Cold fusion debates often assert that there is this or that scientific consensus. What would this mean?
1 a : general agreement : unanimity • the consensus of their opinion, based on reports … from the border — John Hersey
b : the judgment arrived at by most of those concerned the consensus was to go ahead
2 : group solidarity in sentiment and belief
So what, then, is scientific consensus? Because consensus is about opinion or judgment, there must be someone with opinions or judgments. Who?
Well, “scientists,” of course! Just any scientist?
LENR Forum is, organizationally, a disaster. Topics of threads are routinely ignored to discuss anything and everything, and the last few days, Rossi vs. Darden aftermath discussions has been filled with arguments about scientific consensus, with little apparent understanding that the arguments are rooted in differing definitions and positions.
Instead of discussion of what “consensus” would mean, specifically, the flames focus on what opinion is allegedly that of the “consensus.”
On Wikipedia, where I first confronted this issue, the majority opinion among editors concerned with the Cold fusion article was that cold fusion was rejected by consensus, and that opinion to the contrary was “POV-pushing.” However, consensus can change. How would we know if it changed? For Wikipedia purposes, the general answer would be, when the new view appears in a review article in a mainstream peer-reviewed journal, or perhaps in academic publication.
Problem is, when such did appear, it made no difference at all. Why? Because the author of the article (Ed Storms) was supposedly a “believer.” This argument was entirely outside of Wikipedia policy, but … it still prevails, because the real decision criterion on Wikipedia is not “consensus,” as claimed, but, routinely, “majority of those determined to maintain their point of view, especially if they are administrators.”
This is a telling argument on Wikipedia: if an editor has a view different from that of the long-standing, prevailing view on Wikipedia, and attempts to properly express evidence for this point of view on the project, they must have an agenda to warp presentation toward their beliefs, and therefore are not “encyclopedic,” but are, rather, not neutral. Whereas those who sometimes vigorously and even preposterously oppose presenting verifiable fact in articles, in the other direction, are expressing what came to be misnamed a “scientific point of view.” Meaning their point of view, and any scientist who presents something different must be “fringe” or worse.
What I pointed out then — this was 2009 — is that there is no “Journal of Scientific Consensus.” There is no reliable source for it. However, there are opinions expressed, sometimes, in sources considered reliable. These are then cited as evidence of consensus. In an interesting twist, the writings of supporters of cold fusion research have been used as verification of the fringe status of the field, whereas other comments by those same authors have been excluded.
I was writing in 2009 that the field had “turned a corner,” probably sometime around 2009. The rejection cascade was no longer absolutely firm. Some journals had long published cold fusion papers. The only reasonable standard for scientific consensus that I’m aware of would be what is being accepted in mainstream peer-reviewed journals. Assessing this, though, is not simple. Nevertheless, by 2009, nearly all the major scientific publishers were publishing in the field. Springer-Verlag, Elsevier, the largest, and others.
Does this mean that cold fusion is accepted? Many of these papers take the reality of the FP Effect for granted. It is clear to me that, at least in some journals, the topic being cold fusion is no longer cause for immediate rejection. But the impression that cold fusion was rejected “long ago,” because “nobody could replicate it,” remains, and rejections on that basis still occur, even though it’s obvious that this view was shallow at best, and quickly obsolete.
I have seen no paper published recently that confronts the situation.
Do I trust your views on these papers? No on general principles, I would not trust even an expert who had outlying views from consensus
You are confused. The consensus of experts is that cold fusion is real. I do not know any leading electrochemist who disagrees, and I know lots of leading electcrochemists. Perhaps you have in mind the consensus of plasma physicists or nuclear physicists. They know nothing about cold fusion so their views do not count, any more than the views of biologists, bankers or country music fans do.
When you look for a scientific consensus, you must be sure that it includes only experts in the subject who are well versed in the literature. You cannot include scientists who have not read the literature. If you cite their views, you have made a fallacious appeal to authority (false authority) logical fallacy. As you see from the 2004 DoE panel, many of panel members read nothing and knew nothing. Their “objections” were based on theory or pop science platitudes. Essentially they were saying what Huizenga said: “my theory says this can’t happen, so it can’t happen.” That violates the scientific method.
First of all, THH is stating his personal view. That’s a choice, but Jed treats the matter as if it were about some “fact.” As if there is an established mechanism for determining scientific consensus, rules to follow, and he is following them, whereas THH is not.
Cold fusion is a fairly unusual — but not unique — situation. First of all, what’s real here?
We can see what we see, in our experience. Jed refers to this, mentioning electrochemists he knows. However, our personal opinion can easily be warped by factors that influence our personal experience. What electrochemists is Jed likely to have met?
To hear Jed’s story, one would imagine that, at least, there would be a “consensus of electrochemists.” How would we know? Well, we could run a survey. Jed is actually talking, not just about “electrochemists,” but the world’s “leading electrochemists.” What’s the standard?
CMNS, Condensed Matter Nuclear Science, is not pseudoscience, and THH’s has made some statements that must be called “insensitive,” careless.
There seems to be no other field in science where there is such reticence to accept peer reviewed factuality from top experts.
True, but there are pseudosciences where the same degree of caution exists. LENR, sociologically, is on the borderline between pseudoscience and science. The type of argument you advance here, general and dismissive of skeptics, is typical of pseudoscience. however there are real scientists generating results. Some of these write up the results in a way that is similar to pseudo-science, with inflated claims and a lack of checking. Others do good work, but not thus far, even after many years, with results that will convince skeptics who hope for LENR but follow rational methods in evaluating claims.
THH is far from the most extreme of pseudoskeptics. However, he is incautious about the “borderline.” Pseudoscience has a clear definition, but the edges can be unclear. (The linked article has been a battleground, and it shows.)
THH is acknowledging the existence of “real scientists generating results,” which sets him apart from fanatic pseudoskeptics. However, he is relying on overall assessments, such as “inflated claims and a lack of checking.” He is also relying on alleged lack of results that ‘will convince skeptics.” It’s fairly easy to assert counterexamples. THH is arguing from partial knowledge, selected, still.
There is a fundamental problem, call it “expert bias.” If one becomes expert in a field, ordinarily, one has some sense of the importance of the field! It takes years of work to become an expert. Why would someone invest that work if they are not already, at least to some degree, convinced there is something real going on?
(There are a few special cases, actually remarkably few, where someone becomes obsessed in “refuting” the beliefs of others. I could argue, at this point, that Morrison became so, as an example. My testable hypothesis: if this is so, Morrison would likely repeat older, discredited arguments, creating a magnified assembly of proofs that LENR is bogus. This failure to whittle down argument is typical of believers, and pseudoskepticism is a variety of belief.)
Did Morrison do this? At this point, I don’t know, I’ve only seen some signs, not enough to confidently assert the claim.
I do rank someone like Morrison above run-of-the-mill debunkers, who rarely become as informed as Morrison did. However, we organize and classify our knowledge, and create stories from it, and when we become attached to our stories, we have left the scientific method behind.
THH in the above, I’ll assert, is confusing the behavior of some, say, someone advocating “cold fusion is real,” with the topic itself and the full community. There is no doubt that the general CMNS community still often sees itself as embattled and isolated, and when people do that, they often respond defensively — or offensively. So some level of “unscientific” argument is employed, on occasion. THH, however, is not privy to the major communication processes in the CMSN community. There are all kinds of people involved, some highly opinionated and attached to being right, and some who are far more objective and detached.
We are studying, here, the work of Pons and Fleischmann, and when we have taken this work to a level that deserves wider attention, we will seek it. From my experience, it will be given, and we will then see what recognized experts have to say.
My recommendation to the CMNS community has been: “You won. Be gracious.” This means to tolerate skepticism, even unwarranted skepticism. It is no longer necessary to fight to be able to breathe. It also means to trust the full mainstream process, which was merely damaged and temporarily short-circuited by the rejection cascade. It will recover, it always has. Give it time. Meanwhile, there is work to do!
There is no severe shortage of funding for the most deserving research, not any more. I don’t necessarily agree with all funding decisions that have been made, and much, in the past, was … call it “inefficiently spent,” starting with the millions that the U.S. DoE was spreading about, in 1989, in a frenzied rush to confirm or disconfirm “cold fusion.” Before it even had a decent definition!
Rush to judgment makes for Bad Science (on all sides.) Taubes, himself, was in a hurry to get his book published, necessary for a writer. He’d already put an insane amount of work into that book. By the time it was about to be published, there was new evidence. It would have required a major reconsideration. So he punted. I predict that he will come back, but the time is not quite ripe for that. Soon!
Meanwhile, what is the preponderance of the evidence, now? That is a judgment, not a fact. It can be warped by Bayesian priors that are heavily biased, and all that, in the history of cold fusion, is obvious. I’ve made the case about the 2004 U.S. DoE review that
- It showed a sea change from 1989.
- It continued to show that the opinions of some experts on anomalous heat was warped by “it can’t be real because that would mean ….” When such opinions are in place, skeptical arguments that are actually preposterous, when examined can stand unquestioned. Blatant error can escape notice, as it did in that review, if the error supports the prior expectation.
What are the causes of the commonly-reported anomalous heat in FP-class PdD experiments? That’s a research question and is not a theory. If a specific cause is proposed, is that testable? If so, the topic is scientific. If it is not testable, it’s pseudoscientific. As an example of a pseudoscientific theory, a commonly-asserted cause is “They must be making some mistake in measuring heat.” That’s been stated by “scientists,” i.e., people with credentials such that one might expect them to know better. But they don’t. Scientists are human like the rest of us, they can get caught in their own ideas.
If they are writing outside their field of specialization, they don’t necessarily know much more than anyone else. But as scientists, they may be able to couch their opinions in “scientific language.” I.e., pseudoscience.
This is a point that Jed makes.
In the other direction,
You have repeated the same mantra:
the top hundred electochemists of their day replicated the pons-fleischmann anomalous heat effect and submitted it to peer review >150 times many many times.
You have not addressed my argument, which is that determining whether what was repeated is in fact a nuclear anomaly, or something else, is at best not clear cut. At the time those 100s of electrochemists decided there was no nuclear anomaly worth pursuing – except for a few outliers. Or the world’s electrochemistry journals would be still publishing LENR papers.
What journals are we talking about? There were electrochemistry journals prominent in the early days, 1989 into the 1990s. What’s happened?
Nor have you engaged with the reasons why those many scientists might have felt the results they obtained were not clear proof of some Nobel Prize worthy new science – had they felt that they would without doubt have continued. Academic freedom was then and still is a reality, and when a whole field believes something is worth pursuing it gets pursued.
