Reviewing Shanahan reviewing Storms

A New Source of Energy using Low-Energy Fusion of Hydrogen

On LENR Forum, Alainco posted an abstract and link to a new Storms article on LENR. Kirk Shanahan promptly reviewed it. This post will study the Shanahan review. It is possible that we will review the article itself more intensely. But first, a little on the journal itself.

Is this journal published by a “predatory open access publisher?” The publisher was on a recent version of Beall’s list, which is an indication (not a proof). (Beall’s list is currently dark, but may return.) Such journals are really vanity journals, access is by paying the journal. So I looked at the publisher,

I was not encouraged by the page title (that shows in my browser tab): “Hacked by SCYTHE404_LOL.” The “About” page was totally hacked.

As a WMF editor (and sometime administrator), I had ample opportunity to identify predatory journals, so I looked for signs. They were not hard to find. I looked for a journal where I might know something about the topic, though that probably wasn’t very necessary. So I found

The English describing the journal is poor. Bad sign.

And then I looked for recent articles. It is not surprising to find decent articles in predatory journals, and, much to my surprise, recent articles on “faces” or other shapes on Mars were actually good. And then there was an article on Richard Feynman. It’s actually a nice personal anecdote, though I’m not sure it was worth publishing in a journal. However, what I notice most is the poor editing and formatting. Wall-of-text.

For $200 for a short communication, they are not going to provide much editorial service!

And what does this man’s meeting with Feynman have to do with space exploration?

I do conclude that TSI is a “predatory open access” publisher. However, that doesn’t make any published paper a poor paper. It’s unclear, though, that publishing it there will provide any improved benefits over publishing it on, or maybe even here, and in some circles, using a vanity journal creates an initial prejudice.

Wait a minute! Storms cites my 2015 Current Science paper! This changes everything!

I’m so glad that Ed published in such a prestigious journal.

Now, to Shanahan’s critique. My comments in indented italics.

Some comments on the paper after a quick read…

There are 38 references listed. 3 of them refer to the ‘general rejection’ of LENR by mainstream science (they refer to the books by Huizenga, Taubes, and Park).

The books are references for the statement: “The special condition required to cause the LENR reaction is difficult to create. This difficulty has encouraged general rejection by conventional science [13-15] and has slowed understanding. 

Yet Storms makes the comment:

“real and imagined error have distracted from the importance of these studies”

*without* giving any references. This is a technical flaw that should have not made it through peer review.

“Peer review”? Hah ha ha ha ha! I went through three levels of review for the Current Science article. One of the section editors was my roommate from ICCF-18. Heh! I still had to mollify the other who was horrified by my deprecation of tritium results — since he had reported many of them. But then the anonymous reviewer was tough. Then, anon reviewer very happy, the journal text editor was thorough, going into minutiae. Ed may decide to tell us what review was like there, but expecting serious confrontation of author oversights (real or otherwise), I doubt it.

If the ‘error’(s) is/are significant enough to distract, they are significant to reference. And yes, some of those would be my publications.

Ah, those would be the imagined errors. 🙂 Kirk has an inflated sense of his own importance. Regardless, this is not a serious academic piece, where every fact would be sourced or attributed or is clearly identified as the opinion or experience of the author. This is a much more casual article. Storms is not trying to prove every statement.

Storms is acknowledging that there have been real errors, but this is not the focus of his article, so neither would be imagined errors. In an academic article on the history of cold fusion research and reaction, all that could be and should be supported with references.

Storms present[s] two figures to bolster his arguments. They are a figure of [the] number of reports of tritium (T) and neutron (n) detection plotted as a function of T/n ratio (Fig.1) and a figure of [the] number of reports of the heat-to-helium ratio that Abd has presented extensively in this forum and elsewhere, and which I have in turn claimed proves nothing.

Ah, Shahanan, obsessed with proof, lost science somewhere back. Science is about evidence, and testing evidence, not proof, and when our personal reactions color how we weigh evidence, we can find ourselves way out on a limb. I’m interested in evidence supporting funding for research, and it is not necessary that anything be “proven,” but we do look at game theory and probabilities, etc.

From the Figure captions:

“FIG. 1. Histogram of independent studies that measured both tritium and neutron emission [32],”

The full caption is “FIG. 1. Histogram of independent studies that measured both tritium and neutron emission [32], with COUNT giving the number of times the noted log T/n value was reported. The clustering of values suggests a relationship exists between tritium and neutron production, but not the same one known to result from hot fusion.”

