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,” http://arxiv.org/abs/1305.3913 ).
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.
In 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.