Ignorance is bliss

There is at least one physicist arguing that LENR research is is unethical because (1) LENR does not exist, and (2) if it is possible, it would be far too dangerous to allow.

This came to my attention because of an article in IEEE Spectrum, Scientists in the U.S. and Japan Get Serious About Low-Energy Nuclear Reactions

I wrote a critique of that article, here.

Energy is important to humanity, to our survival. We are already using dangerous technologies, and the deadly endeavor is science itself, because knowledge is power, and if power is unrestrained, it is used to deadly effect. That problem is a human social problem, not specifically a scientific one, but one principle is clear to me, ignorance is not the solution. Trusting and maintaining the status quo is not the solution (nor is blowing it up, smashing it). Behind these critiques is ignorance. The idea that LENR is dangerous (more than the possibility of an experiment melting down, or a chemical explosion which already killed Andrew Riley, or researchers being poisoned by nickel nanopowder, which is dangerous stuff) is rooted in ignorance of what LENR is. Because it is “nuclear,” it is immediately associated with the fast reactions of fission, which can maintain high power density even when the material becomes a plasma.

LENR is more generally a part of the field of CMNS, Condensed Matter Nuclear Science. This is about nuclear phenomena in condensed matter, i.e., matter below plasma temperature, matter with bound electrons, not the raw nuclei of a hot plasma. I have seen no evidence of LENR under plasma conditions, not depending on the patterned structures of the solid state. That sets up an intrinsic limit to LENR power generation.

We do not have a solid understanding of the mechanisms of LENR. It was called “cold fusion,” popularly, but that immediately brings up an association with the known fusion reaction possible with the material used in the original work, d-d fusion. Until we know what is actually happening in the Fleischmann-Pons experiment (contrary to fundamentally ignorant claims, the anomalous heat reported by them  has been widely confirmed, this is not actually controversial any more among those familiar with the research), we cannot rule anything out entirely, but it is very, very unlikely that the FP Heat Effect is caused by d-d fusion, and this was obvious from the beginning, including to F&P.

It is d-d fusion which is so ridiculously impossible. So, then, are all “low energy nuclear reactions” impossible? Any sophisticated physicist would not fall for that sucker-bait question, but, in fact, many have and many still do. Here is a nice paradox: it is impossible to prove that an unknown reaction is impossible. So what does the impossibility claim boil down to?

“I have seen no evidence ….” and then, if the pseudoskeptic rants on, all asserted evidence is dismissed as wrong, deceptive, irrelevant, or worse (i.e, the data reported in peer-reviewed papers was fraudulent, deliberately faked, etc.)

There is a great deal of evidence, and when it is reviewed with any care, the possibility of LENR has always remained on the table. I could (and often do) make stronger claims than that. For example, I assert that the FP Heat Effect is caused by the conversion of deuterium to helium, and the evidence for that is strong enough to secure a conviction in a criminal trial, far beyond that necessary for a civil decision, though my lawyer friends always point out that we can never be sure until it happens. The common, run-of-the-mill pseudoskeptics never bother to actually look at all the evidence, merely whatever they select as confirming what they believe.

“Pseudoskepticism’ is belief disguised as skepticism, hence “pseudo.” Genuine skeptics will not forget to be skeptical of their own ideas. They will be precise in distinguishing between fact (which is fundamental to science) and interpretation (which is not reality, but an attempt at a map of reality).

This immediate affair has created many examples to look at. I will continue below, and comment on posts here is always welcome, and I keep it open indefinitely. A genuine study may take years to mature, consensus may take years to form. “Pages” do not yet have automatic open comment, editors here must explicitly enable it, and sometimes forget. Ask for opening of comment through a comment on any page that has it enabled. An editor will clean it up and, I assume, enable the comments. (That is, provide a link to the original page, and we can also move comments).

This conversation is important, the future of humanity is at stake.

Comments on the original article

Brian Bixby3 days ago
I’m glad there’s finally a lucid explanation. It’s interesting that Pons and Fleishmann’s experiment produced what they expected, heat and neutrons, but for an entirely different reason than they expected.

First of all, WL theory was first published in 2006, so it’s 12 years old. It is far from lucid.

Pons and Fleischmann did not expect what they found. They “suspected” that they might see nuclear effects from taking palladium deuteride above normal loading, from the deviations of reality from the Born-Oppenheimer Approximation. They were surprised when their first effort melted down. They thought they might see d-d fusion, at a very low rate, and they thought it would probably be below detection levels, but maybe neutrons could be detected. But they had decided to look, so they were doing basic science, not searching for “free energy,” which is often casually claimed about their work. That shifted with the melt-down. They saw no obvious sign of a nuclear reaction than heat that they could not explain with chemistry. The neutrons expected from d-d fusion were missing. Later, they claimed a neutron signal, and that is a huge can of worms, almost certainly artifact, and the history on it is confused.

One of the basic characteristics of the effect they found, from thousands of labs studying it, is the complete or almost-complete absence of neutron signals. Tritium has been found, commonly, and the rough way I summarize this is that tritium is a million times down from helium, and neutrons are a million times down from tritium (which puts them not far from background, though sometimes short bursts are reported). This is not d-d fusion! It is something else.

We stand in need of skeptics who will carefully examine the evidence, who will set aside the noise and look at fact. We also need those qualified in various fields to contribute expertise, uncontaminated by a priori belief. One issue here is whether or not W-L theory is consistent with existing physics.

Most LENR researchers, including those working on theory, avoid criticizing the work of others. That’s an unfortunate consequence of the rejection cascade, researchers circle the wagons. To move beyond the isolation of “fringe,” we must move beyond that. Vigorous critique is essential to science. Skeptics are welcome here. Genuine skeptics are worth their weight  in gold, almost literally (this is a trillion dollar per year issue), but we are all human and are, to some extent or other, believers and pseudoskeptics, so nobody is tossed out for expressing skepticism (or belief). We need open conversation and deep consideration, and that takes tolerance. So, welcome.

Brian’s comment treated W-L theory as a done deal, as if this had been established as truth. That is, I will assert, an error. It is far from established. There is no clear experimental evidence confirming it. It’s an ad hoc theory, in spite of explicit claims that it is not,  this is obvious from study. That does not make it wrong, but the claims about the theory are clearly in error or worse, and then there are major problems with the theory itself.

AlainCo2 days ago
Widom-Larsen theory is an interesting direction but it seems there are still key problem in that theory.
Anyway the approach, based on usual QM, on collective effects in material physics is the best bet. […]

Alan Coetmeur is quite knowledgeable about LENR, as an administrator for lenr-forum.com. “Collective effects” are probably behind LENR. He also wrote:

My last question is what budget would be needed.
The numbers I’ve heard from people trying to launch research efforts, is from 25Mn$ to 250Mn$.
Research with shoestring budget is no more useful.

