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293) Jed Rothwell comments on some accusations
Ludwik Kowalski; 4/19/2006
Wikipedia is an online encyclopedia where anyone can delete, add or replace anything. The following message, from Jed Rothwell, just appeared on the restricted discussion list for CMNS researchers:
The cold fusion article at Wikipedia has grown too large, so it must be split up. Someone asked me to assist with the sub-article "cold fusion controversy." I should not waste my time on this sort of thing, but I did. The skeptics will soon trash this and erase it, but I had a lot of fun writing it. Have a look before it is gone:en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cold_fusion_controversy (The article was deleted in 2006)
I have a copy on my desk, preserved for posterity. I did not set out to make this humorous, although I can never resist. I doubt the skeptics will see it as funny. But I trust the readers here will see the humor in parts such as my deadpan rebuttal of the claim that cold fusion researchers are insane; my description of Hoffman's masterpiece; and the juicy quote from Happer and its source (Taubes).
I think that what Jed wrote is worth preserving. Knowing that others will modify his text I pasted it below. It will be interesting to compare the current version with future versions. Be aware that what appears as a link in Wikipedia is nothing but a blue word below.
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Cold Fusion Controversy
Originally published in Wikipedia, April 2006, updated 4/20/2007
Ever since the Fleischmann-Pons experiment in March of 1989, the existence of chemically catalyzed cold fusion has remained a controversial issue. This article discusses the major skeptical arguments in the controversy. Experimental evidence for cold fusion can be found in the main article, cold fusion.
==Cold fusion as a violation of theory==
Most leading skeptics dismissed cold fusion because it appeared to violate the laws that govern high energy plasma physics. In a plasma reaction, copious neutrons "commensurate" with helium are produced, whereas with cold fusion the number of neutrons per helium atom is roughly 11 million times smaller. Skeptics say this means cold fusion is impossible. As Prof. H. Feshbach (MIT) put it in 1991: "I have had 50 years of experience in nuclear physics and I know what's possible and what's not. . . . I don't want to see any more evidence! I think it's a bunch of junk and I don't want to have anything further to do with it." 
The books by F. Close  and J. Huizenga  are mainly devoted to proving that cold fusion violates theory and is therefore impossible. Huizenga, who was the head of the DoE ERAB panel that dismissed cold fusion in 1989, concluded his book with a 6-point summation. Point number six states that we know a priori that all positive cold fusion excess heat results must be wrong:
"Furthermore, if the claimed excess heat exceeds that possible by other conventional processes (chemical, mechanical, etc.), one must conclude that an error has been made in measuring the excess heat."
Cold Fusion researchers feel that they subscribe to the traditional view, that experiments are the standard by which all claims must be judged.   They believe this is fundamental to the scientific method. When a phenomenon has been replicated many times at a high signal to noise ratio, that proves it does exist, and if theory predicts it cannot exist, the theory must be wrong. Cold fusion theorists believe that cold fusion does not violate conventional theory. The number of neutrons produced by cold fusion is much smaller than plasma fusion because a metal lattice at room temperature is very different from the center of the sun. As cold fusion theorist Julian Schwinger put it, "The defense [of cold fusion] is simply stated: The circumstances of cold fusion are not those of hot fusion". 
==Explicit rejection of the experimental method==
Several leading skeptics have stated that cold fusion proves the experimental method itself does not work. In other words, when dozens or hundreds of laboratories report they have replicated a phenomenon, they might all be wrong, and the only way to be sure a finding is correct is to show that it conforms to established theory. [Close, Huizenga ibid.] 
A variation of this idea was expressed by R. Ballinger (MIT) and B. Kevles (Yale). They say that Fleischmann and Pons were definitely wrong, but those who later replicated them may be right. Ballinger wrote:
"It would not matter to me if a thousand other investigations were to subsequently perform experiments that see excess heat. These results may all be correct, but it would be an insult to these investigators to connect them with Pons and Fleischmann. . . . Putting the 'Cold Fusion' issue on the same page with Wien, Rayleigh-Jeans, Davison Germer, Einstein, and Planck is analogous to comparing a Dick Tracy comic book story with the Bible." 