People following up don’t get the Nobel Prize. My opinion is that Miles should, because he was the first one to show direct evidence that the FP Heat Effect was not only real, but nuclear in nature, and his work has never been successfully impeached. It’s been quite adequately confirmed, as well. But I’m not holding my breath. THH has a rosy idea of what happens in science. In fact, continuing with cold fusion research was very risky, particularly to anyone without tenure or independent support. That is shifting, but was a reality for a long time.
Some of those electrochemists did continue. However, the work was difficult and the pay was lousy. Jed does not mention, perhaps because it doesn’t serve his story, and he has a story to tell, Dieter Britz, an electrochemist who has remained carefully neutral on LENR. It cannot be said that he doesn’t know the literature.
We may, at some point, look at who those “leading electrochemists” were. Obvious is Fleischmann, of course. Was Pons “leading”? He was chair of the chemistry department at the University of Utah. Bockris was definitely “leading.” There was Gerischer, to be sure, as a notable electrochemist who supported cold fusion.
(Fun fact, lead author of the 1997 tribute to Gerischer in Journal of Physical Chemistry B was Nathan S. Lewis about whom we will write more. Koonin and Lewis basically killed cold fusion at the May 1, 2989 APS meeting.)
So, notable electrochemists: how about the Faraday Medal winners?
It is quite possible that Fleischmann would not have been eligible for that award (read the article). But on that list are Bockris and Gerischer and … Nathan Lewis. There are 28 laureates. Those are the only three names recognizable to me.
Looking about, I found a book review: Developments in Electrochemistry:
Science Inspired by Martin Fleischmann.
While this book was written as a tribute to Martin Fleischmann to mark his many contributions to electrochemical science, it is not a historical document and is intended reflect the state of electrochemical research in 2014. Each of the chapters covers a topic where Martin Fleischmann contributed and the chapters are written by ex-coworkers of Martin Fleischmann, now established experts in their fields. The chapters are:
1. Martin Fleischmann – The Scientist and the Person
13. Melvin H. Miles (University of LaVerne, USA) and Michael C.H. McKubre (SRI International, USA), Cold Fusion After A Quarter-Century: The Pd/D System
(17 chapters not shown)
For Wikipedians: this was published by Wiley in 2014. This would be Wikipedia Reliable Source, if one can find a copy…. However, so would many other books and articles that are effectively excluded….
(RS does not have to be “right.” It’s a term of art that refers to the publisher, not the author, but the dominant faction on Wikipedia, interested in these things, commonly makes ad hominem arguments against both authors and text. RS does not have to be cited as “truth.” Rather RS can be attributed, done properly, and establishes notability.)
I’m going to see if I can get a copy of that chapter. It covers many topics of current interest. (The subchapters are listed on the Wiley site.)
Meanwhile, the claim of “the top hundred electochemists of their day replicated the pons-fleischmann anomalous heat effect and submitted it to peer review >150 times many many times” is blatantly misleading or just plain false; that was written by an at-best-naive-pro-cold-fusion-author who is effectively trolling; Jed has made statements that were probably misinterpreted by kevmolenr. Jed has not disavowed these kevmo comments, and instead seems to join with the fellow. If I’m wrong about that, I hope Jed — or someone else — will correct me.
One more point. On Wikipedia, the dominant faction not uncommonly attempted to label cold fusion as “pseudoscience.” As I recall, that always failed. Cold fusion was considered “fringe science,” which can shade into “emerging science.” The label “pathological science,” however, was more successfully attached, see the article. Just to show how crazy Wikipedia can be, the pathological science article has the pseudoscience navigation template …. At one time, an article by Bauer, a sociologist of science, was prominently linked. It totally debunked the idea of “pathological science,” pointing out that there is no a priori standard for assessing what is pathological. Scientists make mistakes, and the common examples, Bauer showed, N-rays, polywater, and cold fusion, were at most errors (and in the case of cold fusion, an unresolved mystery, since there never was the killer experiment like what happened with N-rays and polywater.) Looking back, the Bauer reference was removed by a user named, at the time, Skinwalker, now renamed as a “vanished user” — which is not a good sign, these are often disruptive editors. Looking at the history, it appears that this was an antipseudoscience editor frustrated because Wikipedia allowed so much crap to be put up. There was no discussion on the Talk page of the claim that Bauer was not Reliable Source, and the external link that had stood for a long time did not need to be reliable source, if it was likely to be of interest to readers.
That’s how Wikipedia goes. There were a number of editors who knew enough to object and who would have had this article on their watchlist … but they were banned. Anyone who seriously understood how Wikipedia worked and who interrupted the agenda of the faction was banned. Unless they were administrators…. And that is how the faction would lose. They had administrators who would support them, and some were administrators, but they could not be open about what they were doing, which was warping the project according to their point of view, what they accused others of doing. They have suffered losses, but are still kicking.
The point is that cold fusion, per se, is not “pseudoscience,” but some explanations or arguments used by advocates (and opponents) are pseudoscientific, and we could give examples. Calling it marginal is effectively trolling those who would be called to defend it. The “scientific consensus” on cold fusion is quite unclear at this point, because there seems to be a pattern: skeptics who are moved, somehow, to investigate the field often shift from rejection or belief that cold fusion was a big mistake, to supporting it, and the best example is probably Robert Duncan, now at Texas Tech, but at U Missouri Columbia when he was retained by CBS 60 Minutes to review the field.
There were others offering to review, apparently, that thought they could dash it off in a few minutes…. After all …. “nobody could replicate.” Isn’t that proof enough? CBS turned those offers down, it appears.
But hope springs eternal for believers, and that includes believers in their own ideas of reality even if it is supposedly “scientific.” Somehow, they continue right on, quite sure that Duncan was somehow fooled. Actually, I remember the things that Duncan was saying soon after the program. He was coming up with all kinds of crazy ideas. Muon-catalyzed fusion from stray muons, yes! (Once a physicist starts asking “how could this happen,” instead of defending “it can’t happen,” the mind starts supplying possibilities. Given the history, most of these will be ridiculous, because … there isn’t enough data. Then, hopefully, the newbie settles and starts to recognize the basic issues and understanding deepens.)
53 thoughts on “What is scientific consensus?”
He [THH] is also relying on alleged lack of results that ‘will convince skeptics.” It’s fairly easy to assert counterexamples. THH is arguing from partial knowledge, selected, still.
I count myself as a skeptic. Reiterating an interesting point made on this thread: http://coldfusioncommunity.net/what-is-scientific-consensus/
I require a very high standard of checking for positive LENR evidence for me to be convinced. I have argued the reasons for this. Partly the low prior of a hypothesis without coherence. Partly the possibility of systematic and one-off errors given that the evidence (AFAIK) given is of a historic and not easily replicable form. Another argument is about what precisely constituted replication.
The case for LENR is that the effect (FPHE or whatever) seems sporadic, dependent on not yet understood metal surface processing, and therefore not reliably obtained. With best efforts there will be some << 1 probability of any given electrode working, and the only way to establish whether the electrode is working is to conduct a long electrolysis experiment. That makes any form of replication time-consuming and therefore expensive.
That same condition is however why skeptics will be cautious. Negative results, lack of easy replication, are all explained. But, the same phenomena would fit sporadic errors which are one-off or possibly systematic but not applying under all conditions. The lack of deeper understanding of mechanism makes a mundane error hypothesis impossible to rule out. There is then a judgement about relative likleihood which depends on this issue of Baysian prior which, as I noted on the other thread, is real but impossible to quantify. Therefore there will be different judgments about it.
All that is required for LENR to promote itself to a position convincing to skeptics (by convincing I mean, looking as though it might well be true, no-one is arguing certainty) is evidence of a more replicable form which can then be tested every which way to ensure that all errors are understood. Or, alternately, a deeper understanding which allows the appearance of the effect to be correlated precisely with some other measurable quantity. Without that there is a high bar needed to convince skeptics.
So, with that preliminary, I'm interested in what evidence Abd has that will convince skeptics. It would of course be nice if new replicable (and more predictive in some other ways) evidence emerges from the Lubbock experiments. Or, perhaps there is something else. I fully accept that my knowledge is partial.
My goal is not to “convince skeptics.” My goal is to educate myself and others as to what exists. When I say that you are relying on ignorance, to a degree, that’s my overall assessment based on my experience. You may consider it or not. The entire field, and how it is readily viewed, was damaged by a series of errors, a perfect storm. I’m aware of all the reasons you give to be skeptical. I sympathize. However, we make choices as to how to spend our time. I have studied enough, seen enough, to be convinced as to the preponderance of the evidence.
I have not been convinced to a level where I would reject well-known laws and principles of physics. That would require truly extraordinary evidence. What I do see, clearly, is that much of the rejection was based on a radical misunderstanding of those laws of physics, in a conversation that was never completed. “Cold fusion” was rejected before enough was known about the reported effect to know what it was, so, properly, all that mess about, say, no neutrons, therefore no “cold fusion” was just a dumb mistake, made by people whom we might think would know better. No neutrons, no straight-out, smashing through the Coulomb barrier, hot fusion — or even simple tunnelling by some electron screening — I’m down with that. But the scientific questions are not — yet — “cold fusion,” but anomalous heat, helium production correlated with that — those two together, correlated, moves the evidence into very high levels of confirmation, truly extraordinary, but still don’t require any revision of the laws of physics — and tritium, to boot, as well as finding conditions that improve results, such that most cells show heat, given the material conditions found necessary or supportive, those are the places to look if you want to expand beyond your own requirements.
The effect is not disappearing with better measurements. What happened over 1991-2005 was that heat/helium was confirmed and better measurement tightened the ratio, closer to the theoretical value. There is still much room for improvement, but the scientific question is not whether or not there is a correlation. It is the value of it, because it has major theoretical implications. I think, and some think, that this is going to go within experimental error of 23.8 MeV (and it’s already there, just with fewer experiments than I’d like to see, and, as well, possible error remains far enough from that value to allow some wiggle room for alternative theories.)
Shanahan is arguing a dead cause. He has been unable to inspire anyone with the ability and funding to confirm or disconfirm his ideas. I think he was to be commended for trying, and for similar reasons I shook Steve Jones’ hand at ICCF-18, because he’d been the only one to criticize Miles in print. But Shanahan has gone on far too long, with far too much obvious attachment, and far too little attention to contrary evidence, which he sets aside and ignores. I seriously attempted to support him on Wikipedia, I opened the door for him to thoroughly explore his ideas on Wikiversity. His response has been little but insults. I’m human. I do use criticism to learn, but … I also choose what I look at. Someone is wrong on the internet loses its appeal.
THH, if you want to learn about LENR, the scientific and/or social phenomenon, you can, and your process could help others. But if you are expecting me to “convince” you, forgeddaboudit. My training is all about choice and empowerment, not conviction and proof. People obsessed with proving this or that don’t do well. Taking a stand is something different. It requires no proof.
