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(Source: New Energy Times)
Dear E632 and WA84 Colleague,
TRITIUM RESULTS EVAPORATE - POSSIBLE FRAUD?
The 23 Cold Fusion News letters that I distributed were meant to be
essentially scientific though they gave some news as well. As there are so many
good null experiments and so few good experiments that find positive results
favouring Cold Fusion, I decided that there was no scientific point in
continuing. However surprisingly many people ask me what is happening, and sinc
there have been some dramatic developments casting very serious doubts on the
tritium experiments, which Believers consider to be their strongest evidence,
this is an update.
Hence this Update is not intended to be conventionally scientific. It may
concern those interested in Pathological Science: also senior scientists and
scientific directors since there is growing activity among US politicians
about scientific fraud and misuse of funds - e.g. the National Science
Foundation started an Inspector General's office a year ago and now has
appointed a criminal investigator. Fraud is very, very rare (in my own field
of Particle Physics the most recent example I know of was in 1924 when the
positron was "discovered"). The result is that often scientific administrators
react badly throwing buckets of whitewash over their colleagues but acid at
the honest whistle blower and the media - whereas they could be starting an
immediate investigation which they can announce if challenged.
Will those who do not wish to receive an Update please let me know.
Kevin Wolf of the Cyclotron lab at Texas A&M has announced that there
was contamination of tritium in the palladium rods he used and this could
explain the tritium that he had previously claimed.
Many scientists at Texas A&M had been worried about the possibility of
fraudulant addition of tritium to the samples of electrolyte sent for analysis
from Dr. Bockris's lab and which gave exceedingly high levels of tritium. There
was a bottle containing tritium in light water in the lab. The samples were
found to contain light water. Despite repeated requests, Dr. Bockris did not
take adequate precautions to prevent someone spiking the samples.
The Senate of the University of Utah has asked the President to resign.
He says he intends to leave next year.
Experiments and conferences on Cold Fusion continue.
1. Tritium in Original Palladium Rods
2. Possible Fraud in Dr. Bockris's lab.
3. Other Tritium Claims
4. University of Utah Tries to Cleanse Itself
5. Cold Fusion Experiment in Kamiokande Detector
6. Future Conferences on Cold Fusion and Anonomolous Effects.
7. When did Cold Fusion begin?
8. Problems in Dealing with Fraud.
1. TRITIUM IN ORIGINAL PALLADIUM RODS
At Texas A&M there are four groups
that have worked on Cold Fusion, those of Kevin Wolf, Dr. Bockris, Dr. Appleby
and Dr. Martin. The Wall Street Journal has reported that Kevin Wolf who is a
nuclear chemist working at the Cyclotron lab, might have an explanation of the
small amounts of tritium he had observed from two of his cells. This was out
of dozens of experiments he had run and he was currently operating 100 cells
He had been attempting to explain why he found so little tritium and so rarely
compared with his neighbour, Dr. Bockris who frequently found enormous amounts.
One test was to dissolve completely palladium rods as received from the
manufacturer, Hoover and Strong, and those used in light water blank cells.
He found low levels of tritium contamination in both cases. He considered this
tritium in the original palladium rod might be an explanation of his
occasional findings of small amounts of tritium in the electrolyte.
Dr. Bockris said he was startled but as the level was so much lower than his
labs' observations "I haven't changed my mind". He noted that "about 2/3 of our
work" used rods from Hoover and Strong, although not from the same batch of
The Wall Street article continues "The chemist also noted that it is highly
unlikely that positively charged tritium atoms could escape from the negatively
charged palladium. Therefore even if the palladium was contaminated, the
tritium could not leak out into the surrounding heavy water, he argued". This
statement may surprise scientists.
The Hoover and Strong Vice President, Dan Pharr said he was unfamiliar with
Cold Fusion research - he worked for the jewelry trade and was not concerned
about low level contamination.
