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345) My comments on Storms' new book

Ludwik Kowalski
Montclair State University, Montclair, NJ, 07055
April 4, 2008



A published review of Ed Storms’ book can be seen in unit 344. This unit consists of my own observations. I agree with Dieter Britz, the author of the review, that the book is recommended reading, for both skeptics and proponents of so-called “cold fusion.” Storms also uses this term “for the sake of consistency and habit.” Most scientists are not familiar with more recent terms, CMNS and CANR. For that reason the term cold fusion seems to be appropriate.

The list of references alone has a tremendous historical value; no one but a scientist who participated in cold fusion research from the very beginning could compile such list of publications, and to categorize them logically. The publications belong to two categories: those which demonstrate excess heat and those which demonstrate other manifestations of nuclear processes due to chemical (atomic and molecular) activities. Both kinds of research are important, according to Storms. But investigations of excess heat are more urgent because nuclear reactions producing excess heat are numerous, and because they might lead to practical applications. Referring to excess heat Storms writes (on page 50) “More important, the Fleischmann and Pons observation was unique because the high rate might allow their process to become a competing source of energy and a thread to conventional theory, rather than being simply a scientific curiosity. A mere scientific curiosity can be accepted without a battle; an economic and intellectual thread cannot.”

Chapter 4, entitled “What is Known or Believed” is a very good summary of all kinds of cold fusion research, first excess heat, then production of tritium, production of helium, transmutations and emission of nuclear particles. I was familiar with many publications mentioned in that chapter. But reading the summaries and comments made by Storms was very useful and eye opening, especially when common features were emphasized. What follows is a paragraph from a message I posted on the Internet list for CMNS researchers. Unfortunately, this was done in the form of a side comment, under a different thread. That is probably why only one person responded to my message.

On 3/28/08 I wrote: “Why do we say that excess heat discovered in 1989, and confirmed in hundreds of replications, is due to a nuclear activity? Perhaps it is due to an unknown gravitational phenomenon, to an unknown magnetic phenomenon, to an unknown electric phenomenon, to an unknown chemical phenomenon, etc. ? I am familiar with only one answer -- production of 4He. Production of each atom of 4He is associated with production of about 23 MeV of excess heat. Uncertainties about the 23 MeV could be reduced in better experiments. In my opinion, experiments in which generation of 4He and generation of excess heat take place are worth performing. Hopefully they will show that in at least one kind of experiment excess heat seems to be nuclear. Am I wrong that production of 4He is the only case in which nuclear ashes mach excess heat? “ The person who responded wrote: “The Fleischmann-Pons effect clearly involves a nuclear reaction. Of course, other sources of heat might be produced at the same time, but the main heat is clearly from a nuclear reaction.”

That was certainly not clear in 1989. The only reason for nuclear interpretation, as far as I recall, was a theory according to which the pressure of deuterium ions, loaded into palladium, as calculated by Fleischmann, was high enough to allow fusion of individual deuterons. He did not write anything, at that time, about cold fusion being totally different from hot fusion. He and Pons performed an experiment whose purpose was to justify nuclear origin of excess heat by neutrons, presumably emitted from their electrolytic cell. The results of that experiment, by the way, were later shown to be in error. Neutron emission, according to Storms (page 78 of his book) is seldom found even though over 500 papers have described efforts to detect them.” In section 4.4.2 Storms describes several experiments in which amounts 4He was measured. These experiments continue to be the only evidence of nuclear origin of excess heat in cold fusion.

Let me now focus on topics of general interest; as described at the end of Chapter 4. Two common aspects of many electrolytic excess heat experiments are emphasized by Storms -- the dependence of the rate, at which thermal energy is generated, on the mean density of deuterium in palladium and its dependence on the current density. But experiments are not reproducible on demand. Why is it so? Because no one knows what other conditions must be satisfied. Thermal energy is released “when a lucky combination of conditions has been created.” A special term, NAE (nuclear active environment) is used to identify a material in which such conditions are satisfied.

