With friends like this, does LENR need enemies?

On LENR Forum, kirkshanahan wrote:

It seems Krivit has issued me a challenge (Kirk Shanahan, Can You Explain This?) but provided no way to respond. So I’ll do it here…

My first answer is: Probably, what exactly do you need explained?

That was, of course, a direct answer to Krivit’s actual question. The post is undated, but it’s the latest “Recent News Article” at this point.

Krivit takes Fig. 1 from 1993Fleischmann-Pons-PLA-Simplicity and adds some lines to it to make the displayed figure.

And Fleischmann asks the question himself:

One can therefore pose the question: “How can it be that the temperature of the cell contents increases whereas the enthalpy input decreases with time. 9” Our answer to this dilemma naturally has been: “There is a source of enthalpy in the cells whose strength increases with time.” At a more quantitative level one sees that the magnitudes of these sources are such that explanations in terms of chemical changes must be excluded.

But Krivit is asking the question of Shanahan. Why? Slow news day? We know that Shanahan has alternative explanations, and most LENR researchers and students have rejected them, but what could be useful is a detailed and careful examination of them. Krivit refers in an update to Shanahan’s response, but it is more or less as expected, and Krivit does not address the issues.

Apparently he is unable to understand why the temperature can increase and the voltage decrease over time in the cell without excess energy from LENR being the cause.

For starters, Krivit refers to the plot of voltage as if it is a plot of power input. He’s not incorrect, because the experiment is likely constant current, in which case power will track voltage, but simply showing a voltage plot will not communicate that to a reader. There are also issues of possible bubble noise that could cause an error in measuring power. That has been addressed to my own satisfaction, but the point is that the matter is not as simple as Krivit imagines. To him, that plot would be a proof — proof, I tell you — of LENR. But it’s not going to convince any skeptic, without serious study. And I haven’t seen any converts from that plot. Shanahan went on:

I would suggest he read the section of my whitepaper discussing the flaws in the F&P calorimetric method. THH conveniently posted a link (Mar 2nd 2017 post #92 in thread “Validity of LENR Science…[split]” “Kirk’s white paper answering Marwan et al: https://drive.google.com/file/…b1doPc3otVGFUNDZKUDQ/view) to it. Then think it through while chanting “CCS CCS CCS”.

Kirk does not know how to make links work. When text is copied, as he did, the link may look like a link, but it’s been munged with those ellipses in the middle. It is one of the little joys of LF software. Rather, follow the link and then copy the full URL from the browser bar. Shanahan also could have copied the link to that post 92, the date stamp is a link that can be copied. That’s what I do. The post number is also a link.

Here is his white paper.

BTW, there are other reasons besides ATER/CCS for this as well (and I suspect the cause of the drift shown in the Figure is actually not ATER, that comes later in the paper). Ask an electrochemist.

Shanahan has never successfully shown actual flaws in the Fleischmann calorimetry; rather, he has alternate hypotheses, unconfirmed. However, this could deserve careful discussion here. The LF style sequential commentary doesn’t lead anywhere but to useless smoke.

We have to assume constant current for the discussion to make sense. Fleischmann doesn’t actually say that the input is from a constant current supply, but gives the current as 400 mA.

Krivit responded to Shanahan, but didn’t.

April 28, 2017 Update: Shananah’s response: “Probably.” [That’s the extent of Shanahan’s explanation. He provided no specific details as to how the cell temperature steadily rises while the input power steadily decreases over several days in this graph. Dr. Shanahan, if you want to reply further, please send your comments to the contact page here. I will publish them so long as your reply is specific and exclusive to this graph and your response reflects professional etiquette.]

Krivit does not answer Shanahan’s question … at all.

The input voltage shows a decreasing trend, not the power, that’s what the plot shows. And this is not “steadily.” (Nor is the temperature “steadily” increasing.) But, yes, we know that this is a decreased power input. Shanahan simply pointed to his paper. Does it propose mechanisms? Well, “CCS” is Shanahan’s code word for an effective shift in cell calibration caused by unexpected recombination or a shift in where recombination occurs. Some such shift, as an example, could indeed cause an effect as shown. As well, shifts in loading could create such effects. How large is the effect?

