I’m interested in the U of Texas work. But there are many subtleties about how to eliminate mundane explanations. How sure are you that they are looking at this more rigorously than LENR typical?
Okay, one question or issue at a time. How sure am I? While Stuff Can Happen — even masters at a craft can make mistakes — there are, indeed, some masters involved, professionals, highly experienced, and fully aware of the history of LENR and, my sense, fully aware of what is needed for a LENR breakthrough. I’m a bit concerned about lack of recent communication, but this merely a reminder to self to make it happen.
In addition, where work has previously been hindered by funding difficulties, this work is very adequately funded, far more than any prior effort along these lines.
However, if anyone is concerned that there might be something important that they will over look, it is possible to communicate with them directly, or I have good communication with them and would certainly look at all this. It is crucial for the near-term future of LENR that this be done right, not sloppily, not overlooking some reasonably possible source of artifact. Already, at this point, anyone could support this work by proposing plausible artifacts that would create a fake heat/helium ratio. So far, all proposals I have seen neglect the experimental realities. But hope springs eternal. Maybe, THH, you will go down in history as the one who finally shot down LENR. Or who helped realize the potential by coming up with the most plausible error, to be experimentally tested, which (along this line of thought) failed. Of course, it might also succeed, and then I can start working on something else. So many possibilities to make a difference, so little time.
For example, you will say that the key issue here is predictivity – the He/excess heat ratio can be a priori predicted. That relies on accurate techniques to ensure that all He generated is captured.
The accuracy of the prediction obviously depends on that. However, the raw correlation does not. Correlation will cut through noise in retained helium. There are two separable issues here: the correlation between heat and helium, which is what Miles discovered, and the value of the ratio, which remains controversial, there being some decent evidence for it being close to 23.8 MeV/4He, stronger evidence that it is on the order of 25 +/- 5 MeV or maybe within a little slop outside of that, and very strong evidence that a strong correlation exists, with the ratio being not so clear.
Unfortunately, the only data we have from an extensive experimental series is Miles, and much of that was not with high precision, and Miles took no steps to release and measure retained helium; plus he varied the experiment (which weakened the correlation, apparently).
I expect good work on this to comprise substantial experimental series, with all conditions remaining constant except the LENR standard: the cathode material is a moving target, a variable.
I don’t think secrecy is helpful in this respect. A clear protocol examined for bomb-proof qualities which is then followed has advantages because it proves no cherry-picking. For me the advantage of He/excess heat correlation is that it potentially separates the we don’t know what makes this effect happen, it is very subtle variability from the results. The disadvantage is that mundane correlations between detected He at very low levels and almost any experiment parameter are possible.
I see a search for proof in this comment, and specifically that the researchers prove they are not cherry-picking. However, if they are not trusted, this would be worthless. If they claim to be reporting all their data (at least in a supplement to a paper or other full-publication method), will that be trusted to be all the data? Will they stonewall questions? If so, bad sign. I’m certainly going to argue against that or anything like that.
The heat/helium correlation has little to no commercial significance. Knowing it does not create knowledge of how to make the reaction happen reliably. However, researchers maintain secrecy, commonly, for other reasons, and choices like this are up to them and their institutions.
I’d love to see the protocol(s) announced before the work is done. As well, I’d love to see the helium analyses be double-blind. Whether that is done or not could depend on details that I do not yet know.
Here is a potential problem: suppose they stumble on a cracker-jack PdD LENR protocol that is reliable, generating significant heat.
I would then suggest that they not use this protocol for this work, unless they are willing to reveal it. Use something not so good. They may, as a supplement, use heat/helium study to promote their protocol, if they want, and they could claim this as additional evidence (and some increased precision, perhaps), but if it cannot be fully disclosed, it will be weak for these purposes.
(For heat/helium work, I’d want to see precision on excess heat to be on the order of 0.1%. More than that is not necessary. 1% could be enough, but, of course, there will then be a limit on the precision of the ratio. I do not know what precision is available for helium at the expected levels.)
I don’t think secrecy is helpful in this respect.
