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Australian Skeptics’ eCat Verdict: It’s All A Terrible Error

January 31, 2012

I have been asked to post the Australian Skeptics Society Report in full on eCatNews.com by both Dick Smith and Tim Mendham. They are keen to get the word out to as many potential investors as possible. I would have done so anyway but take note of the effort going in to paint the view as they see it.

In posting it here, I am not implying agreement. In fact I am puzzled by the language while open (but not convinced) to the invention of the ‘error’ they say lies at the heart of the headline.

When reading the report it is easy to get lost in detail. Keep in mind that most people following this drama are aware that definitive proof has not been delivered and that, while the cumulative results of the eCat demos are compelling, they merely act as attention getters. They tell us that Rossi is worth paying attention to, that perhaps – just maybe – he has what he claims. They have always been an insufficient base for serious investment and anyone considering such should insist on private proof.

That is a long way from accusing Andrea Rossi of fraud. Common sense and caution can live alongside many opinions. A good scientist will wait for proof, a clever gambler may not. In between, lies a spectrum of hope, fear and incredulity and that’s OK. Opinions couched as certainty (either way and absent proof) should be viewed with suspicion.

This is why I scratch my head when reading the report. That some trick may have been employed to fool observers has always been a possibility and this was recognised by the Swedish scientists at the time. Again – no accusation but a sensible and professional observation.

In reading the Bryce Report, possibilities seem to be replaced by definitive conclusions.

Care is taken to say that accidental miswiring is easy. Perhaps, but the accident would have to have been made by a moron who did not know the difference between green and brown – quite a stretch for an engineer but always possible. The same mistake would have to be repeated at the machine, however, and so citing error as a possibility seems to reflect a little diplomacy. Taking this further and saying that the ‘error’ could have happened ‘behind the wall outlet’ is an amazing contortion of plausibility.

When we get to the titles and the intro, we are not presented this scenario as a possible cause of error but the absolute reason behind the apparent contradiction of a succession of smart and qualified people seeing the impossible. As I said, I do not trust certainty in this game.

HOW ROSSI COLD FUSION TESTS MISLED THE WORLD’S SCIENTISTS

INADVERTENT MISWIRING OF LEADS IS THE CAUSE

To come up with a possible way of fooling people (or making a mistake) is a long, long way from proving that it is true. Why the author(s) feel that their assertions do not require the same burden of proof they demand of Rossi, I am not sure. If the report is intended as a warning for potential investors then saying so and using the miswiring thing as one possible example of how an ‘error’ could have been made would have been fine but this appears to be an attempt to persuade and not to inform. It attacks one part of the equation while ignoring the others. The logical conclusion is that Defkalion must have employed the same electrician. Perhaps too, National Instruments has not noticed the input error or perhaps they are not involved at that level and the company’s marketing VP is asleep after associating their name with the biggest scientific laughing stock since claims that whole Australian cities, mountains and rivers hang upside down without falling off.

There are many points of attack and this report hangs on one single point – an intelligent observation – taken to places it should not go.

Make no mistake – I am waiting proof before I jump the fence into the believers’ camp but in this report, a hunch is elevated to fact. Strange. I wonder why.

I will let you judge:

 

HOW ROSSI COLD FUSION TESTS MISLED THE WORLD’S SCIENTISTS

 

INADVERTENT MISWIRING OF LEADS IS THE CAUSE

 

All around the world, thousands of people have been heralding the introduction of the Rossi E-CAT energy catalyzer device which claims to generate more energy output than is input due to low energy nuclear reaction.

 

What makes this claim different is that at least fifteen scientists from around the world, including from NASA, have lent some support for it, after witnessing a demonstration or analyzing the results. They generally concluded that the output power was apparently much larger than the input, and only nuclear reactions could account for the difference.

 

However, Dick Smith, patron of Australian Skeptics, says, “It would be great if it’s true, but it’s more likely just a misconnection of the power lead.”

 

Smith was approached in December to invest $200,000 in this scheme to provide almost free energy and thus save the planet from climate change. He sent aerospace engineer Ian Bryce of Australian Skeptics to an investors’ meeting on the NSW North Coast on January 13 to investigate.

 

Smith says, “If one of the wires in the three-core power lead was accidentally misconnected, the actual measurements of current witnessed by two Swedish scientists would not be the total power going into the reactor, and there would be an apparent power gain. One of the scientists who observed an earlier test has now agreed this could be so.”

