Infinite Energy Magazine
March Madness and March Meeting Madness
For most people, “March Madness” erupts each year with the final round (the “Final Four”) during the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) college basketball tournament. But March Madness starts well before March for those of us who truly love basketball. Because we love basketball, we inspire the frenzy. We point to and admire the graceful hand-eye coordination that is impossible for most of us, the talent of the players involved in the tournament, their youth and vitality, their intensity. What really triggers March Madness is the excellence of their play. We admire the best of the game, and the teachers and coaches who inspire this in all of these great players who in the prime of their youth are making this happen.
Great basketball, like great science, requires diligence and a different kind of skill. Real March Madness occurs through this, and this kind of love for their sport. This also occurs in “great science.” For no better name, I will call this intensity and love and care “March Meeting Madness.” The gracefulness or graceful love in the calamity that might happen in the end I will refer to as “the Madness.” By “the Madness” I am suggesting the truly great possibility that the impossible just might become possible. It might occur from a last-minute shot that wins, a win in double or triple overtime, or from an underdog team winning.
At its heart, this wonderful March Madness is a passion for the sport and the rhythm of the game, but also the drama. The sport is a form of play that all-at-once is beautiful, physically difficult, and involves something that I will call “grace” because the agility and dexterity that are required most of us will never have. Last year, this “grace” hit a high pitch for people who live where I live, in northern Virginia, because a truly David and Goliath situation took place involving an entirely unknown college, George Mason University, in the high stakes realm of the NCAA basketball tournament, who beat all of the expectations of sports fans and pundits by getting into the Final Four.
When I refer to March Meeting Madness, I am talking about something very different from March Madness. But in spirit the two are very much the same. When done right, good science involves grace: It can inspire passion, and possibly when it does take place (and it does), similar David and Goliath situations happen. A major theme of this editorial is precisely this—a true David and Goliath situation can take place and has taken place. As opposed to the tragic debacle that took place on May 1, 1989 during the April (not March) American Physical Society (APS) meeting, where Pons and Fleischmann (P-F) were accused of fraud, in absentia, on March 5, 2007 at the March meeting of the APS, real science associated with what P-F started will take place: two consecutive sessions beginning at 8:00 a.m. in Room 401 of the Denver Convention Center—Cold Fusion I (Session A31) and Cold Fusion II (Session B31)—will be devoted entirely to low-energy nuclear reactions (LENR). See session details at:
An important (subtle) point to remember is the difference between the March meeting and the April (or Spring) meeting of the APS. It is sad that even members of the APS don’t appreciate the difference. The March meeting hosts the largest gathering of physicists in the world; it is truly multi-disciplinary. What happens at the March meeting actually is related to the kinds of things that have gone on in P-F experiments. The April meeting is not as multi-disciplinary. It involves individuals who are far removed from the relevant topics: batteries, electrolysis, chemistry. The April meeting focuses on high-energy processes, astrophysics, and related areas.
Although superficially it might seem that there is a big difference between playing/winning basketball in the finals of the NCAA tournament and giving a talk at the March meeting of the APS about LENR, there really are important similarities. Both count. Heroes and drama have resulted from both.
March Meeting Madness involves not only the body, but the mind (in very subtle ways, through forms of body language and how things are expressed and stated) and the voice. As opposed to a fast break after a blocked shot, or a soft lay-up or hard dunk with no one around to block either, in March Meeting Madness a spectacular display of 15 viewgraphs, well-written, but spoken so fast that it is impossible for anyone to understand what the speaker has said (in the short 10 minutes that he has to give his talk), can equally evoke a sense of excitement. But, as opposed to frenzy in the sense that something truly excellent has been accomplished, a second sense of frenzy (based on a respect for the intensity of what is said) can set in, associated with being so totally dumbfounded by the spectacle that one laughs and is in awe at how intense the speaker has been, despite the fact that his talk has been absolutely unintelligible.
