There are some resident skeptics on LENR Forum. There is no clear dividing line between “skeptic” and “person interested in science.” However, pseudoskepticism, by the name, imitates genuine skepticism. The core of it is skepticism toward the claims and views of others, combined with apparent certainty — or at least practical certainty — toward one’s own beliefs. A pseudoskeptic may often assert that, no, they don’t believe in their own beliefs, but this is simply denial, and the belief is obvious to the discerning and knowledgeable.
“Pseudoskeptic” is not a complete description of any person. No argument is wrong because it is advanced by a pseudoskeptic and, in fact, most pseudoskeptics hew toward the mainstream, and a result of that could be that there is a substantial possibility that they are right. Some believers think that “mainstream” is an insult, instead of representing a general agreement, including many who are relatively knowledgeable and worthy of respect, even if there can be exceptions where necessary knowledge is rare. Those exceptions become more common when some topic challenges existing understandings and expectations. That those challenges may arise through artifact, error, or worse, doesn’t change this. Real science is always testing its own frontiers, but the level of such effort may be low, confined to small groups or even individuals.
This post will ultimately link to pages that accumulate studies of individuals who may be pseudoskeptical in some way. I want to emphasize that this is not a synonym for “wrong.” I aspire to genuine skepticism, and consider that the deepening of skeptical commentary on cold fusion is essential to the progress of the community and the field.
Rather, one of my interests is how we respond to skepticism and pseudoskepticism, because, historically, we have not necessarily been effective in advancing what we might want to see happen. “We,” here, means the “community of interest” in cold fusion, that is or seeks to become knowledgeable in the foundations and history of the field.
So today’s inspiration is interested observer, who started posting on LENR Forum February 10, immediately on registration.
His first post was: (5:33 PM)
As an interested observer, I have a question for most of the folks here. As far as I can tell, every single demonstration of e-cat technology has been discredited by whatever efforts at real analysis have taken place. Even long-time supporters now discount pretty much anything Rossi has ever claimed. Despite that fact, it appears that most people here – regardless of their opinion of Rossi – believe that at least some version of the e-cat actually does produce excess energy. Can anyone explain why they think so?
“Most of the folks here.” However, anyone who answers will not necessarily be representing “most,” because the question only seeks answers from those who “think” in a certain way, i.e., they “believe that at least some version of the e-cat actually does produce excess energy.” And notice the use of the present tense. There are those who think that it is possible that some Rossi device, somewhere in history, produced some excess energy. Notice “possible.” That is not a belief that this occurred, and any genuine skeptic might agree with the possibility, while also possibly asserting that it is unlikely, or that, because of the lack of evidence, there is no particular reason to think it actually happened.
Many more may think that there has been some excess heat in NiH experiments, but to my mind, NiH is a subclass of LENR investigation with relatively weak evidence, compared to PdD. Some who are interested in the field have been and continue to explore NiH. Does this mean that they “believe” in it? “interested observer” actually came out swinging here, with insults, but it was relatively hidden, seemingly reasonable. The question itself was a reasonable one to ask, and could have been asked in this way:
“Is there anyone here who believes that some Rossi device actually produced excess energy” If so, why?”
And then the responses might show the spectrum of understanding that exists, without waving the red flag of pseudoskepticism. Rude responses there would say more about the rude one than the newbie. But that is not what happened.
Notice that the post is off-topic where proferred. It was almost three weeks before a moderator coughed. Alert and active moderation would have moved the post to its own topic (or to a related one from the past).
Paradigmnoia wrote: a balanced response, as I’d expect from him. From his response, as with from much (all?) of his writing, I can’t tell what he “believes.” He is observing and reporting what he has seen and inferred.
Hermes wrote: what gave a possible answer as to why, but not expressing his own belief, and expressing a stronger reason to think not.
interested observer wrote: (8:03 pm)
Well, so far the responses to my question have not been very illuminating.
