Morrison Fleischmann debate

This is a study of the debate between Douglas Morrison and Stanley Pons and Martin Fleischmann. This debate first took place on the internet, but was then published. It was also covered with copies of drafts from both sides, shown on

Phase 1 of the study
Participation is strongly invited.
Britz summaries of the papers

Phase 1 of the study

In this phase, the goal is to thoroughly understand, as far as possible, the expression and intentions of the authors. In the first phase, whether an author is “right” or “wrong” is irrelevant, and if something appears incorrect, a default operating assumption is that the expression was defective or incomplete or has not been understood. In later analysis, this restriction may be removed, and possible error considered.

The original paper being critiqued was M. Fleischmann, S. Pons, “Calorimetry of the Pd-D2O system: from simplicity via complications to simplicity,” Physics Letters A, 176 (1993) 118-129. I have a scan of the original published paper (and Steve Krivit hosts a copy), but I have used here use the more-available version, first presented as a conference paper at ICCF-3 in 1992. There is a later version, presented at ICCF-4 in 1993.

Morrison, D. R. O. (1994). “Comments on claims of excess enthalpy by Fleischmann and Pons using simple cells made to boil.” Phys. Lett. A, 185:498–502. I have a scan, but, again, will use the copy.

The original authors then replied with Fleischmann, M.; Pons, S. (1994). “Reply to the critique by Morrison entitled ‘Comments on claims of excess enthalpy by FLeischmann and Pons using simple cells made to boil'”. Phys. Lett. A, 187:276–280. Again, I have a scan of the as-published reply, but will use what is included in the copy for convenience.

If there are any significant differences in the versions, I assume they will be found and noted. Meanwhile, this is an opportunity to see what critiques were levelled by Morrison in 1994, and how Pons and Flesichmann replied. Many of the same issues continue to be raised.

Subpages here.

Original paper.

Morrison critique.

Original authors respond.

Review Committee (new members welcome. This is consensus process and, even after the Committee issues reports, additional good-faith review will remain open here, hopefully, or elsewhere.)


To participate in this study, comment on the Review Committee page, using a real email address (which will remain confidential) and then begin reviewing the Original paper. (The email address will be used in negotiating consensus, later. Participants will be consulted about process.) Again, the goal at his point is to become familiar with the original paper, what is actually in it (and what is not in it).

Comment here constitutes permission for CFC administration to email you directly (your email address remains private information, not used except for administrative purposes.)

Fleischmann papers are famous for being difficult to understand. Having now edited the complete paper, I’m not ready to claim I understand it all, but it is not as difficult as I’d have expected. The math takes becoming familiar with the symbols, but it is not particularly complex.

Subpages are being created for each section in the article.

If anyone has difficulty understanding something, comment on the relevant subpage and we can look at it. Specify the page number. (I have placed page anchors as well as section anchors in the Original, and equation and figure anchors as well, so you can link directly. There are surely errors in this editing, so corrections are highly welcome.)

Take notes, and you may share them as a comment on that subpage. Please keep a focus in each comment, if possible, on a single section in the paper. I may then reorganize these in subpages that study each section. Comments on the paper itself, at this point, are not for debate or argument, but only for seeking understanding.

(If a subpage has not yet been created for a section, show the subsection title in questions or comment, and these will be moved to the relevant subpage. At this point, please do not “debate.” The goal is understanding, and understanding arises from the comprehension of multiple points of view.)

Overall comment on this process is appropriate on this page.

As Phase 1 completes on the Original, we will move to the Morrison critique, and then, in turn, to the Pons and Fleischmann reply, again with the goal being understanding of the positions and ideas expressed.

In Phase 2 we will begin to evaluate all this, to see if we can find consensus on significance, for example.

Source for Morrison, and related discussions in sci.physics.fusion

Comments on Fleischmann and Pons paper.

— (should be the same as the copy on, or maybe the later copy (see below) is what we have.

Response to comments on my cold fusion status report.

— Morrison comment in 2000 on another Morrison paper, status of cold fusion, correcting errors and replying. This contains many historical references. Much discussion ensued. Morrison appears to be convinced that excess heat measurements are all error, from unexpected recombination, and he also clearly considers failure to find neutrons to be negative against fusion, i.e., he is assuming that if there is fusion, it is standard d-d fusion (which few are claiming any more, and which was effectively ruled out by Fleischmann from the beginning — far too few neutrons, and the neutron report they made was error. Basically, no neutrons is a characteristic of FP cold fusion. This was long after Miles and after Miles was recognized by Huizenga as such a remarkable finding. The discussion shows the general toxicity and hostility. (Not so Morrison himself, who is polite.)

