bumper stickers

Do you have a coldfusionnow.org bumper sticker on your car?

I do. And I believe that having bumper stickers on your car which refer to something you believe in helps you be a more conscientious driver, not necessarily a better driver, but a more conscientious driver, aware that you and thus your cause is making a good impression, (or a bad impression), dependent on how your driving is.  The world sometimes seems a little more rude, less aware these days, all those drivers on their cell phones.  A few cheerful bumper stickers, however, can brighten someone’s day.

My Cold Fusion Now sticker reads, “This isn’t the nuclear power your mother told you about.  www.coldfusionnow.org”.

With a second bumper sticker, one can start of with a little dialectic, play the two off each other, make the driver behind wonder what, say, your favorite political candidates or gun rights, or organic collectives have to do with cold fusion. Cold Fusion Now and Trout Unlimited would be a good combination. Think of it, with cold fusion we would need fewer hydro-electric dams: salmon runs would be restored, hot damn!

There are other strategies, one can work with multiple different bumper stickers either on the same theme or different ones.  Emphasize different nuances of a topic, or just make them wonder.  There are also the “fish wars” of the Jesus fish, the Darwin fish and so on.  “My child is an honor’s student,” may be of little importance except to the parents and the child, but without that bumper sticker we wouldn’t get the ones saying “my Jack Russell Terrier is smarter than your honor’ student.”  It is a little rude, and _probably_ not true, but it is legitimate commentary towards the bragging of the parents of the honor’s student.

Bumper stickers are best when they subtly tweak the nose of society.  Vulgar bumper stickers should be avoided, but fortunately the nanny-state has not gotten to legislating them yet, unlike trans-fats, sugary drinks and cigarettes.  In this small manner of free expression, individuals get to decide, for better or worse, what goes.

The ones that I like the most right now are the stickers representing the members of the family, as zombies.

And if you have more than five bumper stickers (not counting repeats of different kinds on the same themes), and an old car, then the question arises whether the bumper stickers are bumper stickers, or whether they are rust bandages. If you have an old rusted car, they transform into a variant of the handyman’s secret weapon, duct tape.

Bumper stickers can bring a smile to a stranger’s face, let them realize that there is something new out there, even if it is very old (a friend has a bumper sticker for his church, 2000 years of Orthodox Christianity).  A good bumper sticker is new at least in its form (I bet you didn’t know Orthodox Christians had bumper stickers).

And it can nudge the viewer a little into a new direction, possibly even spurring them to check out something new and integrating it into their life.  We need more people to think good thoughts about cold fusion, even if it is just to know we are out here and working towards a better future.

And who knows, maybe our angel of cold fusion (if she is not too busy already), will have some cold fusion stickers by Christmas, for all the boys and girls.

Health care and cold fusion

I would like to pose a question. Will the implementation of Obamacare have a positive effect for the development of cold fusion, a negative effect, or a negligible effect?

I have been reading the Daedalus issue on ‘the alternative energy future, vol 1,’ (no mention of cold fusion so far:-(   ), and one thing that it goes into is that we do not pay the true cost of an fossil fuels economy.  It divides costs into two categories, private costs and external costs.  Private costs are the costs to fill up the car, or to heat or, especially now, air condition our homes.  External costs are the costs to the standard of living and to the economy primarily from pollution, or other ecological effects (I would include bat kills from windmills).  The intermittent nature of wind and solar also is effectively an external cost, making those options less economical.

True costs are basically private (or overt) costs plus external (or implicit) costs.  The Daedalus issue says that in order for alternative energy to be more competitive, we need to assess the costs more fairly.  That is the case for renewables, and it is also the case for cold fusion.  Cold fusion is further away than renewables, but a better understanding of the costs of a fossil fuel economy but also of renewables, will make a better case for cold fusion.  Pollution is a cost, but so far its effects have been externalized, charged to individual suffering from ailments instead of being included in the calculation.

If the government takes an active hand in healthcare, then all of a sudden the external costs from pollution suddenly become a great concern.  Health care costs are growing, but one way a government can limit its expenditures in this area is by tackling sources of pollution.  This is, from my limited understanding, some of the thinking over in Europe.  Pollution becomes very much a public concern through healthcare.  Healthcare could add a whole new dynamic to the energy equation, making expenses reflect true costs.