There has been no response to his question, as it was stated. However, there is a counterexample to his theme, and he doesn’t apparently notice it. Self-centered cluelessness is a characteristic of pseudoskepticism, and now IO provides more characteristics.
Of course wanting the e-cat to be real is a powerful inducement to thinking it is real. And of course already being convinced that Ni/H anomalous heat is a real phenomenon helps. However, if one looks at an analogous situation for superconductivity, one can see the fallacy in that way of thinking.
What way of thinking? Wishful thinking? Who is “convinced that Ni/H anomalous heat is a real phenomenon?” What I’m seeing is that IO has a fantasy of how “plenty of people” might be thinking, and he’s probably correct about some of that. The planet is huge, and to use the technical mathematical term, there are a friggin’ lot of people on it. If I want to feel superior, I can go out on the internet and easily find people holding on to dumb ideas. Hey, flat earth! NASA fraud!
There is a “real phenomenon,” I trust (not believe, there is a difference). The real phenomenon, I could write in a paper to be submitted for peer review, is that excess heat has been reported. And I can say by whom and how. I could also give possible reasons for doubt or skepticism, and to my knowledge, none of this has been conclusively addressed, so far. NiH remains open as an issue or question, as it should. I can say this much: if NiH is real, showing it is real has been elusive, but, from another example, I know that this is not any kind of proof. The 1989 US DOE review, in fact, pointed out that proving cold fusion was a mistake might be impossible. The 2004 review was evenly split, half of the reviewers opining that evidence for anomalous heat was conclusive. Chew on that for a while, digest it!
However, what is possible, sometimes, is to pull the rug out from under reasons to think some claim is real. Did that happen, as it happened with N-rays and polywater? If so, when and where? Inquiring minds, truly interesting observers, want to know. Got anything to contribute, IO?
Superconductivity is a well-established phenomenon with over 100 years of rock-solid experimental (and practical) verification. Nevertheless, back in the late 80’s and early 90’s, there were plenty of badly-mistaken as well as totally fraudulent reports of breakthroughs in it around the world. Once those were discredited, nobody took them seriously any more.
Interested observer has a different agenda than his question indicates. He is bringing in superconductivity. Why? First of all, there are various kinds of “discredited.” Replication failure is the weakest, what is far stronger, when it happens, is replication that then, with controlled experiment, more precise measurements and tests, etc., demonstrates artifact.
However, I get the impression that no matter how discredited Rossi may become, plenty of people will still hold on to the belief that he really has something. I was hoping that somebody who still thinks the e-cat is real could explain why they think so – assuming they have a rational basis for their belief.
He was hoping, why? He got two answers, both of which were counterexamples to what he is claiming about plenty of people. He had only waited three hours. Years ago, my policy became, when asking questions or presenting something for decision, on-line, the minimum time to wait was ten days. This question was asked within the Rossi v. Darden thread, and a “true believer” might not be following it, being disgusted with the discussion, deciding to wait until the trial.
I suspect that he is looking for a claimed rational basis that then he can attack. (I use “he” because 99%, this is a man. While women who think like this exist, they are relatively rare.) A crude way of expressing what IO is doing is claiming that he has a bigger dick. (or is smarter, etc.)
Rigel wrote: a response that is, again, a counterexample to IO’s theme. He actually points to Krivit and the Thomas Clarke paper, i.e., reasons not to believe.
interested observer wrote: (9:51 PM)
Thanks for responding. I don’t need to come up to speed on all of this stuff. I’ve been watching the circus for a long time. I am not looking for the arguments for or against CF. It is still a faith-based subject and there is not much point in arguing about such things. If there is a smoking gun, I haven’t seen it.
IO is clearly pseudoskeptical, but he doesn’t recognize it, he thinks he is just stating fact. But he’s not stating fact, he is stating his own belief. We don’t know what he has looked at, so “I haven’t seen” actually tells us nothing about what he has actually seen. This is the closest we have to a smoking gun, direct evidence for the reality of “CF” — whatever it is, we don’t actually, know, except that there is strong confirmed evidence that in a subset of CF experiments, heat and helium are correlated, at a ratio that is within experimental error of the expected ratio if deuterium is being converted to helium with no losses to radiation or other leakages. This is not “faith-based” other than a general faith in independent science, that professional scientists rarely lie, even if they make mistakes on occasion. IO is setting up for a flame war. This is trolling.
