Buzz Blog

Chemists taken in by Cold Fusion . . . AGAIN!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Ack! We were trying to figure out where the cold fusion proponents were at this year's annual March Meeting of the American Physical Society that took place last week. Unlike most years, there was nary a paper on cold fusion or palladium mediated nuclear transmutation, or whatever they're calling it these days.

It seems they were gearing up for the American Chemical Society meeting going on now in San Francisco. It's probably all for the best. The ACS embraces cold fusion with an inexplicable enthusiasm. As a former associate editor for one of their journals, that embarrasses me just a bit. (BTW, the photo above from the ACS press release about their cold fusion session appears to show one of the most pathetic calorimeters I've ever seen outside of a science fair.)

Yes, there are usually some cold fusion papers at our physics conferences, but that's because the APS allows any of its member to contribute talks, without peer review. It's all in the spirit of the open exchange of ideas in science. That's why there are also talks about zero point energy generators, perpetual motion machines, and a host of other fringe science topics, to put it gently. (In case you haven't seen it before, it's worth looking over the Crackpot Index right about now.) The thing is, the physical society doesn't endorse any of these topics, while the chemical society sets up press conferences for cold fusion.

I actually enjoy going to the cold fusion sessions, whether they're at physics or chemical society meetings, and I'm a little bummed that I missed the talks at the ACS session on Sunday. But I only go because I still remember the excitement that took the world by storm in my senior year in college, when Pons and Fleischmann held a press conference to tell us all our energy troubles were over thanks to their discovery. In fact, I still have a copy of their woefully incomplete paper that was faxed around the country at a breakneck pace just before their press conference in 1989. (That was in the dark ages before email took off as a major form of communication.)

In the days after the initial announcement 21 years ago, the excitement among both chemists and physicists was off the charts. The disappointment that followed, after we had a chance to let the news sink in, was just as extreme. As far as I know, the same problems with cold fusion that were identified back then still exist.

Yes, the payoff of an essentially inexhaustible energy source that runs on seawater is huge, but the science just doesn't make sense. All the wishful thinking in the world isn't going to change that.

Please, my chemical society friends, let it go. It's one thing for cold fusion scientists to present talks at meetings and submit papers to peer reviewed journals. But for heaven's sake, don't endorse this stuff with press conferences! Wait until one of them makes a working battery or something. Otherwise, you're raising the public's hopes for something that is broadly considered junk science at best, and is frequently fodder for con artists stealing money from retirees for worthless cold fusion energy schemes at worst.
Posted by Unknown


Steven Krivit said... were spot on.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013 at 3:30 PM

tblakeslee said...

Results are what matter and the LENR people are getting results. How about a desktop 10 KW heat source that runs for months on nickel powder? The idea of ignoring it just because they haven't worked out the equations for it is crazy. Something is happening inside the earth that produces helium-3 and tritium gas in volcanic emissions. What is the equation? Here is an article about the desktop unit:

Wednesday, April 6, 2011 at 6:11 PM

Anonymous said...

Cold fusion of the Pons and Fleischmann variety would require modifications to physics that would have repercussions in all sorts of ways besides just allowing for cold fusion. We don't see any signs of those things, so there must not be any new physics of the type that cold fusion requires. Therefore, cold fusion doesn't work.

Well that's a great shame isn't it. Looks like you will just have to live with those repercussions and become a true scientist and build theory on observation. Welcome to reality.


Wednesday, February 9, 2011 at 10:17 AM

Anonymous said...

Why don't the APS form a committee and visit one of these cold fusion laboratory to see if the phenomenon is real? The committee can help the APS to decide whether to hold a press conference for cold fusion or not.

Saturday, September 18, 2010 at 7:05 AM

Buzz Skyline said...

Dear Anonymous,


I know hot fusion works because the sun and stars run on it. We have also demonstrated man made hot fusion many times in the form of fusion bombs. We at Physics Buzz even posted a story ( about a guy who built his own inertial confinement fusion device in a warehouse in Brooklyn (it works, by the way, as you can tell by monitoring the neutrons it emits).