At 4.9 V and 400 mA, the input power is about 1.96 W. The claimed XP is 115 mW by the end of day 6, or about 5.9% of input power. In an SRI series, this would be considered barely reportable. However, FP calorimetry was reputed to be quite precise, on the level of 0.1 mW.

Why is the voltage going down? With constant current, the cell resistance is going down, so the power supply lowers the voltage to keep current constant. Here is my stab at it:

Water is being split into deuterium and oxygen. That’s endothermic. Then the deuterium is absorbed by the cathode. That is exothermic initially, but moves toward endothermic as loading reaches the values necessary for the FP Heat Effect. Fleischmann-Pons calculations include these issues (or they would not be accurate; these are open cells, not cells with a recombiner where the potential energy created when deuterium and oxygen are dissociated. If there is an unexpected shift in this chemistry, the XP values would be incorrect. Ideally, the gases are measured, and loading is monitored. It’s complex. This is not a job for Steve Knee-Jerk.

And it’s not a job for me, either, unless I’m prepared to put a lot of time into it. I would much prefer to see a careful discussion here, with THH and, I’d hope, Shanahan, and others, as well; here, I’d organize this so that useful content is created. He is totally free and invited to comment here. THH has author privileges and I’d give them to Kirk as well, in appreciation for his years of service as the Necessary Skeptic.

THH wrote:

Going back to the original post. LENR advocates would I think agree that they get relatively little scientific critiques from mainstream scientists, or indeed anyone who is technically competent and highly skeptical, so interested in finding holes in arguments.

All this is symptomatic that this is debate, not scientific investigation, where “sides” are arrayed against each other, rehashing old issues, with issues never being fully resolved, with true consensus being elusive. To me, the big disappointment was the 2004 U.S. DoE review. It was superficial and hasty, like much with LENR. The review made claims pretending to be reports that were not supported by the review paper evidence (that were actually contradictory to it). The review process obviously did not include serious, interactive analysis of data, where errors would be corrected, instead they were allowed to stand.

The review did agree that further research was warranted, and half the panel considered that the anomalous heat was real, i.e., at least there is an anomaly — or collection of them — to investigate. If the DoE had actually been paying serious attention, they would have established a LENR desk. For their part, the review paper authors made no specific request. So they got no specific result. Funny how that works.

They need that. So I find no excuse for the process Kirk notes in the first posts here. Marwan et al may believe they have settled Kirk’s points. More likely (and my judgement reading the source material) they have partially addressed them.

… and possibly in a somewhat misleading way. However, the context is important. Kirk had been criticising LENR research strongly, on the internet, since the 1990s. I attempted to search for his posts on vortex-l, but that list is archived in zipfiles that Google does not search. Practically useless, typical Beatty.

Kirk’s points were answered again and again. To his mind, those answers were inadequate. I met Kirk on Wikipedia in 2009, when I first started investigating cold fusion. I saw him as the last standing major critic. I attempted to support examination of his ideas. I found him hostile and combative. I also attempted to present his ideas on Wikiversity. He cooperated with none of it.

If there are errors on Wikiversity, anyone could correct them.

The way to elucidate this is for them to defend their work against critiques of their defence – not to ignore the critiques of the defence and answer only the original points. Kirk similarly of course, but in this case I have noticed this phenomena less, he picks up on nearly all of the points made by Marwan et al.

His Letter to JEM was the last stand of published LENR critique. He has complained that JEM would not publish his final reply. This would be an editorial decision, not that of the scientists who replied to him, called the “Marwan” critique. Marwan and Krivit were the original authors, and Krivit dropped out, claiming editorial misbehavior. Vintage Krivit.

The Letter contained gross errors, so bad that the respondents did not even address them (and apparently did not understand them), and it was on a crucial point, Shanahan claiming to have analyzed data in a chart published by Storms, finding low correlation between heat and helium, when the chart actually shows quite the opposite. Shanahan had misunderstood the chart, which showed the scatter in heat/helium results, so the x-axis was heat and the y-axis was helium/heat. As the operating hypothesis is that there is an experimental ratio between heat and helium, that this may be a constant except for experimental error, what is actually shown is that as heat increases, the ratio settles, as would be expected from the lessening effect of fixed experimental errors. If the experimental data were perfect, there would be no correlation between heat and helium/heat. It took a long time before Shanahan admitted he had erred. His first response when I pointed it out to him was on the lines of “You will do anything to cling to your beliefs.” Pot, meet kettle.