With no proof, there is no reason to be attached to it. At this point, it would take some kind of miracle for strong evidence against LENR to appear, so I doubt that cause to flush the idea will appear. It’s a difficult field, and full resolution may not occur in my lifetime. Or the Lubbock work will hit a home run; it’s experimental work, if we knew the outcome, it would not need to be done. However, from prior work, surely you could recognize, there are some reasonable expectations, enough to justify the funding and the effort.
For LENR to revolutionize energy generation is possible, but not at all my goal, merely a piece of a possible justification for putting energy — and funding — into the possibility. As IH said in their depositions, even 1% chance of it working was worth their investment. These are not the declarations of fanatics, what SHanahan thinks.
It seems most sceptics look at the absence of neutrons or gammas and thus say it can’t be a nuclear reaction, since the plasma-based fusion we know always produces such indicators. However, those reactions are always two-particle reactions, since the probability of three or more particles being involved in a collision is minute. With two particles, there are only a certain number of ways to conserve momentum and energy. Once we are talking about multi-particle interactions, we actually don’t know what range of possible interactions may occur. We expect that energy and momentum will be conserved, but the close-coupling of multiple particles must have more available pathways.
Looking at Miles’ heat/Helium correlation and saying “there must be some mistake” seems difficult to justify. You can speculate that there was a some systematic error on the heat measurement or on the Helium quantification, but it’s hard to see any error that would produce the correlation, given that the Helium measurement was done “blind” by someone else.
It is however up to someone making the claim to prove it, and not for the sceptics to prove it wrong. For people who don’t accept Miles’ results because they are impossible, there is no recourse other than to replicate the experiment and show equivalent results with greater accuracy. This will still not convince people who believe that it’s theoretically impossible, but science has always had a problem when coming up against beliefs.
I don’t know whether LENR will ever be a useful source of energy. Understanding it may however lead to other discoveries that may be useful. As with all research, there are no guarantees that it will be worth the effort, but it’s such an interesting effect that should lead to greater knowledge of the basic structure of the universe, and we do spend a lot of money on such studies (see CERN and the LHC). Is LENR worth more than finding (at least to a high probability) the Higgs boson?
Thanks, Simon. General agreement here. On this point, though:
“It is however up to someone making the claim to prove it, and not for the sceptics to prove it wrong,” this is commonly stated by aggressive skeptics. It is a common atheist argument. It talks about proof but does not specify any process. It assumes something without proof (i.e., an absence). The much stronger position is sometimes called “agnostic.” In the last century activist atheists managed to shift the definitions of words, to include under “atheists” those with no belief. Suddenly they could claim that a majority of people agreed with them.
Words and sentences have meanings in context. There is a sense of moral offense here, that someone who makes a claim without “proving it” (to whose satisfaction?) is “wrong,” and that disbelief — active rejection — is just fine in the absence of proof. And maybe it is. “Just fine” to whom? We tend to make up the standards and then believe that they apply to everyone.
But we are responsible for our actions. Is that “truth”? No, I made it up. It’s a *stand*. It happens to be an empowering stand, because if we are not responsible, we have no power. Taking the stand leads to depth of understanding and action. If “cold fusion is real” vs “cold fusion is not real,” leads to differing actions, we are responsible for the effects of our stand. Many of us think that “our stand” is simply “the truth.” It is ontologically naive and confuses conclusions with evidence. We actually choose what we trust as truth. (for many of us, the choice is hidden, we think, when we decide, say, that “life sucks and then you die,” that this is just “the way it is.” That is all confusing reactions with reality, and that is much of the focus of my training.
In reality, there is no “up to,” other than this: if I need to know something, it is up to me to investigate it. It is investigation by those with a need to know that is generally deeper than that of armchair opinionators and debunkers.
If someone wants to set up a standard of high proof, they will be limiting themselves, making it impossible to assess based on the preponderance of evidence and a judgment of probabilities and risk. Instead, they become as programmed robots, unable to move outside what has already been established, unless “proof” is overwhelming. Look around, it’s obvious: there are people who demand “proof” who would reject the Flying Spaghetti Monster if it sat on them, drooling spaghetti sauce and assaulting them with every sense. However, if there is no such evidence, of source they don’t believe. But often missed, “testimony is presumed true unless controverted,” and “I don’t believe it” is not controversion. Testimony, in itself, does not establish “truth,” that is a more complex judgment, not a fact in itself.
I am not suggesting that anyone, ever<.em> believe something because someone else says it’s proven or not proven. Those sayings are testimony as to personal conclusions, they are not primary evidence; however, routinely, there are people whose judgment we trust, so we may follow it, and if we have chosen these people well, we will normally take useful stands. However, if we “believe” what they say, if this becomes automatic and unquestionable, we disempower ourselves, because if they err, we could, by definition, be unable to discover it.
So, then, what if someone we trust says something to us that seems impossible? Should we reject it? Not in my onotology: we are most empowered if we hear it and recognize both that it has been said by someone we generally trust, and that it seems impossible, it does not fit with our existing knowledge and understanding. More accurately, it does not seem to fit. That not-fitting is itself a judgment, not a fact. If we have a judgment to make, some action depending on this possible contradiction, then we have a choice to make. If we have no immediate necessity, then we can wait! We may understand better later, because more evidence may become available to us.
Again, in my ontology, we must trust our ability to make functional choices, but we can set up conditions where our intuition will have maximal function, which is generally to free it from emotional coercion and reactivity, and to become aware of primary evidence (as distinct from reactions and conclusions.)
Implementing this is a life’s work. There is no end to it, other than perhaps death. (But we only die individually, not — generally — collectively. We badly need to see reality clearly or we might well change this, there are risks in blindness and attachment, the entire species might not survive.)
The overall goal here is that seeing, wrt cold fusion, and it has two aspects: one is self-expression. I do not deny my reactions, but I become, as it is possible, aware of them as reactions, and distinguish this from “what happened.” What happened is not a rule, it is a collection of observations. It’s notable that my observations would be admissible evidence in court, whereas my interpretations and conclusions are not necessarily so. (expert witnesses are an exception, created out of practical necessity, and … much legal conflict arises over conflicting expert opinions).
The other aspect is exploration of consensus and disagreement. A goal is to widen consensus, and narrow and specify disagreement. If disagreement is specified, it becomes possible to test it.
Abd – I’ve been in the Free Energy field for quite a few years now, and a common call from scammers is that we should prove them wrong. I can’t do that, but I can show that what they claim goes directly against both my experience of what happens with, say, magnets but also against a few hundred years of collective experience. They are using a principle of operation that is both old and has been shown to not work every time it has been tried. Rocks don’t fall upwards, and if someone claims that they have a machine that utilises rocks falling upwards to generate energy you’d probably have some harsh words to say.
An atheist believes that there is no deity, whereas an agnostic doesn’t know either way. A believer of course believes there is one. An agnostic can be convinced by strong-enough evidence, but so far we don’t seem to have had the sort of evidence that would persuade an atheist to drop their belief, except maybe on a personal level where that evidence would not be sufficient for another atheist. After all, we know that “hearing voices” is a medical phenomenon, and that because it happens inside the brain there’s no way that someone else can listen to the same message. My mum heard voices and saw people who weren’t there for several years before she died of Alzheimer’s. At times she’d also say “can’t you hear that lovely music?” and of course I couldn’t. That was her private experience – I couldn’t share it though I’m certain she thought it was the truth.
The world of science tends to hover somewhere between belief and agnosticism. Any big upset to old theories that have been around since the scientist was a student is going to generally come up against a wall of disbelief until there is undeniable evidence that the new idea actually works. The nuclear theory complies with this criterion – it’s been added to in incremental ways over my lifetime but not overturned or shown to be inadequate. It’s been shown to work both in fission and fusion. LENR says that the theory isn’t adequate to explain things that happen, so there will be a rearguard of people who have risen to positions of power who feel threatened (or their pet fusion project threatened) who are going to work against it.
We don’t generally have the time to test out every theory we’ve heard about to test the truth for ourselves. Some would cost quite a lot, too. As such I’ll generally accept something as true unless it goes against either my experience or on my somewhat-spotty understanding of how the universe works. Some things, like quantum computing, I can’t understand how they work or how they are programmed, so I’ll sit on the fence until it’s available to more people and shown to be useful. My judgements fall into the buckets of accept, not accept or don’t know, with the don’t knows maybe biased to one direction or the other.
In order to get a different result, you have to do something different than has been done before. That is common experience – given the same initial conditions, things follow a set path apart from the small random fluctuations. The bigger the quantity, the smaller those fluctuations will be. P+F did exceed previous limits in both time and loading factor by a significant margin. It shouldn’t be unacceptable that they got a different result (more energy out than they put in). Miles later showed that the heat was proportional to the Helium produced, so this isn’t “energy from nowhere” but instead has an identifiable source – it’s the mechanism that we don’t know. It’s also an interesting point that not every ingot of the Type A platinum filter-material produced the same results, and not even subsequent slices from the same ingot. Down at the microstructure level there are some important differences, and unless these are understood I can’t see any commercial viability. The Galileo experiment series (co-deposition of pure Palladium, where you stocked the kit) only looked for neutron production and not heat. IIRC that was reliable in producing more neutrons than background, but then again that’s not really what we wanted.
Tom – your attitude is what is needed here. I’m sure if you find proof that the data is wrong you’ll say, and also if no errors are found. You have the tenacity to demolish bad papers from either side of the divide. By the time you’ve come up with a clear answer there will likely be a lot of debris along the way, but what remains will be iron-clad. I hope there’s enough data left to provide a convincing argument, at least sufficient to sway the agnostics.
I would hope that Plan B produces results that supercede the historical papers and put a tighter error-band around the 23.8MeV energy produced per Helium in the outgas. The reverse-electrolysis required to free all the Helium will however also destroy the surface evidence of why it happened. Maybe these days there’s a technique available that can remove the topmost layer of atoms, and by multiple photographs of atomic analysis show what is actually there for the first few microns of the Pd layer. Probably an expensive and difficult procedure on its own, but AFAIK no-one knows the actual differences between working and non-working cathodes, and this sort of detailed analysis seems needed to bridge that knowledge gap so it becomes possible to make cathodes that always work, even if we don’t know exactly why. That might even aid in producing a theory as to why.
The definition you gave of “atheist” does not match the modern activist atheist definition. They claim they have no belief. Belief is for those guys over there, the wrong-headed, and *they* have the burden of proof. I watched these debates on Quora, they would go on endlessly. So many of these atheists, the ones who would argue endlessly, were obviously hypocrites, holding unproven belief while denying it. But there were others who did call themselves atheists who were, by the older definition, agnostic or similar. They were thoroughly rational, as far as I could see. It was possible to find agreement with them (for me).
