Cold fusion/The Wikipedia article
This resource is a seminar where we may discuss the Wikipedia article. Original content of this page may be read at . That was about the article as it stood as of 1 November, 2010. This was archived to history to make room for a new study of the present article,
The lede and notes and references from it.
permanent link as of August 15, 2015.
Cold fusion is a hypothetical type of w:nuclear reaction that would occur at, or near, w:room temperature. This is compared with the "hot" fusion which takes place naturally within stars, under immense pressure and at temperatures of millions of degrees. There is currently no accepted theoretical model which would allow cold fusion to occur.
In 1989 w:Martin Fleischmann (then one of the world's leading electrochemists) and w:Stanley Pons reported that their apparatus had produced anomalous heat ("excess heat"), of a magnitude they asserted would defy explanation except in terms of nuclear processes. They further reported measuring small amounts of nuclear reaction byproducts, including w:neutrons and w:tritium. The small tabletop experiment involved w:electrolysis of w:heavy water on the surface of a w:palladium (Pd) electrode. The reported results received wide media attention, and raised hopes of a cheap and abundant source of energy.
Many scientists tried to replicate the experiment with the few details available. Hopes faded due to the large number of negative replications, the withdrawal of many positive replications, the discovery of flaws and sources of experimental error in the original experiment, and finally the discovery that Fleischmann and Pons had not actually detected nuclear reaction byproducts. By late 1989, most scientists considered cold fusion claims dead, and cold fusion subsequently gained a reputation as w:pathological science. In 1989, a review panel organized by the w:United States Department of Energy (DOE) found that the evidence for the discovery of a new nuclear process was not persuasive enough to start a special program, but was "sympathetic toward modest support" for experiments "within the present funding system." A second DOE review, convened in 2004 to look at new research, reached conclusions similar to the first. Support within the then-present funding system did not occur.
A small community of researchers continues to investigate cold fusion, now often preferring the designation low-energy nuclear reactions (LENR). Since cold fusion articles are rarely published in peer-reviewed mainstream scientific journals, they do not attract the level of scrutiny expected for science.
- 60 Minutes: Once Considered Junk Science, Cold Fusion Gets A Second Look By Researchers. w:CBS. 17 April 2009. http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2009/04/17/60minutes/main4952167.shtml.
- Fleischmann & Pons 1989, p. 301 ("It is inconceivable that this [amount of heat] could be due to anything but nuclear processes... We realise that the results reported here raise more questions than they provide answers...")
- Voss 1999
- Browne 1989, para. 1
- Browne 1989, Close 1992, Huizenga 1993, Taubes 1993
- Browne 1989
- Taubes 1993, pp. 262, 265–266, 269–270, 273, 285, 289, 293, 313, 326, 340–344, 364, 366, 404–406, Goodstein 1994, Van Noorden 2007, Kean 2010
- Chang, Kenneth (25 March 2004). US will give cold fusion a second look. The New York Times. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9C01E0DC1530F936A15750C0A9629C8B63. Retrieved 8 February 2009.
- Ouellette, Jennifer (23 December 2011). Could Starships Use Cold Fusion Propulsion?. Discovery News. http://news.discovery.com/space/could-interstellar-starships-use-cold-fusion-propulsion-111223.html.
- US DOE 2004, Choi 2005, Feder 2005
- Broad 1989b, Goodstein 1994, Platt 1998, Voss 1999, Beaudette 2002, Feder 2005, Adam 2005 "Advocates insist that there is just too much evidence of unusual effects in the thousands of experiments since Pons and Fleischmann to be ignored", Kruglinksi 2006, Van Noorden 2007, Alfred 2009. Daley 2004 calculates between 100 and 200 researchers, with damage to the their careers.
- 'Cold fusion' rebirth? New evidence for existence of controversial energy source. w:American Chemical Society. http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2009-03/acs-fr031709.php.
- Hagelstein et al. 2004
- Goodstein 1994,Labinger & Weininger 2005, p. 1919
- Fleischmann, Martin; Pons, Stanley (1989). "Electrochemically induced nuclear fusion of deuterium". Journal of Electroanalytical Chemistry 261 (2A): 301–308. doi:10.1016/0022-0728(89)80006-3.
- Voss, David (1 March 1999). "What Ever Happened to Cold Fusion". Physics World. ISSN 0953-8585. http://physicsworld.com/cws/article/print/1258. Retrieved 1 May 2008.
