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infinite energy

Issue 66
Mar/Apr 2006

Exposing the "Real Embarrassments" of Cold Fusion
Scott Chubb, Editorial, #66

Webster's Collegiate Dictionary defines "embarrassment" as actions that: 1) Hinder from liberty of movement; 2) Confuse; 3) Perplex; 4) Impede; 5) Disconcert; 6) Render intricate; 7) Complicate, 8) Imply derangement. The "real embarrassments" of cold fusion fit this definition quite well. The most important of these occurred through actions by various individuals that initially so seriously misrepresented "information" about cold fusion and claims about its effects that, until recently, further information about it has not only been blocked from being seen in mainstream scientific journals, but (at least within recent history) anyone who has seriously suggested that real science might be associated with this subject has been ridiculed by conventional scientists. Not only is this attitude wrong, it really is an embarrassment. Real progress has taken place in understanding cold fusion. The actions by individuals who caused (and continue to cause) confusion about this have and will continue to "perplex, disconcert, complicate, imply derangement," and will help to inspire the intuition, by mainstream physicists, that room temperature nuclear reactions are impossible, while, in fact, compelling evidence shows this intuitively comfortable idea is very wrong. Those who have blindly assumed this have been seriously undermining important science. It is truly sad to say that because of the lack of communication that has resulted, these actions by these particular individuals, who have so successfully blocked progress in understanding cold fusion effects, are the key and most important tragedies of the associated "debate" (and lack of debate). Until or unless these individuals "come clean" about what they have done and admit that they were simply wrong, or at least were misguided, in their assumptions, what they said should be remembered as the most important "real embarrassment" of cold fusion.

The most significant events involving this very "real embarrassment" took place on May 1, 1989, at the spring meeting of the American Physical Society (APS). These events took place within six weeks of the initial claims. In fact, it is now known that at the time, in order to identify excess heat in most cold fusion experiments, an "incubation time" involving prolonged electrolysis of at least six weeks was required in order to trigger the associated phenomenon. Not only were such subtleties ignored, in a rush to judge the "purported" claims, outlandish and very wrong counter-claims were made. This  remains a true embarrassment, not only to the individuals who made these counter-claims, but to the forum, involving the APS, where these counter-claims were allowed to take place. Members of the APS, all at once without realizing it, further became major players in promulgating this embarrassment by believing the myth that was presented on May 1, 1989-that incompetence and even fraud might have been involved with the excess heat results.  Since that time, unfortunately, attitudes presented by most members of the APS have reflected the very inaccurate impressions and very wrong information that was presented on May 1, 1989. The fact that the leaders of the APS have not dealt with or even recognized this fact is the second most serious "real embarrassment" of cold fusion. As a consequence, as opposed to recognizing this failure, members of the APS have viewed the subject as a pariah form of science and have outwardly expressed the tell-tale symptoms (confusion, being perplexed, feeling a sense of being disconcerted, or even that individuals who might broach the subject could be deranged) associated with embarrassment. In fact, APS members are embarrassed by what happened for a very good reason. On May 1, 1989, the facts were not presented. The individuals who made the presentations were very wrong. The entire spectacle, from beginning to end, really was an embarrassment.

Charles Barnes, Steven Koonin, and Nathan Lewis gave particularly flawed presentations on May 1, 1989, based on very irrelevant ideas that helped to inspire confusion and the resulting embarrassment. Further aggravating the lack of objectivity associated with these "pronouncements" was the especially arrogant manner in which these individuals presented them. Not only did this behavior aggravate a bad scientific climate, it initiated and promulgated the myth that Pons and Fleischmann somehow had been involved with fraudulent behavior. In fact, six months later, at a meeting sponsored by the National Science Foundation, privately one of the individuals who presented this case (Lewis) so significantly down-played the significance of his counter-claims that it was difficult to realize what had transpired earlier. At this same meeting, real excess heat results were presented, and Lewis remained silent. Subsequently, several years later, a group of scientists engaged him and criticized his results. His initial claims were not only seriously questioned, but significant evidence was presented that suggested he had actually observed excess heat but had not recognized or reported this fact. To this day, he has not published his findings and has not defended or retracted his earlier claims. Because his claims on May 1, 1989 so seriously disrupted communication about a new and important area of research that really does have national significance, at the very least, it really is not inappropriate to ask why Nathan Lewis has not been forthright in defending his position or in retracting or modifying it. Because he has not done this, his actions have seriously compromised cold fusion. If he does not respond appropriately in the future, his scientific integrity should be questioned. This is potentially tragic. Hopefully, he will respond forthrightly to the situation.

