Return to the list of clickable items

134 Second Evaluation by DOE?

Ludwik Kowalski
Department of Mathematical Sciences
Montclair State University, Upper Montclair, NJ, 07043

This Unit #134 will be used to record what I learn and think about the pending evaluation of cold fusion by the US Department of Energy (DOE). I started composing it on 3/21/04.

Below are extracts from an e-mail message received today (3/21/04). The author is Eugene Mallowe; the message was probably sent to many people interested in cold fusion. Somehow I suspect that what is written below is not true. On the other hand, why would Eugene put his reputation at stake without being certain? The title of the full text of his message is “U.S. Department of Energy Will Review 15-Years of Cold Fusion Excess Heat and Nuclear Evidence.” It will, most likely, be available at:

= = = = = = = = = = = =

1) The U.S. Department of Energy has made a startling reversal of its past refusal to evaluate with a fresh look the large body of experimental evidence that now supports highly anomalous non-chemical magnitude excess heat phenomena in some hydrogen systems, plus associated nuclear anomalies.

2) The confirmation of the DoE review came first in a draft article by Physics Today science journalist Toni Feder. This draft was circulated to several LENR scientists, critics, and others who gave input to Ms. Feder. New Energy Foundation provided input to Ms. Feder and welcomed receipt of the draft article from her. The article is to appear in Physics Today's April 2004 issue, which should be out by the first week of April.

3) The first popular journal to publish the news of the impending DoE review is, however, the UK-based New Scientist. In its March 20, 2004 issue, which was received in the mail today (3/20) at New Energy Foundation here in Concord, New Hampshire, freelance journalist Ben Daviss reports in a short article in the ‘Upfront: News in perspective’ section (p.6), that James Decker, deputy director of the DoE's Office of Science, ‘has pledged to review evidence from the past 15 years of research in the controversial field.’ Daviss also writes, ‘The study could be completed by January 2005 and might open up the possibility of funding for cold fusion research

4)The initiative that helped launch the impending review was a letter to U.S. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham from MIT Professor Peter Hagelstein, a cold fusion theorist since 1989. . . . It was shortly after ICCF10 that Prof. Hagelstein wrote to Spencer Abraham. . . . . The door to DoE was evidently further opened by Randall Hekman, who is an MIT graduate (1969), a former judge, and an energy entrepreneur (Hekman Industries). Hekman knows Spencer Abraham and Republican Congressman Vern Ehlers from Michigan, who is a physicist. Ehlers is quoted in the Physics Today article that it is time for a new review ‘because there is enough work going on and some of the scientists in the area are from respected institutions.’ “

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

After reading the note of Ben Daviss (see below) I posted the following message on the e-mail list CSAM, at Montclair State University.

“Those interested in social aspects of cold fusion might like to read a just published note shown below. It appeared in the March 20, 2004 issue (page 6) of the British journal New Scientist. The title is "No cold shoulder" and the author is Ben Daviss. At first I thought that the e-mail massage about the forthcoming review of the CF field was a joke but now I believe it is true. It is not yet April 1 to print a joke like this. In my opinion there should be two independent panels, one dealing with fundamental science and another with possible practical applications. I would prefer the US Academy of Science to be in charge with the first issue. Practical applications, if any, are decades away. Making promises which can not be delivere is dangerous. That was one of the mistakes made 15 years ago (on March 23, 1989).

And I think that several months is not enough to conduct a serious study of many claims which may or may not be related. I would give scientists two years and enough money to travel to numerous distant laboratories willing to perform experiments with them. The two major claims are: occurrence of unexplained nuclear reactions and generation of unexplained excess heat. The first should be verified by physicists, the second should be verified by chemists (to show that measured heat can not be explained by chemical reactions or another energy storage mechanism).

= = = = = = = = = = =

NO COLD SHOULDER (by Ben Daviss, 3/20/04)
After being banished by many to the realms of pseudoscience, a review by the US Department of Energy is promising to bring cold fusion back in from the...well, cold. James Decker, deputy director of the department's office of science, has pledged to review evidence from the past 15 years of research in the controversial field. The study could be completed by January 2005 and might open up the possibility of funding for cold fusion research projects.

