Cold fusion/Experts/Abd ul-Rahman Lomax

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Statement of Abd ul-Rahman Lomax[edit]

As an undergraduate student at the California Institute of Technology, I studied physics with Richard P. Feynman and chemistry with Linus Pauling. However, I did not continue to graduate, nor did I work in the sciences as such. Nevertheless, I had enough background to understand the issues when Stanley Pons and Martin Fleischmann announced their work in 1989, and, seeing the implications, and knowing that it was a long shot, I put $10,000 -- all I could scrape together -- into a palladium account at Credit Suisse. As subsequent events seemed to show that the reports were based on experimental artifact, I ultimately abandoned the investment, recovering the cost. I was aware that research continued, and once during the next 20 years I looked on-line to see what was happening, and it appeared to be what many thought: a collection of die-hards or free energy fanatics, fooling themselves with shaky results. However, I did not read deeply, nor did I read the ongoing peer-reviewed literature.

As a Wikipedia editor, at the beginning of 2009, I came across some problems with a web site blacklisting relating to the Cold fusion article, and I began to review it and the evidence in the field. I discovered that I'd been mistaken in my judgment, the field was very much alive, and only some of the original results had been artifact. I attempted to edit the article to cover what had become available in reliable source, and to discuss on the Talk page the state of the field in the literature, and ran into problems; ultimately, I was banned from the topic on Wikipedia, as have been one or two established experts. By this time, I had done a great deal of reading in the field, had purchased most of the major books, and decided to start a business designing and selling kits to replicate the published work of the SPAWAR group, finding low-level (but highly significant) neutron radiation from co-deposition of palladium deuteride. I have extensive and cordial communication with many of the known experts in the field, and am available to answer questions. --Abd 15:47, 28 April 2010 (UTC)


As you know, I corresponded at length via E-Mail with Edmund Storms for the past week, first to invite him here to participate in the discussion of his 2010 review paper, and to explore in more depth the unanswered questions that came up in my mind when I read his paper.

I would be interested to learn if any of the discussions in E-Mail (which Storms granted unrestricted permission to excerpt) illuminate the issues which divide the believers from the skeptics. To what extent do you find that my analysis explains why scientists who construe the protocols of the scientific method as I do arrive at different conclusions from those who construe the protocols of the scientific method as Storms does?

Caprice 14:44, 8 December 2010 (UTC)

Thanks, Caprice. I'm not aware of any "scientists" who, following the scientific method, "arrive at different conclusions." Can you point me to any published material showing this? There are people who are "scientists" who have issued opinions, but who have not published these opinions under peer review, have not engaged in formal analysis, etc. So to compare the "conclusions" of "scientists," I'll have to have some specific examples.
"Believers" and "skeptics" are loose categories that tend to oversimplify the issues.
I have one example of a well-known "skeptic," John Huizenga, who, as published, considered the Miles report of heat/helium and noted how significant it would be "if confirmed." Was it confirmed?
It was confirmed, and there is no contrary experimental evidence.
Almost all other well-known skeptics have simply ignored heat/helium. There may be a little review of some of the Miles heat/helium evidence that exists. It's shallow, but we could look at that.
Aside from the 16 or so secondary source reviews of cold fusion published by the mainstream (peer-reviewed journals and academic press), all positive (i.e., you'd call the authors "believers," I suspect), we can look at the 2004 U.S. DoE review, and see how the reviewers looked at the evidence. I think you might be shocked, Caprice, if you have imagined that "scientists" would follow the scientific method. Some of them clearly did not understand what was in front of them, much less the science involved. That review shows a great deal, and I recommend that we carefully study it.
Given the number of positive reviews of the field that have been published, one would think that there would have appeared some substantial negative comment on those reviews. Instead, there is only one letter from Dr. Shanahan, published in the Journal of Environmental Science, several months ago, which we could look at and see if the criticisms there are compatible with the scientific method, and, as well, at the response from the major cold fusion researchers, including Dr. Storms, who replied, copublished with the Shanahan letter. That's it. Shanahan appears to be the peak of skeptical response, so far.
I don't consider that kind of critique to be the "scientific method." What would be "scientific" would be for Shanahan, say, to propose one of his alternate explanations and then attempt to falsify it. But he is not, apparently, an experimental scientist, at least I'm not aware of any experimental work relating to cold fusion. He's a long-time critic of CF, on the internet, from the early 1990s. I'm not aware of any scientific research demonstrating that the major results reported by CF researchers are artifact. There have been replication failures reported, which are always of interest, but which don't explain positive results.
But Storms' latest review is the most prestigious publication to date. I do expect to see some commentary appear in Naturwissenschaften. The physics blogs have mostly ignored it. --Abd 06:26, 9 December 2010 (UTC)
Abd, if you've been following the "fiasco" over NASA's recent press release over arsenic-loving bacteria (which JWS has been carefully tracking), you will see that the brouhaha is over how well the researchers adhered to the protocols of the scientific method. The main critic identified a subtle departure from the protocols of the scientific method that calls into question the associated data, interpretation, and findings. The episode is being called a "fiasco" because the peer-reviewed paper was not available until four hours after the much ballyhooed NASA press conference, so that science journalists had no way to ask questions based on what was in the paper. After the paper became available, some scientists said there were some problems in the way the work was carried out that needed to be addressed and corrected before the data in the paper could be relied on. The parallels between the CF fiasco and the arsenic-bacteria fiasco are stunning.
In terms of other scientists in the parallel CF case, consider K. Shanahan, for example, who found potential problems in the design of the experiment that suggested the Null Hypothesis had not been properly tested for or conclusively falsified.
As you know, I asked Storms how he falsified the Null Hypothesis, and he waved me off, saying that he knew, from long experience in the field, that there were no systematic errors in the calorimetry. Abd, that is not how science is done. Storms is the one who is obliged to run the controls against which the Null Hypothesis is tested. But Storms said, in plain English, "The Null Hypothesis idea does not work in chemistry or in Cold Fusion." He simply does not believe in or adopt the idea of falsifying the Null Hypothesis, blithely assuming at the outset that it's false, citing his "experience in the field" as his source of knowledge that it's false.
That's a departure from the protocols of the scientific method, Abd. Let's say you are a student of science, just learning how to conduct scientific research. This week's module is on how a scientists goes about setting up a control to test for the Null Hypothesis. At the end of the week, each student submits their report on how they went about testing for the Null Hypothesis, stating whether or not they conclusively falsified it, and if so, how.
Abd, you are one of those students. Please tell me exactly how you falsified the Null Hypothesis. What was the design of your control experiment?
Why, you ask, is it necessary to conclusively falsify the Null Hypothesis? Couldn't CF be real, even if 99% of the observed effect is explained by measurement error and only 1% is actual CF?
Yes. CF could indeed be real, but buried deep in the noise of the measurement error. How can a control experiment be designed that drives the confounding measurement error as close to zero as possible, so that the signal one is looking for can clearly emerge above the noisy measurements? That's your challenge, Abd, as a conscientious student of the scientific method. Can you design a control experiment that works even if there is a small error in the calorimetry calibration constant? Can you, for example, run a pair of cells adiabatically, so as to null out the contribution from any CCS error?
You see, Abd, both explanations could be correct. Or just one of them could be correct. How do you decide that exactly one of them is correct?
Storms assumed the measurement error was exactly zero, based on his long experience in the field. Almost no other scientist could make that claim, and no scientist adhering to the protocols of the scientific method would make that claim, since to make that claim is a gross departure from the protocols of the scientific method, as understood by mainstream scientists. Shanahan asked the obvious question: If the Null Hypothesis were true (i.e. there was a slightly non-zero measurement error), how far off would the calibration constant have to be to account for the observed effect? And he calculated that a 1-3% error in the value of the calibration constant would suffice to bring the Null Hypothesis to life. But the CF community simply asserts (without proof) that the CCS deviation is 0% and can't possibly be non-zero. So there is no control experiment and no test for the Null Hypothesis.
That's why I conclude that scientists who construe the scientific method as I do come to a different conclusion. They come to the conclusion that we don't yet know if measurement error (or some other mundane effect) is contributing to some (or even all) of the observed effect.
To summarize, Storms believes in CF because he doesn't disbelieve it. Why doesn't he disbelieve it? Because he has no reason to disbelieve it. What would give him reason to disbelieve it? A control experiment that tested for the Null Hypothesis could potentially give him a very good reason to disbelieve it. But Storms doesn't believe in the Null Hypothesis idea, so he skips that step in the protocols of the scientific method, saying (much to my astonishment) that "the Null Hypothesis idea doesn't work in chemistry or CF."
But aren't the NASA biologists doing chemistry, when they look for Arsenic substituting for Phosphorous in the organic molecules residing in the cells of bacteria? And aren't they on the hotseat over how well they went about the requirement of falsifying the Null Hypothesis by means of carefully crafted control experiments? JWS, who is rigorous to the point of tediousness, found that, in his initial review of the NASA paper, he couldn't correctly make out the percentage of Phosphorous atoms that were replaced by Arsenic. And he was looking for that number and doing so as conscientiously as he knew how.
Caprice 12:30, 9 December 2010 (UTC)
  • I'm not aware of any "scientists" who, following the scientific method, "arrive at different conclusions." Can you point me to any published material showing this? There are people who are "scientists" who have issued opinions, but who have not published these opinions under peer review, have not engaged in formal analysis, etc. So to compare the "conclusions" of "scientists," I'll have to have some specific examples.
"Critical review of theoretical models for anomalous effects in deuterated metals" by V. A. Chechin, V. A. Tsarev, M. Rabinowitz and Y. E. Kim, published in International Journal of Theoretical Physics is a good example. The authors state:
We briefly summarize the reported anomalous effects in deuterated metals at ambient temperature, commonly known as "Cold Fusion" (CF), with an emphasis on important experiments as well as the theoretical basis for the opposition to interpreting them as cold fusion. Then we critically examine more than 25 theoretical models for CF, including unusual nuclear and exotic chemical hypotheses. We conclude that they do not explain the data.