In this respect, no. Obviously. However, the Morrey collaboration that measured helium with samples provided by Pons and Fleischmann was quite secret. The secrecy wasn’t the problem. The problem was that Pons and Fleischmann apparently provided as an active cathode, a cathode with low heat, compared to what they had been claiming, and, as well, the cathodes that were ion-implanted with helium had been implanted with much more helium, based on the routine claims from P and F. And then the “as received material” had substantial surface helium, something went seriously awry, and this has never been explained. As well, Pons and Fleischmann refused to follow the agreement about turning over the sample data, creating substantial doubts. It was a total fiasco. They were, by that time, “under seige” and behaving like it. They lost their objectivity, which I consider tragic. To be sure, they were faced with deliberate and willful “vituperation.” Jed will certainly recognize the reference. It was tragic all around.
A clear protocol examined for bomb-proof qualities which is then followed has advantages because it proves no cherry-picking. For me the advantage of He/excess heat correlation is that it potentially separates the we don’t know what makes this effect happen, it is very subtle variability from the results. The disadvantage is that mundane correlations between detected He at very low levels and almost any experiment parameter are possible.
Cherry-picking is still easily possible, and happens, either as research fraud or as various choices made by researchers, all with “perfectly good reasons.” Full disclosure is full disclosure. This work, properly, should be done to allow that. I would not mix this work with any commercial effort, not the primary work. A good heat-helium lab could sell services to commercial efforts. First things first, however. What is that damn ratio?
We need to know the truth, the reality of it, not anything self-serving, or “proof” of some theory. I hope they keep theory a mile away from the work and the publication, beyond maybe a sentence about the possible significance of 23.8 MeV/4He and whether or not the results fit within experimental error of that.
Let the theoreticians chew on the results later.
I responded with this, but wrote the above, independently.
Now, this triggered response from Jed Rothwell:
THH wrote: “But there are many subtleties about how to eliminate mundane explanations.”
Not really. When the cell produces significantly high excess heat (with a high signal to noise ratio), and it produces thousands of times more energy than any chemical cell could, with no chemical changes, you can be certain all mundane explanations are eliminated. That was the first point Fleischmann made, and it still stands. […]
There is a classic problem here. If that result is not confirmed, not reliable, at best it shows that something out of the ordinary happened. This kind of claim was commonly rejected, ab initio, because it is only circumstantial evidence, and widespread understandings and beliefs are not going to overturned so easily. This is not “proof” of nuclear reactions, only an indication.
By the way, I should make it clear that I personally consider the body of circumstantial evidence to be adequate to establish LENR by preponderance, but I stop short of considering it truly conclusive. To come to this point I had to read a lot, and it is easy for judgments like this to be subject to error. There are some nagging problems, such as the repeated failure of certain apparently dedicated and sincere researchers to confirm other published results. Bad luck? What is it?
Jed looks from an inside perspective, he knows the researchers, he knows the methods and the results. Someone who has not put in those decades of experience simply is not going to stand in his shoes.
After a little other back and forth, Jed wrote:
THH wrote: “My point is a bit more nuanced. It is that they all potentially have subtle effects and errors . . .”
No, they do not. Laviosier and Laplace made the first modern calorimeter in 1781. They measured the metabolism of a guinea pig. That is around 3 W as recall. I estimated the sensitivity of that instrument was around 1.5 W. The results were remarkably uniform and close to the modern value. That was an ice calorimeter. The people at Shell Oil in Paris made an instrument very similar to it, only a little more sensitive, and they detected a cold fusion reaction with it.
This is great. For our readers, Jed Rothwell is the “librarian” at lenr-canr.org, the best archive on Earth of papers relating to LENR. I have the Britz database here, but that is confined to papers published under peer review or academically, i.e., having that kind of authority, but much of the best work has never been published that way — for historical reasons that could, themselves, be the subject of much study.
THH is a skeptic, but one who has been willing to take the time to examine some LENR claims in detail, to do, in some cases, more thorough analysis that has been done by anyone else, and he does not appear to be a pseudoskeptic. This is an ideal person to participate in bringing LENR in out of the cold. There are certainly others who may make major contributions to this conversation, and I hope they show up. But this is a spectacular beginning, and my thanks to both of them.
