Cold fusion/Pathological science

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Content below was originally taken from: User:Enric Naval/pathological science.

Extracted from an old discussion at CF's talk page.

polywater comparison, sources, when, how and why[edit]

(Original context.)

Multiple sources comparing polywater to cold fusion:

  • 2002 "Critical Issues in Biomedical Science: A Guide for Biochemistry and Molecular & Cell Biology Graduate", 2002, Leland L. Smith [1]
  • 2002 w:Henry H. Bauer, Hyle journal, [2], which gives another source:
  • 1992 Rousseau, D.L., ‘Cases studies in pathological science’, American Scientist, 80 (January-February), 54-63.
  • 2005 Deconstruction and research, Journal of Phase Equilibria and Diffusion, [3] also puts the two on the same article
  • 1989, a Seattle newspaper [4]
  • 1998, w:David Goodman, on a mailing list [5]
  • book that cites Taubes and adds some analysis of its own "Commercializing new technologies", 1997, Harvard Bussiness Press, [6]
  • 1989 NY Times? [7], April
  • 2000 The Undergrowth of Science: Deception, Self-Deception and Human Frailty by Walter Gratzer. Oxford University Press, review
  • 2006 David Ellyard (2006), Who Discovered What When (illustrated ed.), New Holland, ISBN 9781877069222, 
  • 2008 Resonance journal?[8]

pathological science sources[edit]

cold fusion got the denomination of pathological science after being compared to polywater by some guy from Toronto and "(if cold fusion is given the category of scientific death, it) passes into the history of failed scientific claims, and joins N-rays, polywater, and ESP" and compares it with w:Irving Langmuir's definition of pathological science[9] 'Undead science', Bart Simon, 2002, Rutgers University Press.
"For most natural scientists now, the case for cold fusion is closed and the veredict unequivocal: 'pathological science'. Irving Langmuir's space for scientific fantasies was retrieved and put to cartographic use in dennouncing the claim and in castigating its pitchmen, Pons and Fleischmann, as the episode quickly entered the annals of science next to other illusions: N-rays, polywater and martian canals. It was hardly coincidence (...) that Physics Today chose to reprint Langmuir's 1953 talk in its October 1989 issue." (footnote 3 on page 184 gives another 4 books using comparisons from Langmuir, who talked about "sick" science, including N-rays, w:mitogenetic rays and ESP [10], before polywater was "discovered") Cultural Boundaries of Science, Thomas F. Gieryn, 1999, University of Chicago Press
This book analyzes how rethoric and humor were used to ridiculize cold fusion in "the short history of this controversy" [11] Science, reason, and rhetoric, Henry Krips, J. E. McGuire, Trevor Melia, 1995, Univ of Pittsburgh Press.
Entirely discredited, the notion of cold fusion today denotes an infamous episode of sloppy science that chemists, especially, would prefer to forget Draw the lightning down, Michael B. Schiffer, Kacy L. Hollenback, Carrie L. Bell, 2003, University of California Press
"A literature review uncovered six distinctive indicators of failed information epidemics in the scientific journal literature: (1) presence of seminal papers(s), (2) rapid growth/decline in author frequency, (3) multi-disciplinary research, (4) epidemic growth/decline in journal publication frequency, (5) predominance of rapid communication journal publications, and (6) increased multi-authorship. These indicators were applied to journal publication data from two known failed information epidemics, Polywater and Cold Nuclear Fusion." "Indicators of failed information epidemics in the scientific journal literature: A publication analysis of Polywater and Cold Nuclear Fusion", E. Ackermann, Scientometrics 66, 451-466 (2006) [12]
So there matters stand: no cold fusion researcher has been able to dispel the stigma of 'pathological science' by rigorously and reproducibly demonstrating effects sufficiently large to exclude the possibility of error (for example, by constructing a working power generator), nor does it seem possible to conclude unequivocally that all the apparently anomalous behavior can be attributed to error.

By late 1990 (...) The cold fusion controversy was effectively over.

But not cold fusion. Research has continued at a moderate level of activity right up to the present day. A good deal of the work has been published in non-mainstream journals (some created for the purpose) or electronically; but occasionally papers have appeared in prestigious locations, such as the 1993 paper by Pons and Fleischmanns on calorimetry, which was accepted by Physics Letters A.

Subsequent claims have been almost completely ignored by the scientific mainstream, and the popular media has generally followed suit, with a few exceptions. Compilations of this work may be found on a number of websites, notably the LENR-CANR (low energy nuclear reactions/chemically assisted nuclear reactions) site,[39] which features bibliographic material and summaries, written from the strong proponents' point of view. A quite different (and intriguing) perspective may be found in a recent book by the sociologist of science Bart Simon, who proposes a new model for understanding how and why research persists beyond the point where the vast majority of the community considers the field finished: he calls it Undead Science.