- Browne, M. (3 May 1989). "Physicists Debunk Claim Of a New Kind of Fusion". New York Times. http://partners.nytimes.com/library/national/science/050399sci-cold-fusion.html. Retrieved 25 May 2008,
- Close, Frank E. (1992). Too Hot to Handle: The Race for Cold Fusion (2 ed.). London: Penguin. ISBN 0-14-015926-6.
- Huizenga, John R. (1993). Cold Fusion: The Scientific Fiasco of the Century (2 ed.). Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-855817-1.
- Taubes, Gary (1993). w:Bad Science: The Short Life and Weird Times of Cold Fusion. New York: Random House. ISBN 0-394-58456-2.
- Goodstein, David (1994). "Whatever happened to cold fusion?". American Scholar (Phi Beta Kappa Society) 63 (4): 527–541. ISSN 0003-0937. http://www.its.caltech.edu/~dg/fusion_art.html. Retrieved 25 May 2008.
- Kean, Sam (26 July 2010). "Palladium: The Cold Fusion Fanatics Can't Get Enough of the Stuff". Slate. http://www.slate.com/id/2258112/entry/2258878/. Retrieved 31 July 2011.
- US DOE, U.S. Department of Energy (2004) (PDF). Report of the Review of Low Energy Nuclear Reactions. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Energy. Archived from the original on 26 February 2008. http://web.archive.org/web/20080226210800/http://www.science.doe.gov/Sub/Newsroom/News_Releases/DOE-SC/2004/low_energy/CF_Final_120104.pdf. Retrieved 19 July 2008.
- Choi, Charles (2005). "Back to Square One". Scientific American. http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=back-to-square-one. Retrieved 25 November 2008.
- Feder, Toni (2004). "DOE Warms to Cold Fusion". Physics Today 57 (4): 27–28. doi:10.1063/1.1752414. http://scitation.aip.org/journals/doc/PHTOAD-ft/vol_57/iss_4/27_1.shtml.
- Feder, Toni (January 2005). "Cold Fusion Gets Chilly Encore". Physics Today 58: 31. doi:10.1063/1.1881896. http://scitation.aip.org/journals/doc/PHTOAD-ft/vol_58/iss_1/31_1.shtml.
- Broad, William J. (31 October 1989b). "Despite Scorn, Team in Utah Still Seeks Cold-Fusion Clues". w:The New York Times: C1. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=950DE6DA1331F932A05753C1A96F948260&pagewanted=all.
- Platt, Charles (1998). "What if Cold Fusion is Real?". w:Wired Magazine (6.11). http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/6.11/coldfusion.html?pg=1&topic=&topic_set=. Retrieved 25 May 2008.
- Beaudette, Charles G. (2002). Excess Heat & Why Cold Fusion Research Prevailed. South Bristol, Maine: Oak Grove Press. ISBN 0-9678548-3-0.
- Adam, David (24 March 2005). Rusbringer, Alan. ed. "In from the cold". The Guardian (London). http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2005/mar/24/research.highereducation2. Retrieved 25 May 2008.
- Van Noorden, R. (April 2007). "Cold fusion back on the menu". Chemistry World. ISSN 1473-7604. http://www.rsc.org/chemistryworld/News/2007/March/22030701.asp. Retrieved 25 May 2008.
- Alfred, Randy (23 March 2009). "March 23, 1989: Cold Fusion Gets Cold Shoulder". Wired. http://www.wired.com/science/discoveries/news/2009/03/dayintech_0323.
- Hagelstein, Peter L.; McKubre, Michael; Nagel, David; Chubb, Talbot; Hekman, Randall (2004). "New Physical Effects in Metal Deuterides" (PDF). CONDENSED MATTER NUCLEAR SCIENCE. Proceedings of the 11th International Conference on Cold Fusion. Held 31 October-5 November 2004 in Marseilles (Washington: US Department of Energy) 11: 23. doi:10.1142/9789812774354_0003. ISBN 9789812566409. http://web.archive.org/web/20070106185101/www.science.doe.gov/Sub/Newsroom/News_Releases/DOE-SC/2004/low_energy/Appendix_1.pdf, (manuscript).
- 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. PMID 15770617. "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."
- Daley, Beth (27 July 2004). "Heating up a cold theory. MIT professor risks career to reenergize discredited idea". The Boston Globe. http://www.boston.com/news/globe/health_science/articles/2004/07/27/heating_up_a_cold_theory/.