I have my doubts that magnetically confined fusion will ever be technologically feasible, but it at least has its foundations in established physics.

I even believe in muon-catalyzed cold fusion, which is within the bounds of established science. (Unfortunately, the expense of making muons means muon-catalyzed cold fusion will probably never be a practical energy source.)

Cold fusion of the Pons and Fleischmann variety would require modifications to physics that would have repercussions in all sorts of ways besides just allowing for cold fusion. We don't see any signs of those things, so there must not be any new physics of the type that cold fusion requires. Therefore, cold fusion doesn't work.

The above are the reasons I believe what I believe about fusion. I don't get the virgin birth connection. But it's not addressed in any physics journals that I know of anyway.

All the best,


Tuesday, July 6, 2010 at 10:14 PM

Anonymous said...

You're all a bunch of idiots. Hot fusion has been heavily funded for over 50 years and hasn't gotten anywhere, but no one questions its viability.

Also, getting published in a peer reviewed journal is a crock. Just a bunch of poor grad students toadying up to the establishment, making some tiny perturbations to the existing heap of knowledge. When is the last time you've read something truly enlightening from your favorite journal?

50% of US citizens believe in virgin birth. Ask yourself why you believe what you do.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010 at 8:44 PM

kemo sabe said...

I finally got around to watching that cold fusion news conference, and realized that the reason ACS deserves criticism for hosting it is that the pathetic panel of losers did not in fact have any news to report.

We got McKubre, with his arms folded in a defensive posture, rocking autistically, insisting, as P&F did 21 years earlier, that there is definitely heat, and it is definitely nuclear. In the Q&A, McKubre referred to the medical doctor in Israel (who lost his license in the US for fraud), who claims output power 25 times the input, which is only a little better than P&F claim of 10 times, but well short of all the claims of power out without power in. Not only is it not news, but it should be embarrassing to the scientists on the panel who have been pursuing the CF grail for 20 years, having to report results from a fraudulent medical doctor who just recently (on a CF time scale) got involved.

We got Hagelstein repeating the generic wisdom that theory is needed to guide experiment, but without giving any indication of progress toward such a theory, making it appear more like the blind leading the blind.

We got Miley, who mispronounces the name of his own field (nucular physics a la George Bush), who seems to find it difficult to cobble together a coherent sentence, telling us that the field is very complex; the usual excuse for the lack of progress. He talked about the importance of voids (hardly new), and about making batteries, but then admitted that he had absolutely no idea how he was going to do it, apart from possibly having to produce heat first. Quick. Alert Duracell.

We got Miles, who informed us that he is not Miley, reporting codeposition experiments with 6 of 6 successes, which sounds familiar. No tests of interlab reproducibility yet, which, for McKubre, always requires interchanging people. In the Q&A, Miles repeated the very tired hypothetical that if we can get all the Ds to fuse, that would be one shitload of energy. Oh, and he also told us that you can make a calorimeter from copper tubes and insulation.

Welcome to two centuries ago.

Monday, April 5, 2010 at 6:39 PM

DA20 said...


Are next questions

We used up are last quart of heavy water from Earl and the dang thing boiled it way agian and then got hot enuff it cracked the crock pot. Going to take us awhile to wire up a new 1.

For the electrolyte smart alec were not dum and we can read the instructions on the internet. Most of the instructions said to use LiOD. We just asked are buddy at the mine and he said it was like lye and makes the heavy water carry electrisity. The instructions said aluminimin helps two. Well a can of Draino was right there on the shelf. We put about a teaspoon per quart in the heavy water and stired er up a bit befor we started puttin the juice to er and wala.

Luke and me wont to know if you think Draino is as good as the LiOD stuff.

When Daryl was here last week and I showed him we didn;t have no koolem barrier in the crock pot. Then he says it was in the heavy water. Well I held are last quart up to the light and there wernt no koolem barrier in it I could see. Just in case I poored the last quart through a strainer. Didnt see nothin in the strainer.

