eCatNews Brief – Part One
I leave this post here for research purposes. Although an honest view at the time, my doubts about Andrea Rossi’s claims have hardened. Your millage may vary, but I no longer give him the benefit of those doubts.
Updated Aug 12
Definitive proof of Andrea Rossi’s claims remain elusive. At this stage, although there is room to worry, too many conclude that the eCat is nonsense and Rossi a fraud, without proof. I will not do that. We have to recognise that credible and qualified people have been party to close quarter testing. Controlled by the inventor, those tests do not constitute the proof we require but they do give us cause to continue watching. I would personally warn anyone against investing without due diligence but fully understand why someone might step inside the circle with a bunch of cash to find out what really lies behind that curtain.
The case for cold fusion beyond the eCat (in my opinion) is becoming stronger even as it too remains on the what-if? shelf. [Note Professor Francesco Celani’s Aug 12 demo]. Keep these comments in mind while reading some of the background written below.
To many, inventor Andrea Rossi’s eCat is the coming saviour of the planet – an energy device that could spawn a trillion dollar industry, reshape geopolitics and clean up the environment – all in a few short years. To others, it is not – they don’t believe it.
Born from the bastard child of science – cold fusion – most scientists are rightly sceptical until proof is given. According to Andrea Rossi, that proof will be determined by the market – customers will decide if his claims are real or not. Thus, he has presold his first unit, a 1MW thermal device to be delivered to that customer by the end of October 2011. According to Rossi, if it performs as he says, he will be paid and if it doesn’t, he won’t.
This is not to say he has kept the eCat away from scientists. This is one of the more intriguing aspects of the adventure. A small but significant number of qualified scientists have been given hands-on access and have announced tacit approval while none of that group has publically briefed against it. Until definitive proof is given as promised, it is reasonable for anyone to reserve judgement – after all, the new energy arena is replete with broken promises.
A number of watchers have made their decision already and some of these post almost obsessively on various eCat related sites, calling Rossi a fraudster; the whole thing a scam. This group is unwilling to wait for proof before accusing the inventor, sticking with the belief that what he says is impossible, that the scientists who have endorsed it are fools and therefore that Rossi must be lying. The obvious technical knowledge these posters display and their missionary-like zeal, often shapes the discussion and sometimes colours it red. Passions flare and suspicion runs high that there is an alternative motive. They will tell you that there is no evidence, conflating that term with proof. Indeed there is no proof, but there is certainly a good deal of evidence. The following eCatNews Briefs are intended to act as a primer, taking readers with little or no knowledge of the subject to a point where they can decide for themselves if Rossi is worth watching until Delivery Day or not.
As October rushes towards us, cold fusion is largely ignored by the media. Defkalion’s press conference (23 June 2011) demonstrated a latent interest in the eCat but perhaps we should not be surprised that they are being cautious. Andrea Rossi’s eye is on rolling the business out, not in trying to convince the scientific community. Thus, critical information is missing and, one way or another, that latent interest will only break when some new piece reveals itself or an editor takes a risk and kicks the whole thing off.
Until then, anyone coming to the party without the benefit of a scientific background or more time on their hands than a Cat D lifer will be at the mercy of Google to get up to speed. Good luck with that!
It’s not that there is no information, but that there is too much of it, some misinformed or massaged according to non-obvious motives.
If you are a scientist, you are covered. If you are a conspiracy theorist you are in heaven.
This is for those of us who have not made up our minds, trying to find the path between blind belief and FUD.
The first thing to recognise is that no one but Rossi has the complete picture. It’s reasonable to assume that those close to him (Focardi, Levi etc) have a good handle on the reality of the device but, reasonable as it is, it is still an assumption.
It’s useful to break the subject in two when trying to gauge the veracity of his claims. Two questions emerge:
Is cold fusion real?
Are Rossi’s claims true?
The first part of this Brief, will concentrate on question one.
Ask a scientist about cold fusion and his eyes will likely glaze over. Most will dismiss it out of hand. The short explanation for this hints at an astonishing episode in science. Rather than repeat the whole shebang, links are provided at the end for those who want to dig deeper:
In 1989, two electro-chemists (Stanley Pons and Martin Fleischmann) announced an unexpected and exciting discovery. The story was big and the phrase ‘cold fusion’ spread around the world like a celebrity scandal. Believed to require an inciting temperature of millions of degrees, nuclear fusion has been the energy dream of the future since the first Hydrogen bomb entered our lives. Billions of dollars have been spent trying to build a reactor capable of holding the power of the sun without melting whatever was holding it. If the electro-chemists were correct, fusion could be harnessed for a song and that would likely kill hot fusion research dead.
A mix of excitement and panic fired the scientific, government and business communities.