Yes as to much or most of what you wrote. As for releasing the surface, yes, it would be possible to study the surface very carefully, and eventually this will be done. However, reverse electrolysis is a very cheap, almost cost-free ad-on to an electrolytic gas release heat/helium study. In some cases, I would hope that they will use more thorough analysis occasionally on the full cathode, but it is not essential for most of the work and would raise costs.
Much more important to do repeated identical tests (as far as possible) with maximized precision.
On the topic of atheism, I once gave a talk on Islam at a small college. A young man in the audience stood up and announced that he “did not believe in God.” I asked him:
“In what God do you not believe?”
He was speechless, he had obviously never considered this question. So I then said,
“The God you do not believe in, I probably don’t believe in either.”
Again, he remained speechless.
“The cold fusion that physicists in 1989-1990 did not believe in, I don’t believe in either.”
Well, it is more a psychological issue. Richard Dawkins writes compelling and well-argued books on evolutionary theory. However, when you hear him life – and also reading his books – it is clear that emotionally he is strongly against religion. He has rational arguments for his points, but there is an underlying emotional need to reject religion. He believes religion to be overall very harmful (something that is a much more complex and difficult thing to decide, and in the realm of soft science) and he is passionate and committed in his opposition. All that is something other than rationality, and distorts his rationalisation. Dawkins would be wiser if he accepted this.
I would agree more or less completely with Dawkins scientific points about religion, but not share (and in fact dislike) his “I can prove religion is bad” passion. He cannot prove religion is bad, and also he erroneously does not take into account at an emotional level how religion is deeply important to many people.
I follow the real THH in being an agnostic, but a strong agnostic. Without evidence of God I will not believe God exists, and that lack of belief is a deeply-held view. However, should there be evidence of God I would change that belief.
In fact, when I listen to those who are religious, I can understand that what they mean by faith is a completely different mental process from what I call belief. It is also a mental process that I respect, and understand, though I do not (as far as the existence of a God goes) share it.
So: a good general principle is not to conflate scientific and religious belief. Dawkins does not understand this, and that is, in him, a lack.
PS. Dawkins would I’m sure say that he did understand the above points. He is a sophisticated and clever thinker. Where he IMHO lacks is in not understanding the strength and depth of his own emotional reaction, and how that colors his statements and beliefs.
Yes, though I am not that familiar with Dawkins. The behavior is common. Curious, THH, do you believe reality exists? What if I capitalize it, i.e., Reality? It’s not a silly question, it’s actually a fundamental question, and … is there one Reality, or are there many? And how would we know?
An amusing point here is that we don’t see any civilisation that lasted any time that didn’t have a religion. It’s thus pretty obvious that it’s a survival characteristic, and that lack of it must be detrimental to survival. Dawkins should really have realised this. A belief in a life after death (whether justified or not), and some consequences even for things that no other living person knows you did, tends to curb the worst excesses of people. Obviously it didn’t stop the historical massacres we know of, but it does produce a more stable society that will work together better. Certain observations (don’t eat pigs if you live in a hot country since you’ll probably get ill, have cleaning rituals, etc.) get turned into religious laws that thus protect that population. There’s maybe a problem if the clothing/diet requirements spread too far from the time/place where they were first found to be useful and the laws have become inflexible, but then we always have that problem with changing conditions.
People do spend a lot of time arguing about religions, and can get pretty violent with those that disagree with their story of how the world came to be the way it is. I figure the data isn’t in yet. There are lots of peoples’ opinions and stories in books, but no solid evidence that does not need to have an expert explain. The Big Bang theory is suspect in the same way, in that it basically says that the rules of physics we know were all overturned (energy was created, space expanded faster than light, and all matter started off as a singularity of infinite density – it doesn’t wash for me) and so is really just another story that seems more science-y but doesn’t really hang together. I’ll wait until someone can demonstrate a Big Bang reliably, and create a new universe to order.
Reality can only really be an individual experience. When I see the colour red, I don’t know for sure that you’re getting the same picture as I do. We have however been taught using colour-cards what red is, so we’ll mostly agree in categorising colours. Language is however somewhat mutable, and nuances can be lost with a shift in the background of the listener/reader. What you understand from my words may not be what I intended it to mean.
Could we tell if this was a Matrix-like simulation? Probably not. Maybe someday we’ll be able to measure little gaps in reality and quantisations of time (Terry Pratchett explored some of these ideas pretty nicely under the guise of comedy) and find that there’s a deeper one we didn’t know about. Until that time, though, we have what we have. Have fun with it!
They are all fundamental questions: but not necessarily science. Some aspects of science (Many-Worlds and anthropogenic, universogenic principles) might impact on them, but that impact is small at the moment and perhaps always – by definition – limited.
Personally, I think philosophy is fun but it is not my thing. I’m not interested in questions that in principle cannot be answered, except to note that fact. Where questions of this sort can be answered they turn into something else – e.g. Bayesian epistomology etc.
Science cannot decide the scope of science, unless it is by exclusion. My training ends up deposing reason itself, as definitive and decisive, because of how assumptions dominate, if the assumptions are “believed.” Rather, it studies and experiments with the role of language and state of being (with state of being, more or less, meaning emotional state). The training is experiential and experimental. The trainers claim that what is being communicated is not “the truth,” but rather is a set of tools (generally linguistic in nature) that are found to be effective. These turn out to be, in general, the manipulation and management of what might be called “fuzzy.” Concepts like “good” and “bad” are invented, not absolutes. (Sometimes people have religious objections to this, but that’s where the “not the truth” becomes important. The training is not addressing Ultimate Good and Ultimate Evil, and deliberately avoids those concepts; rather it looks at how we think, and in particular at the genesis of our identity, how we come to think we are what we think we are, and how our own ideas arise … and, then, how to transform them when they no longer are working for us.
This all has an impact on science, as a social and personal project. When I explain these things, and even though this is my daily bread, it’s what I’m constantly dealing with, personally and in relationships, some reject it as “psychobabble.” Actually, a better word would be magic. Transforming reality with words. The human project.
Science cannot decide the scope of science, unless it is by exclusion.
Science is by definition not everything. Specifically it is the study of questions about observable phenomena and their relationships and structure.
Philosophy concerns itself with less definite questions.
So, my position here is that I’m not convinced, but interested enough (both in social etc issues and the possibility that there is something real) to stay looking at it.
I don’t think it is fanatic to think there is a possibility of some effect here, it is fanatic or misinformed to think such an effect simply provable to say 99% likelihood or better – on the basis of all the evidence I’ve seen so far. Whether on basis of multiple distinct strands of evidence such an effect is in fact provable to high probability, as you think, depends on complex argument and while it is not obviously fanatic to think that it remains unclear to me whether it is correct to think that.
If what you say about He correlation stands up then there clearly is something nuclear and working out from the fragmentary data what sort of thing needs skepticism (which bits of this corpus of data are error and not relevant).
Have I “said” anything about helium correlation that is not verifiable fact? “Fact” here includes testimony; at common law (and often statutory law), testimony is presumed true unless controverted. This is the norm in science. What then remains in question is interpretation. One of the problems in the treatment of the anomalous heat reports is that it was treated as if proof were required, rather than considering the preponderance of the evidence. So it was enough for many that some possible artifact could be invented.
I am not suggesting, at all, that you should be “convinced.” However, what is the balance? Bayesian priors for d-d fusion were naturally very low probability, very low. But that was all a red herring. What was the Bayesian prior for “some unknown process generating heat”? That would ordinarily not be low enough to refuse recognition of reports of anomalous heat.
Kirk Shanahan actually proposes an anomalous process as well, generally considered preposterous (at the necessary levels) by electrochemists. I’m not aware of any electrochemist who has accepted his arguments.
When helium was found to be correlated, that vastly increased the significance of anomalous heat reports correlated with the helium. And this was confirmed, and there is no clear contrary evidence (what one can find are a few isolated anecdotes). The helium behavior, put together with what is known about helium behavior in palladium, is clearly consistent with a hypothesis that an unknown process is converting deuterium to helium (there is no other single transmutation that could release this much energy per helium atom), near-surface (not in the bulk, which indicates Pons and Fleischmann’s concepts were in error), and I find it extremely difficult to explain those results. They are completely incompatible with Shanahan’s theories, and his attempts to attack them simply demonstrated how desperate he was, the desperation leading to a failure to check and review his own claims, and he still minimizes it, and then invents new reasons to impeach the data, refusing to see the elephant in the living room.
*All independent reviews of LENR have concluded that research should continue.* To read the pseudoskeptics, most of them, it’s a waste of money, and we know that influence was exerted to suppress funding.
I really don’t care about “proof.” Nobody is on trial for a criminal offense here. If someone wanted to propose that all the hot fusion funding be diverted to cold fusion research, that would be a “hot fusion killer” and proof would sensibly be required. But that’s not the case. I am suggesting that research be carefully selected and funded to address basic questions. Unless the Texas Tech/ENEA collaboration fails, I don’t think the reality of the effect would be, any more, a “basic issue.” That would be over, and, yes, that will potentially be proof (if the ratio tightens in a substantial series of measurements). I think the evidence on that is already very strong. However, there are also open questions and objections that can rationally be made, hence the reasonableness of replicating the heat/helium findings, particularly with increased precision.
Basic issues are the creation of active material and the parameter space, and a search for signals other than helium. It is strongly suspected that there may be low-energy photons being emitted, if they can be identified and characterized, it will not only provide grist for the theory mill (which is mostly, now, grinding old, regurgitated speculations or wild-hair ideas), but also could lead to a fast measure of the reaction, which will then accelerate other research.
I suggest that a serious definition for a scientific consensus would be:
The consensus of conclusions and opinions expressed in scientific papers about the subject that were written by people with some expertise and experience in the field, or relevant to the field. In the case of experimental science (not theoretical science), I would limit these papers to ones written by people who either performed the experiment, or observed it, or performed similar experiments during their careers. So, in cold fusion, you would only include people who did electrochemistry, calorimetry, tritium detection, mass spectroscopy or some other task which people do these experiments do. I would not include people who do only theoretical physics. I would hesitate to include plasma fusion experts, because that would be like asking electrochemists to critique a Tokomak experiment. And because they have a conflict of interest. In some cases, however, aspects of plasma fusion have direct applicability to cold fusion, such as tritium detection by Jalbert at the PPPL. Of course they should be included.
