On Mon, Feb 21, 2011 at 10:34 PM, Abd ul-Rahman Lomax
>> Excess heat is an experimental result.

Excess heat is an interpretation of experimental results.

> If it is the result of an artifact, it should be possible to identify the
> artifact.

Maybe, but it takes time and effort. Time and effort that skeptics are not
inclined to commit because they do not find the results compelling enough.

If the result is not an artifact, the thinking goes, a better experiment
should be possible.

> This is the point, Joshua: There are hundreds of researchers who have
> reported significant anomalous heat from palladium deuteride.

The large number is actually disturbing. So many experiments, and they never
get better. They can't come up with one that captures the attention of
mainstream. They can't make an isolated device that generates heat. In fact,
consistent with other pathological science, the size of the effect (with the
exception of the dubious Rossi device) has become smaller over the years.
Science doesn't work that way. Pathological science does.

 It's like hundreds of thousands of alien and ufo sightings, but none quite
good enough to be convincing. The better the photography, the less
convincing the image.

> My question to you is, it seems that you believe there is no excess heat.
> From what does this belief stem?

You haven't been listening. From the absence of any progress. From the
inability to generate heat indefinitely from and isolated device.

> Most likely, if you are reasonable, you think that there is something that
> appears to be excess heat, fooling the researchers. But, "something" is not
> a scientific explanation. If there is something fooling this many
> researchers, it should be possible to figure out what it is. Lots of people
> have tried, you know. However, did they try hard enough?

Most people gave up trying a long time ago. Most no longer care what the
something is or what the many things are. They are satisfied that if there
is excess heat, someone will find a way to demonstrate it conclusively, with
an isolated device that generates heat indefinitely.

> Cold fusion is often classed with N-rays and polywater, but in each of
> those examples, the artifact was rather quickly found, once there were
> enough people looking and running controlled experiments.

Actually an artifact was not found for N-rays. Wood failed to reproduce the
results, and debunked them by sabotaging Blondlot's experiment, effectively
forcing a blinded experiment, and proving cognitive bias. In spite of the
debunking, Blondlot continued to be convinced of N-rays for another 20

In any case, there are also examples of marginal disciplines that will
likely never be accepted by science, and never be disproven to the
satisfaction of its adherents. Homeopathy and perpetual motion are two
examples. Not all fields are the same.

When scientists do not believe an effect is present, they have no motivation
to waste their time trying to find other people's mistakes. At least in the
case of N-rays, the time required was minimal. Wood complained he had wasted
a whole morning on the experiment, before he was enlisted to go to France
for his famous sabotage. You can't do CF in a morning, and sabotage is not
as simple in CF. A credible double-blind test in CF would be telling, but it
would require the cooperation of believers and skeptics, something not
likely to happen.

> Was the artifact ever identified with cold fusion, Joshua? You seem to
> believe that there must be one. But what does the preponderance of the
> evidence show at this time? How would you judge?

Like N-rays, it may just be cognitive bias. The preponderance of evidence,
the absence of progress, the diminishing size of the effect, suggest the
absence of excess heat.

> And how can you explain the helium correlation, that magically happens to
> appear at the right value for fusion? (Huizenga was amazed that it was
> within an order of magnitude of that value, Miles' helium measurements were
> relatively crude compared to what was done later.)
I don't believe there is excess heat, and I don't believe there is a
correlation with helium. Miles measurements were relatively crude, but
judging by peer-review, they were the best so far. The only more recent
peer-reviewed results admit helium is not definitive.

>  And those who found it at least somewhat compelling, not a single one was
>> compelled enough to recommend special funding for the field. That would be
>> criminal if they thought there was even a slight chance of solving the
>> world's energy problems. So there is no way you can say the evidence is
>> overwhelming, based on the DOE panel.
> No. See, this is a conclusion from your opinion about practical
> application. My own opinion is that the field is not ready for a massive
> special program. The problem is that we don't know what's happening! We
> could easily throw endless amounts of money at this, and end up with
> nothing. Even if it's real. First of all, given that half the panel found
> the "evidence lacking," to use your language, just as a political matter, a
> massive program would be inadvisable. But the problem is that engineering an
> effect when you don't know what it is, is very difficult! The researchers in
> the field agree on this, that what is needed is theoretical investigation,
> to find which of the many theories is correct, or, if none of them are, to
> identify the mechanism. We are not ready for a "Manhattan project" for cold
> fusion.

