A few days ago, many of us saw the release of the NASA/Zawodny video as an evident shift in that organisation’s public-facing stance on ‘cold fusion’ (by whatever name). Its star, Joe Zawodny has just posted an important and personal view in an attempt to stop people jumping ahead of themselves. The core points follow from this extract:
First the disclaimers: While I do work for NASA, I do not speak for them. [snip]
…I wish to respond to a number of things that have popped up on the web in the past few days and weeks. [snip]
…As for what people are trying to read into this video, specifically my use of the word “demonstrated”, it is my professional opinion that the production of excess energy has been demonstrated when the results of the last 20+ years of experimentation are evaluated. [snip]… I did not say, reliable, useful, commercially viable, or controllable. If any of those other terms were applicable I would have used them instead. If anything, it is the lack of a single clear demonstration of reliable, useful, and controllable production of excess power that has held LENR research back. As a non-technical piece aimed at the general public, my limited media training has taught me that less information/detail is generally better than more. I did not produce or direct the video. While I saw the video before it was released, I did not learn of it’s release until the email started pouring in Thursday morning.
There have been many attempts to twist the release of this video into NASA’s support for LENR or as proof that Rossi’s e-cat really works. Many extraordinary claims have been made in 2010. In my scientific opinion, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. I find a distinct absence of the latter. So let me be very clear here. While I personally find sufficient demonstration that LENR effects warrant further investigation, I remain skeptical. Furthermore, I am unaware of any clear and convincing demonstrations of any viable commercial device producing useful amounts of net energy. [snip]…
He then goes on to explain his position about the conduct of tests and the credibility (or otherwise) of claims. This position is the correct one for any scientist to take; it is what makes the method so powerful and stops ourselves from pulling the wool over our own eyes. This is also why science can sometimes appear glacial to those outside looking in. As our world screams along at an ever increasing rate, it pains me to see people bring the expectation of unreasonable haste to the realm of science. I personally believe that internal politics have played an important part to unduly slow the progress of cold fusion/LENR but that does not mean we should expect our scientists to jump the other way and act on everything the web spews at them just because a chunk of people believe they should. We need our scientists (as individuals) to remain sceptical, cautious and to pick their topics (and fights) according to their own goals and beliefs.
That said, the whole world should not be expected to behave as scientists do. No business would survive or prosper on that basis, no guilty party would ever be brought to book, no crazy art or risky venture that captures the imagination would see the light of day. We live our lives in a fabulous whirl of irrational chaos. We rely on scientists to save ourselves from ignorance where it matters and when they declare and introduce their results back into the mix, the whole chaotic melee becomes ever more fabulous – our imaginations stretched by an art built from truth.
In that context, I would like to thank Joe Zawodny for his clarification. In essence he is saying that we should be wary of building this story into NASA’s official endorsement of ‘cold fusion’. We should not assume it says anything about Rossi or the eCat and (in his opinion and as a potential competitor) the ‘proof’ given by the Italian inventor and others fall short of settling the matter with any conviction.
I hope that most readers will not be surprised or disappointed by such a view. I do believe that – no matter its intent – a video on the actual and potential realities of ‘cold fusion’ by NASA is significant and does indeed say something extremely important about the credibility of the field and goes beyond one person’s view on how others should see it. As a public release it will not be viewed in isolation but paired with comments from the likes of Langley’s chief scientist (here and here) and other recent NASA presentations. It is not the detail in the video (there is little of it) but its existence, its intended audience and the message it sends about the laughing-stock of science that matters. It is not an endorsement of Rossi and I hope no one here thought it was. However, anything that enhances the credibility of the field reduces the impact of inappropriate ridicule from some quarters. It is one more thing we can take into account when balancing the weight of imperfect evidence.
Taken in context with energy’s critical role in our future as a species and the need for solutions NOW! we need mavericks who will step beyond certainties to act as entrepreneurs unrestrained by the self-imposed chains worn by the method called ‘science’. A lack of definitive proof is not proof of an absence of truth. The proper position is that we outsiders simply do not know. We make our judgement calls and take an interim stance while we wait for the cards to fall. We are not naive, we are not crazy ‘believers’. Most of us are true sceptics admitting that we are unsure – willing to act on the understanding that we may be wrong. This post by the central actor in that video is a helpful addition to the information mix.
Joe Zawodny further explains why the WL theory is not mentioned explicitly in the video (this may follow from a complaining letter by Krivit). The complete post is here, well worth the read and a nod of gratitude to its author for his work and this clarification.