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359) Cold Fusion Anniversary

Ludwik Kowalski

Montclair State University, New Jersey, USA
March 23, 2009

THIS UNIT IS TOO LONG AND NOT WELL ORGANIZED. BUT SOME PEOPLE MIGHT HAVE LINKED TO THIS UNIT FOR THAT REASON I AM NOT DELEATING IT.

TWO UNITS #261 AND #262 WERE COMPSED FROM FRAGMENTS OF THIS UNIT (ON 4/25/2009). TOGETHER THEY REPLACE UNIT#359

click to see unit 361

click to see unit 362

1. Introduction
The discovery of Cold Fusion was announced exactly twenty years ago. I read several interesting messages about this, on the private website for CMNS researchers. Unfortunately, I had nothing valuable to contribute. But then a science journalist, who I do not know, sent me a URL for a file containing a recent SPAWAR paper.

http://www.newenergytimes.com/Library2/2008/2008BossTripleTracks.pdf

This paper was published in Naturwissenschaften (2009) 96:135–142. The title is “Triple tracks in CR-39 as the result of Pd–D Co-deposition: evidence of energetic neutrons. The authors are: Pamela A. Mosier-Boss, Stanislaw Szpak, Frank E. Gordon, and Lawrence P. G. Forsley. I knew about this paper but I did not have a chance to read it. The journalist, Mark Anderson working for “IEEE Spectrum,” asked me to comment on that paper.

Why did he ask me? He probably knows about my successful replication of an earlier SPAWAR experiment, and about what I wrote in

http://pages.csam.montclair.edu/~kowalski/cf/357epjap.html

2. My comments
a) The methodology used is basically the same as in the experiment I performed two years ago. But a large number of control experiments make the reported results much more acceptable. Instead of focusing on dominant overlapping tracks, as in an earlier paper, the author analyze rare triple tracks, said to be due to high energy neutrons (above 9.6 MeV) emitted during electrolysis. They write that “among the solitary tracks due to individual energetic particles, triple tracks are observed. Microscopic examination of the bottom of the triple track pit shows that the three lobes of the track are splitting apart from a center point. The presence of three alpha-particle tracks outgoing from a single point is diagnostic of the 12C(n,n’)3alpha carbon breakup reaction and suggests that DT reactions that produce ≥9.6 MeV neutrons are occurring inside the Pd lattice.”

b) This paper confirms, once again, that codeposition experiments yield reproducible results. In 2007 I was one of several researchers who used the SPAWAR protocol and confirmed the reported results. That is why I think that codeposition experiments, developed by the SPAWAR team, belong to science, rather than to protoscience, as many other CMNS experiments. CMNS, by the way, is a new acronym for CF--what used to be called Cold Fusion is now called Condensed Matter Nuclear Science.

c) In one set of control experiments the authors used the electrolyte made from H2O. The number of tracks was found to be at least three orders of magnitude lower that in identical experiments in which heavy water, D2O, was used. They wrote: “Since the natural abundance of deuterium in light water is 0.015%, it is possible that the tracks observed in the light water experiments could actually be due to Pd–D interactions. Microscopic examination of the CR-39 detectors used in Pd–D electrolysis has been done in areas where the density of tracks is less. In these areas, what appear to be triple tracks are observed interspersed among the solitary tracks. The number of these triple tracks is very low—on the order of a ten or less per detector and they are only observed in heavy water experiments. These triple tracks have been observed in every Pd–D co-deposition experiment that has been conducted using Ag, Au, or Pt cathodes in both the presence and absence of an external electric or magnetic field. When Ni screen is used as the cathode, tracks and triple tracks are only observed when an external electric or magnetic field is applied.”

c) Figures 1a and 1b show pits due to alpha particles from Am-241. Clusters of triple tracks observed are due to overlapping--rare coincidences when three alpha particles hit nearly the same spot. Triple tracks created during electrolysis (in subsequent figures) are shown to be very different. That is a relevant point; triple pits produced during electrolysis do occur among single pits; showing that they are not due to overlapping is very important.

d) Control experiments described in the paper speak loudly against possible alpha-radioactive contamination.

e) A significant difference between track densities in D2O and H2O is also a strong argument against the chemical origin of tracks.