This all sounds like rationalization to me. You are afraid the effect is not
real, but by admitting that it may not be practical, you can cling to the
belief in the absence of a product. But I think that's nonsense. If there
were an effect, history indicates it can be exploited. And without
understanding it. Heat is claimed. We know how to use heat, regardless of
its origin. If the claims were valid, there would be a product.

> First of all, I do not say that the evidence is overwhelming "from the DoE
> panel." Definitely not! What I say from that panel is that there is not, as
> many pretend, a solid scientific consensus that cold fusion is bogus. The
> panel came down in the middle, not on one end.

One out of 18 considered the evidence for a nuclear effect conclusive. One.
One other found the evidence very compelling, but stopped short of saying it
was conclusive, emphasized by a conditional in his summary (if correct).
Five others found the evidence somewhere between suggestive and compelling,
but were rather explicit that it was not conclusive. Eleven were clearly

No other mainstream field would get that sort of a negative response as to
its very legitimacy. In fact, I can't think of one in which the legitimacy
would not be unanimously endorsed by such a panel.

> Given the long-term political context, one day is not nearly enough to
> explore the field, to understand enough of the evidence to reverse twenty
> years of often strongly-held opinion.

Again, the complexity of the data -- that it should take more than a day for
experts to be convinced of heat -- is the problem. If the evidence is that
weak, after so much time, then it is probably bogus.

And they had more than a day. Half the panel was given a month to review the
material. It is not clear how much time after the meeting the reviewers were
given to write their reports.

> Okay, what evidence was presented? One of the things that I notice about
> the Hagelstein paper is that the helium evidence was not *effectively
> presented*.[...]

> That data was presented in such a way that makes it quite difficult to
> interpret the report. I don't know why they did this, but obviously writing
> polemic, text intended to convince, was not their strong suit. These are
> researchers, accustomed to very modest writing, academic style, and not
> trained in what might have been needed to punch through the noise. They had
> a purpose to presenting the Case results, but didn't make it clear.

This was an important opportunity for the CF crowd, and they had plenty of
time to put the best case forward. Now you're telling me that you,
essentially an observer (with aspirations), could have written a better
report for the panel. What is that supposed to say? That the entire CF
community is too incompetent to represent their field effectively to a panel
that holds the purse strings? It does not inspire confidence in their
claims, that's for sure.

> Have you read the recent Storms review? It covers the heat/helium evidence
> well. I assume you know that *there is no contrary experimental evidence."
> I've seen claims that Storms has cherry-picked only positive results. I
> don't think so. I'm not aware of any published work that measured both
> helium and heat and found no correlation.

Until the positive evidence at least passes peer review, a skeptic does not
need contrary evidence. The fact that the results are controversial within
the field indicates that not all is well with that experiment.

> I think they are all mistaken.
> How?

I've already said that I feel no need to understand where they have gone
wrong. If they are right, there should be simpler ways to prove it.

> But this is reliable: run a number of P-F experiments and measure helium
> and heat. Use the state of the art to develop some significant success rate.
> (Lots of groups are now reporting excess heat from almost all cells. It
> takes special palladium, basically. Or possibly you can use codeposition, a
> different approach.)
> Compare the heat with the helium.
> Lots of people have done this. They all report that if there is no heat,
> there is no helium, and if there is heat, there is helium (almost always,
> there are a couple of anomalous cells reported, with heat and no helium. And
> there are other possible explanations for that.... Storms reports that for
> those three cells (out of 33 total), this is Miles' work, one "probably" had
> a calorimetry error, and the other two were a different cathode material
> than all the other cells....)

A good experiment for sure. But since Miles in '93, no one has published
such results in peer-reviewed literature. It appears in conference
proceedings, or specialized CF publications, but not in mainstream journals,
except as references in reviews. The work itself, as primary research, has
not passed peer review.