The pledge was sparked by a letter from Peter Hagelstein of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a leading cold fusion theorist, to energy secretary Spencer Abraham an international cold fusion conference in Boston in August 2003. The letter summarized the field's recent progress, which includes a new theoretical framework rooted in the equations that define hot fusion. The theory makes quantifiable predictions that proponents of cold fusion say have been verified experimentally. Insiders say that energy department scientists have also been following results in cold fusion, and laying the groundwork for a review for more than a year "There's so much new, valid scientific evidence that it's high time to take another look," says George Miley, professor of nuclear engineering at the University of Illinois. "I'm hopeful that a fair review will remove any remaining prejudice so research proposals in cold fusion will finally be able to compete on their merits."

= = = = = = = = = = = =

6) I also received the draft of the article of Tony Feder. But it would not be appropriate for me to say anything about it at this time. She is one of the editors of Physics Today and her article about the new situation is going to be published. I will comment on that important article after it is printed, presumably in three weeks. In fact, I will try to turn my comments into a letter to the editor of Physics Today. Will they reject my contribution for the third time in a row? It will depend on who what motivates their deire to address the issue.

7) One might find it useful to read recommendations made by the panel of scientists that conducted the first evaluation (see unit #26). Let me quote from it again:

RECOMMENDATIONS (from the ERAB report, November 1989)

A. The Panel recommends against any special funding for the investigation of phenomena attributed to cold fusion. Hence, we recommend against the establishment of special programs or research centers to develop cold fusion. [They did not recommended blacklisting, they did not recommended stopping ordinary support, etc.]

B. The Panel is sympathetic toward modest support for carefully focused and cooperative experiments within the present funding system. [In other words, they recognized that their negative evaluation was not the final word.]

C. The Panel recommends that the cold fusion research efforts in the area of heat production focus primarily on confirming or disproving reports of excess heat. . . . Cooperative experiments are encouraged to resolve some of the claims and counterclaims in calorimetry.

D. A shortcoming of most experiments reporting excess heat is that they are not accompanied in the same cell by simultaneous monitoring for the production of fusion products. If the excess heat is to be attributed to fusion, such a claim should be supported by measurements of fusion products at commensurate levels. [And a lot of new data is now avaialable on accumulation of 4He at the rate of about one atom per 24 MeV of excess heat. In other words, the commensurate products were found but they turned to be different from what was expected. It is nor longer a situation in which there were a “fire” without “ashes.”]

E. Investigations designed to check the reported observations of excess tritium in electrolytic cells are desirable. [Another recognition of something interesting and important.]

F. Experiments reporting fusion products (e.g., neutrons) at a very low level, if confirmed, are of scientific interest but have no apparent current application to the production of useful energy. In view of the difficulty of these experiments, collaborative efforts are encouraged to maximize the detection efficiencies an to minimize the background. [That what Steven Jones was doing in the last 15 years. It is about time that other nuclear scientists evaluate his recent data.]



1) Today's article (3/25/04) in The New York Times (by Kenneth Chang) gives additional details on the pending process. Should I be disappointed? The name of the article, by the way, is "U.S. Will Give Cold Fusion Second Look, After 15 Years." Here are some extracts:

"Cold fusion, briefly hailed as the silver-bullet solution to the world's energy problems and since discarded to the same bin of quackery as paranormal phenomena and perpetual motion machines, will soon get a new hearing from Washington. . . .Last fall, cold fusion scientists asked the Energy Department to take a second look at the process, and last week, the department agreed. . . . 'It was my personal judgment that their request for a review was reasonable,' Dr. Decker said. For advocates of cold fusion, the new review brings them to the cusp of vindication after years of dismissive ridicule.

'I am absolutely delighted that the D.O.E. is finally going to do the right thing,' Dr. Eugene F. Mallove, editor of Infinite Energy magazine, said. 'There can be no other conclusion than a major new window has opened on physics.' . . . . The research is too preliminary to determine whether cold fusion, even if real, will live up to its initial billing as a cheap, bountiful source of energy, said Dr. Peter Hagelstein, a professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who has been working on a theory to explain how the process works. Experiments have generated small amounts of energy, from a fraction of a watt to a few watts. Still, Dr. Hagelstein added, 'I definitely think it has potential for commercial energy production.'

