Infinite Energy Magazine
A Time for Healing
It is a privilege and an honor to share my thoughts about the science and politics of cold fusion (CF) and low-energy nuclear reactions (LENR) in this issue of Infinite Energy (IE). I am gratified that I can do this because this particular issue of IE, which documents the events immediately preceding ICCF11, occurs at a time when a long-awaited healing process appears to be at hand. Although significant evidence for healing does not yet exist, recent events suggest that it is about to occur. Anecdotal evidence for it has appeared in some of the more recent newspaper and magazine articles and postings on the Internet. The fact that seminars have been presented recently at a number of laboratories and institutions about CF and that material from these seminars is available on the Internet suggests that there appears to be a wider acceptance not only of the initial CF experiments but of subsequent research related to LENR.
Interest in a recent talk by Brian Josephson, in particular, suggests that a potentially more important awakening, involving ethical issues associated with the CF controversy, might also be taking place. Gene Mallove played a key role in this; he spoke to Josephson and inspired him to act. Subsequently, Josephson contacted me, Peter Hagelstein, Mitchell Swartz, and others who have been involved in the controversy. The resulting interaction with Josephson reflects well on his idealism. In particular, Josephson has become actively involved in speaking out about past errors and indiscretions associated with the field. Both Gene and Brian have acted with principle and idealism: forthrightly, they have raised key ethical actions about the scientific process associated with CF.
An interesting point is that people seem to be taking notice of their criticism. In particular, individuals both inside and outside of the DOE are looking more objectively both at CF both scientifically and with respect to the possibility of errors/confusion in the initial review process. The social dynamics of the subsequent scientific debate (or lack thereof) has also become an important topic in the mainstream ethics in science literature.2-4
I am especially pleased to write this particular guest editorial because of its timeliness in relationship to the ongoing events. Specifically, remarkable changes are occurring not only in how the CF/LENR debate is being conducted but in the way information about the relevant science is being disseminated. The associated changes include:
- The almost certain reversal of scientific policy that will result from the “re-review” (which is taking place at the time that I am writing these words) of CF by the DOE;
- The news that a patent1 has been awarded to my two good friends (and colleagues), Drs. Melvin Miles and Ashraf Imam, for developing a process for creating a material (a particular kind of palladium-boron alloy) that they have demonstrated can be used to generate excess heat in CF experiments, reproducibly;
- The creation of a new scientific society, the International Society of Condensed Matter Nuclear Science (http://www.iscmns.org); and
- The ongoing evolution of new and novel forms of electronically-based forms of communication for disseminating information about CF and LENR.
It is worthwhile emphasizing the positive impact of the Internet (as well as alternative electronic forms of communication) in advancing meaningful dialogue. Through Internet sites and through the transmission of electronic forms of communication (PDF files, in particular), based on informal personal e-mail messages and newsletters, significant improvements have occurred in the ability of scientists and journalists to disseminate important information about CF and LENR. This development is important because, although historically disseminating and documenting CF/LENR results occurred through the Proceedings of the various ICCF conferences or through IE, the associated communication was limited because it primarily involved individuals who had access to this information. As a consequence, scientific information about CF and LENR tended to be restricted to “insiders” who had been closely involved with research in the field.
During the last two years, because of the Internet, this situation has changed dramatically. This has altered the dynamic of the debate in ways that are beginning to have a significant impact. It is especially worthwhile to note in this context the following: The continued efforts by Jed Rothwell and Edmund Storms to archive important information (through their www.lenr-canr.org website), the effort by Peter Hagelstein to initiate a new, refereed, electronic journal (the Journal of Condensed Matter Nuclear Science; http://www.iscmns.org/CMNS/CMNS.htm), and through the continued development and evolution of Cold Fusion Times (http://world.std.com/~mica/cft.html) and New Energy Times (http://www.newenergytimes.com) newsletters, which are being published, respectively, by Mitchell Swartz and Steven Krivit.