But I am not sure whether that will be how Obamacare will work.  Will there be that kind of overt need for the government to limit costs, or does the individual mandate obscure the issue.  Will that dynamic occur, or for that dynamic is a single payer system necessary?  Therefore, I ask myself will Obamacare have a positive, a negative or a negligible effect on cold fusion?

But the reason why I bring it up, is to show how something as different as healthcare might cause a domino to fall, starting a chain reaction which will lead to greater attention to cold fusion.  Ultimately, everything in the world is related, its just a matter of how we can best make the connections.


regarding bureaucracy

Part of frustration of cold fusion advocates is due to various bureaucracies or rather, the reaction of various bureaucracies to the claims of cold fusion. Therefore, I think it would interesting to note what a bureaucracy is, so that people can understand how bureaucracies work (or don’t work), and thereby how to engage with them more successfully.

A bureaucracy is a means of determining how resources, particularly economic and personnel, are delegated for non-economic values.   This is in contrast to a free market economy, which determines according to the market, how resources are distributed.  Most of what we have is a mixed economy, utilizing to some extent the free market, but also through regulation and other forms of government intervention, introducing non-economic values as well.

Probably the best known example of a bureaucracy that everyone knows a little about is a police department.  A police department is part of bureaucracy that determines justice in a practical manner.  A police department enforces the law (as opposed to the whims of a monarch or tyrant), but it does so with restrictions.  These restrictions not only apply to the manner in which the police department goes about its investigations, both in terms of focus and method, but also they apply to the limits to which the police department is willing (resource-wise) to go in their efforts solving a crime.

Forensic evidence specialists are not employed for simple burgleries.  The department may go into overdrive to catch a child abductor, but not a pick pocket.  We may think of justice as absolute, but in practice, there are relative levels of justice.  Resources are rationed and used according to legal and humanitarian priorities.  Anyone who has faced a simple break-in, is made aware that while there is much the police department could do (forensics), there is little that the police department will do, and given their limitations, that really is how it should be.  The motto is “to serve and protect,” but that is the attitude towards society as a whole, not necessarily toward the individual.

The police department is restricted in its focus to enforcement of the law as written up in statutes and through precedent, it also is restricted in the manner it does so through Miranda laws, search and seizure laws and other codes of police conduct, and on a more abstract level it is restricted by codes of ethics and a long tradition.  Most bureaucracies have that layering of rules that deal with others (external), with themselves (internal) and have a implicit or explicit code of ethics and a tradition.  The proper leader for a bureaucracy is not someone who is brilliant and innovative (although they may be brilliant in a fashion), but is someone who is steeped in that long tradition and therefore, can make incremental changes in it, changing it, but keeping the organization in line with tradition.  For a bureaucracy, change in itself is not a virtue, but rather is a normal process which is is only adopted when necessity calls for it.  Necessity is dictated by the internal rules of the organization, not by public need, although that in time can come to influence the organization as well.

The proper role of the police department, and indeed, in any bureaucracy,  is not in promoting innovation, but rather in providing a stable steady state coherent with the values in which people can get on with their lives.  The burden of proof for new ideas is on whether the bureaucracy’s criteria for introduction into its system, has been met.  For familiar situations, the rank and file can make a decision, for unfamiliar situations, if a decision is problematic, then it needs to go up the ladder, perhaps all the way to the top of the bureaucracy, or to an oversight commission.

The head of bureaucracy is naturally a very conservative individual.  By that I do not mean politically conservative, but rather they are an individual who has grown up through that bureaucracy, been steeped in its values, and shaped by its evolution.  A union representative is an example of someone who is probably more politically on the left, but quite conservative by virtue of the tradition and values of their organization.  The goal of a bureaucratic leader is to make changes where change is necessary, keeping in mind the philosophy of ‘if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it,’ and ‘if you do not understand why something is there, then leave it alone,’ as opposed to the radical reformer who believes that ‘if you do not understand why something is there, then get rid of it, trim it away.’  This conservative attitude of leaving it alone avoids cutting away at the structure of the bureaucracy too freely and having unintended consequences come up and bite one on the back side.