Comments on this version
Generally, the article is an modest improvement, my first impression without reviewing all of it yet, over what existed years ago.
I also see, reviewing w:Talk:Cold fusion that a great deal of reliably-sourced information was rejected with very sketchy arguments from the dominant faction. I see what would be considered highly disruptive if not done by a "user in good standing," as he calls himself, even though reprimanded by ArbCom for his involvement in this vary topic.
So, first of all, a detail. There is a citation error in the lede, that causes an incorrect display.. (The intention was apparently to display "Daley (2009)" but it does not display.) The citation technique used in the article is insanely complex, it is far from edit-friendly. The error was introduced January 6, 2013.. I'll ping that user. The method I developed and tested, self-reversion under ban, would have made this and many other corrections simple, without complicating ban enforcement. However, I'm now site-banned, I currently have fairly stable IP from a cable modem, and editing here automatically logs me in on Wikipedia, preventing all editing with my normal access, so I'd have to use my mobile phone .... too difficult, not "wiki."
The lede is a sign that consensus has never been found, it bristles with references. The lede should be a consensus document, summarizing the topic, and everything in the lede should be clearly supported by what is in the article, or in related articles reported in summary style.
However, most of what is in the lede is well-known and not actually controversial, if presented with balance. It is balance that may be missing.
First paragraph. "Cold fusion" is just a name. As comes out in a talk page discussion with Graham Hubler -- who is very active in LENR research and actually heads SKINR at the University of Missouri -- the effect discovered by Pons and Fleischmann is now called, most neutrally, the Anomalous Heat Effect. That term can be traced back, but nobody is working on the article currently. Anomalous Heat is a possible nuclear effect, but there can be other sources of anomalous heat, such as unknown chemistry, or, say, artifact or error. Given that we do not know the mechanism, "fusion" is somewhat of a speculation. However, the evidence -- which was discovered long ago, massively confirmed, and reviewed extensively in mainstream peer-reviewed journals -- is still reported very weakly as a claim, without mentioning the core of the claim, correlation. The correlation ratio strongly supports that the reaction is converting deuterium to helium, and a common name for that is "fusion," but there may be other pathways that do not involve the naive concept of two deuterons being smashed together.
The reactions were reported at near-room temperature, initially. However, the evidence is that the reaction rate increases with temperature, perhaps up to the melting point of materials. Some investigations, particularly with nickel and hydrogen, now, are running at over 1200 C. I would not call that "near-room temperature." However, compared to ordinary fusion temperatures in the hundreds of millions of degrees, it's quite cold. Condensed matter, not gas or plasma.
There are current claims of fusion products from w:Rydberg matter, and see our resource, Rydberg atoms/Rydberg matter, a state discovered or claimed about five years ago, with many publications by the researcher in mainstream peer-reviewed journals. Unfortunately, no independent confirmation. This ultradense matter is not hot, but ... it is extraordinarily dense. What hot fusion requires is high *density*, not exactly "pressure," it is just that with ordinary matter, the two go together. High temperature causes nuclei to collide frequently and temporarily come very close to each other, so it is really local density that is operative with hot fusion. This is difficult to incorporate in a Wikipedia article, it's very recent. Ultradense deuterium, in spite of being reviewed by an independent author (Winterberg, a notable hot fusion physicist) in a mainstream journal, is still not mentioned in the Rydberg matter article. (It is a common error to imaging that the "Coulomb barrier is overcome" by high temperature. While sufficiently high particle energy can cause a particle to "climb the barrier," it is slowed by the approach, and unless the energy is very high, the particle will not, in a classical sense, enter the nucleus, it stops before that. However, there is also the strong nuclear force. At any particular distance, even if the particle is at rest (having climbed the barrier as far as it came, the energy being stored up in the potential energy of Coulomb repulsion), there is a rate at which fusion will take place. This is called "tunneling," and most fusion, including hot fusion, takes place by tunneling. If matter is very dense, the spontaneous fusion rate will rise even if the material is very cold. The idea that fusion is "impossible" at low temperatures is really an idea that the rate is so low that the reaction could not be detected, it can be ridiculously low, i.e., the average time to fusion might be more than the age of the universe. However, this calculation is done with two-body math, and condensed matter presents a multibody problem, which becomes quickly too complex to calculate. Pons and Fleischmann were testing the assumption that two-body math was adequate. They were doing pure science, and did not anticipate some energy bonanza. When they saw massive heat, uncontrolled, they scaled down. As they never developed reliable control, they did not attempt scaling up again.