You asked where is the “Overwhelming evidence” against cold fusion? For 
this see the paper “Review of Cold Fusion” which I presented at the ICCF-3 
conference in Nagoya – strangely enough it seems not to have been published 
in the proceedings despite being an invited paper – will send a copy if   

“Strangely enough,” indeed.

The 2000 paper is on New Energy Times. 

Krivit has collected many issues of the Morrison newsletters on cold fusion.

This is a Morrison review of the Nagoya conference (ICCF-3). Back to sci.physics.fusion:

Fleischmann’s original response to Morrison’s lies

— Post in 2000 by Jed Rothwell and discussion.

Morrison’s Comments Criticized

— Post by Swartz in 1993 (cosigned by Mallove) with Fleischmann reply to Morrison’s critique. Attacks the intentions of Morrison, but this was the original posting of the Fleischmann reply.

I am sure there is more there of interest. We can see how toxic, largely ad-hominem, polarized debate led to little useful conclusions, merely the hardened positions that continue to be expressed.

Hagelstein on the inclusion of skeptics at ICCF 10.

9. Absence of skeptics

Researchers in cold fusion have not had very good luck interacting with skeptics over the years. This has been true of the ICCF conference series. Douglas Morrison attended many of the ICCF conferences before he passed away. While he did provide some input as a skeptic, many found his questions and comments to be uninteresting (the answers usually had been discussed previously, or else concerned points that seemed more political than scientific). It is not clear how many in the field saw the reviews of the conferences that he distributed widely. For example, at ICCF3 the SRI team discussed observations of excess heat from electrochemical cells in a flow calorimeter, where the associated experimental errors were quite small and well-studied. The results were very impressive, and answered basic questions about the magnitude of the effect, signal to noise, dynamics, reproducibility, and dependence on loading and current density. Morrison’s discussion in his review left out nearly all technical details of the presentation, but did broadcast his nearly universal view that the results were not convincing. What the physics community learned of research in the cold fusion field in general came through Morrison’s filter.

Skeptics have often said that negative papers are not allowed at the conference. At ICCF10, some effort was made to encourage skeptics to attend. Gene Mallove posted more than 100 conference posters around MIT several months prior to the conference (some of which remain posted two years later), in the hope that people from MIT would come to the conference and see what was happening. No MIT students or faculty attended, outside of those presenting at the conference. The cold fusion demonstrations presented at MIT were likewise ignored by the MIT community.

To encourage skeptics to attend, invitations were issued to Robert Park, Peter Zimmermann, Frank Close, Steve Koonin, John Holzrichter, and others. All declined, or else did not respond. In the case of Peter Zimmermann, financial issues initially prevented his acceptance, following which full support (travel, lodging, and registration) was offered. Unfortunately his schedule then did not permit his participation. Henceforth, let it be known that it was the policy at ICCF10 to actively encourage the participation of skeptics, and that many such skeptics chose not to participate.

My analysis: the damage had been done. The efforts to include skeptics were too little, too late. The comment that Hagelstein makes about Morrison’s participation is diagnostic: instead of harnessing Morrison’s critique, it is essentially dismissed. Whatever issues Morrison kept bringing up, ordinary skeptics would have the same issues. Peter’s comment is “in-universe,” not seeing the overall context. Skeptics with strongly-developed rejection views would, in general, not consider attending the conference a worthwhile investment of time. That could be remedied, easily. My super-sekrit plan: if conditions are ripe, to invite Gary Taubes to ICCF-21. Shhh! Don’t tell anyone!

(The time is not quite yet ripe, but might be before ICCF-21.)

Short of that, how about an ICCF panel to address skeptical issues and to suggest possible experimental testing of anything not already adequately tested? (And who decides what is adequate? Skeptics, of course! Who else? And for this we need some skeptics! This kind of process takes facilitation, it doesn’t happen by itself, when polarization has set in.)

(This is not a suggestion that experimentalists must anticipate or address every possible criticism. When they can do so, it’s valuable, and the scientific method suggests seeking to prove one’s own conclusions wrong, but that is about interpretation, and  science is also exploration, and in exploration, one reports what one sees and does not necessarily nail down every possible detail.)