What Jed wrote at first, above, is fluff. Behind it is a host of assumptions about cold fusion and about skepticism. No rational skeptic is claiming what would contradict what Jed wrote above. As an example of imprecision, “Shell oil … detected a cold fusion reaction” using ice calorimetry. Great. But what they would have detected was not “cold fusion,” because ice and calorimetry are not nuclear detectors, it was some heat, presumably not expected. How much heat? Apparently Shell interpreted the heat as nuclear in origin. But Jed did not cite the research.
Jed, in this comment, makes it seem that one runs a cold fusion experiment, and there is a readout, “excess energy.” With some experiments that might be possible, but is he talking about that class of experiment? One of the problems is that “cold fusion experiments” are not defined, they encompass many different approaches and techniques and protocols, and a wide variety of results. Early on, some cold fusion results were rejected because they appeared to contradict other results, but experimental results are never in contradiction, that’s a confusion of fact with interpretation.
This confusion is endemic. Until there are agreements on fact, there can be no resolution of disagreements about interpretations. In Rossi v. Darden, the debate is on over what facts are established. It’s fun to see IH claim a fact, that is dead-obvious from the evidence, and Rossi “disputes” it, not because the fact is wrong, for his discussion simply adds more weight to the fact, but because he doesn’t like how it is interpreted or used. Jed will recognize this as argumentum ad consequentiam.
(To be fair, I have not seen this kind of argument coming from IH, generally, but I have not yet studied their response to the Rossi Motion for Summary Judgement, where that might show up. Rossi does assert quite a number of facts that are true, and that could be interpreted in ways that IH (and I, probably) would think false, but the problem isn’t with the facts.)
In a Pons-Fleischmann experiment, the heat balance is complex. The most commonly-asserted source of possible artifact would be unexpected recombination inside the cell; these are open cells, and the calorimetry assumes that energy is lost in unrecombined deuterium and oxygen escaping the cell. Jed knows all of this like the back of his hand, but apparently does not look at the back of his hand as others would see it. Unless someone is thoroughly convinced that recombination is not happening inside the cells — and it might not be observable as such — then they will not be convinced that PF calorimetry is accurate.
Again, I don’t think P and F made that mistake, but the point is that this is, in itself, a subject assessment. There are certainly ways to move beyond this, and it is entirely possible that P and F already killed this issue dead, but can we expect THH, for example, to know and understand that.
THH has been looking at Shanahan’s arguments. Recombination is the Shanahan claim, mostly (his “calibration constant shift” is actually misnamed, because the source of the shift is unexpected recombination. There is nothing wrong with the calorimetry, it is measuring heat, all right, by the Shanahan ideas, just not from a nuclear source, and this, accumulated, could be a lot of energy. However, there are experiments where that is not plausible.
Okay, great. Can we look at one?
Well, no. It happened, it was done, but this wasn’t confirmed. But, hey, it was done by someone who Knew What They Were Doing!
And perhaps it was. But this is not going to convince skeptics, for reasons that should, by now, be obvious.
J. P. Joule made thermometers with 0.05 deg F precision, and calorimeters that could easily measure a fraction of a watt. He could have confirmed the excess heat in any major cold fusion experiment with absolute confidence.
Perhaps. But, as mentioned, it is not simply heat that is measured. The matter is more complex than that.
Experiments at Toyota and in Mizuno’s lab that produced 100 W for days at a time could have been confirmed by anyone in the last 250,000 years. Cave men understood the limits of chemical fuel as well as we do. They understood that a log is consumed by fire in an hour, and it will not continue burning for weeks. That is why the Miracle of the Maccabees was considered a miracle.
Great, again. Now, how many atheists are convinced by that Miracle? That is, atheists who did not actually see it, but merely read about it in a book.
Can Toyota and Mizuno create a kit that will reliably show significant heat? How much would it cost? Could we set it up in a bus and tour the country with it? Maybe we could visit college campuses.
Remember, for your argument to make sense, in context, there must be a conclusive “seeing is believing” experience, and not be some mere magic trick, it must address those unfortunate concerns about fraud and error. Simply seeing some meter readouts or a computer display of excess energy won’t cut it.