People who are experts in palladium and reactors are not surprised as
palladium is often used as a catalyst to combine gases in nuclear reactors.
Appreciable tritium comes from CANDU reactors which use heavy water, less
tritium will come from pressurized water reactors and almost none from
boiling water reactors. The palladium is often recycled later. Hence it is not
surprising that different samples of Palladium could contain very different
amounts of tritium.
One of Dr. Wolf's cells, D6, did give large amounts of tritium. This was in
late September and was after three months with no positive results, then just
before a visit by EPRI funding agency, both cell D6 and number 4 of Bockris's
lab, gave large amounts of tritium. The cell D6 was in front of Wolf's gamma
ray counter which did not indicate any gammas - this could indicate that no
nuclear process had taken place.
The Electrical Power Research Institution, EPRI, has given money for fuel
cell work at Texas A&M for some years and increased their grant when Cold
Fusion was announced. In the autumn of 1989, Texas A&M University asked for
$1.4 million which was an order of magnitude more - it was for Drs. Bockris,
Wolf and Appleby labs.
Dr. Wolf "said evidence that many of the experiments have produced low
levels of neutrons is still 'pretty solid'".
David Worledge of EPRI which is funding many Cold Fusion groups including
Drs. Wolf and Bockris, "explained that attempts to produce tritium in 'cold
fusion' experiments didn't hold much further promise in trying to resolve
the controversy. The question was more likely to be resolved by new experiments
to detect neutrons and to explain the production of excess heat".
Thus while a short time ago tritium was considered the strongest evidence,
now Believers are shifting to other experiments. This is in agreement with one
of the characteristics of Pathological Science where the belief stays the same
but the supporting evidence varies.
2. POSSIBLE FRAUD IN DR BOCKRIS'S LAB
Science, the official journal of the
American Association for the Advancement of Science, has published a long
article by Gary Taubes about possible fraud in the tritium claims coming from
the lab of Dr. Bockris. Because of the seriousness of writing about fraud, the
article is very carefully written (it was two months in preparation). It is
important to be clear about what it does NOT say;
1. It is does not say there was definitely fraud
2. It does not accuse any specific person of fraud.
However it does discuss the balance between academic freedom and the need to
guarantee the integrity of Research. It does say that despite many warnings,
both oral and by memos, Dr. Bockris and the Texas A&M authorities did not
respond adequately to the problem. Also while no legal statement has been made,
every person can make their own judgement of what is a reasonable explanation
of the happenings described below.
The amounts of tritium production obtained in Dr. Bockris's lab are so
enormous and so far from the close-to-background values obtained in other labs
that they are frequently quoted by Believers and were instrumental in
getting the $5 million released for setting up the National Cold Fusion
Institute. At the First Annual Conference on Cold Fusion there were 15 groups
reporting positive tritium production and as Chemical and Engineering News
wrote, Believers "point to the observed emissions of tritium as the
unassailable signature of a nuclear reaction".
On 22 April 1989, Nigel Packham of Bockris's group started looking for
tritium in the electrolyte solution in the cell. He gave the 3 cells to the
Cyclotron Institute who told him that there a trillion of atoms of tritium
per millilitre "When I heard this number, my jaw dropped" said Packham.
Similar huge quantities of tritium occured from time to time, and people
noted that this "miracle" tended to coincide with important occassions such
as a visit of a funding agency. One research student who left said that there
were just "Too many goddamm 'miracles' in this laboratory" for him.
It can be noticed that the tritium counting rate tended to have a sharp
spike and then a long fall-off which corresponded to the radioactive decay
of the tritium and dilution of the electrolyte (as gases boiled off and the
liquid level was restored) whereas if fusion was occuring for a few days, as
excess heat observers claimed, then the counting rate would rise steadily for
these days and then when the fusion stopped, the rate would slowly decrease.