f) The authors conclude that “no tracks, single or triple, were obtained when CuCl2 was used in place of PdCl2.” Yes indeed; what can be a better demonstration that Pd plays an important role in the claimed new kind of chemically-induced nuclear proces. To elaborate on this the authors write that “the deuterium must be inside a metal lattice for these reactions to occur and not simply adsorbed on the surface of the metal. This implies that the metal lattice facilitates these reactions indicating that nuclear phenomena can be influenced by the atomic and electronic environment.” This is no longer an abstract speculation.

g) Presence of triple pits on both sides of the CR-39 chips is consistent with the idea that they are due to neutral projectiles of some kind (able to penetrate about 1 mm of the CR-39 material). Neutrons are the most natural candidate.

i) What is needed is an independent verification of these results. My suggestion would be to organize coordinated replications, for example, in a national laboratory. The cost of several hundred dollars per experiment is negligible in comparison with costs of routinely performed experiments in these labs. Unfortunately, I do not know how
to make this happen. Confirmation of SPAWAR results (nuclear origin of tracks) would the best anniversary present to society. Will this happen during this special year?

P.S.
I was not the only one who posted a comment on SPAWAR neutrons today. One CMNS researcher directed me to:

http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/headline/nation/6333164.html

where I found out about Paul Padley, a physicist at Rice University who reviewed Mosier-Boss’ published work.

“Fusion could produce the effect they see, but there’s no plausible explanation of how fusion could occur in these conditions,” Padley said. “The whole point of fusion is, you’re bringing things of like charge together. As we all know, like things repel, and you have to overcome that repulsion somehow.”

The problem with Mosier-Boss’ work, he said, is that it fails to provide a theoretical rationale to explain how fusion could occur at room temperatures. And in its analysis, the research paper fails to exclude other sources for the production of neutrons.

“Nobody in the physics community would believe a discovery without such a quantitative analysis,” he said.

I tend to disagree. I believe that claims based on unexplained, but reproducible-on-demand experimental data, have their own intrinsic values, especially when established ideas are challenged by new data. Emission of nuclear projectiles during electrolysis does conflict with preexisting ideas. An accepted theory of CMNS is likely to emerge very quickly after the experimental data reported by the SPAWAR team are independently confirmed, for example, by two or three teams of qualified scientists. That is why I think that organizing independent replications is more important, at this stage, than theoretical studies. What should be done to convince our government that an attempt to find a clear yes-or-no answer is worth undertaking?

Added on 3/24/2009

Here is a link to another article on the same topics:

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090323110450.htm

It informs us that many papers, on several CMNS topics, will be presented at the ongoing American Chemical Society meeting this week. Maybe this will help to generate action toward independent replications of experiments which are said to reproducible on demand.

The author writes: “. . . One of their problems involved extreme difficulty in using conventional electronic instruments to detect the small number of neutrons produced in the process, researchers say.” The “small number of neutrons produced” may or may not be correct. Yes, the SPAWAR team reported only about ten triple tracks per experiment (lasting two or three days, I suppose). But this does not include the CR-39 area in which tracks are said to be practically on top of each other. Furthermore, detection of fast neutrons via triple tracks is likely to be highly inefficient; I would not be surprised to learn that, on the average, only one triple track is produced by zilloins of neutrons. Most high energy neutrons produce recoilong protons in CR-39 material.

To see more triple tracks I would modify the SPAWAR cell geometry. Their cell, as far as I know, is a small rectangular plastic boxes filled with electrolyte. Suppose the cathode is placed in contact with one of the walls, inside the box, while a CR-39 detector is placed in air, in contact with the same plastic wall. With this arrangement, nearly 50% of neutrons produced in the cathode would be emitted toward the CR-39 detector, only 1 mm away. Low energy alpha particles would be stopped in the wall. (With the present arrangement--CR-39 inside the electrolyte--copious particles are said to interfere with detection of triple tracks.) With the modified geometry one would see many recoiling protons for each triple track due to high a energy neutron.

Note that the modified geometric arrangement would allow me to replace CR-39 by a sophisticated electronic detector of neutrons. Scientists in National Laboratories have many decades of experience with sophisticated detectors of neutrons.