I was unable to export the chart from the PDF. It is not available from the journal site with the “full text” (i.e., HTML) version. Let me set this aside. This chart will not convince anyone of anything, I predict. I often say that tritium is a million times down from helium, and neutrons are a million times down from tritium. (And that’s the most common ratio in this data.) The neutron levels are very close to background. The chart shows the ratio of tritium to neutrons, and it’s scattered from 10^4 to 10^9. How Ed can call this “clustering” is a bit mysterious to me. To me, the data is more likely to be showing that the processes for producing (or imitating the production of) tritium and neutrons are different, varying with experimental conditions.

The data is far different as to the relationship between heat and helium.

(Ed holds “single cause” as a foundational assumption for building his “Explanation.” I find the ontology unconvincing. If a single cause can be found, great! But what we might like and reality are not necessarily convergent.)

“FIG. 2. Summary of 17 measurements of both helium and energy production during the same study [32].”
Ref. 32 is: “32. Storms E. Explaining cold fusion. J Cond Matter Nucl Sci. 2015;15:295-304. “

The initial problem is that reading ref. 32 does not tell you what or where the data is. As far as I can tell, the only way one could track this down is via ref. 1 in the JCNMS paper:
From [32]: “The unambiguous nature of the detection of tritium shows that nuclear reactions can occur in deuterated palladium, a remarkable proof of the possibility of nuclear reactions in this system (see papers by F.Will et al. and T. Claytor et al. in [1]).

[1] Papers by M. Fleischmann, S. Pons, M. McKubre, E. Storms, Y. Arata, Y. Zhang, D. Gozzi, A. De Ninno, V. Violante, A. El Boher, X.Z. Li, S. Szpak, M. Swartz, A. Takahashi, D. Cravens, J. Dash, M. Miles, D. Letts, P. Mossier-Boss, G. Miley and F. Celani, Downloadable from among _4000 papers at”

but that is not adequate referencing.

Duh, ya think?

For the interested reader, that means he/she has to read *all* the papers in the lenr-canr database to find the one or two that Storms uses to make his figures. References are supposed to be clear and point directly to the source data for these kinds of reference.

I agree with the desirability of references like that.  On the other hand, when the author is well into his eighties, perhaps we take what we can get. This is not a paper I’d present to a skeptic to attempt to move him or her.

Storms says: “This ratio has been measured 17 times by four independent laboratories, the result of which is plotted in FIG. 2. This collection shows a range of values with an expected amount of random scatter. Of considerable importance, the average value is equal to about 50% of the value expected to result from d-d fusion. This difference is thought to result because some helium would be retained by the palladium in which the LENR reaction occurred. When efforts were made to remove all the trapped helium from the palladium, the expected value for d-d fusion was obtained [33].”

The chart:

If you look closely at Figure 2, you will see the He/Heat values exceed the theoretical amount in some cases.

No. In one case, the value is on the theoretical amount, but something must be understood about this data. If what is being calculated is the heat/helium ratio, and if the actual ratio is a constant, experimental error will cause greater deviation from the actual ratio if the produced heat (or helium) are at low values. I have never seen the data presented with careful consideration of error bars as they affect the ratio. I considered preparing a summary chart in finalizing my paper, but then realized it was quite a difficult process, because there were so many different sets of data, not readily commensurable. I was not going to be able to meet the deadline if I went that route. So I used the rather punk Case data as eye candy. I still regret that. The Case report was never formally published, this study was done for a government agency and the actual original SRI report has never been published, just some snippets that managed to confuse the 2004 DoE panel all to hell.

Ah, cold fusion: the scientific fiasco of the century. 

I have previously commented in this forum on the related Figure from Storms book, which only had 13 numbers on it rather than 17, where I noted that the spread in the data indicates the precision of this measurement is too poor to allow one to make the conclusions Storms does. This hasn’t changed by the addition of 4 points.

Shanahan doesn’t know what he’s looking at. The “Storms book” he is referring to is Storms (2007). Figure 47 in that book is a plot of helium/heat vs excess power, for 13 measurements from two sources: Miles and Bush & Lagowski. The Miles data is more scattered than the Bush data. Miles includes one value with the lowest heat (20 mW). The associated helium measurement generates a helium/heat value that is an obvious outlier.

What Shanahan has consistently overlooked in studying that Storms chart is that, as the heat increases, the value tends to settle, reflecting a lower percentage error. This is still approximate data. It is complex and expensive to measure helium, and there is very little helium for modest heat, and getting major heat is unusual, I don’t know that helium has ever been measured together with high heat.