On page 13 Storms writes: “ Some people are simply unable to evaluate observations with an open-mind because, to them, truth is only defined by theory. If theory and observations are in conflict, theory wins.” That attitude is called faith-based science; it is not reality-based science, “the kind of science we are taught to respect.” The relation between experimental facts and explanatory theories is profound and worth discussing. Absence of a theory linking NAE with what has already been learned about nuclear phenomena is deplorable but it does not mean that a rational explanation of NAE will not be found. In Section 4.2 Storms writes: “Indeed absence of conventional nuclear products of any kind [in 1990], except perhaps tritium, made the high rate claimed for heat production suspicious in many people’s eyes. While this was a legitimate concern, rejection did not wait until the proper measurements were made. Only now, 18 years later have the nuclear products been detected on a sufficient number of occasions and with sufficient care to be credible.”

In my opinion, cold fusion would not be rejected prematurely if the initial announcement of the discovery of excess heat were not accompanied by then-unjustified claim of its nuclear origin. The architect of rejection, John Huizenga, is described (on page 15) as “a competent scientist and teacher. . . . He was not about to change his mind, especially while so many questions remained unanswered.” I had a chance of discussing nuclear topics with Huizenga -- at least two decades before the discovery of cold fusion -- and I agree that he was an extremely competent nuclear scientist. People like him feel that defending science from unreasonable claims is one of their moral obligations. The claim of nuclear origin of excess heat became reasonable only when production of helium, at the rate of approximately 2.65*1011 atoms per joule of thermal energy, was discovered and confirmed by qualified electrochemists. The inverse of this number, 23.5 MeV per atom, happens to be E=m*c2, where c is the speed of light and m is the difference in mass between one 4He atom and two 2H atoms. This seems to support the original idea that 4He results from fusion of two deuterons. But, as explained in Section 8.3.1, other nuclear mechanism to produce helium are also possible. The history of cold fusion would certainly be different if generation of excess heat and production of helium were announced at the same time.

It is interesting that Ed Storms is well aware that “In this business, too much willingness to be open-minded can be a danger.” This observation, made on page 28, refers to his refusal to cooperate with an alchemist Joe Champion. I do not think that the pyrotechnical method of turning other elements into gold, suggested by Joe, can be qualified as cold fusion. The idea of associating one mystery with another mystery, especially when connections are not clear, can indeed be counterproductive.

The following hypothetical situation can be considered after reading section 4.8. Suppose that a team A makes a claim that excess heat has been observed and that it is due to accumulation of deuterium (from the D2O in the electrolyte) in a palladium cathode. This is not very different from the claim made in 1989 by Fleischmann and Pons. But their situation was complicated by secondary factors, such as competition with Steve Jones, pressure from university administrators, and involvement of lawyers. That is why I prefer to deal with hypothetical situations. Note that the A team makes two claims, one is generation of excess heat and another is a mechanism by which this happens.

Suppose that B, who is not an experimentalist, makes the following comment. “If your explanation is correct then generation of excess heat should not take place when the D2O is replaced by the H2O. Perform the experiment and report the result.” The team A returns to the laboratory performs an experiment and find that excess heat is also produced when the H2O electrolyte is used. After learning about this B proclaims: “Aha, your theory is not good.” That would be a reasonable kind of thinking, considering what was known at that time. Another possible proclamation, made by B, could be: “Your claim about excess heat must be rejected because it conflicts with your own explanation. Not too many deuterons are present in the new electrolyte and excess heat due to deuterons is impossible.” That would be a totally unreasonable conclusion; the only way to refute generation of excess heat would be to perform an experiment and to show that excess heat is not generated.

This, however, as pointed out by Storms, is not simple because preconditions for success, in obtaining excess heat, are not known. The control experiment performed by B is likely to different from the experiment performed by A? That is indeed a very important point. It means that replications cannot be trusted, even when all researchers are highly qualified. In my opinion, that fact alone is sufficient to say that cold fusion is still protoscience. A field in which something occurs only “when nature is in a good mood” should not be called science. Absence of a generally accepted theory can be tolerated in a new field of science. But absence of reproducibility, when experiments are performed by qualified researchers, is not acceptable. Science has too much to loose from not insisting on “reproducibility on demand.” To be admitted to the prestigious club called science, cold fusion must offer at least one reproducible on demand experiment in which a nuclear process results from a chemical process.