It is clear that research of high utility can still be done on frugal budgets. Key is to find useful things to do that are not complex and expensive. Some research is expensive, and the question of adequacy of budget is situational, it depends on the specific research proposal. I do not recommend throwing large amounts of cash at LENR research, not without adequate preparation.

However, “targeted proposals” to address “basic questions” has been the recommendation of the two DoE panels since 1989. Structures were never established make this happen. It was believed that “existing structures” were adequate, but the presence of massive knee-jerk skepticism, wielding substantial political power, made that fail. The skeptics, in general, have not adequately studied what is known (including what the reviews considered). This story in Spectrum reveals that many are astonished that cold fusion is still being researched. Wasn’t that debunked long ago as delusion or fraud? No. It wasn’t. That never happened, there is no peer-reviewed review covering that non-event. Instead, there are many, many reviews that treat LENR as a fact. Many people need to get out more, see what is actually happening in the world, and not place absolute trust in any specific gatekeeper. Some journals, some widely trusted, have, for almost thirty years, automatically rejected without review, any paper that seems like “cold fusion.” That’s simply a fact, it is not a conspiracy theory, some journals (such as Nature) actually proclaimed it, rather proudly. But other journals and major scientific publishers continued with normal practice, including Springer-Verlag and Elsevier, the largest scientific publishers in the world.

In any case, Alain mentions Staker’s recent presentation at ICCF-21. It’s here (a transcript that also shows slides and links to the video, phrase by phrase). There are obvious suggestions for useful research implied by what Staker presented, some metallurgical discoveries of the early 1990s that had largely escaped notice in the field. Some of this research could be fairly simple, some could be done in home labs, for very modest budgets, some could require more. The field has a crying need for “lab rats,” relatively simple experiments, if possible, that could be extensively replicated. There are many leads in the extensive literature that have never been followed to clear conclusions. There is money looking for good work to do. There is also the Edisonian approach, which, because of a vast parameter space, could be extraordinarily expensive, “Manhattan-scale project” was mentioned by Fleischmann as being necessary for commercialization, and he could have been correct. My opinion is that we are not ready for such. Ambitious initiatives that started with major funding, in the past, may have wasted most of it. That’s a long story that becomes sadly familiar to those who study the field.

However, suppose, for well under $1000, I could make a few neutrons with a hybrid fusion-fission experiment, suppose that this is reproducible. There was a hint at how to do this presented at ICCF-21, the paper by Mosier-Boss. My basic formula for progress in LENR is to have fun. This would be a safe experiment, safer than, say, a Farnsworth Fusor, already made by many home researchers. If done well, though, it could become a cheap lab rat. Most LENR reactions don’t produce neutrons enough to measure. This might, because of using uranium in a codeposition experiment, the uranium would multiply the neutrons. (This is unconfirmed research, at this point, but Mosier-Boss knows what she is doing.) I have all the materials to do this experiment except the uranium, and if uranyl nitrate can be used, it’s cheap and easily available. Mosier-Boss used uranium wire, which is difficult to obtain.

And then there could be work with Fukai phase materials, a new aspect to the field (Fukai himself has expressed high skepticism about LENR, but other metallurgists are more hopeful). We know very little about the behavior of the gamma and delta phases, but it is possible that the adventitious production of such material is what made LENR work. That’s a long story, but the point here is that a huge issue (the necessary material) was not understood by anyone, including Pons and Fleischmann.

Studying the behavior would be useful research, and some of it could be expensive.

The problem is not money, deciding on how much to spend in some kind of vacuum is useless. Rather, the useful task is identifying specific research to be performed, and then seeking funding for it.

Kirk Shanahan has been a long-standing critic of LENR. His ideas have been rejected by experts, but there haven’t been clear tests able to satisfy independent analysts, as far as I know. Rather there is endless argument on the internet. If someone believes that Shanahan’s critiques are valid, how about supporting research that could test this?

Peter Lang2 days ago
Lenr is a real process gates and kelley have been funding it as AHE in texas

Ah, the internet! Endless argument, interpretations presented as if fact, unverifiable claims, only understandable to those with experience. If that. I know what Lang is talking about, but “LENR” is not adequately defined, it means very different things to different people, and some of these things might be real. What has been funded in Texas is two lines of experimental approach, the first and most important being measurement of the heat/helium correlation and ratio in the AHE (Anomalous Heat Effect), which, if confirmed again — this has already been widely confirmed, but the hope in Texas has been to measure the ratio with increased precision — which could indeed demonstrate that the heat is real and that the effect is nuclear, and the other line is “exploding wires,” a method for testing materials for possible nuclear activity. This is not funding “LENR,” but rather using controlled experiment to observe phenomena. “LENR” is a conclusion to be distinguished from evidence.”

Results from the Texas work are overdue. They aren’t talking, as far as I know, I’m hoping for some report soon.

Yes, this was funded, a total of $12 million becoming available, which should be enough for the declared projects, if not more than enough.

This is real science, not pie in the sky, and is the kind of research that I have long promoted, likely to generate useful results, not designed to “prove that LENR is real.” But it could have that effect, for those looking for “proof.”

Jed Rothwell2 days ago
This article includes several incorrect statements.

Understatement.

Rothwell went on to present fact (and decent analysis, generally). He does not define “cold fusion,” and thus does not address common confusion about it. But what he shows is quite good.

grumpy Jed Rothwell • 2 days ago
I don’t like the term cold fusion because– fusion is one of the best understood reactions in science… and it throws off high energy particles which LENR does NOT. And “Cold Fusion” is muon catalyzed fusion…which is a different thing. A chemist might call it fusion because it turns H in to He… but a physicist never would because all the reaction steps are different, and the tell-tale radiation is entirely different.

“grumpy” has his heart in the right place, but his expression is not precise. What is understood “best” is d-d fusion, which is indeed well known. But there are many kinds of fusion. If a reaction takes deuterium as a fuel and leaves behind helium as an “ash,” yes, a physicist would call that “fusion,” but the words “cold fusion” always raised the spectre of d-d fusion. Cold d-d fusion is certainly possible, and grumpy knows and gives the example, muon-catalyzed fusion (MCF.) What MCF shows is that fusion is possible if there is a catalyst or catalytic environment. However, yes, he is also correct that what we are talking about, deuterium LENR, as found by Pons and Fleischmann, is not MCF, because MCF produces the same branching ratio (and thus the same products) as ordinary thermonuclear d-d fusion, and those products are not observed (except heat and tritium, with there being way too little tritium, and the neutrons being almost completely absent)

Because the preponderance of the evidence at this point is that the reaction indeed converts deuterium to helium, I use “cold fusion,” but I’m quite clear that it is not d-d fusion.

How could deuterium be converted to helium without d-d fusion? What is generally present in pseudoskeptics is a lack of imagination. . . .

