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Power Technology

A Cold Look at Cold Fusion Claims: Why E-Cat Looks Like a Hoax 426

Posted by timothy
from the judas-gets-too-little-credit dept.
In the past few days, several readers have submitted word of a paper published on Arxiv allegedly confirming the efficacy of Andrea Rossi's "E-Cat," a device Rossi says transmutes nickel into copper, producing cheap energy in the process. (Mentioned before on Slashdot.) Ethan Siegel of ScienceBlogs takes a skeptical look at the buzz surrounding this paper, and asks some seemingly obvious questions, pointing out various ways in which the cold-fusion / cheap-energy claims could be either confirmed or debunked. First time accepted submitter CdXiminez writes with a capsule of Siegel's points: "What would it take to convince a reasonable observer that you've got a controlled nuclear reaction going on here? Things not shown in the earlier report: Show that nuclear transmutation has in fact taken place; Start the device operating by whatever means you want, then disconnect all external power to it, and allow it to run; Place a gamma-ray detector around the device; Accurately monitor the power drawn from all sources to the device at all times, while also monitoring the energy output from the device at all times."
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A Cold Look at Cold Fusion Claims: Why E-Cat Looks Like a Hoax

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  • Don't conflate a charlatan with the science. NASA [nasa.gov] is still looking at this.

    • by Peter Simpson (112887) on Thursday May 23, 2013 @11:46AM (#43803619)
      NASA is "looking into this": don't misinterpret investigation as validation. If it's not reproducible, more work needs to be done. If the process appears to violate the laws of thermodynamics, your first reaction should be "scam", not "how do I get in on this?". Your second reaction should be "how do they do it"? It's been many years since cold fusion and while there have been tantalizing hints that there may be something to it, nobody has been able to reliably reproduce the phenomenon for objective observers.
      • by sycodon (149926)

        I think it would be just as foolish to dismiss this outright, considering the " tantalizing hints that there may be something to it" and the developing theories as it would be to start dumping your life savings into Rossi's company.

        • by VortexCortex (1117377) <(VortexCortex) ( ... -retrograde.com)> on Thursday May 23, 2013 @12:17PM (#43803973)

          When you've attended enough UFO Churches, you can pretty much tell how things are going to turn out by the first sermon.

          It's not foolish to dismiss this outright. Dismissal is the only sane thing to do to save our resources. If it is a breakthrough, it doesn't matter if nearly everyone ignores it: It will quickly become widely known on the merit of the advancement. Not because pundits sing its praises, or expound on the possible endless benefits of infinite rectal probing.

          • by 0123456 (636235)

            Indeed. If it's real, he just needs to give a few away to customers who'll use them for a year or two and tell everyone how wonderful they are.

            Of course, if it's real, you might wonder why the government is letting him build unlicensed nuclear reactors. Clearly they don't think it is.

            • by jythie (914043)
              You do not need a license to build just any nuclear reactor, but if it produces significant radiation then they start to take notice.
            • Just one small production steel mill, or aluminum mill, or even a plastics processing mill. The first time I read about this thing, I thought, "Why not just set it up at work? Get it running, throw the breakers coming from the power lines, and let this little "reactor" run the plant?" It's a clean, simple test. We just transfer from "shore power" to "ship's power" like any Navy ship. If the plant continues to produce, then the "reactor" passes. And, I'll pay for the damned thing. Imagine - spending a

              • by timholman (71886) on Friday May 24, 2013 @01:25AM (#43809781)

                The first time I read about this thing, I thought, "Why not just set it up at work? Get it running, throw the breakers coming from the power lines, and let this little "reactor" run the plant?"

                One of the sure signs of pseudoscience is that the "inventor" cannot do anything useful with his creation, no matter how long he "refines" it.

                If I could build a free energy generator, I wouldn't need to prove anything to anyone. If nothing else, I would unplug myself from the grid, and stop buying gasoline. On a larger scale, I could (for example) perform electrolysis of water and sell hydrogen in bulk quantities at a price no one else could touch. I wouldn't need true believers to worship me as a genius. I wouldn't need to put on ridiculous demonstrations. I would just make money, and lots of it.