 

Bryce found that in all six published tests up to July, a misconnected earth lead could funnel in up to 3 kilowatts, thus bypassing the power meters used, and accounting for all the measured output power in the form of steam. In all later tests, there was no valid power measurement due to poorly placed thermometers.

 

Smith says, “It is now up to Mr Rossi to recreate the March 2011 demonstration – surely it would only take a couple of hours – and to have an independent person actually measure the current in each of the wires in the three-wire power cord.”

 

“There is little doubt that this will show that it was a misconnection of the wires that resulted in the seemingly unbelievable power gain which Mr Rossi attributes to cold fusion,” Smith says. “Hopefully this finding will prevent millions of dollars being wasted by Mr Rossi.”

 

“Until the chance of this accidental misconnection (an easy thing to happen) is ruled out by a further test, I strongly recommend that the public do not purchase this machine or invest in this technology”.

 

*Explanation: a normal power cord has three wires – active (brown), neutral (blue) and earth (green and yellow). The measurements showing the current into the Rossi machine have been done on the brown lead which is normally active. However, if the green lead had been connected to the active, either in the three-pin plug or behind the wall outlet, and the green lead also became connected to some inputs to the reactor in the jumble of wires in the blue box, there would be extra power flowing which was not measured. Alternatively, other misconnections involving the earth and neutral wire are possible.

 

For further information contact Australian Skeptics:

Tim Mendham, executive officer – +61 (0)2 8094 1894; +61 (0)432 713 195

Ian Bryce, chief investigator – +61 (0)408 177 007

 

……………….

 

BACKGROUND ON TECHNOLOGY AND INVESTIGATION

 

During 2011, Mr Andrea Rossi of Bologna, Italy, stunned many in the scientific community with his demonstrations of a device called E-CAT (Energy Catalyzer). He claims this device, through cold fusion, produces almost free and unlimited energy. This was hailed as the solution to our energy needs and global warming problems while calling for rapid investments. http://ecatnews.com/

 

In December, entrepreneur Dick Smith was asked to invest A$200,000 in the licence to bring the cold fusion technology to Australia. He asked Australian Skeptics to investigate the technology. An investigator for the Skeptics, Ian Bryce examined all the observers’ reports and measured data, and performed his own analysis.

 

Bryce, an aerospace engineer, now believes he has found how scientists from around the world were misled by a switched connection in the power plug.

 

Bryce has investigated many energy-based schemes from around the world, and exposed the Lutec free energy generator in 2001. What makes Rossi’s claim different is that at least fifteen scientists from around the world, including from NASA, have lent some support for it, after witnessing a demonstration or analysing the results. They generally concluded that the output power was apparently much larger than the input, and only nuclear reactions could account for the difference.

 

Low Energy Nuclear Reactions (LENR), which were once thought to be based on ‘cold fusion’, have been an active research field for some scientists on the fringe for 23 years. However, there has never been a successful demonstration.

 

Bryce noted that in Rossi’s experiments, if the earth wire was accidentally connected to the active pin of the power plug instead of the earth pin, and also to some of the power circuits inside the blue control box, then it could introduce extra power bypassing the metering instruments. One of the Swedish nuclear physicists who witnessed a test on 29 March agrees that it could be so. (Other misconnections would achieve the same result.) (For two connection diagrams see here and here.)

 

Bryce firstly examined all six published tests of Rossi’s E-CAT from December 2010 to July 2011, which includes models known as the 10 KW, the 3 KW, and the 3 KW truncated. Such a misconnection could apparently funnel in up to 3000 watts, rather than the 300 – 800 watts shown on the meters. Since the output power estimated in these 6 experiments ranges from 2300 to 2900 watts (after careful corrections and some estimation), all the excess power previously attributed to cold fusion is accounted for.

 

In all the tests after July of E-CATs known as the 27KW and the Megawatt models, there was no valid output power measurement due to poorly placed thermometers, and hence no proven extra power. Thus, Bryce believes all results of E-CAT tests are accounted for without involving LENR. (For a table of all relevant tests see here).

 

Bryce said photos show a current meter on the brown wire, while the unmeasured green wire lies beside it in plain view. (See photo)

 

Scientists regard a green wire as a safety earth, and would not expect it to be used to carry power. Under such a misconnection, there is the risk that metal parts could become live, and pose a hazard to people nearby.