Second paragraph. Pons and Fleischmann's primary finding was anomalous heat, at levels that, accumulated, exceeded what they knew as possible from chemistry. They were, by the way, not searching for an energy source, that is an assumption that is often made as part of the pattern of deprecating their work as motivated by delusions of grandeur. They were testing an assumption about nuclear reactions, that the fusion rate could be predicted by making an assumption that two-body physics was adequate, given that "solid matter" is mostly empty space, as to particles. They believed that the presence of condensed matter would shift the fusion reaction rate. That has been confirmed, by the way, as I recall, by multiple experiments that are not about cold fusion. They expected that they would see no effect, and then they had that meltdown in 1984.
So, once they had the idea that the effect was nuclear, they looked for the expected reaction products. These would be, most easily detected, neutrons and tritium. A rare branch produces helium and a gamma ray. However, from the heat and if it were an ordinary fusion reaction, the neutron levels would be fatal. They found what they believed was evidence of neutron radiation, but they were not experts in measuring that, and their work was rushed to publication, the article tells why. We now know that if neutrons are produced by this reaction, they are at very, very low levels. Tritium is produced, that's widely confirmed, but has never been correlated clearly with the anomalous heat, it may be a secondary reaction. Pons announced, shortly after the 1989 press conference, that he had seen helium in mass spectrographic results from about December, 1988. They retraced that claim, comments are reported that it was "fighting on too many fronts at once," or something like that. However, Miles systematically looked for helium while measuring heat, and found a clear correlation, which was later widely confirmed, with some reports having increased accuracy.
This was quite unexpected, but Huizenga noticed this in the second edition of his book, and he wrote that, "if confirmed, this would solve a major mystery of cold fusion," i.e., the ash. That is considered reliable source, but has been ignored in the article. While this is a review of the lede, this is from the article:
- In response to skepticism about the lack of nuclear products, cold fusion researchers have tried to capture and measure nuclear products correlated with excess heat. Considerable attention has been given to measuring 4He production. However, the reported levels are very near to background, so contamination by trace amounts of helium normally present in the air cannot be ruled out. In the report presented to the DOE in 2004, the reviewers' opinion was divided on the evidence for 4He; with the most negative reviews concluding that although the amounts detected were above background levels, they were very close to them and therefore could be caused by contamination from air.
There is no mention of what Huizenga found remarkable, the correlation. The reliance is heavy on the 2004 DOE report, where, it can easily be shown, some of the reviewers -- and the summarizing bureaucrat -- misread the submitted report. The DOE report is an historical document, not a peer-reviewed or academic source. The opinions expressed by reviewers varied. In fact, in some reports -- including what was submitted to the DoE -- helium levels rise above background and are therefore unlikely to be from air contamination. Air contamination would not explain Miles' results.
There are peer-reviewed reviews of the issue, including what I asserted long ago, Storms (2010). Our current Cold fusion resource begins with the abstract from that article, which was a review of the entire field, published in Naturwissenschaften. I participated in editing that review, it was invited by the journal editor. Contrary to what skeptics have claimed about it, Naturwissenschaften was, at the time, a fully multidisciplinary journal, but increasingly the focus had become life sciences. But the the review was not refereed by a biologist! There are very recent reviews of the field, including many in w:Current Science. My paper there -- a review of the heat/helium work -- had to pass two reviews, one by the section editors, involved with LENR research, and an anonymous one, and from the reviewer's comments to me, a physicist.
So, the article heavily relies upon a supposedly negative review by the DoE, and ignores what is actually in mainstream peer-reviewed journals and academic publications. Why? Reading the talk page, and edit summaries, it is obvious. What is in those sources contradicts the point of view of the dominant editors. Interlopers are firmly rejected, including, one can see the history, the winner of a Nobel prize in physics, and the physicist who was a section editor for the Current Science issue (who discloses his conflict of interest, thought that is not a clear conflict. I proposed, in the case that first temporarily banned me from cold fusion, that all those claiming expertise be ipso facto considered to have a conflict of interest. That was rejected as preposterous. Instead, apparently, Wikipedians prefer to ban them one at a time, if they dare to disagree with administrator Randy from Boise, or a certain bicycle rider from England.