                That fact that Rossi and others of his ilk seem incapable of doing anything practical with their devices except try to solicit money from victims ... er, investors, should tell you everything you need to know about their validity.

          • by sycodon (149926) on Thursday May 23, 2013 @01:10PM (#43804613)

            If you are speaking E-Cat. Yes.

            If you are speaking LENR, then we should just let the research take it's course and not kill it out of some prejudice of some kind

        • by ultranova (717540) on Thursday May 23, 2013 @05:21PM (#43807185)

          I think it would be just as foolish to dismiss this outright, considering the " tantalizing hints that there may be something to it" and the developing theories as it would be to start dumping your life savings into Rossi's company.

          No, not really. It's the "tantalizing hints that there may be something to it" part which pretty much screams bullshit. Fusion is not exactly subtle; if it's going on, it's not hard to detect, and hasn't been. Furthermore, according to the Wikipedia link [wikipedia.org], the device was covered up during demonstrations, actively hindering any kind of measurements. Add those together and shave with Occam's razor, and you get "conman".

          Also, fusion is not really all that hard to achieve. For example, a fusor [wikipedia.org] is simple enough for a hobbyist project. What's hard is a fusion device with a net energy output; we don't even know if Rossi's device is doing fusion at all, so why would we even begin to assume it's not only doing so but generating more power than it consumes?

          So yeah, with the information we have, this seems like exactly the kind of thing that should be dismissed outright.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by dmbasso (1052166)

        If it's not reproducible, more work needs to be done.

        It is reproducible, that's the whole point they're still "looking into this".

        If the process appears to violate the laws of thermodynamics [...]

        Can you explain how fusion (of any kind) appears to violate any thermodynamics' law?

        It's been many years since cold fusion and while there have been tantalizing hints that there may be something to it, nobody has been able to reliably reproduce the phenomenon for objective observers.

        Actually there were several successful experiments, it doesn't take much work to look for their results. You may start with Dr. Peter Hagelstein, from MIT.

        But usually people prefer to just dismiss without much thought, since the topic became taboo. Group-thinking is surely a fucked-up human characteristic.

        • by gstoddart (321705) on Thursday May 23, 2013 @12:04PM (#43803835) Homepage

          But usually people prefer to just dismiss without much thought, since the topic became taboo.

          Largely because it's all been demonstrated to be either fake, a gross misunderstanding of what's happening, or so totally un-repeatable by anyone else as to be suspect.

          Group-thinking is surely a fucked-up human characteristic.

          Right, all those people who still think we live on a flat earth or that the world is only 6000 years old are the victim of groupthink.

          Or, you know, if you make an extraordinary claim, you're gonna need proof.

      • by sycodon (149926)

        I should clarify: "This" is LENR, not the E-cat.

    • Maybe they're still trying to reproduce it after all this time. Doesn't sound very promising to me.

    • by Teancum (67324) <robert_horning@n e t z ero.net> on Thursday May 23, 2013 @11:50AM (#43803657) Homepage Journal

      NASA looks into all sorts of silly things from time to time on the off chance that perhaps one of those wacky ideas might pan out... and because some congressman or senator has made a gentle inquiry wondering if it is bullshit or not. That has nothing to do with the validity of what it is that may be claimed and sadly tax dollars are still being wasted on utter garbage that has nothing to do with science.

      Besides, even this crazy theory you are quoting here doesn't seem to have anything to do with the e-Cat other than it is what Ross claims the device is doing without any real proof that anything is happening at all. That isn't happening, and no real 3rd party investigations into the device have happened. Heck, the guy can't even get patents accepted much less prove that anything is going on.

      Rossi even claims to have a factory making these things somewhere in Florida, but when the State of Florida decided to go in and check out what was going on (after a "concerned citizen" made a complaint about a nuclear reactor being built in the state without permits and such) Rossi and his agents had to back off and assert that no manufacturing was even taking place in the state. Yeah, funny how that works out when your bluff is called.

      I've made my own private inquiries about the device, and the more I push the more I am firmly convinced this is a hoax of the worst possible kind. I don't know what Rossi's end game is, but he doesn't even merit being a good charlatan as well.

      • by sycodon (149926)

        Which is why I said not to conflate, confuse, the two.