Britz on the papers:

author = {M. Fleischmann and S. Pons},
title = {Calorimetry of the Pd-D2O system: from simplicity via complications to simplicity},
journal = {Phys. Lett. A},
volume = {176},
year = {1993},
pages = {118–129},
keywords = {Experimental, electrolysis, Pd, calorimetry, res+},
submitted = {12/1992},
published = {05/1993},
annote = {Without providing much experimental detail, this paper focusses on a series of cells that were brought to the boil and in fact boiled to dryness at the end, in a short time (600 s). The analysis of the calorimetric data is once again described briefly, and the determination of radiative heat transfer coefficient demonstrated to be reliable by its evolution with time. This complicated model yields a fairly steady excess heat, at a Pd cathode of 0.4 cm diameter and 1.25 cm length, of about 20 W/cm$^3$ or around 60\% input power (not stated), in an electrolyte of 0.6 M LiSO4 at pH 10. When the cells boil, the boiling off rate yields a simply calculated excess heat of up to 3.7 kW/cm$^3$. The current flow was allowed to continue after the cell boiled dry, and the electrode continued to give off heat for hours afterwards.}

author = {D.~R.~O. Morrison},
title = {Comments on claims of excess enthalpy by Fleischmann and Pons
using simple cells made to boil},
journal = {Phys. Lett. A},
volume = {185},
year = {1994},
pages = {498–502},
keywords = {Polemic},
submitted = {06/1993},
published = {02/1994},
annote = {This polemic, communicated by Vigier (an editor of the journal), as was the original paper under discussion (Fleischmann et al, ibid 176 (1993) 118), takes that paper experimental stage for stage and points out its weaknesses. Some of the salient points are that above 60C, the heat transfer
calibration is uncertain, that at boiling some electrolyte salt as well as unvapourised liquid must escape the cell and (upon D2O topping up) cell conductivity will decrease; current fluctuations are neglected and so is the Leydenfrost effect; recombination; and the cigarette lighter effect, i.e. rapid recombination of Pd-absorbed deuterium with oxygen.}

author = {M. Fleischmann and S. Pons},
title = {Reply to the critique by Morrison entitled
‘Comments on claims of excess enthalpy by FLeischmann
and Pons using simple cells made to boil’},
journal = {Phys. Lett. A},
volume = {187},
year = {1994},
pages = {276–280},
keywords = {Polemic},
submitted = {06/1993},
published = {04/1994},
annote = {Point-by-point rebuttal. F\&P did not use the complicated differential equation method as claimed by Morrison; the critique by Wilson et al does not apply to F\&P’s work; very little electrolyte leaves the cell in liquid form; current- and cell voltage fluctuations are absent or unimportant; the problem of the transition from nucleate to film boiling was addressed; recombination (cigarette lighter effect) is negligible.}

12 thoughts on “Morrison Fleischmann debate”

  1. Something happens when going over and over evidence, something that may be missing from a first reading. This is appearing clearly to me: the Morrison critique was not a clear response to the Fleischmann and Pons paper, but was reactive to the example used, the XP claim, which then becomes the focus, not the techniques, which is what the paper was about. How extensively this damaged collective understanding, I’m not clear yet.

    This is classic, though, experimental evidence is being selectively attacked because it implies something unexpected. It’s fine to note that possible conclusions from experimental evidence may be overblown or unwarranted, but from looking, now, at many Morrison documents, he went far beyond that. Morrison was there in the infamous APS vote on cold fusion, which was ridiculously premature. Right then and there, the physics community abandoned objectivity in favor of an indulgence in emotional vituperation. Morrison then became more or less obsessed with cold fusion (somewhat like Shanahan, later).

    I think it is crucial for our review that we set aside agendas that are dominated by past opinion, our own and those of others. From my own training in transformational process, the first question is not what is wrong, but what is real, what is actually happening, not in terms of judgments (right/wrong) but objective reality — which includes what was written, but not presumed intentions or other complex interpretations that can be radically divorced from reality. Then we look for what is missing, the presence of which might make a difference, and this is about the future, not what “was” missing, which would be yet another form of judgment. This “missing” is something that is possible to supply, it is, when this technique is used, something inspiring, that creates the future.

    It is easy for me to fall into what many others have fallen into: “It was horribly unfair.” That will not create the future. It also has just about nothing to do with whether or not LENR is real.

    1. This is appearing clearly to me: the Morrison critique was not a clear response to the Fleischmann and Pons paper, but was reactive to the example used, the XP claim, which then becomes the focus, not the techniques, which is what the paper was about. How extensively this damaged collective understanding, I’m not clear yet.