Luke and me wont to know if we should strain the heavy water everytime. I think Daryls fibbin us but are last quart from Earl went mitety quick. Daryl didn;t think we could make one of them nuclar reactors or a gravity machines either and we showd him.

my brother Luke says if them bicycle repair men could make airplanes fly we got a chance and thanks you in advanc

Friday, April 2, 2010 at 11:32 PM

DA20 said...


Ben a few days and ain;t got any help on the heavy water. Milford and Heysus the lineman in this parts says the electic company has gots to lets us connect for renewabl electrisity but they didn't know bout no paladium fusion gadget.

But we got more questions cause some smart alecs sayin it won;t work. first I tell you about the smart alecs and ther writtins and then I will make another writtin with are questions.

Some smart alec on another these blog writtins wrote are crock pot couldnt of worked cause I didn;t write anything about the electrolyte. Well I did;t bother you with that cause it was no sweat. Are electrolyte worked real good.

The other smart alec was my own other brother Daryl whose always telling us what to do and was saying it woodnt work cause of a koolem barrier. Said it would keep it from getin hot

Let me clue you about are brother Daryl. He was scool smart so pop sent him off to some fancy glove scool back east. He said they do sciance there two but im not so sure. Anyways he spent a lot of years there and finally says hes finished and he is a fizzacyst. Hes always going around telling everybody how him and is buddies knowed everything about everything and thered going to even have a therery of everything. Yeah sure. That glove scool has a lot of them Irish guys livin near by and he brings this Shawnesy guy around some who always telling us are stuff wont work cause we has got mistakes. Well are stuff works. I think he gets into the Guinnes a little two much. Him and Daryl ar always telling stories bout them little bitty people he calls strange and then even says they got charms. Bet there lucky two. Anyways he is into the leprecon thing as they once was talking about I guess aprentis leprecons. Called them leptons. This week they said they going to figur out gravity. Said they got to find the Higs bosun. So whats some guy from a ship spose to know about it. Daryls a pain but hes family so we got to fergive him.

my brother Luke says if them bicycle repair men could make airplanes fly we got a chance and thanks you in advanc

Friday, April 2, 2010 at 11:27 PM

DA20 said...


Are questions.

Somebody said you can make the heavy water by freezin it out of it a bunch of times. They said it is less a thmble a gallon so you got to freezed some out of regular water and then put it in another can and thaw and freezed it some more out and do it a bunch. We had a lot of the big beer cans around here the ones that held a quart so we filled a bunch of them and set it em out at night. Catch is you got to get em before they completely freeze. Staying up all night was no deal even if we were addin more beer cans to the pile. Anyways we don;t think we got any. Earl got us some more of them big quarts of the stuff again so we could try it again but we need some help getin this stuff. It costs too much from Earl.

We figure we got to get some money back from this deal and I saw you said you can sell the elecrisity back to the power company. Weed like to do that if we can. So how do you do that. Right now we don;t buy much from em cause we got a extra wire up the poll they don;t know about. We power the shop from the fuel sell thing we made a few years ago. Works good but we use too much grain makin the fuel.

my brother Luke always says if them bicycle repair men coud make airplanes fly we certainly got a chance and thanks you in advanc

Monday, March 29, 2010 at 5:46 PM

DA20 said...

You guys seem pretty smart so maybe you can help us a little.
We got some problems.

Reading about this stuff some years ago we decided to make one of those gadgets wit the paladium. We went to the salvage yard and gota whole bunch of those cattle lidic converter things and took out all them beads. Ed owns the yard and says there is paladium in the beads and gets a fair mount of money for em but he owed us a favor for getin rid of some stuff for him. Its kind of a ripoff as them beads are mostly stuff thats not the paladium. One of guys up at the mine said he knew what to do and he has a back shed with weird stuff. Anyways he used some acid that sounded like what those latinos call water. Afew months later he gaves a small chunck of stuff back he said was it. Wernt much of it.