        Rossi's failure to provide a machine freely for examination is a sure sign he's doctoring something.

    • by Sockatume (732728)

      NASA are looking at a possible mechanism for how a similar reaction might go. NASA have not, and probably will not, touch Rossi with a barge pole.

  • by EmperorOfCanada (1332175) on Thursday May 23, 2013 @11:46AM (#43803615)
    What I feel sorry for is any researcher who wants to do some genuine research into cold fusion. To me it would cause rate up there with inventions such as fire/math/smelting ore/cooking food/clothing.

    If cold fusion were invented tomorrow everything changes, world politics, anything involving oil or energy production, the environment, space travel, food production, basically everything. So while it attracts cranks by the boatload I would be happy to see huge amounts of funding going to CF. Yet I suspect that if you are a legitimate researcher and you mention cold fusion that there is stunned silence in the room. You might as well bookend it with paranormal research.
    • by lxs (131946) on Thursday May 23, 2013 @11:50AM (#43803647)

      If cold fusion were invented tomorrow everything changes...

      True. I for one would be worried about getting hit by one of those flying pigs.

    • by Sockatume (732728) on Thursday May 23, 2013 @11:53AM (#43803681)

      There's plenty of reseach into legitimate low-temperature, low-pressure fusion, going under names like muon-catalysed and antimatter-catalysed fusion. It's very well accepted work. The trouble is that most research going under the name "cold fusion" would better be described as "I have invented a machine that makes energy from nowhere and am postulating fusion as its mechanism of operation".

      • by Teancum (67324)

        Even though from time to time people try to come up with perpetual energy machines, most of the people who were involved in such scams have moved on to nuclear devices of one sort or another simply because most ordinary people don't really understand nuclear reaction. Those devices, like the e-Cat, are still pretty much perpetual motion machines but re-branded under the guise of some silly nuclear reaction of some kind.

        You are correct though that legitimate nuclear energy research is being done besides the

      • by joe_frisch (1366229) on Thursday May 23, 2013 @12:46PM (#43804337)

        Muon and antimatter catalyzed fusion are based on well understood physics (the rate at which muons catalyze fusion can be calculated by any graduate physics student). So far though these schemes have insurmountable "technical" issues: The muons stick to the helium and can't be re-used, and the anti-protons require too much energy to produce (and probably anhillate too often).

        The research is legitimate because it is possible that there is a way around these problems. I think its unlikely, but the value if you succeed is so high that it is worth some effort.

        The other style of cold-fusion is really a form of : we have this gadget that gets hot due to some "new" physics. That would be OK, except it us usually coupled with "it is a secret process, so we won't give you full access to the machine"

    • by polar red (215081)

      If cold fusion were invented tomorrow everything changes, world politics, anything involving oil or energy production, the environment, space travel, food production, basically everything.

      and how would that work ?

      • by gstoddart (321705)

        and how would that work ?

        Well, in the good scenario, an energy based economy which suddenly became free means we get unlimited cheap power and can do a great deal because it's no longer a scarce resource we're competing for.

        In a bad scenario, the technology gets hidden away, or we still end up paying the same for everything, but the people selling the devices print money like mad fools by enforcing artificial scarcity with patents.

      • Aside from everything getting cheaper, access to truly ridiculous amounts of energy at an affordable price opens up whole new areas of industry. Recycling, for one - no messing around with separate processing and delicate, fiddly chemistry. Just dump the whole lot into the blast chamber, reduce it all to plasma and condense whatever you need from the atoms as they cool. Literally anything goes in, valuable raw materials come out. Food production goes up dramatically as it becomes practical to maintain field

        • by polar red (215081)

          ridiculous amounts of energy at an affordable price

          they said that with fission.

      • by Teancum (67324) <robert_horning@n e t z ero.net> on Thursday May 23, 2013 @12:24PM (#43804065) Homepage Journal

        If cold fusion were invented tomorrow everything changes, world politics, anything involving oil or energy production, the environment, space travel, food production, basically everything.

        and how would that work ?

        Assume for a minute you can head down to your local Home Depot and pick up a portable "Mr. Fusion" 1 MW reactor powered by a single box of Borax laundry detergent (that is a 100 year supply of Boron I should note too). How do you think that would change the world?

