The Mystery and Legacy of Joseph Papp's Noble Gas Engine
Eugene F. Mallove
If you thought that the saga of cold fusion was bizarre,
labyrinthian, and astonishing with its mother-lode of unexpected
findings from nuclear-scale excess heat to the rebirth of
alchemy in low-energy nuclear transmutation, discoveries alternately
persecuted or ignored by the scientific establishment the
cold fusion adventure doesn't hold a nuclear candle to the story
of Joseph Papp and his noble gas engine. The Papp engine saga seems
to have had its roots in the 1950s, but it only came into public
view in 1968. And, strangely enough, there may well be an underlying
physics that links elements of the two stories and their profoundly
heretical science. Pathological skeptics of cold fusion and
perhaps some cold fusion researchers may laugh at or recoil
from this synthesis, but they will be treading on thin ice.
One of the best overviews of the Papp story appeared
in California's San Jose Mercury News newspaper on August 27, 1989.
We have reprinted David Ansley's exemplary account, which was triggered
by the cold fusion announcement some four months earlier (p. 14).
Read Ansley's piece to get the gist of what had happened up to mid-1989
with the Papp engine. We also reprint a well done story that ran
much earlier in Private Pilot, in December 1968 (p. 49). But the
Papp saga has progressed far beyond those days, hence we are devoting
a substantial portion of this issue of Infinite Energy just to begin
to recount the tale of the Papp engine as it has never been done
before. There is very likely to be more to come. . .so stay tuned.
(We are looking into the possibility of preparing a DVD made from
video tapes of Papp's demonstrations already in our possession and
from present day experiments, if permissions can be obtained.) This
editor has been aware of claims about the Papp engine since about
1992, but it has only been within the past three years that sufficient
information has emerged to change my view from curious onlooker
to acceptance of the engine's validity.
The basic "problem" with cold fusion is,
of course, that water in contact with metals with a bit of low voltage
electrical excitation is not supposed to make nuclear reactions
and release huge thermal excess energy per atom of presumed reactant.
The problem with Papp's noble gas engine is that the noble gases
employed argon, helium, krypton, neon, and xenon are
essentially non-reactive chemical elements (except in certain exotic
combinations known to modern chemists); that's why they are called
noble. How can such gases, "pre-treated" or otherwise,
explode with unusual violence and drive a reciprocating single-cycle
engine a retrofit device from an ordinary gasoline engine
(lubricated with oil to be sure), but one with no cooling system,
no fuel system, and no exhaust? On its face, Papp's engine appears
inconceivable until the evidence is weighed very carefully.
Once the battery-driven electric starter revved up the Papp engine
(according to dozens of initially skeptical witnesses), the engine
equipped with an alternator ran with no outside electrical
input. And, even if such "miracle" reactions of noble
gases should produce interminable explosions from a tiny volume
of gas, pushing pistons and driving a large flywheel, why didn't
such an engine run very hot? It didn't. What about the supposed
need for a much lower temperature reservoir to make this "heat"
engine work at all? If the engine is a monumental "fraud,"
it is a very, very challenging one to try to pull off.
In the Beginning
How to begin? Let's try this synopsis: A technically schooled draftsman
and ex-pilot, Josef Papp (pronounced "Pop" in proper Hungarian),
emigrated from Hungary to Canada in 1957 after the ill-fated anti-Communist
revolt and Soviet invasion of his country. Perhaps he may have made
paper or microfiche copies of documents relating to some sensitive
R&D projects in Hungary and he took them with him to the New
World? That's only educated speculation. Otherwise, if his independently
developed ideas really worked, as they seem to have, he was either
extremely lucky in finding a hidden secret of Nature, or he was
an unfathomable genius. He did not seem like the latter. From all
accounts, he was an extremely paranoid, very unstable, selfish,
and unpredictable man, who was probably one of his own worst enemies.
There is little evidence that he understood the physics of what
he had, but however the process was developed it seemed to
have worked in a way that seems "too good to be true"
it was an almost fully formed new energy technology that came very
close to coming under the wings of some of the world's largest technology
The story entered its second phase with what seems
like a preposterous diversion: In Canada in the early 1960s, Papp
worked secretively to develop a mysterious, sleek "submarine"
that looks like something out of a "Star Wars" movie.
He claimed that he would cross the Atlantic with it in much less
than a day that's what he told Canadian television. (It was
a big media story in Canada in the summer of 1966, but most of you
probably missed it, though Papp wrote a now hard-to find book about
the episode, entitled The Fastest Submarine.) Then he disappeared.