So the sharp jump could be interpreted as an unusually sharp burst of
fusion or it could be interpreted as someone having spiked the electrolyte
sample with tritium. Dr Appleby who was observing excess heat
for long periods of time, was surprised by the tritium results and asked
Dr. Bockris "Look, concerning this tritium - are you sure that someone hasn't
been spiking your cells?"
In June 1989 when the DOE panel visited Texas A&M, Jacob Bigelstein, who
is an expert on tritium, was particularly sceptical when he found that
tritium was being claimed but no neutrons though by charge symmetry and
experiments, 1 E5 to 1 E9 neutrons per second (a lethal dose) should have
been observed. However Packham showed results for cell A7 where Bockris
had wanted to catch a cell in the act of producing tritium. The curve showed
zero counts at noon, a very slight increase at 2 pm, 500 000 disintegrations
per minute per ml (dpmml-1) at 6 pm and 760 000 dpmml-1 at midnight.
Packham had drawn a smooth curve through the points indicating a smooth
rise in the tritium rate but Bigelstein said "Well, your data do not uniquely
define that curve, I could equally well draw the following kind of graph
through your data - go flat across at zero until a point around six hours,
go straight up with a step function and go flat across again" Kevin Wolf said
"Jake are you implying that someone spiked that sample?" Bigelstein replied
"Kevin, you said that. I would never say such a thing".
Normally cells are followed for weeks or months, but it seems cell A7 was
only followed for 12 hours. Also since this experiment was so important, it is
astonishing it appears not to have been repeated in almost a year. Another
surprising feature of this critical experiment was that tritium was observed
within six hours whereas Dr. Bockris and other Believers often claim it takes
weeks or months.
Bigelstein asked if there was any tritium in the lab and Packham said there
was a bottle of tritiated water, five millicuries worth.
In a 18 December memo to John Fackler, Dean of the College of Science at A&M
Bockris wrote "This possibility (that the tritium was put there by someone),
has been taken seriously by us from the beginning.... we have monitored a certain flask containing tritiated water purposely left in its original position. Not
only did we note the original level of the water in the flask but also we
measured its tritium content. It has remained unchanged..." However this is
in disagreement with a memo dated 4 September from Packham which says that
there are many bottles uncontolled in the lab.
It was claimed the cell was carefully guarded, e.g. in November Packham said
the cells "were under guard for that time 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. There
was one cell (A7)... that shows the build up of tritium as a function of time,
where four people were standing there the whole 12 hours in front of the cell
when the samples were taken". However Ramesh Kainthla, an Indian post doc who
was the senior member of the team, who took the samples at 6 pm and midnight,
said " If you think people were watching the cells all the time that is not
true. Watching the cell meant a person in the lab, and once in a while (that
person) came in and checked that the current was passing." "If you want to do
some mischief, you do not need a couple of hours. You can do it in a very, very
short period of time."
In July, Charles Martin who was working on Cold Fusion but not getting
positive results, suggested to Bockris at a meeting, that he would run
Bockris's cells in his, Martin's lab, and restrict access. However Bockris
did not take this offer. However he did take Packham off the job of sampling
the tritium "I tried to take Packham off" Bockris says, "because by that
time all these stories were floating around. Nigel spikes the tritium.
Everyone thinks Nigel spikes the tritium."
Dr Martin copied Bockris's cells and procedure carefully and he controlled
access. For the case of two cells with Palladium donated by Bockris, he even
ran them at home in his second bedroom. Finally in January, Dr. Martin
wrote the final results to Dean Fackler - that none of the 83 cells had
given significant signs of tritium.
When Fackler asked Bockris why Martin could not replicate his results,
he replied on February 2nd "My tentative judgement of today is that a new field
of chemistry has been formed. As for "why cannot Dr. Martin succeed?... we
cannot succeed either for long periods of time (e.g. 6 to 8 weeks). The
important thing is when we do succeed which may be 10 weeks after we switched
on the electrolysis." Yet miracle cell A7 gave tritium in only six hours.