Two somewhat less fanciful, but rather contradictory, conceptual models have been offered for the consideration of scientific controversies: one from an internal point of view and one more external. In fact they both seem to fit the cold fusion saga pretty well. The first is that of pathological science, (...) A quite different perspective [meaning the second conceptual model] has been proposed by the sociologist of science Harry Collins. The Experimenter's Regress, which was introduced in a discussion of the search for gravity waves, argues that it is impossible to separate questions about the existence or non-existence of a novel phenomenon from questions about the validity of the experiments designed to detect it:(...)

(...)any negative finding can always be (and has been) challenged as incorrectly performed, such as claims that the wrong kind of electrode was used, etc.

The fact that these dueling descriptors are both operative has much to do with the continued survival of cold fusion research - if only as a ghostly entity, as Simon would have it. How should we view the more recent findings in light of the earlier, substantially discredited work? Pons and Fleischmann, and others, made some rather major errors that led to reports of large effects - excess heat exceeding 1000 %, high levels of neutrons or tritium - so a skeptic comfortably concludes that the generally much smaller effects now claimed are the result of more subtle errors. Conversely, proponents can reasonably argue that their later experimental designs do take previous criticisms into account, and should not be automatically assumed to be tainted by the same old mistakes; but they never get the opportunity to defend themselves, since nobody even bothers to criticize them. A (rather plaintive) letter to this effect, published in Chemical & Engineering News in 2003,[45] elicited no response at all.

Another factor in the post-mortem survival of cold fusion has been its decidedly chimerical nature. (...) At least some of these reports are indisputably erroneous, but what does that imply about others? For example, the philosopher of science William McKinney, in arguing that one can escape from the Experimenter's Regress on the basis of objective analysis of experiments, suggested that the unequivocal demonstration of the artifactual -ray signature (thus undermining the claim for neutrons) was the real knockout blow for cold fusion.[48] However, cold fusion researchers are committed to no theory, so (on their account) excess heat need not be tied to neutrons. Since nobody has seriously claimed to understand the phenomena on the basis of any unifying theory, there need not be any real links between the various types of phenomena studied. From a strictly logical point of view, every individual experiment would need to be evaluated on its own merits: if one set of claims is debunked to everyone's satisfaction, that does not necessarily disprove another.

Labinger JA, Weininger SJ (2005). "Controversy in chemistry: how do you prove a negative?—the cases of phlogiston and cold fusion". Angew Chem Int Ed Engl 44 (13): 1916–22. doi:10.1002/anie.200462084. 

So, what the reliable sources say is that cold fusion is discredited, that the controversy is over (was over already in late 1990!), that the attempts to compare it to polywater/N-rays/ESP/etc. were sucessfull and killed the reputation of cold fusion (in about six months?), etc.

Mind you, this is not a description of the field itself, it's a description how it was painted by some and how the idea caught, and how it's still considered by scientists the same thing as back then in 1989 after the dust settled (a discredited science).

is the controvesy really over? sources[edit]

(original context)

[13] It explains how Lewis and Koonin used humour on their presentation to sway the audience on their side and accuse P. and F. of breaking scientific rules (see start of page 173, and pages 170-174). This doesn't change the fact that the audience was swayed, that's it, that the controversy is over and that cold fusion now stands as pathological science. See:

"On the one hand, many experts say that cold fusion is dead, but on the other hand we can always find scientists who will disagree. Latour has left us with the knotty problem of figuring out how many dissenting experts it takes to keep a controversy alive." Undead Science, pag 11 [14]

I think this is enough material to write up something on the article. --Enric Naval (talk) 08:25, 22 March 2009 (UTC)

DOE 2004 says nothing about the field being accepted or about any controversys existing or not. Use sources that actually deal with the topic:

  • "Seventeen years after the announcement [of cold fusion] the scientific community does not acknowledge this field as a genuine scientific research theme." Biberian 2007
  • "Most chemists would rather forget all about cold fusion. (...), only a small core of researchers has kept the idea from fading away entirely. (...) Acceptance by the scientific community is still the main target for cold fusion advocates [success in publishing in peer reviewed journals seems imminent, but not in replication or appearing at major conferences] (...) But will the flare-up of cold fusion excitement last?" Van Noorden 2007
  • "Nonetheless, a network of dedicated cold-fusionists still toils away in a vineyard that looks pretty barren to almost everyone else" Wired March 2009 [15]
  • "Nobody [proved it correct]. The laws of physics left cold fusion dead in the water. Nearly. A hardy band of believers refuses to let the dream die and, two decades on, continues to work on the phenomenon, now renamed as low-energy nuclear reactions." The Guardian, March 2009 [16]
  • "So far it hasn't been replicated to satisfy either the scientific community or the Department of Energy, leaving this type of fusion's future out in the cold for now." Scientific American, March 2009 [17]
  • "Attempts to replicate their experiments failed, but a number of researchers insist that cold fusion is possible. (...) The American Chemical Society has organised sessions surrounding the research at its meetings before, suggesting that the field would otherwise have no suitable forum for debate. (...) In a bid to avoid the negative connotations of a largely discredited approach [researchers now use the term LENR" BBC, March 2009 [18]
  • "But other scientists could not reproduce their results, and the whole field of research declined. A stalwart cadre of scientists persisted, however (...)'" American Chemical Society, March 2009 [19]
  • it seems that the CR-39 experiment is taken more seriously, according to the New Scientist [20]