Within days, Papp was found by authorities bloodied and floating
on a rubber raft off the coast of France. Papp claims to have made
the ocean crossing in only thirteen hours after he left North America.
Where was the wondrous submarine? "Lost at sea," of course,
according to Papp. The fantastic claim was soon debunked in a very
embarrassing way but, in truth, no one has ever found the
submarine either in Canada or in the Atlantic. Why Papp thought
he could get away with this stunt and how this episode seems to
clash with what comes next the scientifically interesting
part of the Papp saga is a mystery and may forever be. Papp
is dead cancer took him on April 13, 1989, three weeks after
Fleischmann and Pons announced cold fusion.
But apart from this embarrassing, bizarre episode
with the submarine, Papp left behind one of the most tantalizing
legacies in the history of free energy: There exists nearly rock-solid
evidence now that Papp really had managed to build a robust engine
of over 100 horsepower (75 kilowatts) that was "fueled"
by a mixture of, we believe, "pre-treated" noble gases
(probably mixed with some air). Though it had no exhaust and no
cooling system, it had huge torque even at low RPM (776 foot-pounds
at only 726 RPM, the result of one certified test see Exhibit
A.) [Exhibits from this Introduction to the Issue 51 cover story
are not available on the website.] Dozens of astonished engineers,
scientists, and investors even a Federal judge with an engineering
background was blown away by it have seen the engine working
in closed rooms for hours, which would have killed its occupants
with toxic gases had it been a hydrocarbon-fuel engine. There was
absolutely no exhaust, no visible provision for any exhaust! The
engine ran cool only about 60°C (140°F) on its surface,
it has been reported by several reliable observers. All these people,
who had years to try to debunk it, became convinced of the engine's
reality. They all failed to discover a hoax. But here is the ultimate
triumph of the Papp engine: Today, ongoing research in the United
States totally independent of Papp and his former financial
interests has proved conclusively that noble gases, electrically
triggered in various ways, can indeed explode with fantastic violence
and energy release melting metal parts and pushing pistons
with large pressure pulses. Some of the people performing this work,
or who have evaluated it, are from the cold fusion field, others
are experienced plasma physicists. Some will allow their names to
be revealed, while others in senior positions at major research
institutions must remain anonymous for now. I am confident, however,
that these scientists will eventually "go public." They
should, when circumstances permit.
Two Explosions, One Death
Apart from the intense contemporary work to resurrect the Papp engine
in its full cycling functionality and the independent certification
test in 1983 (see p. 9), what other proof is there that Papp's engine
was for real? Sad to say, this evidence is the death of one person
and the severe injury of three others at a public demonstration
of the engine on November 18, 1968 in Gardena, California. At that
event, the engine exploded with an evident energy release that no
internal combustion engine could touch. Read the eyewitness testimony
of engineer Cecil Baumgartner (p. 31) in my interview with him this
year. He was representing the top management of the TRW aerospace
corporation that day. The previous month (on October 27, 1968) Baumgartner
and others had observed one of the detonation cylinders of the engine
test fired in the California desert. In full public view, just a
few cubic centimeters of noble gas had been admitted with a hypodermic
needle to the sparking chamber, and this made the thick steel-walled
chamber peel back like a banana when the device was electrically
triggered. The collaborating observers from the Naval Underseas
Warfare Laboratory (as the Pasadena, California lab was then called),
who attended the desert test, had earlier sealed the chamber so
that Papp or others could not insert illicit explosives as part
of a hoax. Their names, according to Baumgartner, were: William
White, Edmund Karig, and James Green.
Feynman's Mistakes and the
But at the public meeting the next month at which the fatality occurred
(see the local newspaper account of the fatality and injuries-p.
30) was Caltech physicist Richard P. Feynman (1918-1988), who had
worked on the Manhattan atomic bomb project in World War II. Before
even arriving at the demonstration, Feynman assumed that the Papp
engine, whose operation he was about to witness, had to be part
of an elaborate hoax. We know this because he recounted his reactions
during the episode in his widely circulated internet account touted
by the "skeptic" community (see "Mr. Papf's (sic)
Perpetual Motion Machine," p. 29).
But here is the central problem with Feynman's analysis
(which has many other errors of fact and logic embedded in it):
There was a court action against Feynman by Papp and his backer,
Don Roser of Environetics, Inc., as a result of Feynman's inept
attempt to disprove the Papp engine with his unauthorized pulling
of an electric control-circuit wire that Feynman egregiously imagined
had to be powering the engine. It was unfortunate for Feynman that
the wire's gauge was far too thin even had there been a secret electric
motor within the retrofit Volvo engine. Furthermore, as you will
read, the engine kept running even after the flimsy wire was removed.
