Professor Levi, sometimes whipping boy for those seeking to rubbish Andrea Rossi’s eCat, took centre stage in self-styled journalist Steven Krivit’s most recent attack. I expected the watching of it to be painful and indeed the scientist’s discomfort in places is obvious. That said, it was not as bad as I expected.
Reading the tealeaves from comments around the Net, those who were looking for an incompetent man shaped what they saw to suit that view while Krivit-haters saw an unsuspecting and honest person ambushed by a cynic who cared nothing for the truth. I tried hard to put aside my expectations to look at the video dispassionately.
It is clear that the interviewer set out to dig dirt. This was not a balanced Q&A designed to inform his readers. At one point, as I began to wonder if I was imagining it, Professor Levi jokes (but it was no joke) that he felt under trial. The whole thing smacked of a prosecutor trying to trick a hostile witness. How many of us could say with honesty that we would have equipped ourselves better? How many could remember specific details of a demo or test performed weeks before, especially under the glare of a camera? We have all seen examples of obvious answers hidden from the brightest of people when under pressure.
I have watched the bravest of men crumble in front of the lens. Levi did not do that, but it was obviously not his thing. It is easy to criticise and I am sure that Professor Levi will not make the mistake of trusting a blogger-journalist again, but the underlying integrity shone through his discomfort. Recognising the danger that the University of Bologna was in through its association with Andrea Rossi, Levi set out with a sceptic’s eye to look at the businessman’s claims. A member of the US Sceptics’ Society and an experienced physicist, he was familiar with the signs that traditionally signal a scam artist at work.
It is important to recognise that cold fusion as a subject raises big warning flags among the physics community. Levi set out to protect his university. To do so, he needed to convince himself of the truth or otherwise of the claims. Without funding or the sanction to perform a formal scientific analysis, it is reasonable and sufficient to gauge whether the device functions with a gain in the ball-park claimed.
Many pseudosceptics want it both ways. They say that it is trivial to measure such a thing and then accuse a number of experienced scientists of being unable to do so through incompetence. As Professor Levi stated in the interview, the gain was huge (orders of magnitude) and he was able to determine to his satisfaction that this was so. I can tell if my kettle is working quite easily. An engineer could readily measure its health while a scientist conducting a formal experiment might need sophisticated equipment and much time depending on the aim of the study.
It is often said that the simple tests that would determine whether the eCat is real or not have not been conducted. The accusers have no way of knowing that and yet they are not embarrassed by the blatant disregard for their inaccurate statements. The only thing they can say with certainty is that those tests have not been conducted in public. The comments section here and elsewhere display an almost obsessive repetition of this ‘omission’ as though we the public have the right to demand anything of a private enterprise. Unless these individuals are ill or have selective intelligence, there has to be something else causing them to behave with such apparently faulty logic.
I have lost count of the number of times I’ve heard that Andrea Rossi will not allow independent scientists near his device. Here we have a Professor of physics who set out to protect his university allowed exactly that. I for one do not doubt his ability to differentiate a multi-kilowatt boiler from one driven by an electric heater in the sub-kilowatt range. I suspect that he only became incompetent and too-close to Rossi after he decided that it was real.
In watching that video, we see the mechanics of FUD in action. How many times do we hear that scam artists do not allow real scientists near their inventions? Formerly proficient practitioners (eg Pons & Fleischmann) when linked to cold fusion, suddenly become morons. Stremmenos, Focardi, Essen, Kullander, Galantini and Levi – all idiots and yet the mass of geniuses who have been nowhere near it take the word of a biased critic and a few seconds of video to denounce them.
Why they are not ashamed of stoning others with such poor logic I do not know – except for those who wear masks, of course.
Does this mean I am ready to believe? No. After all this time, the end of October is fine. However, in-as-much as it is useful to make an interim call based on the players in this game, when it comes to matters of technical competence, I would trust the physicist Levi over Krivit anytime.<< Previous Post -- -- Next post >>