27) Who Benefits from the Conspiracy?

Ludwik Kowalski (December 30, 2002)
Department of Mathematical Sciences
Montclair State University, Upper Montclair, NJ, 07055

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About a week ago a teacher from an Internet discussion list wrote that a conspiracy against "cold fusion," if its claims are correct, can not possibly be effective, in a long run. This made me think about the institutional conspiracy against the religious reputation of Galileo. Two days ago I got a private message on the topic of institutional conspiracy from Dr. Edmund Storms. He is the one whose letter to the editors of Scientific American was posted as item #9 on my web site:

http://csam.montclair.edu/~kowalski/cf/

The reply was a reaction to what I wrote in items # 26 and #21. Thinking that those who read my “cold fusion” items might be interested in the episode described by Storms I asked for (and received) permission to share it. What follows is his story, and additional comments. In reading the story keep in mind that DOE stands for the (US Department of Energy), ERAB stands for the highly negative 1989 report of the Energy Research Advisory Board and BYU stands for Brigham Young University where S. Jones was conducting research. Storms wrote:

You might like to know that in 1995, Steve Jones and
I submitted a proposal to the DOE to test the claims of
Pons and Fleischmann. I, as a believer, would show
Jones and Hansen at BYU, as skeptics, how to make
the effect work and they would measure the resulting
energy.

We did this believing the DOE would abide by the
statement in the ERAB report that "The Panel is,
therefore, sympathetic toward modest support for
carefully focused and cooperative experiments
within the present funding system". This proposal
was turned down. As far as I know, every proposal
having anything to do with cold fusion was also
turned down. For all practical purposes, the ERAB
report killed the field in the US no matter what they
said to the contrary.

The message with the permission to post had a comment which, I suppose, can be added as an elaboration on the above. I wrote:

4) . . . The fact that DOE took a very hard stand in 1995
does not mean one should give up. Let us hope that 2003
will the year of the beginning of a reconciliation. . . .

Dr. Storms responded:
Like you, I hope for sooner rather than later. However,
government bureaucrats and academics have invested
so much in rejecting this idea that it is not possible for
them to change. I expect the US will change only after
Japan solves the problem and threatens to create a
commercial product based on the process. Meanwhile
the old will die off and administrations will change,
allowing new people to take control of science. It is a
very slow process to make such profound changes.
Being retired, I look upon this as an interesting process
with very little likelihood of an end any time soon.

Hmm, more than 1000 scientific papers supporting the reality of highly unusual phenomena are available but the leaders of our scientific establishments refuse to have another look. Something is not right. What should a confused science teacher do? Avoid the topic because authorities declared it to be non scientific 13 years ago? Risk his or her reputation and try to discuss the issue objectively? Play it safe and support official pronouncements? Those invited to look into Galileo's telescope were in a similar situation.

The more I think about it the more I am convinced that something similar to what was suggested in item #21 (on my web site above) is urgently needed. Read again what Dr. Storms wrote in the letter to the editors of Scientific American (item #9 on my web site) and think about it critically. Is he right or is he wrong that the issue is important in the context of support for science in our society?

By the way, a TV program last night was devoted to illnesses. They produced an example of institutional conspiracy against a researcher. The man had data proving that children's exposure to lead (mainly from gasoline emission) affected mental functioning. But the powerful lead industry launched an attack against him, and tried to discredit him. It took three years to show that his claims were not pseudo-science. Lead was removed from gasoline and its concentration in air has been reduced significantly. The motive of conspiracy, in this case, was obvious. But what motivates the DOE? Why was "every proposal having anything to do with cold fusion ... turned down" by our own government? Why do they ignore hundreds of serious papers authored, mostly (I assume) by highly trained Ph.D.. scientists? Is the scientific establishment trying to protect us from some dangers? Why do they oppose a fair examination of the AE claims, in view of new evidence? Despite its criticism, which has been mostly justified, the ERAB report was “sympathetic toward modest support for carefully focused and cooperative experiments within the present funding system." Is it true that such support has not been available to reputable US scientists? Why not?

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