Tuesday, March 04, 2008

How likely is cold fusion?

How likely do people think it is that cold fusion is a real phenomenon? Based on how likely people view cold fusion it can be used to decide whether to spend time/money/effort investigating it.
The Fx prediction market has a bet
“Cold fusion of deuterium in palladium can produce over 10 watts/cc. net power at STP (standard temperature and pressure). Cold fusion is discussed on the fusion newsgroup.”


The judging of this statement could be quite difficult due to ambiguities. However the statement is currently thought to have a 12% likelihood of being true. This means there is about a 1/8 chance that cold fusion is a real phenomenon according to the market. I believe that if people really believed cold fusion was this likely more mainstream research would be studying it. The market could be inaccurate in that
1. The question and judging of it are viewed as too ambiguous to trust.
2. Because real money is not used in this market the market is distorted by irrational bettors.

One problem with the field is that it has attracted cranks and conspiracy theorists. This now makes it difficult for a legitimate researcher to look into the area. The 12% figure could be accurate and some grand conspiracy against cold fusion exists. It is a feature of conspiracy theories that this hypothesis is likely to be supported by believers in such a conspiracy even though other explanations may be more accurate. Another possibility is that the 12% figure is accurate but that researchers fear being dismissed as cranks if they research the area.

Imagine the case where the market was overly optimistic and it used real money. A researcher with evidence against cold fusion could bet heavily against it. Then she would publish a result that showed it to be less likely. When the value of her bet (idea futures) increased she could then sell her “no cold fusion” bet and make a profit. As shown in this post people who provide evidence against conspiracy theories are frequently the subject to abuse.

So how likely do you think cold fusion is?

7 comments:

Jed said...

Cold fusion cannot be confirmed by a popularity context, or by politics, and not even by asking experts. There is only one way to confirm that it exists: by experiment. If the instruments repeatedly show excess heat, tritium, transmutations and other nuclear signatures at high signal to noise ratios, and if these experiments are replicated in many different laboratories, then cold fusion exists. Objective, replicated instrument readings are the one and only standard of truth in experimental science.

Cold fusion has been replicated at high signal to noise ratios in over 200 world-class laboratories such as Los Alamos, BARC, Amoco and Mitsubishi. These replications have been published in about a thousand papers in mainstream, peer-reviewed journals of physics and chemistry. That is a matter of fact: you can look up the papers in any university library.

The instruments and techniques used in these experiments are conventional and well understood, and based on long-established principles such as the laws of thermodynamics. The results are, in many cases, unequivocal. For example, x-ray film from BARC shows 10E7 more tritium atoms than conventional fusion would produce. See:

http://lenr-canr.org/Experiments.htm#AutoradiographsMSrinivasan

Most of the researchers are distinguished professors and experts. The likelihood that every member of this group of approximately 2000 researchers has made a mistake, or that they are all engaged in fraud, is so small it is virtually zero. If 2000 researchers could be mistaken on this scale, then the experimental method itself would not work, and the human race would still be living in trees.

Even if all experimental results are eventually forgotten, and all scientists mistakenly come to believe that cold fusion does not exist, it still does exist. The issue has been settled by experiment, far beyond any rational doubt.

You will find a bibliography of over 3,000 papers and the full text from over 500 papers here:

http://lenr-canr.org

- Jed Rothwell
Librarian, LENR-CANR.org

Jed said...

By the way, this statement is misleading:

"One problem with the field is that it has attracted cranks and conspiracy theorists. This now makes it difficult for a legitimate researcher to look into the area."

Cold fusion does attract some cranks and conspiracy theorists. However, I have worked with hundreds of cold fusion researchers and they are all legitimate, mainstream scientists at major institutions. (I would not include them the database otherwise.) I have also communicated with many leading members of the opposition. I know of absolutely no evidence that they are engaged in a conspiracy. Frankly, that seems absurd to me; these people could not conspire their way out of a paper bag. Their problem is that they have not read any papers, they know nothing about the research, and their assertions about it are not in evidence. See:

http://lenr-canr.org/News.htm#SciAmSlam

It is difficult to get funding for cold fusion research because there is intense opposition to it by academic rivals. However it is not difficult for "a legitimate researcher to look into" cold fusion. I assume "look into" means: "learn about the research by reading original source scientific papers." As I said, you can do this at a university library or at our web site.

- Jed Rothwell
Librarian, LENR-CANR.org

David Curran said...

Thanks Jed for the informative posts.

Many people have talked about the difficulty researching cold fusion Dr. David Goodstein said "Cold Fusion is a pariah field, cast out by the scientific establishment.“

It is true that if everyone in the world thinks the world is flat it is still not. The only standard of truth is experimental science. However prediction markets do provide scientists with publicity, understandability and money. All these are useful.

Jed said...

