21) On Reevaluation of AE Claims
Ludwik Kowalski (December 2002)
Montclair State University, Upper Montclair, NJ, 07043
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The decade of excommunication of the so-called cold fusion was not good for science and for its reputation. Why should anomalous energy (AE) be treated differently than any other area of interest? Nobody benefited from mutual accusations, such as pathological science or pathological skepticism. How can the scientific consensus about AE be reached? If I were an influential member of the Academy of Sciences I would call for the creation of two panels to reevaluate the entire field. One panel would consist of electrochemists and material scientists while the other would consist of experimental nuclear physicists. Each panel would have one well defined task, and a time limit, for example, two years, to accomplish it.
The chemists would be asked to answer one question: is generation of excess heat real or not? By definition, excess heat is thermal energy that can not possibly be due to chemical reactions. Physicists, on the other hand, would be asked a totally different question: are chemically induced nuclear processes real or not? Many claims have been made about the induced emission of 14 MeV alpha particles and of 3 MeV protons; this should not be difficult to either confirm or negate. The same applies to other processes, such as accumulation of tritium or big changes in the isotopic composition of some stable nuclides.
Confirmation of only one of these processes would be sufficient to validate a claim that a new phenomenon has been identified and that it should be studied. Non-confirmation, likewise, would be very significant. If the results reported by so many workers are not validated then the phenomenon of self-deception among hundreds of highly educated investigators would have to be examined. It would be an alert indicating a possibility that other areas of science might be in danger of being transformed into pseudoscientific societies of mutual admiration.
The modus operandus of the panels would be more or less similar to that established by ERAB, a panel created in 1989 to investigate the field of cold fusion two months after the excess heat discovery was announced. The members of the panel would travel to centers of AE research, observe experiments and be allowed to perform additional tests, if necessary. The burden of proof, naturally, would be on those who claim the phenomena to be real. The focus, at this early stage, would be on experimental facts and not on their practical or theoretical significance.
Selection of panel members would be made on the basis of qualifications. Every effort should be made to allow cold fusion believers to defend the claims, to repeat experiments, to use consultants, etc. But basic scientific methodology should be followed. Only recognized experts would be allowed to participate. Chemists, for example, would be asked to make sure that those who perform experiments, and those who critically evaluate them, have sufficient skill in electrochemistry, in metallurgy, in surface chemistry, in microanalysis, in spectroscopy, etc., according to what is being investigation. Without this neither negative nor positive conclusions can be trusted. Unfortunately, many self-appointed investigators of cold fusion in 1989 were amateurs whose conclusions were taken seriously.
The Academy of Sciences, acting on behalf of the entire scientific community, would agree in advance that the field of AE should be rehabilitated if at least one claim were validated. Failure to validate a single claim, on the other hand, would show that the field has not yet matured to the level of science. To rehabilitate means to deliver a general apology, in the name of mainstream science, for unfair treatments which occurred in the past. The purpose would be to make clear that research proposals in the area of AE are as desirable as in any other area of science. Naturally, I would not object if the reevaluation of the AE field were sponsored by another organizations, such as NSF, DOE, ACS or APS.
The reunification of AE with mainstream science, if it occurs, should not
mean that every claim made under the banner of "cold fusion" is automatically
validated. It should only mean that all claims should have an equal right to be
examined. The reunification would strengthen, rather than weaken, science and
its respect in societies. Who is against it?
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