I am quite aware of the Rossi saga and its manifestations including the obsessive deconstruction of the ongoing lawsuit. I guess being on Team Rossi or Team IH is almost as much fun as Team Edward or Team Jacob – both are obsessions with essentially fictional characters.
Rossi is fictional? IH is fictional? What is fictional is “Team IH,” and Team Rossi is largely fictional, though we talk about Planet Rossi, it’s an abstraction that can be useful in conversation about the people and about memes.
To a pseudoskeptic, careful study of Rossi v. Darden is a waste of time, because both Rossi and IH are essentially idiots, in the IO world. To a pseudoskeptic, the world is simple. If everyone would just think like them, we could solve the world’s problems and not waste our time on obvious bullshit.
In fact, one of the greatest features of the human collective consciousness and its power is diversity. Conformity and uniformity are deadly in a species-survival sense. The entire way that we reproduce is, as it were, designed to develop and maintain diversity. The same is true for how we think, “avoiding domination” is instinctive.
Like I said, I am just trying to understand why anyone still thinks that the e-cat is something real, regardless of their opinions about CF. There is not a single aspect of the e-cat story that stands up to any critical analysis and yet it appears that most people here still think that there is a pony under that barnful of… well, pony stuff. One just has to wonder why.
His original question asked for people who still “believed” to respond. So far, he has 3/3 responses that don’t believe. Does he notice the contradiction? One factor not mentioned so far: it is always possible to find criticisms of anything. That a critical analysis exists that questions a claim does not demonstrate that the claim is false. People have different levels of tolerance for “standards of proof,” and it is clear that some knowledgeable people were willing to extend Rossi the benefit of the doubt. Reasons for this can be adduced. So far, no cigar.
He is insisting on his topic where it is off-topic, and no moderator intervenes, so, of course, more off-topic discussion ensues. I argued, last year, that LENR Forum needed more moderators, and needed clear policies and practices to avoid the arbitrariness of individual moderator responses clearly based on personal prejudice and erratic availability. No dice.
Okay, one bite, I think.
Why Rossi’s reaction does something as LENR: transmutation, replication, third party verified radiation generation.
Classic Axil imright anonymous confident claim, fuzzy, referring to claimed evidence but not actually linking, and ignoring the extensive reasons suggesting otherwise. However, this did answer the question. How does IO respond?
Who are you addressing? Not sure.
Axil did not actually address anyone, but it is obvious to whom he was responding.
Rigel wrote: (Another response explaining lack of belief, but continuing with:)
… to be fair, we have others who are quite articulate in their defense of Rossi’s technology.
Here my suggestion would be to either let those “others” respond and not dilute the threat with more useless explanations, or directly confront the blatant pseudoskepticism. We now have on actual response, brief, essentially trolling (i.e., Axil knows that what he writes will be controversial and could be challenged, and, in fact, Rigel challenges it with “salted the reactor.”)
JedRothwell wrote: (answering one reading of the IO question):
They are deluded by wishful thinking.
4:1 no belief.
Axil wrote: (this time quoting the IO question):
Why Rossi’s reaction does something as LENR: transmutation, replication, third party verified radiation generation, $10 million paid by IH for a successful test run.
This does not mean that the E-Cat is ready for a commercial release. IH could be within there rights to reject Rossi’s claims, The court will decide.
I don’t want to turn this into a debate with Axil, but briefly:
- transmutation only from samples handled by Rossi.
- no actual replication, but file-drawer effect very possible, and some replications known to be seriously defective
- “third party verified radiation.” Who is this? Radiation from what? Me356, anonymous, strong claims, disappeared? Classic Axil: refer to a report as if proving Axil is Right, he always has explanations.
