Synthestech scam?

It’s come to my attention that there is a company, Synthestech, which has, for about a year, been running an Initial Coin Offering, as an investment in “Cold Transmutation of Chemical Elements.”

Low Energy Nuclear Reactions, which Sythestech is promoting, are real, or at least there are reports by competent and reputable scientists that there are such reactions. However, the state of the art is far, far from any commercial potential, and there have been many scammers in the history of LENR. Reading the Synthestech material, I see no sign that they have a clue how to make this work, reproducibly and practically. There have been many, many researchers working on the problems for many years, and hundreds of millions of dollars have been invested, with little practical result. If this does show up, it is unlikely to be through an activity using very shaky fundraising techniques.

If one wants to invest in LENR, which must be considered extremely high risk at this time, –expect to lose your money  I would suggest Industrial Heat, which does not accept most private investment at this time. At least, though, they are supporting genuine research and it is possible they will get lucky. For the general public, Woodford Patient Capital Trust is invested in Industrial Heat, so it’s possible to buy in, I know a few people who have modest stakes — and a few with much larger stakes. This is, however, more of a way to spend one’s money than to get rich. There was a revaluation lately that looked good. It may or may not mean anything.

Again, I’ll emphasize, this is truly high risk, I am aware of no technology close to commercialization. Andrea Rossi was (and remains) a fraud.

Speaking of Rossi, Sythestech uses his name. In their “White Paper,” they have:

Andrea Rossi was one of
the first entrepreneurs who adopted the LENR technology. In collaboration with Sergio Focardi, he created a device based on the principles of LENR-reactions, which generated electricity. In recent years, many installations that generate electricity have been built secretly.

That’s total BS. Rossi has not claimed the generation of elecricity. He did claim to be operating a megawatt reactor in Florida, and it was secret for a time, but all this blew up in 2016, becoming highly public in the lawsuit, Rossi v. Darden. There was a plant, but it was not generating a megawatt, if it was generating anything, and the odds are high that it was generating nothing, it was just a big electric water heater, maybe 30 KW.

Rossi comes up again in the interview in Entrepreneur

Your whitepaper ICO mentions modern nuclear technology. Do you also develop advanced nuclear technologies? Could you tell us more about this?

In fact, the field has become more popular than ever. Latest advancements in portable power generation devices developed by Andrea Rossi and progress in obtaining platinum from tungsten by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, indicate that Cold Transmutation has gained real-world traction.

There are no “portable power generation devices developed by Andrea Rossi.” There has been work on certain transmutations by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (the work of Iwamura), but it was not “platinum from tungsten” and was not even close to commercial possibility. Synthestech is doing a lot of name-dropping, making it seem like there is support for their plans. There is not, not from the scientists in the field, not as far as has been shown.

There are so many signs of scam, frenzied hype, that I’m not researching this further, there are many more interesting things to work on, with the real science of LENR. I’m putting this up to warn investors that, while LENR is real, that is, there are real nuclear effects at apparently low initiation energies, the evidence has become overwhelming, the effects remain very difficult to control, they are “unreliable,” generally, in spite of many years of effort to develop control. The best minds in the field are searching for a “lab rat,” a simple experiment that could be widely confirmed. It does not yet exist.

(The evidence for the reality of LENR does not depend on reliability of generating the effect. Rather, the circumstantial evidence is the many reports of anomalous heat, the many reports of anomalous tritium, and then the direct evidence that measured helium is correlated with the heat, at a ratio consistent within experimental error of that expected from fusion. (This does not require that the reaction be “d-d fusion.” Any process that starts with deuterium and ends with helium will show that ratio, it must, if there are no leakages.)

David Gerard, not exactly a friend, has a post on Synthestech. He has his head wedged in a dark place on LENR, but he’s right that Synthestech is a scam. It has many, many marks of deception. However:

Karabanov announced his breakthrough in a press release and press conference in August 2016 — because science by press conference, rather than a published paper detailing an experiment and how to reproduce it, is standard in cold fusion:

It is not “standard in cold fusion.” There were press conferences in 1989, on both sides of the cold fusion controversy, but the real science is not conducted by press conference. There are over 1500 papers on cold fusion published in mainstream journals and if we add in conference proceedings, which sometimes include papers of equal or better quality than what is in journals, it’s roughly 5000 papers. David Gerard is repeating a series of tired old arguments against cold fusion. He has no clue what really happened in 1989-1990 and later, just a pile of vague ideas, second-hand knowledge, not actually researched, repeating the common opinions of the ignorant as if fact.

The problem is not that “cold nuclear transmutation” is impossible, it’s not, but that it is, so far, at best, a laboratory curiosity, not a commercial possibility, except in the most remote sense.Maybe. Some day. If.