Feynman asserted that Papp most likely had deliberately planned
to blow up his own engine to avoid subsequent discovery of the "fraud"!
And, Feynman acknowledges that there was an out-of-court settlement
with Caltech. Surely, had there ever been the slightest piece of
evidence that conventional explosives blew up the Papp engine that
day, Caltech would most certainly not have had to settle. Papp would
soon have been charged with manslaughter, no doubt, and Feynman
would surely have cited this evidence publicly. He was not one to
shrink from dramatic gestures. Caltech also had the motive and the
means to skewer Papp with the kind of evidence that is routinely
gathered by police departments and crime labs following explosion
However, all records of the investigation into the
accident appear to have vanished down some kind of a memory hole.
I believe they exist somewhere, but we have not been able
yet to obtain them. On June 29, 1998, Caltech's very helpful
Associate Archivist, Shelley Erwin, faxed me: "Well, the mysterious
affair with Mr. Papp/Papf continues to remain mysterious. I have
found nothing in the Feynman papers that refers to it. Nor is there
any obvious reference to Mr. Papp or the lawsuit in administrative
or publicity papers from the time. We do not have a clippings file
for the 1960s, so that is one type of resource I did not investigate.
. .I think I have done all I can here, without any useful result.
We would be interested to know how your search comes out if
indeed this is a true account. I wish I knew."
I made more recent contact with various Caltech offices,
which could not provide me with any records not even its public
information office had newsclips, and efforts to locate official
accident reports in California have come up dry. Some of these may
have been destroyed, according to some police departments contacted.
After all, this is an accident that happened thirty-five years ago.
But the point is that nowhere, so far, do we have any evidence that
the explosion was a result of illicit explosives. Failing such direct
evidence of hoax, the proved violence of the explosions the
November 1968 and the October 1968 ones strongly point to
the reality of the Papp process. But we also have the contemporary
laboratory work that establishes convincing evidence visual
and by instrumentation that noble gases can be made to explode
and achieve over-unity. Heroic work on a shoestring budget over
the past few years is recounted in broad scope by researchers Mark
Hugo and Blair Jenness in Minnesota (p. 51). We hope to feature
their work in greater depth in future issues. Heinz Klostermann
of California, whom I met two years ago, has been of great assistance
in assembling some of the information that went into this issue
of Infinite Energy. On p. 55, he discusses his broad knowledge of
many of the groups working in the U.S. in the past and today in
the effort to recover the Papp engine technology. He has begun his
own independent initiative.
Two anonymous Ph.D. investigators circa 2000, with
prominent positions in the cold fusion field, certainly estimated
over-unity factors beyond 10 and perhaps even 100 for what
may well be a suboptimal version of the Papp noble gas process.
To run a cyclic 100 HP engine as Papp did would require detonation
energies possibly far beyond these preliminary factors, but remember:
no one who is attempting to recover the technology knows the exact
pre-treatment process and gas mixture that Papp employed. The patents,
so far, have not been adequate to learn exactly what was done. Finally,
the eyewitness accounts, as well as the dynamometer test of 1983,
give further support for the validity of the Papp technology.
Feynman is widely known today for his aid in helping
to resolve the space shuttle Challenger accident of 1986. The brilliant,
entertaining, passionate, and often self-effacing physicist with
the Far Rockaway, New York accent won the Nobel Prize for physics
with Julian Schwinger and Sin-Itiro Tomanaga in 1965, three years
before the explosion of the Papp engine in Gardena. He is rightly
considered to be a very great scientist, whose quest to expand the
frontiers of physics and to convey the excitement of science to
the public was legendary and noble. In fact, I had often thought
that if Feynman had lived into the cold fusion era, he might have
set some of the anti-cold fusion bigots straight. Several years
before Feynman's Nobel Prize award, in April 1963 in several wonderful
lectures that have been reprinted in a book, The Meaning of It All
(Addison-Wesley, 1998), Feynman made these wise observations
"The exception tests the rule." Or, put
it another way. "The exception proves that the rule is wrong."
That is the principle of science. If there is an exception to any
rule, and if it can be proved by observation, that rule is wrong.
The rate of the development of science is not the
rate at which you make observations alone, but more important, the
rate at which you create new things to test. (p. 27)
There is no authority who decides what is a good idea.