In the group's first paper is written "interference with the experiments
is considered improbable because of positive results from the Cyclotron
Institute to which entrance is prohibited except by the usual personnal at
the Institute." Indeed when Kevin showed me his work, I had to sign in and
was given a monitor. Also Kevin had to unlock the door of his neutron
counting room. However it turns out there is no guard nights or weekends
and Dr. Youngblood, the Director of the Institute, told Dean Fackler that "at
least 35 faculty and lab personnal had keys that would open that door".
The above is consistent with No. 5 of Irving Langmuir's six characteristics
of Pathological Science: "Criticisms are met by ad hoc excuses thought up
on the spur of the moment." However on controlling and thinking, these excuses
do not stand up. This has often happened to me with Cold Fusion.
These are very suspicious hints of fraud and the Science article contains
much more, but is not absolute proof, though it would suggest that precautions
should be taken. However stronger evidence on the possibility of fraud came
from Kevin Wolf when he tested the electrolyte from a fusion cell run in
Dr. Bockris's lab and which had shown a high level of tritium. It had been
sealed in a container since the previous year. He found it contained large
amounts of light water. Now if there were fusion of the D2O there should be
no H2O produced, but if the sample had been spiked with tritiated water from a
bottle one would expect some H2O. On hearing this I contacted Texas A&M and
was told there was an explanation - during normal operation there was some
contact with the air and H2O could have got in(or as John Fackler put it
"there's a concern about that... it is possible that the normal water is just
condensation from the moist Texas atmosphere). This sounded to me like
Characteristic No. 5 again and I suggested that quantative tests be done
comparing the amount of H2O in the sample with tritium with that in other cells
with no tritium. However this had been done - Nigel Packham and others had
tested 8 cells, two of them sealed, and found 30 to 90% H2O, an enormous
amount while Kevin Wolf checked 50 cells in his own lab and "found no more
than 1% - usually much less in 48 of them." This might seem strong evidence in
favour of spiking but Packham has told Science that he and Bockris are not
ready to abandon their results.
Kevin Wolf said that "The proper conclusion is that things (in the Bockris
lab) were so uncontrolled and so sloppy (that) those studies don't mean
According to AP, John Fackler said last week that "he had no reason to
believe that fraud had occurred and that there were no plans to investigate
the cold fusion experiments." "'I have no concrete evidence of anything
other than fairly sloppy chemistry.'"
At the NCFI, the Director Dr. Will said that their source of palladium was
not from Hoover and Strong. He said the amounts of tritium they had seen,
about 1/2 to 3 times background, were so low "we have not made any big point
of them." According to the SL Tribune he said the Institute has begun
"double-blind" tests to search for tritium. He said 24 labs world-wide had seen
tritium but only BARC had reported amounts comparable with the Bockris results
but as complete scientific papers from BARC have not been forthcoming, "Nobody
is really in a position to scrutinize these results."
2.2 POSSIBLE CONCLUSIONS
In view of this information there would seem to be
two reasonable interpretations;
A) there was fraud
B) there was very sloppy science
Either way, the claims of Dr. Bockris's group should be excluded from
compilations of results as unsafe.
Experience has shown it is very difficult to prove fraud in a court of law.
However scientists who are accustommed to studying lots of data and drawing
their own conclusions, can decide for themselves whether the probability of
fraud is 50%, 90% or 99% or whatever.
3. OTHER TRITIUM CLAIMS
At the end of the First Annual Cold Fusion Conference,
a Los Alamos document was issued which listed 15 labs reporting the
observation of tritium (my notes give a lower number, but it is not very
important). As far as my notes go, only two of these reported enormous
production of tritium. One was Dr. Bockris's group which is discussed above, an
the other was the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, BARC in India. The latter's
results tend to show a sharp rise and then a descent similar to results of
Bockris. Thus the possibility of spiking should not be excluded - it might
be wise if they were to repeat Dr. Martin's technique of taking one set of
samples of cells and isolating them (though not necessarily taking them to
With the BARC work there are two differences;
1. The tritium results were obtained by several different divisions of BARC and
it is said that these divisions are independent.