We were going to put in a big thermusbottle because all them drawins seem to put it thermus bottles. We coudn;t see why so we put it in crock pot. Gomez at that tourist trap trading post has a lot of Indian jewwerly and had lots of silver wire. I knowed from my scool days that silver really can carry the electrisity a bunch so we silver soldered some of that to the chunck of stuff. Then we got a bunch heater type wire and made a mat of it that we held in the top of the crock pot. Earl got us some of that heavy water really didn;t feal all that heavy. Earl said you can order it. But thats one of are problems.

Then went to the big scrap yard and got whole bunch of those thrermo thingees from gas water heaters. They got em for keepin the pilot lights workin. The guy at the mine says they make electrisity with heat. We tried one out with boiling water and it don;t make much. So we got whole bunch of em and epoxyd them to the crock pot. Twisted them all together and connected em to car battary. Joe figured out how many of em we had to hook together to get enough for the battery. We had enuff for a few bunches twisted together.
Then we poored the heavy water in the pot and hooked up the silver wire and the heating wire to another battery. All these guys messin with this wrote you got to put the juice to it for long time. We let er sit ther for a few days. Had to put the battery charger on the battery a bunch.. Need to let you know Joe stuck some nails in the battery where the lead is under the plastic and wrapped the silver and heater wire around different nails. The crock pot didn’t do much but after awhile it bubled some. Joe said not to lit a match near it cause he said it would pop. Anyways along about the 5th day or so it started a boilin. We really were getin juice from that thing so we let er rip.

1 problem we have is it was boilin this heavy water away and Earl charged us 25 bucks a quart for it. We started wit 3 quarts actually Earl said they were more than a quart as they were them soda pop litters. I mean like the too litter can get mountain dew in, I kownd we use more of the espensive water than it was worth the lite bulbs we were litetin.

my brother Luke always says if them bicycle repair men coud make airplanes fly we certainly got a chance and thanks you in advanc

Monday, March 29, 2010 at 5:45 PM

Kirk Shanahan said...

Now that you all have had your fun dealing with Jed (whom I have dealt with for years), I’d like to respond to a couple of particular comments. Way back up there, at “1:26AM”, Anonymous wrote (in point 4): “but the suggestion that they are caused by fusion is a theoretical explanation reached by the process of elimination.”
That was correct, except today there is a conventional explanation on the table, mine (Thermochimica Acta 397 (2002) 95), that has not been eliminated. It has the potential to explain much (if not all) of the apparent excess heat data from Fleischmann-Pons type cells, and possibly others, and is currently ignored by the cold fusioneers (CFers), probably because they believe E. Storms in his 2007 book where he says he proved my explanation “to apply to neither flow nor Seebeck calorimetry” and “the calibration errors proposed by Shanahan are absent”, which is untrue. This ignoring of the unloved conventional explanation is one of the biggest indicators that CFers are pathological scientists. That problem also exists for the claims of He formation, heavy metal transmutation, and neutron detection by CR39 SSNDs.

Anonymous also wrote: “5) The results are all over the map, and some are contradictory. There is no consistent relationship between the amount of Pd or water to the heat; some groups use light water as a control with no effect, others claim excess heat with light water.”

In my 2002 publication I present a speculative mechanism that has the potential to explain all of the above difficulties. They are all tied to what forms and sustains the surface state that promotes the conventional hydrogen+oxygen chemistry I use as the basis of my explanation. What does have to be done however is some conventional research into this surface phenomenon, which is incredibly difficult to do as it seems to be very fragile. In my 2006 response to Storms (Thermo. Acta 441 (2006) 214) I point this out in the only Figure in the paper. It is not clear if useful information can be obtained after the experiment is stopped, and thus one would have to study the electrode interface while in situ, a very difficult task.

For completeness, my suggestions were also denigrated by Szpak, Mossier-Boss, Miles, and Fleischmann in 2004, and I replied to them in 2005 (Thermo. Acta 28 (2005) 207), demonstrating how my proposal could explain their results. Also, I tried to get my 2002 paper into the hands of the 2004 DOE reviewers, but it never made it, per conversations with two people on the panel that I know. Therefore, the reviewers had a biased set of data to look at. I believe they would/could have been much harsher in their conclusions if they had realized a conventional explanation was available and being ignored.