Added on 3/25/2009

Several CMNS researches posted comments about SPAWAR neutrons on our private discussion list. Here is my own contribution.

1) I do not think that focusing on energies of emitted neutrons (using  electronic detectors) is the most desirable next step, as far as SPAWAR experiments are concerned. But let me speculate a little about electronic detectors. At the end of unit 359 I wrote: "To see more triple tracks I would modify the SPAWAR cell geometry. Their cell, as far as I know, is a small rectangular plastic box filled with electrolyte. Suppose the cathode is placed in contact with one of the walls, inside the box,  while a neutron detector is placed in air, in contact with the same plastic wall. With this arrangement, nearly 50% of neutrons produced in the cathode would be emitted toward the CR-39 detector, only 1 mm away." I was referring to the CR-39 detector, because that is what Pamela et al. use. And I still think that this is the most desirable think to do.

2) A more sophisticated (and expensive) instrument would be a telescope of two Si detectors, thin and thick. Such commercially available setups are routinely used to detect energetic charged particles, such as protons, deuterons,  alphas, etc. With proper electronics (also commercially available) one can easily accomplish three things at the same time: identify particles traversing two detectors, determine their energies, and count the particles. Note that a plastic wall of a SPAWAR cell contains hydrogen atoms. Neutrons colliding with these atoms produce protons. Information about neutrons can be obtained from what one learns about recoiling protons. A plastic wall of 1 mm, however, is too thick; it would have to be replaced with a much thiner window, for example, a window in which 10 MeV protons lose no more energy that 2 MeV. The thinner the window the highest the energy resolution is. Unfortunately, desirable high resolution goes together with undesirable low counting efficiency (for example 10^-4 protons per neutron versus 10^-8 p/n). A resolution of +/- 2 MeV would probably be sufficient, at this stage.

With the threshold of 6 MeV, the electronic noise (background to be subtracted) can probably be reduced (with proper shielding of preamplifiers etc.) to less than several coincidences per day. Suppose that a pre-calibrated multichannel analyzer (0.12 MeV/channel and zero intercept) shows a spectrum of protons with a peak at channel 85. That would tell us that 0.12*85=10.2 MeV neutrons were present. Suppose that 100 of such protons are recorded in two days. Suppose that the efficiency (calculated on the basis known elastic scattering cross sections, and the number of atoms of hydrogen in the window) is 10^-6 p/n. That would mean that 100/10^-6=10^8 neutrons passed the cell's window (580 neutrons per second, on the average). I wish I knew how to estimate the efficiency for producing a triple track in CR-39 by 10 MeV neutrons. My guess is that 10^8 neutrons would produce one such track or less. Counting neutrons via recoiling protons (in thick CR-39) is most likely to be more efficient than counting them via triple tracks in CR-39 (or via recoiling protons produced in a thin window in front of a telescope of Si detectors).

3) Fortunately, CR-39 can be used to detect recoiling protons of several MeV. It would be a waste of effort to abandon CR-39 detectors at this time. Reproducible-on-demand protons of several MeV, in a large CR-39 chip, located outside the cell, would be much more numerous than identifiable triple tracks, in already performed experiments. I am thinking about hard-to-recognize triple tracks in the region where single tracks are overlapping, as stated in the SPAWAR paper. Note that no thin window would be needed; neutrons have no trouble in traversing the cell wall and producing recoiling protons in CR-39. Placing the cathode foil next to the cell wall should be the only needed cell modification. Protons recorded outside the cell would be a sufficiently convincing evidence of a nuclear process due to electrolysis. The lower energy limit of these protons, for example, 5 MeV,  can easily be determined from the effect of thin foils on the number of recorded tracks.

4) Use of expensive electronic detectors (spectrometers) will be fully justified after showing that recoiling protons are indeed produced in CR-39 chips, outside of SPAWAR codeposition cells.