This newer histogram I think is from data in Storms book (2014), The Explanation of Low Energy Nuclear Reaction. Table 9 (p. 42) is a summary of values. There are 19 values. It looks like Storms has omitted one value (2.4 x 10^11 He/W-sec) as “sonic” (Stringham), one as an outlier (4.4), and maybe one as “gas loading,” (McKubre, Case), then perhaps has added one. Or maybe he left in the Case value (2.0).

There are seven sources listed. This table was reproduced in the 2015 Storms Current Science paper. References are given.

The work by McKubre, et al, referenced as [33], provides a convenient hand-waving argument to explain why the mean of these values fall near 60% of the theoretical value, but certainly is not definitive. For one reason, it would need to be replicated several times before it can be incorporated into other studies as a mathematical fact, which it hasn’t. If it actually does explain the variation adequately, that needs to be referenced or directly documented, which it isn’t.

It’s been confirmed. Maybe Shanahan should actually read my paper. After all, I cited his JEM Letter. It is not a “hand-waving” argument, but, obviously, this cried out for more extensive confirmation with increased precision. And so, I’m happy to say, that work has been funded and is under way. And they will do anodic erosion, I’m told, to test what is apparent from the two studies that did it (McKubre and Apicella et al, see my paper for references). These are the two studies where dissolving the surface of the cathode took the helium level up to the full theoretical value, within experimental error. Two other Apicella (Violante) measurements did not use anodic erosion, and results were at about 60% of the theoretical.

Storms says:

“The claim for helium production is easy to ignore because a significant amount is present in the normal atmosphere, which makes the sought-for helium easy to mistake for helium from this source. When this error is combined with the normal error in a calorimeter measurement, reasons to ignore the claim based on heat or helium alone can become overwhelming.“

Exactly so. So one shouldn’t try to work with these numbers until they are shown to be free of the errors Storms points out, which hasn’t happened.

Shanahan ignores that correlation can show relationships in noisy data. (This is routine in medicine!) Leakage, quite simply, doesn’t explain the experimental evidence. It could have had an effect on some individual measurements. No, we were not going to wait for “error-free” measurements, but rather how to proceed was obvious: the data shows quite adequate evidence to justify funding further research to confirm these results, and this is a replicable experiment, even if heat, by itself, is not reliable. The variability creates natural experimental controls.

Miles’ finding of a heat/helium correlation was first announced in 1991. Huizenga noticed it and called this amazing, noting that it would explain a major mystery of cold fusion (i.e., the ash). That was with much looser data than Miles eventually developed, and without all the confirmations; there is little or no contrary evidence: heat and helium are correlated, and the ratio is not far from the theoretical value for d-d fusion (but I don’t think the reaction is d-d fusion; however, it does appear to convert deuterium to helium — which must show the same value regardless of mechanism, as long as there are no leakages, that’s what the evidence indicates, so far, and very little else is produced that can be detected. If there is radiation, it is at low energies and all converts to heat. But we will have better data soon, I expect.)

He goes on to say:

“On the other hand, the energy/helium ratio does not have this problem. The independent errors in the He and power measurements are unlikely to combine and create a consistent value for this ratio unless the helium and energy both resulted from the same nuclear reaction.”

Yes. Very unlikely, in fact. On the order of one chance in a million, or more.

As I have noted the value is not consistent, thus the quoted statement is nonsense.

The value is consistent within experimental error. One of the nicest results is Violante (Apicella et al, 2004). Violante, working for ENEA, is a part of the team coordinated by Duncan at Texas Tech, and the team includes McKubre. This work is not likely to be a waste of money! (And they apparently have more money than they need. Unusual: more than enough funding, usually cold fusion research has had to scrape by, and it shows.)

Furthermore, until one defines the causes of the errors, one cannot just conveniently conclude they are independent. My CCS/ATER proposal has the potential of correlating the numbers for example.

Nobody is going to pay attention to that, it’s a social and scientific reality. Unless Shanahan undergoes an attitudectomy. If he actually were to participate constructively, with specifics, if he could, say, convince me that he has something worth taking up the time of the Texas Tech people, he could make a difference. Even if he’s wrong, but even more if he’s right. I have not seen any proposal from Shanahan that, on examination, would create the observed correlation.

Right now, I’d have difficulty taking any idea from Shanahan to the LENR scientific community, he’s burned them out. My opinion is that some of the rejection of his ideas has been unfair. But only some. Early on, when I put substantial effort into attempting to understand Shanahan, he was hostile and dismissive. Social reality: treat people like that, they learn to ignore you. Scientists are human.