Finally, Buzz and Anonymous are right in blasting Jed on his flippant quotes of ‘the great successes’ of the cold fusion field. Jed is big on sensationalism and very small on documentation. Another generic problem of the cold fusion field is the lack of critical review at the individual research group level. The CFers accept nearly any claim that supports their preconceptions, and Jed and the CFers lump them all together to ‘prove’ CF is real, all of which is poor scientific practice.

Monday, March 29, 2010 at 11:07 AM

Buzz Skyline said...

Anonymous, you're the Lone Ranger of physics rationality. Thanks for all your posts, mysterious stranger.



Monday, March 29, 2010 at 8:35 AM

Anonymous said...

Rothwell: "Some cells have produced 10,000 times more energy than any chemical cell of the same mass could produce (300 MJ from a few grams of material), "

Presumably this is Roulette et al in the non-refereed, ICCF1996 proceedings, so once again, you undermine the importance you give to peer-review, and the claim of great progress in the field.

Anyway, absolute energies are rather arbitrary, because it is just a matter of time. If an experimental error gives a somewhat elevated power, all you need is some patience to produce any energy value you like, and if there's one thing fusioneers have in abundance, it's patience.

Rothwell: "and tritium has been detected at levels ranging from 50 times background (Los Alamos) to millions of times background (10E18 atoms at BARC)."

The BARC results are from a frantically performed experiment (by their own admission) within weeks of the 1989 press conference, and published in an internal report in 1989. I didn't see a peer-reviewed article in your library that contains these results. So, your best tritium result is from 1989. That's progress?

Since then, none of the tritium results have come within a factor of 100 of the BARC results, which makes the levels orders of magnitude too small to account for the reported heat.

Those results may or may not be valid, and represent interesting physics if they are, but they do not provide evidence that fusion at room temperature can produce heat at a practical level. Producing fusion on the table-top is not difficult, as I'm sure you know. Small commercially available devices do it everyday, but back in the real world, fusion produces neutrons, and they are sold as neutron generators; the process is too inefficient to produce net energy out.

Rothwell: "Helium is produced at the same ratio to the heat as it is with plasma fusion."

It is an amazing coincidence that of all the reported products of nuclear reactions (T, n, alphas, transmutations), none are observed at levels consistent with the reported heat, except the only one that happens to exist in the background at about the same level. That it correlates weakly to heat is not surprising, since degassing and permeation are strongly correlated to temperature. It is particularly easy to ignore these results because Steven B Krivit has done a detailed evisceration, demonstrating that they are fishy at best.

Rothwell: "So I would say that is definitely a nuclear reaction and probably fusion. I think that conclusion is inescapable. You and some of the panel members come to some other conclusion, but I cannot understand why."

Presumably, the panel members did not find the results you quoted above, and others credible. And they probably cannot understand why you do.

For moi, it is because there is so little progress in the age of Moore's law; because it doesn't seem to scale in any predictable way; because the energy always seems to fall short of a clear uncontestable demonstration like an isolated, self-sustaining, touchably-obvious, heat-generating box. Oh, and because those hot fusion guys are paying me a bunch of money not to believe it.

Sunday, March 28, 2010 at 11:55 PM

Anonymous said...

Rothwell: "Well, there were no specifics in the CBS program. Not numbers at all regarding power or the input to output ratio."

I'm no producer, but it seems reasonable that CBS would have tried to find the best demonstration they could for their dog and pony show. And, by your account, for a safe demonstration, that means 20 W power out with zero power in, for a couple of hours. If that account is right, they could have done better than showing indecipherable complexity and asking the audience to take some paid-for expert's word for it.

Rothwell: "Duncan is an expert in calorimetry well used to looking at tubes and meters. You couldn't fool him."

Anyone can be fooled. Ask David Copperfield. And it is all the more likely by someone who has already been judged guilty of fooling people, especially on his own home turf, playing by his house rules.

Sunday, March 28, 2010 at 11:50 PM

Anonymous said...

Sorry to stay on this, but there are a few last points I wanted to tie up.

