All posts by Brad Arnold

Brad Arnold is a National Master at Chess and member of Mensa. He cares for three Doberman Pinchers, the legal limit in the Twin Cities, where he also attends University of Minnesota. Brad writes about technology with the view that LENR will drive innovative business opportunities that offer solutions to exponentially improve our lives. Contact Brad.

Cold Fusion and Skeptopathy

Web definitions
Pathological skepticism; an irrational belief that a phenomenon must be false merely because it is unusual.

There is no better example of skeptopathy doing great harm to humanity than the history of cold fusion. Everyone is probably familiar with Fleischmann and Pons’ claim that they had discovered a nuclear reaction that occurs at (or near) room temperature, compared with temperatures in the millions of degrees that is required for hot fusion. Furthermore, I bet everyone is also under the impression that their claim had been discredited – wrong! Pons and Fleischmann never retracted their claim, but moved their research program to France after the controversy erupted. [1]

“I would sooner believe that two Yankee professors lied, than that stones fell from the sky” – Thomas Jefferson, 1807 on hearing an eyewitness report of falling meteorites.

In March of 1989 Stanley Pons and Martin Fleischmann introduced us to a new field of science called “Cold Fusion.” It appeared to contradict prevailing nuclear fusion theory. Nuclear reactions at room temperature were generally unheard of before Fleischmann and Pons (although they are not unheard of today – for instance crystal-piezo and acoustic inertial confinement fusion). The scientist’s claims were viewed as inconceivable and impossible, and they were accused of making reckless unsupported unscientific claims. Furthermore, they were shamed for discussing their claims in a press conference before their paper’s publication. [2]

“The more important fundamental laws and facts of physical science have all been discovered, and these are now so firmly established that the possibility of their ever being supplanted in consequence of new discoveries is exceedingly remote…. Our future discoveries must be looked for in the sixth place of decimals.” – physicist Albert. A. Michelson, 1894

Belief in the validity of Fleischmann and Pons’ claim ought to have been based solely upon the repeatability of their experiments. Unfortunately, scientific investigation is conducted by men who are prejudiced by their belief system, economics, and politics. Fleischmann and Pons’ claim was hard to believe, was a direct threat to hot fusion research, and it upset the status quo in many ways, so many people were upset. Furthermore, their experiments were difficult to replicate, and the effect called “cold fusion” turned out not to be the same as what we refer to as “hot fusion.” The stage was set for scientists, the media, and laymen to exercise pathological skepticism and prematurely label it a hoax rather than give Pons and Fleishchmann the benefit of the doubt that the effect was real. As a result of cold fusion being discredited few scientists dare work in this area of research for fear of being labeled crazy by their colleagues, and being starved of research funds. [1]

“All a trick.” “A Mere Mountebank.” “Absolute swindler.” “Doesn’t know what he’s about.” “What’s the good of it?” “What useful purpose will it serve?” – Members of Britain’s Royal Society, 1926, after a demonstration of television.

“The probably better experimental work…has been carried out in Siena since the Early Nineties, by a group of physicists composed by Sergio Focardi (University of Bologna), Francesco Piantelli (University of Siena), Roberto Habel (University of Cagliari), but it did not lead to a system capable of generation useful amounts of excess energy for normal industrial or domestic applications. In Siena, in fact, the three scientists – using hydrogen and nickel as the only “ingredients” of the reaction, plus an appropriate amount of heat supplied to the system – manage to get out a double thermal energy than the electrical energy provided in input. Obviously, if there were no some “unknown” reactions to produce this little but detectable result, you would get a lower thermal energy, due to the significant losses that you always have turning a form of energy into another.” [3]

On April 30, 1989, cold fusion was declared dead by the New York Times. The Times of London called it a circus that same day, and the Boston Herald attacked cold fusion the day after. Douglas R. O. Morrison, a physicist representing CERN, was the first to call the Pons and Fleischmann episode an example of pathological science. Scientific papers concerning cold fusion were then turned down for publication in peer reviewed journals. [1] Even though almost everyone in America “knows” that cold fusion has been “debunked,” is a “hoax,” and is “pathological science,” those scientists in Italy were getting DOUBLE the energy return using this effect. One would think that such news would have changed minds in the scientific community, but it did not.

