Wikiversity/Cold fusion/Social implications

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As soon as a valid research structure is constructed, this discussion needs to go to the discussion page, I imagine.

A very good question about cold fusion is, "what would the impact of ultimately free energy be on humanity?" I doubt that it could be worse than the presently expensive and environmentally hazardous exploitation of oil and other natural sources, such as wood, that are treated as a seemingly unlimited supply (largely because a comparison of use and availability would be interdisciplinary, and hence verboten).

But I think that the discussion here might go towards the social issues surrounding continued research, which appears to be individual.


I see you have been wading through the muck, from the Cold fusion oil spill. I've started a "class" based on Beaudette, whose central concern is the sidestepping of the scientific method and normal scientific protocols for a more highly political approach. Huizenga called cold fusion the "scientific fiasco of the century." Taubes, in 1993, titled his book, the "Short Life and Weird Times of Cold Fusion." The editor of Nature, the journal, pronounced cold fusion "dead" in 1990, but he's dead and the science isn't. I was amazed when I came across the history of CF, when I stumbled across, on Wikipedia, what ArbComm later confirmed was an improper blacklisting of, the main library of published papers relating to cold fusion. While I got the global blacklisting removed, it is still politically impossible to post convenience links to that site; they are removed upon a host of excuses, all of which have been refuted when actually discussed.

I'd known about CF in 1989, had even invested in palladium on what I saw as a harmless long shot at worst (palladium prices were not about to collapse, and, in fact, if I'd held on to the investment, instead of concluding that CF had been a bogus report -- all that publicity worked! --, I'd have been, at peak, at almost 1000% return on investment, or about 300% now). I started reading all the sources, starting with the skeptics. The story became quite clear, though it took maybe six months to become, for me, a matter of relative certainty. I.e., there is fusion taking place, because the fuel is deuterium (usually!) and the product is helium (almost exclusively!), that's been conclusively shown, but the mechanism remains unknown, unless one of what Storms calls "plausible theories" turns out to be accurate. Storms thinks none of them are fully qualified.

In any case, your participation, to whatever extent you'd like, would be most welcome at Cold fusion and the various "seminars" under way. The new "class" is at Cold fusion/Excess Heat, it is mostly a joint reading of the book, and the goal of all the CF pages is consensus. It will take a lot of work and discussion to get there, but, philosophically, differences of opinion need not negate consensus, and WV has room for "minority reports," etc. It's how organizations which depend on consensus handle persistence disagreements, by agreeing on a summary that reflects all the positions. --Abd 16:57, 16 January 2011 (UTC)

