A constant refrain among members of the LENR community is that papers are not accepted by traditional scientific journals. Subsequent criticism by the tougher sceptics citing lack of peer review as evidence for lack of credibility has therefore seemed circular to me. For that reason, I welcome any rational critique from members of the scientific community in a position to judge. Rather than shy away or act defensively, LENR advocates would do well to study and address the issues. When your work is being torn apart, it has (ironically) been taken seriously enough to warrant the time and effort taken to study it. This is the way of real science. Normally peer review is conducted behind the scenes and authors are given the opportunity to rebut criticism. Due to the public-facing nature of arxiv, we get to see behind the curtain.
I admit to being torn. I agree with many (but not all) of the criticisms levelled at Rossi and his ‘tests’ but abhor the often nasty tone in which some of the discussions are conducted. With all that in mind, the publication of a paper by two nuclear scientists from Uppsala University is a useful development. It appears to be dispassionate even as the conclusions fall against the claims made in the Levi HotCat test paper.
We have heard most of the arguments here and elsewhere. They come down to the lack of true independence, the non-neutral testing ground, Rossi’s imposed restrictions, missing data and apparent lack of rigor when taking measurements in an environment where trickery cannot be assumed absent. While all of this has some truth to it, unless you assume fraud or gross incompetence among all participants, the observations diminish the power but do not kill the paper. The authors at times seem to pick problems that (to my mind) demonstrate their determination to find fault. Instead of highlighting the problem with the December IR test (due to insufficient knowledge of emissivity) they seem to dismiss it completely. They also claim the November test worthless and go on to imply that you cannot perform a black box measurement of energy balance when the device has already been switched on. IMHO such nit-picking could diminish the power of their critique. It is unnecessary as they have some valid points to make and make them well.
In all the biting and scratching we see on the forums, it is common among certain pundits to assume guilt is proven simply by casting doubt. I am sceptical of Rossi’s claims but it is important to recognise that just because you show that fraud has not been excluded, you cannot claim this as proof of fraud. The tendency by some to claim that there is no evidence for Rossi’s claims demonstrates their lack of understanding of the word. There is no proof but when 7 scientists witness, measure and report such evidence, that in itself is evidence. Taken in combination with previous demos, we can see that evidence exists to take the eCat seriously even as we recognise that proof is far from sight and doubt a reasonable stance. To a scientist, it is as if a group of people visited a magician’s workshop to witness a woman sawn in half. They are allowed to measure everything except what lies beneath the two halves of the table. When they then write a paper explaining how they proved to themselves that the woman was indeed halved and yet lived, they had better be prepared to be taken to task. This is not personal but common sense given the nature of the miracle and the history of tricks in the sector.
In the case of Ericsson and Pomp’s paper, I believe they fell short of proving the Levi paper worthless but did well to catalogue the problems with it. To me, three interesting points are worth highlighting among others:
There is much more to be said but this post is already too long. It’s worth remembering that, as a defence lawyer might cloud the issue with reasonable doubt to free an innocent (or guilty) client, in science you are guilty until proven otherwise. It is always easy to find fault but the truth is that The Seven were there and Ericsson and Pomp were not. Even as I hold on to my scepticism, I remain astonished by Rossi’s performance. Ericsson’s paper is useful but does not destroy Rossi’s game. They show the test was not perfect – fine, but let’s not assume fraud just because you can imagine it. Make no mistake; his is an incredible feat. He let a group of seven scientists study the beast up close and personal for nine days when he was not present and then they went on to proclaim the lady halved and yet alive. You have to respect that even as you shake your head in wonder.
[Edited to change title from ‘Peer Reviewed’ to ‘Critiqued’ as – while it is reasonable to mention the lack of peer review and welcome this as a useful cousin – it is also reasonable to argue that this is not ‘Peer Review’ in the accepted use of the term in the scientific world.]<< Previous Post -- -- Next post >>