- We only know about the $10 million from Rossi v. Darden, and IH immediately claimed (press release) that they had been unable to confirm Rossi claims, and later (counterclaim) they asserted that the “successful test run” may have been fraudulent.
However, again, Axil did answer IO’s question.
Eric Walker wrote: (another attempt to answer the “why” question, but not expressing the belief allegedly held by “most people here.”)
So the direct answer score is 5/1. However, more than that can be seen. Some answers have votes. The Paradigmnoia comment, the first answer to IO, has six upvotes, from wishfulThinking, Shane D., bang99, Malcolm Lear, Jack Cole, and sigmoidal. Zeus46 upvoted Eric Walker’s post. So a more complete “survey” here is 11/1.
JedRothwell wrote: (confirming Eric Walker’s post as expressing his view.)
it is tedious to review the succeeding 800 comments or so for responses to IO, so I’m not sure there are any. Probably not. 11/1 is pretty definitive, I’d say. The sample, though is skewed. In spite of what Rigel wrote, this was not the best place to ask the imagined sincere question. It would have been better as its own thread, if on LENR Forum, or it would be better asked on Planet Rossi, i.e., on E-Cat World, where believers tend to dominate. The Official Planet Rossi view is that LENR Forum is bought and paid for by Industrial Heat or APCO. IO came back, a week later:
Again with the paid poster idiocy? Could somebody explain to me why anyone would spend money to have posts made on a fringe website impugning the character of either a free-energy scammer or a shell company that invests in cold fusion? What is the payoff and to whom? Do people think that this childish infighting will affect a multimillion-dollar lawsuit in any fashion? Will it affect the course of science? Do people here actually think that the petty squabbles on this website are important to anyone but those who hang out here? That strikes me as delusions of grandeur.
This was pseudoskeptical trolling. A group of people interested in Rossi v. Darden, and in various issues, with various motives and specific interests, are effectively accused of “delusions of grandeur.” This is blatant disrespect of an entire community, which already demonstrated, quite effectively if anyone was paying attention, that IO is clueless about the reality of the community. LENR Forum mixes investigative discussion with debate and flame wars. People learn from these discussions, particularly those that check sources, do the math, etc. IO misses all that. At root, pseudoskeptics can be boring, stuffed-shirt, arrogant assholes. (But genuine skepticism shades into pseudoskepticism, because genuine skeptics are also human beings.)
Sadly, THHuxleynew seems to agree with IO. Of course, IO’s comment about affecting the lawsuit has a point. However, the goal of my own study of Rossi v. Darden is not attempting to affect the suit. While not entirely impossible, that is not my goal. It is to understand it, and, as well, to understand Industrial Heat, which is putting millions of dollars into real LENR research, there is Life After Rossi.
interested observer wrote: (February 20), sniping at Ascoli65, a long-time pseudoskeptic apparently upset that nobody believed his 2011 speculation, based on inference from missing evidence. IO’s comment would be otherwise unremarkable. (And I’ve written more or less the same thing. Ascoli65 is denying “conspiracy theory” while asserting it without using the word.)
It is utterly astonishing to watch people argue for months over the question of whether a piece of apparatus produced a megawatt of power for an entire year and think the answer depends on arcane quibbles about pipe diameters and tiny temperature differences. This can only happen when people with no technical background are enamored with a “cause” as opposed to a “technology”. As for the few who don’t have the excuse of ignorance, I can only shake my head.
This was his first post to get some substantial upvotes (4). IO is largely insulting the entire community, but it’s obvious that various people think he is talking about the “other side.” One of the upvotes was from Rionrlty, who is a clear believer, a person using the name of his former business (Rion Realty) to write, and routinely attacking Dewey Weaver and Industrial Heat and anyone agreeing with them, at least that’s my impression.
I think some of the participants here are interested in nailing down the details as much as possible in order to put the case definitively to rest, sort of like pursuing an investigative story even when the general conclusions are not in much doubt.
