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1. Editorial: Progress is This Way
By Steven B. Krivit
Photo: Daniel Bosler
In New Energy Times Issue 35, we continued to lay out the key facts of low-energy nuclear reactions and to distinguish the concept from the unsupported hypothesis of "cold fusion."
We presented substantial evidence to support the following conclusions:
● LENR is a set of real though poorly understood nuclear phenomena.
● "Cold fusion," though a good starting hypothesis, was never supported by experimental fact.
● The concept of "24 MeV per helium-4 atom" became irrelevant once the breadth of nuclear products in LENR were revealed.
● SRI International's Michael McKubre made a dozen unscientific changes to data that cold fusion advocates claimed to be the best evidence for "cold fusion."
New Energy Times has not received any communication challenging any of these matters, let alone identifying any substantive errors of fact. However, longtime “cold fusion” skeptic Richard Garwin of IBM found some minor errors. We provide them in this article.
Garwin, a science adviser to several U.S. presidents and an adviser to U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, has a long history with the “cold fusion” conflict. At my request, Garwin agreed to meet with me to discuss cold fusion history, LENR, and Issue 35.
Our meeting was a productive, cordial scientific exchange. Among several LENR topics, we spoke about co-deposition work by the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center, isotopic investigation research by Thomas Passell (retired from the Electric Power Research Institute), and transmutation research by Yasuhiro Iwamura (Mitsubishi Heavy Industries). In addition to reading my latest work, Garwin also told me that he had visited SPAWAR San Diego to inspect Pamela Mosier-Boss' co-deposition work.
I cannot say that our meeting led to a concession from Garwin, but he did say the words "possibly important and new physics."
He asked me about McKubre's 24MeV claim of "cold fusion." Until March 22, 2010, it had been in nearly every one of McKubre's "cold fusion" presentations for the last decade.
"It's gone," I told him.
In all three presentations I have seen from McKubre since I asked him for an explanation on March 21, 2010, at the American Chemical Society press conference, he has omitted the 24 MeV "cold fusion" claim and given no explanation for its absence. It wasn't in his ACS slide presentation the day after the ACS press conference, it wasn't in his Army Research Labs slide presentation, and it wasn't in his ICCF-14 paper, which published electronically a few months later.
Garwin emphasized the importance of scientific integrity and the range of professionalism among the people in the LENR field.
"It's a puzzle when honest people get such peculiar results," he said. "Some of them are quite incompetent. Whatever they do, you shouldn't believe it. They couldn't get a good result out of a sophomore physics, resistivity or calorimetry measurement. But others are careful and ingenious."
Infinite Energy magazine technical editor and cold fusion theorist Scott Chubb, after acknowledging to me that McKubre didn't actually measure 24MeV, said that there was still a "finite probability" that cold fusion was still occurring in LENR.
At least in terms of LENR, Infinite Energy magazine has been redirected 180 degrees from when Gene Mallove, its founding editor, was alive. Mallove knew the weakness of the D-D "mainstream cold fusion hypothesis," as he called it.
When I was much more inexperienced in the field and believed everything that Edmund Storms, my first teacher in the field, told me, I thought that LENR researchers had proved "cold fusion" by virtue of a quantitative relationship between excess heat and helium-4. Mallove, on my request, critiqued a draft report that parroted the mainstream cold fusion hypothesis.
"You're on VERY thin ice in stating that," Mallove wrote. "There is only ONE experiment in which such a fact has been even approximately proved, and that is the SRI International reproduction of the Case catalytic fusion work.”
At that time, Mallove, of course, did not know about the dozen unscientific changes McKubre made to get that result. The coverage of LENR at Infinite Energy magazine is now in the hands of Scott Chubb, retired from the Naval Research Laboratory, a "mainstream cold fusion" theorist.
Few people remember that McKubre, after his first five years of research in the field, was firmly convinced that fusion likely was not the underlying process. In the early 1990s, Peter Hagelstein, associate professor of electrical engineering at MIT, also didn't think fusion was occurring. McKubre explained his logic on ABC television in 1996 in a discussion of LENR researcher James Patterson's Ni-H (nickel-light water) cells.
"I think the name is unfortunate," McKubre said. "I think whatever is happening is not likely to be deuterium fusion in the heavy-water cells, and if Patterson is right, which he might be, then he is clearly not observing fusion."