Third paragraph. Yes. It is said that for a few months, half the discretionary research budget for the U.S. was being spent on cold fusion. But notice: what was this based on? To understand what happened, read w:Micheal McKubre in Current Science: Cold fusion: comments on the state of scientific proof. Once again, peer-reviewed secondary source. Should be golden for Wikipedia. This special section with 34 articles, (Low Energy Nuclear Reactions) was mentioned twice on w:Talk:Cold fusion. The final comment: "Frankly, it looks like something weird happened with Current Science."Talk:Cold fusion/Archive 48. Indeed. If that administrator takes his understanding from the current article, he'll think that current scientific understanding of cold fusion is "weird," and he will ignore it. Others, highly involved in the article, have made statements so reckless that they might as well be called "lies." I'll get to that.
Summary: the "negative replicators," no matter how "reputable," didn't know what they were doing. The investigation was rushed, and the political history appears to be that the administration needed fast answers, because the billion-dollar-per-year hot fusion research budget was in danger. So they demanded "quick." They got quick. The original work wasn't quick, the negative replications did not prepare the material as Pons and Fleischmann did. We now know why those original replication efforts found nothing, it was totally predictable, in hindsight. Miles originally reported null results. Then he started to see positive results. He phoned the panel. No response. His negative report is part of the original DoE report. Some think the panel was set up as a hatchet job. However, Ramsey, the Nobelist on the panel, did not allow the extremely negative report that was at first contemplated. Yet our Wikipedians confidently report the results of that panel as "Go away," in spite of what was actually written. Thus Wikipedia policies are violated, and apparently with impunity, because the only editors who knew how to manage dispute resolution process were topic-banned, by the community, led by that certain bicycle rider with a scientist friend, he's been quoting for years, while ignoring what is in peer-reviewed journals, etc. ArbCom set up discretionary sanctions (a move I approved in that case, it was about me and said bicycle rider), and then the system took over, and the system almost never sanctions administrators, only ordinary users. ArbCom wishes for refactoring of the Talk page, and the only editor who had expressed interest in that, and who had done that kind of work, they banned.
All of which was ultimately good news for me. I stopped wasting my time slogging through the muck on Wikipedia, and came here, and, as well, elsewhere, began extensive interaction with real scientists. Banned on Wikipedia, I then made a little money with paid editing (that is, not as an actual editor, but creating wikitext to be effective on Wikipedia), and learned enough to become widely respected in the field, and published under peer review, and I've been funded to facilitate research. Real scientific research, to answer basic questions, the kind of research that the DoE recommended. So thanks, bicycle rider! Enjoy your trip. Watch out you don't run into any trees.
Fourth paragraph. This one is a doozy.
- Since cold fusion articles are rarely published in peer-reviewed mainstream scientific journals, they do not attract the level of scrutiny expected for science.
The facts. The lede has footnotes with many sources listed under one reference. This makes it much more difficult to track down verification. The first reference is to Goodstein, 1994. I found it common with the article that an article friendly to cold fusion would be used, cherry-picking an apparently negative reference out of it. The first part of the story that Goodstein tells is about the rejection. What we see in hindsight is that the careful work he lauds, every effort being expended to give cold fusion a chance, lasted five weeks. Goodstein focuses on neutrons, and that was the common predeliction of physicists with cold fusion: a blind alley. There are, apparently, some neutrons, at very low levels. Goodstein is right that there were two kinds of cold fusion. There really are! Sometimes. Highly variable. I should set up a resource here to look at this, but it's a distraction from the most notable finding, heat. Goodstein comes to some conclusions, and reports facts that are still missing from the cold fusion article (such as the relevance of loading, what he calls "x." That article, obviously considered reliable source, explains why Lewis and others failed to replicate! There is a section of the article on loading ratio. . That is there is sketchy, suspicious to me, but I haven't checked the sources. 100%? Yes, there is some speculation that the actual reaction only occurs in regions with more than one deuteron per lattice site. The reality is much more complex than the article reveals. However, Goodstein's report is far more positive than the Wikipedia article. How does that happen? It's obvious: Goodstein was not biased, the Wikipedia editors are. (Actually, Goodstein had conflicting biases: his fellow Cal Tech researchers, his friend Scarammuzzi, and his ideas of theory, on the one hand, and the primacy of experiment, on the other. That was an excellent article. His prediction, though, was not fully imaginative:
- The essential key to the return of Cold Fusion to scientific respectability is to find the missing ingredient that would make the recipe work every time.