But although I am pleased by the opportunity to share my thoughts, which are so optimistic, about much of what has been going on, I am also saddened that I am playing a role, both figuratively and spiritually, that really should have belonged to my close, fallen friend and colleague, Gene Mallove. I do feel qualified to fill his shoes (at least partially), to a degree because although Gene and I disagreed about certain aspects of CF and LENR, I know in my heart that he would have been pleased that I am sharing with you a number of deeper thoughts and convictions, where we were entirely in agreement. Not only do a number of the associated issues have bearing on ongoing events, and the past history of the CF/LENR controversy, but they have relevance to a more general (and potentially key) problem: the advancement of new and novel scientific discoveries during the Information Era, and the importance of publications like Infinite Energy in helping to make this a reality. At the core of these convictions are basic human values that are fundamental to science and the scientific process.
Specifically, from the time we are young, we are told it is always healthy to admit when we are wrong. Doing this not only helps to relieve a sense of personal guilt, but it can help to foster communication. In science, the need is more critical. For science to work, at all, scientists must seek the truth; when they are wrong, they must admit their mistakes and move on. If they don’t, not only do we all suffer, but the scientific process breaks down. Other parallels exist between personal health, the healing process, wounds, how we deal with wounds, and those who wound us, in day-to-day life, and how, both figuratively and concretely, science can (and is supposed to) function in a self-correcting fashion.
In life, mortal wounds cause death. But, these are rare. Most of the time, in both life and science, we like to think that “time heals all wounds.” But this is not always the case. In science, human intervention or lack of intervention can make a big difference. In the short term, most of the time, the “process” works well. In “normal science,”2-4 errors are corrected as a result of modifications of funding in response to a well-defined review process. But exceptions do occur. Truly revolutionary discoveries usually do not fit this mold because to understand them, radical re-thinking is required. Then, the protocols of “normal science” can (and often do) break down.
From the outset, it should have been obvious that the CF/LENR discoveries were very different from the usual claims that occur in “normal science.” Possibly because of this fact, scientists and the scientific establishment should have paid closer attention to protocol, breaches in protocol, and the possibility that errors might take place. But, at the time, in 1989, in an apparent rush to arrive at rational conclusions about the need to fund or not fund research related to the claims and counter claims associated with the initial CF disclosures, such subtle questions were ignored. An interesting, additional lesson related to the ensuing controversy is the potential role of new technology in undermining meaningful review: Because the claims, events, and subsequent discourse involved new forms of technology (fax machines and the Internet, in particular), which had been absent from the protocols used by “normal science,” serious errors occurred in the dissemination and review of information. Thus,
- Irrelevant information was linked to relevant information;
- Confusion about relevant claims was over-looked;
- Editors of prestigious journals (Nature, in particular3,5) were incapable of obtaining rational reviews of the relevant material.
Further compounding these serious, initial errors have been subsequent failures by particular individuals, societies, and officers of particular societies to be critical about the possibility that these errors may have occurred, and the fact that the responsible parties have not been held accountable for past actions that have seriously undermined meaningful dialogue about the relevant science.
To be specific, beginning in 1989, and continuing to the present, officers and members of the American Physical Society (APS) are at fault for not forthrightly dealing with issues associated with past misrepresentations of the relevant science and transgressions associated with scientific protocol that have allowed these transgressions to persist. In addition, leaders of and scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the California Institute of Technology, either have failed to recognize (or have been embarrassed by) the serious breaches in scientific protocol2,3 that occurred in 1989 and have failed to recognize the effect of these failures in undermining the dissemination of useful and important information about the relevant science associated with LENR.
Possibly with hindsight, the impact of the initial errors, and subsequent transgressions, should have been obvious. But at the time, and continuing to the present day, most mainstream scientists not only have ignored the relevant science associated with LENR but the fact that (despite the initial interest in the field) serious errors in the use of appropriate scientific protocol so significantly impaired the review of the relevant science that most scientists not only have ignored the field but have allowed the field to be ridiculed, based on entirely irrelevant information, without recognizing that by doing so, they have done an injustice to themselves and to their profession.