We have lost the need to go to an authority to find out whether
an idea is true or not. We can read an authority and let him suggest
something; we can try it out and find out if it is true or not.
If it is not true, so much the worse so the "authorities"
lose some of their "authority." (p. 21)
Indeed, the "authorities" of modern physics
seem to have lost their authority completely. If one of its most
dynamic and iconoclastic members, Feynman a hero to physicists
as well as to the general populace can have made such a horrible
error in judgment in the matter of his observation and actions at
the Papp engine demonstration in 1968, then there is real trouble,
and this is now proved. Feynman's tragic mistake would be just that,
by the way a mistake whether or not the Papp engine is real.
If it is real, so much the worse for Feynman's legacy, for science,
and for civilization. The inadequate methods by which Feynman rendered
a snap judgment on the Papp engine that day reflected poorly on
him; his methods were incapable of discovering the truth about this
device. And then there are the questions about what did Feynman
know and when did he know it, concerning any accident reports that
may have been available to him.
In retrospect, this 1968 event seems like a foreshadowing
of many other horrors that were to come in the 1980s, through the
1990s and beyond vicious persecution of the cold fusion/low-energy
nuclear reaction field by "authorities" and their followers.
The so-called "skeptics" of CSICOP and elsewhere, who
chose to use Feynman's reflections on the Papp demonstration as
an example of how science should be done, should hide their heads
in shame, but they won't. They will be outraged that one of their
icons and their belief in the impossibility of new energy sources
are found wanting. They will not admit this, of course.
Joseph Papp was issued three United States patents for his process
and engines, one of which is reprinted in full and the others are
briefly discussed and the introductory parts reprinted (p. 21):
- "Method and Means for Generating Explosive
Forces," applied for on November 1, 1968, granted as U.S.
#3,680,431, August 1, 1972, assigned to Environetics, Inc. of
Gardena, California; Papp declares the general nature of the noble
gas mixture necessary to produce explosive release of energy.
He also suggests several of the triggering sources that may be
involved. There is little doubt that Papp is not offering full
disclosure here, but there is no doubt that others who have examined
this patent and followed its outline have already been able to
obtain explosive detonations in noble gases. Caution: Anyone who
undertakes to try to duplicate this process must be very careful
about safety issues.
- "Method and Means of Converting Atomic Energy
into Utilizable Kinetic Energy," applied for on October 31,
1968, granted as U.S. #3,670,494, June 20, 1972, and assigned
to Environetics, Inc.
- "Inert Gas Fuel, Fuel Preparation Apparatus
and System for Extracting Useful Work from the Fuel," applied
for September 4, 1980, granted as U.S. #4,428,193, January 31,
1984, and assigned to Papp International, Inc. of Lincoln, Nebraska.
This is a very lengthy patent, filled with many insights about
how his sealed, non-cooled engine process may have worked.
One of the high points of subsequent activity by Papp
and his colleagues was the independent certification testing in
1983. Thanks to the late Dr. Paul Brown and to Jack Kneifl, I have
had in my files for several years photocopies of the actual documentation
of the certification test, which was done in Oklahoma. It has been
circulating among those who have been interested in reviving the
Papp technology, and includes Chemistry Professor Nolan's impressive
C.V. The affidavit is reprinted in Appendix A.
In Search of an Explanation
Assuming that the Papp engine phenomena that have been observed
are valid, no one can claim to have a satisfactory and comprehensive
explanation for what is going on. In my view, the physics associated
with the detonation, light emission, and other phenomena in these
noble gas explosions is quite beyond contemporary understanding.
It is of interest that Dr. Randell Mills and his colleagues at BlackLight
Power Corporation have observed excess heat phenomena associated
with microwave stimulation of helium and hydrogen mixtures, but
not krypton and argon mixtures. I'm not sure that this has any direct
bearing on the Papp conditions, but I mention it for completeness.
Dr. Paulo and Alexandra Correa of Canada were kind
enough to abstract for inclusion in this issue of Infinite Energy
(p. 61) a report that they prepared in the mid-1990s concerning
the Papp technology or at least a crude copy of it. This was
based on a limited view; they were given only a video tape, the
performance claims, and the patents. They discuss the differences
between the plasma and energy phenomena they have pioneered in their
PAGDTM excess energy technology, and what they could gather from
the Papp technology experimenters' claims.
It is my view that to explain the Papp engine, a very
radical departure from conventional understanding of nuclear physics,
atomic structure, electricity, and the vacuum state will be required.
