Why all the Static?
by Jeffrey D. Kooistra
OK, so you've invented a cold fusion/over-unity
device and the world has beaten a path to your door, except they're
holding torches and pitchforks and seem ready to burn you at the
stake. Why? I cannot answer that, but I can tell you that you're
not alone. The same mindset is everywhere, and clouds seemingly
every controversial debate.
Around 1980 a father/son team of scientists
named Alvarez (the elder a Nobel laureate in physics, the junior
a Ph.D. in things geological) determined that about 65 million years
ago a whopping big asteroid had collided with the Earth and suggested
that this could account for the extinction of the dinosaurs at that
same time. This neatly solved a longstanding mystery in the dinosaur
community, but did paleontologists rejoice at the discovery? No.
The Alvarez's were treated like, well, cold fusion researchers are
today, at least by the paleontologists. Their views were rejected
and ridiculed for, among other reasons, the fact that neither of
them were paleontologists. And besides, the dinosaur community was
quite capable of putting together its own scenario for the demise
of the dinosaurs, thank you very much, and they didn't need any
meteor to explain it. (That the geological record clearly showed
that a large extraterrestrial impact must have taken place was simply
Despite this, the impact view is now largely
accepted by everyone as being at the very least a primary cause
of the demise of the dinosaurs.
The impact theory is not the sort of thing just
anyone can investigate, particularly when it involves searching
for minute extra amounts of iridium in soil at the Cretaceous/Tertiary
boundary, so most of the public couldn't actually evaluate the nature
of the evidence first hand. Thus, it was easy for the "defenders
of the traditional view" to obfuscate the issue with technical language
and imprecations such as: "Alvarez couldn't tell a comet from a
carnosaur," or words to that effect.
But now let's look at an "easy" controversy,
one that involves the sort of evidence that everyone can understand.
In such a case, it should be harder for the establishment to defend
against a challenger by hiding behind jargon and ity, right?
Lately a guy named John Anthony West has popularized
the notion that the Sphinx in Egypt must be thousands of years older
than has previously been thought because the erosion on the back
of the giant statue is: 1) clearly caused by rainwater, 2) by more
rainwater than has fallen since the traditional date for the construction
of the Sphinx, and 3) nothing else in the vicinity supposedly constructed
at the same time as the Sphinx shows the same degree of rainwater
The obvious way to test this hypothesis is to
get yourself a good erosional geologist, have him investigate the
erosional features, and render a learned judgement. This is exactly
what West did, and the geologist, Dr. Schoch, has in fact determined
that the Sphinx must be at least several thousand years older than
Did the Egyptologists accept this finding and
go back to reappraise their views of the Sphinx? No. Instead they
vilified West, denigrated him for not having a Ph.D. (as if erosional
features lie to people without doctorates), and repeated (more loudly
this time) their mantra for why the Sphinx can't possibly be as
old as the physical evidence demands, as well as inventing an entirely
ad hoc method of erosion that affected only the Sphinx and
it's surrounding enclosure, but nothing else nearby. All this despite
the fact that the case for the traditional date given for the construction
of the Sphinx is entirely circumstantial in nature--there's not
a hard fact anywhere in sight.
What you find in examining this case is typical:
The establishment repeats its old arguments and attempts to refute
part of the new view in hopes that it will all go away. Archaeology
magazine recently devoted almost half an issue to the question of
the age of the Sphinx wherein the established voices presented their
best case. A letter from Dr. Schoch appearing a few months later
easily demolished the magazine's presented case because he had facts
on his side and the others had only inferences and long repeated
In these two cases, you have a situation where
the "universally accepted view" is being attacked by real evidence.
The paleontologists had never thought of a meteor, so their carefully
constructed version of the demise of the dinosaurs was in danger
of coming apart as if it, and not the Earth, had been hit by the
meteor. In the case of the Sphinx, Egyptologists are very happy
with the history of Egypt that they've written, and they don't want
anyone to come along pointing out that they've mislaid an entire
earlier high civilization.
In both cases, the establishment exhibited responses
much like children when they first learn where babies come from
and realize that this also applies to their parents: Shock, horror
Both paleontology and Egyptology are established
fields of study complete with fuddy-duddies almost old enough to
be studied themselves. Yet attacks on those who would shake the
paradigm come even against those in "far out" fields from others
in the same field.
Consider the case of the Face on Mars. By now
almost everyone has seen the image of the humanlike face that the
Viking spacecraft photographed on Mars. The image was dismissed
as a "trick of light and shadow," and this certainly seemed reasonable
to everybody at the time, including those now making different claims.
