Steven Byrnes

About Steven Byrnes. I see that quite some time ago (maybe two years or so), I listed Byrnes’ blog on the Blogroll here, and rated it 10, the top rating. I did not recall having done that, but when I saw a post by Byrnes on a recent article, I eventually checked and found it. Byrnes is a physicist who took an interest in writing about cold fusion, popping up with a blog post May 3, 2014, Is there experimental evidence of CF?

Byrnes is a young, knowledgeable physicist, apparently having obtained his PhD in 2012. His cold fusion pages cover many topics of interest, he clearly set out to understand the subject more deeply than is common. I intend to collect links to his pages and to review at least some of them in detail. I see possibilities for conversations of interest. We will see.

Brynes may be aware of the problem that merely showing an interest in cold fusion, even a skeptical interest, can be hazardous to career, and he does not link his “cf” section from the home page or anywhere on his blog I could find outside of the cf pages (except for the blog comment that reawakened my interest in Byrnes, and I may be able to find other references).

Unless otherwise specified, links are to my coverage of posts by Byrnes with the same names. The external blog links have “http” munged to “xttp” to avoid getting hit by the domain ModSecurity for spam. I will fix this when done with this page. (It’s a nuisance, the bot shuts down all access to my blog for a few minutes if it sees I’m trying to add a pile of external links). I fix it by using direct database editing, when I’m done with the page, to replace the munged resource locator with the real one. Meanwhile, you can fix it in your browser, just delete http:// and the browser will normally restore it with http://.)

The first question Byrnes asked was “Is there experimental evidence of cold fusion.” He seems to go in and out of awareness that “cold fusion” is a collection of observed and measured effects, and that “cold fusion” was a proposed explanation, with most analysts assuming that “cold fusion” was the same as d-d fusion. The actual claim by Pons and Fleischmann was “unknown nuclear reaction,” so evidence that the reaction was not a known one, d-d fusion, actually confirms the claim, in part. He quickly moved to theory and spent little time with what one might think would be fundamental: observing what actually happens in experiment. Unless there is a pattern to experimental behavior, there is no likely success in “explaining” it. But because there was such a strong and arguably knee-jerk reaction to the d-d fusion idea, with an associated belief that it was impossible under the FP conditions, he wants a “plausible explanation.” That is putting the cart way before the horse.

He also has not, as far as I have seen, defined “plausible” in any clear way. It seems to mean “that I am clear about, understand and agree with,” but maybe it could include what he’d consider a “reasonable idea, though I think it is wrong.” That is, the range of “plausible” is possibly wider than “what I agree with.”

I think he gave up the quest way too early. He examines a series of theoretical proposals, a few out of many that have been advanced, and not necessarily the strongest. He is aware of the problems of knee-jerk rejection, which can be based on shallow understandings. With Hagelstein, in particular, he does not convert “I don’t understand this” into “it’s wrong.” That could be professional courtesy.

A nifty example shows up in his consideration of BEC theory. He only asserts Kim’s version of the theory, which may be weak compared to Takahashi. That discussion has this:

Let’s start with a bad argument against BEC formation:

Obviously, Bose-Einstein condensation can only occur very close to absolute zero, duh!

Yet previously he had quoted with approval someone making that very argument. That argument is, in fact, quite common. Apparently by this time he had realized at least one defect in it;. he only points out one problem. (Let’s start with it being clearly wrong.) He does not point to the more fundamental issue, that the required condition for BEC formation is not temperature (which is a bulk property) but relative momentum, only of the BEC elements. And it is a rate issue, not a possibility issue. When we are dealing with rate issues, for rare phenomena, our “common sense” has no clear experience, so calculation may be necessary.

In general, quantum mechanics makes no sense, it is highly implausible. However, problem is, it works with high precision, when the population studied is large enough. (With familiarity, a student develops an intuition, perhaps, and the familiar does not seem preposterous. But when first proposed . . . )

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