        First of all, you would no longer be dependent upon utility companies for heating or cooling your home, and even worrying about things like insulation or energy efficiency would go out the window. People living in cold weather climates could put either wires or warm water under their driveways and sidewalks to melt snow and ice and not give a damn about how much that costs. As a side note.... you thought global warming was bad with coal plants and such, just wait until everybody is turning out gigawatts of energy on a personal basis and wondering where all of that heat is going after it has been used for something else!

        It would change international relations as oil would no longer be nearly so important except as a lubrication fluid, and even that can be mostly done with renewable resources like corn oil or other vegetable stock sources. Most of the recent wars would become irrelevant as control of petroleum resources would be insignificant.

        Transportation costs are largely dependent upon energy costs, thus building locomotives, ships, and even automobiles with these fusion devices would render most transportation costs to trivial levels except for the cost of vehicle construction and paying professional operators (like an airline pilot) or other crew related costs.

        Food production is largely a logistical issue as well, where trivial transportation costs would significantly lower food prices as well.

        As for space travel is concerned, fusion energy sources for spaceflight would ensure that you could travel to Mars in just a couple of weeks, and even trips to other stars might take just a few dozen years. Certainly interplanetary spaceflight would be a common to the point that even poor people of 3rd world nations could become "astronauts" and go anywhere in the solar system if they cared.

        The big question is if such a future could ever happen? It is an interesting promise that has captivated the imagination since the idea of nuclear fusion reactors was even conceived as a remote possibility. Cold Fusion reactors may be a way to get one of those "Mr. Fusion" reactors built, but you would have to prove that they really work as promised. Unfortunately there is more reason to think Andreas Rossi is full of BS and is being intentionally deceptive.

        • by polar red (215081)

          assume for a minute you can head down to your local Home Depot and pick up a portable "Mr. Fusion" 1 MW reactor powered by a single box of Borax laundry detergent (that is a 100 year supply of Boron I should note too). How do you think that would change the world?

          assume for a minute you could head down to your local supermarket and pick up a portable flying pig ....

        • As a side note.... you thought global warming was bad with coal plants and such, just wait until everybody is turning out gigawatts of energy on a personal basis and wondering where all of that heat is going after it has been used for something else!

          Huh? Production of heat in the atmosphere would have very little effect compared to augmenting the atmosphere's ability to retain heat. Your hypothetical scenario would more likely solve the problem of global warming instantly.

        • by arkhan_jg (618674)

          As a side note.... you thought global warming was bad with coal plants and such, just wait until everybody is turning out gigawatts of energy on a personal basis and wondering where all of that heat is going after it has been used for something else!

          While this would be an issue eventually, the big problem with fossil fuels is not the direct energy liberated (eventually ending up as heat) but the CO2 acting as a multiplier for that sodding great fusion reaction 1AU away. Compared to the amount of energy that the earth gets coming off the burning day star, even near free personal fusion reactions would be a big improvement over the gigatonnes of CO2 we're chucking blithely into the atmosphere.

          p>It would change international relations as oil would no longer be nearly so important except as a lubrication fluid, and even that can be mostly done with renewable resources like corn oil or other vegetable stock sources.

          And plastics. And probably jet fuel (fusion reactors probably

    • There isn't much legitimate research because cold fusion violates some very well-established laws regarding energy requirements: You need to put energy into fusion to get more energy out, and that energy in is rather a lot. The more widely accepted not-cold fusion provides this energy by operating at extreme temperatures, and certainly can work in theory - the barriers are purely engineering problems, difficulties in containing a stable reaction using equipment a bit more compact than a star.

      • by angel'o'sphere (80593) on Thursday May 23, 2013 @01:17PM (#43804709) Homepage Journal

        Sorry, your attempt to explain this is unfortunately not really close to correct.

        You don't need to put energy into a fusion process to get more energy out. There is no scientific reason for that. However: in praxis we humans who build nuclear fusion reactors need to work that way. We have to heat up a plasma with lots of energy to get a little bit of fusion going on. But this is not natural law, it is just how our fusion reactors work.