I would only include opinions published in papers, backed up by facts and data from the experiments (including relevant experiments outside of cold fusion). Not opinions in newspaper articles or interviews or Internet discussion groups. General knowledge of a relevant field does not count. For example, if you are critiquing calorimetry, you have to address the specifics of the calorimetry actually used in a cold fusion experiment. That rule applies whether you agree or disagree with the author. All views, positive or negative, must be held to the same standard of rigor. Thus: “the boil-off method does not work” is not a valid critique. You have to say why it does not work. For example, you have to say “because of entrainment” and then you have to show that F&P did not rule out entrainment.
Anything other than a technical view, and anything outside of a formal scientific paper should be ignored. Any author whose papers demonstrates that he or she has not read the literature should be excluded. (It is usually easy to tell.) A “consensus” based on hand waving, ignorance, emotion or scorn has no place in science. Since this is experimental science, statements based on theory should be rejected, including positive ones such as “I am a theorist and my theory proves that cold fusion can exist.” Theory does not count.
By this definition of a consensus, the consensus is overwhelmingly in favor of cold fusion. That is one of the reasons I am sure the effect is real.
Other versions of “consensus” such as magically reading people’s minds or taking a poll of physicists who know nothing about the experiments are invalid, in my opinion.
This restriction of expertise to experimentalists makes sense. I’d accept it. With one proviso – that LENR stops claiming to be LENR and instead becomes some (agreed by these experts) set of theoretically unexplained anomalies in experiments.
Abd might well at this point say – OK – but we can all see from common sense that the energy densities here are such as to make only nuclear reactions plausible.
I’d say that is precipitate. Indeed the range of hypotheses (none a good fit) put forward to explain such anomalies is very wide and not just nuclear.
My one exception would be the d+d-> He evidence. If said experts decide to dismiss non-compatible anomalies, or decide that they have some other explanation, this would (even from a non-expert perspective) seem to indicate some nuclear reaction. But, I’m not an expert in nuclear reactions or theory – and you would want opinion from such experts to align to be confident of that.
There is no theory of cold fusion, so looking for experts on it would be like looking for experts on nuclear physics before it was known that nuclei existed.
The energy density argument is circumstantial. Circumstantial evidence can be strong, under some conditions. Cold fusion research suffers from variability of the effect, which then creates opportunities either for the file drawer effect to operate, or, also a problem, for it to appear as a possibility.
The “stopping of the claim to be LENR” actually happened a long time ago. The Pons and Fleischmann paper we are reviewing makes no such claim. The topic is titled the “Anomalous Heat Effect” at Texas Tech, and similar titles have been used. Then, when nuclear claims are made, they are from specific evidence, for which helium is the strongest case. By far, actually, since the other evidence is generally uncorrelated with heat.
(I expect tritium to be correlated with heat and helium, at constant H/D ratio in the heavy water. Storms would expect tritium production to change with that ratio, though there is a complication: the preferential evolution of the lighter isotopes of H.)
(Many earlier papers may report tritium, for example, but without actual levels and without comparison with heat, stating that it was “not commensurate with the heat,” or the like, but that would have been based on the classic hot fusion reaction branching, etc. Tritium is maybe a million times down from those expectations. It is not a major product, merely a relatively easily detected one. But that it is detected is often considered conclusive evidence of some kind of nuclear reaction taking place in the experiments, which seems plausible to me. But it is not direct evidence that the heat is being produced by that reaction.)
My heat/He paper was reviewed by what appeared to be a skeptical physicist. He originally thought the paper was horrible. So I rewrote it to directly address his concerns. He turned 180 degrees and helped write the conclusion.
My opinion is that the domain of expertise is only on experimental questions, not the candidate theory.
This is in my opinion key to the rejection, when expert in the hastily proposed theory (hot fusion), gave their competent opinion on experimental results they were incompetent to judge about.
THH is right, for me it is mostly a set of apparently coherent experimental results.
There is elements to consider it is nuclear (He4, T, Iwamura transmutations, X-rays, energy per mass), but this is not an experimental fact but a theoretical hint.
Even if it is not nuclear, it is an amazing phenomenon (probably something that would fall into a unique theory, but who knows), and it should deserve deep study.
Yes. I am currently editing a transcript of Ruby Carat’s video. Ed is in his element, very much so, when dealing with the experimental facts of cold fusion. Dealing with nuclear theory, he’s up the creek without a paddle. I begged him to “black box” the mechanism, to deal with all the other aspects of his theory, where he has strong reasons for his ideas, grounded in experimental evidence and well-known chemistry. Ed decided to go ahead, and that I was nitpicking.
His theory is beginning to affect his assessment of experimental facts; and he accepts his own experimental results as probative, when they are indicative, not probative. What he has found in his own work, of late, strongly deserves to be confirmed, but he overstates the implications. Most of his theory seems almost like a slam-dunk. (that is, very likely, though not necessarily proven). But that mechanism is a doozy. He claims it does not violate existing physics, but … it looks very “unphysical” to me. It looks like a whole series of fundamental understandings are negated, in favor of something with no experimental evidence, simply an “explanation” that seems plausible to him.
My basic position has been for quite a while that we do not have enough evidence to use for reasonably efficient theory-formation. It’s pretty likely that the energy is dissipated by the emission of low-energy photons (with phonons being a runner-up, much more difficult). However, “slow fusion” doesn’t seem to understand just how strong the strong force is! It doesn’t seem to understand where fusion energy comes from. *Why* does the ground state of helium have less mass than the ground state of two deuterons? And then Ed’s theory requires a whole series of reduced-mass protons (for H fusion). How does one reduce the mass of a proton? The ground state of a stable element has a clear definition, which Ed utterly disregards. Unfortunately.
“But, I’m not an expert in nuclear reactions or theory – and you would want opinion from such experts to align to be confident of that.”
I have zero knowledge of nuclear reactions or theory. However, every expert I have heard from or read said that even the “incommensurate” low level of tritium produced in cold fusion proves that the effect is nuclear, and the 24 MeV per helium atom ratio proves that it is some form of D + D => 4He fusion. They say there is no chance the tritium results are in error, and very little chance the helium results are in error.
That’s what they say. Do you know of any expert who said something else? If you do, what is the author and title? I don’t mean an expert who said “the helium results must be an error.” I covered that point of view in the paragraph above. I mean an expert who says cold fusion might not be a nuclear effect even though it produces tritium and helium in the D+D ratio.
If you don’t know of any experts who say that, why are we talking about this? Since neither of us knows enough to have an opinion, we can only discuss the opinions of experts. If there are no experts who believe the tritium and helium are real yet cold fusion is not nuclear, that is a 100% consensus, and it makes no sense to debate it. It would like debating whether the moon causes tides.
I think we are talking at cross purposes. Experts in nuclear theory would not be expert in the errors of various detection methods for tritium, helium, etc, nor artifacts (e.g. atmospheric He ingress) associated. For that you need experimentalists with expertise in the relevant methods and their use to detect v low levels of He or 3H.
You are jumping ahead with the He/3H real => nuclear matter, since my original comment was given that the reality (non-artifactual nature) of the various “nuclear product” detections was not established. However, even given that it is established you would need nuclear guys to look at the whole issue and propose some viable nuclear theory (which would likely be new). Or some hydrino/UHD theory (which would certainly be new). Or something else. Given these various new things assumptions about He and T implying nuclear reactions, while in this case plausible, should still not be made until there is a theory fitting the data that predicts this.
“Experts in nuclear theory would not be expert in the errors of various detection methods for tritium, helium, etc, nor artifacts (e.g. atmospheric He ingress) associated. For that you need experimentalists with expertise in the relevant methods and their use to detect v low levels of He or 3H.”
I wasn’t talking about experts in nuclear theory. I referred to Jalbert, who designed the tritium detection equipment at the PPPL and at the Los Alamos Tritium Systems Test Assembly. He said (I think it was him):
“Let me begin this note with a conclusion: I see no way the large (10^3 to 10^6)
tritium values reported throughout the world could be in error. The smaller values
(10^2) type range require more scrutiny, but even those are unlikely to be in error.”
“You are jumping ahead with the He/3H real => nuclear matter, since my original comment was given that the reality (non-artifactual nature) of the various ‘nuclear product’ detections was not established.”
You are wrong. They are established. However, as I said below, whether you think so or not, or whether I think so or not, is irrelevant to this discussion. The topic here is what the experts think. They made their views clear in the literature. We are looking for a consensus of opinions among those guys. You and I not included in those guys. We & our opinions don’t count. (Because it would be impossible to count the opinions of people like us, since our group is undefined and our opinions are not written down in formal reports. Not because we are unworthy.)
“However, even given that it is established you would need nuclear guys to look at the whole issue and propose some viable nuclear theory (which would likely be new). Or some hydrino/UHD theory (which would certainly be new). Or something else.”
Nope. Nope, nope. You do not need nuclear guys or anyone to look at the whole issue, and you sure as hell do not need a viable nuclear theory, or any other theory. That turns the scientific method upside down. You always need an experiment to test a theory, but you never need a theory to test an experiment. No experiment should be rejected because it cannot be explained by theory. That would be a bastardized form of religion, not science. The experiments show tritium and helium, so the effect is nuclear, by definition. Those are nuclear products; they are transmuted nuclei, not new molecules (chemical products). That’s the end of story. There is nothing more to discuss, unless someone can show that the experiments do NOT show tritium and helium because someone made a mistake. Or, actually, because several hundred world-class experts at BARC, Los Alamos and ~100 other labs all made mistakes doing tests they have done for decades, in a situation where if they make mistakes, they die.
That scenario seems highly improbable to me. I think I can make that evaluation with confidence, even though I know little about tritium. I suppose you would have to know a great deal about tritium to challenge these people or find an error in their work. No one has done that, as far as I know.
Nope. Nope, nope. You do not need nuclear guys or anyone to look at the whole issue, and you sure as hell do not need a viable nuclear theory, or any other theory. That turns the scientific method upside down. You always need an experiment to test a theory, but you never need a theory to test an experiment. No experiment should be rejected because it cannot be explained by theory.
That is not my point. I’m happy for experimentalists to point to anomalies to their heart’s content. Suggesting that the anomaly is LENR, or hydrinos, rather than something not understood (perhaps obscure systematic error etc) requires a theory of hydrinos, nuclear reactions, etc. Experimetalists are not the guys to formulate such a theory, which is why they should not be talking about LENR.
Isn’t that “should not” a teeny bit … fascist? But, yes, experimentalists can sometimes contaminate their work with theory. Sometimes they are, amazingly, explicit, “we set out to prove….” Oops!
