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16. Cold Fusion Versus LENR: Competing Ideologies
By Steven B. Krivit
[This article is Copyleft 2011 New Energy Times. Permission is granted to reproduce this article as long as the article, this notice and the publication information are included in their entirety and no changes are made to this article.]
Science does not happen by itself; it is a human activity driven by personalities. Competing ideologies in the low-energy nuclear reaction research field in recent years have led to disturbing events. This report will provide insights into those events and the activities of one person in particular, Michael Melich, who trained as a theoretical physicist and who has recently taken a more active role in the field.
This report will show that the LENR field does not comprise individuals united behind a single philosophy or goal. The concept of a unified community that is asserted by many of the field's political leaders is a myth.
The fundamental underlying issue is the ideology of D-D "cold fusion" versus LENR, which does not presume or assert the mechanism of or belief in fusion. This report summarizes the actions of a few people in the field who, for perhaps a variety of reasons, have taken extreme measures to promote their D-D "cold fusion" hypothesis, at the expense of a more rapid and widespread recognition of the reality of LENR. Biases and differing ideologies are normal and expected in science; so is integrity.
Dieter Britz, a longtime observer of the “cold fusion” controversy, wrote, "Real scientists can tolerate differences of opinions."
The LENR field does indeed contain many real scientists, and the actions of the few people who believe in the D-D "cold fusion" ideology discussed here are not representative of the field.
Michael Melich is a research professor with the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif. Melich has had a long history in Department of Defense surveillance systems and phased-array antenna systems, though he has no known history with government energy research programs.
In 1989 and the early 1990s, he made an effort to find out what happened in the influential laboratories – California Institute of Technology, MIT and Harwell – which allegedly refuted the low-energy nuclear reaction claims of discoverers Stanley Pons and Martin Fleischmann. Melich was a quiet player in the field, then took a more public role in 2008 when he became the co-chairman for the ICCF-14 conference in Washington, D.C.
For many years, Melich has gone out of his way to give people in the LENR field, including me, the impression that he is a covert intelligence agent, specifically tasked by the U.S. government to promote and keep an eye on “cold fusion.”
During the week of Oct. 13, 2007, at a conference in Italy, I asked him directly what his interests in LENR were.
"I'm doing this for the same reasons as you, Steve: to help people understand the facts about the science," Melich said. "I'm doing this on behalf of our country and to make sure that the interests of the U.S. are protected."
Many people in the field have believed this impression and consequently have responded to him deferentially and with unusual openness. One problem with his assertion is that true covert operators never try to give people the impression that they are covert operators.
Melich is not a LENR researcher, and he is not an official program manager for LENR. However, he does know the workings of the federal bureaucracy and has been able to get funds from the Defense Threat Reduction Agency to the Naval Postgraduate School and the Naval Research Laboratory for LENR research and a conference.
Nuclear – A Family Business
Melich's interest in nuclear energy appears to be a family tradition; his father, Mitchell Melich, according to this obituary, "became a central figure in the uranium boom of the 1950s." The obituary states that Melich's father was involved in two uranium-mining corporations, Utex Exploration Co. and Uranium Reduction Co.
The announcement of the discovery by Pons and Fleischmann, at the University of Utah on March 23, 1989, triggered a worldwide frenzy of research activity.
When the “cold fusion” boom hit Utah, the state formed an influential and, at times, secretive Fusion Energy Advisory Council, to capitalize on Pons and Fleischmann's discovery and the University of Utah's patent. Mitchell Melich was a member of this council. The University of Utah also founded the National Cold Fusion Institute, a nonprofit corporation in Salt Lake City where the University hoped Pons and Fleischmann would continue to share their knowledge and expertise.
On Oct. 23, 1990, Pons vanished without a trace. According to Bill Broad of the New York Times: "University officials say they are worried by the absence of Dr. Pons. 'We don't know where Stan Pons is,' said Dr. Hugo Rossi, dean of the university's College of Science. 'Nobody here at the university knows how to get in touch with him.'"
"Pons ... has put his house in Salt Lake up for sale, and his telephone was disconnected Tuesday," the AP reported on Oct. 24, 1990.
The state of Utah "formulated a plan to track [Pons] down and hold him accountable for his work," the Times wrote.