A reaction that produces 100 W with no input power is not difficult to detect.
Trivial. Now, where is it? Jed, you are collapsing the idea of reports of such power output, which are anecdotal, without clear consistency, for the most part, with something that would be easily conclusive, a test set-up, reproducible and/or transportable that produces 100 W with no input power — and no room for chemical storage. I do not say it is impossible for excess heat alone to be conclusive, though even if it were kilowatts it would still not be “nuclear evidence.” That is the all-too-common argument from ignorance. I.e., what else could it be?
When a cathode in that cell the size of a coin produces as much energy as 7 kg of petroleum – or more energy than you would get from burning every item in the lab – with absolutely no chemical transformations, that cannot be a chemical effect. It is absurd to claim that such phenomena might be subtle effect, or difficult to detect, or errors. You distort the situation by making this claim. What you say applies to some aspects of some experiments, but it does not begin to apply to the most convincing calorimetry.
Jed, if you want to organize the actual claims here, please, we can do that. You are making claims, right here, with no evidence, as if the evidence would be something everyone knows. That’s simply not the case, and, as well, there may be complications with each example. But we could easily start to examine that. “No chemical explanation,” whoever, isn’t the same as “nuclear.” Maybe it is telekinesis. After all, can you prove it isn’t?
Along the same lines, Abd’s insistence that the helium to heat correlation is the only certain proof that cold fusion is real, and not a chemical effect, is a distortion.
First of all, I don’t insist that. What I say is something else, and obviously Jed either doesn’t understand it or has forgotten. For 10 points, I ask Jed to explain what I do claim or state.
The heat alone proves the issue.
What issue? Confusion over this is how the LENR community managed to have two U.S. DoE reviews that essentially agreed more research was advisable, and still thought of them both as failures, to be rejected. The 2004 review was a major opportunity. How was that handled? What were the presenters asking for? Was it specific, or was it general and possibly vague?
Garbage in, garbage out. No goal in, no goal out. What was requested was vague, just to “look at” the field. Okay, they looked. For about one day, in a confused manner that might as well have been designed to create even more confusion. I’ve gone over that work in detail. The presentations were not understood, it’s obvious. Now, how was that allowed to happen? I think that Peter believed that beggars can’t be choosers, but that’s nonsense. Beggars can, in fact, refuse what they are handed, I remember one woman at Moulay Idris, who refused money. She wanted something else. When I figure out what it was, I had some. How did she know that? She took it, completely satisfied. A piece of bread I’d put in my bag at lunch.
Beggars can be choosers, and who knows what treasures are hidden in the sleeve of the beggar?
We walked in disempowered and walked out the same, because we did not know what we wanted, we had no consensus on it, and that all that still remains for much of the CMNS community. But not all!
In any case, a single measure does not prove any issues in science. Suppose we want to know if a certain medicine is effective. So we give it to some people, and some of them get better. Proof?
Jed, you know this. It is not proof. It could be an indication that would properly lead to further research, that’s about it. However, what if there is a consistent dose-response behavior? That is far stronger.
Jed, you think about “proof” and you use that word a lot. Penon’s data “proves” — at a glance — that the Report is bogus. Actually, it doesn’t. It creates a reasonable conclusion, it deprecates the value of the report, but it is not proof, there are too many possibilities.
This classification of evidence as “proof” — or other — depresses authentic scientific analysis. I’m reading Surely You Are Joking, Mr. Feynman, a copy was given to me. I knew some of the stories from his mouth, as an undergrad at Cal Tech. I bring this up here because Feynman was very conscious of our propensity to look for “proof” of what is not particularly amenable to proof, apparently we like to imagine certainty even though the reality of that can be elusive. Feynman played with this in many ways, it’s hilarious.
The helium proves it is fusion and not some other effect, but chemistry is decisively ruled out for exactly the same reason with the same methods the Curies ruled it when when they discovered heat from radium (as Fleischmann pointed out). You do a disservice to 19th century physics when you insist that only 20th century mass spectroscopy can prove this.
Straw man argument (I don’t insist that.)