        E.g. no one or nothing puts energy into the sun to make fusion possible. The pressure alone is enough. If we want to do that we needed to create that pressure and for that *we* would need energy.

      • by tragedy (27079) on Thursday May 23, 2013 @02:58PM (#43805857)

        There isn't much legitimate research because cold fusion violates some very well-established laws regarding energy requirements: You need to put energy into fusion to get more energy out, and that energy in is rather a lot.

        If you could actually be a bit more specific about exactly what laws are being violated, we might be able to take you a bit more seriously. Just waving around the idea that large energies are involved doesn't tell us anything. Let's use tritium-deuterium fusion as an example. You need something like .1 MeV to break through the Coulumb barrier and release about 170 times that much energy. .1 Mev is about 1.6 X 10^-14 joules. In other words 1 watt of power could, at some close to perfect level of fusion efficiency, produce over 170 watts in return by fusing tritium to deuterium something like 62.5 trillion times a second. Hmm, the numbers don't seem intuitively correct there. I was expecting the energies involved to be quite small, but that seems too small. It works out to about 327 gigajoules per gram of tritium-deuterium fuel which is very close to the published numbers I can find, however, so I guess they're correct.

        So, one joule of energy is, in principle, enough energy to produce fusion 62.5 trillion times (admittedly in the easiest two atoms to fuse). In practice it isn't since you'd have to have some Heisenberg principle violating particle cannon to actually produce those collisions. To actually produce fusion, you have to find ways to confine that energy so that you can try over and over again to produce those collisions, really really fast before the energy leaks away. That's why high-energy also tends to mean _lots_ of energy and massive equipment but it doesn't necessarily have to. It can also mean really high energy intensity, but not a whole lot of actual energy. For example, a really, really brief, but really intense laser pulse. In practical engineering, that still tends to equal lots of energy and equipment. I don't think there are any physical laws that anyone has proven that say that has to be the case, however. You certainly haven't cited any.

        There are plenty of things we don't really know about physics. We don't even have a very good idea about what really is or isn't knowable yet. As such, we really are not yet able to discount the idea that a particular arrangement of matter might promote fusion (or other nuclear reactions we don't properly understand) inside itself. It might come down to some particular way of concentrating energy really intensely at certain points in the structure of the material. Or it might come down to somehow promoting quantum tunnelling, or some other quantum effect that somehow railroads particles into the collisions you want. We don't know enough about physics yet to really discount such possibilities.

    • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Thursday May 23, 2013 @12:04PM (#43803827) Journal

      What I feel sorry for is any researcher who wants to do some genuine research into cold fusion.

      The trick is that you don't put your conclusion before your hypothesis. "Cold fusion" is the conclusion, or the result, of the whole process that would result in your utopian revolutions (again, something that is post conclusion or desired symptoms of the result of this sort of research). When your research begins by you working backwards, that's when the red flags should go up because there is no logical way to work backwards. Sometimes a sci-fi author will imagine something but it takes a very talented scientist/research/inventor/engineer/whatever to go from hypothesis to that end construct -- even then there's often a slight catch or permutation of nonfiction idea.

      What this paper appears to do is formalize observations ... which is great (any more transparency is always welcomed). But it's also curious, wouldn't you say? We've been hearing about this for years now and no one can tell me what, exactly, is going on in this solution filled chamber. The critics are rightly asking questions about why the next steps aren't being taken (like getting real world measurements on its power draw versus its power emission). And are suspicious not of the data that is provided by this paper but of the data that aren't provided and would be obviously interesting.

      The fear is that Rossi stumbled upon a neat trick that is just not sustainable but he realizes that if he controls the parameters on the experiments, he can make it look like this thing works. Then he rakes in billions and walks away from any involvement in it. It is suspicious because it's being conducted at a university that should be making obvious logical steps forward. Yet we continually only see "demonstrations" like his "public displays" and "observations" like this paper.

      My charges are still borderline character assassination/ad hominem and this could very well work. But I've had enough talk of what is "perceived to happen" and I'm afraid that someone has a really neat trick that they've already thoroughly investigated and figured out why it works. And maybe it even fooled them in the beginning. But truly there is no good way to monetize this trick. So they give everyone else only enough information to make them think that it works. Then they capitalize on this public interest and walk away from it just before the reveal.