In the following months, Pons extricated himself and his family from Utah, and he and Fleischmann accepted an offer to work for the Japanese in a laboratory in southern France.
For many years, cold fusion advocates have explained Pons and Fleischmann's exodus from the United States exclusively as an escape from academic persecution of skeptics. The facts stated above suggest this reason is only half true, at most.
Michael Melich, during the time he was a government employee, was also involved in the private company ENECO before it folded. ENECO aggressively began collecting cold fusion patents in 1991 and eventually obtained the original University of Utah patents for the Pons-Fleischmann discovery.
In January 2010, Melich and his second wife, Marianne Macy, who writes for Infinite Energy magazine, began producing documents that appear to be promoting the commercial value of the Andrea Rossi (Italy) LENR device demonstrated in Italy earlier this month. According to ICCF-16 conference chairman Mahadeva Srinivasan, Melich is slated to be an unofficial spokesman for a newly added discussion of the Rossi LENR device at the ICCF-16 conference next week. Rossi told New Energy Times that Melich will not be speaking on his behalf.
According to Rossi, Melich has nothing to do with Rossi's company, and they have no financial arrangements together or under discussion. However, Melich is one of several people on the board of advisers of Rossi's Web site, which he calls Journal of Nuclear Physics.
"I invited [Melich] to join the board of advisers to make peer reviewing," Rossi wrote. "I was told he is a researcher in the field of cold fusion."
LENR Transmutations Marginalized
On Jan. 3, 2008, at the International Conference on Systemics, Cybernetics and Informatics, in Hyderabad, India, Michael McKubre of SRI International gave a plenary talk that was supposed to be a broad review of LENR. McKubre and I were on a two-week speaking tour in India; this was our first stop. He omitted any mention of LENR transmutation.
After the talk, Srinivasan was the first to ask a question.
"Mike, thank you for the great presentation," he said, "but why didn't you say anything about transmutations?"
McKubre replied sarcastically that he didn't "know what to do with the ability to turn expensive elements into cheap ones."
When he took charge of the scientific program for ICCF-14, Melich initially omitted LENR transmutations from the conference. After I and LENR researchers John Dash and George Miley protested, he offered George Miley, who has performed extensive work in LENR transmutations, an informal transmutation session after the official end of ICCF-14. It was well-attended, but the papers presented in that afternoon session did not get included and published in the ICCF-14 proceedings and, therefore, do not exist in the scientific record and cannot be cited as published references.
Several Russians had problems getting their visas in time for the ICCF-14 conference. Melich's explanation for the problems – published anonymously in Infinite Energy magazine – is full of holes. Christofer Van Bebber, vice consul for the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, contradicted the information provided by Melich.
In fact, Melich provided incorrect information to the Russian researchers about the time window in which to request an American visa. This exacerbated a known problem. This caused several of the researchers – particularly Irina Savvatimova, a specialist in LENR transmutation – to miss the visa processing window.
Melich was also involved in the 2004 effort spearheaded by McKubre and Peter Hagelstein (MIT and Naval Postgraduate School) to convince the Department of Energy to fund “cold fusion” research. The team omitted LENR transmutations from their presentation for the department, as well.
Infinite Energy, although performing a valuable service by publishing esoteric and exploratory science, is not always reliable when reporting facts. Managing editor Christy Frazier, who took over after founding editor Gene Mallove was murdered, does not follow conventional journalistic standards. When I advised her in January 2010 of multiple inaccuracies in Nagel's ICCF-15 report, she said she takes what people give her at face value and does not do her own fact-checking.
Then there are the skeptical presentations on the Iwamura/Mitsubishi transmutation claims; these presentations were delivered by Naval Research Laboratory's David Kidwell. According to numerous people at NRL, Melich was in charge of the NRL project, which allegedly attempted to replicate the Iwamura/Mitsubishi transmutation claims. By all appearances, Kidwell's presentations are attempts to discredit the Iwamura/Mitsubishi transmutation claims.
Few people realized that Melich invited Kidwell to talk, which Kidwell told me. Few people realized the significance of LENR transmutation evidence: It disproves "cold fusion." Few people knew Kidwell's attitude about LENR.