At that point, the field was so new that P & F were the only two experts around (using their particular process). Anxious for answers, ‘traditional’ fusion researchers were among many around the world keen to investigate. It did not take them long to decide that cold fusion was nonsense. The hot fusion guys sighed in relief. Their budgets were safe.
On the surface this seems reasonable, after all no one could replicate the experiments. The trouble is that in the politics of cold fusion, nothing is that obvious. Mindful of its potential worth, The University of Utah urged early disclosure – eighteen months before the two scientists felt they would be ready to publish. According to P & F, the process was unpredictable. After working on the project for years and able to kick-start the reaction only after some trouble, it was no surprise that initial results were modest or absent. Instead of sticking with it, scientists in a position of power zeroed on the ‘replication problems’ and pushed the poltical buttons hard. They also ridiculed the theory proposed by the chemists. The lack of nuclear signatures known to accompany hot fusion became their focus. P & F were not to be trusted.
Proposing theories that turn out to be flawed is a standard part of the scientific method but for P & F it became the stick with which they were beaten. One might expect the world to zone into the heart of their claim – that of excess energy. After all, this was the seat of excitement and the ability to measure such things well within their proven capabilities as scientists. Instead, the side-show became the main attraction and the hint of a previously unknown clean, cheap and inexhaustible energy source became a casualty of that strangely skewed view. It was as if you found the Golden Goose and announced that its magic might be a result of evolution. Alchemists, fearing their days are numbered, are ordered to investigate. They zero on the crazy theory, kick you in the pants and then cook the goose for the party celebrating its death.
It was not enough to kill the subject by laughing at the theory, the thing had to be completely destroyed.
P & F were called frauds and hounded from their careers. They were humiliated and both left the US, with Stanley Pons renouncing his US citizenship.
The subject was driven to the fringes and placed alongside alien abductions and complementary medicine. Even so, a handful of determined scientists who did not buy the derision carried on working in the wilderness. Unable to raise money from public funds or to publish their results in peer reviewed journals, they were largely invisible to mainstream science.
Thus the myth of cold fusion as nonsense was maintained and scientific group-think was marshalled by those who should have known better.
To call it a conspiracy is a stretch (although we cannot rule that out absolutely). Deliberate or not, there is no doubt that most career scientists do not know that P & F’s work has been replicated and extended over the years and that great leaps have been made in understanding what works and what does not. Studying the effect is easier as results become more predictable. Rather than fading away, cold fusion – rebranded as Low Energy Nuclear Reactions – has been reborn and is increasingly hard to ignore.
In November 2009, the US Defense Intelligence Agency published a report after studying the mass of material in the public arena. While they did not say that cold fusion was real, the tone of the report bucked the tendency for scorn and spelled out the implications for its success.
In May 2011, in an EV World interview, Dennis Bushnell, chief scientist at NASA Langley, declared that the organisation was conducting an experiment designed to test a theory that might explain what was going on. He added that, after recent discoveries, the field could now move forward fast. If it did, he said, on its own, LENR would alter geopolitics, the world economy and solve a large part of our energy and climate problems. This is an astonishing thing to say of a field that is still considered by many to be pseudoscience.
When a scientists tells you that cold fusion is nonsense, ask him if he has read any of the papers published and available online. The Defense Intelligence people have and so has Bushnell. If the answer is no, treat the reply with caution. Goup-think is a powerful force.
So, is cold Fusion (or LENR) real? While the jury is still out, only a fool would dismiss the field as unworthy of further study. Whatever name it goes by, Cold Fusion is bearing young fruit and excitement is building. Given the scale of any reward, it is only a matter of time before that group-think is shattered. At some point, it will break with sudden and ferocious rapidity. When that is, largely depends on what happens with Rossi’s eCat.
The game is on.
Defence Intelligence Report
A video interview with Pons and Fleischmann
A Report by former Dr Eugene Mallove Chief Science Writer, MIT News Office 1987-1991
One of a handful of well-researched media reports (pre-Rossi) – 60 Minutes – Cold Fusion – More Than Junk Science
In October, 2011, following a freedom of information request, a report compiled by the US Defense Threat Reduction Agency was published. This report recorded a meeting held in Dec 2006 which included looking at LENR as a possible future energy source. Preceding the Defense Intelligence Agency Report by 3 years, it steps beyond the cautious language of that document. The following cites the concluding recommendations:
LENR still suffers from negative publicity associated with cold fusion and is viewed as being conducted outside the domain of legitimate, mainstream science. Nonetheless, the persistent and increasingly repeatable demonstrations of excess heat and transmutation suggest that there is something here worth pursuing. DTRA should not do so alone but rather foster consortia that would help bring discipline and rigorous experimental protocol to this field. Additionally, efforts to better understand the physics of LENR as well as the development of first-principle predictive models are encouraged.
The companion piece to this article, eCatNews Brief 2 looks at Andrea Rossi’s eCat<< Previous Post -- -- Next post >>