      If not, I apologize but I also wouldn't be buying into this idea until we start with a hypothesis and tests are reproduced around the world and the true reason behind this anomaly is well understood and indeed a good energy answer. It's totally possible he doesn't know yet and his greed is the reason we only get tastes of this device. If that's true, however, we still don't know if it's a good answer to our energy addiction.

      I only hope there are enough details in this paper for other researchers around the world to better reproduce and analyze these results. I'm sorry if this is just a matter of an ill-equipped laboratory at Bologna University but with all the interest this has generated, I would be surprised if that was reason.

      In conclusion, start with a hypothesis, openly publish your methods and results. Wait for others to reproduce. Your rigor and its results will be your vindication if you fear being attacked for doing research. Just don't start your research by saying, "I'm going to make cold fusion and cheap energy is just ten years away." That's when you're openly attacked for good reason -- that's not science, those are words that you spout to get money.

    • Not to mention the ability to extinguish an active volcano [imdb.com] by freezing it.
      'Cause that's what the "cold" in cold fusion means, right?

      /sigh/ Remember when there used to be science in science-fiction?

    • by Artifakt (700173)

      Any competent professional ought to be able to come up with a new name for whatever it is and an easy way to say it's 'obviously' something completely distinct from cold fusion; "Gentlemen, this is not some crackpot cold fusion scheme - it's a perfectly legitimate catalyzed sub-nuclear synthesis." For extra credit, claim to have been led down that path by tantalizing hints you found in three articles published by grad students of people who also co-authored with Einstein, but DON'T claim to have been inspir

    • by jythie (914043)
      Well, if it worked, it may or may not have a huge impact. Just because energy is produced does not make it cost effective for energy production. For instance there have been some interesting advances in tabletop fusion, but it requires more energy then it produces. It has some interesting applications for medical equipment as a neutron source but is hardly game changing when it comes to energy production.
    • If cold fusion were invented tomorrow, I fully expect somebody would patent the hell out of it and it would be another 100 years before we get to use it properly.

    • by rasmusbr (2186518)

      If cold fusion were invented tomorrow everything changes, world politics, anything involving oil or energy production, the environment, space travel, food production, basically everything. So while it attracts cranks by the boatload I would be happy to see huge amounts of funding going to CF. Yet I suspect that if you are a legitimate researcher and you mention cold fusion that there is stunned silence in the room. You might as well bookend it with paranormal research.

      First of all it needs to be a form of fusion that's either hot / high pressure enough to allow reasonably efficient conversion to work through a thermodynamic process, or a form of fusion that emits charged particles that can be converted directly to useful electricity. If you can't extract work from the machine then all you have is a glorified heat pump.

      Second it needs to go through the whole industrial process from prototype to worldwide mass production to be able to beat more established forms of energy.

    • by tragedy (27079)

      What I feel sorry for is any researcher who wants to do some genuine research into cold fusion.

      When Soddy and Rutherford first identified nuclear transmutation, Soddy later recalled that Rutherford said: "For Christ's sake, Soddy, don't call it transmutation. They'll have our heads off as alchemists." The exact same thing goes on now. Pretty much anyone doing cold-fusion research avoids that term like the plague or their funding would probably be pulled in a second. They study "low energy nuclear reactions" instead.

  • by K. S. Kyosuke (729550) on Thursday May 23, 2013 @11:52AM (#43803677)
    If they want to know if the E-Cat works, why don't they just measure it with an E-meter?
  • It sounds like the poor sap just "invented" thermal hysteresis - the fact that things take some time to cool off, and therefore it's possible to keep them hot after shutting down the power. In the article, it says that 360 Watts were applied continuously with interspersed periods of 930 W, if I understood it correctly.

    • by Sockatume (732728) on Thursday May 23, 2013 @12:03PM (#43803809)

      There were two experiments. In one, 360W was applied continuously, and in the other, 930W was applied on a 35% duty cycle. Of course, that's assuming there's no trick wiring. The other assumption is that their baffling method of estimating the power output was working properly. It certainly looks fine (assuming the IR camera didn't go over 50C, which is all it's rated to without active cooling) but Rossi doesn't like people to do actual calorimetry and I can't help but read that as an indication that the positive results would immediatley disappear.