All throughout bureaucracies, there is a cost/benefit analysis that occurs.  In a specific case, whether an expenditure is warranted as a means to achieve organizational goals depends on a cost/benefit analysis.  Again, this analysis is not so much in terms of what society wants, needs or deserves, but in terms of the societal values made concrete in the organization.  This is necessary in order inhibit undue influence on the process.  The criminal should not determine the law, even though he does have the most active interest in it.  Nor does the student determine the educational system, nor for their respective fields the employer, nor miner, nor the welfare recipient.  The scientist may be the greatest scientist alive in his field, but he still has to convince professional organizations, publications and the general public of that fact.  That is how a bureaucratic system works, ideally.

Realistically, the bureaucratic system not only says who is in, it also says who is out.  Bureaucrats are gatekeepers as well, they have opinions about the worthiness or the worthlessness of people at their gate.  It should be that they view anyone who has not gained entry in a neutral fashion.  Those inside are, by virtue of having gotten inside, a “plus,” and those outside should be a “zero,” neither plus nor minus.

Truth be told though, some people are able to get in through the backdoor, a student of an esteemed professor (especially one reviewing for a publication) is able to get in more easily.   Some individuals are favored because they have good credentials in something entirely unrelated.  The Sokal affair illustrates this nicely, where a physicist got something accepted in a postmodern journal, and then after it was published, denounced his own work as physics/postmodern technobabble crap.  He showed by his actions that he should not have been let in (and that was his goal achieved by showing that his former submission was crap).

On the flip side, there are some people that just don’t look right.  They don’t met pre-conceived notions about what science or a scientist is, they don’t know or care to play the bureaucrat’s game, and frankly, the bureaucrat is not interested in playing their game either.  The bureaucrat knows that if he gives someone the benefit of the doubt, it can come back and bite him when things go wrong.  On the other hand, if he excludes a good idea or article, or whatnot, it won’t cost him and it will come back eventually in some other form.  After isn’t that what progress says?  For a commercial entity, there is a profit motive to spur them on.  On the other hand, it is in the bureaucrat’s best interests to be a stern gate keeper.  At worst maintaining the status quo becomes its own reward.  The bureaucrat becomes set in maintaining his own niche which if we look at the thing from an “environmental” perspective, maintaining one’s niche is not necessarily all that bad.

Much of this essay is influenced by the thought of Ludwig Von Mises, ‘On Bureaucracy’  Von Mises was an Austrian economist who (unlike Keynes) foresaw the great depression.

Types of ignorance

I am going to talk about ignorance, so that in the process of doing so, we will all become a little less ignorant of ignorance;)

One might say that there are three types of ignorance. Ordinary ignorace which is the ignorance of not knowing something.  Ordinary ignorance can be answered with ordinary knowledge.  This knowledge is factual and except in particular circumstances, usually trivial.  By trivial, I mean that it is one thing to passively know something, it is another to turn that knowledge into action.  Ordinary knowledge gives an answer for ordinary ignorance, what it does not do is give a heuristic with which individuals can discover things by themselves.

Galileo's telescope
Galileo's telescope 1609

Willful ignorance is “a paradoxical condition in which we are aware there is something we do not know, but choose not to know it. It is assuming an ignorance when there is no ignorance.”  Think of it as someone putting their fingers in their ears and yelling, “la, la, la, I can’t hear you.” But it also is exemplified by Galileo’s opponents who refused to look into the telescope, or when they did, proclaimed they saw nothing. With ordinary ignorance. people are unaware of a topic but can informed.  Willful ignorance, however, is much more insidious. There is actually something (propaganda) blocking knowledge from forming.  In Catholicism, “propaganda” is for the propagation of the faith and that is what propaganda does, propogates a faith, religious or political or maybe cultural.  Propaganda is typical of a one party system.  In the American political system we have a variant on the one party rule, we have two parties trading off with each other.  We should not fool ourselves,  American propaganda is as strong as any other system of modern propaganda and more subtle than most.  The problem that cold fusion faces is not a matter of ordinary ignorance, although that is there too.  It is a matter of willful ignorance in different degrees.

Internal view of a cold fusion cell.
Internal thermos- sized cold fusion cell.

Some people do not have anything against cold fusion per se, they just don’t want to stick there heads up and get shot at.  And who can really blame them, one has to pick one’s fights.  Others bargain in bad faith, they presuppose the outcome of the investigation and want to stop it from ever happening.  Our society likes to think that the truth cannot be suppressed (and perhaps in the long run it cannot), but then some people diabolically reverse this and say that therefore, if something is suppressed, then it must notbe “the truth.”