David Curran wrote:

"Many people have talked about the difficulty researching cold fusion Dr. David Goodstein said 'Cold Fusion is a pariah field, cast out by the scientific establishment.'"

Yes. He wrote that here:

http://lenr-canr.org/acrobat/GoodsteinDwhateverha.pdf

I am the librarian so I should not take sides, but I quibble with him. He is right in one sense but wrong in another.

Opponents try to portray cold fusion as a pariah field. They have persecuted many researchers, by firing them, ridiculing them, and calling them criminals and lunatics in the Washington Post, for example. Julian Schwinger resigned from the APS to protest this treatment, and he wrote:

"The pressure for conformity is enormous. I have experienced it in editors rejection of submitted papers, based on venomous criticism of anonymous referees. The replacement of impartial reviewing by censorship will be the death of science."

http://lenr-canr.org/acrobat/SchwingerJcoldfusiona.pdf

In that sense, cold fusion is the most pariah, most persecuted field in modern history.

On the other hand, the researchers themselves are mainly rock-solid, distinguished, establishment scientists. They have to be! Only a tenured, politically powerful professor with independent funding can do the research in the first place. The authors in our library include, for example, two Nobel laureates, the Director of the Max Planck Institute for Physical Chemistry in Berlin; the director of BARC and later became the chairman of the Indian Atomic Energy Commission; three editors of major plasma fusion and physics journals, a Distinguished Fellow of China Lake, Distinguished Professor at TAMU, and dozens of others like that. Fleischmann himself is the past President of the Electrochemical Society and Fellow of the Royal Society. These people are not in the lunatic fringe, but opponents always portray them as "a cult of fervent half-wits" who ". . . pursue cold fusion with Branch Davidian intensity." (APS Science Policy Administrator, in New Scientist)


"It is true that if everyone in the world thinks the world is flat it is still not. The only standard of truth is experimental science."

In the case of cold fusion, many experiments are fairly easy to understand, and the results are unequivocal. It may never be accepted because of political opposition, but the experimental evidence is a slam dunk (as Mr. Tenet put it). To bet against it is to bet that the laws of thermodynamics will be overturned, and someone will discover that x-ray film doesn’t detect x-rays. (I mean it literally: to disprove the experiments you would have to toss out most textbook physics and chemistry dating back to 1820.)

I suppose this bet is really about human nature, not physics. Will people recognize the results? Will the skeptics stop yapping and read a paper? The actual challenge: "Cold fusion of deuterium in palladium can produce over 10 watts/cc. net power at STP (standard temperature and pressure)" is absurd. By the mid-1990s, that performance was exceeded at SRI, Los Alamos, China Lake and dozens of other labs. This is like betting that man will reach the moon by 2015. For example, here is a paper from China Lake describing 14 and 15 W/cc output:

http://lenr-canr.org/acrobat/MilesManomalousea.pdf

And here is one from Toyota describing 101 W from 0.6 cm3 (168 W/cc), in a reaction that continued for 158 days:

http://lenr-canr.org/acrobat/RouletteTresultsofi.pdf

Would you bet that Toyota researchers using the best equipment money can buy cannot measure 101 W of heat? Does anyone want to bet that after 12 years, the skeptics will suddenly find errors in these experiments? They have never found any error in any major paper! They have not even tried. Most of them, such as the editor of Sci. Am., boast that they have not read any papers. Skeptics have published no more than a dozen peer-reviewed papers that attempt to refute these experiments. These papers have no merit in my opinion. (We have most of them at LENR-CANR; we are the world’s largest anti-cold fusion library.)


"However prediction markets do provide scientists with publicity, understandability and money. All these are useful."

I am not familiar with prediction markets. But all of the cold fusion researchers I know are fuddy-duddy professors in their 70s and 80s who only accept funding from national agencies and the like. (Actually, most of them are retired or deceased.) They are used to having their way and getting their research funded from sources such as the Navy or the NSF. They were astounded and bewildered when they found themselves pilloried in the Washington Post instead. Only Fleischmann predicted this outcome, because he has had a tough life and he is well acquainted with the worst of human nature.

It is a complicated situation. Pariah and yet not pariah at the same time. All in all, I am not optimistic about the outcome. I would not bet in a "prediction market" that people will grow wiser. Cold fusion will probably be forgotten if they do not. Then again, I have devoted many years to editing and translating papers in a quixotic attempt to promote the research, so in that sense I have already placed a bet despite my pessimism.

- Jed Rothwell
Librarian, LENR-CANR.org

steve said...

I think we need to continue the research.I recently discovered a company called Energetics Technologies. They have a process called SuperWaveFusion, which could be a possible breakthrough in cold fusion. The use of SuperWaves in the loading stage creates reported levels of excess heat that have never been obtained before. I am trying to learn more about this process and would like to hear from others about what they think. Their website is www.superwavefusion.com. Let me know your thoughts.

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