2. "A unique feature .... is that the first bursts of neutrons and tritium
occurred (in 8 out of 11 cells) on the very first day of commencement of
electrolysis, when hardly a few Amp-hrs of charged had been passed."
The first of these could be considered strong evidence against spiking
while the second could raise doubts.
Several groups at BARC also measured neutrons. They claim that the ratio
of tritium to neutron production is 1 E6 to 1 E9 (though there are also values
of 1 E3 and 1 E4) and the Bockris/Wolf groups also claim ratios of about this.
At the First Annual Cold Fusion Conference this was tuned to 1 E8 and this
value was repeated as a criterion that satisfactory theories should meet
- and some did! However there are a very large number of experiments which
have proved that this ratio is very close to one and hence in agreement with
charge symmetry and not 100 000 000 as Cold Fusion Believers suggest.
In a voluminous "Review of the Investigations of the Fleischmann - Pons
Phenomena" by Bockris, Lin and Packham, graphs are shown of the variation with
time of the tritium counts for 5 labs. Four of them are consistent with
the sudden occurrence of tritium and then decay while the fifth is different
in that there appears to be frequent increases and decreases in the counting
rate so that it could not be due to a single afflux of tritium. However there
are two worrying features about this experiment;
1. The counting rates are very low, 100 to 400 dpmml-1. Now the DOE panel
report says that D2O normally contains some tritium giving counting rates
of 120 to 180 dpmml-1. Also due to different characteristics of d and t
nuclei, there is electrolytic enrichment causing the amount of tritium to
increase, so that special care is needed to consider values of less
than 1000 dpmml-1 as anything other than electrolytic enrichment
2. There are reports that there is a nearby building that occasionally vents
off tritium and also a nearby accelerator which can greatly increase the
background. There are no detailed reports of adequate precautions being
taken by the authors to avoid such local contamination.
4. UNIVERSITY OF UTAH STARTS TO CLEANSE ITSELF
4.1 Legal Letters
The letters that Mr. Triggs the personal lawyer of Drs.
Fleischmann and Pons (probably mainly Pons as he is an old friend of Pons and
lives in North Carolina) sent Mike Salamon and his co-workers asking them
to retract a published paper and enjoining them to silence, have caused
great offense. The American Physical Society will discuss this at its next
executive meeting. Also members are offering to help with a legal defense fund.
However that should not be necessary as Joseph Taylor, who is a law professor
and vice-president for academic affairs has said the university will defend
Salamon et al. if he is sued "in the line of duty." Note that solves the
retraction problem, but if Mike makes a statement outside the line of duty,
then he could still be sued and the University might not be able to defend him!
However a little sanity has returned (would like to think that my series of
protests to Martin Fleischmann helped since in the past he has often corrected
excesses). Nature writes that on June 5, Mike "received a letter from Triggs
apologizing for 'any concerns or misconceptions' his first letter may have
caused and assuring him that there is no intent 'to limit in any way the lawful
excercise of your academic freedom'. The letter adds that Pons and Fleischmann
now 'intend to settle (the) dispute in the court of science through
publication". Better, but note that the people who asked Triggs to write the
first letter have not themselves commented, and also there is still an implied
threat to Mike that he must excercise his freedom "lawfully" - am sure he will,
but the law of Tort is still a minefield for scientists who believe that if
something is true, you can say it.
From what I have heard, Prof Taylor is a wise person - immediately after
the 23 March 1989 press conference he told Chase Peterson in strong terms that
it was a major mistake.
That the University paid Triggs $68 000 for patent work although he is not
a patent lawyer, has raised some questions.