In any case, there are a number of possible pathways. My favorite is Takahashi’s Tetrahedral Symmetric Condensate theory, which, ironically, is mentioned in the paper first mentioned in the Spectrum article — and which is totally ignored by Koziol. Takahshi’s theory is incomplete, it is more of a surprising calculation using the tools of quantum field theory to predict that if there are four deuterons in a tetrahedral configuration, and with certain other conditions, they will collapse within a femtosecond and fuse by tunneling within another femtosecond. It is my favorite, which does not mean that it is what is actually happening, but this is at least as consistent with existing physics as W-L theory. Most of the arguments against it that I have encountered simply don’t understand it. For example, multibody 4-deuteron fusion seems ridiculously impossible. But what that actually represents is simply two deuterium molecules, electron-bound, and confined in a tetrahedral “box,” and such boxes exist in palladium deuteride. This is not plasma fusion. There are other problems with the theory, still not resolved.

My basic stand is that cold fusion is a mystery, and I don’t expect that we will understand it until we have much more data, such as characterization of the energy release, such as observed photon or phonon energies (which is quite difficult, under the conditions, but may be possible)

Nixter • a day ago
Improperly investigating Pons and Fleishmann’s experiment, then moving to deny it without giving it the time and effort it deserved was short sighted and wrong, to now obscure the true original experimenters with foolish word games and proclamations that “LENR isn’t Cold Fusion” is dishonest in the extreme and is an attempt to rewrite science history in a manner that glorifies the guilty parties while insulting the oft ignored researchers (Pons & Fleishmann) who actually did the tedious experimentation. I think there will be a strong backlash on the idea that Pons and Fleishmann were wrong and those now getting results are using data and techniques divorced from Pons and Fleishmann is dishonest. It is possible that fantastic discoveries related to LENR are about break, I worry that the true inventors will be ignored while the “it isn’t Cold Fusion” crowd tries to take credit for someone else’s work.

Nixter • a day ago
Improperly investigating Pons and Fleishmann’s experiment, then moving to deny it without giving it the time and effort it deserved was short sighted and wrong, to now obscure the true original experimenters with foolish word games and proclamations that “LENR isn’t Cold Fusion” is dishonest in the extreme and is an attempt to rewrite science history in a manner that glorifies the guilty parties while insulting the oft ignored researchers (Pons & Fleishmann) who actually did the tedious experimentation. I think there will be a strong backlash on the idea that Pons and Fleishmann were wrong and those now getting results are using data and techniques divorced from Pons and Fleishmann is dishonest. It is possible that fantastic discoveries related to LENR are about break, I worry that the true inventors will be ignored while the “it isn’t Cold Fusion” crowd tries to take credit for someone else’s work.

The field has moved on and most of the action is now with techniques very different from what F&P used, but they are not “divorced” and respect for F&P is high. Because of the position I take, I often point out certain apparent errors that F&P made, but their basic discovery, anomalous heat, has been widely confirmed. When the conditions are appropriate — that was not easy! — the heat is reasonably reliable, particularly given that the material is intrinsically variable and difficult to control. There are recent realizations that may shift that, but it ain’t over till the fat lady sings.

The article errs badly in asserting Larsen (of Widom-Larsen theory) as being one who “could reproduce the results.” He would not be in the list provided by Jed Rothwell, and it is unclear that he has ever done a true LENR experiment, certainly not the FP Heat Effect. He is an entrepreneur, not actually a scientist, who hired a physicist (Allan Widom), and what he promotes is himself as a consultant. His work is widely rejected in the field, and not because it is “not-fusion,” but because it does not hold up to examination — and he is deceptive about what everyone else actually thinks.

Pooua • a day ago
I wonder if it would be possible to use quantum entanglement, perhaps of surface electrons, to create a new type of nuclear radiation shield that could be thin and light, but stop neutrons and gamma rays? It could be tuned to absorb or transmit various types of radiation, depending on the quantum configuration, which could be dynamically set.

This is a possible consequence of W-L theory, and Larsen has actually patented this “gamma shield.” However, there is zero evidence that it works, and when Larsen was asked if had been tested, he pleaded “proprietary information,” a neat way of implying something is important without actually lying. As well, later, Larsen and his shill, Steve Krivit (the source of much in the article, probably, the use of “LENRs” is a Krivit trope), claimed that the absorbing patches were transient and thus imaging them would show nothing. This is misleading six ways till Sunday, but I will be content with mentioning that therefore this could not be used as a shield.

The popularity of W-L theory among certain newbies in LENR research is a result of enthusiastic acceptance, perhaps as a reaction to “not fusion,” that does not look closely, that does not actually attempt to understand the details of the theory, which falls apart when details are considered.