Critique of Calorimetry with D2O Electrolysis
Of all the different kinds of measurements that have been made, one might expect the calorimetric measurement to be the most direct and clear-cut as they only involve a temperature measurement, but this is not the case. The possibility of a small systematic error integrated over a long period of time has not been conclusively eliminated.

Critique of Detection of 4He and Excess Heat Release
As noted by Tsarev (1992), the presence of large amounts of 4He in control samples may make the interpretation of some of these results ambiguous and inconclusive. Nate Hoffman and his Rockwell International colleagues (private communication) confirmed apparent 4He production in D2O electrolysis (Bockris et al, 1992). They think 4He may be a contaminant in the Karabut et al. (1991) gas discharge CF. They consider the Yamaguchi et al (1992) result an artifact due to 4He desorption from glass in this system.

We conclude that in spite of considerable efforts, no theoretical formulation of CF has succeeded in quantitatively or even qualitatively describing the reported experimental results. Those models claiming to have solved this enigma appear far from having accomplished this goal. Perhaps part of the problem is that not all of the experiments are equally valid, and we do not always know which is which. … It is an understatement to say that the theoretical situation is turbid. We conclude that the mechanism for anomalous effects in deuterated metals is still unknown. At present there is no single consistent theory that predicts or even explains CF and its specific features from first principles.

It's clear that these scientists find the Null Hypothesis (e.g. measurement error or mundane explanations) have not been falsified, and experimental hypotheses do not yield predictions borne out by the experiments. That doesn't rule out the possibility of CF being a real phenomenon, but if it is real, the experiments have not detected a confirmed signal concordant with a clear theory that emerges above noise and/or errors in measurement or mundane effects such as contaminants. The situation with respect to the control conditions is even more problematic. When the control conditions using H2O showed the same heat as the experimental condition using D20 (see § 3.7 on Calorimetry with H2 O Electrolysis), instead of interpreting this as evidence of calorimetry error (and thus confirmation of the null hypothesis), the researchers made the astonishing claim that CF was occurring with both ordinary water and heavy water. The authors dryly note "the H2O calorimetry seems to represent a kind of discomforting double jeopardy. If it is correct, it is apt to call into question all the experiments in which H2O was successfully used as a control to bolster confidence in the D2O results." In other words, the null hypothesis (measurement error and/or mundane processes) simply cannot be conclusively ruled out. Indeed it seems to be the best explanation of the ensemble of reported results.
Caprice 07:16, 11 December 2010 (UTC)

Caprice, that review is from 1994. Thanks for finding it, by the way. I'd read this review, and was planning on looking it up precisely for our discussions. By 1994, the heat/helium data had not been well-comfirmed. There is no way that you can use this paper to show that Storms (2010) and others come to different conclusions from the same data.

That is a review specifically of models for cold fusion, however, and the conclusions that they came to are similar to the conclusions that Storms comes to.

You are thinking of "cold fusion" as a model. It is not, it is far from it. It is a result, that helium is being produced from deuterium, apparently, at low temperatures. The mechanism is unknown, so the "model" is not at all one that can be used to make predictions except for one simple one: that if one sets up a P-F cell, or other palladium deuteride experiment, and the widely-reported anomalous heat is found, and helium is measured, they will be correlated at a value of 23.8 MeV/He-4, subject to the accuracy of the experiment. (It's very difficult to capture and measure all the helium, the largest error term comes from that, and Storms estimates the Q factor as 25 +/- 5 MeV/He-4. There is room to argue with the accuracy of this number, but there is no contrary experimental evidence showing a Q factor far from 25 MeV.

While that value is the total energy that would be produced if d-d fusion produces only helium, it is also the same value that would be produced by any black box that takes in deuterium and spits out helium, regardless of the intermediate mechanism.

Caprice, I'll particularly ask you to notice and acknowledge your error here. This was supposedly an example of scientists with different approaches to science, coming up with different conclusions; presumed in this was that they were looking at the same data. While that did not apply, there is even more to this than you realized.

First of all, Storms has come to the same conclusion, still, 16 years later. No model -- which, here, means "mechanism," -- satisfactorily explains cold fusion. Given how many brilliant minds have worked on this problem, I don't think it's going to be easy. You have presented text from that paper as if these scientists differ (present tense) with Storms. Yet one of the theories Storms considers "plausible," is the Bose-Einstain Condensate theory of Y.E. Kim, one of the authors of this very paper.

The paper did not state a conclusion about the reality of cold fusion in 1994. They stated that some accumulating, presumably systematic, calorimetry error could not be "conclusively ruled out." Now, by 1994, my opinion, Miles actually had shown what was needed, with a reproducible experiment, that quite well confirms the calorimetry as being approximately correct as to "excess energy," but reproduction of that came later. What evidence did they consider in this paper?

They are skeptical of high loading claims (>0.7). It is now known that in a P-F cell, NAE (nuclear active environment, showing excess heat and producing helium), does not arise until an average loading of about 0.88, as I recall, and apparently the reaction rate increases with loading. With some approaches, measuring the loading can be done accurately, and loading above 1.0 is known to occur in gas-loading experiments.

They focus a great deal on tritium and neutron and gamma emission, whereas it is now an accepted characteristic of cold fusion that tritium is only produced erratically at levels far below expectation from the heat, and that neutrons are also erratically produced at levels far below that of tritium. Cold fusion, of the kind we've been discussing, is essentially radiation-free. That tritium and neutrons are found (and X-rays) is a sign that some nuclear reaction is taking place, but tells us nothing about the reaction itself, except that by the quite low levels of expected d-d fusion products, we can assert with reasonable confidence that the main reaction is not "d-d fusion."

In considering the calorimetry, they note, as you quote, that the "possibility of a small systematic error integrated over a long period of time has not been conclusively eliminated." They say this, however, after having noted some experiments that they considered very difficult to explain through chemistry. They also note a common problem resulting from assuming that a fusion reaction would be d-d fusion, that tritium was down from expectation from heat by 10^5, and neutrons 10^8 beyond that. For d-d fusion, half the reactions would generate tritium and a neutron. Of course, if the reaction isn't d-d fusion, this expectation is meaningless.

More importantly, though, in the section on calorimetry, they note the problem with an assumption of calorimetry error. Yes, if there is long loading time, some small error in calorimetry may accumulate, allowing a later burst of energy. But there are limits to how much energy can be stored chemically, and some experiments exceed not only the original energy input in what they release, but also limits on what can be chemically stored. Those results occur with sufficient frequency to be credible, but they are not common enough to form a reliable basis for energy generation, to answer the obvious question. The final comment they make on calorimetry is "Calorimetry measurements are fairly consistent and becoming more convincing." That was 1994. I have a book by a skeptic, Nate Hoffman, who, on the calorimetry, said about the same thing, that the work was being performed well by competent experts. Hoffman wasn't convinced of a nuclear origin; Chechin et al point out that there might be some exotic high-Z chemistry, otherwise unknown. But that would not produce helium, and apparently the full scope of Miles' results were not available to Hoffman in preparing his book.

They also look at heat/helium. However, they only have the earliest work to examine. The "critique" is weak and draws no conclusions. That the heat/helium value from Miles was within an order of magnitude of that expected from d-d fusion (or any deuterium fusion) was noted. This was strong evidence even then. Issues of contamination and calorimentry error, which are typically raised, are addressed by correlation, for obvious reasons, but they do not mention this.

They cover tritium, and find no strong criticism of the tritium results.

They look at direct fusion products (i.e., charged particles, gamma rays, neutrons) and find little conclusive evidence about them. What we now know is that these products are mostly missing, what levels are found are far, far below the levels expected if the main reaction taking place involves them. The reaction is almost exclusively producing helium, it appears.