4.2 Resignation of President Peterson and NCFI Audit
After the College of Science
Dean, Hugo Rossi, and 22 professors protested about misuse of $0.5 m of funds
being offered to the National Cold Fusion Institute, NCFI, the University
president, Chase Peterson agreed to a scientific audit to be conducted by the
faculty and said its members would be appointed in the next few days. Also
there would be a financial audit. He said he would not resign, "I've considered
it hundreds of times before in the past seven years, and I will consider it
again in the future".
On Monday 4 June, the Institutional Council, the U's governing board met and
the chair, James Jardine supported Peterson, though others were less strong.
But in the afternoon the Academic Senate met and passed a resolution which
read in part "The academic senate respectfully requests that the Institutional
Council and the Board of Regents examine the question of whether continuation
in office of the current president is in the best interest of the University
of Utah and the community which it serves". The resolution was proposed by a
History professor and seconded by a professor of Chemical Engineering. A
professor of Human Genetics said "the university cannot continue to lurch
from crisis to crisis" and an English professor said "I've resisted this
moment for a number of years.... but it seems to have come to this." It
appears that there were many things that people were unhappy about and
Cold Fusion was the straw that broke the camel's back.
Dr. Pons returned from Europe and gave an off-camera interview where he
said he would co-operate with the audit and in fact he was ready to turn over
all of his raw data to a review team, with one reservation - he said they had
written a 66 page definitive paper that he hopes will be published next month
and he wants to hold on to the data until after the paper comes out. This
reservation at first may sound reasonable but is ridiculous as at the
First Annual Cold Fusion conference at the end of March, Pons gave and
distributed a paper of 25 pages plus figures in addition, which he said
contains the essentials - so this looks like a typical delaying tactic. At
present even Hawkins does not have access to the raw data even though he did
most of the work. It is to be hoped that the Senate audit committee will insist
on obtaining the raw data immediately to avoid any chance of them being
accidentally lost (there are rumours of a critical tape containing raw data
on the gamma peak from neutrons being accidentally wiped clean).
However the Salt Lake Tribune wrote that on 11 June, President Peterson
announced he would retire in 1991. '"It is my intention to dedicate this
remaining year to accomplishing my remaining goals and to position this
university for new leadership following the 1990-91 year. At this time I will
move on to other opportunities". Despite prior discontent, faculty members
pledged their support to the president.'
The NCFI Director, Fritz Will has said he will refuse the controversial
$0.5 million. Funding is becomming a still bigger problem for the Institute
as their hopes of getting $160 000 from EPRI decreased when David Worledge
of EPRI said "We should not proceed with the contract negotations until the
The F/EAC (the NCFI supervisory committee) is in the process of choosing
members for the two external committees for science and management/financial
reviews of NCFI. Some people are unhappy about this since the history of the
F/EAC has not been brilliant. Are they the best organisation to choose people
which will investigate also their role? And will the review committees contain
people who are well-informed sceptics of Cold Fusion? Who decided that the
F/EAC was the best organisation to choose a review committee since the
University was supposed to do it?
The SL Tribune says that Dr. Bockris was at one time a candidate for the
position of Director of the NCFI.
People who turned down offer of jobs from the University of Utah have
received a questionnaire asking them their opinion of the State, of U. of U.
etc. Cold Fusion and NCFI have been mentioned in the answers.
5. COLD FUSION EXPERIMENT AT THE KAMIOKANDE DETECTOR
The Japanese experiment
Kamiokande has probably the best detector of neutrinos from the sun and
from any nearby supernova as its results for SN 1987A showed. They have decided
to place a Cold Fusion cell in the heart of their detector towards the end
of this year. The point is that while well-informed Japanese scientists tend
not to believe in Cold Fusion, there is no major Japanese experiment that has
been done on it. Also the public are not well informed. Thus in the magazine
Kagaku (which is the Japanese equivalent of the Scientific American) I have
just found out that my notes reviewing ALL Cold Fusion experiments were
preceded by an article where Dr Ikegami of the Japanese National Fusion
Institute mentioned only the results presented at the First Annual Cold
Fusion Conference and which were only positive and where he concluded that
there should be something in it.