Rothwell: "However they have greatly reduced the mass of the cathodes, from ~20 g go ~0.1 g and somewhat reduced output, from a maximum of ~100 W down to ~20 W because 100 W is dangerous."

I don't see how 100W can be dangerous. It should be easy to contain 10 or 100 times that. Millions have been spent on the research, and they're afraid of 100 W?

No matter, 20W is still observable without calorimetry.

Rothwell: "As you see from the graphs the power is not stable, so it cannot be used for any practical purpose. "

There are ways to smooth out the power, but ok, screw the practical applications. If they can make 20W without any input, then disconnect, remove, and cool the cell until all its components are below ambient temperature, then set it on a table, and watch the temperature climb above ambient. For a liter of water and some small electrodes, an hour or so at 20W should be enough to raise the temperature from noticeably below ambient to noticeably above, even without a thermometer.

Rothwell: "That's quite impossible. These things take weeks or months to set up, and they are rather delicate, like experimental transistors in 1952 which "stopped working when someone slammed the door."

Making transistors in 1952 had a low success rate. Are you saying CF has a low success rate, at the same time you're arguing it has high reproducibility. I'm confused. What is delicate? Do the aligator clips fall off the electrodes when you look at them the wrong way?

Table-top electrolysis that takes months to set up does not sound like progress to me. What is it that takes so long? I thought the essential parameters were all under control since the mid-90s.

Rothwell: "That's why Duncan had to go to Israel."

And that's why the show was less than convincing.

Rothwell: "For now, you will have to be satisfied with conventional scientific data published in mainstream journals. I assume you are satisfied with such data in other areas of science, so I am puzzled as to why you reject it in this particular area."

For my part, I made a partial list of reasons in another post. But it boils down to: the publications are low quality. That's what the DOE panel said, and even the latest summary of ICCF 2009 said that most publications give incomplete information.

Sunday, March 28, 2010 at 11:33 PM

Jed Rothwell said...

I shall let you people have the last word on this subject. Let me add only that I urge people on both sides of the dispute to read full, original source materials, rather than secondary sources. Many of the journal papers are not available on because of copyright restrictions, but they are listed in our bibliography and in the Britz bibliography, and you will find them in a university library.

Saturday, March 27, 2010 at 11:56 AM

Anonymous said...

Rothwell: "The DoE assembled a panel of 18 people for one day, threw a bunch of papers at them, and asked them to arrive at a conclusion."

One day should be more than enough time to convince experts of 100 W out with zero power in, and that it is nuclear.

Rothwell: "8 out of 10 recommended funding. "

The panel was split on whether the evidence for excess heat was compelling; 1 of 18 found the evidence for nuclear reactions convincing. The panel was generally agreed that the work was sloppy (although they were less blunt). The panel was nearly unanimous in recommending that funding agencies should entertain well-designed proposals on specific issues relevant to the field. And they endorsed apple pie.

Rothwell: "The Defense Intelligence Agency asked ~100 scientists to look at this for several months, carefully, and almost every one of them agreed to the recommendations in the D.I.A. report,"

If the 100 scientists were researchers in the field like the named contributors were, that doesn't mean anything. There is no mention of these scientists in the report. Do you have some documentation, or a list of names?

In any case, report only says that evidence indicates that nuclear reactions may be occurring, and the closest thing to a recommendation that I found in the report is "DIA assesses with high confidence that if LENR can produce nuclear-origin energy at room temperature, this disruptive technology could revolutionize energy production and storage, since nuclear reactions release millions of times more energy per unit mass than do any known chemical fuel." Who could possibly disagree with that hypothetical? In other news, if someone can produce and contain antimatter, LENR won't be needed.

Rothwell: ""For must of us, that's good enough."
Someone's opinion is good enough? I suggest you look at scientific papers and data instead."

Not just someone's opinion, the opinion of a panel of experts, which happens to line up pretty well with the current scientific consensus. In fact, I do make a habit of accepting opinions of experts on many subjects. If a cardiologist recommends a bypass, I may want a second opinion, but I won't be asking an electrochemist.