Dismissals like that of David Gerard are obviously pseudoskeptical and will have no effect or influence on those who might be interested in investing. Steve Krivit was correct that Rossi was a scammer, but because his evidence was circumstantial and vague, dependent on ad-hominem arguments and inferences, it did not prevent investment in Rossi.

There are many Russian researchers working with LENR, they have long been prominent in the field. I see no sign, so far, that Synthestech is working with the real scientists in the field, though they drop their names, such as Vysotskii and Kornilova. I found that apparently Yuri Bazhutov, the late well-known Russian LENR researcher, has been called an “advisor” to Synthestech. See this obituary.

That points to a Sythestech interview of Bazhutov. I had noticed that Sythestech has claimed to have been an observer at RCCNT&BL in 2017, and the interview was allegedly conducted there. There is only one very brief mention of Synthestech in the interview:

What can you say about “Synthestech” and your visit to the Sochi laboratory?

We were pleased to know that there is a new group in Russia that is studying the same phenomena. It’s very pleasant that there is such a team as “Synthestech”, because the winner is the one who moves.

That is simply a casual comment, non-committal, and not surprising. This is far from an endorsement of the actual company, or its accomplishments. Many entrepreneurs have induced scientists to be called “advisors.” It’s basically meaningless, particularly when the company is unknown and the scientist has little reason to suspect a scam. I have seen scientists, later, distance themselves from such companies, when the way they were operating became clear.

Again, if one wants to support LENR research, I recommend becoming knowledgeable as a first step. There are many ways to support increased awareness of the real work that has been done. Tossing money at overheated investment scams is not one of them. Contact me if interested in supportive activity.

On more point: the original research that Karabanov of Synthestech appropriate was biological transmutation. To those that believe cold fusion or cold nuclear transmutation is impossible, biological transmutation will seem preposterous.

However, there are nuclear effects in condensed matter, that appear to involve unusual structures that allow a collective effect, rather than the brute-force collision effect of hot fusion. This is all poorly understood, but the evidence of nuclear anomalies is overwhelming, and if it can happen in the lab, at low energies, it is easily conceivable that life would find a way to use it, and there is substantial work on biological transmutation, by serious and highly experienced scientists (such as Vysotskii, whose name gets dropped by Karabanov). Most of this is not yet confirmed.

Karabanov is attempting to sell something that might be possible, almost certainly before its time. Here is a page covering some of that research by those identified as Karabanov’s partners. It looks like Karabanov abandoned the biological approach, and he claims to have industrial processes. No evidence has appeared of this. When challenged with, “If you can transmute elements, why do you need the bitcoin investments?” (he could just make precious metals), his answer is that the experiments only produce milligrams of material. I think he is exaggerating even there, if not outright lying, but what is a few orders of magnitude among friends?

Author: Abd ulRahman Lomax


8 thoughts on “Synthestech scam?”

  1. Being unfamiliar with details about Rossi affair (or other unscientific issues about LENR) is common for russian researchers. On Moscow monthly seminar on Cold Fusion in People Friendship University everybody can (or could – I visit it irregularly) hear uncritical enthusiastic opinions about Rossi. It is not indication of scam – many russians haven’t read detailed analysis of Rossi affair).

    P.S Some of them believe in strange things (aka aether, N. Tesla myths etc). Russian LENR community is tolerate and indulgent for unconventional opinions.

    1. I think the Russian cold fusion community may need a research site like this. It’s one thing to be critical of Rossi because “it’s impossible.” It was not impossible. Cold nuclear transmutation is not impossible. That does not mean that it is happening in any specific situation. Lots of scammers are proposing things that are possible, and it helps the scammer if the possibility is a bit obscure, so they can then dismiss all critique as pseudoskeptical.

      Rossi was, in person, and for many scientists, quite believable. He is in many ways a classic confidence man, knowing how to create confidence, so that sign after sign of a problem is ignored. He may also be literally insane. That hypothesis makes it easier to understand some of the history. He believes his own fantasies, and sees the very real problems as obstacles to overcome. Which is only half-crazy.

      The entire LENR community became a bit wiggy, ready to accept almost anything. After all, of mainstream physics rejects LENR, and we know there is a reality there, maybe these other ideas are also unfairly rejected. Genuine skeptics are reserved and understand the possibility of error. “Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence” is a genuine skeptical aphorism.

    2. The difference might be that the Russians believe Parkhomov has replicated Rossi, whilst the Americans don’t trust him.

      Probably just because he’s Russian… I imagine.

