Letter to Nature on Martin Fleischmann released

On August 3, 2012 Dr. Martin Fleischmann, co-discoverer of cold fusion, passed away in his home after a long illness.

Obituaries produced by mainstream news outlets were nothing more than gross distortions of career that exemplified intellectual honesty and integrity. The science journal Nature was but one publication that mischaracterized Fleischmann’s work where author Philip Ball wrote of cold fusion as a “pathological science”, and the “blot” it left on Fleischmann’s career.

Fortunately, Dr. Brian Josephson, a Cambridge University professor and Nobel laureate, responded to Nature’s portrayal with a letter published in Nature Correspondence. Because of licensing arrangements, the text has only recently become available to non-subscribers, and is reproduced here.

Here is Brian Josephson’s letter to Nature magazine:

Cold fusion: Fleischmann denied due credit
Brian D. Josephson

From Nature 490, 37 (04 October 2012)
Original online publication at nature.com, 03 October 2012
Philip Ball’s obituary of Martin Fleischmann (Nature 489, 34; 2012), like many others, ignores the experimental evidence contradicting the view that cold fusion is ‘pathological science’ (see www.lenr.org). I gave an alternative perspective in my obituary of Fleischmann in The Guardian (see go.nature.com/rzukfz), describing what I believe to be the true nature of what Ball calls a “Shakespearean tragedy”.

The situation at the time of the announcement of cold fusion was confused because of errors in the nuclear measurements (neither Fleischmann nor his co-worker Stanley Pons had expertise in this area) and because of the difficulty researchers had with replication. Such problems are not unusual in materials science. Some were able, I contend, to get the experiment to work (for example, M. C. H. McKubre et al. J. Electroanal. Chem. 368, 55–56; 1994; E. Storms and C. L. Talcott Fusion Technol. 17, 680; 1990) and, in my view, to confirm both excess heat and nuclear products.

Skepticism also arose because the amount of nuclear radiation observed was very low compared with that expected from the claimed levels of excess heat. But it could be argued that the experiments never excluded the possibility that the liberated energy might be taken up directly by the metal lattice within which the hydrogen molecules were absorbed.

In my opinion, none of this would have mattered had journal editors not responded to this skepticism, or to emotive condemnation of the experimenters, by setting an unusually high bar for publication of papers on cold fusion. This meant that most scientists were denied a view of the accumulating positive evidence.

The result? Fleischmann was effectively denied the credit due to him, and doomed to become the tragic figure in Ball’s account.

For more, see Brian Josephson’s Link of the Day archive.

Related Links

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Brian Josephson safeguards historic contribution of Martin Fleischmann October 6, 2012

Martin Fleischmann leaves brilliant legacy of courage in pursuit of truth August 4, 2012

Nobel laureate Brian Josephson affirms reality of E-Cat HT

university-of-cambridgeDr. Brian Josephson discusses Andrea Rossi‘s E-Cat technology with Dr. Judith Driscoll in a video released in 2011. Published on the University of Cambridge website for Video and Audio Collections, the page is now amended to include the latest confirmation of heat-producing capability by the E-Cat HT.

“It is a very favorable report”, said Dr. Josephson.

The recently released third-party report by scientists conducting an independent test of three different E-Cat HT devices wrote that even in the most conservative estimates, the heat-producing capacity is “at least one order of magnitude greater than chemical energy sources”.

Josephson received the Nobel Prize for his work predicting the quantum tunneling of electrons in Cooper pairs which has had multiple applications in digital electronics. Driscoll is a Cambridge Professor of Materials Science also associated with Los Alamos National Lab in the U.S.

The video is available in several downloadable formats. A transcript is included and we reproduce that here:


The deafening silence of the scientific and other media, in regard to what may well be the most important technological advance of the century, was the main stimulus for the creation of this video.

Whereas the ITER thermonuclear project may lead to practical power generation some decades hence, generators based on the Rossi reactor, first demonstrated in January 2011, are already under construction.

In the following, we discuss a number of aspects of this controversial device.