But even a very “unintelligible” but “important” talk at the March meeting of the APS might help to ignite really good science. A very incorrect, bad talk can lead to very bad science. Some of the talks at the May 1, 1989 cold fusion session were so bad that they almost killed the field entirely.
The striking feature that is found in both March Madness and March Meeting Madness is intensity. Even though I was only 12 years old at the time, I was awestruck by the brilliance of Bill Bradley’s shooting and passing during his final NCAA basketball game (during the Final Four), when he scored 58 points (at the time, an NCAA tournament record), with 18 points in the final quarter. Something else was involved here. It was the intensity of my Dad’s love for knowledge and what he had experienced at Princeton University.
The setting truly was extraordinary. Princeton’s Ivy League basketball program was undergoing an unexpected re-birth. Princeton’s basketball coach, Willem “Butch” van Breda Kolff, a New York University graduate and former player for the New York Knicks who later coached the Los Angeles Lakers, made basketball at Princeton fantastic. It started shortly after he took over, when he recruited Bill Bradley. Bill Bradley truly was “the student prince” (outstanding basketball player, Rhodes Scholar, and as is now well-known, eventually a Senator from New Jersey)—a true hero, especially for someone like me, who had been taught that doing good things causes good things. I was absolutely astonished by the miracle of a truly academic institution, Princeton University, fighting a David and Goliath battle in 1965, like George Mason’s last year.
What was absolutely extraordinary is how Bill Bradley played and exemplified the attitude that really does typify what I would call the excellence and balance of March Madness and March Meeting Madness. Bill Bradley, especially in his final game, had a sense of balance between not feeling his own greatness and not recognizing it. In fact, months after this game, John McPhee wrote a truly memorable, though infrequently read book, A Sense of Where You Are. In it, John described the events I have just explained (see www.johnmcphee.com). The book and the events reflect the grace that I think occurs both in March Madness and in March Meeting Madness.
As he was leaving for another coaching job, Butch van Breda Kolff suggested that Peter Carril be his replacement. Pete Carril received an honorary degree, the day before I graduated, after he managed to coach Princeton’s basketball team so well that they won the National Invitational Tournament (NIT), during my senior year. This was another extraordinary David and Goliath story.
The day after Princeton won, the New York Times had a lead editorial, “Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright,” talking about how remarkable it was that a place like Princeton (which has a tiger as its mascot) that is so academic and so non-sports could possibly win the NIT. The article so remarkably stated how spectacular this event was and implicitly the extraordinary beauty of the spirit and wonder of the spectacle of something so unexpected. Like Butch van Breda Kolff, Pete Carril had an intensity and sincerity that transcended what most people view as normal. His loyalty to Princeton, his players, and to the best aspects of basketball, all capture the spirit of March Madness and March Meeting Madness.
March Meeting Madness begins initially with trying to express one’s thoughts about a particular subject in physics. Very often, in fact most of the time, the dedication of a young scientist in trying to understand something wonderful and new becomes overwhelming and the scientist does not express his thoughts in a way that can be understood by most people. This is also a form of “madness” in the sense that what the person says almost appears to be crazy, except to the few experts who have also felt the passion that the person has about what he has been studying. The reason for this is that the “formal” presentations at March meetings are so short that it is very difficult to communicate. As opposed to the hoopla and spectacle that goes with March Madness, the March Meeting Madness I am referring to is entirely different, in an extreme way. Usually it involves the exact opposite kind of situation than the spectacle that takes place during March Madness. Instead of excitement, it involves what most people would view as being extremely boring. It involves nerdish, dedicated scientists and physicists who rarely show emotion but who, in the end, do want science to be right and who do want to admit they are wrong when they are.