The most tragic events began with the following: 1) At a gathering, held under the auspices of the APS, on May 1, 1989, in Baltimore, Maryland, scientific discourse about CF began to unravel, as a result of serious misrepresentations of the relevant science, and the inappropriate manner in which the associated material was presented2,3; 2) With time, as the debate (or lack of debate) broke down, the process associated with “normal science” became so muddled that meaningful communication, in conventional scientific journals, ceased; 3) Further compounding this problem were incorrect/incomplete results, falsehoods, and (in some cases) fraud. All of these problems, beginning with the unraveling of the debate that took place in Baltimore, can be likened to forms of wounds. Sadly, as I write this piece, I find myself in the process, for the fifth year in a row, of trying to partially heal, in a figurative sense, the aftermath of these wounds through a process that, from the outset, I believe probably will fail.
In particular, for the last four years, and this year, I have been requesting that a particular Division of the APS (the Division of Condensed Matter Physics) hold a symposium dealing with LENR at the March meeting of the APS. If accepted, my suggestion (which would lead to the APS holding a session involving five invited talks) could help to significantly improve both meaningful dialogue about the relevant science associated with LENR and help to raise the stature of the field in the eyes of scientists, editors, journalists, and managers of science. But I am quite confident (based on past history) that my suggestion will be rejected. Despite the fact that I know the effort is futile, I am submitting my suggestion for the symposium, because in order for the healing process to begin in the APS, meaningful debate, by mainstream scientists within the APS, must take place; if at some point even only one scientist, associated with reviewing my proposal, takes note of my suggestion and questions why it is not taken seriously, I will have accomplished something that may eventually alter the existing atmosphere.
Ironically, it really is in the interest of members of the APS to be held accountable for the manner in which the APS has dealt with LENR. If this does not take place, in the unfolding history, the recalcitrance of the society could undermine its credibility. In very real terms, as opposed to a normal situation, in which a form of self-healing is allowed to take place, the society could very well be viewed as impeding this process. If this occurs, as a result of the damage that could be created, as opposed to a situation in which “time heals all wounds,” in a figurative sense, an alternative adage, “time wounds all heels” might apply in which the members of the APS who may have hindered (or even ignored) the debate will be remembered as “heels” (or villains).
Regardless of whether or not mainstream scientists accept the idea that wounds are healed or heels are wounded, it is imperative that in order for valid dialogue to occur, an attempt be made for all wounds, either those that occurred from the events associated with the initial disclosure or from the “heels” (who subsequently have allowed inaccurate information about these wounds to persist), to be healed. Healing all wounds is important for a very good reason: For science to progress, scientists must believe in science. When questions about the integrity or reliability of our profession fall into question, all of us suffer. For this reason, it really goes without saying that in the end, we all hope that all wounds heal, regardless of the source of the wound. This is a given: Science and scientists always seek the truth. When they are wrong, they admit they are wrong, and they move on. When scientists fail to do this, science dies. When scientists help to make this happen, science advances.
An important point is that information plays a key role in helping to catalyze the process of seeking the truth. For this reason, in the case of the CF debate, and subsequent events, it is important to recognize, appreciate, and support the role that Infinite Energy (and similar venues) has played in helping to further and advance scientific debate. IE, in particular, has played a pivotal role in helping to initiate “Healing” both in the process, and in helping to identify “heels.” Although the healing process has been painfully slow, progress has been made. As I mentioned at the beginning of this editorial, significant progress has been made in disseminating information about CF/LENR, through the new journal, newsletters, and the Internet.
Steve Krivit should be thanked for circulating information in New Energy Times about a potentially important event, involving a lecture, entitled “Pathological Disbelief,” by Nobel Laureate Brian Josephson,6 during the 18th gathering of Nobel Laureates in Lindau, Germany, which was held during the first week of July. Individuals who have been involved with CF/LENR research have been aware of “pathological disbelief” for many years. In particular, during ICCF3, Edmund Storms used very similar terminology (“Pathological Skepticism”) to describe the existing situation, associated with the breakdown of objectivity in the scrutiny of existing information about CF, by critics of CF. But the idea that such a form of pathological thinking could occur (and has occurred in CF) is not widely known. In the abstract of his lecture, Josephson cites as an example of pathological disbelief the situation associated with plate tectonics, in which the scientific community almost universally rejected a particular explanation of a phenomenon, despite the “overwhelming evidence in its favor.” He also cites the treatment by the APS (through the weekly “What’s New” column by APS Director of Public Information Robert Park7) of CF as an example of a related phenomenon, in which logical analysis is subverted by innuendo. Josephson should be commended for presenting this talk and posting a summary of the material on the Internet,6 especially because in doing so he has exposed himself to potential ridicule, before a potentially important audience, involving highly esteemed scientists.