It's still not accepted, it's discredited, there is a small resurgence of interest on the topic, it's not clear if it's a real revival or just a perceived flare up or a temporal thing, and there is only a die-hard core of scientists still pursuing it.

These secondary sources leave clear that the CF field was discredited and only a few scientists remained in it.

sources added later[edit]

  • 2000, "Surviving closure: post-rejectism adaptation and plurality in science", Collins, American Sociological Review, Vol. 65, No. 6, Dec., 2000 [21]. It is cited in a 2006 book[22] (page 46) for "advocates of cold fusion and other communities of scientists who persisted in following lines of research that their larger disciplines consider discredited; and so on (Collins, 2000; Simon, 2002)"
  • 2000 R.K. Adair "Static and Low-Frequency Magnetic Fields: Health Risks and Therapies" Reports on Progress in Physics 63 (2000):415-454. "Is the rejection of so large a set of results - albeit none that are definitive - quite unusual? No! Other areas of science have experienced the phenomenon of having large sets of invalid results purpoting to establish pathological science. Recently, there have been several hundred reports of experiments that demonstrated 'cold fusion', but there is no cold fusion (p.437)"
  • 2004, w:David L. Goodstein, republished in 2010 book On fact and fraud: cautionary tales from the front lines of science. "The essential key to returning cold fusion to scientific respectability is to find the missing ingredient that would make the recipe work every time. Remarkably, very little has changed in the years since these events unfolded. Koonin, Barnes, and Lewis are still resolute in thinking they have cast cold fusion firmly out of the house of science, and most scientists agree with them. Nevertheless, a few scientists continue to pursue it, and international meetings in the subject are held every two years or so. No one has succeeded in making cold fusion occur dependably all the time, but there continue to be enough suggestive results to keep people interested. (...) Unfortunately, in this area, science is not functioning normally. There is nobody out there listening." quoted from a 2007 book [23]
  • 2006, "(...) eventually the cold fusion claims were disproven to the satisfaction of most scientists (a small group of scientists continue to pursue this effect to this day). In the aftermath, the great majority of scientists felt the original scientists had engaged in unethical, or "pathological", science. What made it pathological was not that they were wrong all the time. But, these scientists bypassed the normal scientific avenues of fact checking and went stright to the public with their claims." page 99 "A Biblical Case for an Old Earth" w:David Snoke physicist fellow of APS, quoted in a 2010 geology book "Time Matters: Geology's Legacy to Scientific Thought"
  • 2007 "Chemists had earlier on been swept into brief stampedes, such as the polywater 1972 episode (Franks 1981) or the cold fusion 1989 foray into pathological science (Langmuir & Hall 1989)," "The public image of chemistry", Joachim Schummer, Bernadette Bensaude-Vincent, Brigitte van Tiggelen
  • 2009 Karl Sabbagh (2009), Remembering our childhood: how memory betrays us, Oxford University Press, ISBN 9780199218400 
  • 2010, "Classic cases of pathological science, such as the alleged "discovery" of canals on Mars, N-rays, polywater, cold fusion, and so on are all testament to the fact that dozens of papers can appear in the scientific literature attesting to the reality of the phenomena, which turn out to be entirely illusory. The reasons such claims were ultimately rejected by the wider scientific community was due to the fact that the evidence put forward in support of them was simply too weak. Other propositions, such as the claim that meteorites were stones that fell from the sky and that the continents were originally joined together in a single land mass, were originally rejected by the wider community but ultimately accepted because the evidence in favor of them accumulated and got stronger. (...) Contrary to Carter's mantra, the skeptical point focuses in evidence." page 151 "Debating Psychic Experience: Human Potential Or Human Illusion?", w:Stanley Krippner, Harris L. Friedman (both professors of psychology)
  • 2010 Frank R. Spellman, Joni Price-Bayer (2010), In Defense of Science: Why Scientific Literacy Matters, Government Institutes, ISBN 9781605907109