At the end of this paper is this comment: "We conclude that the mechanism for anomalous effects in deuterated metals is still unknown."

Behind this entire paper is an assumption that there are, indeed, anomalous effects. Storms' 2010 review was based on a far broader and deeper body of experimental evidence. Storms, 16 years later, has far more data about the heat/helium relationship, enough to be able to assert, with high confidence, that deuterium is being converted into helium in these experiments, with very little production of anything else by comparison.

I find it astonishing, Caprice, that you quote their comments in such a way as to make this paper -- which is quite supportive of the probable reality of cold fusion -- in such a way as to make the paper appear very negative. In each section, after describing the evidence for some aspect of cold fusion, they present a "critique" section. That's what you quote, as if the critique were the conclusions of the authors. They are quite properly pointing out possible criticisms, as I've seen many cold fusion researchers do. I'll note that there is very little on heat/helium, compared to the strength of the evidence, and what they end up with on the calorimetry is simply that error has not been conclusively ruled out. But given what they have just reported, one would think that the preponderance of evidence, at that point, was that there was, indeed, excess heat. I'll note that the 2004 U.S. DoE review saw half the 18 reviewers considering that the evidence for excess heat was "conclusive." Given that many scientists have said that they will not believe in cold fusion until there is a proven theory explaining it, we can expect some negative bias against excess heat. Whether there is excess heat or not does not and should not depend on whether or not there is a theory explaining it!

The authors mention multibody fusion as a possible theoretical approach. Takahashi, whom they cite, went on to develop his theory further. Y.E. Kim, one of the authors, published Kim, "Theory of Bose-Einstein Condensation Mechanism for Deuteron-Induced Nuclear Reactions in Micro/Nano-Scale Metal Grains And Particles," Naturwissenschaften, DOI 10.1007/s00114-009-0537-6 (May 14, 2009)

This is a more recent paper by Kim, some kind of preprint: Bose-Einstein Condensate Theory of Deuteron Fusion in Metal.

You wrote, above, "In other words, the null hypothesis (measurement error and/or mundane processes) simply cannot be conclusively ruled out. Indeed it seems to be the best explanation of the ensemble of reported results."

First of all, some kind of error can *never* be "conclusively ruled out." But it is a huge leap from that to the position that error is "best explanation." The comment about evidence not being absolutely conclusive was in 1994, and at that time it was still quite controversial among researchers whether or not helium was the main product; however, they did mention the correlation, though they did not discuss it, and the "critique" of that section didn't comment on it, it simply said what is commonly said about helium, ignoring the correlation, i.e., that helium leakage could be a problem in "some experiments." What about the others, Caprice?

I see in the above an erroneous application of the scientific method. You have stated "the null hypothesis" as being that the results are due to error or mundane process. Given that the error or mundane process is not specified, it's impossible to falsify clearly. That is, any experimental result could be an error, and "mundane process" specifies nothing that could be tested. Rather, the W:Null hypothesis does describe a general or default position, but in experimental sciences it is far more specific, typically that two variables suspected of being related are not related.

The current operating hypothesis in cold fusion is that deuterium is being fused, modified, or somehow turned into helium. From the laws of thermodynamics, this requires that, except for energy leaks, heat be generated at the ratio of 23.8 MeV per helium nucleus formed. (I.e., from d-d fusion, most of that 23.8 MeV ends up as a gamma ray, not heat, but gammas are not observed, nor is any other ash observed at levels sufficient to move the 23.8 MeV figure much). So a straightforward null hypothesis here is that there is no fusion, and a predictable consequence of that is that any measured excess heat and any measured helium will not, over a significant series of experiments, be correlated at the expected ratio.

And a researcher who wanted to falsify heat/helium would reproduce the experiment, attempting to be even more careful than the original experimenters, i.e., using better methods of collecting and measuring helium, and of measuring excess heat, etc. In fact, this kind of work is going on all the time. It's becoming fairly routine now, to look for helium as a means of ascertaining that a nuclear reaction took place.

Many experimenters have looked for both heat and helium. Caprice, in almost every case, when excess heat was found, helium was found, and the amounts found are "commensurate with 23.8 MeV/He-4". Much of the early work, attempting replication of the P-F experiment, found neither heat nor helium. This, of course, is a (slim) confirmation of heat/helium. Miles was the first to do a significant series of cells, treating them similarly, and looking for heat and helium. Miles had developed his experimental technique to the point that he (eventually) saw excess heat in 21/33 cells. Helium? In the 12 cells with no excess heat, no helium over experimental background (which was far below ambient helium). In the 21 cells with excess heat, 18 had commensurate helium, within an order of magnitude of the expected value. Later work by others was able to collect the helium more reliably, but the power of Miles' original work still remains.

I've never seen an alternate hypothesis of any probity that explains Miles' work. Your cockamamie Radon contamination hypothesis is actually the best: at least it could produce a heat/helium correlation! You might notice that Radon contamination as an explanation of heat/helium is completely missing from the literature, and the reason is obvious: it simply would not behave in other ways like these cells. Excess heat and helium would appear steadily, with an exponential decline showing the half-life of 3.8 days. If the material had been stored for months or years, it would either have to be impossibly hot to begin with, or there would be no remaining effect, beyond some lead ash left behind. And there would be many other quite readily visible effects, such as the original D2O being radioactive. Many experimenters set up Geiger counters and check their materials. And that so many different researchers in some many groups, getting their D2O from so many different sources and having stored it for different tims would nevertheless be getting success at finding excess heat, makes radon-contaminated D2O so unlikely that no skeptic, before, came up with this idea, as far as I've seen.

It appears that every group that persisted has been able to confirm excess heat. Now, with the radon hypothesis, this would mean that they finally used some contaminated D2O. Their "success" would be short-lived, as the radon decayed. But research groups that found success tended to, later, find more success, not less. One Chinese review (2007) of the field reports that numerous groups around the world are finding 100% of cells with excess heat. There is far too little correspondence between the predictions of the radon hypothesis and actual experimental evidence. It only explains heat/helium.

Yet, Caprice, you wrote as if Storms alleged "failure" to rule out contamination (i.e., contamination with an alpha emitter) was a major violation of the scientific method. He was quite unaccustomed to some rather ignorant student demanding that he disprove an outlandish hypothesis, as if any alternate theory was "the null hypothesis." Storms quite correctly pointed out that chemistry doesn't work that way. I don't think physics works that way either.

It is not the obligation of cold fusion researchers to rule out every conceivable alternate theory that might explain their results, only those that are within reason, i.e., reasonable possibilities. Rather, what they have accomplished so far is to show that deuterium fusion is, by far, the simplest explanation so far of the results. That explanation is still missing a mechanism. It is not the responsibility of the chemists and materials scientists to develop a full-blown theory of what's happening inside those cells. They'd love to have one, but if Takahashi's work is any guide, the math is going to be horrific. We may get lucky, but we may also not get lucky, and a lot of people have worked on this problem without success, it appears. That was the conclusion of those authors in 1994, and Storms just confirmed it this year, 2010. Caprice, you are mistaking agreement for disagreement, because you have missed a great deal of what has been written to you and explained to you, as well as what you read, if you thought that 1994 paper was so negative, so different from Storms. Storms is now more positive than those authors were in 1994, but only because he has much more accumulated evidence. Kim obviously thinks it likely that cold fusion is real, or, at this late date, he'd not be bothering to write theoretical papers to explain it. I don't think Kim thought CF was bogus in 1994 and changed his mind!

You jumped, very quickly, to the conclusion that CF researchers who think CF is real are simply "believers," that they are not following the scientific method, that they are not practicising normal scientific skepticism. That could be true of some, I've seen it, but it's not true of Storms, nor of other researchers I've met or read. You then assumed that the physicists who reject cold fusion are the ones being properly skeptical, but they are not attempting to falsify their own hypothesis: that all these experimental results are just error, reporting bias, etc. You assumed that the experimental evidence cited by Storms has also been reviewed by these "real scientists," and that they come to different conclusions about it. I asked you where those reviews were published, and you gave me Chechin et al.