March Meeting Madness certainly is not normal. It is a form of “madness” involving the passion that physicists are supposed to have. The problem with the cold fusion episode is that non-scientists—in particular a number of editors, scientific program managers, observers of science, and journalists—stepped into a remarkably bizarre situation, involving utter confusion. Gary Taubes, for example, typified this in his fiercely biased and unscientific book, Bad Science: The Short Life and Weird Times of Cold Fusion. Ironically, he got it wrong but also got it partly right. The science was weird, especially to the people who paid attention to it, like him, for a short time. But it certainly, in the long run, was not bad. It was unfortunate that there was so much confusion and that he used the terms that he used. The “weird times” were quite weird. But his reporting of what happened was premature at best and possibly self-serving, at worst. He was wrong then, and to really be “involved” in the truth—if he wants to be involved—he simply should admit this. Possibly he is too removed from the field right now, in the sense that he does not realize that he really does have a duty to step forward and admit he was wrong.
The graces of March Meeting Madness and March Madness, although akin in spirit, in fact can be very different. In March 1986, it dawned on me for the first time how striking both forms of “madness” truly are. They both are rooted in a wonderful form of idealism and quest for excellence. This made me appreciate how different I am, how different most physicists are, and how different most NCAA tournament stars are from most “normal” people.
To be specific, although great players in the NCAA Final Four might appear to be “stars,” what distinguishes them from most people is their self-discipline. They work hard at accomplishing what they know to be true and to make what is in their hearts take place. Really great physicists share the same kind of idealism. The difference between being and not being so disciplined can reflect itself in extraordinary ways that are not obvious, at first, but with time they can become obvious. The truth is that being an idealist is hard. Most people are not. At a certain point, just by being an idealist, you become viewed as being extraordinary. This is also true of really devoted basketball players. And it is at the juncture of two entirely different ways of helping to kindle great thought in humanity that the two entirely different forms of “madness” join. In the end, love for doing something great does inspire greatness and human beings—wherever they are in their lives—love this and they certainly should!
What happened in 1986 that so resonates in my thinking about these distinctions involved my recognizing a totally and seemingly impossible situation in which I sensed the “madness” (idealism, in particular) associated with March meetings, but, at the same time, I found myself confronted with an equally incredible (and with hindsight, obvious, although I really hadn’t thought of it this way) realization, involving how most people (as opposed to physicists) function. I realized for the first time how physicists function really can appear to be “screwy” (even a little crazy, in comparison to most people). I also began to recognize how much I really admire idealistically motivated science, and the scientists who do it.
The scene and setting were extraordinary. I was standing in the MGM Grand Hotel on a Sunday afternoon in Las Vegas, Nevada, about to check into my room just before the 1986 March Meeting of the American Physical Society. As I looked out, I saw something that made me realize that there is a form of insanity or “madness” in being a physicist. There were all these people who, like me, really did not care about how they looked. They had dingy-looking clothes and were remarkably nerdy in appearance, and right next to them were “beautiful people,” some of them dressed to kill, others simply “normal” looking.
It was obvious. You really could pick out the physicists from the other people. At the end of the week, an article appeared in a local Las Vegas newspaper, with the headline, “Hookers Upset as the American Physical Society Visits Las Vegas.” In the article, they had a number of interviews with people from Las Vegas. Some of these included negative statements from a number of employees of the MGM Grand Hotel about the APS and physicists: “We never wanted them back! They did not care about how they look, and they look disheveled and poorly dressed! They never gambled! They do not go to the ‘girly shows,’ and they were lousy tippers!” (And it is sad to say, but all of this really is true to a degree.) As I left the MGM Grand Hotel, I shared a cab with another physicist. In disgust, he muttered, “Loss Vegas, Nevada.” Although I did not know immediately that he had been at the APS Meeting, I sensed that he had, and I asked if this was true. Of course, it was.
My second experience with an even more extreme form of March Meeting Madness occurred a year later, at the 1987 March Meeting of the APS in New York City. A stunningly profound discovery had been made by two European scientists, Georg Bednorz and Karl Alex Mueller, involving a phenomenon that is referred to as high-Tc superconductivity; a special evening session, with the “hottest” new findings related to this discovery, was scheduled to take place early in the conference. The session began at 7:30 and it went on well after midnight.