Rothwell: "I have seen many convincing demonstrations. I do not have a PhD but I have no difficulty interpreting the calorimetry. It does not seem vague to me."

The problem is that calorimetry is needed. And that is what makes me skeptical of CF's ability to produce 100W out with zero in.

Rothwell: "If you find calorimetry vague or baffling, then I suggest you do not know enough about that subject to judge these results, so perhaps you should refrain from criticizing or reaching a conclusion."

You're missing the point. The claim of 100W out with zero in is sufficiently pronounced that expertise shouldn't be necessary. I don't have to understand solid-state electronics to judge amplification, or superconductivity to accept levitation due to the Meissner effect, or aerodynamics to identify heavier than air flight.

Rothwell: "Generally speaking, before you decide a scientific result is true or false, you should be familiar with the subject area. "

The subject area, superficially at least, is heat, and I am familiar with heat. Everyone is aware that burning wood or gasoline produces it, that electric current produces it, that nuclear fission produces it, whether or not they understand the chemistry of combustion, resistive heating, or reactor physics.

Rothwell: "Some of the 10 DoE panel members who rejected the findings do not know enough about calorimetry to judge this issue, in my opinion."

Now, here is where "someone's opinion" is not enough.

Saturday, March 27, 2010 at 4:44 AM

Anonymous said...

Rothwell: "Academic freedom doesn't count? Distinguished scientists are not allowed to make mistakes, or to present any subject you disagree with? "

What are you reading? He said nothing against academic freedom or making mistakes, and he explicitly said anyone is welcome to present at ACS and APS. The objection was to a society-organized press conference, of which only a few are provided, for a field that is, in the consensus view, voodoo science. If ACS doesn't hold a press conference on perpetual motion, are they violating academic freedom?

Rothwell: "You sound like Rabi, Kusch, Thomas, Bohr and von Neumann when they ganged up to stop Townes from developing the laser. He quoted them in his autobiography: "Look, you should stop the work you are doing. It isn't going to work. You know it's not going to work. We know it's not going to work. You're wasting money. Just stop!""

Similar objections have also been applied to perpetual motion, homeopathic medicine, mind-reading, and the like, and in those cases, they are most likely valid. In Towne's case, Rabi & Kusch, to whom that quote is attributed, did not claim the ideas violated principles of physics (according to Townes). The others did briefly, but were soon persuaded. In any case in a few years, with only a few people, Townes silenced his critics.

Unlike the laser, but like perpetual motion, CF is seen to violate established physical principles, and like perpetual motion, after 100s or 1000s of times more man-hours of effort, it has zilch to show for it. So, CF is much more like perpetual motion than it is like the laser.

Saturday, March 27, 2010 at 4:36 AM

Anonymous said...

The question of extraordinary evidence is kind of moot anyway, because CF doesn't meet the standard of ordinary evidence. Yes, there are a several hundred papers on it, but

1) Most of the papers appeared shortly after the dramatic 1989 claim, and have been trickling in at just a few per year for a long time.

2) Many of the refereed papers are negative results. The positive outnumber the negative, to be sure, but once the reasonable scientists were satisfied that there is nothing to see here, they moved on. Something about beating a dead horse.

3) If valid, CF would represent a revolution in nuclear physics, so "mainstream publications" would ordinarily mean mainstream nuclear physics publications, but none of the claims of fusion have appeared in mainstream nuclear physics journals.

4) The experimental results consist mostly of anomalous temperature readings, but the suggestion that they are caused by fusion is a theoretical explanation reached by the process of elimination. Accepting that explanation means rejecting a much larger body of literature which predicts nuclear reactions cannot explain the reported observations of heat. It may be difficult to find experimental errors or chemical reactions to explain the observations, but the ratio of prediction-to-observation is far smaller for fusion than for either chemistry or experimental error.

5) The results are all over the map, and some are contradictory. There is no consistent relationship between the amount of Pd or water to the heat; some groups use light water as a control with no effect, others claim excess heat with light water.

6) The CFists can write an equation like D + D -> 4He + heat without blushing. What is the initial form of the heat? How is momentum conserved? How does it couple to the lattice. The mind boggles.