"Eventually, [Fleischmann and Pons] particular claims were refuted as theoretically unfounded and without experimental support. This is the incident I referred to in my article and it has altogether nothing to do with research since in this field." 
In all of the "research since" researchers used similar materials and reported similar results, and they cited the original paper by Fleischmann and Pons, so it is difficult to judge what Kevles has in mind.
Cold fusion researchers also assert that incomplete understanding of the process does not invalidate it, often citing the 1898 report by Marie and Pierre Curie that radium was permanently warmer than its surroundings. This report was accepted even though the source of the warmth was not known to science [Beaudette, ibid. p. 3]. Indeed, Nobel laureate Schwinger pointed out that discoveries of processes such as high temperature superconducting are "a prime example of embracing the concept without having to understand the mechanism." [ibid] The comparison is debatable, however. J. Piel, late editor of Scientific American, likened this "incomplete knowledge" claim to Langmuir's criteria for pathological science. 
==Cold fusion as pathological science==
Many have dismissed cold fusion as an example of pathological science: in such a science, a scientist, originally conforming to the scientific method, unconsciously veers from that method, and begins a pathological process of wishful data interpretation.
While there are no rigorous criteria for defining a pathological science, the following characteristics were listed by Irving Langmuir when he invented the term:
* The maximum effect that is observed is produced by a causative agent of barely detectable intensity, and the magnitude of the effect is substantially
independent of the intensity of the cause.
===The causative agent is almost undetectable===
The causative agent of excess heat in cold fusion experiment, if any, is not certain, but most cold fusion researchers think it is nuclear fusion. Nuclear reactions can only be detected by their effects. Some nuclear reactions have effects that can be easily measured (such as the production of tritium), while others are more difficult to detect (such as the production of helium-4).
Showing a correlation between excess heat and the amount of helium produced is challenging, but cold fusion researchers say it has been done at China Lake, the Italian national laboratories and elsewhere.  
Other nuclear evidence, such as tritium, neutrons and gamma rays are far easier to measure. Cold fusion researchers say that these products have been confirmed in thousands of experiments in dozens of different laboratories, at levels far above the limits of detection, in some cases thousands of times above those limits.  For example, at the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) the reactor safety experts have been measuring tritium for decades with accuracy and confidence. When several experiments at BARC experiment produced tritium, at levels up to 20,000 times above the initial concentration, they had no difficulty whatever detecting or confirming this, and they used several different methods.    
===The effect is almost undetectable===
The excess heat has been measured by several different types of calorimeters often at a level that is easily detected, and sometimes impossible to miss. Tritium has been measured at levels ranging from 100 to several million times background. Gamma rays have also been measured far above background. Helium from cold fusion reactions is often close to the limits of detection but in at least one case it exceeded atmospheric concentration. Transmutations have in some cases converted milligram levels of materials, making them easy to detect.   
===The causative agent is not commensurate with the effect===
The causative agent of excess heat in cold fusion experiment, if any, is not certain, but every indication is that if they exist it is nuclear fusion. Nuclear reactions can only be detected by their effects. Some nuclear reactions have effects that can be easily measured (eg. neutron emission), while others are more difficult to detect (eg. Helium-4).
Showing a correlation between excess heat and the amount of helium is challenging, but as noted above, researchers at China Lake, the Italian National Nuclear Laboratories, Los Alamos, SRI and other laboratories report success. Tritium and neutrons, which are much easier to detect, have been measured at levels far above the limits of detection in hundreds of laboratories.
===There are claims of great accuracy in the measurement===
Cold fusion researchers do not claim great accuracy. They often use standard, off the shelf instruments within the manufacturer's certified levels of accuracy. Great accuracy is often not called for in any case, since, as noted above, the signal is often quite strong (far above background).
Critics of cold fusion say there are currently no satisfactory theories of cold fusion. Many cold fusion researchers agree with them. They consider cold fusion an experimental observation that is not derived from or supported by theory at this stage.