That is water under the bridge.

From such a to and fro one can obtained a balanced view of the likely validity of each point. Normally both sides end up agreeing, or at least agreeing that areas of disagreement require further work. Typically what happens here is that points made are valid for a specific set of circumstances, and elucidating whether than covers the matters of interest takes time and effort.

The issue here is not primarily about who is right in this exchange. It is about how you convince independent observers that you are right.

Anyone with that goal has left science and is dwelling in politics and attachments. The assumption THH is operating on is adversarial, not collaborative. It’s also personal. Convince others “that you are right.

I prefer to set up process that will facilitate finding consensus, which may include creating new experimental results to clarify issues. There is a place in this for review and discussion of what has already been done, and I hope that this can take place here, but Wikiversity could also be appropriate.

See Cold fusion

Skeptical arguments


Many interested in cold fusion complain about Wikipedia suppression, but few, hardly any, would participate on Wikiversity, I found, which has standards much more like those of academia, it is not an “encyclopedia,” but more like an eclectic combination of university library, seminars, and studies, including student work.

In theory, then, Wikipedia would link to Wikiversity for “further study.” That would be standard, but was always suppressed by the dominant faction on Wikipedia. It is one of the actions of that faction that would not have been supported by the full Wikipedia community, but they got away with it because of lack of attention and clear stand, lack of unity and collaboration among supporters of cold fusion, or such collaboration expressed not in accordance with Wikipedia policies. Basically, the faction banned the editors with the editorial skills needed (such as myself and pcarbonn). They were about personal winning, and not actually aligned with Wikipedia policy.

In any case, I have uploaded the documents here:

The Marwan et al response to Shanahan

The Shanahan white paper

Author: Abd ulRahman Lomax

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

2 thoughts on “With friends like this, does LENR need enemies?”

  1. THH said:
    From such a to and fro one can obtained a balanced view of the likely validity of each point. Normally both sides end up agreeing, or at least agreeing that areas of disagreement require further work. Typically what happens here is that points made are valid for a specific set of circumstances, and elucidating whether than covers the matters of interest takes time and effort.

    The issue here is not primarily about who is right in this exchange. It is about how you convince independent observers that you are right.

    Abd (above) said:
    Anyone with that goal has left science and is dwelling in politics and attachments. The assumption THH is operating on is adversarial, not collaborative. It’s also personal. Convince others “that you are right.”

    I see how that interpretation is possible, but it is not necessary. Scientific debate is adversarial – but in an impersonal fashion. The different hypotheses are often mutually exclusive. A scientist who wishes to engage in this process needs to consider why are other people not agreeing with his hypothesis and address those issues in a way that other people can understand.

    This seems like politics, or PR. In reality it is a necessary discipline, because working in an area with certain hypotheses everyone will end up with various ideas consistent with their view, some conscious, some unconscious. The way to explicate these ideas and generate more robust argument is to try to explain the argument to someone else without that experience. In the process we often can find mistakes in our own ideas.

    Experience and expertise are closely related. In science, where hypotheses are not confirmed, expertise may actually be a disadvantage because it makes seeing new hypotheses more difficult. However, for all the normal reasons, expertise is also invaluable to make progress in technically challenging areas. It is no good trying to invent quantum gravity without a whole toolbox of pure math competences: linear algebra, differential geometry, topology.

    So the process of putting one’s own views to one side and trying to explain matters to someone who does not hold those views, is valuable, in fact it is essential, in science. Peer review, publication, answering other publications normally handles this. Workshops and conferences with one-one discussion can do it really well too.

    So it is not convince others you are right. It is try your best to convince them you are right while they do the reverse. Such an effort is productive, more so than two people who agree things and echo each others prejudices.

    For this to work you need the interlocutors to value truth above being correct, to value communication, and to have the humility that goes with realising that errors are always possible. Those who cannot do this don’t usually make good scientists exploring new areas, though they may well make a contribution in other ways.

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