Followup on “Cold fusion and graduate school”

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I am always amazed when I get contacted by people I’ve never met through this blog. Social media is an amazing thing that can open up the world. Many of the comments and feedback I get are along the lines of “nice leatherwork” or “that was a funny story” or “that reminded me of a similar thing that happened to me”. I also have had some students at my university tell me that they’ve followed my blog and made major life decisions as a result of reading about my twisted path (talk about scary…!). 

Yesterday I made a post about cold fusion and the fact that I was an undergrad in chemistry at the University of Utah when it was announced to the world. It really was quite exciting to be there, and I have now discovered that the excitement continues! I got a very long and obviously heart-felt comment about my post that makes clear that to some people cold fusion is alive and well. Rather than try to summarize the arguments, I simply refer interested readers to the posted comment at the end of the post and the references therein. 

I’m not an expert on cold fusion or electrochemistry, so I’m not going to attempt to reconcile the 25 year old debate in this blog. I do want to point out to my many non-science friends and readers that, unlike religion, “truth” in science is ultimately decided by reproducible experimental data and our attempts to put the data into a conceptual framework that over time becomes accepted theory, which often changes over time as more data are collected and new ideas emerge. It is like making sausage, and the result is just as tasty even if the process is sometimes messy. It might seem impossible to make progress in science, but the computer, tablet, or phone that you are using now show that the basics of quantum theory are correct, even though some details are still in conflict with relativity theory.  

I still think that cold fusion is wrong, partly based on the fact that many scientists who are smarter than I am don’t buy it and haven’t replicated it and also that we are not driving around in clean cold fusion powered cars that are filled with heavy water. However, I’ll be the first to eat my words and would be very happy if I were wrong. Unlike some others I knew, I didn’t invest in palladium, the material used in cold fusion, when it was announced. Perhaps one day I’ll be disappointed by that decision. I also don’t buy lottery tickets or respond to the wealthy Nigerian businessmen who regularly contact me by email with promised riches…

3 responses

  1. Good position.
    News are coming form the industry (all references whas in my answer).
    experience are now much more repeatable, but it is not easy, as semiconductors was not easy.

    http://blog.disorderedmatter.eu/2009/03/16/wolfgang-pauli-speaking/
    “One shouldn’t work on semiconductors, that is a filthy mess; who knows if they really exist!”

    hightemperature superconductors were hidden as footnotes in papers for long
    http://www.mosaicsciencemagazine.org/pdf/m18_03_87_04.pdf

    the list of sinsulted discoverers is very long
    http://amasci.com/weird/vindac.html
    and the process of groupthink is well described by thomas Kuhn, by Roland Benabou, nassim Nicholas taleb…

    In an article explaining the myth around Titanic wreckage, Jed Rothwell spot the massive incompetence of critics like Park, taubes, Huizenga, and more than that the incompetence.

    The problem is not their incompetence that any scientist could have detected by reading their writings and the critics, it was the fact that prominent scientists, including Nobel, simply supported bad book, with huge errors (even electricity errors, pure invention, no/bad reading of papers, absurde anti-scientific logic), because they loved the conclusions, without reading it.

    “Taubes’ book was recommended in enthusiastic blurbs by four Nobel laureates and the chairman of the American Association of the Advancement of Science. These people could not have actually read the book, or if they did, their judgment was skewed by animosity. This shows how easy it is to spread false information, and how careless distinguished scientists can be. It takes only a small group of people to poison the well of public opinion. There may be a few other active critics in the mass media, but most attacks originate from these four: Morrison, Park, Huizenga, and Taubes. They are not famous or influential. They succeed because many scientists bear a grudge against cold fusion, and are willing to believe the worst about it. When Robert Park attacked it with inflammatory ad hominem rhetoric, a room packed with hundreds of members of the American Physical Society (APS) applauded and cheered.

    If the LENR story is not your business, maybe you will be interested in the story of Titanic myths.

    it is not your battle, but every day you see influential people repeat basic errors, sending bad information to the media who make it a reality…

    Even the story of Galileo, Giordano Bruno is a myth build for political reason in the 19th century (both stories were political/religious, far from science controversies)…

    we should be careful.
    ” It takes only a small group of people to poison the well of public opinion”

    the good news is that it is getting industrial, and all of us will benefit from it soon…
    http://www.lenrftw.net/home/are-low-energy-nuclear-reaction-devices-real
    Andrea Rossi is bought by Cherokee funs, supported by Elforsk consortium, by Vattenfall, and Cherokee have agreement with chinese official of baoding HIDZ in China, on that new “nickel hydrogen clean energy”.
    NASA work on it discretely (SUGAR project Nasa/Boeing, NASA/NARI seedling by Doug Wells).
    national instrument boss sponsor LENr conference and it’s boss James Truchard makes keynotes conference about it (NIWeek2012, ICCF18).

    The farther I go, the more I see that were are not more tolerant about discovery than the Middle Age catholic church.

    best regards,
    we manage the revolution. Bad times are only temporary. Just keep your belt tighten.

  2. The following companies have announced publicly that they are developing LENR (aka Cold Fusion) reactors in the kilowatt range: Industrial Heat, LENUCO, Clean Planet (Japanese), Defkalion Green Technologies, Brillouin, and Nichenergy. There’s also JET Energy.

    In May 2013, 7 scientists from 3 European Universities published verification of Industrial Heat’s reactor which produced 2 to 5 times the amount of energy input to the device even with the most conservative assumptions (and the first try even melted in a runaway reaction!) (arxiv.org/pdf/1305.3913‎). In order to verify these extraordinary results, a follow-up 6 month test of Industrial Heat’s reactor has just been competed, with publication of the results expected around June. If the second test confirms the first, industrialization will almost certainly follow.

    Cold Fusion is an emotional topic with many folks heavily invested in defending one position or another that they took early on when things were murkier. But things have been getting a lot clearer lately and the debate about its “reality” is becoming almost comical. Hundreds of scientific papers have been published and millions of dollars and (at least) hundreds of people are in motion, from a variety of organizations around the world.

    All this will not stop people from assaulting your blog with nonsense attempting to discredit every entity I’ve mentioned above or blathering on about steam quality.

    That LENR is not huge news is mystifying. Everyone seems to be keeping their powder dry until things are proven beyond a shadow of a doubt, either with a working commercial product or buy-in from the scientific establishment. It feels like both of those are mere months away, but time will tell.

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