Protoscience, like science, should be financially supported. The amount of money allocated to any field of research should be based on its potential benefits, both scientific and practical. I agree with Ed that “For a theory to be useful, the logical consequences of the model must be consistent with observations, including what is not observed, and with well established physical laws.” The issue of an acceptable theory and the issue of reproducibility on demand are intimately linked. Theoreticians need reliable experimental data, to validate predictions, and experimentalists need reasonable predictions to guide them. That is why I think that an acceptable theory is likely to emerge once experimental data become reproducible on demand.

In Chapter 8, Ed wrote that “incorrect assumptions in theories are equivalent to experimental errors in observations. Both lead to false conclusions and distract from general acceptance.” I like this comment. What he probably had in mind are systematic, rather than random, experimental errors. Random errors in experiments are unavoidable and fluctuation of results by a small percentage is usually acceptable in a new investigation. In other words, differences of up to about 10%, between results reported by several teams, would not interfere with the idea of reproducibility on demand, at least in some kinds of investigations.

Appended on 4/5/08 (some speculations):
According to section 7.9, most helium is produced when alpha particles slow down. If this is true then a lot of alpha particles must be emitted. SPAWAR people did say that the track density in CR-39 was very high in their experiments. But no convincing evidence was presented that tracks were due to alpha particles, or to other nuclear projectiles. Let me assume that heat is generated at the rate of 0.5 W. This translates into 0.5 J/s or to 3.12*1012 MeV/s. The energy cost of producing one helium atom was reported as 23.5 MeV. The corresponding rate of helium production, as indicated earlier, would be 3.12*1012 / 23.5 = 1.33*1011 atoms per second.

Note that fusion of two deuterons, originally believed to be the mechanism by which nuclear energy is released, does not call for emission of alpha particles. Recall that the name “cold fusion” was chosen to describe such mechanism, at common temperatures. In section 8.3.1 Storms reminds us that the “d-p fusion should be more common than d-d fusion.” But no evidence of d-p fusion was found. On that basis one must conclude that the d-d fusion is not a dominant mechanism by which nuclear energy is released.

What are other possibilities? That question is also answered in section 8.3.1. One of the possibilities is fusion of a deuteron with 6Li. This produces a highly unstable 8Be nucleus which is known to instantly decay into two alpha particles. The kinetic energies of each of these particles is 5.6 MeV energy. Note that the coulomb barrier for the d-Li fusion is much higher than for the d-d fusion. How many alpha particles would be emitted per second via the d-Li mechanism at 0.5 W? The answer is 3.12*1012 / 5.6 = 5.57*1011. Four other mechanisms, for producing alpha particles are described in the same section. In section 8.3.2 Storms describes mechanisms that can possibly be responsible for production of much heavier elements. One of them is fusion of deuterons (for example, one after another) with an atomic nucleus of palladium. This would produce an excited compound nucleus undergoing fission. Is it conceivable that 63Cu and 57Fe are fission products?

My doctoral dissertation (1963) was to study fission resulting from bombardment of uranium, bismuth and gold with protons of 156 MeV. Later I participated in several projects in which fission of lighter nuclei, induced by heavy ions (after they fused with targets at various energies), was studied. On the basis of what I know, I would say that the probability of fission would be negligible in comparison with other mechanisms of de-excitation, such as emission of neutrons and protons. Note that the coulomb barrier for the d-Pd fusion, as mentioned by Storms, is very much higher than for the d-d fusion. That is another obstacle. Trying to explain presence of transmutation products by ideas taken from familiar nuclear physics does not promise to be successful. Something totally different is needed to explain experimental results. Polyneutrons? Erzions? Hydrinos? Crazions? Sanions? Smartions? Whatelsions? I predict that the answer will be found not later than one or two decades after a reproducible on demand protocol is offered to generate transmutation products. Yes, many of us will not be around to verify this prediction.

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