I’m writing this because I like the headline. It does bring up some more, ah, fundamental issues.
The results of doing this is to come up with an excess heat signal that is a) large and b) occurring when no current is flowing, meaning you essentially have an infinite instantaneous COP. The problem is that this comes out of applying the same calibration equation used for ‘normal’ operations. The steady state is so radically different in a ‘boiled-dry’ cell that everyone should know you can’t do that. But not the CFers…it shows excess heat…it must be real…and is certainly must be nuclear!
“The CFers.” Classic Shanahan. Classic ad-hominem, straw-man argument, one of the reasons he gets no traction with those who would need to understand and respect his arguments, if he has a real basis and actually cares about supporting science.
Below, I go into details.
“COP” is not particularly a CMNS argument, rather the concern is anomalous heat — and, in the best experiments, correlated conditions and results. There is a gigantic red herring being waved about, that glosses over why boil-off cells would be of some considerable interest; instead, Shanahan focuses on his same-old same old argument, calibration error, which may or may not be significant in the boil-off experiments. But I understand why THH isn’t impressed.
Right. This is a more nuanced case of the it blew up so it must be LENR argument. Explosions are pretty usual in systems with reactive chemicals, particularly hydrogen and oxygen in stochiometric ratios! Or, heater elements can easily explode when local heating alters impedance so increasing power input.
There have been a few explosions, but I have never seen explosion claimed as a proof of LENR, with one possible exception, where it was not “proof,” but the cause of further investigation, which was the original Pons and Fleischmann meltdown in 1984. Sometimes pseudoskeptics pooh-pooh that F&P scaled down as a result of that early meltdown, because they claim that being able to reproduce that explosion would be proof, which may or may not be true at all, for exactly the reason THH gives here. (Though maybe it could be better instrumented.) Still, that explosion was not under control, obviously. And if it was as big as it was, how would one know that next time it wouldn’t be bigger? After all, fusion is suspected here. What’s the limit? I’d rather not find out, personally!
Working out whether any such explosion actually represents significant excess energy is inevitably difficult because it is transient and the instrumentation to catch the transients accurately is not available.
Right. That is with unanticipated explosions. This could be addressed, but why? There is much other work to be done that would generate higher value. For basic science, measuring what is actually happening in cells showing anomalous heat, studying correlated results and conditions, is far more informative. And, yes, perhaps, checking out proposed artifacts.
I’d have a time of it, myself, right now, trying to convince researchers to pay closer attention to Shanahan and test his ideas, because of the history. But perhaps. That’s why I want to look at Shanahan’s ideas more closely here. If we can come up with a cogent and clear explanation and comparison with what is known about the conditions of cold fusion calorimetry, and what has already been tested, maybe I can take this to those who could actually test it. Shanahan has never done that work, nor has he ever successfully inspired others to do it. He has merely sat in his chair and figured out what could possibly be wrong with what others claim, and it is always possible to do that, there could be no clear end to it.
Still, we can create value from the process of examination. Now, some other LENR history was brought up here, so, proceeding….
Such experimental misadventures should not be used as evidence of anything. Cells boiling are problematic in any case – boiling dry completely unhelpful.
THH is presenting one side. I don’t like boiling cells, it’s messy, even messier than normal electrochemistry. But why would it be of interest? “Unhelpful” only looks at one side of this issue. What’s on the other side?
- The evidence is decent that the Fleischmann-Pons Effect (FPE) increases with temperature, so the effect would be maximized at boiling. (this would suggest, by the way, operating under pressure, though that might be disliked because of safety concerns, it complicates the experiment.)
- When the electrolyte has boiled away, cell conductance and input power go to zero. If the cell stays hot in spite of controlled cooling pathways (FP cells have that), there is obviously a heat source. With a HAD experiment, calibration error would generally not create an appearance of anomalous heat, but might mismeasure it.
- While there is an obvious possible heat source (the “cigarette lighter effect,” i.e., deuterium recombination, that would be seriously limited by lack of oxygen. In an FP cell, the oxygen mostly escapes, it’s gone. If the cathode evolves deuterium, as we expect with the end of electrolytic pressure, some of it might oxidize from limited oxygen in the cell, but all this would continue gas flow out of the cell (now including heavy water vapor). The small amount of oxygen would rapidly be depleted, no more being generated. (The volume of deuterium stored in the cathode is very large, the cell would continue outgassing deuterium for a long time.)
Those seriously claiming FPHE has a nuclear mechanism need more than this.