[Picture of Rossi and Levi with the reactor]

Dennis M. Bushnell, NASA Chief Scientist, Langley Research Center: “… this is capable of, by itself, completely changing geo-economics, geo-politics, and solving climate and energy”.*

Judith Driscoll: What’s this Rossi reactor then? Why do you consider it so important?

Brian Josephson: This picture shows Rossi with his device [being shown to Sven Kullander, chairman of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences’ Energy Committee, and Hanno Essén, associate professor of theoretical physics and member of the board of the Swedish Skeptics Society, who carried out one of the investigations], which he calls the ‘Energy Catalyzer’, or E-cast for short. He says what’s happening is that there’s a nuclear reaction involving nickel and hydrogen. And since nuclear reactions produce so much more energy than ordinary chemical reactions, this means you can get a vast amount of energy with very little consumption of fuel. Furthermore, you won’t get any greenhouse gases produced.

JD: What’s the evidence that a nuclear process is involved?

BJ: Well, there’s some suggestion that copper is produced, that nickel has been transmuted into copper. But clear evidence is in regard to the amount of energy it produces. There’s a maximum amount of energy you can produce in a chemical reaction, so if the device produces vastly more energy than that, there must be something else going on, either a nuclear reaction or some unknown process. It’s been investigated a number of times, teams have come in to investigate it. For example, in February this year a test was carried out that ran for 18 hours. The amount of heat produced during that time was measured at 270 kWh. And that is the amount of energy you’d get from 25 kg of petrol. And since the size of the reaction chamber is only 50 ml, this rather rules out the idea of energy being generated by any conventional source. This appears to be pretty good evidence [various sources are mentioned at this point, repeated in subtitles. The Wikipedia article on the reactor is currently good, but is subject to the whims and prejudices of editors].

However, there are some problems with the idea that it is a nuclear reaction, because first of all conventional theory says that you need extremely high temperatures to get the reaction to go at a measurable rate, so people are sceptical on those grounds. On the other hand, there may be something wrong with the theory, because here we’ve got something happening in a solid; it’s not in a gas with isolated protons going round. It’s in a solid, so maybe many protons can cooperate and intensify the effect. So I think that’s not such strong grounds for rejecting it.

Another argument people have against this is to say not many gamma rays are produced — an extremely small amount of gamma rays [relative to what would be expected], and these fusion processes normally generate gamma rays. But then again we’ve got a very different kind of situation to what happens in thermonuclear processes. You can see what might happen in this slide. Imagine two different situations. One is a rock that is falling in air; it falls with a crash on some surface. The other situation is where it’s falling through water, and when it’s falling through water the energy is just gradually getting transferred to the water, there’s no big crash. That’s just an explanation [in general terms] of why you mightn’t get gamma rays. There’s really very little in the way of theory — actually lots of attempts have been made to explain it [cold fusion] but there isn’t enough evidence to show which is right. I think it’s not impossible that an explanation will be found.

JD: How is the amount of heat measured?

BJ: Well, this is really just school physics. You’re putting cold water in and you’re getting hot water or steam coming out, and if you know how much water’s going through you know how much heat is being produced, that’s all there is to it really[1].

[1] In principle, but in practice one has to look carefully intoTo embed this video in a web page, use this code: what additional sources of heat there may be. Also, when steam is generated there are complications. The various investigations have attempted to address these issues.

Also, there’s quite a big difference in temperature, in some experiments there’s [at least] a five degrees temperature rise; in other cases the water actually boiled. So you can’t say that errors in measuring the temperature are responsible for it.

JD: Why does energy need to be fed into the reactor to keep it going? Can’t the energy it generates be fed back into the reactor, so it can keep going with no energy input?

BJ: According to Rossi you can do that — he says it can be run in a mode where you aren’t feeding energy in, but you it’s then difficult to stabilise it; … in practical applications you want a reactor that can easily be stabilised. So the devices he’s building have energy being fed in, and you control it by altering how much current is being fed into the device.

JD: You say no greenhouse gases are involved, but what about radioactivity?