Added on 3/26/2009

The journalist, Mark Anderson, who sent me the SPAWAR-neutrons paper (and who subsequently interviewed me on the phone), published a short article about cold fusion in IEEE Specrum

http://spectrum.ieee.org/mar09/8407

Appended on 3/31/2009

This evening Richard Oriani posted an important message, on the Internet list for CMNS researchers. Addressing SPAWAR team he wrote: “You have reported finding triple tracks in CR39 detector chips that had been placed within operating electrolysis cells and have pointed out that three nuclear particle tracks emanating from one point indicate the occurrence of the reaction 12C(n,n')3 alphas, suggesting the production of neutrons of energies 9.6 MeV or greater. I have also found triple tracks going out from a central point, but I have also found double, quadruple, and higher-order multiple tracks emerging from a single point. (See the attached images). You may be right in you interpretation, but in view of the variety of the numbers of tracks with a common point of emergence that can appear after electrolysis it seems rash to ascribe to one member of the family a specific nuclear mechanism that cannot apply to the other members. I suggest that other supporting evidence is needed before your interpretation can be accepted.”

Replying to this, I wrote: “Attached is a file showing my cluster of "multiple tracks emerging  from a single point." You can also see it in Figure 7 at

http://csam.montclair.edu/~kowalski/cf/336cat.html

The attached picture was trimmed. The larger picture (Figure 7 under the above link) shows that the cluster is not surrounded by numerous single tracks. Suppose this cluster is due to a rare reaction induced in CR-39 by fast neutrons. In that case there would be a lot of single tracks due to elastic and inelastic collisions of such neutrons with hydrogen nuclei. Absence of tracks due recoiling protons is a valuable argument against the idea of high energy neutrons. Note that I was using Oriani's protocol, not the SPAWAR protocol. A clear yes-or-no answer, about the hypothesis of high energy neutrons can be obtained in the modified version of SPAWAR experiment, [as described earlier in this unit]. Does this suggestion make any sense? Is it worth implementing? “


I have observed recoiling protons in CR-39 chips exposed to a Pu-Be source of neutrons, many times. I would not fail to recognize them. These tracks are similar to those due to alpha particles from Am-241, but most of them are about one half the size of alpha tracks.

The lead article in  the Science and Technology section of The Economist (March 28 2009) also has an article on SPAWAR neutrons:

http://www.economist.com/science/displaystory.cfm?story_id=13361472&CFID=49711510&CFTOKEN=42825308

The author, who was apparently present at the Salt Lake City conference last week, writes that “. . . most researchers in the field, though, do not accept that heat is sufficient evidence of fusion (if only because it was the basis of the Pons/Fleischmann claim). So to strengthen her case, Dr Boss placed a special plastic called CR-39 next to the hot electrode. If fusion was taking place, then neutrons flying through the plastic would cause protons within the material to recoil, leaving telltale tracks. Studying CR-39 under a microscope and counting the number of tracks is a standard way to assess how many neutrons bowled past.”

In reading the article, I realized that SPAWAR own experimental data can be used against the hypothesis that fast neutrons are responsible for triple tracks. Here is my tentative argument. Suppose the hypothesis is correct. In that case triple tracks would be surrounded by an overwhelming number of tracks due to recoiling protons. But, according to the SPAWAR published article, and according to their 2007 presentation in Catania, triple tacks were surrounded by single tracks due to alpha particles, not recoiling protons. Surrounding tracks were definitely too large to be attributable to protons. That confirms what Richard Oriani wrote, multiple tracks emerging from a single point are not due to neutrons.

Fortunately, SPAWAR experiments are said to be reproducible. Therefore a clear answer, about generation of high energy neutrons in co-deposition experiments, can be obtain by performing the experiment I suggested. What can be more scientific than this? Will such experiment be performed? This remains to be seen.

Appended on 4/3/2009

The current discussion of neutrons emitted during SPAWAR experiment reminded me of a 2007 report of Larry  Forsley (at "8th International Workshop on Anomalies in Hydrogen/Deuterium Loaded Metals,” in Catania, Italy). Larry is a member of SPAWAR team. I do not know why his report is not printed in the Workshop Proceedings. Perhaps this would conflict with plans to publish the paper in a journal).  

But another paper (page 182 in the Proceedings), is related to neutrons emitted in SPAWAR-type experiments. The authors of the report are Lipson et al (Russia), and Tanzella et al (USA). Experiments were performed in SRI (Stanford Research Institute) but CR-39 were sent to be analyzed in Moscow.