The cold fusion experiment would be done this year and I am assured that
it will not significantly interfere with their work on Solar neutrinos which
is of great interest as was shown by the controversy at the recent
Neutrino '90 conference where it was not clear whether the theoretical flux
of solar neutrinos was different from the experimental values. The cell is so
small compared with the large volume of the Kamiokonde detector, that the
effect of its presence is negligable.
6. FUTURE CONFERENCES ON COLD FUSION AND ANOMALOUS EFFECTS
problems, conferences continue to have sessions on Cold Fusion and there is
one conference devoted to it. This is at Brigham Young University. It is
markedly different from certain other conferences where only positive
results were presented. It is called "Anomalous Nuclear Effects in
Deuterium/Solid Systems". The requirements for papers are clearly stated, e.g.
"3. Anomalous Tritium Production in Deuterium/Solid Systems
Papers are requested that support or refute the anomalous production of
tritium in such systems. Only those experimental results that include
comparitive blank runs and documentation of initial tritium content should
This is very different from some recent conferences and one detects the
hand of Steve Jones.
Abstracts should be sent to Steve before 15 September. The Technical
Secretary of this International Workshop is Nate Hoffman at Rockwell
International Corp., PO Box 1449, Canoga Park, Ca 91304. Fax (818) 700 5118.
7. WHEN DID COLD FUSION BEGIN?
Recently people have been trying to find out when
Cold Fusion started. Steve Jones has a document witnessed by a notary, which
gives the date for BYU as 1986. But when did Pons and Fleischmann start? For
their patents to be sellable it is the date of the first experiment which
counts, not the first to give a press conference. They have repeatedly
emphasised that they had been working on Cold Fusion for five years before
March 1989, but have not seen or heard of any firm evidence that justifies this
claim. It appears that their first successful "experiment" was the melt-down
of their palladium block. According to Time magazine (8 May 1989) this was in
1985 but there are other indications that this only occured in about
the summer of 1988. And their first conventional experiments may have
started in April/May 1988 and they began to get results in December 1988,
i.e long after Jones et al. These dates are not well established but when
Dr. Pons makes his lab notebooks available to the enquiry as he has promised,
it will become clear.
It is not sure whether the "melt-down" of the palladium block could be
considered an experiment as it occured at night when no one was present and
there were inadequate measuring and recording devices.
8. PROBLEMS OF DEALING WITH FRAUD
Scientists are educated to study and believe
experimental results. And when young they do. Their culture makes them very
trusting and there results an exceptionally good working atmosphere. However
magicians such as Randi say that scientists, especially physicists, are the
easiest people to deceive. This is because they virtualy never encounter fraud
in their work and rarely hear lies.
The consequence is that when there are good grounds for suspecting fraud,
scientists generally do not know how to deal with it.
Let us distinguish two cases;
1) If there is no suggestion of fraud, then for the sake of academic freedom
and for good working relations with your colleagues, then I feel very
strongly that one should not start or have a special investigative office.
2) If there are serious doubts and if they have been expressed widely, then the
the priorities are different. The reputation of the supervisory institution
is at risk. It and the people implicated need to have a clear opportunity
to defend themselves. In other words an enquiry should be set up as soon as
Institutions often defend themselves by internal enquiries which are
whitewash jobs. From the historical point of view, this often succeeds but
it leaves a bad taste and good people tend to leave the institution.
Dick Feynman's wonderful account of the Challenger enquiry in his last book,
is an example of a whitewash that mainly succeeded apart from Dick's actions.