grumpy2 days ago
My favorite researcher in this space is Robert Godes of BrillouinEnergy.com. […]
Grumpy goes on to give some information about Godes and the theory. Godes is a serious player in the field. From my point of view, Brillouin has not been particularly successful, but they are honest. The Japanese are onto a hotter trail, literally.
Steve B2 days ago
I (like all mainstream physicists) don’t think LENR exists. And even if it did exist, I don’t think it would be ethical to research it (cf my post here). But I don’t think I’ll convince longtime LENR proponents of these things, not within the space of this little online comment thread. Instead I want to focus more specifically on Widom-Larsen theory.
Great. I’ll look carefully at that. However, first, this is fascinating. Steve apparently believes that “all mainstream physicists don’t think that LENR exists.” Yet he shows no clear idea of what it is that that supposedly doesn’t exist, and he also expresses no understanding of what distinguishes “mainstream physicists” from others. Most likely, he means physicists who do not accept anything that is not widely accepted, so the statement becomes a tautology, because if any physicist thinks differently, he or she becomes, by definition, not “mainstream.” Lovely. 
The concern about “proponents” is also typical of pseudoskeptics. Someone who disagrees with the skeptic’s beliefs is defined as a “die-hard” or having rigid views not amenable to amendment, yet that rigidity is even clearer if ascribed to the skeptic, who is not a true skeptic because he or she forgets to be skeptical of his or her own beliefs. Now, enough fluff, let’s turn to the meat, if meat it is.
I am slightly sympathetic to people who say “We don’t know why LENR exists, but it does.” I still disagree, but this is a longer argument (parts of which are e.g. here), and anyway at least I can see where these people are coming from. On the other hand, the claim that “Widom-Larsen theory explains LENR” is straightforwardly wrong.
Nice. What does he disagree with? Surely not the first part. Those who say what he quoted are surely truthful when they say “we don’t know why. . . .” Those  people then assert that “it does.” He disagrees, but has no definition of what “it” is, other than “LENR,” but is he aware that there are forms of LENR that are widely accepted as “existing”? To be sure, he has this be a “longer argument,” and it surely is longer than what he presents, because he presents almost nothing.
“Wisdom-Larsen theory explains LENR” has a lost performative. “Explain” is not an existent phenomenon, it is subjective, requiring a performer, actually two, an explainer and one who understands through the explanation, and he has not specified the second. We could assume that the first party is Widom and Larsen. When he says “straightforwardly wrong,” he leaves out something crucial, the judge of right and wrong. Neither of those is objective. It is all interpretive, and this physicist appears to be semantically naive. But maybe that’s only an accidental appearance, to me. I will be studying what he has written elsewhere, carefully.
I have read all the technical Widom-Larsen papers in detail. I worked through the equations. I’m plenty capable of this — e.g. I got an A in graduate quantum field theory at Harvard.
I have seen no reason to doubt him, but I will probably be challenging him to demonstrate his proficiency by writing papers for publication under peer review. Or is he just a loudmouth blogger? If he can write quality critique of technical papers, they can be published, and I would advocate for that. Right or wrong, such critique could be extraordinarily useful.
Now, Widom-Larsen theory is an attempt to fit LENR into the framework of known laws of physics, and can be judged on that basis. And it fails.
I have long agreed. What he then says is too sketchy to be of much use, so what is important here could be his reference.
[…] I wrote a series of blog posts a few years ago explaining some of these problems in detail: http://sjbyrnes.com/cf/category/widom-larsen/
I’ve taken a brief look at that page, and some of the arguments given there are, indeed, what he claims:
I don’t claim any originality here—all these problems have been pointed out many times—but I tried to write a relatively accessible overview of the topic.
I intend to review it in detail. This could all be useful, and I intend to ask this physicist to look, as well, at some worthier subjects for review. 
One more point. Mr. Byrnes pointed to a blog page on how LENR research would be, not only a stupid waste of time, because it doesn’t exist in his universe, but because this non-existent thing, if it existed, would be dangerous. He is imagining a risk because he believes that “nuclear” is intrinsically dangerous. He’s correct, in general, but not the specifics. There is a reason why nuclear energy, particularly fission energy, is dangerous. It does not apply to LENR, once we realize that the LENR being explored, involves Condensed Matter.
His post:
The dangerous dark side of cold fusion research
Maybe the previous post would have been a nice way to close out this blog, but I’ll do one last post, because I saw something that just really horrified me. In this otherwise nice and unremarkable article about the low proliferation risks of conventional (tokamak) nuclear fusion, a commenter bragged that cold fusion is awesome because it has such a low nuclear proliferation risk. And I was thinking: Are you kidding?? How on Earth could you possibly think that???
This is brilliant. Byrnes is so convinced of his own impeccable rightness that he ridicules a rather ordinary statement. Yes, I get his point, but . . . he’s woefully uninformed about the actual character of cold fusion. He has a good knowledge of physics, but that knowledge will tell him very little about CF. He’s not likely to pay attention to how it works (i.e., what is known about that) because of his strong belief that it is impossible. Again, we run into this problem. We believe that something is impossible, but if it is impossible, we cannot know what “it” is. The issue with cold fusion was never “impossibility,” but rate. That is, the reports of excess heat from “cold fusion” were rejected because what this impossible thing was believed to be (where did that come from?) would have a rate far, far too low to generate observable heat, and if it did, the radiation would be fatal.
If one could make d-d fusion happen on a tabletop without high accelerating voltage, and at high rate, high enough to be practical, yes, it would be very dangerous. Hence his hysterical reaction comes from an unbalanced imagination, that seems to be unaware of its internal inconsistency.
do, in fact, think cold fusion has a low proliferation risk, for the simple reason that cold fusion doesn’t exist in the first place! But I don’t want to just shrug and leave it at that. For people like me interested in research ethics, I think the cold fusion community is an interesting case study, in that the community apparently has no culture of research ethics whatsoever, despite what I see as clear-cut reasons for extreme caution, up to and including terrified paralysis! So I wrote this post to quickly summarize why I feel that way.
Again, this one-sided imagination. He does not know the “cold fusion community,” but he sits outside, imagining what it is like, and then how he would be behaving if he was inside, and that imagination is “terrified paralysis,” which is never reasonable. What are the “clear-cut reasons”? He uses hyperbole, stepping outside of true scientific tradition.
“No culture of research ethics”? The “cold fusion community” is not a well-defined entity, and it includes people with diverse interests and backgrounds, but we are mostly interested in science and scientists. Concern about weapon risk is not uncommon. My sense is that some people have avoided disclosing ideas that might create such a risk. I had an idea at one point that was like this. I did not write about it. I also came to think that the probability of the approach I thought of was very, very low. It depended on a concept of the catalytic conditions that was naive. However, anyone who wants to develop a CF weapon could think of this. If it were that easy, it would have been done long ago. (Yes, this could be dangerous, but this is a major fact about the history of cold fusion. Pons and Fleischmann, when their experiment melted down (partially vaporized) in 1985 or so, scaled down. Way down. Now, back up. Suppose, instead of scaling down, they had scaled up. What would have happened. We don’t know. There are initiatives to attempt replication of that original experiment, but this is what is likely. Either nothing will happen, or it will melt down faster. It will still not create a nuclear detonation, and the reason is obvious: the melting point of palladium will be a clear limit.
Byrnes has not considered what is known about the mechanism. So he is afraid of the unknown, about which he imagines an extremity. The attitude would shut down other forms of research as well. It would “paralyze” science, because science would always be risking some very dangerous discovery if it looks at what is unknown, and we cannot know what is unknown, by definition.
I think maybe the cold fusion advocates are complacent because cold fusion doesn’t fit into the mold of, say, research into making viruses more contagious, where we are afraid of something that is both very specific and very likely. Indeed, if cold fusion existed, and if it were explained and widely accepted, well, I can’t think of a single specific bad thing that would happen with high probability. But the “unknown unknowns” are a different story…
Notice how, with no evidence, he assumes that “advocates” are “complacent.” Byrnes is aware that he is afraid of the “unknown unknowns.” What is our attitude toward the unknown? Are we afraid of it? It’s obvious that there are primitive survival reasons for such fear. Indeed, our drive for knowledge is based, to some extent, on that fear. But there is another attitude that is possible. In my training, the “unknown unknown” is a real of limitless possibility. Obviously, it is also dangerous, but life is dangerous, and, in fact, it is not merely dangerous, it is certain we will die. Or is it? What happens with this thing we call “death”?
Part of my training was to develop a love of emptiness. Absolute emptiness is utterly, amazingly beautiful. (How do I know that? Because of my experience, and because I say so!)
Visualize “Truth” as a giant meadow. Scientists and engineers go digging around in this meadow with shovels labeled “Research”. Often we find a buried treasure, and occasionally we set off a landmine. If we discover and publicize “Knowledge About How to Prevent Pandemics”, then we have opened a treasure. If we discover and publicize “Knowledge of How to Cause Pandemics (in 5 easy steps using untraceable household chemicals)”, then we have set off a landmine!
Notice that there is no actual “landmine” in the image he presents. First of all, what we find (all of us, not just “scientists and engineers”) is treasure, in the image. Okay, suppose there is a landmine. What we want to do is find it, so that we don’t step on it and so that nobody else does, either. At least that is what I’d want to do, in this imaginary story.