 

If Rossi disagrees, he can arrange for an independent test. It would be very straightforward to repeat the test with metering in all three wires. This would show whether the millions of dollars Rossi is seeking are justified or would be better spent elsewhere.

 

Another clue is that by simulating the 29 March results, Mr Bryce estimated the power being produced by the E-CAT for all the 6 hour test (while the input electrical power was recorded as only 300 W). The power graphs (here and here) show many features, such as going to zero for 20 seconds and then resuming at a higher level, that are more suggestive of switching actions than a real nuclear reaction.

 

And in the 27 KW E-CAT tests, Rossi started the claimed nuclear reaction two hours before the reactor chamber was fully filled with cooling water. This is irresponsible even for a car engine. For nuclear reactors, recall what a lack of cooling water did at Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima!

Some scientists have remained rightly skeptical, such as Professor Peter Ekstrom of Lund University in Sweden. He says that nickel, hydrogen and copper are everyday materials that cannot be involved in a nuclear reaction. Others have pointed out that all other possible sources of energy need to be systematically ruled out before invoking something without a theoretical basis such as cold fusion. (See a translation of Ekstrom’s paper here)

 

In addition, there is a dispute over industrial property between Rossi and Greek company Defkalion, which suggests a mundane technology such as earth wires rather than an advanced nuclear process.

 

For further information contact Australian Skeptics:

Tim Mendham, executive officer – +61 (0)2 8094 1894; +61 (0)432 713 195

Ian Bryce, chief investigator – +61 (0)408 177 007

 

Posted by on January 31, 2012. Filed under Tests & Demos. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

196 Responses to Australian Skeptics’ eCat Verdict: It’s All A Terrible Error

  1. Harold Baker

    February 1, 2012 at 5:05 pm

    The Australian so called “Skeptics” have their own agenda, which apparently has little to do with getting to the truth of the matter. Their observation of a wiring problem, does not explain the periods when the ecat was generating power with no energy input at all, in self sustaining mode.

    • B Fast

      February 1, 2012 at 6:13 pm

      While it is true that the Australian skeptics have clearly been smoking something, your case isn’t as sound as all that. While the e-cat was demonstrated in “self-sustain mode”, it was still plugged into the wall ostensibly to run the electronics and possibly a “frequency generator”. Until it is truly unplugged, it is conceivable that some energy was sucked out of the wall surreptitiously.

      To get a serious technical response to the Aussies, check out http://nickelpower.org/2012/01/31/inadvertent-miswiring-of-leads-is-the-cause/

      • Al Potenza

        February 1, 2012 at 6:25 pm

        Yes. Unplugged and running for days or weeks would be convincing. Short runs and a connection to the wall plug both leave too many questions still open.

    • Pekka Janhunen

      February 1, 2012 at 6:14 pm

      Speaking of own agendas, WLT pops up unnaturally often in this context, given that to a physicist like me said theory makes zero sense.

      • LCD

        February 1, 2012 at 6:34 pm

        Pekka I agree with you in a sense. The energy of activation is shifted from a 10keV kinetic type to 780keV field energy. It’s a lot more but it’s not kinetic, if I understand their theory. So it’s hard to swallow in that sense but it can’t be completely discounted.

        Secondly their byproducts – or lack of them(no gammas) are supposed to be mitigated by this same magical heavy electron. So again hard to swallow but not completely discountable.

        I just don’t understand how something like a three particle fusion event like you mentioned before due to some weird geometry can be so easily discounted. If not that some yet to be understood lattice tunneling effect maybe. Like what we see in Graphene with Klein Tunneling. OR something like a shifting of the ground state electron cloud so that the atom is neutral but the proton is more exposed in a certain direction to Coulomb barrier penetration.

        • Pekka Janhunen

          February 1, 2012 at 7:32 pm

          I consider as the most likely explanation that there is ultradense hydrogen of some sort, presumably by condensation of its electrons, so that hydrogen density can locally increase until inter-proton distance is a few picometres, limited by proton zero point motion. Three-particle reaction rate is proportional to n^3 so for high enough density it should dominate over n^2, given also that the 3-particle channel can proceed directly by the fastest route i.e. strong interaction.