I'm ceasing this dialogue until such time as you can recognise what you did. I intend to use the materials you generated here for pedagogical purpose, if possible. I'm not interested, though, in an endless go-around with someone who is both ignorant of the topic, the implications, but who behaves as if he's absolutely sure that all those who do know it are deluded. --Abd 06:40, 12 December 2010 (UTC)

  • By 1994, the heat/helium data had not been well-comfirmed. There is no way that you can use this paper to show that Storms (2010) and others come to different conclusions from the same data.
True enough, but have you seen the preprint of his forthcoming (Feb 2011) paper diagnosing one of the reasons why some teams may have found excess heat that wasn't really there? In his forthcoming paper, Storms finds that a significant calorimetry calibration error arises if the calorimeter is calibrated with H2 but the experiment is run with D2. What's unclear is how often research teams in the past made this crucial mistake.
Once the cathode is fully charged, so that (to use a simple analogy) every available seat in the theater is filled, show me a graph of the the excess heat (from copulating couples in the theater) as a function of excess power being pumped into the cell above and beyond the tiny trickle charge to refill each empty seat as the happy couples drift off to Helium Heaven. Storms says the best results ever achieved are 200 mW of excess heat from the hypothesized D-D fusion. That works out to 50 billion 25-Mev D-D copulation events per second, corresponding to 16 nano-amps of trickle charge to refill the empty seats from the happy unions. So all the charging current above that is excess input power. Let's see a plot of excess heat vs. excess electrical power.
Caprice 10:49, 12 December 2010 (UTC)
The questions generally show a lack of familiarity with the conditions involved in the cold fusion effect.
  • Yes, I've seen that paper. There are many difficulties with calorimetry; in that paper, Dr. Storms addresses one in particular, which is specially relevant only for gas-loading experiments, where there is no electrolysis. Storms shows, with experimental data, that a gas-loaded cell where the heat transfer coefficient has been determined using hydrogen gas in the cell will show apparent excess heat when deuterium is used if not recalibrated with deuterium gas. He also shows that a glass-walled Dewar flask, with vacuum impaired by diffusion of gaseous hydrogen into the flask, could introduce an error term. This error toerm, however, would cause apparent heat to be less than actual heat. I'm not aware of any prior work specifically affected by the errors Storms notes, and it would only be relevant to a narrow class of experiments.
  • In these experiments, "excess heat" is different than in electrolytic cells. There is only fusion heat plus the heat of formation of palladium deuteride as factors. Deuteride formation heat will be released rapidly as the cell is loaded initally, but fusion heat will continue beyond that period. Storms is noting some tricky problems which could cause absolute measurement error and thus an incorrect value for the heat/helium ratio.
  • There is no "cathode" in gas-loading experiments. So this question must be taken to be about electrolytic experiments. In gasloading experiments, loading ratios above 1.0 are achieved, and these cells show steady generation of heat after the initial deuteride formation phase. Electrolytic experiments, being run at roughly atmospheric pressure, do not attain that loading overall; it is generally understood that in electrolytic cells, departure from equilibrium conditions is needed in order to trigger the CF effect. With a very highly loaded electrolytic cell, turning off the power sometimes triggers the "heat after death" effect, which is what Barry is looking for. These phases, if they arise, can generate, sometimes, more energy than was initially run into the cell through electrolysis, but that result is not reliable.
  • The 200 mW figure was, if I'm correct, a particular gas-loaded result from Storms' current work, not relevant to electrolytic cells.
  • "Excess heat" is defined as output heat (energy) minus input energy, adjusted for other sinks and sources, such as unrecombined deuterium and oxygen. Some cells use recombiners to eliminate (mostly) this term. That calorimetry is replete with difficulties is a reason why calorimetry alone was not considered adequate to provide sufficient support to overcome doubt about cold fusion. However, from the beginning, much skeptical comment was directed to the lack of expected ash, i.e., tritium and neutrons, helium3 and protons. If the ash could be measured and if the ash correlated to excess heat at the expected value for deuterium fusion to helium, which is required by the laws of thermodynamics for any process that starts with deuterium and ends with an identified product, then not only would the calorimetry be confirmed, but fusion established as the overall result of the reaction.
  • But the expected ash was missing. There is, however, a minor branch for the hot fusion of deuterium, and it results in helium; against this possibility was the lack of a gamma ray, expected from this branch. Nevertheless, the energy released by this branch is 23.8 MeV/He-4, which normally is found in the gamma ray. By 1992, reports were accumulating that helium was being found, and the energy from calorimetry was within an order of magnitude of the 23.8 MeV value expected from deuterium fusion. Later work tightened up the number, the current estimate (Storms, 2007 and 2010) is 25 +/-5 MeV/He-4. It is now possible to directly detect calorimetry error, as tgo "excess heat," if helium is being adequately measured.
  • Because of the lack of a gamma ray, though, the mechanism is very likely not to be "d-d fusion," but something else that also b begins with deuterium and ends with helium. Various proposals exist, not have been tested and proven.

Henry Bauer on the issue of "Scientific Misconduct"[edit]

Abd raises to my attention a paper by Henry Bauer in a series on Ethics in Chemistry. Bauer's 2002 paper is entitled, ‘Pathological Science’ is not Scientific Misconduct (nor is it pathological). Here is the Abstract of Bauer's paper, in its entirety:

Abstract: ‘Pathological’ science implies scientific misconduct: it should not happen and the scientists concerned ought to know better. However, there are no clear and generally agreed definitions of pathological science or of scientific misconduct. The canonical exemplars of pathological science in chemistry (N-rays, polywater) as well as the recent case of cold fusion in electrochemistry involved research practices not clearly distinguishable from those in (revolutionary) science. The concept of ‘pathological science’ was put forth nearly half a century ago in a seminar and lacks justification in contemporary understanding of science studies (history, philosophy, and sociology of science). It is time to abandon the phrase.

I was surprised to see the introduction of the concept of "Scientific Misconduct" into the discussion, or the implication that Irving Langmuir's 1968 definition of "Pathological Science" equates to "Scientific Misconduct" — a term which suggests a knowing (and perhaps intentional) breach of scholarly ethics. Langmuir's term is his label for a pattern of six defining features of scientific work that leads to incorrect theories or conclusions. As Bauer notes, other scientists have coined and defined terms such as "Fads and Fallacies in Science" (Martin Gardner, 1957), "Cargo-Cult Science" (Richard Feynman, 1974), and "Voodoo Science" (Robert Park, 2000). To my mind, Feynman said it best when, in 1974, he counseled the graduates of Cal Tech, "The first principle is that you must not fool yourself — and you are the easiest person to fool." Self-delusion may well be pathological, but it's not automatically ethical misconduct. It's unclear to me if Bauer intended to define "scientific misconduct" as a breach of ethics, when (as I construe the cases of "pathological science") what's evidently going on is a (possibly subtle) departure from the rigorous protocols of the scientific method with respect to setting up adequate controls to carefully test for the null hypothesis. An ethical scientist would accept good faith criticisms from his peers on how best to ensure that controls are adequate to test for and rule out the null hypothesis. Arrogant rejection of such criticism, and abject failure to set up adequate controls to test for the null hypothesis, might well raise eyebrows and worries that mere foolishness morphs into fraud. I don't know that ethical misconduct is a sustainable charge in any of the cases cited by Langmuir and others under the rubric of "pathological science." What I believe can be stated is that Storms, by his own admission, employs a variant of the scientific method that eschews the "null hypothesis idea" as unworkable in chemistry and CF. I'll leave it to others to decide if that amounts to "scientific misconduct." For me, it just means there is a difference in methodology sufficient to explain dissimilar outcomes and conclusions.

Caprice 06:45, 15 December 2010 (UTC)