However, Curie’s observations were repeatable, reliable, and reproducible at will. Most cold fusion work is not like that, and if you care to disagree with that, please, help show it with clear evidence, not just strong and obviously highly opinionated assertions, reeking with certainty that will put off any normal skeptic, making you look like a fanatic, even if you are speaking from knowledge.
I confronted the style of argument here. I asked Jed a question that is standard in my training, at least one of the Forum Leaders routinely asked it, with a Southern drawl, when someone explains their approach to life, convinced (initially) that the problem is that others won’t listen.
How’s it workin’ for ya?
It may be, and probably is so, that it’s working fine for Jed, because he has limited goals. It could be useful here for Jed to explain what he wants, why he puts in time writing about LENR. It’s clear that his goals and mine are not the same. Or are they? One of the ways I could explain Jed’s behavior is that he became disgusted and cynical over the years. What if those earlier “failures,” if he tried to explain, were not intrinsic? What if there were something simple he could do to make his communication far more effective, even inspiring to others, including skeptics? Here is how he came back:
I do not care about the political effectiveness of this argument, or whether it convinces skeptics. This argument was first made by Francis Bacon in Novum Organum. It is described in one form or another in every textbook on the scientific method, and in books by people such as T. H. Huxley and James Conant. In short, this is the bedrock basis of the experimental scientific method. (It is not the basis of theoretical or observational science – only the experimental branch.)
Jed is here arguing, and thinks that “this argument” — i.e., his argument, — is that of Bacon and all other “bedrock” scientists. It seems that he considers disagreement with any aspect of how he is writing is outside of science:
If skeptics do not accept the authority of replicated experiments, they are not scientists. That is not my problem. There is nothing I can say to disenthrall them. I don’t see that as my job. I upload papers and I write for an audience or [of] rational scientists, not irrational people, or uneducated people.
There is a concept of authority here that is disembodied, divorced from the judgement of authority, as if experiments are in themselves authority, they “speak for themselves.” Experiments generate results, and we normally assume that these results are reported accurately.
(Sometimes they are not, but that is a distinct problem).
Jed, however, is here claiming that some particular conclusion is required, out of this review, or the person who does not accept that conclusion is outside of science. Further, as to cold fusion research, most people and most scientists are “uneducated.” They do not know the evidence. They have other evidence that there are no definitive cold fusion results, that it is all fuzzy and unclear. This is the nature of an information cascade, it creates an appearance of the existence of “consensus.” Information cascades work, or the process would never have become established. That is, it generates some efficiency. But it also shuts down some possibilities, so to me, the question is how to move beyond those limitations. Jed thinks, apparently, that this is not important, which would fully explain why he has not been terribly effective in “spreading the news.” His work remains singularly useful for those who already want to know, but not for inspiring those who do not know to want to know.
Jed is writing for an audience of “rational scientists, and he doesn’t see any need for outreach:
There is no particular need to reach a large audience. If we reach people such as Bill Gates or Obama, that’s all we need. Elitism works in science. Most people do not understand science and technology. Most people have no need to understand science, any more than they need to know what an instruction set in a computer is.
That’s true. However, did we reach Obama? If not, why not? And it’s not Obama now. Jimmy Carter might be just as useful or more useful. How about Trump? No, please, no political discussions…. but the idea of approaching governmental authorities requires being able to deal with public opinion. That requires caring about politics.
Bill Gates was reached, apparently. We know fairly well who did that, at least it’s easy to guess. And these people are pursuing that line of research that Jed more or less argues is unnecessary. He’s come around a bit, I think he used to opine that heat/helium would be a waste of money, which is needed for much more important things (like learning how to create the reaction reliably, which is certainly important!). But to do the latter may require massive funding. Where is that going to come from?
I considered the heat/helium work to be important because it is not only direct evidence that the heat is real, it is direct evidence that the heat effect is nuclear in nature. There are niggling doubts about all that massive heat evidence that Jed refers to. There are reasonable worries about the file drawer effect. Notice how Planet Rossi refers to all the positive results from NiH. How could this be weak if there are so many positive result? It’s actually pretty easy: have a large number of people try to create the Rossi effect, and a few will find something. This could easily be expected, given all the vagaries of calorimetry, with a non-existent effect.