          • LCD

            February 2, 2012 at 4:20 am

            http://www.physlink.com/news/101004SuperfluidHydrogen.cfm

            The metal lattice would have to do wonders to simulate these pressures and temperatures. Maybe cooper pair condensates and “proton cooper pair?” condensates?

            Though I think I see your point where protons are caged in single lattice site, maybe two or three at low temps and then a bunch of cooper pairs of electrons all piled up into the same quantum state (so lots in the same volume of space) screens them enough for them to get close.

            It could happen.

          • Pekka Janhunen

            February 2, 2012 at 4:53 am

            Yes, of course hydrogen doesn’t form an ultradense phase in 3-D bulk, not even under high pressure as far as known, but conditions in the lattice are rather different, for example within 1-D lattice dislocations.

          • GreenWin

            February 2, 2012 at 9:18 pm

            H1 at a lower “ground” state, like Mills suggests??

  2. B Fast

    February 1, 2012 at 6:17 pm

    ECATNEWS, you are missing out on the most exciting news of the week!

    COP greater than 10 demonstrated at MIT!!!
    http://world.std.com/~mica/cft.html

  3. LCD

    February 1, 2012 at 6:26 pm

    John Milstone said

    Prove to me that Santa doesn’t exist (or do you still believe in Santa?), and then I’ll prove that Rossi is a fraud.

    Actually the proof of Santa has absolutely no evidence. That’s not the case with Rossi since he’s tied with LENR. So the two cases are not the same.

    George is right in this case. And some of what you said is also right.

    For example you are right about the conclusion if Rossi continues in this course of action.

    But you are inaccurate about the courtesy given to LENR researchers. And that’s because researching energy production and specially LENR in general is different.

    If I prove Neutrinos are FTL I get a Nobel Prize and things from that point on can be designed better but there is not a single trivial thing that I can do that will really make me any money immediately.

    With any energy harvesting device that is not the case. There is a direct line from device/theory to lot of money. Discounting this in any argument you make, makes that argument non-realistic.

    Don’t get me wrong, that was my point of view before but I see now that this is not realistic. Simply put yourself in Rossi’s or anybody’s shoes and you will come to a similar conclusion.

  4. Bayani Mills

    February 2, 2012 at 1:59 am

    While I understand that foreword is a mix of a personal opinion and critique rather than a strictly critical response to what Ian Bryce found during his investigation, it may not always be clear to eager readers desperate to believe the claims of the eCAT – particularly if they have already invested money in to the project, for which there is little chance of return if the information is not favourable. (See: Escalation of Commitment)

    Including statements that are wrapped in whispers of conspiracy such as “but take note of the effort going in to paint the view as they see it.” and “I am waiting proof before I jump the fence into the believers’ camp but in this report, a hunch is elevated to fact. Strange. I wonder why.” do little to advance the scientific inquiry of this device, rather it plays on the emotion of the reader – asking the reader to decide that something sinister is at play; and not because of evidence, but simply because a person or some group has expressed a view that isn’t what was expected.

    The foreword asserted that the press release doesn’t attempt to inform possible investors of the problems, and was wrong to warn potential investors to spend their money on the device. Yet, Bryce and the press release from the Australian Skeptics provided contentions as to why the device is highly unlikely to be performing the task its advocate claims – if potential investors are after a more detailed explanation, one that generally isn’t suited for a public release intended for a General Audience, they can surely get in contact with Bryce, or the Australian Skeptics at the contact details provided (I note that the background information provides diagrams of the possible wiring)

    The assertion was also surprising, as the basis for the investigation was explicitly because Dick Smith was approached to invest in the product – one would expect, given the negative results about the device, the warning:

    “Until the chance of this accidental misconnection (an easy thing to happen) is ruled out by a further test, I strongly recommend that the public do not purchase this machine or invest in this technology”

    The foreword goes on to consistently assert that a certainty has been claimed, yet one could only glean that if one didn’t read the text; the press release from Australian Skeptics is raft with caveats and doubt:

    “There is little doubt that this will show that it was a misconnection of the wires that resulted in the seemingly unbelievable power gain which Mr Rossi attributes to cold fusion,”

    “Until the chance of this accidental misconnection (an easy thing to happen) is ruled out by a further test, I strongly recommend that the public do not purchase this machine or invest in this technology”

    “Alternatively, other misconnections involving the earth and neutral wire are possible.”