Upon further inspection, it was discovered that under enhancement
the face image continued to look like a face. After a search, a
second frame from a different sun and photo angle was found, and
still the image persisted in looking like a face. Couple this with
some other anomalous structures in the same vicinity and several
researchers, the most out front of them being Richard C. Hoagland,
finally came out and said, "Hey, this looks like it could be an
alien artifact. Maybe we should get NASA to take some better photos
so we can find out for sure." But no. NASA, which had routinely
lobbied congress in the past for millions of dollars to look for
alien artifacts in the electromagnetic spectrum (radio signals),
somehow just can't bring itself to photograph the Face region with
higher resolution cameras, despite having spacecraft heading to
Mars anyway. It would be one thing if someone wanted to do a multimillion
dollar photomapping mission with absolutely no idea where to look
(sort of like the current radiotelescopic SETI work) but the Face
is right there staring us in the face.
Even when you are in the same "community of
believers," so to speak, you can be attacked relentlessly for asking
the wrong questions or getting the wrong results.
I recall vividly the spring of '89 when cold
fusion had its advent. Here were two guys with Ph.Ds in electrochemistry,
"hard scientists," claiming that they'd found a way to get hydrogen
to fuse inside palladium electrodes. What happened after that is
familiar to everyone. In my case I have sardonic memories of the
glee with which some of my colleagues, ordinarily decent men, wanted
to see Pons and Fleischman pilloried when others couldn't immediately
duplicate their results. (Never mind that these same professors
had themselves spent years trying to get some of their own experiments
to work properly.) One professor, an ordinarily brilliant man, tried
taking as evidence that Dr. Pons was supposedly (according to opponents)
not telling the truth about his work, a second hand account of how
Pons appeared agitated during an interview by a cluster of reporters,
even though it was common knowledge at the time that Pons wasn't
getting much sleep lately. (Never mind that this same professor
was legendary in the department for throwing temper tantrums (and
sometimes objects) when he was in an agitated state.)
Also of note was how rapidly cold fusion was
dismissed when fusion neutrons weren't found, even though the excess
heat wasn't explained, nor even really explained away. The consensus
opinion in our department was that electrochemists couldn't do calorimetry.
Well excuse me, but the fact was that physicists
didn't know a damned thing about what was going on inside those
electrodes, so their assertion that "no neutrons means no effect"
was bad science at its most flagrant.
There is a scene from the movie "The Exorcist"
that I show my students whenever I teach Physics for Poets. It takes
place at a point in the movie where the audience has seen enough
to know that the girl is, in fact, possessed, and the medical establishment
has exhausted all the tools of early 1970s medical science in a
fruitless attempt to explain the girl's symptoms as some known malady.
It should be noted that the doctors have already ignored or explained
away other relevant evidence of the girl's real condition (seeing
was not believing). All of the doctors are sitting around and the
distraught mother is beside herself about what to do, and finally
the lead doctor suggests that there is one treatment he's heard
about that seems to work in some primitive societies, but
not for the reasons they say it does. He then suggests that
the lady find herself an exorcist.
Notice what happens here: Even though the doctors
had exhausted their art in an attempt to find an answer, they still
felt comfortable in denigrating the answers offered by those who
had genuine experience with the problem.
Does any of this seem familiar to you, Cold
What are we to make of all this?
In Dr. Edmund Storms's commentary in the first
issue of Infinite Energy, he says that "the vicious and hostile
attacks directed toward many in the field (by some skeptics) have
no place in normal science."
But they do have a place in "crisis state science."
We hear the term "paradigm shift" used today
(often incorrectly) as often as we used to hear "quantum leap" (also
often incorrectly) just a few years ago. For those rusty on their
philosophy of science, the term paradigm comes from Thomas Kuhn's
The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. A paradigm consists
of the accepted theories and accepted evidence for those theories,
as well as accepted means for obtaining that evidence, with which
the bulk of a scientific discipline agrees. During periods of normal
science, evidence that conflicts with the established view is often
ignored or explained away, though though not necessarily (in fact,
seldom) refuted. Evidence counter to the prevailing paradigm is
called an anomaly. After awhile, enough anomalies accumulate to
topple the paradigm, and this is when science goes into its crisis
state. But first it has to be accepted that the anomalies are real.
Right now the physics community is in a state
of denial about the reality of the anomalies. Reputations are being
scorched, and whole states are being denigrated (Glashow's infamous
"Never trust a four-letter state" observation, referring to Utah,
and presumably Iowa and Ohio, too). It doesn't help that an awful
lot of money is being funneled into big government fusion projects,
and so jobs hang on the final verdict about Cold Fusion (witness
how worked up union workers get at line-crossers, and they don't
even have a paradigm at stake). And dare I say it? It also doesn't
help that so many who obtain doctorates these days, even in the
sciences, ,do so by being seven years of cheap labor for their thesis
advisor, and their mediocre minds learn one thing very well--the
advantages of going with the flow.
Fortunately, history shows that the old view
dies out and the new takes its place as experimental evidence accumulates
and only the theories from the new paradigm can fit the anamolous
pieces together. So for you, cold fusion researcher, take heart.
Keep experimenting and keep exchanging information. But keep the
castle doors locked until those torches go out and those pitchforks
come down. They always do.