      1. Well, Parkhomov did believe he had replicated Rossi, though there is no clear evidence that he duplicated Rossi’s methods. I was quite excited when I first read Parkhomov. After all, a simple test, I liked that. However, then I looked more carefully at his temperature data. What I saw indicated no substantial heat (contradicting the evap calorimetry, which then suggests any of a number of easy artifacts.) Modest NiH heat does not confirm Rossi, it confirms the NiH line of research, which Rossi appropriated.

        What I suggest to those inclined to believe Rossi’s claims, that they actually study what we have from him. The trial, Rossi v. Darden, released many documents that would have remained hidden. Rossi’s own statements show that he lied over and over, and he made millions of dollars doing it. This has nothing to do with Parkhomov, who appears to be an honest scientist (even though he made a mistake by fudging that data to cover up his shutdown of the computer because it was running on battery. Why was it running on battery? I think it’s obvious: his heating system was extremely noisy and to read the thermocouples he had to float the computer. So his work was marred by that. I stopped following it because it all became more complicated, and the way he collected and presented data was not designed for clarity. It obscured what I had previously used to notice the problem with his first work. (It was possible to infer his power input stages, and then to see the response of the device to changes in input power. If there is XP, with an onset at a certain temperature, the temperature response to power should show an anomaly. In his first report, there was no temperature anomaly, until the very end of the test, when the device was cracking and the thermocouple apparently failed. Rather, the temperature responded to iincreases in input power, showing no sign of excess heat.)
        I did write a critique of Parkhomov’s work, but it had nothing to do with Rossi, and nothing to do with his being Russian. There is a great “Russian” story that came out in Rossi v. Darden.

  2. Abd – I consider the whole Bitcoin idea as a scam and essentially just wrong, given that all you actually need for digital money is a reliable tracking system. Aficionados state that the digital money has value because of all the computing power that goes into the generation of it, but I regard this as being the same as a used bus-ticket – any work that’s involved has been used up and there’s no value left. It’s just a number, and any number would work as well providing you add enough ECC to be sure that the number is always recoverable. Bank transfers generally work well with simple numbers for accounts and no serial numbers on the currency itself. As such, the only reason for Bitcoin and its copies is to anonymise the payer and payee, in order to enable transactions in illegal products and services.

    Synthestech also seems to be a scam, in that there’s no way that anyone knows enough to control any transmutation, and the only ones we can be reasonably certain about generally change expensive elements to cheaper ones (and even where valuable elements are produced such as Praesodymium, the cost of production is way too high to be economic).

    For what it’s worth, therefore, I agree with all you’ve said here, and I expect most people who’ve followed the story so far will do so as well. It would be illogical to expect anything else. Of course there are people who allow hope to triumph over experience (witness the people who still expect Rossi to produce something that actually works) and think that digital money has a real-world value even though there is no real-world thing guaranteeing that value. Some countries also have problems with fiat currencies (see Venezuela) once trust has been eroded.

    “That’s total BS. Rossi has not claimed the generation of elecricity”. IIRC, the QX was supposed to be tunable to produce either heat or electricity, but Rossi seems to have “forgotten” that claim and is no longer mentioning it. I think he claimed that based on the Papp engine claim to be able to produce either more mechanical power or to reduce the mechanical power and produce electricity directly instead. Rossi however never performed a demo that claimed to show electricity being produced instead of heat – maybe he couldn’t figure a way to fudge the measurements.

    “If you can transmute elements, why do you need the bitcoin investments?”. There was another person who claimed to be able to produce a few ounces of Gold from a ton of beer-bottles, and wanted people to invest in it. Turned out that the “Gold” was instead what they called “White Cold” and was a powdery stuff that they claimed was an alchemical equivalent. I don’t recall them getting any investments, though. Rossi claimed to be able to produce 62Ni, too. If the claims are valid, then no investment is needed and they can quickly build up the business based on profits from the transmutations. Where someone really believes that their process is valid and will make a load of money, they won’t want to share those profits with anyone and will mortgage their house or use credit-cards/loans to get what finance they need without losing control. Asking for investments means they aren’t that sure, and that they’d rather lose somebody else’s money than their own.

    1. Starting an ICO is like printing money. Bitcoins are not, in themselves, exactly a scam, but the value is floating, depending entirely on the market. The intrinsic value is in the security of transactions. It’s complicated and I don’t pretend to understanding much about it. My son is an expert, and made a lot of money with bitcoin and other similar currencies.
      It is a bit misleading to think of bitcoin has having value because of the work put into it. Rather, it has value as a secure medium of exchange, and the design requires it be difficult to “mine” bitcoins. That mining is what validates the transactions. If not for that, then anyone could simply declare a currency, and it could have no value; this is why rare materials like gold become media of exchange. It is not the intrinsic value of gold, but its utility as a medium. The intrinsic value supports that. If we made yard dirt a medium of exchange, then it could have no particular value, even if it was a lot of work to dig it up, it would be bulky, etc.