The abstract states that it is a “preliminary evidence for the fast neutron emission. The  energy is estimated to be in the range of ~2.2 - 2.5 MeV with a rate of 1 - 3 n/s.” That evidence was based on recoiling protons, from scattering of neutrons. Protons produced during electrolysis were compared with protons resulting with collisions with neutrons from a Cf-252 source. No subsequent report was presented at ICCF14, last fall. It probably means that nothing more was done along this line of research. If neutrons of ~2.4 MeV are really emitted, at the rate of one per second, during SPAWAR type electrolysis, then triple tracks would be surrounded by tracks from single protons--probably millions of them per triple track. That is a puzzle.

The same report sheds light on another puzzling aspect of SPAWAR results. The first 2007 idea was that tracks (whose presence I was able to independently confirm) were due to alpha particles of several MeV. My analysis conflicted with this interpretation; tracks were too large for this. The Catania report of Lipson et al. informs us that one of the two CR-39 chips, sent to Moscow, was covered by a mylar film during electrolysis. Alpha particles of several MeV (but not 1 MeV) would travers the film and would produce tracks in CR-39. Some nuclear tracks (densities exceeding the background) were observed, but the number of tracks was orders of magnitude less than what is observed when a CR-39 is in direct contact with the cathode, during electrolysis. In other words, at least 99% of SPAWAR trcks, seen in our replication experiments, disappear when CR-39 is covered with mylar.

These results are in conflict with the idea that SPAWAR  “copious tracks” are due to alpha particles of several MeV (or to other charged particles able to traverse the mylar film). That is how, I suppose, the interpretation shifted from alphas of several MeV to alpha particles of about 1 MeV. But that is my guess; SPAWAR papers do not mention the results reported by Lipson et al, and Tanzella et al. Why is it so?

Appended on 4/4/2009

I am surprized that no one on the CNMS list answered my question, even those who were involved (Tazella, Lipson, Boss, etc.) Why do they prefer to remain silent? Perhaps they do not read my messages. But I received a private message from Richard Oriani, who does cover CR-39 chip with mylar. He suggested that I try to replicate his recent PACA results, as described in unit 333 at my website (see the link below). This prompted me to post the following message on the Internet list for CMNS researchers:

Two CR-39 protocols have been used to discover, and to confirm,  reality of nuclear-like tracks produced during electrolysis: Oriani’s ordinary-water protocol and SPAWAR heavy-water protocol. I was lucky to familiarize myself with these protocols (helped by Richard and by Pam) and to observe tracks with my own eyes. Actually, there are two  Oriani protocols; let me call them A and B. Protocol A, described at

http://pages.csam.montclair.edu/~kowalski/cf/333physrevc.html

can be used in a totally independent experiment.” Results reported in Oriani’s rejected manuscript (see the URL above) are more recent and they are said to be 100% reproducible. I know that many people on this list are able to independently replicate Oriani’s protocol A. With this in mind, I would like to suggest a cooperation, to be called “Curie Project.” The purpose of The Galileo Project, organized by Steve Krivit, was to independently confirm SPAWAR results; the purpose of Curie Project would be to do the same for recent Oriani’s results (see the URL above). I am certain that Richard will be happy to assist those who need technical help. I have enough CR-39 for at least ten experiments. I can also perform microscopic examination of already-etched CR-39 chips, for someone who has no access to a microscope. The entire experiment, including etching, must be performed in different labs (a possible alpha-radioactive contamination is no longer a problem after etching).

We would give ourselves a deadline, for example, to finish experiments before the end of May or June. Then one of us would draft a cooperative paper to be submitted to a journal. All results, both positive and negative would be reported. Later we would discuss which paper to choose. More detailed reports, focusing on individual results, are likely to be suitable for ICCF15. Please reply by sharing what you think about this idea, even if you are not interest in participation in the Curie Project.

I think our experiments should be as identical as possible. Let us use a constant-voltage source of 12 volts (a car battery or an equivalent power supply). We all should be using Ni foils as cathodes (Pd is more expensive) and light distilled water (heavy water is much more expensive). Richard, confirm that these are good suggestions. If not then suggest something else.

2) Do you know people who are not on the list  but able to participate in the Curie Project? If so then please share this message with them. In my opinion, any serious researcher, willing to conduct a CMNS experiment, should be recommended to Haiko.