Thanks Abd, but I will have to pass; as is, I have to figure out how to put in 70+ hrs into psych, and be able to contribute the resultant writing to the Wv. You mentioned that social sciences are easier to understand because they don't involve math -- putting aside the math component, social science has largely been ignored, and psychology is so far behind all the other sciences that it simply isn't funny--despite the (seemingly retarded) application math as statistics. Hard Science has finally arrived to psychology as the fMRI, which is showing in picture format what is psychologically valid and what is fantasy. So, I feel that I need to focus there, especially since it is my future career, and hence income.--John12pxBessatalk 19:18, 16 January 2011 (UTC)
  • Leaving aside the subject matter, we have that for a learning curve in any subject whatsoever, there will arise emotions in the course of the learning journey. What's interesting about the learning curve for Cold Fusion is that (since the skeptics and the "true believers" radically and strongly disagree), at least one of the two camps is laboring under a misconception (perhaps even a stubborn delusion). This makes the case of Cold Fusion especially interesting, because we expect to see stronger emotions than usual, and perhaps even more unusual species of emotions, compared to a more pedestrian learning curve. Does this interest you, John? —Caprice 19:35, 16 January 2011 (UTC)
  • No problem, John. There are, in fact, major psychological issues here. Caprice is at least partially correct. I can confirm from my experience that strong emotions arise in these discussions, somewhat from my own emotions, on occasion, but even more so from the observation of others discussing it, both "skeptics" and "believers." "Skeptic" is not a perjorative category, by itself, but "pseudo-skeptic" is, to a degree, and pseudoskeptics abound with cold fusion, they probably outnumber the "believers," but "believer" is, in fact, perjorative as used by pseudoskeptics. Barry frequently asserts that anyone who has examined the evidence and who has concluded that cold fusion is real is a "true believer," which emphasizes the quasi-religious nature of the dispute.
  • What I saw with a friend of mine, someone I'd worked with for years, is that he, a mathematician with some substantial understanding of quantum mechanics and nuclear physics, came completely unglued; it was observed by a mutual friend who tried, at one point, to mediate, and found that completely impossible, not because I wouldn't engage and discuss the actual issues, but because our friend would not. He didn't pay any attention at all to evidence presented about any aspect of this; he was convinced that I was under the influence of "cold fusioneers" who were out to steal my life savings. When I mentioned that I'd put about all I could scrape together into "cold fusion kits," he assumed that I'd bought kits from some con man. Of course, what I'd bought were raw materials, in quantities sufficient that I can make and sell kits, or just sell individual materials, to experimenters or others. A sound investment, since the materials have intrinsic value, stuff like gold and platinum and palladium. He had what I'd call a paranoid vision, by which I mean self-confirming: all evidence was viewed and vociferously interpreted through the filter of a held and unquestionable belief. If there is an experimental result in a peer-reviewed journal, appearing to contradict his belief, the peer-reviewers must have been lax, and the experimenters must have been deluded, and no actual investigation or evidence of this is required. And I could go on and on.
  • Whatever, it's clearly not about the science I learned from Feynman and Pauling at Cal Tech. Barry is a pseudoskeptic, I'd say, but not so firmly dedicated that he won't discuss the issues, and the discussions do produce some increased understanding, and, I'm hoping, some points of agreement. Though they get a bit hot at times.
  • Warm regards --Abd 20:17, 16 January 2011 (UTC)
  • Among the emotions that are salient here are doubt (on the part of skeptics) and certainty (on the part of the believers). The Pentagon report said there was "no doubt" but a notable skeptic (Richard Garwin) expressed his specific doubt (that the electric power was not being measured correctly). The "true believers" who had "no doubt" were coming across as stubborn, cocksure, churlish, surly, contemptuous, and disdainful. In a word, the "true believers" were demonstrating hubris, which is the main ingredient in Greek Tragedy. So I am expecting this drama to be an instance of Greek Tragedy. But I don't know how long the drama will last before it comes to the climax and the dithyramb. It could easily bumble along for yet another twenty years. —Caprice 20:54, 16 January 2011 (UTC)
  • Oh, this is a fun one. "no doubt" is short for "no reasonable doubt." Garwin proposed his personal doubt, based on no stated evidence at all, as if it were some kind of evidence or proof. What Garwin was really demonstrating was his unreasonableness. Pownall, in the master's thesis that Barry and I have discussed today, skewers Garwin for this comment. The sociologists of science, who have looked at this extensively, generally ascribe hubris to the skeptical side. "Believers" made mistakes, for sure, and continue to do so. However, I think I have a clearer vision of the historical situation here than Barry, because I've been watching what gets published, for about two years now, and I know some of what's happening behind the scenes. The skeptical view of cold fusion isn't being accepted at journals, and it's not because there have been no efforts. Skeptics have been complaining about it. The shoe is now on the other foot. Barry is a bit like someone who was ready to believe Scientific American's rejection of the Wright brothers reports because, after all, hadn't it been proven that heavier-than-air flight was impossible? It's a bit late. He's boarding a boat that is already sinking, and the old hands have already abandoned ship except a few die-hards -- and the rest of the audience which doesn't read the journals covering recent developments and reviews. If you ever do look at the CF pages, I think you'll see that Barry confidently asserted one cockamamie theory after another, as proof that CF scientists had "failed to refute the null hypothesis." He started with some real beauts, such as radon contamination (hey, it would explain correlated heat and helium! at least he was trying!). Never mind that for this to be the explanation, the heavy water supposedly contaminated, if it had been packed more than 28 days earlier, would be raising its own temperature by about a thousand degrees per hour. Did they mail this stuff?
  • But Barry has now come up with some better ideas, possible error sources that might actually have affected a few experiments, if certain hypothesized conditions had been present. He's found some technical errors in some papers. Real stuff, in a way. But still not addressing the actual body of experimental data.
  • Sorry if this is too much, John. You can ask me to stop, if it bothers you! --Abd 22:52, 16 January 2011 (UTC)
  • I was intrigued that one of the few living experts on hydrogen fusion (Garwin helped develop the Hydrogen Bomb) disbelieved that hydrogen fusion was taking place, and further believed that there was an error in the way McKubre was measuring or modeling the amount of electric power going into the cell. Since my degrees are in Electrical Engineering, it occurred to me to see if I could understand how it could be that McKubre might have tallied up the electric power incorrectly. McKubre, in his technical report from EPRI (the Electric Power Research Institute), spelled out in detail exactly how he measured and modeled the electric power. He measured the DC power going into the cell and assumed there was no AC (noise) power at all. But McKubre's own evidence (which he expressly acknowledges) demonstrates there is AC (noise) power. For reasons unbeknownst to me, McKubre doesn't measure or model the AC noise power, but blithely (and incorrectly) assumes it's zero. I constructed a straightforward model of the AC noise power. It's just sophomore level math in AC circuits. And I found that AC noise power ranged up to 5% of the total electrical power for the data sets that McKubre was featuring in his EPRI reports. So Garwin's doubts and suspicions were right on target. Anyone with even a sophomore level of understanding of electrical circuits can independently work out the model for AC noise power. Moreover, one can listen to the noise by piping the noise signal into a HiFi. It will sound like frying bacon (much like the static on old phonograph records). —Caprice 06:31, 17 January 2011 (UTC)
  • Barry has raised a theoretically valid concern about AC noise. However, he's presented the facts, above, in a way that completely ignores the numerous objections to his theory. So of course he concludes that Garwin was right. It's predictable. Consider only the evidence on one side of a controversy, anyone will come up with that side as a conclusion. What he's stated as fact is misleading. (For example, "5%" is a number Barry calculated from an arbitrary -- and very high -- level of noise power.) Barry has claimed to be interested in the scientific method, and his initial foray into cold fusion consisted of a series of claims that the researchers were fooling themselves by not diligently attempting to "falsify the null hypothesis," but he almost never does this with his own cockamamie hypotheses, nor with his more cogent ones. This one is, at least, cogent, but it's easy to prove that AC noise could not be enough to be significant as to McKubre's conclusions. Easy. Caprice simply ignores the experimental evidence, except when he can cherry-pick facts to support his theory.
  • When Barry can state the arguments on the other side (whether he agrees with them or not), then I'll know that he is listening sufficiently to engage in real dialog. --Abd 16:41, 17 January 2011 (UTC)