Considering that McKubre and Hagelstein's best evidence for cold fusion, which they developed in 2000 by making unscientific changes, has quietly vanished, perhaps other researchers in the field might want to re-evaluate their own assumptions.
Curiously, for the first time in history, the organizers of an ICCF conference (the one scheduled for next week) omitted "cold fusion" as well as its euphemism, "Fleischmann-Pons Effect," from the official ICCF Web site. The conference series has had an identity crisis for a decade, with some organizers stating that ICCF means International Conference on Cold Fusion, others saying it means International Conference on Condensed Matter Nuclear Science and still others saying it means both.
ACS symposium organizer and LENR researcher Jan Marwan has had a rough time with his attempt to promote “cold fusion.” During the ACS press conference in March 2010, Marwan was on a panel responding to reporters’ questions.
"Considering the mainstream view of 'cold fusion' and the strong evidence for LENR but weak evidence for 'cold fusion,' isn't promoting this field as 'cold fusion' just about the worst thing you can do to gain respect for the field?" I asked Marwan.
"I don't know what you mean about weak evidence for cold fusion," Marwan said. "What brings you to this opinion?"
Marwan seemed to be contradicting what he and I wrote in his preface and my introduction to our Low-Energy Nuclear Reactions and New Energy Technologies Sourcebook (Vol. 2), my presentations at his ACS symposiums, my article "The Decoupling of Cold Fusion From LENR," and my series of articles on the 24 MeV belief.
Things got tougher for Marwan when he tried to publish a third volume of the LENR Sourcebook filled with “cold fusion” papers. In earlier years, when Marwan worked with me as co-editor, ACS accepted and published two of our sourcebooks. For undisclosed reasons, the ACS publishing division rejected his solo effort of a third book, according to my contact at ACS.
Independently, a staff member at the American Institute of Physics publishing department solicited Marwan to publish his collection of papers – for a fee of several thousand dollars. Marwan paid the fee, but to no avail. Two months after New Energy Times Issue 35 published, AIP abruptly canceled Marwan's agreement.
Marwan tried to get John Wiley & Sons to publish the book of cold fusion papers, but for undisclosed reasons, it too rejected his book proposal, according to my contact at Wiley.
In the first decade of the cold fusion conflict, LENR researchers could partially blame mainstream science’s conservatism and myopia for causing delays in the research. From the second decade on, the blame starts to shift more to the LENR researchers themselves.
Several years ago, Michael Lemonick, the reporter who wrote the 1989 cover story on "cold fusion" for Time magazine invited me to be a guest lecturer in his science class at Princeton University. The students asked me many questions. When I explained that some of the researchers had repeatable results but other researchers were not collaborating to do replications, one student perceptively asked, "Well, aren't they shooting themselves in the foot then?" In many ways, they have been, and in the last decade, their promotion of LENR as "cold fusion" is the number one cause for the delay in the field's progress.
In many ways, they have been. And in the last decade, their promotion of LENR as "cold fusion" is the No. 1 cause of the delay in the field's progress.
Deccan Chronicle (India) reporter Kumar Chellappan was keen to pick up on "the shadow boxing between top nuclear scientists of the country" in what appears to be many decades of personal disputes, among them the matter of "cold fusion."
On one side is Mahadeva Srinivasan, a key developer of India's first nuclear test and chairman of ICCF-16, and Padmanabha Krishnagopala Iyengar, co-chairman of ICCF-16, former director of BARC, and former chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission.
On the other side is Rajagopala Chidambaram, the principal scientific adviser to the government of India and the chairman of the committee that advises the Indian cabinet on science matters.
Srinivasan and Iyengar support “cold fusion,” while Chidambaram is a contributor to and supporter of LENR.
Storms suggested to his colleagues in an e-mail that if reactions with D/Pd and reactions with Ni-H have the same characteristics, then they must be the same, and they must be fusion.
"Nature has only one song but with different words," Storms wrote.
Leaving cold fusion in the past does not mean forgoing the dream of a new source of clean nuclear energy. It does not mean letting go of the hope of energy from abundantly available sources. It does not mean forgoing a vast new field of possibilities in science and technology. But it does mean moving on.
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