Appended on 4/5/2009
No one (except Oriani, in a private message) replied to what was posted yesterday. This prompted me to post another message:

"1) In a private message, Oriani wrote (I have permission to quote): 'I applaud your effort to stimulate the replication of my results that showed reproducibility. I shall be glad to provide advice whenever needed to whomever is interested in carrying out the project. I   emphasize that the demonstration of reproducibility of development of nuclear tracks in CR39 detectors placed in electrolysis cells is the desired goal. Therefore at least ten separate experiments with appropriate controls will be required from an experimenter.'

2) A list of what is needed (including prices), to replicate Oriani's protocol, can be seen at:

http://pages.csam.montclair.edu/~kowalski/cf/188oriani.html

Figure 1, next to the list, shows the cell, as we used it before Richard's PACA protocol was introduced. PACA stands for 'Protected Against Chemical Attack.' He introduced this protocol after SPAWAR CR-39 results became known in 2007. The setup is the same except for the   following:

a) The CR-39 detector is no longer where it was (inside of the lower tube).

b) What is labeled "nickel" should be a CR-39 chip, separated from the electrolyte by a thin film (6 microns or so) of mylar.

c) A nickel cathode wire (with a foot resting on the mylar) is introduced into the cell from above, more or less like the anode.

Please correct me if I am wrong, Richard. Also provide additional details, if needed.

3) The photo of my cell, and additional details can be seen at:

http://pages.csam.montclair.edu/~kowalski/cf/192logbook.html

4) Another picture of my cell (for the experiment Richard wants us to replicate) can be seen in Figure 3, at:

http://pages.csam.montclair.edu/~kowalski/cf/336cat.html

Figure 2, by the way, shows a spectacular Richard's cluster; Figure 4 is a similar cluster from my replication experiment.

5) Do you see the question in Figure 1? The purpose of Curie Project would be to answer it. Is it true that nuclear-like tracks, not attributable to background, are reproducible on demand, when PACA protocol is used? The Galileo Project did answer this question positively for the SPAWAR protocol. Will the same be true for the PACA protocol? This is possible, provided at least three more sets of  independent experiments are performed.

6) Please share what you think about the idea of performing replication experiments at the same time.

7) Yesterday I wrote: 'Do you know people who are not on the list  but able to participate in  the Curie Project? If so then please share this message with them.' Was it a good idea?

8) With some hesitation, I suggest we use nickel from the same batch, and from the same supplier. Perhaps Richard will be willing to order a box of foils and send one foil to each of us. This would lower the cost; suppliers do not sell single foils. Other expenses could be lowered in the same way, provided participants pay for what is sent to them, including postage.

9) Not everyone is likely to have time for ten replication experiments, suggested by Richard. What about only four, providing at least four people participate in the Curie Project? A person (or a team)  deciding to participate should make a commitment within a week or two."

Appended on 4/7/2009

One person wrote that the suggested deadline in not realistic. Responding to this, I wrote: "Let me push the suggested deadline (for making Curie-Project commitments) to the end of May.  This would be four months before the ICCF15. We would report results, or preliminary results, at that conference, if we are ready. Otherwise we would continue working till a clear yes-or-no answer is found. Additional comments and suggestions would be appreciated. Is the Curie Project worth organizing? Is the task well defined?

P.S. My last message referred to Ni foils. That was a mistake. I forgot that the cathode, in Richard's PACA experiments, is no longer a foil, it is a wire. Should we use wires from the same spool or is it better if  each of us uses a nickel wires from a different manufacturer? Even very tentative commitment would be appreciated on this list. This could encourage others. Thanks in advance.


John Fisher, who worked with Oriani, and reported the results at ICCF10, posted the following comment: "Although I think we could learn a lot from the Curie Project I doubt that it would convince a hard-nosed skeptic.

***>Even if all of the participants were to report positive results, the skeptic would note that they had selected themselves. The request for volunteers was submitted to a large number of individuals. Before committing to the project, many might have attempted to achieve a positive result. Those that failed may have declined to participate. In light of this potential bias the skeptic would reject a claim of reproducibility.

***>If some participants report positive results and some report negative results, the absence of reproducibility would be demonstrated. The skeptic would likely believe that unidentified and uncontrolled factors were responsible for the positive results.