Many theories have been proposed to explain cold fusion, and some of these would generally be considered fantastic or fringe theories. However, other theories have been proposed by mainstream physicists such as Julian Schwinger and Peter Hagelstein. Schwinger and Hagelstein believe their theories are valid, and that that they do not conflict with the canon of established physics.
===Initial interest in the topic does not last===
Skeptics say that interest in cold fusion faded rapidly, and that the "vast majority" of scientists do not believe it exists. They do not cite public opinion polls or other hard data to back up this assertion. A poll published in Japan in 1994 indicated that most scientists there believe cold fusion is real, and nearly all support continued research. 
The majority of newspapers and news magazine reports on cold fusion published in the U.S. are negative. They usually say that the research was "debunked" and that it was fradulent and/or incompetent. (See below.)
Skeptics [Piel, ibid.] also say that no peer-reviewed journal papers on cold fusion have been published, but this is incorrect. Approximately 1000 have been published in mainstream peer-reviewed journals, [http://lenr-canr.org/DetailOnly.htm] and they continue to be published despite the hostility and opposition to the research expressed by APS officials, the Washington Post, some MIT professors and others. (See below)
==Doubts on the quality of the cold fusion scientists==
Cold fusion scientists have been often criticized for lacking credentials. However, many of them were previously considered to be world class experts in their fields. Distinguished Prof. John O'M Bockris, for example, wrote an authoritative and widely used textbook, Modern Electochemistry. He is a Fellow of the International Society of Electrochemistry [http://www.ise-online.org/geninfo/fellows_details.php]
Heinz Gerischer was considered a leading electrochemist. He was the Director of the Max Planck Institute for Physical Chemistry in Berlin, and a prize was established in his memory. He concluded that "there is now undoubtedly overwhelming indications that nuclear processes take place in the metal alloys."  Nobel laureate Julian Schwinger was considered a leading theoretical physicist and was respected by most scientists, but he reported being denigrated and attacked after he began writing theoretical papers about cold fusion. [ibid.] Dr. P. K. Iyengar conducted and directed cold fusion research while he was director of BARC. [http://lenr-canr.org/acrobat/IyengarPKprefaceand.pdf] He later became the chairman of the Indian Atomic Energy Commission
Profs. Miles, Oriani and Huggins have published textbooks and hundreds of articles, are designated Distinguished Professors and Fellows by universities and the U.S. Navy, and have been honored by the Electrochemical Society, NATO and other prestigious organizations. Other cold fusion researchers include three editors of major plasma fusion and physics journals, a retired member of the French Atomic Energy Commission, and many top researchers from U.S. national laboratories.
Martin Fleischmann is widely considered one of the top electrochemistry|electrochemists in the world. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society and past president of the International Society of Electrochemistry, and he was awarded a medal by the Society. He has published numerous papers in leading journals. On the other hand, he has no credentials in nuclear physics, and his first paper on cold fusion was shown to contain errors in this subject, in neutron detection. However, subsequent research was performed by leading experts in neutrons at Los Alamos, BARC and many other institutions, and these studies confirmed that cold fusion experiments produce neutrons. [Srinivasan, ibid.]
==Claims that experiments have been debunked or that they are fraudulent==
Most newspaper and magazine articles attacking cold fusion say it was debunked, or that it is fraud.
Debunked. The term "debunked" is not defined exactly, but it is usually taken to mean that replications were attempted but they failed. Cold fusion researchers believe these replications failed because the researchers performing them were not skilled in the art and because the experiment is inherently difficult to perform. The most famous three negative experiments performed in 1989 were at MIT, Caltech and Harwell. All three were subsequently shown to be positive.    
Some articles have said that cold fusion was debunked because it was shown to be theoretically impossible. As noted above, cold fusion researchers believe this is a violation of the scientific method.
Many skeptics feel that cold fusion should be attacked, ridiculed and actively suppressed. In March 1990, D. Lindley, editor at Nature, wrote: "All cold fusion theories can be demolished one way or another, but it takes some effort.... Would a measure of unrestrained mockery, even a little unqualified vituperation have speeded cold fusion's demise?"  Cold fusion researchers feel this is a violation of academic freedom. Schwinger felt that such intemperate views will lead to the "death of science" [Schwinger, ibid.]