But Melich almost certainly did. On Dec. 12, 2006, at a DTRA meeting in Ft. Belvoir, Va., Kidwell made his attitude toward LENR well-known, and Melich was in the room. Witnesses at the meeting said that, when one of the LENR researchers was speaking, Kidwell's snickering and sniggering was so obvious that the speaker interrupted his talk, singled out Kidwell and admonished him publicly for his cynicism and disruption.
In 2009, at ICCF-15, Kidwell insinuated that a Mitsubishi researcher did something with tweezers to fake the Iwamura/Mitsubishi praseodymium transmutation claims. Full details are available in this NRL 2009 – The LENR Null Results Laboratory, Again article.
The Melich, NRL and LENR Trail
The unprofessional behavior of NRL researchers, directed at least in part by Melich, extends further. For several years, SPAWAR researchers have made me aware of corruption both with the distribution of research funds and with the use of NRL staff to discredit the SPAWAR group's LENR research.
In the last few years, even Melvin Miles, who is one of the most straightforward LENR researchers I know, has been targeted. However, Miles thinks that Melich has no responsibility for NRL's behavior toward LENR research.
"What these NRL people have stated about my work and the work of others in this field borders on scientific fraud," Miles wrote.
Mark LeClair, inventor, chief executive officer and founder of Nanospire, who was making claims of LENR transmutations with a cavitation-type device, told me his experience bringing his experiment down to NRL for confirmatory tests. He was led to believe by NRL researcher David Knies, in writing, that they would perform a serious evaluation of the device. LeClair provided New Energy Times with copies of those communications from NRL.
When LeClair arrived at NRL, Melich and Nagel, who are retired from NRL, were there, and it was apparent to LeClair that they had just concluded a meeting with the NRL researchers. When the party moved into the lab to start the test, none of the promised instrumentation was made available. LeClair calls it a "bait-and-switch" scam. He also explained to New Energy Times, in great detail, in a recorded interview, why he thought the experiment was rigged to fail.
Although NRL was unsupportive, LeClair is not without backers. He named a prominent Silicon Valley venture capitalist who, in a telephone meeting on Jan. 26, indicated further interest in his work. This venture capitalist has been public with his interest in LENR for several years. LeClair uses the term "fusion" carelessly in his description of his work, but this is understandable because his degrees are in mechanical engineering, not nuclear physics.
Key information that New Energy Times may be missing is facts that might indicate whether Melich was acting alone or whether, and to what extent, he was taking orders from administrators at NRL. NRL has its own motive for delaying the recognition of LENR; it has developed no expertise, credibility or recognition in the field of LENR. Meanwhile, a competing lab on the West Coast – SPAWAR – has produced some of the strongest results in the entire field. Considering that NRL has a reputation for being the premier Navy research laboratory, SPAWAR's excellent progress is a thorn in NRL's side.
In October 2008, after the ICCF-14 conference in Washington, D.C., I started publishing facts revealing that the hypothesis of D-D "cold fusion" was unsupported by the experimental evidence. Soon after, Melich began encouraging researchers in the field to use the term "Fleischmann Pons Effect," instead of "cold fusion." (See page 20 in this document.) It is simply "cold fusion" with a fresh coat of paint.
Suppression of Neutron Data
On Jan. 7, 2008, McKubre gave a talk at the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre during our India speaking tour. He said, "There are no neutrons in LENR."
Two days later, it was my turn to speak. On Jan. 9, 2008, at the National Institute for Advanced Studies on the campus of the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore, I discussed the neutron signals that McKubre's colleague Francis Tanzella reported the year before at a science conference.
After my talk, McKubre told me to stop mentioning and reporting Tanzella's neutron signals. He told me it was “bullshit.” Srinivasan was standing next to McKubre when he made the demand. However, neither McKubre nor Tanzella, to my knowledge, have ever made a formal retraction of that neutron data.
Later that year, Hagelstein was also telling people that there were no neutrons in LENR.
Neutrons, be they energetic – as SPAWAR has been reporting – or ultra-low-momentum – as Widom-Larsen are proposing – are inexplicable by Hagelstein and McKubre's "cold fusion" hypothesis.
Melich has left a very clear trail that implicates him in many of these matters. His behavior is consistent: As he has made abundantly clear in his actions and statements to researchers, the LENR research lines he favors are excess heat and helium-4, the only set of results that could even remotely confirm cold fusion. All other LENR phenomena, such as transmutation, neutrons and charged particles, have been on his blacklist, according to several researchers.