Yes. There are some people who write about some topics Because They Are There. The issue of the obviousness of a megawatt has been commonly raised; and how Planet Rossi responds to this is fascinating. Mostly, the sanest comments are on the order of “it’s not over till the lady in a black robe sings, wait for the trial.” But that’s no fun! Pseudoskeptics generally have little concept of fun, the only humor they have is actually ridicule of others.
I am especially fascinated by Reality, and even more so by aspects of Reality that anyone can observe, if they look, but most people don’t look, which doesn’t stop them from giving strong opinions in the internet!
In keeping with pretty much all debates related to Rossi, the fact that there is no such thing as a NATO colonel does not prevent Rossi supporters from believing one of them accepted the blue box of old for “the military”.
I and a few others use Planet Rossi as a term for the “body of believers,” but they are not uniform. That is, there is diversity on Planet Rossi. IO ignores the obvious: Rossi might make some mistake in expression. Now, what is widely accepted, even by “believers,” is that Rossi commonly exaggerates or states as a realized result what is only a possibility. Pointing out that there is no NATO colonel, as such, is pointing to possible fact (though IO doesn’t actually point to evidence), and this is an old assertion — my guess is that it’s true. But it simply does not mean what IO makes it mean, and this points up his theme: “idiots!” I’ve not seen any regulars from Planet Rossi, of late, asserting what he claims they “believe.”
Nigel Appleton skewers the IO comment without showing any trace of belief, in fact the opposite.
This must be frustrating to IO. Here he comes with some perfectly good trolling, and nobody is biting, except maybe Axil, whom he ignored, I don’t know why.
All the talk about how to get and what to do with millions of dollars of research money for LENR puzzles me. The discussions of commercialization paths and scaling up power seem completely beside the point. This is table-top science, not billion-dollar installations. How about if any of the legitimate researchers builds a reactor of any size and power and delivers it to an independent laboratory with appropriate reputation and expertise so that they can unambiguously prove that the thing works? Don’t argue that this has already happened. Clearly it hasn’t. If it were to happen, funding will be no problem. However, if doing that is out of the question (and please skip the usual litany of lame excuses why this should be so), why does anybody continue to think this is a real phenomenon at all?
IO is now making classic pseudoskeptical arguments, someone like Jed has been writing about this for maybe 25 years. I’ll led Jed speak about that and only fill in if he misses a major point. But first:
Alan Smith wrote:
Two problems are immediately apparent. 1. Universities won’t touch it because they fear reputational damage (The Bologna EFFECT). 2. Independent testing labs like UL are very expensive places – and they don’t take on jobs for fun.
Otherwise it is a splendid idea.
It’s just not accurate. There are universities “touching it,” and a UL lab would not be involved until there is a product to certify. Alan did not answer the real question, and the false assumptions behind that question.
interested: “How about if any of the legitimate researchers builds a reactor of any size and power and delivers it to an independent laboratory with appropriate reputation and expertise so that they can unambiguously prove that the thing works?”
That is why I said reserve 2M (i.e. 20%) for duplication, verification, and analysis and why I said 100W or 1kW levels. You can control that level on a lab bench with accurate controls and properly dump the heat. Much smaller than 100W and it is hard to convince people of scale ups.
Today, a half $M per year is about what it takes for good lab work with material, machining, data systems and analytical support. Only a few “cold fusion” labs ever got that level of support.
Better. However, 100 watts reliably may be beyond the state of the art. It is also something like four — or even five or six — orders of magnitude beyond the measurement precision with good calorimetry. Looking for Big Heat is not a good idea until it is known that the reaction is under decent control. Rather, aiming for control of smaller scale heat is better, and even better is looking for nuclear correlations with heat. That was done in 1989-1990 and ultimately led to Miles’ discovery of the heat-helium correlation announced in 1991. Since, for historical reasons, Miles’ discovery was not widely understood, even though it was later confirmed by labs with high reputation, adequately funded for first-level confirmations, I suggested a new effort, and pointed to how this could be done with increased precision even without equipment improvements; in fact, that work was funded ($12 million for the project!) and will do both. This is science. What IO is looking for is not science, which deals with what is known and then tests it.