Others were involved. These included, most prominently, Richard Garwin, David Lindley, and Ronald Parker. Although, at the time and given the circumstances, it may have appeared to have been acceptable to forgive these individuals for behaving in an inappropriate, unscientific manner, not only is it now apparent their behavior was quite wrong, their failure to take responsibility for their actions is entirely reprehensible. Garwin, Koonin, Barnes, Lewis, Lindley, and Parker know better. They were wrong then. They are wrong now. Let history note that until or unless these individuals admit or explain their behavior, their actions will always be remembered as: the third "real embarrassment" of cold fusion.

Unfortunately for David Lindley, who was a journalist as opposed to being a scientist, his excuse for such reprehensible behavior is unacceptable. The others who were involved had fortunate ways of avoiding being held accountable for what happened, primarily since scientists traditionally are not blamed for being wrong, because a hidden assumption about science is that it is allowable to make mistakes, in the hope that through the scientific process errors will be corrected. Lindley, however, cannot be excused in this manner. Lindley was (and presumably is) supposed to be a journalist, as opposed to being a scientist. His role, quite possibly, will be remembered as being the "most egregious, 'real embarrassment' of cold fusion." Ironic is the fact that David Lindley used similar words in his article ("The Embarrassment of Cold Fusion") in Nature on March 29, 1990. It truly is sad that such a reputable scientific journal  could be responsible for such reprehensible trash. In particular, as opposed to using perverse, derisive, unscientific language about the field, as he so freely did in this editorial, it is entirely appropriate to refer to his commentary in a similar manner: "Like the Paris Fashions, it [his commentary, as opposed to theories, based on the relevant science] outfaces Mockery." The absolutely irresponsible, reprehensible behavior by Lindley will long be remembered as seriously undermining the advancement of genuine science, in such an important area. Barnes, Garwin, Koonin, Lewis, and Parker also should all be truly ashamed of the terrible disservice that they have performed, not only to science, but to humanity.

These individuals were quite effective, however, in undermining debate and discourse about cold fusion. Given the situation, it actually is not at all surprising that such a breakdown in communication might have occurred. Barnes, Koonin, and Lewis committed their crime on May 1, 1989, during the spring meeting of the APS. It is especially fitting to identify these individuals as true miscreants, as cold fusion returns to Baltimore on March 16, during the 2006 March meeting of the APS. This will be the first APS meeting in Baltimore since the most important events associated with the "real embarrassment" took place on May 1, 1989.  In fact, because real scientific progress has taken place since 1989, the cold fusion session during this meeting will be well attended and will involve genuine scientific discourse, as opposed to the vitriolic diatribes that occurred in 1989. Koonin, Barnes, and Lewis could learn a great deal about cold fusion by attending the March 16 session in Baltimore. It is doubtful that they are even aware that it will be taking place. Talks by the following individuals, including myself, are scheduled: Mike McKubre and Fran Tanzella, Steve Krivit, Talbot Chubb, George Miley, Mitchell Swartz, Vittorio Violante, Roger Stringham, Martin Fleischmann and Melvin Miles, Fangil Gareev and I.E. Zhidkova, Xing Z. Li, Jean Paul Biberian and Georges Lonchampt, and William Collis.

It is entirely appropriate, in the context of recalling the truly reprehensible spectacle that occurred during the May 1989 APS meeting to recognize the subsequent events at MIT and elsewhere, where even more unscientific behavior took place. In particular, the efforts by Gene Mallove and Mitchell Swartz should be recognized and commended. As a consequence of considerable work, over many years of investigation of the relevant science, Gene and Mitchell exposed a terrible event associated with Ronald Parker: Possible scientific fraud, at MIT, that took place after particular individuals, who were certain that "cold fusion" could not involve excess heat being created without high energy particles, systematically altered curves that showed the existence of excess heat, published the altered results, and then failed to honestly and forthrightly address the questions that were raised about their alterations. (See IE #24.) Subsequently, Michael Melich and Wilford Hansen re-analyzed data, provided by David Williams, from Harwell. In their analysis, they showed that as in the case of MIT, excess heat apparently was produced in some of the (Harwell) experiments and that this finding had not been previously reported. Whether or not by choice, by accident, by coincidence, or for some other all-too-human reason, David Williams has not forthrightly responded to underlying questions raised, as a result of the Melich and Hansen work, that suggest that positive Harwell heat results exist. Unfortunately, until he and his colleagues respond to this question, their actions, historically, certainly will be viewed as being significantly worse than Lindley's, and the work by Williams and his colleagues will be remembered as another real embarrassment of cold fusion. If, at least, they address these and related questions (associated with the possibility that they might have observed excess heat), in a suitable manner, this will not be true.