LENR researcher Larry Forsley, with JWK Systems, was aware of Melich's activities in the last few years and had had several direct conversations with Melich. A 2008 e-mail from Forsley summarizes his thoughts:
Melich is now against transmutation (hence dropping the Japanese, dropping Miley's [topical] review [of transmutation] and a meeting at [the University of Illinois]) and against neutrons (his uninvited outbursts at the DTRA meeting July 2007 with Nanos), not to mention his steering the country histories and entire ICCF-14 agenda towards heat. There is the curious affirmation of He-4 and heat, but never a discussion of energetic alpha particles whose energy IS the heat. Or perhaps Peter Hagelstein is right, and when conditions are right there are NO energetic alphas, just 24 MeV coherently transferred to the lattice with nearly stationary He-4 as the ash.
A motive for Melich to work against LENR research involving searches for neutrons, transmutations and energetic charged alphas is all too obvious: These phenomena fail to support – in fact, disprove – the hypothesis of cold fusion.
One strategy has been used for time immemorial among science competitors. It is a form of the military strategy called "false flag," in which a competitor falsely appears to want to prove, rather than disprove, a claim. I have seen this strategy used by skeptics numerous times – for example, by Scott Little of EarthTech and Seth Putterman of UCLA.
This brings us back to the anomaly of Melich's apparent support for and promotion of the Rossi-Focardi Ni-H LENR work, which is claimed to produce excess heat and heavy-element transmutation. For 21 years, Melich has been an ardent supporter of "cold fusion." He has a track record of being involved in efforts to suppress LENR transmutation.
A keen New Energy Times reader saw the potential disruption that the Rossi-Focardi work could bring to the prevailing "cold fusion" research:
If cheap and abundant nickel works with omnipresent hydrogen, then nobody – venture capitalists, government sponsors, etc. – will be so stupid as to pay for rare and precious palladium and costly deuterium; the cold fusion drama comes to a grinding halt. No more funding for the cold fusion believers, no more useless make-believe theories. Instead, the entire world wakes up to the revelation of low-cost LENR, and the old cold fusion believers are left in the dust when the LENR boom hits.
"Cold fusion" believers need the Rossi-Focardi work to be discredited and disappear, or at least delayed long enough for the D/Pd researchers to get into the Ni-H game.
Attempts to Control and Intimidate the Media
On Aug. 11, 2008, the first day of ICCF-14, a key person on the New Energy Institute team (parent organization of New Energy Times) approached me with a request. He told me that Nagel and Melich had complained to him and were upset that I was being critical of how they were handling certain aspects of the conference. The person asked me for a favor: "Could you please back off, just until the conference is over?" I agreed.
Two days later, I received a stronger message, delivered by Leona Neighbor, a cold fusion fan whom I knew and who was attending the conference.
"Some important people in the field want you to stop making trouble," Neighbor said. "They want you to keep your opinions to yourself and just report the facts. They want you to know that, if you continue digging, your reputation might be harmed and that they might go to the people who fund you and try to get your funding terminated. Also, if you continue on the path you are on, it might become harder for you to do your job, harder to get interviews and sources to talk to you."
(Photo credit unknown)
I told Neighbor that I report the facts and that, in my blog and my editorials, I do express my opinions based on the available facts. I told Neighbor that, if these people want to contribute a guest editorial or write a letter, I will publish it.
Her use of the word "path" was familiar. Since I began to report on the Widom-Larsen "not fusion" theory on Nov. 10, 2005, cold fusion believer Edmund Storms, who is a disgruntled former employee of Larsen's, had admonished me about being on the "wrong path."
These Americans, Neighbor told me, did not want her to tell me who they were. In a later phone call with Neighbor, legally recorded with her consent, she confirmed the threat.
She also identified three of the sources: one by name – Michael McKubre – and two other people by their unique characteristics. She was afraid to say the name of the second person on the recorded call.
"You're trying to play a game with someone who is a master at the game," Neighbor said. "I am not a master at the game. This person is. I don't want to have anything to do with this person."
Here are two excerpts from the Aug. 22, 2008, recording: Neighbor-DAug222008-T341.mp3, Neighbor-DAug222008-T1613.mp3.