      Indeed. When I first looked at this paper I was surprised by the context in which I was presented with it: as one of the clearest examples of evidence for anomalous heat from these electrolysis experiments.

      The paper is not primarily about such anomalous heat. It is about different calorimetric techniques. As a paper showing heat anomalies it is unfocussed and deficient: it is reflective and I presumed, when reading it, that it would have been written after other substantive papers dealing specifically with the anomalies.

      1. Yes. However, is the technique they used, with proper precautions, definitive? I am aware that objections can be raised, and that these objections were not addressed in the paper, but individual papers are limited. Some objections were addressed in the Morrison critique, and some objections there were not particularly worthy, they are what I call “ready objections,” that don’t actually apply under real conditions. The input power measurement issue would be one. Morrison did not address and may not really have been aware of how input power was determined, i.e., in a very practical sense. How is it that Pons and Fleischmann apparently believed that they could just multiply current by average input voltage? Isn’t this the same error as Rossi made in the Hydro Fusion test?

        No, it’s not. Rossi was using chopped AC, and Pons and Fleischmann were using a DC power supply set for constant current. Those supplies have a bandwidth of about 1 MHz, and the noise Morrison expects (which is real) would be from bubbles in the heavy water, which is low-frequency. That would be chaotic with respect to the sampling frequency for their voltage measurements. Substantial error there would be very, very unexpected. we can revisit this when we discuss Morrison and the reply, and this is my reply, not that of Pons and Fleischmann. (there is still a possible problem, which would apply when electrical conductivity is lost. At that point, the current is no longer the set current, but is voltage-clipped by the power supply limit. However, this would be a short period. I would want to know more detail than I think was in the paper.

        I understand your surprise. However, this is not the paper I’d have presented you as definitive, precisely because of a Morrison objection, which boils down (hah!) to a suspicion, that something in the chaos of boil-off is awry. “They must be making some mistake” in the context of the “amazing claim” has legs. However, what mistake? And with the rest of the evidence, the claim is not-so-amazing. What remains as a reasonable circumstantial argument is the lack of continued work, IMRA was abandoned, Pons abandoned the field, Fleischmann retired. Jed claims that Toyota management was greedy and incompetent. But what about Johnson-Matthey; the conflict was between Johnson-Matthey and Toyota, and we know little about it.

        Behind much of the mess was commercial interest, secrets being protected, etc. And a different kind of greed: greed to be right and to look good and not bad.

  2. I’ll be commenting on the sequence of 3 Phys Lett A publications which make the original debate here, as noted by Abd. I can find Abd’s annotated version of the original paper. That is fine. However for reference I need a definite link to the other two papers. I’m not worried myself whether it is from lenr canr, an annotated version here, or somewhere else. I’m not worried about which version is used. But I need an obviously linked open stable version to critique. If possible I’d like And to link these three versions, highlighted, above. If we need to wait because Abd would like to post annotated hyperlinked copies that is fine – I’ll wait.

    I’m going to go through Morrisons’s (DM’s) critique from the standpoint of Fleischmann’s (MF’s) original reply to his critique, and the paper itself. I reckon the most useful info here is contained in the MF paper and the MF reply to the critique. This is enough for assumptions to be challenged and challenges answered by someone with knowledge of the paper context as well as what was originally disclosed. My working assumption here is that MF will have done his best to answer DM critiques, and included additional context where this exists and is important but was not in the original paper.

    (1) I’ll use DM’s division of the paper into 5 stages (agreed by MF to be useful). This is different from Abd’s sectional division of the paper. It is more focussed on the matters to be considered and possibly resolved.

    (2) I’ll deal with each stage separately and independently, asking what conclusions can be drawn from that stage and how this compares with the DM critique and the MF counter-critique. It is understood that the analysis of some stages may possibly depend on the information derived from other stages (though MF and DM may disagree about this). Such logical dependence will be considered, but I’ll try to consider sections in an order so that there are no forward dependencies. I’ll try to highlight the things not stated that are relevant. Often in a debate like this each side (and DM and MF represent sides in their adversarial approach) will present points that appear to favour their arguments and avoid matters where they fall down. Thus checking carefull what is not said is useful.

    I’ll start off with stages 1 & 2, which I will lump together as did MF and (implicitly) DM, but will await Abd dealing with proper links to the source material before posting anything.

    I realise others may wish to treat this material in some other way. That is fine. I’ll read other stuff (or critiques for what I write) with interest.