Similarly, one must question why Nathan Lewis has not been forthright about his work. Melvin Miles, Vladimir Noninski, and other scientists found evidence that there may have been excess heat present in some of his results. Regardless of whether or not these criticisms were correct or incorrect, conventional scientific protocol requires a response. This has not occurred. Until it does, because Nathan Lewis played such a prominent role in depicting cold fusion as being fraudulent, he really must respond to the very real accusation that he and his colleagues can equally well be accused of being fraudulent for not responding to questions about their own work and to the claim that evidence exists that excess heat was present in his group's experiments. The earlier misrepresentations of null excess heat results at CalTech, MIT, and Harwell were unethical. These misrepresentations should be exposed as additional, potentially damnable "real embarrassments" of cold fusion, but science is imperfect. If the individuals who were involved honestly and forthrightly respond to the criticisms that have been made, here and elsewhere, progress will result. The stigma of "potential derangement" and "embarrassment" certainly will not apply. Let us hope that some form of response will take place. Otherwise, it is sad to say that at some level, these efforts really will be remembered as embarrassments, and this will not serve a useful purpose, either for those who were and have been involved, for me, or for this publication.

In fairness, in dealing with the bizarre misrepresentation of the facts that took place on May 1, 1989, one really should ask how and why this could have come to pass and what should have been expected to have taken place. What is truly astonishing and ironic is how earnestly, and wrongly, the actions by these and other individuals associated with the initial cold fusion debate were at the time and how their views should be interpreted. In fact, the adamant nature of the debate (or lack of debate) really did so effectively end discussion, the events led to a consensus that quite simply can be viewed in no other way but the view that cold fusion was an embarrassment. As opposed to the "real embarrassment" of cold fusion associated with Koonin's, Lewis', Barnes', Garwin's, and Lindley's pronouncements, this embarrassment was not theatrical. But it involved more far-reaching consequences. In fact, the lack of respect for the associated science led to additional, tragic behavior that also can be viewed as resulting in forms of embarrassment. In particular, dysfunctional attitudes by mainstream scientists have continued. These attitudes really can be corrected through forthright, honest dialogue about cold fusion. Because this is a subject of national importance, the lack of dialogue about it has created frustration and anger. This situation can and must change. It will, provided, forthrightly, the lack of dialogue and the reasons for the lack of dialogue are recognized.

There are several positive signs that this situation is changing. In particular, by chance, in two separate articles (by Michael Lemonick in Time, on January 9, and by Bettyan Holtzmann Kevles in the January 8 Washington Post magazine), issues related to scientific ethics and fraud, in the wake of the Korean stem cell scandal, appeared that mentioned cold fusion. In both of these articles, cold fusion was termed (incorrectly) as being an instance in which two scientists made serious mistakes. Also, quite by chance, although purporting to represent the relevant facts, in an ethical manner, both authors made mistakes about the relevant facts. In fact, in both instances, the authors did not seriously misrepresent the general perception that most people have about cold fusion. However, a nearly-immediate response took place, involving many individuals within the cold fusion community. In particular, two separate letters appeared in the Yale Daily News, as a result of Bettyan Holtzmann Kevles' Washington Post article. (Kevles is a professor of history at Yale.) Letters were also submitted to Time. In both situations, useful dialogue seems to have resulted. Jed Rothwell and Edmund Storms are to be commended for responding to these misrepresentations of the relevant science.

Although questions related to "embarrassment" certainly can appear to be real, it is entirely appropriate to ask if they are ever necessary. Recently, for example, I received an absolutely fascinating newsletter from the Physics Department, at Princeton University, where I studied physics as an undergraduate. In this newsletter, there was a truly wonderful, short article by one of the most creative physicists of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, John Archibald Wheeler. Someone unfamiliar with John Wheeler and the depth of his knowledge very easily might have concluded that what he said in his article was absolute rubbish. In it, for example, he talked about the possibility that human beings actually might be able to alter the universe as a result of looking at it. He spoke of questions related to hidden dimensions and realities that might or might not be present, depending upon how one looks at reality. Professor Wheeler presented these ideas in an extremely short, all-at-once seemingly mysterious, but terribly profound series of comments, associated with what we really do know and what we think we know about the nature of our existence, including not only what we suspect we might know about the nature of reality, but through a far deeper question, the question of what constitutes "nothingness," or more simply expressed, the idea of "nothing at all." This is a terribly profound question. The idea of "nothing at all" is difficult to address because although we sense we understand the idea, it really is difficult to pin it down, directly. We simply can not make useful measurements, usually, that can be used to quantify what it means.