I think it is valuable to make a distinction between a theory, a model, a hypothesis and an observation. Those are in descending order from the Queen of Sciences (physics) right down to everyday common sense. In the context of cold fusion:
A theory would be something from Hagelstein or Preparatta. Full blown, complete with hairy equations. An experimentalist might help confirm it by doing an experiment that Peter suggests, but most experimentalists I know are not capable of writing or even understanding such a theory.
A model is what McKubre gives in his equation. It works. It is helpful. It tells you what to expect in an experiment, but it tells you nothing about the underlying physics. A model is also what the Wright brothers used. Theirs had tons of advanced engineer math and very difficult equations, but no basic physics. For example, they measured airfoil lift and center of gravity, but they did not speculate about why moving air lifts an airfoil. (They knew lots of physics but they did not need that knowledge much for that task. McKubre is the same way.)
A hypothesis is that if you squeeze deuterium into a Pd lattice, it might fuse. Mizuno says this hypothesis occurred to just about every electrochemist in the latter half of the 20th century, but only F&P took it seriously and tested it. In retrospect, it is not exactly true, but it is sorta true.
An observation would be that cold fusion is a nuclear effect because it produces tritium and helium. Those are nuclear changes – the nucleus of the atom is changing. A chemical change affects the molecular structure, but it never adds or subtracts protons or neutrons. That observation does not depend on any model or hypothesis. It is a statement of fact, assuming you believe that atoms exist and the nucleus consists of protons and neutrons. That was a controversial theory-based statement in 1900, but nowadays I think everyone agrees it as a proven matter of fact. If it is a matter of fact, that makes it another matter of fact that cold fusion is a nuclear effect. That is true by definition.
The should not is untactful and a short cut. I could more precisely have said:
experimentalists are not in a good position to propose theories and such propositions, when they happen, are often unhelpful because they become conflated with the experimental results and make it more difficult to see their significance.
I would say that attachment to theory (or other held opinion) damages the objectivity that is needed to do good experimental work, in particular the design and interpretation of experiments.
I have zero knowledge of nuclear reactions or theory. However, every expert I have heard from or read said that even the “incommensurate” low level of tritium produced in cold fusion proves that the effect is nuclear, and the 24 MeV per helium atom ratio proves that it is some form of D + D => 4He fusion. They say there is no chance the tritium results are in error, and very little chance the helium results are in error.
This statement requires careful qualification before it can safely be used. What type of experts say this? Which results have no chance of error? Is that the detection, or the inference that the detected material was not present in the reactants are some other accessible place, and therefore represents true atomic generation?
As LENR advocates often say (including Abd here) properly no scientist will assign zero chance to non-oxymoronic scientific statements – so this sounds too definite. The issue is how definite are these conclusions.
There is a fascinating case that I reviewed some time ago in connection with a Wikiversity resource on parapsychology, where I was facilitating neutrality. A scientist wrote a paper in which he assigned a Bayesian prior probability, for parapsychological phenomena being real of 10^-20.
Then he looked at experimental data and, surprise, it was not statistically strong enough to overcome the Bayesian prior. In fact, the terms were not well defined, and parapsychology is, by definition, about the paranormal. I.e., not understood. His conclusion followed from his own assumption, of a ridiculously low Bayesian prior, so low that it could not possibly be objectively based. Without putting too fine a point on it, he pulled it out of his butt.
And it was published in a journal. He was essentially saying that he would not believe any reports, not matter how probative, no matter how well-done the experiment, no matter how statistically significant the data, unless it was far beyond any reasonable doubt. This was “scientism,” to use a term recently used on LENR Forum.
Yes, a real question is “how definite,” and there are ways of measuring this, mostly unused. I claim that the heat/helium evidence, which is direct and statistically strong, with little contrary evidence and many reports, creates a strong “preponderance of the evidence” in favor of the reality and nuclear origin of the FP Heat Effect. I do not claim proof beyond a reasonable doubt, only enough to justify further research at some considerable expense. We could argue about what level of doubt is reasonable until the cows come home, without ever finding resolution. Let’s look at the evidence, let’s see what we find, and my goal is understanding. That is, I want to understand the evidence and the arguments of all sides thoroughly, so that I could repeat them.
Once I consider that LENR is real, based on this analysis — and I’ve made that choice, because I am, after all, investing most of my life in this work — I then do not expect evidence in other experimental reports to need to be “extraordinary,” because it is not challenging what does already have extraordinary evidence behind it (and Huizenga certainly recognized the Miles claims as extraordinary, and merely expected that they would not be confirmed, “because no gammas.” And the basis of Huizenga’s idea was obvious: a blatantly defective assumption that a real LENR would behave like hot fusion, and a failure to imagine the many ways that helium could be generated without the standard d-d fusion reaction branching and behavior. It was that simple: a failure of imagination. But, to his credit, he did recognize the importance of Miles’ results. He pretty much stopped writing, as he aged, so I don’t know how he reacted to confirmations of Miles. Nor do I yet know what Morrison thought about Miles.
I can still consider, easily, any given LENR experimental result to be possibly flawed. Just because LENR is (more accurately, can be) real does not lead to a conclusion that a given LENR result is valid. Only that it might be possible. Does it match other results or is it, within the field, an anomaly?
This comment raises a very interesting and central matter of how to evaluate scientific hypotheses.
Bayesian priors cannot sensibly be applied here because the hypothesis space is too complex. Essentially, hypotheses that are supported by previous experimentally supported theory are less informative and therefore have higher prior than those not. And hypotheses without a grounding underlying theory have a lower prior. But working that out, and quantifying the priors, is not possible.
However – and this is the key point – just because the problem is too complex to solve does not mean no information comes from this analysis. We can reasonably say that an ad hoc hypothesis that is highly unexpected. Say that platinum spheres of exactly 1.1324467 kg mass have a 1% deficit in their weight when compared with all other platinum spheres. A scientist would want to attach to that hypothesis, which would explain a number of experimental anomalies, a very low probability.
Now, the type of hypothesis in LENR is less obviously absurd than the one above. But equally it is more extraordinary than that say a particular set of complex organic molecules should emit visible light when an electric field is applied.
If we can say that some hypotheses are absurd then we can do some sort of probabilistic ranking, and throwing up hands and saying this should not be relevant when attaching belief (posterior probability given experimental observations) is wrong.
One way to look at this is to quantify the judges strength of given evidence by how much prior improbability it can overcome, and separate judgments into that of experimental evidence strength, and prior probability. That helps communication in an area where judgments can be wildly different, and strong feelings can attach to them.
It can help to be familiar with the history of cold fusion and the arguments presented ab initio. Some early arguments may have been plausible when presented but became not plausible with time and the accumulation of reports. The most common, still repeated to this day in newspaper accounts, is that “nobody could replicate.” It’s terribly easy to shoot that down, even if we were to demand exact replication. One of the strongest early circumstantial arguments was the lack of correlated nuclear product. That argument still has legs, even long after such product was reported. (Tritium was not considered to satisfy this because of the lack of correlation with heat, and because the levels reported were maybe a million times down from expectation if the reaction were ordinary deuterium fusion.)
Miles (1991) came too late to affect the rejection cascade. Taubes avoided the topic of heat/helium correlation. Hoffman, whom I would have expected to be a bit more sympathetic (he was a very cautious skeptic, contrary to Jed’s story about him), stopped his story at pre-heat-correlation helium work.
Further, Pons and Fleischmann themselves avoided heat/helium, and I think I know why. The evidence showed they were incorrect about the reaction site, so … the hid the evidence they had (from Johnson-Matthey) and when others reported helium, stonewalled. It’s understandable but a serious problem. They had become reactive and defensive.
Much of the field followed them, not surprising. When I came into the field in 2009, I was astonished to find the heat/helium evidence, practically an open secret, de-emphasized and, if mentioned at all, buried in masses of far weaker evidence.
It’s the cover-up, stupid!
One point that i discovered (from exchanges with Ed) quite recently is the importance of theory.
I’m openly moaning on today’s priority on theory that is so popular, leading to absurdity like proving undefined artifact by failure of a theory.
However, some form of theory, take it to the phenomenological Cro-Magnon scientists theory of fire, to QFT, is fundamental to conceive an experiment.
The most evident need for theory is to design an experiment to test “something”.
The most surprising need of a theory, is about defining “it is a similar experiment” (f not a replication).
Another utility of a theory is to tell what is a “refutation”, compared to a “failure”… does it fails because you did not met the condition required, because you are unlucky with uncontrolled parameters, or that the theory is broke ?
When I say there are many replication of LENR phenomenon, it is made in a framework where in consider that hydrogen isotopes, in transition metal, forming hydrides, excited in a way at moderate energy, produce heat, radiation, modest transmutations, above anything chemical can explain (combustion, fractionation).
I don’t include papp engine, and I’m uncertain about heterogeneous plasmoid and Holmlid reactions….
This is “my theory” of what is LENR context…
Of course, and this is a problem for physicists who are too accustomed with easy science and hard theory, the level of correlation, statistical results, is more about the one you find in biology, and maybe in 20th century biology…
So not only we need a theory, but it is too early to use a theory like detailed QM theory proposed by Hagestein, Takahashi, WLS, and to a lesser degree Hydroton.
The theory of Michael McKubre about the importance of loading, with empirical “laws” are enough to be dicussed at our stage of maturity.
Restricting LENR “safe haven” to PdD electrolysis or Permeation, allows to match experiments together more safely…
What is a safe theory of LENR, in my context ?
I propose something like :
When you load Palladium above 95% for long time with D, and if the palladium is of a “good metallurgy” that you can detect by “it produced LENR excess heat one time”, then some excess heat may be observed from non chemical origin.
You observe often X-rays, proportionate production of He4 around 24MeV.
Sometime you observe tritium, and if you change the H/D ratio toward 50%, the production is increased.
If there is already tritium, it may be reduced or increased depending on some (unknown) factor.
Is that theory supported by replicated experiments?
a replication experiment can be considered as when Pd is loaded above 95%, and the material already showed some excess heat, and after some effort it can again produce XH, tritium, He4, X-rays.
Experiments can be designed to discover the unknown metallurgical factors, like did ENEA, NRL, SKINR together (see ICCF15)…
Ed theory is more detailed, as it propose in my conception many “russian puppet” theories.
The outer theory is the existence of NAE near the surface, with low energy outcome.
It can be confirmed by detecting He4,tritium mostly at surface…
inside this puppet a theory is the slow fusion, which does not produce much 24MeV quanta, but burst of moderate energy charged or uncharged particles, with a quantumly isolated NAE…
Maybe trying to decohere the NAE, may be seen producing 24MeV quanta, …
Testing also the coherence of the X-rays emited, the anisotropy maye give hint to a coherent emission…
on the opposite testing WL-Like theory of 24MeV gamma screening may be tested by observing transparence to such gamma…
Inside that puppet, another is the p-e-p , p-e-d d-e-d d-e-d-X fusion…
it could be tested by detecting neutrinos, by controlling proposed p-e-p-X fusion like with Iwamura&al transmutations….