As Arthur J. Freeman got up to speak at the session, there was intense excitement in his facial expression and in his eyes. He was my first boss. He was (and continues to be) extraordinarily idealistic and has intensity, and the beauty of his intensity continues to be spectacular. These features were there for all to see, in a picture of Art on the front page of the New York Times the following day. The intensity of Art Freeman’s stare was unbelievable, as he contemplated what might really be going on with high-Tc superconductors. The science, as he suggested, did not involve just an incremental change; it was spectacular. Art Freeman’s gaze, posture, and passion in appreciating something so new and potentially important captured, at once, the most important, basic aspects of science—a true admiration for what we do not understand and for our wish that we can and have passion for understanding the unknown. The New York Times called the session the “Woodstock of Physics.” Art Freeman, in the truest sense, captures March Meeting Madness.
Unfortunately, two years later many physicists, hoping the “excitement” and “intensity” of the events leading to the “Woodstock of Physics” could be recaptured at a similar late night session of the April Meeting related to cold fusion, failed to recognize important differences. The high-Tc superconductivity phenomenon not only was relatively easy to reproduce, but new materials were discovered almost immediately that exhibit superconductivity at even higher temperatures. The cold fusion situation was entirely unknown. The phenomena, which at the time were thought to involve two of the disciplines (nuclear and high energy physics) associated with the April meeting, in fact were related at a basic level to the disciplines and knowledge of physicists who normally attend the March meeting. After many years, this fact is being recognized. The fact that there will be two sessions at the very beginning of the 2007 APS March meeting affirms this. Progress is being made. The intensity and passion of the people who are presenting papers on March 5 attest to this fact. The scientists who have contributed papers to Cold Fusion I and II really must be viewed as being extraordinary. In a very real sense, I would like to refer to these people (albeit in my mind) as “saints.” These “saints” will be marching in—into the 2007 March Meeting of the American Physical Society—and I believe their march will be historic!
We all would like to be underdogs and do something great. Too often in our day-to-day experiences, this seems impossible. We fail to dream that we really can cause miracles to take place, as when the George Mason University basketball team almost shocked all of the sports world with its quest for “the impossible,” when Bill Bradley scored 58 points in his final NCAA game, and Pete Carril coached Princeton’s 1975 team so well that they won the National Invitational Tournament. Done right, March Meeting Madness shares this same goal: a passionate dream and love for achieving “the impossible.” The big difference is that as opposed to playing a sport and trying to gain fame, fortune, and happiness by delighting an audience, March Meeting Madness involves an insatiable desire to try do something else (equally honorable and wonderful)—to possibly change the world, believe it or not, by thinking this might be possible through physics and through the dream that physics can change the world.
The “madness” I am referring to is the truly wonderful passion that can occur when really great science erupts during a time (like today) when we really need great science. The “madness” I refer to also involves true idealists, scientists, physicists (in particular), who devote their lives to being idealistic and who really want the truth to come out. This “madness” actually involves being stalwart in seeking the truth, regardless of the consequences. It involves extreme dedication.
At this March meeting of the APS, there really might be some history and genuine anger (“madness” of a different sort) by the individuals who will be marching into the March meeting. The “saints” of cold fusion and their anger very easily could turn to euphoria, as physicists from around the world finally begin to wake up to the fact that what happened in 1989 was a big mistake and that they must take notice of what has taken place since.