Of course. But we get ahead of ourselves. Step 1 is showing that there is a heat anomaly. Because Pons and Fleischmann could not explain what they were seeing with chemistry, they suggested that there might be an “unknown nuclear reaction.” But the evidence they had for that was weak. They had seen tritium, but not correlated with heat. They had seen helium, but this was essentially one measurement, perhaps it was leakage. They reported neutrons, some, but that was artifact. Later work only confirmed the helium as correlated with heat. Tritium probably is correlated, my opinion, but this has never been well-studied. Neutrons have never been correlated with heat. (Correlation work requires multiple studies, not just single anecdotes.)
The issue here is only with heat, not with “nuclear mechanism.” Bringing in “nuclear” at this point creates massive confusion.
McKubre’s M12/M13/M14 data, when taken in context, look very unconvincing to me for reasons too long to justify here, and that in any case I’m not sure about: it is complex.
THH, I’d love to know what “context” means to you here. The widely published chart for P13/P14 (I think that’s what you meant) is only “convincing” — a highly subjective standard, by definition — if the context is known, and it has normally been published without the context. Really it should be three charts, what we have normally seen, plus the prior runs. I have called that appearance of XP in P14 the “chimera,” that in the middle of that experiment, the chimera walked into the lab and licked McKubre in the face. And then left. What needs to be known is that the same conditions (the current protocol) were repeated, I think three times. The first two times, the deuterium cell (P14) tracked the hydrogen control (P13) ; the increased input current only increased noise, as would be expected. Then came the chimera.
Of course, maybe some screw came loose somewhere, and I’m not joking. However, that would be unlikely to produce something that looked like P13/P14, my opinion.
The other part of the context is that SRI and McKubre were retained to investigate cold fusion by the EPRI, initially. That was about as authoritative an investigation as could be imagined, at least for a single lab with a highly interested customer. They spent years, exploring the parameter space. That should, I’d think, count for something.
But analysis of that type of high quality data is what you need to show a real anomaly, not cells boiling dry or explosions.
Those are not the same. Explosions are generally out of control. (“Exploding wires” is a different story, by the way. These are highly controlled.) Boil-off could be studied, and was. But I understand why it looks suspicious. Storms now has a HAD demonstration without boil-off. It’s nice. Unconfirmed, to be sure.
The superficial case against LENR is that from experiments like McKubre’s high precision calorimetry the apparent signal is so low as a fraction of power input, and has all the hallmarks of a calorimetry artifact.
McKubre’s calorimetry, by the way, was not “high precision,” compared to Pons and Fleischmann’s. As I recall, the PF precision was about a tenth milliwatt, and SRI was about five milliwatts.
This comment is confounding two issues: low power and artifact. “All the hallmarks” is probably a bit of hyperbole.
I will say that were it not for the heat/helium evidence, I’d be far less convinced that LENR is real, but there would still be the circumstantial evidence of anomalous heat and other nuclear signals. In the end, I would much prefer to nail the direct nuclear evidence, i.e., the heat/helium correlation and ratio, to arguing endlessly over multitudinous possibilities. (Tritium and other nuclear evidences, if not correlated with the main effect — heat — are circumstantial in nature. In some ways, they create more mystery, not less.)
And the strongest argument is that of the 5 experiments he quotes D gives positives and H negatives – but as evidence that needs further analysis to determine its strength and in any case a coincidental physical effect that only existed for D not H is possible and surely a simpler candidate than LENR if the data allows this.
These things can give “preponderance of the evidence” conclusions, if fairly weighed. Key would be what decision is being made. Different possible actions require differing levels of evidentiary strength, The most basic level is “indication of possibility for further research.”
By looking only at one area of evidence — here, the heat — it can seem that other explanations are “simpler.” I would question that, this “simple” idea requires experts be making major mistakes in their area of expertise. But, sure, it’s possible.
Before committing billions of dollars to a massive research program, all this should be nailed. Agreed?
Encouraging basic research though existing programs (or modest new ones) should be encouraged. Agreed?
There was much discussion below. Many points of interest were raised, but these discussions tend to go nowhere. What’s missing? Let’s find out.
I have begun to create structure to allow collective study and analysis of the Pons and Fleischmann boil-off work, focusing on their 1993 paper in Physics Review A. See Morrison Fleischmann debate.
It’s about time that this work and critique, of it, receives full and careful attention. Beaudette has some coverage, which I will review later. What is in the original work? Is Morrison’s critique normal skepticism or is it pseudoskeptical? What was the purpose of the original paper, and was Morrison’s critique of something else, other ideas?
First step is to stop tossing rhetorical bombs, but to actually see what is there.