There is very little difference in knowing the cause of pandemics and knowing how to cause them. Knowledge is not the landmine, which stands for harm. Rather, how knowledge is used is the danger.
Byrnes thinks that “knowledge of how to create LENR” is a landmine (if it exists). Guess what! It exists! We do not know how to reliably do it, and we don’t know how to do it explosively, not even close. However, if someone finds a way to create high-explosive LENR (not merely an ordinary explosion), publishing that could indeed be unethical. Does Byrnes think he is the only one on the planet to be concerned about such issues? On what does he base this opinion? What he mentioned was one person asserting the lack of proliferation risk. From what we know about LENR  (the experimental phenomena), there is no proliferation risk. We would have to discover something else for such a risk to arise. So the opinion of that commenter was quite ordinary, and not careless.
Some of the alternatives to cold fusion are quite risky, known risks. In life, there is always a level of risk. Without energy, we might starve to death, to be brief. Sanity — as distinct from “terrified paralysis” — always involves balancing risks. 
Now, in most of the meadow, people can freely dig without worrying about landmines. Increasing humanity’s knowledge about astronomy, or entomology, or nutrition, or a zillion other topics, is always a 100% good thing. But a few sections of the meadow are notorious for being packed full of big scary landmines, and the “Nuclear Physics” section is one of them!
His bolding. There are some practically literal landmines. Nowhere near LENR. Pons and Fleischmann believed that they had found a way to catalyze fusion. Fusion can release enormous amounts of energy. If that happens very rapidly, so rapidly that the material catalyzing it doesn’t have time to vaporize, one can get a meltdown. This would require a reaction rate far, far higher than what they found.
They expected, in fact, that the heat from possible fusion would be below detection limits. Palladium deuteride was a known material, it was routine to use it as a deuterium target in fusion experiments. The stuff never exploded. We now know that there were incidents of unexplained heat, with substantial amounts of highly-loaded palladium. Nothing even close to an explosion (until they moved above the well-explored territory). They were concerned, because one can easily imagine that maybe the meltdown was a stroke of luck, less powerful than what was possible.  So they scaled down. But we now know that, first of all, the reaction was not in the bulk. It is a surface effect. We are also reasonably clear that it is a catalytic effect depending on condensed matter structures.
Loading palladium takes time, diffusion is involved. But, wait, it’s a surface effect! We now suspect, strongly, that the catalytic environment is a high-vacancy phase of palladium, not observed until 1993 (Fukai). Or it is cracks (Storms’ theory). This is a sensitive environment. The delta phase has 25% of atomic sites vacant (not actually vacant, this is a phase of palladium deuteride, so the sites are filled with hydrogen, perhaps nine atoms per site). The phase is stable, so one could manufacture the material, but the known way of making such material is to place PdD in a diamond anvil press or the like, take it up to 5 GPa, and up to 700 C, and the PdD anneals into a Fukai phase (it takes hours). If the pressure and temperature are quenched, the material remains high-vacancy. The vacancy phases are, Fukai claims (and this appears to be widely accepted among metallurgists) the stable phases for highly loaded PdD. If, then, the material is raised over 400 C., the deuterium is rapidly driven off. The vacancies remain. This material, I expect, will rapidly load, much more rapidly than ordinary pure palladium.
Now, the most promising cold fusion research at present is with nickel hydride. Gamma and delta phase nickel hydride have been made by the Fukai method. Even though this material was loaded well above 1:1, no anomalous heat has been reported. It is possible that it would not have been noticed. But, bottom line, the press and lab have not disappeared in a flash of heat and light.
We don’t know how active Fukai material is. It is likely that additional conditions are necessary to create LENR. But this is not a nuclear landmine. Something entirely new would need to be discovered.
Now let’s put cold fusion in here. If it existed, cold fusion would be a new way to catalyze nuclear reactions, by a mechanism nobody yet understands, except that it’s definitely totally different from everything else known in nuclear physics. So in this analogy, it would mean that there’s a giant section of the Nuclear Physics minefield that’s totally uncharted!
Notice the assumptions. I will agree that nobody understands the mechanism. However, that is not the same as complete ignorance. Further, until we understand the mechanism, we do not know what he proceeds to further assume, that it is “definitely totally different from everything else known in nuclear physics.”
Yes, this was often assumed. However, this idea comes from the assumption that the reaction itself is known, merely the mechanism is unknown. And we don’t know the reaction either. We only know the “fuel” and the “ash,” which does not tell us the reaction. Byrnes is assuming d-d fusion, and I agree that if it is, something is radically off about our understanding of nuclear physics. But d-d fusion is not the only pathway. The laws of thermodynamics require that conversion of deuterium to helium must release a specific amount of energy, and the measured heat/helium ratio does find that energy within experimental error. But this is pathway independent.
The impossibility arguments depend on a specific imagined pathway (basically somehow crashing the Coulomb barrier to cause two deuterons to fuse).
Byrnes is ignoring what is known, to create imaginary land mines. Yet all knowledge is dangerous, if abused.
Byrnes converts some gap in our knowledge, something missing, into “totally uncharted.” No, many explorers have ventured into this territory. No labs or garages or basements have vaporized. It’s very difficult to get the reaction going and to sustain it. If the Fukai ideas are applicable, not only is it difficult to make this material, it is extremely unlikely that it is so active that it could be used explosively. A relatively small amount of heat will destroy the catalytic nature of the material, which requires atomic structure.
And if someone does find a way, that would then enter the territory where ethics might create a need for extreme caution. Is it possible that someone could find such a way? Yes. But extremely unlikely, and there are far more dangerous possible findings that are more likely, such as the pandemic that could become possible through genetic engineering.  And we already know many ways to kill everyone.
What is truly dangerous is entrenched ignorance, and it appears that Byrnes is recommending protecting our ignorance. If we remain ignorant in certain areas, it is quite likely, actually, that we will burn out. Humanity, gone. Too bad, it was a nice idea, but it didn’t work out.
Finding and publicizing the mechanism for cold fusion is like driving your car full-speed into the uncharted part of the minefield. That’s pretty reckless, but that’s just the beginning! Once you convince mainstream science and society that you’re right, all of the sudden 10,000 bulldozers come driving into this minefield right behind you!
The bold face was his. He does not state the assumption, which is that knowing the mechanism for cold fusion would be equivalent to knowing how to create very dangerous weapons, and, in addition, that this would be so easy that proliferation would be practically automatic. That depends entirely on what is found!
Byrnes classifies cold fusion as “nuclear physics.” The actual field of relevance is condensed matter nuclear physics (CMNS), as well as chemistry and materials science. He is assuming something totally unknown, which is quite unlikely. The image he has created here is one where a landmine might be set off merely by stumbling across it. And since we don’t know where this landmine is, is his idea that we should avoid the unknown entirely? But others will not follow this. What is unknown is very likely to become known, over time, at least with something as simple as cold fusion probably is.
From considerations I have explained, it is very unlikely that the “landmine” he imagines exists, and there are many known hazards that rely on ignorance. If someone finds such dangerous knowledge, ethical considerations will arise. They do not arise from pure ignorance. However, once we make a choice to avoid clearing up our ignorance, out of fear, we become responsible for consequences (whereas, by itself, ignorance creates no moral culpability.) We would then be, perhaps, responsible for wars and famines and climate change and other disasters arising out of a chosen ignorance.;
Maybe you’re thinking, “We already live in a world with nuclear weapons. So what’s the worst that could happen?” Well I say to you: If you can’t think of even a single possibility that gives you nightmares … if you can’t think of even a single possible outcome that is very very much worse than Climate Change … then you’re not thinking very hard!
The human mind, unleashed, is capable of vast imagination. I can think of outcomes much worse (very much worse!) than climate change (assuming the climate change is restricted, i.e., what is more or less expected. Byrnes is only applying his active imagination to cold fusion, and not to climate change.)
The deepest thinking is not “hard” at all. It’s easy to imagine terrible disasters. Some people do it routinely, and live from fear to fear, with little respite. This is an abuse of the imaginative faculty.
Byrnes is actually suggesting that we put our imagination to work to imagine horrible possibilities, and he goes on to defend that because they are “possible.” Again, that is an abuse of possibility. Nothing has changed, and, in my training, the saying was “survival is a game we are going to lose.” Yes, it is, and we only postpone that a little by identifying with humanity as a whole rather than ourselves as individuals.
Survival is not the game worth living, it is merely tactical, not strategic. The game worth playing is to live while we are alive! “Terrified paralysis” is a description, very much, of how not to live. If one finds oneself in such a state, it is an emergency, because that is a very dangerous state, we can die quickly and horribly if we allow this to dominate our thinking.
So Mr. Byrnes may know a great deal about physics, and I will be attempting to put that to good use, if he allows it,. but he knows little about how to live well, that becomes obvious through this conversation. Is he willing to learn? The one that will benefit from this learning is him. I DGAF.
The comments on the Spectrum article continued:

Jason P • 2 days ago
No one could have known this when nuclear chain reactions were first discovered, but it turned out to be ridiculously hard to build a fission-based nuclear bomb, for various technical reasons, e.g. the spontaneous fission rate of plutonium-240. It’s so hard to build that it takes a nation-state-level of time and resources. And thank heavens for that! I don’t want to live in a world where making a nuclear weapon is as easy as making meth. It’s too horrible to imagine.

…And now we hear from the LENR proponents: “Hey, we found a completely, wildly different way to release nuclear energy, let’s study it until it’s a well-understood exploitable technology!” Ummm, we survived one round of Russian roulette, do we really have to play again? Can’t we just drop it?

Two points: the author seems to assume that “releasing nuclear energy” will create, not only an exploitable technology, but a technology that could be harnessed to make “nuclear weapons.” That’s very unlikely, though, of course, we cannot claim it is impossible, but I could explain, in detail, why it is so unlikely. The energy release involved in nuclear weapons requires a material that will continue to react even when raised to a temperature of millions of degrees, so an enormous release can be created by compressing the material and heating it, creating an extremely hot plasma. LENR almost certainly requires condensed matter conditions for catalysis, and that’s impossible in a plasma (there! I used the “impossible” word!). This limits the temperature to something on the order of 600 degrees C, with room for some variation. Any more heat than what makes the material that hot, the reaction will shut down. 
This was a knee-jerk reaction to “nuclear.”
(I wrote the above before writing my comments on Byrne’s post, i.e., Steve B.)
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Author: Abd ulRahman Lomax

See http://coldfusioncommunity.net/biography-abd-ul-rahman-lomax/

7 thoughts on “Ignorance is bliss”

  1. A cheaper and better way of getting energy would make a lot of useful things more economical to do, and so any possible methods of producing or storing energy should be researched. Pretty-well any method of releasing or storing energy has a danger of some sort, but the point of technology is that such dangers are minimised, often to the point where most people don’t realise there’s a danger at all. We’ve been at this job of minimising dangers for a long time, since we first found that putting a ring of rocks around a fire stopped it from burning all the grass in the vicinity and downwind.

    Errors made in dealing with dangerous stuff are largely self-correcting. Someone who has a fatal accident tends not to do the same thing again. Really bad errors (such as Chernobyl) may make an area uninhabitable for a while, but again (other…) people learn from that. However, as far as we can tell an LENR experiment with less than a gram of active material won’t be able to affect a lot of people. There’s just not enough energy available to destroy any large area, and so far the radiation levels have been extremely low and the ash is not radioactive either. Relative to the damage caused by the explosion of a steam boiler, it is pretty benign. As such, there’s no reason to ban research on it – people who do so risk only themselves and not a cohort of innocent people. The payback if those experiments result in a cheap, non-polluting power source is so high it’s almost incalculable.

    It seems to me that the experimental results say LENR can work and does exist, and that the opposition to it is based on a belief that it is de facto impossible, so the heat must be due to some experimental error that hasn’t yet been identified. This attitude of “it’s impossible” does not take account of the historical record of things that were impossible until someone did it, or that once we use experimental conditions that no-one has used before then theory is only a guide as to what will happen. The conditions P+F used were beyond what had been used before then, and were considered to not be achievable either, so seeing something unexpected should not itself be unexpected.

    As a historical perspective, it seems that most people tend to think that the knowledge they have is not only correct but the last word on the subject. For example Lord Kelvin’s pronouncement around 1900 or so that all that remained for future physicists was to measure things to more decimal places. I’m old enough to have seen the theory change several times, though, and “impossible” things become commonplace. There are solutions to the Dirac equations that are considered non-physical and imaginary, but it’s possible that they do exist in reality if you look at the orbitals as wave resonances rather than as particles in orbit. Right down in the fundamentals, we don’t really know what particles are anyway – we can give a list of the known properties and interactions, but that’s not the same as knowing what causes a particle to exist rather than the unbound energy that seems to make it up. It’s just as difficult to actually pin down what energy is, and again we end up with just a list of what we so far know it to do. We use wave equations to calculate things, but what exactly is waving? I think it’s a bit too early to dismiss things as impossible, though we can say we haven’t yet found a way to do a certain thing and that we think it’s probably impossible. Since the next few years may see several other “impossible” things become known technology, it’s just not a good idea to dismiss LENR as impossible.

    Science is never settled. Technology gets settled as to what processes work best, at least until someone works out a better way to do that thing. Science is about exploring the unknown, and making at least some of it known.