Wheeler for many years has provided many truly wonderful pictures and descriptions associated with this question. In the middle part of the twentieth century, he coined the expression "black hole" to describe the singular behavior associated with a star shrinking into itself. Later, he coined the equally provocative expressions "worm hole" (referred to as Wheeler's Worm Hole) and "quantum foam," both of which relate to extremely profound questions associated with the nature of physical forces. One of the great pleasures of being an editor of Infinite Energy is to contemplate similar issues. Deliberately, in this capacity, I have tried to be open-minded about new and unusual concepts that might have bearing on the kinds of ideas that Wheeler ponders. Although Infinite Energy can not and should not be expected to address these issues with the eloquence and rigor that can be found in the teachings of John Wheeler, we can at least try to make a first attempt to do this. In the present issue, two of the articles deal with questions related to concepts of "nothing" and the nature of reality. These include "Cosmic Background Radiation Originated in the Zero-Point Fluctuations of Vacuum" by Takaaki Musha and "The Case for a Sub-Quantum" by J.P. Claybourne. Musha's paper deals with a highly creative idea involving the possibility of faster-than-the-speed-of-light particles (tachyons) and how they might alter zero-point-fluctuations. Conventionally, such an approach is so far-removed from "normal" physics, to my knowledge, no one has thought about it. But, in principle, this does not mean that effects associated with such a picture might not be observable. The problem, of course, as in the case of the situations that Wheeler contemplates, is that the relevant measurements are extremely difficult to perform. Musha seems to have identified a possible source of information (involving Cosmic Background Radiation) that can be used to test some of his ideas. The paper by Claybourne also involves questions related to the nature of reality. In particular, he provides a new picture associated with electron photon scattering that fundamentally addresses unresolved questions related to relativistic corrections to mass (that are conventionally dealt with using extremely complicated mathematics). As opposed to adopting the conventional picture associated with electron photon scattering (in which electrons and photons are treated using a probabilistic theory), Claybourne treats the problem using a classical model, in which the electron follows a particular trajectory in response to a scattering process involving a photon but that its mass can change as a direct result of changes in frequency of the photon. He makes a number of predictions, based on how the combined photon-electron momentum is allowed to change.

Also in this issue, we are including three papers dealing with more "conventional" issues related to cold fusion and low-energy nuclear reactions. These include "Low-Energy Nuclear Reactions and In-Vacuum Nuclear Physics" by Peter Fimmel; "Deuteron-Deuteron (dd) Binding via Neutron Exchange" by Cheng-ming Fou; and "The Missing 'Ash'" by H.C. Josephs. The papers by Fou and Josephs both deal with the problem of explaining why 4He can be expected to be the primary product in d-d fusion in solid state environments, without high energy gamma rays; this is not expected in conventional fusion. Josephs argues that electromagnetic effects associated with the lattice can make this possible. Fou presents an argument involving a "long-ranged" form of neutron exchange, similar to the kind of "electron-exchange" effect (associated with the indistinguishability of identical fermions) in molecules. Fimmel presents a reinterpretation of anomalous heat production, based on the idea of an interacting boson model. He argues that an effective many-body effect similar to the kind of effect that can be used to explain the interactions between ion beams and metal target systems can be used to explain how positive (exothermic) reactions can take place involving hydrogen and helium isotopes and certain heavy metal nuclei.

One of the other three papers in this issue ("Quantum Quasi-Paradoxes and Quantum Sorties Paradoxes" by Florentin Smarandache) deals with additional questions that Professor Wheeler also contemplates: the nature of quantum mechanics and its implications. In particular, a very real problem, considered by Wheeler and mainstream scientists, is associated with the limits of quantum mechanics, and reconciling the idea that quantum mechanics seems to predict a number of paradoxes associated with the transition between the limit (involving very small numbers of particles and very small size) where quantum mechanics applies and the limit of classical physics (involving many particles, and macroscopic size). In his article, Smarandache identifies a number of these "paradoxes" and presents terminology and a language for analyzing them. He suggests that there are "invisible" and "visible" particles and that although small numbers of "invisible" particles are never "visible," when a large enough number of them are involved, they can become visible.

"Maxwell's Pressure Demon and the Second Law of Thermodynamics" by John Dudley postulates that by placing two metal sheets sufficiently close to each other, it may be possible to observe potential tunneling effects that superficially appear to violate the second law of thermodynamics. Because of the lack of detail presented in this paper, it is not at all clear if this interpretation is valid. But the experiment that appears to be documented definitely is interesting. Wesley Bruce, in "Compressed Air-Powered Cars," makes a practical suggestion for applying even small amounts of excess heat: use the excess heat to heat compressed air, in compressed air cars. In particular, he identifies a practical design for a potential car, based on using output from an "LENR unit or units," in place of an existing fossil fuel source of energy that is presently used, in a situation involving a car that uses compressed air, which has been designed and used by Guy Negre.

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