      It’s easy to see why the Synthestech scammers have gone for an ICO to raise money. They can pay the shills in the currency they created. It’s a less-regulated analogy to issuing stock, which also has no intrinsic value, but only an operating and market value. (Stock does have real-world value where the shares represent an ownership percentage. The value varies with the market value of the company. Practically speaking, shares are worth whatever you can sell them for.)

      1. Abd – all currency has a variable value, and it really depends on whether the person you want to buy something from will accept what you offer in exchange. All currency also depends on a degree of trust, in that if you accept a certain amount of currency for your yak, then you need to trust that if you need to get another yak then the currency you’ve accepted will be enough to replace your yak. The difficulty of mining Bitcoins is thus a magician’s sleight-of-hand – there is no real value from needing a lot of automated work to produce something like a special number.

        I stated “used bus-ticket” as a comparison because in India the small coinage is worth more as scrap metal than the face value, so the coins quickly disappear from circulation. For small change, people thus use bus-tickets, which have an expiration date. They have a real value until that date in that you can exchange them for a ride on the bus. Once used or expired, though, there is no value left even though they contain the same amount of “work” used to make them.

        For sure people have made fortunes in Bitcoins of one sort or another. Then again, people used to make fortunes from tulips and the Dot-Com bubbles, and Bernie Madoff’s “investments”. The skill is in getting out of it at the right time, and transferring the gains to some less-volatile investment that will retain that value. I’d hope your son gets the timing right.

        Gold is regarded as having a high value because it’s fairly scarce and it stays shiny. People like shiny stuff. It’s useful in engineering, too, largely because of the lack of oxidation. However, if you were cast away on a desert island, would you collect all the Gold from the wreck or try for the edible stuff and some useful bits of steel to use as tools?

        The history of currency is pretty interesting. Some people have used simple shells picked up from the beach, others have used rather large annuli made from stone. Manhattan Island, according to the myths, was bought for a number of cheap beads. Various places have “local money” now, which are effectively IOUs that again depend on trust that you will be able to exchange them for goods and services locally. There are several versions in France and the UK I know of. Like Bitcoin, they avoid taxes (pay unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s). I use a less-formal version with old friends, in that we help without payment when required but don’t keep a written score of who owes what to whom. Amish barn-raising parties are along the same lines, in that paying for the help received is not required, but instead you give help back when it is needed.

        Still, this particular ICO really depends for its value as to whether you trust that the claims, to be able to produce electrical power and valuable elements in future, are valid. Seems highly unlikely to me. They appear to have as much chance of succeeding as Rossi does. That’s not to say that their aspirations are actually impossible as such, but that the likelihood of them finding ways to do what is thought to be impossible at the moment is vanishingly small because they seem to be tagging along with Rossi. Not optimal….

        1. When you say “no value” you accept the idea that value exists in the thing valued. That it is difficult to mine bitcoins is useful for the currency purpose. That difficulty is not purely artificial, it is work that validates the blockchain. “Limited supply” is important for any currency, otherwise the utility vanishes.
          Bitcoin timing became more difficult when the IRS changed the rules for taxing bitcoin profits. As it had been, if a bitcoin holding was traded for more bitcoins, if I have it right, the transaction was not considered to have made a profit until it was converted to a different kind of asset (such as ordinary cash). This had a huge impact on my son, suddenly he owed taxes without having the cash to pay them. The old rules were considerate of that. He can cover it, but it was . . . disconcerting to see the rules change in a way that he believes was designed to damage the market.
          Bitcoin was attractive to those who wanted to remain hidden, but it doesn’t work, because all it takes is one slip and they have your IP and you. To the Synthestech people, Bitcoin is a way to involve many people, not just those into LENR. Many people may make small investments just because it’s cheap and easy. Some of the shills may be making a profit, especially considering that their time may not be worth much.
          I have seen nothing from Sythestech itself that would inspire any confidence. The only substantial initiative was the biological transmutation researchers, and Synthestech seems to have given up on biotech. Given that Synthestech pays people to promote them, “fuzzy endorsements” and vague affiliations are meaningless. Rossi was accepted by some LENR scientists, and some still think he had something. It is impossible to prove that he never had anything, but the reasons to think he had been successful have disappeared, and he is thoroughly established as deceptive, if not just plain insane. But he did look good, to many smart people, for years. I don’t see that Synthestech has ever looked good, to anyone with knowledge.

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