There are indeed two issues here: scientific misconduct and disregard of the sceintific method.
Kort (Caprice) has, however, ignored the extensive discussion of cold fusion in that paper. He misstates the position of Storms, as to what Kort calls "his [Storms'] own admission,." Kort mistaking a rejection of Kort's highly idiosyncratic approach and fuzzy definition of "null hypothesis," for Kort's peculiar version of the scientific method, which consioders the "null hypothesis" to be "anything other" than some often imaginary proposed hypothesis. Experimental results are not hypotheses, they are observations. When there are enough observations of a phenomenon, or set of phenomena, we may start to form hypotheses. Ths first hypotheses, as to a set of observations that were unexpected, is that there is something new here. Thefore the *very rough* null hypothesis is that there is nothing new, that the observations, given the conditions and further testing, are not unexpected. However, that gets converted into a requirement by Kort that every possible or conceivable, no matter how stretched and unlikely, alternate explanation, allowing us to remain fat and happy with existing knowledge if it is true, must be checked and proven false. Kort is not alone in this, he is expressing a widespread assumption among some scientists, but that is not an academically-certified assumption, it is an approach that probably could not survive being explicit, because it would frustrate the very purpose of the scientific method, which was desaigned to allow us to "stop fooling ourselves" collectively, i.e., to allow ourselves to move beyond commonly-held views and assumptions.
Returning to 1989, there were observations of anomalous heat in palladium deuteride, under some conditions. It was not just any palladium deuteride, you could make PD all day, every day, month after month, and not see it. Only under quite unusual circumstances, not understood at the time and still not well-understood, would it be found. But it was learned, through a great deal of experimental work, how to produce the effect with reasonable reliability. This has been massively confirmed; by 2004, half of the experts collected by the U.S. DoE considered the evidence for excess heat to be "conclusive," and it is quite clear that some of these experts were not going to consider excess heat to have been demonstrated unless a theory explaining it had been proposed and proven. That's backwards, as far as the scientific method is concerned. This segment of the community holds firmly to several assumptions: first, that if there is anomalous heat, it must be cold fusion, scond, that if there is cold fusion, it is d-d fusion, third, that d-d fusion is impossible. Therefore, the thinking goes, there must be some error with the calorimetry and other indications of fusion. The "null hypothesis" becomes "error." Which is untestable, except through methods like correlation. And when correlation is demonstrated with high confidence, the clamor continues, asserting unspecified error with the heat and with the helium, neglecting the actual experimental results.
This is so blatantly a rejection of the scientific method that what Kort is proposing as some kind of rejection of the scientific method by Storms pales by comparison, even if it were true.
In the very public rejection of cold fusion, issues of misconduct were mixed with scientific criticism, and my observation has been that skeptics often mix the two. "Shoddy research" is a claim that is on the borderline, for it attacks the integrity of the scientist, even though, technically, it's not an ethics violation. Kort is claiming inadequate controls, but is not specific, and for any experiment, well-performed or not, additional controls may always be invented and suggested. Kort's suggestions have been preposterous, as viewed by those who know the field and prior work.
I suggest that Caprice create a resource on Wikiversity on the scientific method, that he start at the top with what should not be controversial, and then propose or describe, underneath, his theories about "null hypothesis." In the paper cited byh Mike, a "null hypothesis" was mentioned that was clear and testable, statistically, and the results of that testing were reported, apparently accurately.
While what we might call the "preponderance of the evidence" may have supported the conclusions of the authors of the original paper, the null hypothesis, very clearly and specifically stated, could not be conclusively rejected. The cautious nature of that conclusion should be noticed. They are not claiming that there was no acceleration of nuclear decay. They may or may not be exaggerating the significance of an accelerated decay finding, because there are other reasons to suspect that nuclear decay may, under certain conditions, be environmentally accelerated or retarded, and, indeed, some examples are known, though they involve decay by beta capture, except for the work of Vyosotskii in Russia, who is working on nuclear decontamination by bacteria through decay acceleration: obviously highly controversial, and, unfortunately, unconfirmed. Except that the current paper criticized might be some kind of rough confirmation of possibility. And, like a lot of LENR work, it won't be confirmed until people start taking more interest in anomalous experimental results, to find explanations for them that are not merely conjecture, but that are experimentally demonstrated to be, likely, true. The overall consensus on the paper cited by Mike, on which all players agree, is that more experimental work is needed. That matches the consensus of the 1989 DoE panel, the 2004 DoE panel, and nearly all researchers. Storms has only concluded that the excess heat is due to fusion, which is not a mechanism but a result, and that conclusion is amply supported through massive confirmation and statistical correlation of two reaction products: heat and helium. It's laziness to continue to propose errors with heat or errors with helium, and to avoid looking for experimental evidence that the correlation is artifact.
As mentioned, Kort did come up with a seemingly reasonable cause of correlation: contamination by a radioactive alpha-emitter contaminant. Problem is, this can be rejected immediately for so many reasons, the behavior would be blatantly different from what is observed. At least, in Korts's favor, we can see that he's attempting to explain experimental evidence showing correlation. But, then, he backed up, and started asserting calorimetry error, when the correlation makes such error extremely unlikely as a major factor. --Abd 00:07, 16 December 2010 (UTC)
  • No. Shall we create a seminar on it? I'll look, of course. Carefully. Please reciprocate, get those a'piston'ologies pumpin'.--Abd 23:08, 31 December 2010 (UTC)
I think it's a significant paper, because Zhang switches from the older-style heat-sink calorimeter, where you have to model the leakage in the way that Shanahan finds problematic. In the newer Seebeck Envelope Calorimeter (SEC), such CCS errors are essentially eliminated. Zhang's most recent runs, comparing his latest Heat Flow Calorimeter (HFC) with the SEC, are much more reliable and precise than the older system. Let me know when you've had a chance to read Zhang's cited 2009 paper in Thermochimica Acta. —Caprice 23:24, 31 December 2010 (UTC)
See Cold fusion/Contrary evidence/Dash-Zhang Replication Effort. I don't have access to the Thermochemica Acta paper, I have no academic access and depend on the kindness of those who do. Eventually, I suspect, I'll work something out with a local university. What is really complicated here is that Zhang is using experimental conditions rather far from others. Talk about "steamy," eh? You were incorrect about normal CF cells, but Zhang and Dash run these babies at boiling. --Abd 01:19, 1 January 2011 (UTC)
  • I don't have access to the Thermochemica Acta paper.
Check your e-mail. —Caprice 01:43, 1 January 2011 (UTC)

Thanks, kind of you. Okay, that's interesting. This is entirely about calorimetry and the calorimeter, the cell is reported as a demonstration of what a dead CF cell, no excess heat, looks like. From the experimental conditions stated, I'd have no particular expectation that they would see excess heat. Their prior work does show, with a heavily overdriven cell (boiling!), excess heat starting at a few hours in, perhaps. Very unclear, and the levels are low compared to other work I've examined recently . I've added the information to my study of the Earthtech replication failure. Now, the point here?

Storms (2007) lists six different types of calorimetry used in CF experiments:

  1. Adiabatic Type
  2. Isoperibolic Type
  3. Double-Wall Isoperibolic Calorimeter
  4. Flow Calorimeter
  5. Dual-Cell Reference Calorimeter
  6. Seebeck Calorimeter.

On page 172, after mentioning his extensive review of calorimetry, he specifically addresses Shanahan's criticism, and writes:

Nevertheless, a few potential errors are real and need to be understood. Shanahan has proposed that changes in locations where heat is produced within a cell could introduce error when flow calorimetry is used. This error is shown by Storms to apply to neither flow nor to Seebeck calorimetry, although the isoperibolic method can be affected. Swartz used a computer model based on hypothetical temperature errors to question the accuracy of flow calorimetry. No demonstration of the proposed mechanism has been reported. On the other hand, a potential error may occur when D2 and O2 gases are allowed to leave the cell. Jones and co-workers (BYU) and Shkedi and co-workers (Bose Corp, MA) observe the obvious, that an uncertain amount of recombination between D2 and O2 within a cell could introduce an uncertain error. [And then Storms goes on to examine this issue.)

Note that Zhang tested an open cell. It used a recombiner, but was allowed to vent. It would preferentially vent oxygen, but with an unknown amount of deuterium gas, I assume. He makes a correction from the loss of mass.

Are you getting some idea now of how very complicated calorimetry is? However, what ices this are two things: the convergence of many reports using different kinds of calorimetry, and heat/helium. The strong correlation between heat and helium shows that the calorimetric determination of excess heat is at least roughly correct. Dead cells effectively calibrate the correlation! You can see a dead cell in the recent Zhang report. You can be quite sure, from prior work, that if Zhang had measured helium for that cell, he'd have found none. (or because the cell wasn't sealed, he'd have found no helium above ambient). Active cells look very, very different. --Abd 03:31, 1 January 2011 (UTC)