Shanahan, so far, refuses to take responsibility for his failure to communicate. (or, as an alternate point of view, failure to understand; and, indeed, if we don’t understand people, if we don’t have sympathy for them, they will not listen to us. It doesn’t matter if we are right or wrong; this is all about communication skill.)

Back to the new paper. Storms says: “Nevertheless, this commonly observed extra energy is consistent only with a novel nuclear process because the amount of energy frequently far exceeds any known chemical source as well as the expected error in its measurement.”
This is incorrect. I published a consistent, non-nuclear explanation of apparent excess energy signals, but of course Storms refuses to recognize this.

Shanahan expects Storms to “recognize” Shanahan’s explanation as “consistent” with the evidence Storms knows well, when Shanahan, with obviously less experience, does not recognize Storms’ opinions, and merely asserts his own as valid?

Shanahan’s views are idiosyncratic and isolated, and he has neither undertaken experimental work himself, nor managed to convince any experimentalist to test his ideas. To the electrochemists involved with LENR, his views are preposterous, his mechanism radically unexpected. 

Yes, I’m sure that response is frustrating. After all, LENR is anomalous, unexpected. However … Shanahan’s explanations are, generally, a pile of alternate assumptions, chosen ad hoc, and his claim is that they have been inadequately considered, but who decides what is adequate and what is not? Shanahan?

No, those decisions are made by those who fund and manage experimental work. If Shanahan doesn’t like that, he could fund and manage his own damn work. Or, another path — my path — support and inspire those who do this.

Storms mentions:

“Besides helium and tritium being produced, a complex collection of transmutation products is also occasionally reported. These nuclear products result from the nuclei of a hydrogen isotope entering the nucleus of a heavy element, such as palladium, and producing either a fragment of the target or a still heavier element [27-31]. Such nuclear products are very hard to justify when conventional understanding is applied. Nevertheless, many well-done studies report similar transmutation products.”

I have generally discouraged presenting transmutation in entry-level educational material on LENR. First of all, the levels are very low. Tritium is the most commonly reported alternate product, a million times down from helium. Whatever is producing tritium does not happen often. The tritium reports are consistent enough to think they are probably not artifact, but the evidence for this is not nearly as strong as for the heat/helium correlation, and tritium has never been correlated with heat, and the attempt to correlate tritium with neutrons is … bonkers. It’s all over the map.

When Pons and Fleischmann announced, people started looking for nuclear reactions in many unexpected places, and many anomalies have been reported. Some might be genuine LENR, some might be artifact, some may be varieties of hot fusion (such as fractofusion).

I personally think that understanding these other reactions when we don’t understand the main show, the conversion of deuterium to helium, is unlikely. Until then, transmutation evidence can be radically confusing.

Heavy metal transmutation claims are based on the detection of heavy metals. This is relatively certain. What is not certain are the isotopic distributions, which always come from SIMS, since there is never any proof given that the[y] spectra are correctly interpreted. SIMS of metal hydrides gives many MHx species signals, which could be incorrectly interpreted as isotopes instead of multi-atom species. Until an adequate description of these studies is presented, these transmutation claims remain unlikely. Contamination concentration is much more probable.

Given the low levels, and absent definitive and confirmed studies, contamination is not only very possible, but has been confirmed in some studies.

Overall, Storms continues to paint a rosy picture of the possibility of LENRs, while blithely ignoring relevant criticisms, further confirming the pathological science trait of not participating in the scientific process of critical review.

Now, does Shanahan think he is “participating in the scientific process of critical review?” Does he think that posting on a blog is a part of that process?

He is not publishing in the journal system, nor is he convincing anyone, to the level that the person can then explain what he explains, and can communicate his ideas.

If he wants to cooperate for the goal of increasing common understanding, he’s welcome. Perhaps THH will help.

Meanwhile, his habit of condemning LENR researchers because they are now ignoring him is no more functional than for LENR enthusiasts to condemn the mainstream. In both cases, the world will leave them behind.

Disclaimer: As always these are my opinions, and are based on a quick read (by a person who has followed the field since 1995). If you see something wrong, say something. I can be corrected by good, rational arguments.

Comments are welcome here. I may or may not see them on LENR Forum.




Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Author: Abd ulRahman Lomax


One thought on “Reviewing Shanahan reviewing Storms”

Leave a Reply

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

WordPress Anti Spam by WP-SpamShield