And so on.

Saturday, March 27, 2010 at 1:26 AM

Anonymous said...

Rothwell: ""Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. ..."
This "extraordinary claims" assertion is not a principle of science. It was coined by Carl Sagan for the 1980 "Cosmos" television series. [...] I think you should stick to textbook science instead of made-for-TV pop-science."

The quote is a pithy expression of common sense,
 popularized by someone very good at science communication, but the idea has a much longer academic history than that.

Two centuries ago, Laplace said "The weight of evidence for an extraordinary claim must be proportioned to its strangeness", and in 1976, Marcello Truzzi, a sociologist whose expertise was investigating extraordinary scientific claims, wrote, " And when such claims are extraordinary, that is, revolutionary in their implications for established scientific generalizations already accumulated and verified, we must demand extraordinary proof." He is usually credited with originating the more abbreviated form popularized by Sagan.

So, the idea is well established in ordinary textbook academia, not just TV pop-science. Moreover, Sagan had bona fide scientific credentials of his own; moreso in any case than science fiction writers like Arthur C Clarke and Jules Verne, who CF advocates love to quote.

Friday, March 26, 2010 at 6:43 PM

Anonymous said...

Rothwell: "I did nothing of the sort! You asked where Toyota published their heat-after-death results, and I told you."

You can't just rewrite history that's only days old, when a complete transcript is right here.

You repeatedly try to give the field credibility with your collection of peer-reviewed papers, and you did it in your first post in this discussion. In fact, it's the feature you say separates you from the creationists. So, presumably you're not disagreeing with that part of my claim.

In response to the suggestion that nothing has changed in 21 years, in your second post in this discussion you wrote:

"Heat has increased from a fraction of a watt and ~15% of input to between 20 W and 100 W with no input power."

When asked about the source of the 20W and 100W numbers you did not cite peer-reviewed papers, but referred to a presentation by Duncan (of work done by a proven fraud) and a conference proceeding from 18 years ago.

So you did something exactly of the sort! In fact, one is lead to conclude that results in the peer-reviewed literature are not up to the task of countering the suggestion that there is simply no progress in the field. There are more experiments, there are a few different types of experiments, but the evidence for fusion is no better, and the size of the effect is ever smaller.

Friday, March 26, 2010 at 6:21 PM

Buzz Skyline said...

On the bright side, one of the benefits of the ACS press conference is that cold fusion, zero point energy, anti-gravity, and 911 conspiracy theorists can now rest easy knowing that they will have a science meeting where they'll feel at home.

That should free up some space at our annual meetings, and save me the trouble of declining to host press conferences for them at APS meetings.

Friday, March 26, 2010 at 4:01 PM

Buzz Skyline said...

I assume you meant to write ACS, rather than APS. The APS will put on a cold fusion press conference if and when someone makes a breakthrough that passes muster in our peer review process. In fact, I personally GUARANTEE we'll host a press conference if cold fusion makes it back into our journals.

Why would I criticize the other press conferences at the ACS meeting? I only noticed one pathological science press conference this year. If you know of another, point it out.

In fact, I wrote a blog post highlighting 10 ACS press conferences on topics that, unlike cold fusion, don't appear to be at odds with any laws of physics.

Friday, March 26, 2010 at 3:43 PM

Jed Rothwell said...

Oops. You said "sham" not scam. Sorry! But now you say "scam."

There were several other press conferences at the APS about various subjects. Are you going to attack them, as well?

You wrote:

"Yep, it's a scam. It's a waste of money. It's a waste of time. That's bad enough, but what's truly horrible is that an esteemed organization . . ."

Academic freedom doesn't count? Distinguished scientists are not allowed to make mistakes, or to present any subject you disagree with? You sound like Rabi, Kusch, Thomas, Bohr and von Neumann when they ganged up to stop Townes from developing the laser. He quoted them in his autobiography: "Look, you should stop the work you are doing. It isn't going to work. You know it's not going to work. We know it's not going to work. You're wasting money. Just stop!"

Friday, March 26, 2010 at 3:32 PM