  • Are you getting some idea now of how very complicated calorimetry is?
It's more complicated than I first imagined. In the conventional calorimeter most of the heat is drained through the heat sink at the mouth of the Dewar flask; the calorimetry equation has to have a term for every imaginable pathway for heat to arise or escape from the system without being metered. EarthTech found two obscure (but mundane) pathways that Zhang had not considered. In addition, Zhang ran his cells at near the boiling point (hello, steambath!), but it's not clear if he understood how to adjust the terms of his calorimetry model to account for the substantial change in the composition of the atmosphere under those extreme operating conditions. —Caprice 00:07, 2 January 2011 (UTC)
If you read the report I wrote, you'd notice that there are quite a few different kinds of calorimeters. You've got "atmospheric composition" on the brain, from a report that Storms wrote that was about gas-loaded experiments. It is a minor effect in electrolytic cells. But the matter is complex; it's not just that there are different kinds of calorimetry, but also different cell designs and experimental arrangements. I understand, with all this complexity, why people don't trust the calorimetry, but something is being overlooked. In addition to calorimetry being calibrated six ways till Sunday, there is independent confirmation of the calorimetry, through measurement of a correlated experimental value. Further, while low-level results could be within range for calorimetry error to explain them, there are high-level results. You were looking at work that was down around 5% of input power as excess power. While a 5% error seems high with respect to the apparent calorimetric precision, it's easy to imaging some systematic error causing it. As I pointed out in my report, though, the McKubre replication considered 5% only barely significant enough to consider "excess heat." Try explaining, say, 60% excess heat, or 200-300%, or that burst that ENEA saw that was 7000%. But what ices it is helium. And that's why Storms just installed a $14,000 mass spectrometer that can resolve He-4 from D2. He wants to know how much reaction he's getting, and doesn't want to depend on calorimetry alone for it. --Abd 03:56, 2 January 2011 (UTC)
  • You've got "atmospheric composition" on the brain, from a report that Storms wrote that was about gas-loaded experiments. It is a minor effect in electrolytic cells. But the matter is complex; it's not just that there are different kinds of calorimetry, but also different cell designs and experimental arrangements. I understand, with all this complexity, why people don't trust the calorimetry, but something is being overlooked.
Almost all the effects being detected, measured, estimated, or modeled are "minor" effects, relative to the amount of gross electrical power being pumped into the cell. Every "minor" effect is significant if one is looking for an effect that is barely detectable at the threshold of measurement error or measurement noise. What I think is being overlooked, is the detail buried in the Miles-Fleischmann Model that necessarily must include a precision term for every minor effect that perturbs the energy budget. Shanahan, Storms, EarthTech, and Zhang have all pointed their fingers at funny business in the atmosphere, involving phase changes of water vapor to dew, fog, or steam, and unpredictable venting of hot steamy gases under the most extreme operating conditions. My (testable) hypothesis is that these "Atmospheric Storms" (pun intended) are the primary source of error in the mis-estimation of "excess heat" from the (bewilderingly complex and mathematically daunting) Miles-Fleischmann Model. —Caprice 10:19, 3 January 2011 (UTC)
Caprice, you are missing the fact that some CF experiments don't pump any electrical power into the cell. Further, you are implying that results are "barely detectable at the threshold of measurement error." That's true for some results, and those results are deprecated in overall analysis. You are taking criticisms that could apply to marginal results, such as those of Zhang, and assuming that they are applicable to the entire field. Rather, the central results are those where helium was also measured, establishing and confirming the heat/helium ratio. Commensurate helium was recognized by Huizenga as an astonishing result, in 1993, and if you don't know who Huizenga was, you have a lot of homework to do. Until you, and other critics, examine the calorimetry and helium measurements involved in those studies, you are tilting at windmills, instead of checking out the wind.
Thanks for working on Cold fusion/Skeptical arguments. We can, under Cold fusion/Excess heat correlated with helium/Sources cover every relevant paper, on subpages.
My goal with the Cold fusion resource is to cover all aspects of cold fusion and cold fusion history, in detail, with thorough criticism and the development of reports on subtopics, reports with the highest possible consensus plus minority reports if needed, so that someone reading the full work here -- which would be a lot of work, itself, comparable to taking a university-level seminar or course -- will walk away thoroughly informed as to the history, experimental findings, arguments, and the conclusions of experts, ready to read the literature as it continues, being informed, knowing the real issues that remain for resolution, the goals of research, what is known and what is notably speculated, etc. Thanks for your help in developing this. Temporarily, our "seminar table" is messy, but that's because a lot of data and discussion is accumulating rapidly. It's all useful in the end; but detailed discussion, dicta, personal comments, etc., will be moved to lower pages in the hierarchy as background discussions that eventually lead to reports. --Abd 13:39, 3 January 2011 (UTC)
  • Some CF experiments don't pump any electrical power into the cell.
Are you referring to those using laser beams or high-pressure gas to pump power into the cell? —Caprice 13:54, 3 January 2011 (UTC)
Set aside the blatant bias in how those are presented, I'm referring to the gas-loading technique, primarily. Let's look at the bias in the comment:
  • laser beams to pump power in.
  • These are experiments where laser illumination is used to add energy to the surface of a cathode. The laser adds a precise amount of energy, and the effect of this on evolved heat is observed. Apparently a small amount of laser energy can trigger a much larger release of energy. But this is not what I had in mind. Suppose the laser simply triggers recombination? I assume that the experimenters are aware of the possibility, but I have not reviewed this research. The issue would be how much energy is released compared to what might be available from recombination, and if the energy is due to recombination in a sealed cell, this would simply steal power from the recombiner release, thus having no effect on overall excess energy. But I don't know details.
  • high pressure gas to pump power into the cell.
  • that is a radical misrepresentation of what is done. Yes, there is power stored in the high-pressure gas, and this is the way these cells operate: a material to be tested, perhaps some palladium alloy or combination, such as a metal oxide with some palladium plating on it, is placed in a cell, and it is evacuated and baked, so that it outgases maximally. Then deuterium gas from a pressure source is admitted to the cell, slowly, until pressure begins to rise. Until that point, heat is evolved from the formation of palladium deuteride (or hydride). As the pressure rises, heat production falls. With hydrogen gas, often run as a control, the temperature rapidly falls to ambient. With deuterium, following Arata, the temperature may fall to 4 degrees C above ambient, and stay there for the experimental period, which was 3000 minutes for Arata's most widely-publicised work. While you can say that energy was "pumpled in" from high pressure gas, that process ends when the pressure reaches a preset limit. No more gas goes in.
  • Certainly it's possible to criticize this work. The physical properties of deuterium and hydrogen are different. However, there is no known property that is adequate to explain the level of continued heat found. If somehow there is a secondary pathway for the formation of deuteride, which only happens slowly, we would still expect the effect to decline with time, as the sites responsible were filled. It doesn't decline significantly in the 3000 minute period, apparently. Sure, I'd love to see what happens if they just go on.... But Arata hasn't published the extended data, and apparently he has the cells analyzed for helium after 3000 minutes. Has he published his recent helium results? Maybe in Japanese, I should ask Rothwell.
  • Storms is doing this kind of work, and he's well set up for it. He has his apparatus with a decent calorimeter incorporated. He has two mass spectrometers as part of the apparatus, and he's seeing helium results with the first mass spectrometer already, but the second one is designed to ice this, because it only looks at mass values up to four AMU, with high precision. There has always been gas-loading as part of the experimental corpus, going back to the early 1990s. You might look at the Case cells studied by McKubre, there are some pretty spectacular results shown there. Gas-loading onto palladium plated on coconut shell charcoal. Idiosyncratic technique, the material could not be reproduced. The original batch was accidentally discarded in a lab clean-up, it's claimed, and efforts to recreate the material failed. So the Case work joins a large set of irreproducible cold fusion results, and if not for the fact that McKubre was testing Case's claims, we'd probably not be paying any attention to it at all. I.e., there was, in fact, one confirmation. But helium was measured, so this turned out to be an important set of experiments. It's been widely misrepresented, beware! There were sixteen cells tested. Eight were hydrogen oontrols, eight, apparently, were deuterium. The light hydrogen cells showed no excess heat and no helium. Of the eight deuterium cells, it appears that three showed no excess heat and no helium, so the 2004 DoE report review paper, in an appendix to the review paper, interested only in showing the time behavior of helium release, only showed results for five cells. (And it did not state the excess energy! nor that there were three cells with no excess heat and no excess energy.) The reviewers, or some of them, assumed that there were "sixteen electrolytic cells showing excess heat" and that only five of them showed helium. Hence those reviewers made more than one blatant error, just looking at the report they were supposedly examining, and seeing it as negative correlation, not the positive correlation that the real data shows, plus, to be fair, the report, with its narrow intended focus, did not present all the data, I had to find it elsewhere. Hey, they could have asked! (Storms said that the review was marked by a lack of questions.)
  • The truly important helium data was in the main body of the report, but was ignored by the negative reviewers, apparently. The error about the Case data was presented in the overall summary, where it made heat/helium look silly! --Abd 19:06, 3 January 2011 (UTC)

Question from Mu301[edit]