The general class of models will be those that explain subatomic
"particles" and how they interact as manifestations of
an aether physics.
The Scandal of Official Inaction
There can be no greater indictment of our energy and science advisory
bureaucracy in Washington, D.C. than in the host of letters that
made urgent pleas that something be done about the Papp engine.
On the positive side, there were letters asking for information
about it, such as the one from the U.S. Army shown in Exhibit B,
but the other responses evidence the kind of grave science and technology
policy problems in government that would emerge in the cold fusion
era. Some letters show that the same people in DOE who obstructed
cold fusion acted earlier to obstruct a resolution of Papp's claims!
Exhibits A-I are our collection of the text of annotated letters;
copies of the originals are in our possession. We thank those who
divulged these letters on behalf of the search for truth.
The letter in Exhibit C was evidently written by one
of the associates of Navy people who supervised the sealing of the
Papp "cannon" so that no illicit explosives could have
been inserted in the Papp device that was fired in the California
The letter in Exhibit D shows the sincere interest
of another aerospace corporation, other than TRW, which had dropped
the Papp engine after the explosion in November 1968. It also proves
that the litigation with Caltech was still ongoing in the fall of
A do-nothing letter from DOE's legal staff, in response
to one of several letters that were sent to President Jimmy Carter
is shown in Exhibit E.
John Deutch, an MIT Professor who was serving in DOE
during the Carter Administration, dismisses the Papp engine in his
thinly disguised negative letter to Senator Hatch of Utah (Exhibit
F). Ironically, Deutch would later play a two-faced role in the
cold fusion saga as it unfolded at MIT when he was Provost there
in 1989 (see IE #24). He later became Director of the CIA, but was
caught in an egregious computer security lapse, which could have
landed him in jail.
In the letter in Exhibit G, a sincere U.S. Navy Rear
Admiral writes to President Carter in an effort to focus his attention
on the Papp engine. It appears that Papp may have misguided McMillian
about his credentials (Papp had no doctorate) and the date of his
arrival in the U.S.
An insulting letter from the DOE (just months before cold fusion
was announced) to one of the witnesses to the Papp engine testing
is shown in Exhibit H. George Lewnes, who had an engineering background,
had seen the engine run in Florida. Here DOE touts its hot fusion
program as the only possible route to fusion! Always the same excuse
for not investigating new processes.
A very late letter 1992 from Jack Kneifl
in Nebraska, who was part of a team that was attempting to recover
the Papp technology, is shown in Exhibit I. Admiral Elmo Zumwalt
was a well respected and famous Naval officer. This letter shows
that anti-cold fusion DOE people Drs. Polansky and Ianniello
were also obstructing the Papp engine recovery.
Summary and Looking Forward
There is now a staggering amount of good information available,
which at a bare minimum would justify a thorough review of the Papp
engine matter by official agencies such as the U.S. Department of
Energy and military research organizations such as DARPA. There
is significant evidence for the release of heretofore unknown explosive
energy from noble gas mixtures. The energetic level of these reactions
on their face, if confirmed by independent review, may have serious
national security and global security consequences (especially in
this age of terrorist threat use your imagination). But the
cat is out of the bag, and it cannot be put back. One hopes that
the civilian uses of this potential technology will far outweigh
the military hazards.
Joseph Papp was a "hero" to have brought
this technology to the New World, but his outrageous behavior at
many turns helped prevent scientific truth from emerging. Yet at
long last, the truth is coming out. There needs to be a wide and
deep review of the evidence. Unfortunately, the experience of the
cold fusion/low-energy nuclear reaction (LENR) field over the past
fourteen years, in trying to get an impartial DOE review of now
proved and replicated LENR experiments, does not inspire much confidence
that DOE or other official groups will do anything about this
even if the evidence is shoved in their faces. The John Huizengas,
William Happers, Richard Garwins, and Steve Koonins (Caltech) of
this world wield enormous influence within government. They know
a priori that cold fusion, and now the Papp engine, are nonsense.
Therefore, it will fall to the private sector and to individual
scientific researchers to deal with or not deal with the Papp engine
enigma. We hope that this beginning of Infinite Energy's coverage
of the Papp engine, and the science that may underlie it, will contribute
to the search for scientific truth. Perhaps the Papp saga, and particularly
Richard Feynman's negative role in it, will yet help to catalyze
a long overdue review by mainstream science of what it thinks it
knows and what it thinks it knows cannot be.