Peter Gluck replied. (Peter Gluck is clearly a believer in Rossi technology, but doesn’t address IO’s issue, only the latest incarnation, and even that obliquely, if at all.)
Finally, JedRothwell says what he can be expected to say, with his knowledge and history and predilections.
This is table-top science, not billion-dollar installations.
Very expensive table tops. See, for example, this machine at the ENEA:
This is what you need to do a cold fusion experiment. There is no point to doing one on a shoestring.
I’ll disagree. There is always a point to doing experiments. What IO has in mind, though is “proving” something outside of normal expectations. Miles did his heat/helium work relatively inexpensively, by using a sampling protocol, he didn’t need that mass spectrometer, for example. However, to do his work with increased precision — otherwise it is not much worth doing at this point — will require a lot. Texas Tech got $12 million, much of which will be doing this (they have at least one other project). This crap — debate about reality — has been going on for quite long enough, it’s about time to nail it. Unobtainium is not necessary, we already know how to confirm the effect, and it is a matter of doing it more thoroughly and even more definitively than has previously been done, and with, indeed, “reputable laboratories.” But no “reactor.” No Big Heat necessary. Just enough heat to measure to decent precision. With enough samples, it doesn’t even have to be high precision. Correlation can kill stupid doubt. (And lack of it, stupid belief.)
There are actually many interesting experiments that can be done at home, “table-top,” but I don’t suggest doing any experiment to “prove cold fusion,” rather, do them to find out what happens! To demonstrate LENR can be difficult, mostly because of uncontrolled material conditions. But lots of accessory stuff can be demonstrated or tested. There is material for many different science fair projects, if there are interested students. I want to see what happens if I expose an LR-115 stack to Am-241 alphas, edge-on. Has anyone ever done this? My guess is, not. Will this prove anything? No. Not by itself, other than the possible utility of a technique. But it might point to a more definitive way to investigate SPAWAR claims of neutron radiation from codeposition experiments, even though that is, itself, a side-issue compared to the big banana.
why does anybody continue to think this is a real phenomenon at all?
If by “this” you mean Rossi’s claims, there are no reasons.
If you mean cold fusion in general, because it has been replicated thousands of times at high signal to noise ratios in over 180 major laboratories. Replication at high s/n ratios is the only way we can ever know that a phenomenon is real. There is no other standard. When you deny that a replicated effect is real you are no longer doing science. You have rejected the scientific method. Anything might be true, and anything might be false.
Jed and I have a long-term conversation over this. “Replicated thousands of times” is a bit misleading. Rather, the possible existence of some LENR effect has been confirmed thousands of times. This is not all the same as replication. There are replications, SRI did some, but this is generally circumstantial evidence, until there are direct nuclear correlations with heat, which is relatively rare. When we see enough circumstantial evidence, it’s fairly normal to “think” something real may be behind it. Jed is, overall, correct, because there are “replicated effects.” I wish he’d point to my paper, because it was designed to address this issue and, believe me, it was difficult to get that through peer review, the reviewer was initially very skeptical. By the time I’d rewritten the paper to address his concerns, and he’d read the sources, he ended up suggesting conclusions (and I accepted his suggestions).
IO has no clue as to this level of evidence. Watch what happens.
Clearly it hasn’t.
It has possibly happened or at least is getting close! Brilliouin [sic] […]
Brillouin work is mostly secret. The SRI report recently published by Brillouin does not seem to have gone through the SRI vetting process, and it has other issues. This is not something to be presented as definitive evidence, and with no identified ash, it’s shaky. This level of argument is more or less “Is not!” “Is so!” “Is not!” It can be expected to go nowhere unless it becomes an evidenced and careful discussion, which is not common.