"Yet, Caprice, you wrote as if Storms alleged "failure" to rule out contamination (i.e., contamination with an alpha emitter) was a major violation of the scientific method. He was quite unaccustomed to some rather ignorant student demanding that he disprove an outlandish hypothesis, as if any alternate theory was "the null hypothesis." Storms quite correctly pointed out that chemistry doesn't work that way. I don't think physics works that way either." (from above)
It is a major failing to not rule out contamination. That is a fundamental principle in the design of any experiment in chemistry or physics. It is esp. important when claims are made that a new a phenomena is discovered that can not be explained by widely accepted theoretical models. Critical review requires that questions about experiment design, controls and contamination be asked; the burden is on the researcher making the claims to demonstrate that all possible sources of error in the experiment have been accounted for. Such a request is far from an "outlandish hypothesis" and any scientist should recognize the need to carefully document and describe the methods by which they exclude alternative explanations of the data. For an enlightening discussion of these matters (in the context of an unrelated experiment) see this reference. --mikeu talk 22:34, 12 December 2010 (UTC)
You would be correct, Mike, if the alleged contaminant were a reasonable possibility. Abd 10:01, 13 December 2010 (UTC)
Consideration of contamination with an alpha emitter capable of generating heat and helium at observed levels is absent from both the positive and skeptical literature because it is preposterous. Radon is what Caprice proposed. Radon has a half-life of 3.8 days. If the radon were capable of raising temperature through the decay chain by one degree per unit time, then 38 days earlier, the same radon contamination (i.e., contamination enough to leave that quantity of radon left after 38 days when the experiment starts), would raise temperature by 1000 degrees. The heavy water would spontaneously vaporize if the time were as short as necessary to explain excess heat results. The storage life of the heavy water used almost always would be longer (much longer) than 38 days, and it would take deliberate, immediate contamination to produce this effect at the level known. There are other reasons to reject the hypothesis, I've just given a blatant one. If a longer half-life emitter were responsible, it would produce even less heat, proportionally, so it would have to be present at higher levels. No candidate contaminant has been alleged that would actually work. It is not a violation of the scientific method to "fail" to rule out, in a paper, every preposterous hypothesis, where anyone with ordinary knowledge of the field would immediately reject it. That was the point.
Caprice withdrew the hypothesis, finally. The point here is that even though his hypothesis was preposterous, even though he'd been given many evidences contrary to the hypothesis, he didn't falsify it himself. This is quite useful, in fact, as a demonstration of how the scientific method has broken down with respect to cold fusion. Caprice is not terribly untypical, except in one respect: he's been willing to discuss this. The assumption that cold fusion must be bogus is relatively common, and that assumption causes failure to read accurately, and/or indadequate investigation of alternate hypotheses, since, of course, if this particular one is wrong, well there must be another, and it really doesn't matter which one succeeds in falsification if the "new discovery" is error, which it must be. I was surprised at the depth of this, though. The same phenomenon may happen on the other side, by the way, and I've seen that as well. It's a human phenomenon. --Abd 22:13, 31 December 2010 (UTC)
continued original response. Abd 10:01, 13 December 2010 (UTC)
It isn't a reasonable possibility. Radon is easily detectable at the quantities required, by the radiation it emits, and the short half-life of radon would requre fresh contamination at much higher levels than ambient, in order to see measurable heating from the decay chain. Heavy water is rarely manufactured and immediately poured into a cold fusion cell. Normally, it would have been stored for months or longer, both with the manufacturer and, later, in the stores for the lab. I have a kilogram of 99.9 atom percent heavy water. I bought it a year ago.... At this point, Dr. Storms is synthesizing the work of hundreds of research groups, including highly competent specialists in their fields. Contamination as an explanation of any of the major cold fusion results, except for those reporting possible nuclear transmutations (where the possibility of contamination is central, due to the low quantities being measured at the end of the experiment), isn't plausible at all. I have only seen contamination raised as an issue with transmutation claims. (Where, by the way, unexpected contamination probably explains some of the results, and not others.)
But one more comment about "contamination." Storms considers that the nuclear active environment (NAE) is not pure palladium deuteride, that other elements are involved. A major one may be oxygen, which is abundantly present in electrolytic experiments, but it is possible that other trace "contaminants" affect the reaction. Not as reactants generating heat and helum, as radon would, but as catalysts. Such a catalyst might not need to be present in large quantities at all, a trace might be sufficient. On the other hand, if a trace is sufficient, what would happen if there is more than a trace? You can bet that researchers have searched, intensively, for such a "contaminant." Abd 10:01, 13 December 2010 (UTC)
"Experimental observations of FPE have been questioned as being the result of error, contamination, or other common sources. The most significant are questions about heat and tritium production. FPE can be accepted only after such processes are ruled out. The questions are discussed in detail because different types of evidence may have several different simple explanations. As expected, many prosaic explanations have been proposed. Only the most plausible are discussed here." Judging the Validity of the Fleischmann–Pons Effect, E.K. Storms and T.W. Grimshaw / Journal of Condensed Matter Nuclear Science 3 (2010) 9–30 [1] (emphassis added)
It seems that Storms himself agrees (at least in princinple) that these questions are critical to answer, but falls short of that goal in the paper cited above. These are basic principles of the scientific method that apply to any experimental investigation. The criteria of "reasonable" is one for critical peer review. If others call into question the issue of contamination it is up to those who are making the claims to defend the work. The statement "including highly competent specialists in their fields" is argumentum ad verecundiam - the quality of the work should stand on its own.
The specifics or details of these experiments is not the issue - there are fundamental misconceptions about experiment design, the burden of proof and the process of review. For an example of the kind of experimental rigor that I am referring to see slide 23 of this where they have taken great care to measure and quantify the background levels in all the components of the detector. For a more general discussion of the process by which a researcher defends the integrity of results and data that supports the claims being made, please carefully read the paper I posted above. It has a great deal of relevance to our discussion. --mikeu talk 16:09, 13 December 2010 (UTC)
detailed review of above comment by Mu201 -- Abd 23:01, 14 December 2010 (UTC)
Some more specific comments on the above. When the nature of the field and the variety of observations are not known, a comment like this may easily be misunderstood:
Experimental observations of FPE have been questioned as being the result of error, contamination, or other common sources. The most significant are questions about heat and tritium production.
"Contamination" in that context refers to tritium results, which are not relevant here. Tritium is found at low levels in some cold fusion experiments; the levels are statistically significant by themselves and are probably not the result of contamination, but this is a red herring. Tritum has not been well correlated with excess heat. The levels of tritium found are many orders of magnitude below those expected if tritium were a major product of the reaction. Tritum is still of interest because it is a sign of nuclear processes taking place in palladium deuteride other than the main reaction. In the present discussion, the heat/helium correlation, which is the primary evidence for fusion, was asserted to be due, perhaps, to radon contamination, specifically in the heavy water. That was interesting because the half-life of radium, 3.8 days, and the energy available per helium nucleus produced by the full decay chain, allegedly in the range of 25 MeV/He4 (I have not checked this figure, and it may not be true, it seems fishy to me, 25 MeV may be the total energy produced, which will be divided among various alpha particles), could possibly explain heat/helium. However, in this case, electrolysis and loading ratio would be irrelevant, whereas excess heat is known to be correlated with current density and with loading ratio, heat would be steadily evolved at a rate declining rapidly with time (in a CF electrolytic experiment which may last 6 weeks or more) whereas heat is not normally evolved except after a delay, heavy water hot enough to produce measurable excess heat would have been noticed by some of the over 150 labs reporting excess heat (they are often looking for alpha radiation, even when it's not reported in their papers -- and codeposition experiments where radiation detectors have been immersed in the D2O would have shown massive tracking over the whole surface, front and back, whereas tracks or alleged chemical damage are found only in association with the cathode), etc., etc. The proposal of radon contamination at the necessary levels is preposterous, which is why no refutation of it is found in the literature, nor is it proposed in published skeptical literature. What has been reported of possible contamination, even to the extent of fraudulent doping, is tritium contamination, to explain tritium results. Those claims have generally been discredited, but that is an entirely separate issue. It has nothing to do with the central issue, the striking claim of Dr. Storms that the evidence for fusion is convincing, based on widespread work showing the heat/helium correlation in cold fusion experiments of the palladium deuteride class.
You are also correct that argument from expertise is not scientifically relevant. However, it is still relevant here. It is commonly asserted that the "majority of scientists" believe that cold fusion was conclusively rejected twenty years ago. That's a common opinion, but it is based on an assumption, it would seem, that the expertise of a "majority of scientists" would exceed that of a few, even if the few are highly informed and the majority is not. Most scientists, still, today, have no idea about the results of the last twenty years of research into cold fusion. Scientists are largely waiting for the "experts," that is, the peer reviewers at journals they trust, to ratify cold fusion before they will look at it. Until about 2004 or 2005. only a few journals would even consider a cold fusion research paper. Allegedly the dearth of publications in, say, Nature would often be ascribed to low quality. However, Nature explicitly announced that it would not consider, at all, any paper on cold fusion, in around 1990. A Nobel prize-winning physicist resigned from the American Physical Society because JAPS would not review and publish his paper on cold fusion, etc., etc. In 2005, this effective blackout started to break down, and the two largest, mainstream, scientific publishers in the world, Springer-Verlag and Elsevier, are now publishing papers on low energy nuclear reactions. Indeed, the paper above, which appears to have been justly criticized, was published by Elsevier. Personally, I agree with the publication, though not with the conclusions of the paper, probably. It may well be that the reviewers should have been tougher, demanding better data analysis! But the experimental report is of interest even if it turns out to be artifact. The critique essentially concluded "not conclusive." Not "probably wrong." The authors later agreed with the criticisms, and proposed that further research would be undertaken in line with the comments, which is exactly what should happen, that's normal scientific process.
Please don't miss the fact that the striking claim about cold fusion was not only published under peer review, by a journal with tough peer review, according to those I talk to who have submitted there -- and I know that they reject much that is submitted in this field -- but it was featured on the first page of the September issue. Given the very negative general reputation of cold fusion, still, that has to be based on a considered judgement that this review can withstand serious criticism, or they would be shooting themselves in the foot. They did not present it as one side of a controversy. They presented it, explicitly, as a "Review," as if the conclusions were solid. And the conclusions are solid. It's easy to misunderstand them, though. When Storms concludes "fusion," he is definitely not concluding "d-d fusion," and almost all skeptical approach to the FP effect is based on an assumption that, if there were to be fusion, it would be dd fusion.
Again, Storms has been criticized as ignoring negative results. That's not true. It is not necessary to ignore any negative results, and the "negative replications" are fully explained by a simple fact: it was very difficult to set up the FP effect. Initially, how to do it was not known, Fleischmann and Pons had been very lucky; when they ran out of their original palladium batch, they could not reproduce it themselves for a time (a fact which led to much ridicule; the same thing happened to Miles for a time, with similar skeptical comment.) But that difficulty was overcome, it is now known how to fabricate palladium rods so that they usually work. There is still much unexplained variation, but this very fact allows the use of "dead" cells as controls. They are otherwise as identical as they can be made, using the same materials, from the same batches, etc. Only active palladium material produces heat (that is the definition of "active"!) and only active material produces helium.
When I became involved in this field by writing about it, I noticed that heat/helium was largely being ignored by almost everyone, even within the field. In the review paper presented to the U.S. DoE in 2004, it was mentioned, but was buried within masses of other data, and far more effort was put into defending calorimetry. Sure enough, some of the reviewers in 2004, as well as the summarizing bureaucrat, misread the heat/helium evidence, it is radically misstated in the summary. If the rport had said, in fact, what the summary claims, this would have been anti-correlation, mot correlation.
I discussed this situation with Storms and he apparently decided to write a paper on it and submit it to Naturewissenschaften. He had previously asked me to comment on the paper, which I did, using what I know of common criticism in the field. The management of NW decided, instead, that it was time to publish an overall review of the field, so they asked for that, and that is how the review we have been talking about came to be published. I also contributed to the editing of that paper, which is why I'm credited in it. Like Jed Rothwell, who also does a great deal of editing of papers for publication, I'm not a "qualified scientist" in the field, but know enough to put words together and recognize cogent and spurious argument.
Why had heat/helium been largely ignored? I have an idea: most researchers in the field were electrochemists. Caloriimetry was well within their expertise. Questioning calorimetry, over and over, with the questions continuing no matter how much care they exercised to eliminate artifact and address prior objections, was a kind of professional insult, and so we see in reviews, written by chemists or electrochemists, heavy defense of the calorimetry. But helium results cut through that Gordian knot, demonstrating that the calorimetry is at least approximately correct, through a correlated variable.
It's been said that Storms ignored negative results. As to the critical issue, heat/helium, there are, indeed, some negative results, I know of three Miles cells that showed heat but no helium, but they exist within a large series of experiments with correlated heat and helium. Storms, in fact, mentions the three. There are no papers published on heat/helium that show low correlation. The confusion arises because Storms does not, in this context, mention many papers in which no effect at all was found. I was told, when I set out to work in the field myself, to expect many failures before I find success, and also to be prepared to spend at least about $8000 (which I certainly could not afford). There are hosts of unexpected and difficult-to-control variables. But I was also told that if I persisted and identified the problem variations and eliminated them, I'd find the effect. I might need a lot of help! Achieving excess heat is now a known art, it can be done. So, when people do it, is there helium produced, and how much? This is like any chemistry or physics experiment, one needs to know the arts involved in order to set up the conditions. With helium, one may need some serious equipment as well, and there is additional art. But it's a known art, again. Miles, however, used an independent lab and sent them samples with no information attached as to what cells had shown heat and what cells had not. Blind controls? Does he get any credit for sound scientific procedure?
My work is not checking for heat at all, beyond recording cell temperature. I'm looking for neutrons, a rare side-effect, but one which may be cheap and easy to confirm. I do assume that, if I'm careful enough, I'll see results, but I'm of the opinion that all results should be published, "right" or "wrong." That's experimental science. Where it's published is another issue!-- Abd 23:01, 14 December 2010 (UTC)
Thanks, Mike, for the citation of that critique. It is of LENR work of which I'd been unaware, though it is not about cold fusion. When they talk about the "null hypothesis," the usage seems clear and correct to me, unlike what I've seen above. I have not, however, read the original paper. I'm quite interested in this topic, because the method of radiation detection used was CR-39, and I've tentatively rejected CR-39 for my own work because of difficulties in etching and interpreting it, I'm using LR-115. In your comments above, Mike, you do not appear to appreciate that the paper by Storms was a solicited review of the field, in a major journal, and that many, many alternative hypotheses have long been considered and rejected; not all such alternatives are covered in that review, because they are no longer active as criticisms. This review of a field with about 3000 published papers, over 1000 under peer review, and which follows about 15 other reviews with similar conclusions in other mainstream journals over the last five years, cannot readily be compared with a single publication of original research. I find the criticisms in the cited paper quite cogent, excepting only that I cannot fully conclude that until I've read the original work. Compared to the crucial cold fusion work on heat/helium, however, the significance of the Cardone data is weak indeed. I don't think it is being noticed here that a clear and strong correlation is being asserted between what would be expected to be independent variables if there is no fusion. That correlation is supported in the Storms paper by a dozen reports from independent research groups where there was adequate information presented regarding excess heat and helium being produced in palladium deuteride. Contrary to the assertions of some that Storms has not presented negative findings, there are no such negativce findings, in the matter of correlation, for him to present. He does not include, it's true, the early "negative replications" of Pons and Fleischmann's work, reporting no heat and ho helium, but those *confirm* his conclusions, they do not negate them. Those researchers simply did not succeed in setting up the reaction, which is what would be expected for most when they first try.
This is a reproducible and reproduced experiment: measure both excess heat and helium and determine the ratio. At one point Caprice asserted a certain paper that showed excess heat with light water electrolysis on a nickel cathode as if this were some negative result or impeachment of heat/helium. It is not, particularly because helium measurements were not made. Further, Further, it is possible that there are other "unknown nuclear reactions" besides one producing helium from deuterium. The evidence is strong that deuterium -> helium dominates in work with palladium deuteride, however.
Before proceeding to a criticism of Storms for alleged premature conclusions, heat/helium should be understood. Storms is not supporting any particular theory of mechanism, the strong conclusion is only that helium is being produced commensurate with excess heat, and this is asserted as fusion because the energy measured through calorimetry is that expected for any process that begins with deuterium and ends with helium. Storms and most in the field reject "d-d fusion" as being the process, for all the most important reasons that everyone else rejects it. D-d fusion is a very well-known reaction with wellknown characteristics, and even if there is, say, some form of electron catalysis, producing a fused nucleus from two deuterons, that nucleus would branch 50 per cent to tritium and a proton and 50 percent to He3 and a neutron, and evcen if it goes to helium, normally quite rare, a gamma ray is emitted that would easily be detected. --Abd 16:12, 14 December 2010 (UTC)