    1. Yes to everything, well-stated.

      I do not suggest “believing” in LENR. Rather, I suggest considering the possibility, and recognizing that, if there are those errors in the interpretations of experimental results, there is value in identifying them, plus there is always the possible value of confirming the conclusions. This attitude — that does not discard existing theory because an anomaly is found — is obviously ideal for science. Then one makes decisions on where to spend one’s own time, which is a sovereign right, or should be. (Unless someone is paying you, in which case you give up the right to full independence. TANSTAAFL.)

      Almost always, there are a few skeptics who are still willing to look at evidence. It only takes a few. But if every time a skeptic looks and comes up with “OMG! This looks real!”, they are summarily dismissed by those who have not themselves investigated the issues, as dupes of clever believer arguments — or stupid believer arguments — then the system itself can break down.

      No, those who investigate the fringe are doing the rest of the world a service, by keeping the frontiers open. Our brains do not actually fall out by investigating the fringe. We learn something, and we demonstrate a real interest in science, and trust in reality, above our ideas about reality.

      1. Abd – I’d go as far as to suggest that both belief and disbelief should not apply in science, although it is pretty obvious that in practice they are applied. I also think that the anomalies tell us that we haven’t yet got a good-enough explanation yet, and that putting effort into investigation of those anomalies is well worth doing. That’s maybe especially true when an anomaly could be useful if it could be made larger and to order. LENR is such an anomaly.

        Mitch Swartz started off by trying to show that LENR didn’t exist and was experimental error. Instead, he became convinced that it was experimental fact. Details are a little murky because he decided to try to make a business out of it, but I don’t doubt that enough of his NANORs worked as stated even though he failed in being able to pin down why some worked and some didn’t, and thus could not reasonably manufacture in bulk.

        LENR will likely have at least some people working on it until the problem is cracked. As evidence for that, I’d point to the number of people still trying to make Bessler wheels, permanent magnet motors, and all the other Free Energy scams and frauds in history. As far as I can tell, most of those efforts will not result in any success because the original claims were fraudulent, but I can’t be absolutely certain of that. There are a few where there seems a basis in real physics, but where the inventor either didn’t know what was really happening or deliberately lied about what was happening. I’ll detail those if you want, but they aren’t really relevant to this blog.

        Still, as Feynman said, the easiest person to fool is yourself. That means that if you’re certain that something works even though theory says it shouldn’t, you need other people to replicate it and sceptical input to try to find experimental errors that weren’t obvious to the people doing the experiment. Shanahan’s calibration constant shift is an example, where the design of the calorimeter may need modification to absolutely eliminate that as a possible cause of a mis-measurement. At The Electrode Recombination on the other hand seems unlikely to be a cause of mis-measurement since it is easy to show that the location of the heat makes no difference to the calibration. Celani’s excess heat seems to have been a problem with the different heat-conductivity of the gases used in the control, and this shows the difficulty of making a sufficient control. We need that sceptical input.

        Lastly, to Steve: When the LHC started up there were worries that it had a calculable probability of producing a mini-Black Hole that would in time swallow up the Earth. To me, this seems somewhat more dangerous than the possibility of someone blowing up their lab in an LENR experiment. As regards making a nuclear bomb in the back shed, that is currently quite possible and such a bomb would likely be very dirty too. The high technology and costs are needed to make a bomb that doesn’t spread radioactivity far and wide, is compact and relatively light, and safe to be around before you want it to explode. It’s also depressingly easy to make Ricin (or other dangerous chemicals) and dump it into a reservoir, and thus poison all the people drinking that water. Cook up some Hydrogen Peroxide and Chappatti flour, and you have a high-explosive suitable for a pressure-cooker bomb. Mass-destruction devices and methods are easily found on the net, and a competent scientist/engineer could easily produce some pretty nasty results using current technology. So far, there have been a couple of meltdowns with LENR that we know about. One was P+F, the other was Thermacore. As far as we can tell, any reaction is stopped by melting of the metal itself (thus changing the geometry), which limits the danger. It seems the most we could do with LENR is to re-create H.G.Wells’ original idea of atom bombs that don’t explode but simply stay hot and sizzle for ages, except that with LENR we wouldn’t expect radioactivity to result. Even then, the temperature would need to be sufficiently lower than the melting-point in order to sustain the reaction. Looks relatively benign to me, and self-limiting too. Not really that much nastier than Magnesium flares. On the plus side, if you solve the LENR puzzle (and of course if it’s real), then you get much cheaper and safer power supplies. It seems that, if it can be made to work reliably, the upsides of LENR outweigh the risks by a large amount.

  2. Dear Abd, I’m a regular reader of your blog and I thank you for publicizing my comment in your post here. I also thank you for giving my blog a “10” in your blogroll on the right, I noticed that a long time ago and was flattered 🙂

    As you saw, yes I have extremely high confidence in the nonexistence of LENR (in the sense that I believe that the measurements of excess heat, helium-4, etc. are the result of experimental error), but as a careful scientist I will never say I’m *infinitely* confident about anything, not even the sun rising tomorrow. So I do continue to think carefully and seriously about what the implications would be if LENR exists (in the sense that most of the published LENR experimental results can be accepted at face value), and for the sake of argument, I’ll assume that LENR does exist for the remainder of this comment.

    I’ll focus on some of the more important aspects of the proliferation / safety issue that I think you are missing or misunderstanding. First, let me be a bit more concrete about the explosion issue. Storms talks about a “nuclear active environment” (NAE)–some as-yet-unknown configuration of atoms and electrons that enables the LENR process. When people look at the post-excess-heat palladium under the microscope, they say that there are little pits that look like microscopic explosions, and that show signs of high temperature. So I think the default assumption should be that, during LENR, some small part of the electrode becomes an NAE, and it “blows up” with a microscopic “bang”, creating heat. Then a moment later some different microscopic part of the electrode randomly turns into an NAE and does the same thing, and so on. And a large number of microscopic “bangs” averages out to look like a steady creation of heat as measured by calorimetry.

    So then the concern is that it is possible to set up conditions such that no part of the electrode is NAE, and then suddenly, much or all of the electrode is NAE. In that situation, instead of the “pitter-patter” of a series of microscopic “bangs”, there’s one great big huge “bang”, as the LENR process happens everywhere at once in a macroscopic volume.

    To address your “600C” statement more specifically, yes a condensed-matter environment is *stable* only at low temperatures, but if the reaction happens in a sufficiently fast and simultaneous way, it may already be over before the atoms have yet had time to move into a different configuration.