“The energy produced by the atom is a very poor kind of thing. Anyone who expects a source of power from the transformation of these atoms is talking moonshine” – Ernst Rutherford, 1933

Fast forward to today. The International Conference on Condensed Matter Nuclear Science, (ICCF) has just wrapped up at the University of Missouri. Scientists from around the world reported on their “cold fusion” progress (the exothermic reaction is called by various names). [4] It is no longer a valid scientific question if cold fusion is legitimate, but only what is the scientific theory behind the effect. [5] For some it is still hard to believe because science can’t yet explain how it works, even though mankind used fire for tens of thousands of years before being able to explain how it works. A third-party verification report was recently published of a product that will hit the market this year, showcasing a cold fusion cell that was hot enough to create dry steam (which is necessary to generate electricity). The results show that energy density (i.e. the amount of energy by weight) was 5 orders of magnitude (tens of thousands of times) over that of fossil fuel. [6] That inventor has said that the time for words is over, and the proof will be when a cold fusion product is introduced to the market. If that is the case, then we won’t have to wait long for proof.

To wrap up, the history of cold fusion is a checkered one. It is an unusual phenomenon, and as such is open season for skeptopathy. I have talked to many people about the subject, and while a few strongly suggest that cold fusion is pathological science (based upon Wikipedia entries or Pons and Fleischmann’s treatment in the media), the vast majority are simply convinced that it will never emerge because powerful fossil fuel interests will bury it before it reaches the market. In other words, most people exhibit skeptopathy of a different form: they have heard rumors of revolutionary energy technologies before, but haven’t seen them emerge onto the market, and therefore irrationally believe cold fusion will never reach the market. Unfortunately, skeptopathy has done a number on cold fusion research and development because unless investors believe their investment will pay off, they are very hesitant to fund it.

Ironically, for those who still exhibit (what I would define as) skeptopathy toward cold fusion, you can read this paper that I wrote on the subject:


“Cold Fusion,” Wikipedia. 2. Krivit, S. “The Mistakes of Pons and Fleischmann and Why Their Discovery Was Initially Thought to Be a Mistake” New Energy Times, March 23, 2007. 3. Menichella, M. “Secret of E-Cat” pages 13-14, Consulente Energia Publisher, 2011, Pdf format. 4. “ICCF – 18 Day 5: Presentations and Awards,” Ruby Carat, Cold Fusion Now!, July 25, 2013. 5. “NASA Confirms Conclusive Evidence for LENR,” Hot & Cold Fusion, March 31, 2013. 6. “Indication of anomalous heat energy production in a reactor device,” Cornell University Library, June 7, 2013.

Is the Crop Formation that appeared in Northern Italy related to LENR developments?

A large wheat formation was reported June 30, 2013 in Italy, east of Turin. Here is how it was reported on an Italian website:

From (article)

Crop Circles in Robertsbridge.
Work of a joker or alien hand?

Italian Crop Circle2Big surprise Sunday morning when you wake up the citizens of Robertsbridge. In a field of wheat in the valley, in the vicinity of the former highway, appeared different geometric designs, concentric circles into triangles and strings that will conjoined. All perfect and developed over several square meters. Resurface therefore the most varied conjecture on so-called “crop circle”, the “crop circles”: the alien hand to that of some bontempone which has a half-plane to descend, “draw” and leave without a trace. Among the first to be alerted Mayor Joseph Turino who called the owner of the land and then went in person, on a hill, to see the work in the valley. But not unbalanced in manifesting his explanation to this phenomenon.

(view picture)

The speculation is the binary 8-bit ASCII code means the four chemical elements potassium K, hydrogen H, deuterium D, and sulfur S. (follow cropcircleconnector comments)


This author and the Coldfusionnow! website hasn’t got an opinion on the subject – what do you think?


The Experimental Investigation of the E-Cat HT, and Heuristics

Heuristic: relating to the general strategies or methods for solving problems

Recently an experimental investigation of possible anomalous heat production in a special type of reactor tube named E-Cat HT was carried out and published (“Indication of anomalous heat production in a reactor device containing hydrogen loaded nickel powder,” ).

Data was collected in two experimental runs lasting 96 and 116 hours respectively, and anomalous heat production was indicated in both experiments. Computed volumetric and gravimetric energy densities were found to be far above those of known any chemical source. Even by the most conservative assumptions as to the errors in the measurements, the result is still one order of magnitude greater than conventional energy sources.