Of course, the opposite can happen, people can believe in something because it is suppressed.  This usually traces a grand conspiracy back to the Templars/Illuminati/Trilateral commission etc. etc.  In a truly liberal society, there would be no suppression, and one could weigh such a topic more fairly.  With suppression, the issue can neither come to fruition, nor can it really show itself as empty.  With propaganda blocking the way one cannot realize an issue, nor can one, if it is a bad idea, let it go.  I tend to not believe in grand conspiracies.  Small ‘c’ conspiracies, yes, pettiness, arrogance and just sheer meanness explain alot.  Big ‘c’ conspiracies, not so much.

The third type of ignorance is learned or higher ignorance.  Nicolas of Cusa states that,”every inquiry proceeds by way of a comparative relation, whether an easy or a difficult one.  Hence, the infinite, qua infinite is unknown; for it escapes all comparative relation.”  Higher ignorance whether it be towards God or creation must be learned.  It has a sincerity to it, it is intellectually honest unlike willful ignorance.  As Aristotle said, philosophy begins in wonder.  Wonder is not an answer, but rather a question, the question, that uproots the self, along with everything else (aporeia).  Socrates engaged in that kind of wonder, although he focused only on the human realm, and shirked natural philosophy (physical world).

Galileo, on the other hand, engaged in the physical world with such wonder.  He formulated new questions where there previously had not been recognized topics of study.  Galilean moons, the phases of Venus and sunspots.  He saw them and asked about them before anyone else did.  He blew the lid off of the order of things and in the process the Church lost control.  He was not trying to make the Church lose control, he was just actively and openly looking at the world.  It is amusing to think that the Catholic Church lost control, precisely because the Church thought it had control, and that if the Church had not thought that it was in control (and tried to enforce it on Galileo and a whole slew of astronomers on the one hand, and Martin Luther and a whole bunch of reformers on the other), then the Church would perhaps still have control.  Like a song says, “if you hold on too tightly, you’re going to loose control.”

Pd-D cold fusion cell
Pd-D cold fusion cell.

We not only have different kinds of knowledge (as I’ve said before) playing off of the topic of cold fusion, we have different types of ignorance as well.  One type of ignorance, learned ignorance, allows the pure researcher to come up with new questions and thus also, explore new answers for cold fusion.  This type in my ‘book’ is positive in nature.  It is active and, ultimately, creative.

Another type, willful ignorance, blocks inquiry, trying to preserve an orthodoxy.  It is negative.  It is active, but rather than creating, it protects a rather limited vision of the status quo.  It is like a conservatism for past that never really existed.  It is reactionary and if we are honest with ourselves, we will recognize that to some degree, it is in us all.

Last of all, ordinary ignorance is the ignorance of the individual not involved and unconcerned.  This type is neither positive nor negative in its nature because it is passive.  If it becomes interested, it becomes interested in knowing “that,” rather than doing.  Of course, there are all kinds of different degrees of involvement or openness inside these three types of ignorance, but you can figure out the different shade on your own if you desire.

Quotes and general background from James P. Carse, The Religious Case Against Belief, (Penguin Press, NY, 2008), 12-15.

back to the future: how to get a hint of the significance of a new invention

In order to understand the technological significance of an invention, it is sometimes better to go back into the past, rather than trying to project into the future.  Science fiction is horrible at looking what will happen in the future, with our limited imagination and limited understanding of the present, we are just no good at seeing around the conceptual corners occurring along the path of a new technology.  One thing that we are fairly good in seeing, however, is the past histories of well established technologies.  

Continue reading “back to the future: how to get a hint of the significance of a new invention”


What is the opposite of progress?  Congress!  I have nothing against politicians, just thought we’d start out with a little levity.  But seriously, I don’t believe in progress, I believe that progress can occur in what I’ll call a closed system, but as far as a belief that everything is getting better, no.  Some things are better, some are worse.

What will we have with cold fusion?  Well, for some areas things will be quite different, but I venture to guess we will still be human.  I do not know that for sure, if/when cold fusion comes in, we will change from being energy dependent on the sun, either directly or indirectly through burning wood/coal/oil, to being independent from the sun, a status that only nuclear energy has right now.

Continue reading “Progress”