    “It is now up to Mr Rossi to recreate the March 2011 demonstration – surely it would only take a couple of hours – and to have an independent person actually measure the current in each of the wires in the three-wire power cord.”

    The next stage at this point, if Rossi still believes his device to be the LENR he suggests it is, is to perform another experiment that would control for the hypothesis laid out by Bryce, and if he’s right, pick up a nobel prize in the process.

  5. scientific steve

    February 2, 2012 at 4:42 am

    i think we need to see a repeat of the march 2011 experiment.

  6. Lovetobelieve

    February 2, 2012 at 8:19 am

    If Rossie does not repeat the March 2011 demonstration we can all accept the whole thing is a scam.

    Why else with his credibility at risk would he not want to show that no intentional or mistaken connection of the wires took place.

    I bet he comes up with an excuse so he does not have to repeat the demo.

    In that case he has been clearly found out.

  7. Tom Ammons

    February 2, 2012 at 5:12 pm

    Well, in the mood of skeptisism I want to ask how connecting the green ground wire into the active brown, (black in the USA) and then plugging into a three prong plug which is grounded would not short the whole circuit. If the 3 prong outlet is not grounded the ground wire would float. How would it then suck power? Show me the circuit and the mechanism by which power is shunted around the amp meter.

  8. Gaute Norway

    February 2, 2012 at 8:26 pm

    Time will show if this work 🙂 We can use hours on
    discussing this,but what does it help???
    Virker det, så virker det. Fyren Rossi er vel ikke så dum at han vil drite seg ut for en hel verden??

    Ja ja 🙂

  9. Lovetobelieve

    February 3, 2012 at 12:10 am

    Tom. It would not short out because the green wire is not connected to earth in the three pin plug but it is connected to the active pin in parallel with the normal active lead.
    The green wire at the E Cat end is not connected to earth but supplies extra power to the heater.
    All very simple and possible because the Swedish scientists during the March test did not measure current in the green lead or even check on it’s connections.
    That’s why one of the scientists has agreed that the Bryce theory could be correct.

  10. Pennies Worth

    February 3, 2012 at 6:42 am

    6000 Volts at 20 amps? To dismiss the scientist witnessing 120kw output, the heat measurement technique or equipment has to be faulty. Thermocouples could be in the wrong place, malfunctioning or rigged. Drawing 120kw from a standard outlet with standard wires would require 6000 volts (V = P/I) for 2 wires capable of 20 amps. 6000 volts would be extremely dangerous, likely to flash over in standard 220 Volt plugs and equipment, breakdown the insulation on 220 volt wires and someone would probably have been fried. The chances of sneaking 120kw into the experiment is very remote. However, output power measurement could be tampered with. I need a test done in a reputable independent lab where they use their own equipment in their own facilities and Rossi brings only his e-cat with is opened for inspection down to his catalizer “box”. The catalizer box size needs to be measured, the E-Cat reassembled, fired up and tested for several days with carefully monitored input and output power and high lab security to prevent interference from outsiders.

  11. Tom Ammons

    February 3, 2012 at 3:38 pm

    To connect the green at both ends,(the plug and the device) would allow twice the current to flow but it would also mean that parts of the device that should be grounded would float and create a real electrical hazard. If that is so I would say to all observers—DON’T TOUCH THAT E-CAT. If the amp meter were to meaure flux around the whole cable instead of just the brown wire the issue could be settled. Isn’t that how it is normally done?

  12. Lovetobelieve

    February 4, 2012 at 7:00 am

    There is no need to connect any part of the device to ground. Many items are manufactured which have double insulation and are not grounded.
    If an AC clamp meter was put across the full cable it would normally read zero current as the outgoing current would be canceled by the ingoing.

  13. K Reilly

    February 4, 2012 at 4:05 pm

    I dont think I have ever seen the ecat plugged into a “three wire” outlet. I have been an electrician for many years and I can tell you if Rossi did what the Australians said he did, it would have tripped the breaker for that outlets circuit. (if I’m reading it right which im probably not) In a two wire, single phase setup for this to happen the ground would be “live” meaning anyone who touches the control box containing the power supplies and freq generator would be electrocuted. The october test shows nobody being electrocuted.

  14. K Reilly

    February 4, 2012 at 4:07 pm

    It should also be noted that the Fluke induction meter does not care what color the wires are and will measure all current in all phases.