Inside that pupet there is the hypothesis that it is metallic hydrogen which constitute the NAE.
Maybe analysing the X-ray spectrum, or some spectrometry, could help…
and inside that puppet the final proposal is that all happens in a nanocrack.
It can be tested by controlling the production of such cracks and seing the effects.
the more detailed is you theory, the more you have interesting experiments to test it…
the less it is precise, the more it can be “not-refuted” by replications.
No idea where I go, but even if experiments are prime to Science, without a form of theory, there is no experiment to design and simply to compare.
Science begins, not with theory, but with observation. As we observe life, we notice patterns. These patterns can become quite sophisticated and may be called “theories.” However, back to the beginning, observation. The Scientific method observes and from observation infers or derives or imagines hypotheses. Then it makes predictions from the hypotheses and tests them. It’s important for science, to be able to move outside of existing theory, to retreat to the simplest forms of hypotheses. The demand for a fully explanatory theory for a new phenomenon, before it would be considered, was utterly preposterous, cart before the horse. Nevertheless, investigation continued, So a host of operating hypotheses have been built up, as experimental data was collected.
Some experimental work was exploratory. The “theory” might only be, “if we do X, we might see something interesting.” That’s not objectively testable. But “if we run a PdD protocol that is known to generate excess heat some percentage of the time, and measure anomalous heat, and helium in the outgas, taking appropriate precautions, we will find the heat correlates with the helium found above experimental background, with the helium increasing proportionally to the heat,” is a testable prediction. Did Miles have this in mind? Does it matter? Once this idea was developed, it became testable, and each effort to confirm or disconfirm could test it. No “cold fusion theory” is needed for this, even though the “theory” as stated has strong implications for deeper theory development.
Heat/helium work, still, would be at that simple level, and complicating it with more complex theory would not be likely to lead to anything but confusion, until and unless the basic finding is nailed.
When Ed talks about “theory,” he is talking about something where we don’t have adequate data to do anything more than create wild speculations. He thinks the mainstream needs a theory to take cold fusion seriously. My opinion is that the reality is quite the opposite, at least at this point. Until there is a theory so strong as to create a necessity for acceptance, theory expression will suppress attention, not improve it. However, “simple theory,” as with what I expressed — which is fully supported by experimental evidence — will not cause this effect. There is, in it, no “theory of cold fusion physics” to disagree with, only a relatively simple set of experimental results.
Ed’s general theory was developed, ad hoc, from experimental data, which is why some of his work is useful. But he has no data on hydroton behavior, and no data indicating any presence of reduced-mass prefusion hydrogen. Further, for such an idea to be accepted, truly extraordinary evidence would be necessary, much more than merely for some mysterious process that generates helium.
I agree mostly.
Maybe the term theory is too much, and what I describe is just hypothesis, rule of thumbs to check… But some is needed to even say something is positive or not.
Many experiments were said negative because they were assuming the usual fusion theory and were seeking for neutrons and proportionate (not trace) of tritium, instead of He4.
Hypothesis, theories, er just the framework , the paradigm that make us name the colours or success or failure…
for Ed I imagine that seeing many (proportionate) neutrons in a supposed LENR experiments make him treat it as a failure, a case of fractofusion or hot fusion… or a new phenomenon, not a replication of what he calls LENR.
Experiments should rule over theory, but it cannot be separated…
Many skeptics, abuse of theories. beside inverted Popperian arguments, using a wrong theory make negative experiments who are not…
With an abusive theory, or simply framework, simplistic, or unadapted, you can say very different experiments are the same, or refuse to name “replication” similar experiments…
The light is important, but the eye interpret it.
“Much of the field followed them, not surprising. When I came into the field in 2009, I was astonished to find the heat/helium evidence, practically an open secret, de-emphasized . . .”
What a thing to say! Everyone knew about that. Miles presented his results often. Storms emphasized it in his “Student’s Guide.” McKubre often discussed it. Hagelstein emphasized it in 1993:
Mallove and I emphasized it in our on-line guide, which later became Chapter 1 in my book. I wrote a review of this in 1997, 12 years before you came into the field and were astonished:
Do not pat yourself on the back imagining that you discovered this. It was one of the most widely discussed studies in the field. If you did not see it right away, that is because you did not read the Student’s Guide, Hagelstein’s paper, my book, or the other general reviews.
You deserve credit for reviewing the helium work carefully, but it is absurd to suggest it was hidden or de-emphasized. Also, everyone always understood the importance of correlation. You sometime talk as if you were the first to discover this. Miles made it abundantly clear in his papers.
Jed, it seems you don’t want to allow anyone else to have an experience different from your own.
I wrote that I was astonished. I was. That is a report of my experience. Are you denying that was my experience? So I engaged with Ed Storms and encouraged him to write more about helium. I could make a case that it was de-emphasized, and have, at various times, but this is something that historical review will bring out, eventually. I am not claiming to be the first anything; I didn’t write that. But McKubre seems to think that what I eventually wrote was important. Yes, before I came on board, there was, as an example, extensive review of helium in Storms (2007). However, how prominent was it? It was mixed with a great deal of evidence of far less probative power. That this was a reproducible experiment (i.e., do the same kind of study, get the same kind of results, as long as at least some cells show XP) is an idea that I don’t recall seeing from anyone else. If that’s so, then the long-time demand for a reproducible experiment had been satisfied long ago, by 1991, and especially once this was confirmed. I remember looking for heat/helium coverage in many reviews. It was hardly mentioned, occasionally not mentioned at all.
Ed response to our discussion and wrote a helium review, and submitted it to Naturwissenschaften. They requested that he, instead, write a review of the entire field. He did. My opinion is that, while that review was important, a narrower review of heat/helium would have been more powerful. Basically, the full field is radically confusing. It’s way too much to absorb quickly. Heat/helium is very simple and quite easy to understand. The correlation with heat demonstrates that both the heat and helium measurements are likely not far off.
less is more.
“I wrote that I was astonished. I was. That is a report of my experience. Are you denying that was my experience?”
Nope. I am denying the part where you said it was “practically an open secret, de-emphasized . . .” It was featured in every important review of the field by Storms, Hagelstein, McKubre and Miles himself. It was featured in less important reviews by Mallove and me, and again by me.
Heck, even Huizenga wrote about Miles and helium, in the second edition of his book. (I don’t have that edition, but that’s what you told me.)
I cannot imagine why you would call that “an open secret” or “de-emphasis.” It is one of the most emphasized and talked-about experiments in the history of the field. Your characterization of it is weird. And kind of obnoxious, because you seem to be taking credit for being the first to “notice” something that every major reviewer emphasized, and that I wrote about 12 years earlier. Were you also the first to notice that the heat exceeds the limits of chemistry?
“This statement requires careful qualification before it can safely be used. What type of experts say this?”
All of the ones I have heard from, and all of the ones who have written papers about this subject. Unless you know of some others, that is a 100% consensus. Note that this discussion is about consensus, not whether you or I agree with that consensus, or whether we understand the experts. This is basically a tally of opinions, a.k.a., science by vote, or science by popularity contest. Those are stupid concepts that prove nothing, but that is what this discussion is about.
This is about opinions, not the science itself. I happen to know a thing or two about tallying opinions because my late mother was an expert on that subject. The hard parts are: 1. Defining the target group whose opinion you want to tally, and 2. Finding reliable data on their opinions, in their statements or in public opinion polls. I know of only a few public opinion polls about cold fusion, and they are long out of date. So, we have to go with statements by members of the target group. Whether we agree with these statements, or even understand them, is irrelevant.
“Which results have no chance of error?”
Tritium, as I said. The s/n ratio is very high and the results have been replicated at over 100 labs according to Bockris. (I didn’t count them.)
“Is that the detection, or the inference that the detected material was not present in the reactants are some other accessible place, and therefore represents true atomic generation?”
Both. It is easy to measure all of the tritium present in a cell and in the make-up water before you start. There is no doubt in the minds of the expert that in some cases, many orders of magnitude more tritium has been produced than were present in the cell. There is no chance the tritium leaked in from outside. The cells are well sealed. For it to leak in, the concentration outside the cell, in the laboratory air, would have to be so high it would kill everyone. Of course they would be aware of it long before that happened.
The people who detected tritium in the BARC experiments were the reactor safety group at India’s largest working power reactor. As they put it, “our lives depend on detecting tritium correctly.” They know it was not in the air or electrolyte. They are sure they detected tritium in the cell.
But again, whether “the detected material was not present in the reactants are some other accessible place” is a technical issue. It is beyond the scope of this discussion. If you are looking for a consensus you need not ask this. It makes no difference whether the experts are right or wrong, or whether you understand the question, or whether you can determine if tritium might have been present in the cell before the test. The only question here is: What do the experts in tritium say?
In another discussion you might want to learn whether the tritium might have been in the reactants. That is an important topic. It is covered in detail in the literature.
This raises the question of whether these tritium results alone constitute proper proof that would make the scientific community stand up and take notice. There are some remaining issues:
(1) could the electrodes have introduced tritium?
(2) what was the precise expertise of the experts saying this – and are they in any way selected – for example ones wanting to find positive LENR evidence?
(3) have they looked at the latest evidence on tritium contamination? there are many sources e.g. radioactive watch paint… http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0020708X71900706
(3) where is the write-up of the tests – for a specific positive experiment – showing no contamination and discussing why the various known sources could not be relevant here.
The problem with contamination is that it cannot be generalised. You can test electrolyte many times and fien none, yet one time there might be some and this would turn into a positive result. Hence the level of checking here against contamination needs to be specific and very careful. This applies to all such data when the quantities measured are very small.
For these reasons I’d expect skeptics (rationally) not to see low-level tritium measurements as in any way definitive unless exceptional care were taken and also results were replicable. That may be the case here, but a careful argument would need to be made.
Tritium was detected at significant levels by tritium experts, people highly experienced at measuring tritium. Were results replicable? This is a classic question with cold fusion due to the poor control of the conditions (specifically the exact material condition; this is not a nice uniform plasma!).
I have called the tritium evidence circumstantial on the excess heat issue, because there remains a major mystery: tritium is produced without neutrons, or the neutrons, if any, are about a million times down in level from tritium, which is not far from cosmic-ray background. Attempts to move experiments to deep mines to reduce background were not particularly successful. But this is quite clear: tritium is detected at very significant levels. It is one of the most widely-reported results from cold fusion experiments. SPAWAR later found neutrons at roughly ten times background, though that work was never confirmed and we don’t know how reproducible it was at SPAWAR. What is widely published and noticed is that the numbers of apparent neutrons (from proton knock-on tracks) were strongly variable depending on the cathode substrate, gold generating more apparent neutrons than platinum, and far more than silver. I find it very difficult to imagine why. Did they repeat this experiment? If so, how many times?