Josephson should also be commended for making an interesting, subtle distinction between the phenomenon of “pathological disbelief” and the way that Bob Park’s column (and by inference, the APS) has depicted CF. In particular, Josephson does not accuse Park of “pathological disbelief.” Instead, he cites Park’s “What’s New” column as illogically subverting the facts. This distinction is subtle because Park’s derisive language about CF, which certainly has harmed the field, might appear to imply that he will never be capable of changing his mind about the relevant Science, once all of the facts are in.
But, technically, Park has avoided taking an absolute stand with regard to the existence or non-existence of CF. In particular, although Park certainly has been outrageous in his comments, and highly skeptical, in fact, he has never actually been pathological in his skepticism because he has always presented his criticisms in such a facetious way that scientifically, he has left open the possibility that he might accept, albeit begrudgingly, the possibility that bonafide CF phenomena, appropriately investigated, might prove to be the result of real effects. By recognizing this distinction, Josephson has observed a subtle difference that potentially could become important in the future. A potentially poignant irony that further illustrates the possible significance of this distinction is the fact that although highly skeptical of the field, Robert Park has always said that the merits of the field should be decided by mainstream scientists, and as early as 1995, he encouraged me to help make this happen. As a result of his advice about this, I have actively played a role in helping to bring the debate to sessions sponsored by the APS, each year since 1999.
As I said at the outset, I am very optimistic about the LENR/CF field, especially now, immediately following the DOE re-review, and as ICCF11 is about to begin. As my good friend, David Nagel, has pointed out, something new and novel has been revealed in each of the conferences in the ICCF series; and, in my opinion, there is every reason to believe that this will be true of ICCF11. I only wish that my dear friend, Gene Mallove, could be here. But as Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes, in 1000 B.C., “To everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose. . .a time to live and a time to die. . .a time for war and a time for peace.” Although it was not Gene’s time to be with us in the flesh, he is with us in spirit. I am also optimistic that we are finally entering a new season in the LENR/CF saga: That now, at long last, we have entered a time for healing, not only for this new scientific field, but (through the lessons of the last fifteen years) for science as a whole.
1. Miles, M.H. and Imam, M.A. 2004. “Palladium-boron Alloys and Methods for Making and Using Such Alloys,” United States Patent, 6,764,561, July 20.
2. Goodstein, D. 2000. “Whatever Happened to Cold Fusion?” Accountability in Research, 8, 59-76: http://www.lenr-canr.org/acrobat/GoodsteinDwhateverha.pdf.
3. Chubb, S.R. 2000. “Introduction to the Special Series of Papers in Accountability in Research Dealing with Cold Fusion,” Accountability in Research, 8, 1-17: http://www.lenr-canr.org/acrobat/ChubbSRintroducti.pdf.
4. Nagel, D.J. 2000. “Fusion Physics and Philosophy,” Accountability in Research, 8, 137-162: http://www.lenr-canr.org/acrobat/NagelDJfusionphys.pdf.
5. Lindley, D. 1992. Minutes of the 1989 Meeting of Washington Philosophical Society, Washington Philosophical Society, Washington, D.C., January 31.
6. Josephson, B. 2004. “Pathological Disbelief,” presented at the 18th Meeting of Nobel Laureates, Lindau, Germany, July: http://www.lenr-canr.org/acrobat/JosephsonBpathologic.pdf
7. Park, R. 2004. “What’s New,” April 2, http://bobpark.physics.umd.edu/WN04/wn040204.html.