    I said “suddenly” above, and you object that we’ve never seen anything like that in numerous experiments over the years. But remember the most important fact about the NAE: we don’t know what it is! Let’s say I publish a theory explaining how LENR works, which implies a recipe for determining exactly what configurations of matter do or don’t act as NAE. My theory is published in newspapers and endorsed by all the most eminent nuclear physicists. What happens next? I’ll tell you what happens: Millions of scientists and engineers around the world will immediately start combing through the database of all known materials and all known processing techniques, searching for NAEs that are easier to create and easier to control than Fukai-phase PdD (or whatever it is). So no, I’m not particularly worried about palladium deuteride electrochemical cells. I’m worried about this worldwide decades-long systematic search, and the possibility that this search will turn up a “next-generation NAE” that can be created in large volume and high yield and low cost, and which can be flipped on and off in a controllable way. There are probably thousands of deuterides, and countless ways to prepare and manipulate them. What is the probability that a “better” NAE will be discovered, when we know what to look for? I think the probability is quite high.

    So then we get to your comment about the landmine: “What we want to do is find it, so that we don’t step on it and so that nobody else does, either.” You don’t seem to appreciate something about the dynamics of dangerous information, which is that not only (1) it would be horrible beyond imagination to disseminate a recipe for a bathtub nuclear weapon made from car parts, but also (2) disseminating this same recipe *except redacting the very last step of it* is barely any less bad! Why? Because someone else, sooner or later, will figure out and then publish the redacted last step, either because they’re oblivious to the danger, or out of a misplaced belief in scientific openness / techno-utopia, or even because they’re anarchists or military or whatever. So what do you do? Redact the last *two* steps of the recipe?? Same issue, it just takes a bit longer.

    Let’s think more concretely about the futility of the “find the landmine without stepping on it” plan. Let’s say the explanation of LENR has been published, as in the story I wrote above, and you are a grad student, one of the many people searching for the “next-generation NAE”, and hey, you found it! You immediately tell your boss, and patent it and publish it, and you expect fame and fortune, because your discovery is likely to help make LENR a commercial success! Oops, hang on, before you told your boss, did you stop to decide whether this discovery would lead to bathtub nuclear weapons made from car parts? Most likely, no, because probably it never even occurred to you to check. Or maybe you thought about it but decided that there was no risk… but maybe you learn later on that you were wrong about that! Or maybe you do study the issue, decide Wow, that’s super-dangerous, you better not publish it! … but then two years later, you read that same dangerous discovery in the newspaper, because a different grad student halfway across the world was working on the same thing as you. Like I wrote, “good luck keeping a dangerous truth secret, when 100 top research groups in 100 countries are all digging nearby.”

    If experts in academia and industry all around the world are searching for the “next-generation NAE”, and they know exactly what they’re looking for, then if one exists, it will sooner or later be found and made public, no matter how dangerous it is. This is my strong belief. In other words, the beginning of that search process is already past the point of no return.

    We can keep stepping back in time. You’re the one who discovers a theory explaining how LENR works, which would lead inevitably to the situation of the previous paragraph. Do you publish it? If you do, I just said you’re setting in motion an unstoppable chain of events that will lead to the publication of a dangerous NAE recipe if any exists. But does such a thing exist? It’s far too early to know, even if you tried in good faith to figure it out. (It’s impossible for one person or even team to thoroughly search the whole space of possibilities.) So I say censoring oneself at least bears strong consideration, even at this stage, even without knowing even vaguely whether there is something dangerous. OK then take another step back in time: Do you publish something that is not quite a theory of LENR but contains the core of an idea that will lead others to the theory? Do you publish the result of an experiment that beautifully narrows down what the theory is?

    If a recipe for bathtub nuclear weapons made from car parts is out there in the void, waiting to be discovered and posted on the internet, we should ask ourselves: which step in the scientific research process is the step that starts an unstoppable chain events leading to that fateful internet post? Is it already too late today? You ask “Does Byrnes think he is the only one on the planet to be concerned about such issues? On what does he base this opinion?” Well, I know that I spent years reading about LENR before I saw a single word written about proliferation risk. Maybe this discussion is out there somewhere, but I’ll tell you, I never came across it, and indeed I was totally oblivious to the issue for years. (Good thing I’ve never discovered any dangerous information on LENR myself; during that period, I would have just gone right ahead and immediately posted it on the internet! I don’t claim to be blameless here.) And I also know that people are publishing their LENR experiments and theories in the open literature–even at facilities that are fully equipped to do classified research. I’m happy to hear that I’m not the only one concerned, but I wonder whether I’m the only one concerned *to the appropriate extent*. Because if that bathtub car part nuclear bomb recipe exists out there in the void, ready to be discovered, then I suspect that right here, right now, could well be our last chance to realistically stop, before the situation avalanches out of anyone’s control. And yet no one is proposing to do so, to my knowledge.

    By the way: I mentioned above that I don’t believe in LENR, but after 4+ years of reading LENR theory papers (related to my blog), I do have opinions about which purported mechanisms are less far-fetched than others. Therefore if an Oracle magically told me that LENR definitely exists, I would have my own idiosyncratic opinions about how (at least vaguely) it would be most likely to work microscopically. What I’m writing is based on that. Conditional on LENR existing, I think it’s not merely a nonzero possibility but actually pretty likely that unlocking the mysteries of LENR would be, in the long run, a catastrophe. (I am, however, using “bathtub nuclear weapons made from car parts” as a kind of joke or figure of speech, not as a literal description of exactly what I’m worried about.)

    Sorry for such a long comment, kudos if you’re still reading, and I hope that helps clarify where I’m coming from,
    All the best,
    Steve B

    1. Welcome to this gathering of the cold fusion community, open to all interested in the topic, not only including skeptics, but especially skeptics who are interesting in exploring reality. I’ve started to study your blog posts in detail, see Steven Byrnes

      If you ever decide to participate more here, I would assign you author privileges, so you could create pages with the full panalopy of WordPress tools. Do remember to Be Nice, Be Respectful, the Quora Rule. I would assume and expect that from you.

      Cold fusion is coming in out of the cold, and we need physicists who will examine theories critically. That kind of critique has been uncommon within the field, due to reaction to history.

    2. Your comment is worthy of detailed attention. Do not worry about “long” here. I know what it takes to write a long and cogent comment, and greatly appreciate it when someone puts in what it takes. Sometimes I copy comments to pages for review. They can get *really* long, but I expect that only those interested will read them. If some idea is really important, someone will pick up on it, and it will be repeated, and eventually may become polemic, succinct, etc.

      One suggestion off the top: I have long considered these issues, so when you write “you do not seem to appreciate,” you are correct in this way: it is a seeming. To you. Not necessarily a reality. I can imagine planet-killer scenarios, and, in fact, you mentioned one that occurred to me long ago: create NAE, take it to a critical level but just short of it, and then push it over the edge with a shock wave.

      That is probably extraordinarily difficult, and my point is that if it turns out that LENR does have potential for that, we would sanely limit access to necessary materials. If you can do it with rust and aluminum powder, so be it. For the survival of humanity, we would need to give up a great deal of privacy.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

WordPress Anti Spam by WP-SpamShield