Fraud. Dozens of articles have said this. Writers in the Washington Post have been notably vehement. In 2006 Prof. B. Kevles (Yale) described cold fusion a "scientific misdeed." [Kevles, ibid.] In 1991 Robert Park,  wrote the following in a Washington Post review of the book by Frank Close:
". . . Close asks in the first chapter, 'Was this a delusion, an error, or a fraud?' By the end of the book, it is clear that cold fusion progressed through all three. What began as wishful interpretations of sloppy and incomplete experiments ended with altered data, suppression of contradictory evidence and deliberate obfuscations.
Fleischmann and Pons were no longer alone. Inept scientists whose reputations would be tarnished, greedy administrators who had involved their institutions, gullible politicians who had squandered the taxpayers' dollars, lazy journalists who had accepted every press release at face value -- all now had an interest in making it appear that the issue had not been settled. Their easy corruption was one of the most chilling aspects of this sad comedy.
To be sure, there are true believers among the cold-fusion acolytes, just as there are sincere scientists who believe in psychokinesis, flying saucers, creationism and the Chicago Cubs. The lesson from Too Hot to Handle is that a PhD in science is not an inoculation against foolishness -- or mendacity."
The on-line database at LENR-CANR.org lists 3,400 papers on cold fusion written by 4,688 authors and co-authors, as of April 2006. Most of these papers have been positive, and none of the authors has benefited financially or otherwise. On the contrary, many of them have seen their careers stalled or ruined because they pursue this research. [Beaudette, ibid.] So there does not appear to be any motive to commit fraud, and it would be difficult for roughly 4,000 people to commit fraud and keep this fact secret.
==Claims that all cold fusion researchers are deluded or incompetent==
Articles in the press and in major scientific magazines have often said that all cold fusion scientists are practicing pathological science and all are deluded or incompetent. Robert Park made that assertion in the Washington Post article quoted above, in his weekly column, and in e-mail letters to cold fusion researchers. One of the members of the 1989 DoE ERAB panel, Prof. W. Happer, said that: "Just by looking at Fleischmann and Pons on television you could tell they were incompetent boobs." [Taubes, ibid.] F. Slakey, the Science Policy Administrator of the American Physical Society, said that cold fusion scientists are "a cult of fervent half-wits" "While every result and conclusion they publish meets with overwhelming scientific evidence to the contrary, they resolutely pursue their illusion of fusing hydrogen in a mason jar. . . . And a few scientists, captivated by [Fleischmann and Pons'] fantasy . . . pursue cold fusion with Branch Davidian intensity."  S. Koonin said in May 1989 at an APS meeting, "My conclusion is that the experiments are just wrong and that we are suffering from the incompetence and delusion of Doctors Pons and Fleischmann."  Skeptics sometimes say they have not made such intemperate comments, but there are hundreds of well-documented examples from major establishment scientists, publishers and officials. [Mallove, Beaudette, ibid.]
The people making these comments repeated them often, and they have never retracted or apologized. They say they are not exaggerating and they honestly believe that Fleischmann, Pons and all other cold fusion researchers are severely deluded and grossly incompetent. The people listed above were assigned a direct role in establishing U.S. policy toward cold fusion, in the ERAB panel and elsewhere, and their views have had great influence.
As noted above, leading cold fusion researchers and theoreticians include many prominent experts in electrochemistry and physics. It is unlikely that such people are deluded or incapable of performing experiments in their own fields.
==Claims that experimental errors have been made==
Since cold fusion is an experimental claim, cold fusion researchers feel that the only way to prove it is wrong is to demonstrate there is an error in the experimental technique or instruments. However, only a few skeptical authors have searched for such errors. Skeptics have written one book, at least five papers, and one magazine article citing errors, but cold fusion researchers feel the skeptics have failed to make their case. Some well-known examples include:
* D. Morrison versus M. Fleischmann debate  Morrison accused Fleischmann of employing "a complicated non-linear regression analysis" . . . "to allow a claim of excess enthalpy to be made." Fleischmann pointed out that they did not use that analysis. Morrison estimated that recombination might have produced 1.1 MJ at 145 W maximum power; Fleischmann pointed out that chemistry textbooks prove it could only produce 600 J at 5 mW maximum power. Several other points are disputed.