***> The protocol does not include studies of radon contamination, of other radioactive contamination, or cosmic rays, to eliminate them as causes of the etch pits.

***>It has not been shown that in all cases the etch pits are actually associated with particle tracks, and the identities of the presumed particles making such tracks have not been determined.

In light of such considerations a skeptic would probably conclude that although something odd my have been observed in some electrolysis experiments, there is no reason to believe that these observations are evidence of nuclear reactions.

If, however, we view the project as a means of educating ourselves, of discovering factors that disfavor or favor reaction and removing or enhancing them as appropriate, we then may be able to achieve a reliably reproducible protocol and a much stronger project.


This is an interesting observation. It seems to apply to all CMNS projects, not only to CR-39 work. I was not thinking about the "hard-nose skeptics;" I was thinking about majority of honest scientists who would start performing reproducible-on-demand experiments, and start testing their theories against undeniable results.

Responding to John Fisher, I wrote "I think that we should not worry about "hard-nosed skeptics." We should try to convince common scientists, most of them are honest and objective. Suppose four teams participate in the Curie Project, performing 16 experiments. Suppose that 15 of these experiments show nuclear-like tracks, at densities at least five times higher than the background. Suppose that this is published, for example in EPJAP or in Phys. Rev. Suppose that journalists write about our results in newspapers. I am certain that this would contribute significantly to the ending of discrimination against our field."

And what if results are inconclusive, or negative? Negative results would convince us that Richard's tracks were not due to a nuclear process resulting from electrolysis. We would be disappointed but that would not prevent us from obeying the rules of the game. Would we still publish the results or would we hesitate, thinking that "this might hurt the field"? I would vote for publishing negative, or uncertain results. Uncertain results would prolong the agony; they would again indicate that something is going on but we do not know how to control it. A poisoning effect of some kind (as postulated by Peter Gluck) or an elusive NAE (Nuclear Active Environemtas postulated by Ed Storms)? Uncertain results would force us to continue, obeying scientic-method. Natural human emotions, such as tendency to deemphasize (or hide) negative (presumably explainable) results should be resisted at all costs. Yes, it is difficult to be objective. Based on my experience so far, I am afraid that some experiments will produce tracks while others will show nothing above the fluctuating background.

Appended on 4/10/2009

The 20th anniversary of the Salt Lake press conference prompted me to think again about the strategy needed to convince mainstream scientists that our claims are valid. I think that the issue is worth discussing. My advice would be not to inject theoretical interpretations until facts are recognized as real. Remember what happened in 1989. Instead of focusing on real experimental facts (generation of excess heat) discussion quickly shifted to theoretical considerations, such as coulomb barrier, expectations based on wrong models, etc. It would be much better if the new phenomenon were called UEH (unexplained excess heat) rather than CF (cold fusion), until the reality of UEH were recognized by most scientists.

Explaining facts in terms of unexplained ideas seems to be counterproductive, at this stage. But this is not something unheard of. I am thinking about the famous paradox of missing energy in beta decay. Calorimetric measurements of the mean energy per beta particle, conducted in 1930s, were not consistent with the law of conservation of energy. To explain these experimental results, Pauli invented neutrino, a particle of negligible mass that carries the missing energy. I suppose that many people had reservations about this, just like many of us resist premature explanations based on polyneutrons, erzions and magnetic monopoles. But Pauli’s ad hoc hypothesis was eventually shown to be correct by Cowan and Reins (1950’s).

In our situation, however, mixing experimental facts with theories might backfire again. What we are facing is more complicated than a conflict between valid nuclear theories and new experimental data. We are also facing a political conflict between two groups of scientists. We want people to look at our experimental data; we want them to perform experiments and to focus on critical analysis of results. Yes, pure empiricism is not science. Yes, theoretical debates are essential. Knowing what happens is not the same thing as knowing why it happens. Progress is faster when theory and experiment go hand in hand. But, like other powerful tools, theories can have both positive and negative effects. I am afraid that premature theoretical considerations can produce more harm than good at this delicate stage. Experimental data are easier to defend than ad hoc theories. Let us fight in terains with which we are familiar; let us avoid terains where we are weak. Theoretical people will probably do the same and the two tracks will coexist without interacting formally with each other, for the time being.

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