I remember the response of some to Parkhomov’s first announcement. First-principles calorimetry! How could this be wrong? Well, apparently, in at least one way. The problem with Parkhomov was that some of his data was puzzling when compared to that calorimetric analysis. Something was off, somewhere. Combine that with a clearly failing thermocouple, and a sloppy measurement of evaporated water that did not prevent or consider splashed-out water, with a boiler that probably bumpled like hell …. the point is that people make mistakes, and Parkhomov’s status as a reputable scientist was useless. And with all the attention … and pressure … he even faked some data to boot. All, I’m sure, with explanations.
(Parkhomov may have gone on to do better work, I am not condemning him for that mistake. I think he really was naive, thought it would be harmless, but there is something darker under that. I think he didn’t want too many questions about why he had to do what he did, why he was running his computer on battery power, and the real problem there could throw a monkey wrench into many NiH claims of late. I love that MFMP publishes negative results. They do sometimes prematurely assign significance to positive ones, before being thorough in validation. But they are on their way. And experiment is, in fact, King, and Jed is right on that level.)
If replicated high sigma experiments do not convince a person, he is no scientist and nothing short of a commercial product or an editorial in Nature will convince him. Such people cannot be taught. They have no mental framework to evaluate or judge the issues. They have no basis to understand what experimental science is, or how it works. Trying to explain to them why replication proves the issue is like trying to explain evolution to a creationist, or logic to someone who makes elementary mistakes such as an appeal to the consequences of a belief.
Where are those “replicated high sigma experiments”? Depending on the nature of the work, isolated replications are not enough. Normally, though, sigma refers to a specific kind of analysis, which is often missing. “Cold fusion” is not a conclusion in heat experiments that is “high sigma.” By being vague, Jed does not engage in a real and productive conclusion. I hope that shifts. I certainly know that he has the necessary knowledge, but if he does not care about communication with skeptics, he will not be terribly useful to the conversation.
Communication with skeptics, to be most effective, is not a matter of “convincing” them. Rather, it is bidirectional, it is does not arrogantly assume the truth of one’s own position, and does not assume the error of theirs. It looks for agreement, and then builds on it. Jed, you might notice: it is common for skeptics to agree that the heat/helium experimental proposals are interesting. That is common ground, on which more can be built, much more.
Normal skeptics will come up with various “explanations” for existing results in LENR. It’s quite human. Real skeptics, as distinct from pseudoskeptics, will engage in discussing these, and will let go of some of these explanations as they come to be recognized as untenable, as ultimately implausible.
I should also disclose my role. When I met with McKubre at SRI in December, 2012, we came to the idea that I would take on the role of skeptic, of internal critic, within the CMNS community. I did not just make this up by myself. We saw the need for rigor in CMNS studies. And so I’ve been standing for that, and, with all my faults, I’ve also been reasonably successful. What I wanted to happen, what I saw as necessary, is happening. Some in the field have become cynical, more or less in despair. That can also correlate with age, for some, we see unfortunate examples.
The world moves on.
“Engaging the mainstream requires sympathy, and outrage at the stupidity of it all does not generate sympathy.”
I have no desire to engage the mainstream
So no need for sympathy, and reams of communication that is largely ineffective. However, this is arrogant, and is itself, not a scientific attitude. It assumes that one has no need to learn from those “masses.”
I seek to engage the mainstream (which means both mainstream science, academic institutions, etc., and the general public in different ways. I find many people interested in LENR, and buzz creates buzz and attention, ultimately. I want to see graduate students take up careers related to LENR without suffering harm, and that requires moving LENR into the mainstream, or moving the mainstream. I saw this as requiring that killer experiment, that was essentially bullet-proof, done anew and moving beyond what had been done before (so that it would be eminently publishable) and I saw that as within reach, already done, only confirmation, not speculative or dependent one something unknown, merely needing to be repeated with increased precision (which is what the pseudoskeptics demand, believing that LENR would therefore fade away), and by multiple groups, and that is what I suggested and that suggestion was accepted and it is happening.
Thank you, I can die now — as far as that mission is concerned. Was it important? I think so.
I need to move on at the point, and get some rest, so I’ll stop here, I might return. Comments are, of course welcome.