* N. Hoffman, A Dialogue on Chemically Induced Nuclear Effects  Much of this book is devoted to the hypothesis that all tritium results in cold fusion were caused by contaminated heavy water. This heavy water was contaminated, the author says, because the Ontario Hydro Company sold used moderator water from Candu fission reactors through chemical supply houses, to members of the public. There are two problems with this hypothesis. First, tritium levels are always measured before the experiment begins, so if the heavy water was already contaminated this would be noted. Second, upon learning about the book, Ontario Hydro vehemently denied selling used moderator water. They pointed out this would be illegal because this water contains roughly 100 million times more radioactive contamination than allowed by law, and it would cost tremendous amounts of money to remove this contamination and make the water safe. (Other sections of the book dealing with the Joule-Thompson effect and helium studies do not dispute the published results.) Cold fusion researchers at SRI pointed out that this book does not mention any experiment showing excess heat even though most experiments in the field have been done to look for heat.
* W. B. Clarke and Mass Spectrometry. Clarke published several articles with coworkers examining various aspects of helium detection in cold fusion-related samples. One study  has led to suggestions that some of the cold fusion researchers have not adequately handled the analytical chemistry technique of mass spectrometry.
* K. L. Shanahan and Calibration Constant Shifts. K. L. Shanahan has published 3 articles proposing a non-nuclear means to obtain apparent excess heat signals in cold fusion cells. In the first, Shanahan proposed that the system heat distribution and/or heat flow pathways might change and that this would induce a change in the calibration constants for the cell. He reanalyzed some actual cold fusion data published by E. Storms, under an assumption of zero excess heat, and found a variation in calibration constants of +/- 3% would explain the results, which is within typical error bounds of a fairly high quality scientific study. Subsequently, Szpak, Mossier-Boss, Miles, and Fleischmann questioned the proposal, and Shanahan replied  with an expanded explanation and applied it to explain the authors results. E. Storms rebutted Shanahan  by pointing out that the data does not fit his model.
* A Scientific American article in 2006 with a sidebar that said there are four weaknesses in the cold fusion experiments.  (The article is here [http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?articleID=00059015-99C5-1213-987F83414B7F011C&ref=sciam&chanID=sa006], but the sidebar is missing. It is quoted here: [http://lenr-canr.org/News.htm#SciAmSlam].) These statements are not in evidence in the experimental literature. In a letter to J. Rothwell, the editors said they have not read any of the experimental literature on cold fusion, because, they say, this literature does not exist: no papers have been published "in major peer-reviewed journals." [Piel, ibid.] Presumably this explains why the editors made these four errors.
==Burden of proof argument==
Many skeptics have said that the burden of proof is on cold fusion researchers to prove their point. As the editor of the Scientific American put it: "But it is not up to mainstream physicists to disprove LENR-CANR [cold fusion]; it is up to LENR-CANR's physicists to come up with convincing proofs. The burden of evidence is on those who wish to establish a new proposition." [Piel, ibid.]
Cold fusion researchers feel they have met this burden. Cold fusion experiments are based upon traditional instruments and techniques, such as calorimeters (most of them developed between the 1780 and 1840), autoradiographs (circa 1890), and conventional tritium detection and mass spectroscopy. Calorimetry is based upon the laws of thermodynamics. Since most skeptics agree that autoradiographs, the laws of thermodynamics and so on are valid, cold fusion advocates argue that the skeptics should agree that cold fusion experiments are valid, and that the burden of proof is on those who say these techniques and laws are inoperative.
==Other skeptical arguments==
Some skeptics say they do not believe the results because there may be an error in the experiments which has not yet been discovered. This argument is invalid because it cannot be falsified, and because the same can be said for any experiment.