    1. My goal is to proceed systematically. The first step for reviewers is to become familiar with the original paper, organized as it was organized. While reviewers are free to proceed differently, this is then outside of ordinary review process. As described, I’d expect it to be prejudicial. Before hearing what a speaker has to say, first read their response to critique (which will often be reactive and misleading) and then read critique, and then actually look at the original?

      The papers are linked. I’m on a mobile phone now, but later will make sure everything is explicit. (The critique and reply are from the lenr-canr quotation of the sci.physics.debate. I have copies of the journal publications, but not permission to reproduce.)

      The original has been sectioned per the paper sections. The critique will be sectioned and subpaged according to its own organization. This is a hypertext review, systematic. Cross links will be used and anchors established. More later.

      The papers were linked in the first paragraph of the page. However, they are now, as well, copied to the debate subpages as shown under Subpages above. They have not yet been formatted and hyperlinked and anchored to facilitate review.

      1. Well, I understand this methodology. Given the limited time and perspective, it will make little difference whichever way, and in my case I did already (some time ago) read the original with some care. So I’m happy to contribute in a partial way to whatever order is required, and will make a more significant contribution at the appropriate time.

        From my POV the significance of a research paper can usually only be properly absorbed by reference to related work and comment, which is why I group these things together. A first read-through, however careful, does not give enough context.

  3. I have added links to discussion on the newsgroup sci.physics.fusion involving Morrison, and some other Morrison links.

  4. Posted originally to Review Committee –Abd

    I am not interested in participating, but here is some information you might find useful. The 4 papers are:

    Fleischmann, M. and S. Pons, Calorimetry of the Pd-D2O system: from simplicity via complications to simplicity. Phys. Lett. A, 1993. 176: p. 118

    Morrison, D.R.O., Comments on claims of excess enthalpy by Fleischmann and Pons using simple cells made to boil. Phys. Lett. A, 1994. 185: p. 498

    Fleischmann, M. and S. Pons, Reply to the critique by Morrison entitled ‘Comments on claims of excess enthalpy by Fleischmann and Pons using simple cells made to boil. Phys. Lett. A, 1994. 187: p. 276Y

    Pons, S. and M. Fleischmann. Heat After Death. in Fourth International Conference on Cold Fusion. 1993. Lahaina, Maui: Electric Power Research Institute 3412 Hillview Ave., Palo Alto, CA 94304

    Here is my summary of the entrainment non-issue, from lenr-forum, in response to THH. Feel free to use any part of this:

    Fleischmann demonstrated beyond any reasonable doubt that there was no entrainment. I gave the reasons elsewhere. I shall take the trouble to repeat them. I suggest you address them.

    Fleischmann’s methods of ensuring there was no entrainment included:

    1. Close attention to cell geometry. There is a small, narrow orifice well above the highest point the boiling water bubbles reach, as you see in the video.

    2. Null runs with Pt-H and electrolysis power driving the boiling. There is no excess heat and only a small deficit from heat losses unaccounted for. If entrained water left the cell there would be an apparent positive balance of excess heat. It is not plausible that the choice of Pd and heavy water turned on entrainment but other metals and ordinary water turned it off.

    3. There were null runs even with Pd-D. That is, no heat before or after the boil off, the same as Pt-H. There was no excess heat during the boil-off in these instances. In other words, there was no entrainment error with Pt-H, Pt-D or with Pd-D that did not produce heat in the other phases. Why would the entrainment error correlate with apparent excess heat in the other phases?

    4. They looked for droplets of electrolyte around the cells.

    5. Most important, after the tests they inventoried the lithium salts remaining in the cell by various methods, including rinsing the cell repeatedly and evaporating the water. The amount of salt recovered was very close to the amount added initially, so no salts left the cell in entrained water. There was a little salt embedded in the glass which they could not wash out. I think they said the glass was discolored by it, which is how they could tell.

    Those are physical reasons why you are wrong, which you can confirm in the papers. Moving on to methodological reasons — the hypothesis that there was no excess heat during the boil-off phase makes no sense, because there was abundant proof of excess heat for weeks before the boil-off (phase 1), and for hours after it (phase 3). Why would the excess heat stop for 10 minutes (phase 2) and then start up again? The calorimetry used in phase 1 and phase 3 is quite different. Entrainment could not explain it. To make a reasonable, believable case, you have to show mistakes in all 3 phases, and they have to be different mistakes.

      1. I like the people here and am interested in the commentary. I will enjoy the critique on Pd based cells that Tom, Jed and you and others here provide.

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