Dr. Decker said the scientists, not yet chosen, would probably spend a few days listening to presentations and then offer their thoughts individually. The review panel will not conduct experiments, he said. 'What's on the table is a fairly straightforward question, is there science here or not?' Dr. Hagelstein said. 'Most fundamental to this is to get the taint associated with the field hopefully removed.' . . .

Because cold fusion, if real, cannot be explained by current theories, the inconsistent results convinced most scientists that it had not occurred. The signs of extra heat, critics said, were experimental mistakes or generated by the current or, perhaps, chemical reactions in the water, but not fusion. Critics also pointed out that to produce the amount of heat reported, conventional fusion reactions would throw out lethal amounts of radiation, and they argued that the continued health of Drs. Pons and Fleischmann, as well as other experimenters, was proof that no fusion occurred. Some cold fusion scientists now say they can produce as much as two to three times more energy than in the electric current. The results are also more reproducible, they say. They add that they have definitely seen fusion byproducts, particularly helium in quantities proportional to the heat generated.

After a conference in August, Dr. Hagelstein wrote to Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham, asking for a meeting. Dr. Hagelstein; Dr. Michael McKubre of SRI International in Menlo Park, Calif.; and Dr. David J. Nagel of George Washington University met Dr. Decker on Nov. 6. 'They presented some data and asked for a review of the scientific research that has been conducted,' Dr. Decker said. 'The scientists who came to see me are from excellent scientific institutions and have excellent credentials.' Scientists working on conventional fusion said cold fusion research had fallen off their radar screens. 'I am surprised,' Dr. Stewart C. Prager, a professor of physics at the University of Wisconsin, said. 'I thought most of the cold fusion effort had phased out. I'm just not aware of any physics results that motivated this.' “

2) What would I suggest to scientists appointed to investigate cold fusion? SEEK NOT THE GOLDEN EGG, SEEK THE GOOSE. In other words, focus on essential scientific questions and not on practical applications which are far away, at best. Promising too much, and too early, was one of the mistakes made fifteen years ago. In my opinion the six most important scientific questions are:

a) Is it true that unexpected neutrons, protons, tritons and alpha 
     particles are emitted (at low rates) in some LENR experiments?
b) Is it true that generation of heat, in some LENR experiments, is 
     linearly correlated with the accumulation of He-4 and that the rate 
     of generation of excess heat is close to 24 MeV per atom of He-4? 
c) Is it true that highly unusual isotopic ratios have been observed 
     among the elements found in some LENR systems? 
d) Is it true that radioactive isotopes have been produced in some  
     LENR systems?
e) Is it true that transmutation of elements has occurred in some 
     LENR setups?
f) Are the ways of validating scientific findings in the areas of 
    LENR research consistent with accepted methodologies in 
    other areas of science?
Several other questions about cold fusion research can be asked but the above six are probably the most important. I think that a positive answer to even one of these questions should be sufficient to justify an official declaration that “cold fusion, in light of recent data, should be treated as a legitimate area of research.” The normal peer review mechanisms will then be used to separate valid claims from wishful thinking.

In a message received this morning a friend wrote “I see that Park did not mention the DoE review in his current ‘What's New’." To verify this I went to the APS web site <> and I saw that the friend is correct. The piece dated 3/26/04 has nothing about the pending DOE review of cold fusion. Is it possible that Dr. Park knows nothing about it?

But I see something else which is perhaps significant. At the bottom of the first item Park wrote: “Are we about to be exposed? It’s time to come clean: WN has fabricated interviews for years. It gives us full control of a story, and it’s highly addictive. Having no experience at confession, WN turned to a professional, Mia Culpa, for help. ‘It’s best to be indirect,’ she mused, "perhaps you could reveal the truth in a whimsical interview with a fictitious expert. Thanks Mia."

Is this an unrelated joke? Most likely. But it was a big surprize to see the Mia Culpa on the web page consulted to see what the spokesman for APS, and the author of the book “Voodoo Science,” has to say about the pending DOE evaluation of cold fusion. Why was this evaluation not metioned?

Return to the list of clickable items