(The response below was written later, and is condensed based on longer-term reflection).

The comment from Storms (CMNS, 2010) was misunderstood. Contamination is a common objection to claims of nuclear transmutation, including tritium and helium. Transmutation other than to helium is not a part of the main CF process; contamination is otherwise relevant only to discussion of the finding of elements whose trace presence is anomalous. It is not relevant to the original, main evidence of excess heat. It is more relevant to the helium findings, because often the levels found are below ambient. However, that issue is very amply addressed, in detail, by Storms and others. Great care has been exercised, in the helium measurements, to rule out contamination, plus contamination would not explain the heat/helium correlation.

The main evidence that the F-P effect (a real effect, there is utterly no doubt about that, the question is the origin of the apparent heat) is nuclear in nature is that helium and excess heat correlate at the value for deuterium fusion (by any pathway, not just by d-d fusion). If care has been taken in measuring anomalous heat and anomalous helium, the excess heat can be predicted, with high accuracy, from the helium found, and there are many confirmations of this, and no contrary evidence at all. (This is, in fact, a reproducible experiment.) Contamination by trace elements may in the end be relevant to some theory of mechanism, but not to the basic finding that fusion is involved.

Contamination theories, other than involving helium, are peripheral to the issue of whether or not the F-P effect involves fusion. In considering transmutation claims, Storms specifically considers contamination, in detail. He hasn't ruled it out, though he considers it unlikely that contamination explains all the results, and he explains why. (I'll add that contamination almost certainly explains some results.)

There are secondary evidences for "unknown nuclear reaction," and tritium (well established) and other transmutation (less clearly established) are these, among others. It is here that contamination looms large, but that wasn't the context of the discussion, it was an attempt to explain heat/helium, because radon would produce heat/helium, though at a lower value than found. (Radon would produce about 8 MeV/He-4, whereas the experimental value is 25 +/- 5 MeV [Storms, 2010, based on a review of many studies]. (For reference, deuterium fusion to helium will produce 23.8 MeV/He-4). --Abd 01:20, 1 January 2011 (UTC)


A bliki is a wiki blog or blog that is a wiki. Bliki is easier to pronounce than wlog! This is an opinion or commentary page, generally about cold fusion-related activity on the web. Comment on the attached talk page is welcome, or engagement in discussion on the main bliki page is also invited; as the author of the bliki, I reserve the right to refactor discussion there. --Abd (discusscontribs) 16:32, 6 October 2014 (UTC)