Skeptics quote Carl Sagan's axiom that "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence." Cold fusion researchers disagree. They feel that extraordinary claims are best supported with ordinary evidence from off-the-shelf instruments and standard techniques, and this is the kind of evidence they have published. They also feel that all claims, and all arguments (including skeptical assertions that attempt to disprove cold fusion) must be held to the same standards of rigor.
Hagelstein has encountered skeptics who say "a commercial product is the next hurdle to be jumped through before any significant funding can be justified." He responded, "This is simply not right." He explained:
"Scientists in the field have gone to extremes in attempts to satisfy skeptics. Cells were stirred, blanks were done, extremely elaborate closed cell calorimeters have been developed (in which the effect has been demonstrated), the signal to noise ratio has been improved so that positive results can now be claimed at the 50 sigma level, the reproducibility issue has been laid to rest; but still it is not enough." 
Hagelstein and others point out that plasma fusion has failed to produce a practical power reactor despite 60 years of research and over $100 billion in funding, yet no one questions the existence of plasma fusion for that reason. They also point out that countless other natural phenomena have no practical application, but are not disputed.
Lindley [ibid.] and many other skeptics have said that before they believe the experimental results, cold fusion researchers must first provide a complete theory to explain the phenomenon. This also violates a fundamental tenet of the scientific method, since there are and always have been countless unexplained phenomena which are unquestionably real (such as high temperature superconductivity and radium fission, as noted above). Cold fusion researchers feel that it is the job of science to explain anomalies rather than to dismiss them.
1.^ Feshbach, H., Interview with E. Mallove, May 1991
Additional input from Jed. (4/23/06):
Writing this Wikipeida article has been an education for me. It has revealed aspects of the skeptical imagination and thought processes I was unaware of. One thing that shocked me is how many skeptics are livid with anger because I am quoting verbatim Huizenga and other leading skeptics. Several times they have erased these quotes. They do not want to hear their own side!
Here is an example of what I have learned. This is kind of trivial yet thought provoking. The skeptical argument that all researchers are incompetent or frauds is weak. It has to apply to 100% of researchers. If a skeptic admits that 1% or 2% are competent and honest, that makes cold fusion real. There are very roughly 3,000 to 4,000 authors of the positive papers at LENR-CANR. So 1% would be ~40 researchers in ~10 institutions. Most researchers worked ~10 years. (Most are now retired or dead.) So that would be 10 or more independent replications repeated dozens of times. I have never heard of anyone publishing a claim that only one cell in run produced heat, or tritium, or transmutations. Bockris used to run 100 cells at at time.
Anyway, in normal science, that many replications would be considered conclusive proof that an effect is real. Some people want to see 3 or 4 replications, others hold out for 10. But dozens of repeated experiments at 10 labs would surely meet anyone's standard of proof. I guess this is why some skeptics are so adamant. Their claim must be airtight or it fails. Cold fusion has been replicated hundreds if not thousands of times. Of course most skeptics are unaware of this. They think there were only a dozen experiments. But take a skeptic who is vaguely aware of the facts -- one who has glanced at the list of papers at LENR-CANR, and shivered inwardly. He has to force himself to believe that every single one of these tests was a mistake, or fraud. It must a terrible mental burden, forcing yourself to believe such crazy ideas, in violation of all your professional training and common sense.
That is why so many skeptics suffer from cognitive dissonance. They shout to drown out their own inner doubts. They insist that I have distorted their views in this article, when in fact I have reproduced their views faithfully and completely, with verbatim quotes from the best sources available. If a skeptic were to write what Huizenga wrote, 'we know a priori all excess heat results are wrong,' his fellow skeptics would clap him on the back and say 'right on bro, Amen to that.' When I quote Huizenga, and source it, and compare that to Schwinger's rebuttal, they become hysterical and they accuse me of "POV violations" (expressing a point of view). One of them came in and immediately erased all of the rebuttals. He wanted to see skeptical claims in isolation, and he had no sense that they represent a "point of view" (POV). But when they were paired with the CF researchers point of view, he felt it was an abomination.
This website contains other cold fusion items.