BJ: Well, Rossi says there are no radioactive residues. It’s not like ordinary reactors where you have radioactive residues that go on emitting radiation and heat as well for a very long time. And also he says should there be something like, say, and earthquake, then the hydrogen would escape and the reaction would stop. So he claims, at any rate, that it’s all very safe.

JD: Is it possible that Rossi’s just fooling people, he’s made it seem as if the reactor is heating up water, but he’s just trying to persuade people to invest in it, or to buy it, but it actually doesn’t really work.

BJ: Various people think that this is all a scam, but it’s not that plausible an idea because he allows people to investigate it; they can decide what to measure, how to measure it, they can also look inside, peer inside; the only thing they can’t look at is the reactor that contains his secret catalyst. But it doesn’t matter if you can’t look inside as what you’re trying to do is to see if it can produce this vast amount of heat which has been measured, and no matter what ordinary process it is you can’t produce more than a certain amount of energy in that amount of volume. So it doesn’t really matter if you can’t look inside. The reason he doesn’t want people to look inside is that they might discover how he does it and obviously, since it’s a commercial enterprise he doesn’t want other people to be able to make it so that he would lose what he gets back by selling the devices.

JD: Can’t he protect the invention by patenting the ideas?

BJ: Well, the trouble is, patenting is a rather tricky process if you really want to protect [your invention]. He has got some patents but it’s not fully protected.

JD: If this is as important as you believe it is, how is it we haven’t heard about it?

BJ: Well, that’s a very interesting question. One wonders about this. What isn’t Nature [Journal], say, writing this up, I mean, [this information] is available, but Nature doesn’t seem to be interested. However, if you were in Sweden you would know about it because there’s a Swedish technology journal called Ny Teknik, and someone there called Mats Lewan has been following it — somebody told him about it — and he at any rate was interested, he’s been following it and in fact he was responsible for [arranging] some of the setups. He’s written a great number of articles over that time.

It’s funny that people aren’t interested, but it has its historical precedents. One thing that was pretty similar was when the Wright brothers — they got their first flying machine and people had seen it, and you’d have thought this would be of tremendous interest, but very little was published. The publisher of the local journal [the Dayton Daily News] said, when he was asked about it later, “Frankly, we didn’t believe it.” And then there’s a typical account with scepticism was a newspaper which said “The Wrights have flown or they have not flown. They possess a machine or they do not possess one. They are in fact either fliers or liars. It is difficult to fly. It’s easy to say, ‘We have flown'”. So this shows … the sceptical mind at work, dismissing something in that way. So, in the case of the Rossi reactor, people are saying “it is easy to overlook something”. But the question is, what has been overlooked. It is such a simple measurement that it is not clear what could have been overlooked [by people who have looked carefully at the device.

But of course, part of the problem is the history of cold fusion. Pons and Fleischmann brought out their original spectacular claims in a press conference they were rather pushed into and there was a lot of scepticism, they were attacked. … People tried to reproduce the experiment … they thought it was a very easy experiment — you just [feed in] an electric current and lo and behold the reaction would go, but it wasn’t actually that simple. So the result was, a lot of people failed to get anything out and they denounced Pons and Fleischmann, and said ‘this is all incompetence’, and somehow their voice was heard more loudly than the other people, who were successful. The sceptics got in first. And so, the scepticism bandwaggon rolled, and somebody invented the phrease ‘fiasco of the century’ to describe it, and it had become the ‘well-estabTo embed this video in a web page, use this code:lished fact’ that cold fusion was a delusion. So Rossi had to fight against that general viewpoint.

But he’s really not so bothered about what the scientists think. In fact he wasn’t that keen on having scientists investigate it. His original plan had been simply to make a big reactor, producing so much power that people couldn’t say ‘nothing’s happening’. So that’s how it went.

JD: Is the reactor claim really so unbelievable?

BJ: Well, it looks unbelievable at first sight, but always in physics there are things you haven’t thought about, and I think here one possibility is that you’re getting energy concentrated into a point, as I said before. A familiar example of getting energy into a point is just hammering in a nail. The energy you have wouldn’t be able to get you into wood or whatever, but because it all gets concentrated into a point that forces its way in [SLIDE]. And so something like this may be happening, you may be pushing the hydrogen into nickel and there’s some obstruction or bottleneck, the [enhanced] flow of energy is produced at that point.

