disliked memorizing formulae and wanted to understand directly.

Mathis creates a fractal, as pointed out, and then assumes that the length of a fractal is the same as the length of a curve that it seems to approach. However, fractals are imaginary structures that can have unlimited length in a confined space, and it would not be difficult to show this, by defining a structure (line) that zig-zags within that space which can be as small as one likes (i.e, as close as one likes to a defined curve).

This is diagnostic of Mathis’ delusions, and shows how dangerous belief in one’s own superior rightness can be. Again, that doesn’t mean that one is wrong, and I would never recommend that people give up what they think is correct, just because others disagree. Rather, what I recommend is an attempt to understand why they disagree, what’s the basis? For a nice little study of a kid who didn’t give up when ridiculed, I posted this early on: The Mpemba effect and cold fusion

Okay, I kept looking a little before publishing this, and found an actual child who demolished Mathis. Well, is an apparent high-school girl a “child”? Maybe not. Nevertheless, here it is: accurate, simple, easy to understand, and devastating.

Another video from her. Now, this young woman is going to change the planet. Or at least will continue to have fun, which, in the end, may be far more useful than being a sweaty, convinced he is right, “polymath.”

And another about Pythagoras. I’m in awe. There is hope for the planet, because she is the future.

Let’s just remove the outliers

Second of the series of posts I promised on the He/excess heat correlation debate, as noted by Shanahan and Lomax. And this one is a little bit more interesting. Still, I’m going to examine the many issues here one by one, so if you expect a complete summary of the evidence from this post or the ones that follow you will be disappointed.

Lomax here:

[Quoting Shanahan in italics] On the other hand, the energy/helium ratio does not have this problem. The independent errors in the He and power measurements are unlikely to combine and create a consistent value for this ratio unless the helium and energy both resulted from the same nuclear reaction.

Yes. Very unlikely, in fact. On the order of one chance in a million, or more.

As I have noted the value is not consistent, thus the quoted statement is nonsense.

The value is consistent within experimental error.

There is much more of interest in these comments than might first appear.

Continue reading “Let’s just remove the outliers”