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Rossi again? I have nothing positive to report.


Ludwik Kowalski; 3/12/2012

Department of Mathematical Sciences
Montclair State University, Montclair, NJ, USA

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1) FeedBlitz often sends me articles about scientific-technological developments in the world. The title I received this morning is "Steven Krivit and the troubling case of Andrea Rossi." It is an interview with a science journalist Krivit about Rossi. I also followed Rossi's claims, as documented in unit 399 at this Cold Fusion website (click the link below). I think that Rossi's claims are not consistent with what is known and understood by authors of basic nuclear physics textbooks. That is why I am also not optimistic about Rossi's E-cats. But "not being consistent with what is known and understood" does not exclude the possibility that something new and important has been discovered by Rossi. It only lowers the probability of Rossi's claims being valid. That probaility is likely to be below 1%, in my opinion.

2) Most of you already saw the draft of my article "Rossi's Reactors--Reality or Fiction?" The final version has been printed in the January 2012 issue of Progress in Physics (pages 33-35). The online version is available at their website (Google will take you there).

3) Below is the abstarct of my "letter to the editor" of Progress of Physics. The letter, entitled "Social Aspects of Cold Fusion: 23 Years Later" will be printed in the April 2012 issue. The online version might be shown in March. Why am I quoting only the abstract? Because journals usually want to be the first to publish.

ABSTRACT: "The field of Cold Fusion, now called Condensed Matter Nuclear Science (CMNS), remains controversial. The original 1989 claim made by M. Fleischmann and S. Pons was that a chemical process in an electrolytic cell could initiate a nuclear reaction--fusion of two deuterium nuclei. More recent CMNS claims, made by experimental scientists, are: emission of charged nuclear projectiles during electrolysis; accumulation of 4He; production of radioactive isotopes; and transmutation of elements. In the US, CMNS claims have been evaluated in two Department of Energy (DOE) investigations, in 1989 and 2004, as summarized in this article. These investigations did not lead to any resolution of the controversy. Scientists and adminstrators are not ideal; competition among them, as among other groups of people, tends to have both positive and negative influences."

Comments, as always, will be appreciated.

Ludwik (see Wikipedia)

P.S. 3/6/2012

4) The entrire paper has just been published.
click to download it

5) The article entitled "Rossi's Reactors--Reality or Fiction," mentioned above, can also be seen:
click to download it

The paper shows why I think that Rossi's claims conflict with what is written in our nuclear physics textbooks.

6) Here is what a colleague X from Montclair State University posted, on a discussion list, after reding my "Social Aspects of Cold Fusion: 23 Years Later" article:

I believe that there is little controversy at this point. There are a handful of investigators who continue to pursue this hypothesis on a vain hope that it will prove to be correct in spite of the large body of evidence and existing knowledge to the contrary. It is not the responsibility of the scientific community to refute every hypothesis that is forwarded on the basis of irreproducible results. If those who continue to pursue CF can provide a working prototype and instructions that a competent scientist can follow to build it, then this "controversy" will instantly disappear. It is impossible to prove that CF cannot be induced by electrochemical means involving heretofore unknown physics. The onus of proof is on, and should remain on, those who make such extraordinary claims.

I believe that the scientific community has been unusually kind to the CF proponents. To propose that one has developed an energy source that violates much of currently accepted physics takes a certain type of individual. To continue to claim that it works without showing an independently verifiable prototype also takes a certain type of individual. Most of the time the term "charlatan' is applied.

On a side note, I do not know that Fleischmann was an indisputable leader in electrochemistry in 1989. I don't currently have access to the citation index to check on his pre-1989 contributions.


And here is my reply:

I agree that the burden of proof is on those who make claims. We cannot check all claims, especially those made by authors without scientific credentials. But I also think that the DOE, NSF, etc. have some obligation toward claims made by Ph.D. level scientists who worked in National Laboratories for decades, conducted first-class research and published widely in refereed journals. They should have access to referees as all other scientists. But editors of many scientific papers often reject CF papers by themselves. That is not normal. I am also skeptical about many cold fusion claims. But that does not mean that I should support topic-based discrimination.

You have seen how I reacted to a recent claim made by an inventor, Andrea Rossi (who is not a scientist). His claims conflict with what is in our nuclear physics textbooks. Does this mean that he cannot possibly be right that something totally unexpected has been discovered? No it does not mean this. But the probability that he is right is very low, most likely less than 1%, in my opinion. Neither the DOE nor the NSF should support his research. Let us wait and see; perhaps he is right in believing that his invention will be validated by a large number of satisfied customers. I am certainly not going to invest in his "great technology."


Several hours later X responded:

Hi Ludwik, I think we all *hope* that the CF side is right. I remember the excitement and skepticism in 1989... "Probably not, but what if?" We'd all like to see a cheap convenient way to exploit the fusion mass defect to produce energy. But, honestly, 23 years is more than enough time to make the Palladium-Deuteroxide reactor reproducible. That other approaches have been forwarded in the mean time seems a bit desperate to find some excuse to keep looking. So, I disagree about topic-based discrimination. We should not take papers on the Phlogiston Theory or on perpetual motion machines or on poly-water. If they want to publish in the top journals, let them produce a working reactor that others can replicate and test independently. If they are correct they will all be multi-billionaires and can laugh at us from their mansions.

A colleague of mine pointed out that Fleischmann was one of the first to report the surface enhanced Raman effect, though he erroneously attributed it to a concentrative effect. So I will take back any objections about him having been a leading figure in electrochemistry. I wonder if his "miss" on surface enhanced Raman by being too conservative influenced his thinking 15 years later when he saw another unusual phenomenon in his lab.


My next-day reply was:

Those interested in Cold Fusion (CF), might enjoy reading McKubre's 2009 paper at the 15th International CF conference in ROME. The link is:

http://www.enea.it/it/produzione-scientifica/pdf-volumi/introduction-iccf15-proceedings-2.pdf

Mike is an electrochemist. I know him personally and I have no doubt that he is honest. In fact, he is a hero, in my view. How many people would be willing to continue probing for more that two decades under showers of spits? I think that he is motivated by the noble desire to help society.

Unfortunately, I did not go to the ICCF15 in Rome in 2009. But I did participate in, and contributed to, three earlier conferences (USA-2003, France-2004, and Japan-2005). My impression was, and still is, that most CF researchers (not all) are like Mike, and that their methodology of validation is scientific. Great scientists I met, including Frederic Joliot Curie, who introduced me to research, would agree. The difficulties described by Mike are real.

Subject-based discrimination (denying peer review process to Ph.D. level scientists) is harmful and totally unjustified. The DOE should support CF projects. A clear yes-or-no answer, about how to make excess heat experiments (described by Mike) reproducible on demand, could be obtained at a cost that is negligible (in comparison with how much is spent on supporting hot fusion studies). Yes, I am thinking about 0.1%, such as several million dollars versus tens of billions. Download Mike's paper and read it carefully; you will probably agree that there is nothing unscientific in it.

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