> That's fine. But if you don't, you have not demonstrated artifact. You are
> simply assuming one. Why?

Because it is the nature of artifacts that the effect gets smaller as the
experiments improve, and it is the nature of a real phenomenon that its
effect gets clearer as the experiments improve.

In cold fusion, as the experiments improve, the effect gets smaller.

And as the experiment gets worse, as in the Rossi demo, the effect gets

>  It's much too late for that. My attitude is simply that if they were
>> right, it would be easy to demonstrate in an unambiguous way, and I'm happy
>> to wait for the demo.
> Yes, I can understand. However, cold fusion, itself, has been demonstrated,
> and quite well, by the correlation with helium. That doesn't make it into
> the kind of demonstration that you presumably want. But, guess what? Science
> doesn't come packaged like that.

Well, as I've argued, the helium results don't impress me (or reviewers),
and I do believe that an effect of the sort that has been claimed would
manifest in a package like that.

>  I'm interested in the science, as were Pons and Fleischmann. They were not
> searching for a new power source, they expected, in fact, to find nothing.

That sounds like revisionism to me. They spent 5 years looking for excess
heat. I seriously doubt they were only interested in the science, or that
they expected to find nothing. That scenario certainly doesn't come across
in their early papers or in their early interviews. They sounded more like
prescient sages who discovered what arrogant physicists missed.

> We already know how to set up that beaker of water, I suspect, but nobody
> is trying to do it because, sorry, it will not be impressive and it will be
> very expensive. Why bother? To prove something to you?

To prove something to Bob Park, and the DOE. To get the field funded. That's
a common complaint in the field: that it is starved of funding. Rothwell
claims 300M is needed to develop a prototype. And the ability to rub a
convincing demonstration in Robert Park's face would bring almost as much
pleasure to some advocates, it seems, as saving the world.

> There is a problem with the palladium approach, palladium is a precious
> metal. Using the Arata approach, my guess is that a hot water heater could
> be built that might run for a few months. For about $100,000 worth of
> palladium. At the end of the few months, it would be necessary to reprocess
> the palladium, because, it seems, the reaction chews up the stuff,
> demolishing the areas that are nuclear-active, so it eventually stops
> working.

Well screw the water heater. Just an isolated beaker. If that works, the DOE
will give you 100M to build a water heater, and money to anyone else who
wants to solve the problems of reprocessing the Pd.

> Now, this is really weird, I think. Hot fusion hasn't produced a watt of
> power, but billions have been spent. On the other hand, we do understand the
> theory behind hot fusion. Your practical argument is being selectively
> applied!
First, I have not expressed an opinion about hot fusion, so you are only

Second, I'm not making a practical argument. The palpably warm beaker is not
practical. I'm asking for an experiment that proves convincingly that excess
heat is produced.  I am exasperated by repeated CF experiments that go no
where. If there is excess heat, it should be possible to make an isolated
thing that generates heat. I'm asking for proof-of-principle.

In the case of hot fusion, the existence of fusion has been proved
convincingly by the neutrons. Proof of principle is there. Engineering
remains. I'm not convinced it's wise to fund the engineering, but I don't
question the science.

The first fission reactor produced less than a watt of power, but was
completely convincing because of the neutrons. Within a few years, they
needed the Columbia river to cool reactors designed to produce plutonium.

>  It's much like a magician. I may not understand how he does his tricks,
>> but I know that if he could really perform magic, he wouldn't be wasting his
>> time doing two-bit shows pulling rabbits out of hats, he'd conjure up an
>> island in the South Pacific, with a harem to wait on his every need.
> Sure. That's a magician. However, cold fusion researchers are not
> magicians, and the legitimate ones don't claim to be able to generate lots
> of power.

You missed the point. It's an analogy. Magicians claim magic, but can only
do their tricks under controlled conditions, with prescribed props. Put a
naked magician in a plain cell and give him your hat, and he will not pull a
rabbit out of it.

Cold fusion experimenters claim excess heat, but can only demonstrate it
under controlled conditions, with prescribed props. Ask for an isolated
device that generates heat in excess of the equivalent mass in chemical
fuel, and they say, e.g. we could do it, but it's too expensive...

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