Supervisors sometimes feel that inviting in the person for him to explain
is an adequate enquiry but there is the fundamental problem that it is very
difficult to say to a colleague to his face that there are doubts. To have a
real enquiry it is necessary to have outside people who are experts in the
subject. I was at the 23 March 1990 meeting of the National Cold Fusion
Institute supervisory board where the dubious results and the even more
dubious financial statement were approved and the correct questions were
sometimes asked but mildly and and any answer was accepted with little
thought as to whether it was correct or adequate - the questioning seemed
So the fact that someone was questioned and gave answers does not mean
very much. It is necessary to have a record of the questions and answers which
are agreed by all, for often the explanations change with time or turn out to
be untenable when checked. And a follow up is needed to check, often
experimentally, if the explanations are correct. Note that what is suggested
here does not in any way restrict academic freedom.
In conclusion, fraud is very, very rare, but if a number of people seriously
consider it the most likely explanation, then it is best to have an independent
Douglas R. O. Morrison.
PS. LETTER OF DR STORMS TO SCIENCE
Have just received a copy of the letter that
Dr. Storms of Los Alamos has sent to the Science magazine on June 25. It
contains some results that he said he sent to Gary Taubes on 9 April.
In it he describes adding some tritium to one of his cells (it is a
semi-closed cell with a catalyst) and he compares the variation with time of
the tritium counting rate and the ratio of counts from the electrolyte and the
gas, with what was observed with Dr. Bockris's cells which gave tritium counts.
He concludes the two factors are different and hence the suspicion of the
fraudulent addition of tritium is irresponsible.
As Dr. Storms letter does not seem to address the basic problem, some
comments will be made;
1. Firstly it is important to note what was NOT considered in his letter;
a) That light water was observed in those of Bockris's cells that gave
b) That the amount of light water was 30 to 90% in the cells that gave
large amounts of tritium but only 1% or less in Kevin Wolf's cells
that gave little or no tritium.
2. It was an excellent initiative of Dr. Storms to try the experiment of adding
tritium but two main features should have been taken into consideration;
c) the basic question of light water - he should have added a tritium -ligh
water mix which could reproduce the final mixture of the sample with
30 to 90% light water and a tritium counting rate of about 1 000 000
d) One should compare like with like. Apart from the fact one cell was
closed and the other open, there are two major differences between the
the Storms and Bockris experiments;
i) The tritium counting rate in the Storms experiment increases over
some 20 days and is thus inconsistent with a single spike. In the
published results of Bockris et al., the rate jumps suddenly up
and the increase seems to occur in six hours or less.
ii) The counting rates in the two experiments differ enormously, so
different that the two experiments cannot be safely compared. In Storms's experiment the counting rate is very low, in the
hundreds of dpmml-1. In the Bockris experiments the counting rate is about a million
dpmml-1. The rate in the Storms experiment is so low that the DOE panel
warned that with the increase in tritium due to separation by
electrolysis, one should treat counting rates of less than 1000
dpmml-1 with care.
It is perhaps of interest to compare the power estimated from the experiments
of Storms, Bockris and Fleischmann and Pons.
Assuming Storms increases his counting rate by 100 dpmml-1 in 10 days, then
the average power is about 1 E-9 Watts or a nanoWatt (note 100 dpmml-1 is
about the normal content of tritium in D2O - it varies from about 75 to 200
Assuming Bockris achieves a rate of 7 E5 dpmml-1 in 10 hours, then the
average power would be a few E-4 Watts or about less than a milliWatt from
Fleischmann and Pons claim to have measured excess heat of about 10 Watts
which would have given a tritium rate of 1 E11 dpmml-1. In their first paper
they indicated a tritium rate corresponding to less than 1 E-7 Watts or a
tenth of a microWatt.
If someone should wish to test experimentally the effect of spiking as a
possibility, then it would be best done by adding a tritium/H2O mixture
identical to that in the bottle in Dr. Bockris's lab (the mix is known since
Dr Bockris said he had measured the radioactivity and the level in the bottle)
Then an amount should be added which gave 30 to 90% H2O.
Scientists do not like the idea or suspicion of fraud. It would be nice if
it were to just to go away. But with a vigourous investigative journalist who
is finishing has a commercial aspect, this is unlikely. A rapid external enquir
might be the best way to settle this very, very rare occurrence.