Pretty strong words, this “sanity test” seems to have pretty conclusively proven that the E-Cat HT is everything Rossi has claimed. On the other hand, looking at the comments on various web articles on the subject, it hasn’t seemed to convince the “skeptics.” Why?

Apparently, the strongest criticism is that the tests were not independent, that the reactor was built by, controlled, and was ran in Rossi’s lab. Furthermore, since Rossi has told lies in the past, according to some critics, he can’t be trusted now. Finally, big claims need overwhelming evidence, which this investigation didn’t provide.

Hot Cat reactor coreIn the first of the two runs, a energy density of around 5 orders of magnitude was calculated, as well as a COP of nearly 6, which would make this tested device revolutionary. Many well respected scientists participated in this investigation. The methodology was straightforward, and even the second run demonstrated results far above those of any chemical reaction. Again, why aren’t the “skeptics” convinced?

A heuristic is a mental shortcut that allows people to solve problems and make judgments quickly and efficiently. These rule-of-thumb strategies shorten decision-making time and allow people to function without constantly stopping to think about the next course of action. While heuristics are helpful in many situations, they can also lead to biases.

Examples of faulty heuristics are “mental filter” (focusing on the negative detail and ignoring the big picture), “confirmation bias” (accepting only information that agrees with our conclusion), “emotional reasoning” (believing something because it feels true, ignoring contradictory evidence),“disqualifying the positive” (looking at only the negative information we have), “over-generalization” (drawing huge conclusions that don’t fit the evidence), “all-or-nothing” (seeing only the extremes in a situation), and “tunnel vision” (failing to see any positives in a situation).

Distorted thinking is recognized by its characteristics: narrow, resistant to change, biased toward negativity, and often irrational.

It is my premise that those “skeptics” that continue to believe that Rossi is a fraud, and discount the above investigative report, suffer from distorted thinking caused by faulty heuristics. I referred earlier to the investigative report as a “sanity test.” What I mean is that the experimental investigation was aimed at only confirming or denying if anomalous heat was produced by the E-Cat HT.

When “skeptics” claim that the tests weren’t independent, I believe they were using the mental filter faulty heuristic by focusing on the negative detail, and ignoring the big picture. No doubt the experimental investigation could have been more independent, but short of outright blatant fraud, the results prove that anomalous heat could not be explained by simply a chemical exothermic reaction.

Furthermore, if the “skeptics” are claiming outright fraud, especially given the credibility of the scientists participating in the experimental investigation, then I believe they are using the confirmation bias, and emotional reasoning faulty heuristics of accepting only information that agrees with their conclusion, and believing something is false because it feels false and ignoring the contradictory evidence.

When some “skeptics” say that Rossi has told lies in the past and therefore can’t be trusted now, so we ought not trust the experimental investigation, I believe they are using the disqualifying the positive, and over generalization faulty heuristics of looking only at the negative information that we have, and drawing huge conclusions that aren’t justified by the evidence.

Finally, when some “skeptics” say that big claims need overwhelming evidence which this investigation didn’t provide, I believe that they are using the all-or-nothing, and tunnel vision faulty heuristics of seeing only the extremes, and failing to see any positives in the situation.

In other words, I see those “skeptics” as having distorted thinking. In other words, their demonstrated skepticism is irrational. That is not to say that skepticism in general is irrational, quite the contrary. Skepticism is healthy, but is often cited to justify undue skepticism, which is distorted, narrow, and biased toward negativity.

To summarize, the recent experimental investigation of the E-Cat HT pretty conclusively proved that anomalous heat was produced that can’t be explained by any conventional energy source. Furthermore, this report didn’t satisfy the “skeptics.” My belief is that the reason those “skeptics” were swayed is that they are using faulty heuristics resulting in bias against the clearly logical conclusion that the E-Cat HT is everything that Rossi said it was. It is certainly true that those “skeptics” will view my paper as indulging in name calling, and my criticism of their heuristics as faulty. We’ll just have to agree to disagree. As Rossi has said, the time for talk is over, and the market will be the final arbitrator.

That is why this experimental investigation is so significant: it wasn’t conducted on some experimental device, it was validating a product that Leonardo Corporation will be selling in the very near future.