There are plenty of phenomena acceptable and "respectable" in science that are not reproducible on demand. However, there has been, since 1991, a reproducible experiment that apparently, properly done, always works. That is, set up conditions where the Heat Effect will be seen at least some fraction of the time. Then measure both heat and helium. The ratio is, apparently, always the same, within experimental error. This was my paperL [[
In any case, Goodstein does not support the claim being made with it as source. This is about as close as it comes:
- The Japanese experiment showing that heat nearly always results when x is greater than 0.85 looks even more impressive on paper. It seems a particularly elegant, well designed experiment, at least to the untutored eye of a physicist (what do I know about electrochemistry?) What all these experiments really need is critical examination by accomplished rivals intent on proving them wrong. That is part of the normal functioning of science. Unfortunately, in this area, science is not functioning normally. There is nobody out there listening.
Cold fusion papers were being published in mainstream peer-reviewed journals in 1994. However, certain major journals explicitly stated that they would publish no more work in the field. That was editors making a decision about science, and we do know that papers showing experimental results have been rejected due to "lack of theoretical explanation." Yet the development of sound theory, especially for something new, takes solid grounding in experimental fact. Goodstein is detailing a major breakdown in science. He is only quoted, then, to create a negative appearance, not to explain the problem.
The other source is Labinger, JA; Weininger, SJ (2005). "Controversy in chemistry: how do you prove a negative?—the cases of phlogiston and cold fusion" The note quotes from the paper:
- "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."
The "for example" is not the only way that an effect can be demonstrated "rigorously and reproducibly." On the face, this is a naive paper. As to "error" or artifact, as with polywater, an original report was shown to be explainable by an artifact, demonstrated with controlled experiment, if I'm correct. With w:N-rays, again, controlled experiment showed the prosaic origin of the experimental results. That has never been done with cold fusion. Goodstein hints at it: Lewis found failure-to-stir produced an appearance of excess heat (as can many procedural difficulties with calorimetry, and Goodstein notes a problem, as a physicist, "what do I know about electrochemistry"), but ... Lewis's cells were of a different design than those of Pons and Fleischmann, and the P&F cells were designed, apparently, to avoid this problem, being stirred adequately to avoid the effect reported by Lewis et al. Reproducing the results, then demonstrating them to be artifact with controlled experiment is an approach. There are many forms of calorimetry and some would not be vulnerable to this problem. Further, correlation with helium knocks the ball out of the park. I have never seen a plausible alternative explanation that fits the experimental facts, other than the obvious: what is producing heat is also producing helium. And producing helium is a nuclear effect. Anyone with a bit of physics can imagine an artifact that would appear that way, if they do not know the experimental realities. For example, suppose that increased temperature is opening up seals, causing leakage of atmospheric helium. However, "heat" in cold fusion research is not the same as "temperature." Some cells are at a controlled temperature, they are not hotter when producing "excess heat." Rather, supplemental heating has been reduced to maintain constant temperature, and that reduction is a measure of the excess heat.
So a single source is being used to make a strong claim about cold fusion research, contradicting what is in multiple peer-reviewed reviews of the field. Labinger and Weininger is the only "negative" review I found since 2005. (Cold fusion/Recent sources. The paper was published at around the nadir of cold fusion publications, publication rate had fallen, per the Britz database of mainstream publications, to about four papers per year. It appears that the paper assumes that cold fusion was a "bad idea." It assumes a task that it then decides is impossible. That task is a misunderstanding. They are correct, proving a negative can be impossible. But that is not what scientists do. Rather, controlled experiment or the like is used to demonstrate correlations, which often show causes. If the cause of FP anomalous heat were shown to be prosaic, by controlled experiment, that would be enough. To do this requires work that was, unfortunately little done. It would require actually replicating the Pons and Fleischmann work, instead of doing something different but believed -- on what theory? -- to be equivalent. Michael MicKubre of SRI has written about replications: they start with exact replications, seeing if the original report can be confirmed. That is not proving that the original report was not artifact. Hopefully, if there is an artifact, they are reproducing it! They will work with the original worker to perfect the experiment. They may even invite the researcher into their lab. If they can't reproduce it with the original researcher there, generally they would give up. However, if they can, then they continue to investigate, without the original worker. SRI did a great deal of work like this. It was not generally published under normal peer review; these were reports prepared for their clients, who had hired them, clients like the w:Electric Power Research Institute and w:DARPA. My opinion is that these reports are equivalent to peer-reviewed journal reports, due to internal SRI review and the need to maintain SRI reputation, which is the same restraining factor that leads Wikipedia to look for independent publishers for reliable source.