That’s one possibility. Another thing which is really quite similar, which people haven’t thought of in this context: someone called Seth Putterman — he and his colleagues got a device to work which actually produced nuclear reactions in a table-top experiment, and the way he did this was something called pyroelecticity. You heat up a substance and an electric field is produced. And that electric field he focussed on to a point, and there was a very strong electric field at that point. He had his crystal in deuterium gas, and that ionised the deuterium, and the electric field imparted so much energy to it that there were nuclear reactions and neutrons were produced. So … it shouldn’t really be thought so impossible. Fleischmann’s original idea was having a material where hydrogen was pushed in with high density with an electric current to see if anything happened, and lo and behold it did happen.

So, it’s been a gradual development. Rossi’s advance would appear to be to discover his secret catalyst, which makes the reaction go much faster, and make it a practical source of energy.

JD: So what do you think is going to happen?

BJ: Well, as I see it, there are two different worlds, there’s the world of the academic, and the world of the practical person. The academic is mired in theory, and wanting absolute proof, and says ‘this is nonsense’ — at least that’s the general view. Meanwhile Rossi is going ahead in the practical sphere, … he’s building these reactors and people will — one hopes — see that they’re producing lots of energy. His first reactor is due to be produced in October, and he has a buyer for it. People, by the way, don’t have to pay until they’re convinced it is working, which is not what fraudsters do. So I think gradually it will take off.

The unfortunate thing is there’s been a delay; there will be a delay in it getting going because the journals, and the media who follow the scientists, are refusing to publish anything. That delay will have consequences. It really does matter, from that point of view, that the scientists and the media are looking away.

* In the broadcast, this statement was preceded by the following: “I think this will go forward fairly rapidly now, and if it does …”.

END Transcript

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New energy solution from Nobel laureate ignored by NYTimes

1973 Nobel laureate Dr. Brian Josephson responded to the April 3 New York Times letter Invitation to a Dialogue: Action on the Climate by Robert W. Fri asking for social scientists to become more engaged in promoting low-cost energy alternatives.

Fri is Chairman of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences’ Alternative Energy Future project and a visiting scholar at Resources for the Future.

Read 2011 report on the topic: Beyond Technology: Strengthening Energy Policy Through Social Science [.pdf]

Josephson’s letter answered with the solution offered by low-energy nuclear reactions (LENR) and it did not appear with the other responses published in the Sunday Dialogue, so we post it here:

For publication

Robert W. Fri (Apr. 3rd.) asks, in regard to climate change, for ‘steps that will make useful progress at low cost’. I suggest his committee look carefully into so-called cold fusion, a good source for which is the Library at lenr.org. (corrected from lenr.com)

In retrospect the conventional view, that the claims of Fleischmann and Pons in this regard were erroneous, can be seen to have been based on a number of faulty assumptions, some of which were discussed in a lecture by Peter Hagelstein at MIT (see http://www.infinite-energy.com/images/pdfs/VernerIAP2013.pdf). The claim that in such systems heat is generated far in excess of what can be explained in conventional terms has by now been confirmed in very many investigations, though reproducibility on demand has been a problem. The factors determining how much heat will be generated in any given sample are at present poorly understood; thus modest funding to address these issues should pay dividends. Once these factors are understood, there is a real possibility that fusion processes at ordinary temperatures in suitable materials can contribute significantly to energy resources in the future, and thereby help to combat the problem of climate change.

Prof. Brian Josephson
Emeritus Professor of Physics, University of Cambridge
Foreign Honorary Member, American Academy of Arts and Sciences

Cold Fusion Now asks all readers to respond in writing, by phone, or in person, to their local media and political offices whenever alternatives are put forth that ignore the cold fusion solution.

Cold Fusion Now!

Brian Josephson safeguards historic contribution of Martin Fleischmann

U.K. University of Cambridge Professor Dr. Brian Josephson, winner of the Nobel Prize in 1973 for the Josephson Effect, wrote the fine obituary published in The Guardian honoring Dr. Martin Fleischmann, co-discoverer of cold fusion who passed away earlier this year.