Without heat correlation, the relationship of tritium to the XE found is unclear. Storms theory predicts tritium, but the relationship of H/D in the cathode is unclear. (the H/D ratio in the electrolyte will move lower with electrolysis as H is preferably evolved. The T/D ratio will move higher for the same reason. However, this effect would enhance natural tritium, but not to the levels reported).
Missing from most reports of tritium: excess heat measurements. I’ve seen a lot of nonsense written about this by people whom I’d expect to know better, most of it simply lack of caution in expression. If tritium is generated by the same environment and process as generates helium and heat, I would expect correlation with heat, and if Storms is correct about mechanism, I would expect the ratio to vary with the H/D ratio (and the H/D ratio in the lattice could also be measured; I don’t know if this has been done. H evolved preferentially and also possibly absorbed preferentially would enhance H, but not enormously.)
When I somewhat deprecated the tritium evidence in my paper, there was an objection from a researcher who had been associated with BARC, who had, I think, been one of those who originally found tritium. As I recall, I pointed out that I was not attacking the tritium evidence, only pointing out that without correlation with heat, it was circumstantial on the nuclear nature of the heat effect. He was mollified.
Once the heat affect is accepted as nuclear, a small “leakage” to rare branches is more or less to be expected. 24 MeV per reaction is apparently being released, and that kind of energy can do a lot! Whatever it is that suppresses prompt high-energy gammas may not be perfect. The Hagelstein limit is not absolute, it only applies to significant radiation as a major and normal component of the reaction.
“Missing from most reports of tritium: excess heat measurements.”
This is missing because in many of the tritium studies they did not measure heat. Especially Bockris and Will. They could not measure heat. That was limitation of the instruments and techniques. Especially when they tested multiple cells at one time, such as a 10 x 10 array.
In other words, it is difficult to include calorimetry in an experiment optimized to measure tritium. At least, it was difficult in 1990.
Jed, you are making an excuse for Bockris, when he needs no excuse. What I wrote was a consequence of not measuring heat, and that consequence falls where it falls regardless of whatever reason existed for the missing study. However, some studies did measure heat and tritium. Studying tritium is not all that difficult; it would only be that optimizing for tritium may be in conflict with optimizing for heat. Taking tritium samples would be possible for any open cell work, such as Miles (in the same way as he measured helium). Miles did measure tritium, in fact, but did not report the levels, only that they were not “commensurate” with heat, which seems to have been a general idea, that there should be some level of tritium associated with so much heat, a clear legacy of the early “cold fusion” ideas. No, the relationship would be unknown, *but what was it?*
Jed, the tritium strategy failed. It was not effective in establishing cold fusion as real and nuclear. Even if we think it “should” have. I am not faulting what Bockris did, it was what he thought he should do, and his work stands. But what the field was crying for, the “nuclear product,” was still missing, and tritium wasn’t it, there was far too little of it.
Ed is now making tritium predictions, in the video. Ruby seems to think that experimental evidence confirms them. I think no. There is not nearly as much tritium as one might think from Ed’s ideas. But this would deserve a careful study. How do XE and heat and helium and tritium vary with the H/D ratio? How does the H/D ratio in the cathode vary with the ratio in the electrolyte?
Amazingly, such relatively simple experiments, which would produce valuable data regardless, do not appear to have been performed. Ed found, early on, that H in the electrolyte poisoned the heat at about 1%. The parameter space was not carefully explored. (I think that 1% in the electrolyte would be higher in the palladium).
“There are some remaining issues:”
These issues are not remaining. Read the literature and you will see they were addressed in 1989.
“(1) could the electrodes have introduced tritium?”
Nope. Read Will, Bockris or Storms.
“(2) what was the precise expertise of the experts saying this – and are they in any way selected . . .”
Read their CVs. Their expertise was in detecting tritium. Seriously, when you hear that someone designed the tritium detection at the PPPL and LANL’s Tritium Systems Test Assembly, what did you think his expertise is? Croquet?
Selected by who? All cold fusion researchers are self-selected.
“(3) have they looked at the latest evidence on tritium contamination? there are many sources e.g. radioactive watch paint…”
Don’t be ridiculous. Do you seriously think these people would miss something like that?
But again, whether “the detected material was not present in the reactants are some other accessible place” is a technical issue. It is beyond the scope of this discussion. If you are looking for a consensus you need not ask this. It makes no difference whether the experts are right or wrong, or whether you understand the question, or whether you can determine if tritium might have been present in the cell before the test. The only question here is: What do the experts in tritium say?
To answer this – since my previous answer did not. The problem is who is expert?. That is inevitably a technical question, and ignoring it can lead to survey of opinion from partial experts which can be very misleading. This is particularly true when the questions asked are from an unusual context, and therefore the normal expert assumptions don’t hold. It applies particularly to something like low-level tritium detection.
Tritium analysis is routine for some of those who reported tritium, such as at BARC. They would be expert. Preponderance of the evidence from tritium reports: tritium is sometimes found. Major shortcoming: many of the tritium reports did not measure excess heat at all. It is not that they weren’t getting heat and found tritium. They didn’t even look. It’s a bit like all those neutron measurements that were commonly considered to have shot cold fusion dead. After all, no neutrons, couldn’t be fusion! But tritium was found. For these groups, tritium findings were what convinced them that there was a real nuclear effect involved, so then projecting that they found tritium because they wanted to confirm the effect is … highly insulting. Confirmation bias is, to be sure, common in research, but why would they want to associate themselves with such a shaky claim as “cold fusion,” when they knew that this would be unpopular? I can only think of one reason: they were scientists and were not willing to hide results because of fear of rejection.
Storms may have been convinced by his own tritium studies. Something anomalous was happening. Contamination from lab sources did not match the data. Again, Storms, as a nuclear chemist with specific experience at LANL, was expert.
THH, my basic position is that cold fusion is a mystery, not understood. Understanding is not advanced by extreme speculation about possible artifacts. Occam’s Razor would suggest focusing on the strongest evidence first, because it is less likely to be in error. Many skeptics suggest ideas like what you have suggested, but there are no studies confirming these ideas, it’s armchair “possibility” critique, and there is no end to it, because one can always invent some possible artifact that was not addressed. That’s how the brain works.
There comes to be a point, however, where such speculations are avoiding the obvious and are reflecting an attachment to “nothing here, move along.”
I would never claim that anyone “should be” convinced by the existing evidence. “I don’t know, I’m just not comfortable with the level of evidence I have seen,” is an honest report (or, at least, I will assume honesty). However that discomfort can easily arise from attachment, and a real skeptic will recognize that possibility. An attachment does not prove that what one is attached to is wrong. However, when we learn to recognize our own attachments, we can then notice how attachment can blind us. So we learn to look more closely at evidence, and how and why we accept or reject it.
There is, in your response, much of which I agree with, and something missing, it’s called a “lost performative.” Wikipedia fell into the same trap. They defined policies, great in theory, but did not create structures to enforce them with reliability. So if we have a standard for judging consensus, who applies it? Who makes that series of judgments necessary for what you suggest?
The normal process in the mainstream is “peer-reviewed review.” That process breaks down under various conditions. The mainstream is actually broken, that’s fairly widely understood. Still, that’s what exists. Hence on Wikiversity, in the page on Recent Sources, I bolded peer-reviewed reviews. https://en.wikiversity.org/wiki/Cold_fusion/Recent_sources
I was, in general, dismayed by the lack of general participation in the Wikiversity resource, as well as support for linking that resource from Wikipedia, which would be a standard “sister wiki” link, there are templates for it. If we want to know what has stopped education on cold fusion, it’s us. There have been few exceptions.
“Dieter Britz, an electrochemist who has remained carefully neutral on LENR. It cannot be said that he doesn’t know the literature.”
I do not think he is neutral, or that he ever was. See my discussion here, starting on p. 31:
He is the only person I know who has read the literature extensively yet who says the effect does not exist. Certainly the only electrochemist. He has never given any technical reason to doubt any major experiment, but he is sure they are all mistaken.
Jed, what you point to is not evidence as to Britz’s opinion. People may say things, off-hand, off the record. That is not actually evidence of a long-term position. “He is sure they are all mistaken” is not obvious from his reviews.
Nevertheless, I suppose I’ll ask him.
“Jed, what you point to is not evidence as to Britz’s opinion. People may say things, off-hand, off the record. That is not actually evidence of a long-term position. “He is sure they are all mistaken” is not obvious from his reviews.”
That is what he told me, many times. Perhaps he has changed his mind. As you say, you should ask him.
I sent him the “Tally” paper. He did not comment on it or refute it, so I suppose he still felt that way when I wrote it.
I did not reread everything in the Tally paper, but when I wrote that “what you pointed to” was not evidence, that was what I was referring to. I looked over it. I also know that when people report what someone else “told them,” it has often shifted from what was actually said. This is very, very common. Look at LENR Forum how so many writers assert what someone else believes. It’s often quite off.
Perhaps there is something I missed in the Tally paper.
My impression from what Dieter may have told me, years ago, was that he was not ready to come to a firm conclusion. However, he obviously was serving a scientific perspective, which is possible for a skeptic but unusual for a strong pseudoskeptic. His paper on the effect of noise in input power measurements was extremely helpful.
“I did not reread everything in the Tally paper, but when I wrote that “what you pointed to” was not evidence, that was what I was referring to.”
Do you mean where I quoted him? That’s not evidence of his opinions?
Jed, sometimes you are not friendly to those who might want to verify what you say. This was your reference to the Tally paper. In that comment, you did not quote Britz nor give more of a clue. Your Tally paper is 35 pages. As I wrote, I did not review all of it. However, now I have, and I found what you are probably referring to. Jed, you were misleading. On page 33, you wrote:
You say more on p. 34.
What Britz actually said is roughly what I said about him. You have confused your opinion with what he actually said. Your comment is remarkable, because it assigns his alleged bias to “not believing” which equates “not believing” with “believing not.” Simply not having a belief does not create bias. In fact, reality is the opposite.
Your source for the Britz quotes is your Infinite Energy article:
20. Rothwell, J., Dieter Britz: A Knowledgeable Skeptic. Infinite Energy, 1998. 3(18).
Jed, that was published 19 years ago, yet you presented Britz this way, putting it in the present tense:
This is radically different from what you quoted in the Tally paper, but is more how you are thinking about him. A word to the wise, Jed, this is a slippery slope.