So Labinger and Weininger go after a straw man. However, the paper is much more sophisticated than it might appear. For example, it reports on Miles. It then repeats the standard objection to Miles' work, which is theoretical, it does not impeach the experimental result. The field of CMNS is founded on the appearance of something unknown: nuclear reactions appearing where they were not expected. It's a very broad field, and there is a great deal of work in it that is relatively shoddy, often because the work is underfunded. However, what is attributed, then, to them, they do not say. "Since cold fusion articles are rarely published in peer-reviewed mainstream scientific journals, they do not attract the level of scrutiny expected for science." As of 2005, publication had become sparse, but four papers per year, is that "rare"? The rate dramatically increased after then. I'm not sure where the statement about "rarely published" came from. What I do find in Labinger and Weininger:
- But if one is willing to accept the possibility of some kind of nonstandard nuclear process going on within the Pd lattice (a big if for many, but one that does not seem to have much troubled cold fusion researchers), there are no apparent a priori grounds for dismissing these and other findings. They might well be subject to criticism on a variety of experimental grounds; but as noted above, work from the last ten years or more has received little, if any, scrutiny.
This was, again, written in 2004 (published in 2005). The kind of scrutiny involved, legitimately, would be what is found in letters sent to peer-reviewed journals that have published articles. It is simply not true that publications in peer reviewed journals receive "little, if any" scrutiny. They must pass peer review. However, there is another recent reported phenomenon, unexpected. It is, in fact, accompanied by theoretical justifications, but the result is massively unexpected. This is ultradense deuterium, reported by L. Holmlid, see w:Rydberg matter and our own resource Rydberg atons/Rydberg matter. The original report of Rydberg matter was in 2009. This is sometimes connected with cold fusion (and knee-jerk rejected on some physics blogs because of that), but this is not cold fusion research. Holmlid is not reporting cold fusion, he is reporting, in fact, what we would call hot fusion, where high density has replaced high temperature. (That is not unconventional; if the densities he is reporting are achieved, fusion is not suprising at all). So ... he has many, many papers published in peer-reviewed journals, on Rydberg atoms, then on Rydberg matter, for many years, and then many papers on ultradense deuterium. He has been favorably reviewed by Winterberg, a notable hot fusion physicist.
But I have found no critiques of his experimental method. What I read on physics blogs clearly did not understand the work, they flat-out failed to read the papers carefully. His method of determining density seems plausible. And, then, though his approach seems within the reach of normal graduate student research, I have found no reports of efforts to replicate. He's being ignored.
That happened to a degree with cold fusion. However, there were enough agencies with enough interest to fund a level of confirmation work. Within the field, there is often intense critique of experimental reports, it is not as our Wikipedia pseudoskeptics imagine. There is a journal, JCMNS, and papers in it are peer-reviewed. Quality varies, in my opinion, but when I talk about "Peer-reviewed mainstream journals" I don't include the specialty journal. I also do not include the Journal of Scientific Exploration, which is scientific, independent, but ... is dedicated to fringe science, the unusual.
This year brought a major publishing event in cold fusion history: the special section, with 34 articles, in Current Science. Nothing like this has ever appeared before. Yet I have seen this: the 2010 Storms review in Naturwissenschaften produced almost no critical review, in spite of being a challenge to "orthodoxy," and in spite of being featured in the journal (it was the first article in that issue). The science in it was solid. On wikipedia, it was added to the bibliography, but no material from it was used. The convenience link to it was removed. The argument for removal was totally spurious, that argument had been presented by that user many times, and whenever it was discussed, it was rejected. The paper itself includes, in the first page of the free preview (this is published by Springer), a link to lenr-canr.org as a place to obtain papers. So the second-largest scientific publisher in the world is linking to a "copyvio" site? Which is then hosting the paper itself as a copyvio? No, this is long-term POV-pushing, going back to before my involvement with cold fusion.
- /Removal of links will cover this, showing how such behavior, sanctioned by the Arbitration Committee, has nevertheless been tolerated.
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