Neighbor’s apparent fear of the second person reflected a sentiment that I have heard from a number of people in the field about Melich. This includes researchers in Russia as well as LENR transmutation researcher Alf Thompson, a Bahamian citizen who died Nov. 17, 2010, from an apparent heart attack at 57.
On April 28, 2010, Thompson told me that Melich wanted him to submit his LENR transmutation experiment to a lab Melich was working with at the University of Missouri. Thompson was hesitant to decline Melich's offer.
"He could make things difficult for me," Thompson said. "I need my visa so I can travel freely from my home in the Bahamas to Sarasota."
Thompson was a principal in the company Biolife, based in Sarasota, Florida.
Returning to the Aug., 2008 incident - through Neighbor, I sent a message back to these people that I would not comply with their strong-arm tactics.
Just a few weeks earlier, on June 19, Storms had sent me an e-mail and discouraged me from reporting some of the truths of LENR research.
'You need to be more careful in how you reveal the truth about the field," Storms wrote. "Eventually, the field will be big enough and so well-accepted that a little plainly spoken truth would not cause you any problem.'"
However, New Energy Times reports as much of the truth as we can, as quickly as we can.
The following year, on Feb. 19, 2009, Hagelstein began an aggressive series of communications with me, my board and one of our sponsors in response to a video documentary that I published on the Internet about the LENR research by John Dash and his students. Dash told me he was thrilled with it. Dash is also very interested in LENR transmutations.
Hagelstein's complaints were sufficient to cause the sponsor, who rarely intercedes in editorial matters at New Energy Times, to contact me.
"[Hagelstein] is upset about you putting a film on your Web site showing some interviews at the ICCF-10 in Cambridge from a few years ago. Some of the people did not want it shown. It was confidential or something," the sponsor wrote.
After I explained the situation and reassured the sponsor, Hagelstein went another route. He sent an e-mail to one of my directors, Thomas Dolan.
"I would like to arrange a conference call with you, myself, Mike McKubre and Mike Melich to discuss ethics and people's experiences in recent times in dealing with New Energy Times and what to do about it," Hagelstein wrote.
Dolan declined to participate.
Hagelstein's efforts continued. After another volley of e-mails and phone calls from Hagelstein to me and the chairman of my board of directors, we decided on a response. We wrote the following to Hagelstein, copied to McKubre, Melich, Dash and the sponsor on Feb. 26, 2009.
"Although we have received no direct request from you to remove the Dash video, we have no desire to create any concern for you," I wrote. "We have therefore removed the video from the Internet as of Feb. 26, 2009, 12:50 p.m."
Hagelstein's response confirmed that, for reasons we still do not understand, what he really wanted was for us to remove the Dash video from the Internet.
"I can't see any reason not to consider the matter done with," Hagelstein wrote. "Please convey my personal thanks and appreciation to all involved in helping to resolve this!"
The same day, I received an e-mail from McKubre that appeared to be a warning to me. It contained suggestive language: "bones of my enemies" and "pierce the dragon and make sure this never happens again."
When I reported this to the San Rafael Police Department, they filed the report under felony code "Threaten Crime w/Int to Terror-F." The officer contacted McKubre, who told the officer that he had only been joking and that he had accidentally sent the e-mail to me. Nothing in the e-mail appeared humorous. The officer did not appear to notice that the two explanations given by McKubre contradicted each other.
The intimidation attempts did not, however, deter me from investigating McKubre's experiment M4, which had been heralded as the best evidence for "cold fusion." I exposed numerous unscientific changes McKubre made with experiment M4, though I had not planned to do so. In December 2009, I had been given a paper to review that referenced experiment M4. As a reviewer, I was responsible for verifying its accuracy. During my fact-checking, I discovered the string of unscientific changes McKubre made.
After New Energy Times published the investigation of M4, we provided McKubre with the opportunity to publish an unlimited-length, unedited response in New Energy Times. Our offer to McKubre is an aspect of investigative journalism that helps keep media honest, accurate and responsible. McKubre failed to respond to our offer.
Instead, he tried to arrange a private meeting with our board of directors to discuss my professionalism. The board advised McKubre that, if he has anything to say about what was published in New Energy Times, he should respond to New Energy Times. He has not.
And if Melich wants to respond to this article, New Energy Times makes him the same offer: We will publish from him an unlimited-length, unedited response.
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