Focusing on Fleischmann’s life’s work, the essay was not a defense of cold fusion, though Josephson wrote, “However, progress seems to be occurring towards the application of cold fusion as a practical energy source. It may well transpire that, in the words of one cold fusion entrepreneur: “The market will decide.” (Including Josephson’s links).

Josephson then went to work dismantling some of the blundering misconceptions that reared up in the print landscape through the many unresearched and cliche obituaries scrawled by witless writers “walking backwards into the future”.

He responded to one of the more egregious pieces (and there were many) printed in Nature, the scientific journal with a long-standing policy of refusing to publish cold fusion research.

John Maddox, editor of Nature back in 1989, had decided within months that cold fusion was through.

“I think it will turn out, after two, three years more investigation, that this is just spurious and just unconnected with anything that you would call nuclear fusion. I think that broadly speaking it is dead and it will remain dead for a very long time” Maddox said in the 1994 BBC Horizon documentary Too Close To The Sun. [watch]

Fortunately, only subscribers of Nature were subjected to the current dreadful fiction by Fleischmann-obit author Philip Ball, and we are not privy to Professor Josephson‘s Letter to the Editor in reply due to copyright (unless you’ve got $16), but he has posted a narrative containing the major points of his response on his website which we reproduce below.

Ball’s obituary of Martin Fleischmann in Nature found wanting
by Brian Josephson [original here]

A letter published in Nature addressed itself to an obituary of Martin Fleischmann written by Philip Ball, the flavour of which can be judged from the following extracts:
“the blot that cold fusion left on Martin Fleischmann’s reputation is hard to expunge”

“cold fusion is now regarded as one of the most notorious cases of what chemist Irving Langmuir called pathological science; it was a lack of reproducibility that finally put paid to the cold fusion idea”

“once you have been proved right against the odds, it becomes harder to accept the possibility of error. To make a mistake or a premature claim, even to fall prey to self-deception, is a risk any scientist runs”

When I challenged Ball on this he replied naively that “those few that claimed success have never been able to demonstrate this sufficiently reliably and convincingly to persuade the majority. That is simply the situation as it stands”. Factually that may indeed be the case but the fact that the majority are not convinced hardly suffices to justify the dogmatic presumptions implicit in the extracts cited above.

In any event, a response was clearly called for and I was glad that Nature accepted the letter that I submitted to their Correspondence section. In that letter I noted first of all that

Ball’s obituary, in common with many others, ignored the large amount of experimental evidence contradicting the view that cold fusion is ‘pathological science’,

citing the library at www.lenr.org as providing a comprehensive listing of this research, including many downloadable papers. I also referred readers to my Guardian obituary.

I also noted that the situation at the time of the original announcement of cold fusion was confused because of errors in the nuclear measurements (this was not Pons and Fleischmann’s area of expertise), plus the difficulty others had with replication; however, problems with replication are not unusual in the context of materials science so this is not a strong objection and, further, in time

others were able to get the experiment to work and confirm both excess heat and nuclear products.

Ball included reference to ‘a Utah physicist who reported in Nature (see M.H. Salamon et al. Nature 344, 401–405; 1990) that he was unable to replicate the work’. Those who took the trouble to read this reference will note that the authors of that paper were much taken by the fact that there was a mismatch between the amount of excess heat claimed (which they did not measure) and the amount of radiation they measured. In case any readers were to draw the erroneous conclusion (which perhaps Ball hoped they would draw) that this refuted the possibility of nuclear reaction, I noted in my letter:

“experiment never excluded the possibility that the energy liberated might be taken up directly by the lattice”

I concluded by saying:

Had [this scenario] not happened, Fleischmann would have gained the credit due to him, rather than becoming a tragic figure in the manner of your correspondent’s account.

The above is provided as a service to those unable to access the complete obituary and comment in the journal itself.

Cold Fusion Now posted a series remembering Martin Fleischmann and turned one sorry obituary into art within ten minutes.