Those who refuse to do this will simply be left behind. Their opinions will be sad afterthoughts, involving a tragic series of mistakes. As the “saints of cold fusion” tell the “secret truth” that must be told but has been repressed because of potential embarrassment, passion will be in the air. It is hard to believe that the situation won’t change because of the setting and what will be presented. But it might take time for this to happen. At least, eventually, because nature does not lie, the passion of these devoted scientists will win the day. I am convinced this will happen. Eventually, physicists will wake up. But as with everything new and controversial, a nurturing process will be needed. This will also involve important scientific scrutiny and debate, which will be healthy. In the end, the process certainly will work. I am talking about what really might raise an uproar and be remembered.
History really quite literally could be in the making on March 5. The reason I say this is that for much too long, real science about Condensed Matter Nuclear Science (CMNS) has been stifled by a truly “mad” situation that for no good reason has occurred in which, because of initial mistakes, communication about the real science of CMNS has been stifled in the physics community.
An important point is the existing situation is about to change, in a big way, because the evidence is in. There will be four talks that show the two big bugaboos no longer exist that have bothered physicists about believing in CMNS: 1) not being able to reproduce the excess heat effect on demand (which is now possible), and 2) the lack of high energy particles and radiation (both phenomena can be created now, on demand).
What counts even more than March Madness is a more directed “madness”: the intensity of creative thought. March meetings of the APS can make this happen and they are doing this. There will, in fact, be a “March Madness at the 2007 March Meeting.” But what will happen is anyone’s guess. But it will happen. You can count on it!
I also have additional good news about CMNS. In December, Stephen Kaplan, Executive Director of the non-profit foundation The New Energy Movement (http://www.newenergymovement.org/), contacted me. Steve has been involved with community organization and lobbying for worthwhile causes for almost a half a century, including work in the peace and social justice movements. He told me he had decided to spend a month in Washington, D.C., to actively lobby congressional offices in support of the Energy Innovation Act of 2007, a proposed bill that NEM has prepared that provides vitally needed support for new energy scientists and inventors. Steve has written a nice summary (p. 10) of what he accomplished while he was on Capitol Hill.
Steve arrived on January 15 and left on February 14. He worked very closely with Dr. Tom Valone of Integrity Research Institute and myself to prepare and present PowerPoint presentations to legislative assistants on new energy R&D and on the history and current status of cold fusion research.
Stephen Kaplan has done a great service by coming here and doing what he has done. It has been a pleasure to work with him. I know that good things will come out of what he has done.
Also in this issue of IE, we include other exciting articles. One of these is related to the problem of initiating thermonuclear fusion. “Spherical Microwave Confinement for Thermonuclear Fusion and Ball Lightning” by William R. Robinson develops a model and design for a device that resonantly pumps plasmoids (which are pinched plasmas that are confined by magnetic fields) in order to induce nuclear fusion. He suggests this device can also be used to create ball lightning. Two papers (“Antimatter Kinetics” by Daniel Merkoziaj and “The Strong Force and the Atomic Nucleus” by Arnold Gulko) propose new theoretical models. Arnold Gulko provides a new perspective on the nature of the strong force. Daniel Merkoziaj argues the conventional picture, in which we assume there is considerably more matter than anti-matter in the universe, is wrong. As opposed to the conventional Dirac picture (in which anti-matter can be viewed as a “hole” in the vacuum and can only result when the vacuum is excited through some kind of process), he suggests the really relevant problem involves the dynamics of charged and neutral particles. He asks the following rhetorical question: “What if there is another theory where the antimatter is being consumed and the universe is still in the creation process?” And he suggests that “the consumption of antimatter generates the universe, stars, planets, and life.” “Calcium Formation from KOD in D2O by Electrochemical Reaction Catalyzed by Palladium Supported on Carbon Activated by Mechanochemistry” by Silvio M. Lavagna involves experiments that show anomalous increases in calcium that occur when D2O is electrolyzed, using cathodes that have Pd embedded on the surface of carbon. “Cold Fusion by Jet Plasma Process in Hydro Machinery” by Farzan Amini discusses the process of of plasma formation in cavities, that result when hydrogen turbines resonantly force water to oscillate at resonant frequencies that create cavitation.