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205) Another negative encounter with DOE

Ludwik Kowalski (3/12/05)
Department of Mathematical Sciences
Montclair State University, Upper Montclair, NJ, 07043


The 9th issue of New Energy Times <http://www.newenergytimes.com> describes a deplorable episode; a scientific propsal submitted by a recognized scientist was rejected by the DOE without being sent to reviewers. Here is how this bureaucratic decision.was described by the affected scientist, Dr. Melvin Miles:

On January 24, 2005 I submitted a White Paper Proposal to Dr. James Decker of DoE. Basically, I proposed experiments to optimize the cold fusion excess power effects by going to higher temperatures. For materials, I proposed using Pd-B alloys prepared by NRL and codeposition materials prepared by the methods of Drs. Stan Szpak and Pam Mosier-Boss.

My proposal was forwarded to Jim Horwitz of DoE (Basic Energy Sciences) who telephoned me on February 17 with his feedback that was mostly negative. Some of his comments are as follows to the best of my memory.

1. Proposals for the optimization of cold fusion nuclear effects cannot be considered because the 18 DoE panel members concluded that such nuclear effects do not exist.

2. Electrochemical cells have been studied to death, for example, by McKubre at SRI. Proposals of further electrochemical studies will likely not be funded by DoE.

3. Any proposed new experiments need an acceptable theory to justify such further studies.

4. More peer-reviewed journal publications are needed before this field can be considered for funding.

Because of these points, Jim Horwitz concluded that he could not justify sending my proposal out for review.

Based on this experience, I think it is unlikely that DoE will fund any research on cold fusion. If anyone has a more positive encounter with DoE please let me know. - Melvin Miles


According to Steven Krivit, the editor of New Energy Times, “Miles is a published author of 200 papers, 70 of them in the cold fusion field. A physical chemist, he has been recognized for his excellence in science by a 1966 NATO Postdoctoral Research Fellowship Award, and the following awards from his 24-year tenure with the China Lake Naval Weapons Center: Sigma Xi Award for the Best Scientific Paper in 1985 and 1988, William B. McLean Award in 1987, Fellow Award in 1989.”


According to : his areas of research expertise are: “Thermal batteries, lithium batteries, fuel cells, cold fusion, corrosion, electrochronic materials, thermodynamics, chemical kinetics, and electrochemical super-capacitors.” I am not surprised that a scientist with this background, working in a US military laboratory (see my item #51) was among the first who tried to validate to the claim made in 1989 by Pons and Fleischmann. And his negative results used against the claim. But Miles recognized experimental difficulties and continued his research. About one year later he reported positive results. That was the beginning of a long period of systematic investigations; many of them are described in papers downloadable from . I recall his report on finding 4He (byproducts?) in the cathode used to generate excess heat. He also tried to find 3He but the result was negative. It is not fare that an honest scientist, motivated by a desire to resolve the cold fusion controversy, one way or another, is not taken seriously by our DOE.

Jed Rothwell, whose full paper can be downloaded from

http://www.lenr-canr.org/News.htm (click on the “DoE lies again”)

made several interesting comments about this strange episode. I think they are worth thinking about. Jed wrote:

[Miles] letter imposes impossible Catch-22 conditions. Let us consider each statement:

1. “Proposals for the optimization of cold fusion nuclear effects cannot be considered because the 18 DoE panel members concluded that such nuclear effects do not exist.”

First, Horwitz is incorrect. The Review says that about a third of the panel members agreed that nuclear effects were detected. In addition, most panel members concluded that the claims for nuclear energy being the source of measured energy were not convincing. This is a far cry from concluding that “nuclear reactions did not exist”.Second, the Review recommends that proposals for experiments be considered. How could such proposals be considered if the effect does not even exist? Such an attitude condemns all proposals to rejection.

2. “Electrochemical cells have been studied to death, for example, by McKubre at SRI. Proposals of further electrochemical studies will likely not be funded by DoE.” Studies of heat production have been made by dozens of laboratories with good success and such studies are presently underway in many countries. The reality of anomalous heat production is no longer an issue. The challenge now is to improve reproducibility and to increase the amount of energy produced. In addition, the source of this unexpected energy needs to be discovered, whether it be nuclear or from some other unexpected process.

Miles is one of the few scientists who have had good success and who understands the nature of the novel process so that worthwhile results can be expected. If his work cannot be supported by the DoE, no proposed work can be expected to meet the required standards.

3. “Any proposed new experiments need an acceptable theory to justify such further studies.”

This statement turns the scientific method on its head. Cold fusion is based on experiment, not theory. Theory is never needed to justify or prove experimental results. There is no theory to explain other recently discovered phenomena such as high temperature superconductivity (HTSC), but no one rejects the reality of HTSC on that basis. Furthermore, this imposes another Catch-22: until additional experiments reveal the nature of the reaction, theorists will not have enough data upon which to base their theories.

4. “More peer-reviewed journal publications are needed before this field can be considered for funding.”

This is the most obvious and absurd Catch-22 of all. How will researchers publish peer-reviewed papers unless they first receive funding to perform experiments? Researchers must be funded first, then perform experiments, write papers, and submit the papers to reviewed journals. Without funding none of this can happen. Inadequate funding in the past has been one of the handicaps that has prevented enough measurements from being made to answer the normal questions posed by peer reviewers. Nevertheless, as can be seen in the list of references, much of Prof. Miles’ work has been peer reviewed, yet even this does not appear to be sufficient for the DoE.

I agree with Rothwell; the arguments presented by Horwitz make no sense. A propsal submitted by a recognized authority in the field of physical chemistry should have been given the courtesy of being reviewed by other scientists. Something is basically wrong when a bureaucrat, even a highly knowledgeable one, can reject a proposal made by a qualified scientist. This, as observed by Krivit, is not consistent with a recent statement of Jim Decker, principal deputy director of the Department of Energy 's Office of Science: "We make decisions on funding research proposals on the basis of peer review and relevance." Which policy is in effect, that described by Decker or that described by Horwitz?

Something is basically wrong when judgements about validity of experimental claims are not based on empirical evidence. I already wrote about this in ”The Open Letter to DOE scientists” (see unit #196). But nobody replied; probably because members of the DOE panel do not know about my letter. Several weeks ago a slighly modified version of unit #196 was submitted as a letter to the editor of Physics Today. Will that letter trigger a discussion of moral responsibilities of those who coordinate scientific development? I hope so. But I still do not know if my letter will be published in Physics Today.

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