  • My E-meter measured it! Measured evidence, isn't that what every scientician respects?
  • What would it take to convince a reasonable observer that you've got a controlled nuclear reaction going on here?

    Simple scientific methodology; reproducibility. Pick another, unassociated lab, and have them do it.

    • by Sockatume (732728) on Thursday May 23, 2013 @11:59AM (#43803757)

      I'll settle for less: let the same people perform the experiment again, but don't have Rossi setting up the experiments in his lab on his terms. You don't invite Yuri Geller into the lab then let him set up the spoon-bending experiment.

      • Or sell a generator to a legitimate client, and see if they can draw a continuous 1MW from it over a long period of time. I'll lay good money on the claim that this "customer" is a pal of Rossi.
      • by ecotax (303198)

        You don't invite Yuri Geller into the lab then let him set up the spoon-bending experiment.

        On behalf of all those Yuri's out there: his name is Uri Geller.

  • To me, (Score:4, Insightful)

    by houbou (1097327) on Thursday May 23, 2013 @12:04PM (#43803821) Journal
    This either works or it doesn't, it exist or it doesn't and can be proven or not. Why is it so hard to just get the facts? It is supposed to be a process and actual equipment. Seems like there is a lot of bull fertilizer going around from every party involved. Proof shouldn't be so hard to get. This has been going on since 2011.
    • by omnichad (1198475)

      bull fertilizer

      For growing bulls?

    • If it is just a case of verifying the experiment, then it is easy. If the inventors are deliberately pulling a scam, then you would need complete access to the device, including dis-assembly. The device only produces a about a kilowatt - you can supply that on very fine wire hidden in the support structure if you want.

    • When you have a real scientist working, is easy to get the facts. But when you have a possible scammer working, which hides all the means to verify the accuracy of what he is claiming, then it gets hard to get the facts.
  • It may seem wasteful, but it is in the best interest of scientific literacy in general to debunk this sort of thing. If cold fusion is real (highly unlikely) it will stand up to all the scrutiny that science can throw at it. If it is not, then scientists will debunk it rather quickly and we can move on to the next snake oil crackpot idea.
  • by Alejux (2800513) on Thursday May 23, 2013 @12:16PM (#43803961)
    goes out of his way to make it look like it's a hoax.
  • Not a hoax (Score:4, Funny)

    by TheSkepticalOptimist (898384) on Thursday May 23, 2013 @12:17PM (#43803979)

    My D-Wave tells me the E-Cat will work.

  • The first person to encourage independent confirmation of a published cold-fusion device becomes the person who has made the greatest contribution to the betterment of the human condition in all of history.
    People who think they can make more money by preventing a section of humanity from using a cold-fusion device are too small minded and petty to stand any chance of having inventing one.

  • I love articles like this one, where the author sits down and clearly shows how science is supposed to work and what to look for if the topic isn't really science.

    But the problem is that the big lab's claims about fusion are just as bogus. The science isn't, that's all real, but the reactors don't work, and likely never will.

    So when the press fawns over one bogus project that's bogus from end to end, why aren't we as upset when the fawn over another that's only half bogus?

    I mean, they're still reporting tha

  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) on Thursday May 23, 2013 @12:50PM (#43804381) Journal
    The guy is calling himself Andrea Rossi. And he says he gets free energy by transmuting nickel into copper. Everyone knows free energy comes from Atmospheric engine. And the inventor's name should be John Galt. In about a decade all the Atlases who are holding up the Earth are going to shrug and move to gold currency in Galt's Gulch. All because all these Atlases and genii could not build themselves a stupid railway track to some stupid copper mine after the railroad company refused to build one. Makes one wonder were they really the Atlases holding up the world? Or some stupid self important sanctimonious a holes.
  • Of all the tests Rossi has demonstrated, this one is by far the most convincing. Just look at the input of 360 watts, and tell me how you can heat up the reactor to the glow that you see using conventional means. Since it can't be done conventionally, you have to assume there is a hidden extra energy input of at least 500 watts-- but the experiment is so clean that there is essentially no way to add extra power to the system (the most creative ideas is an IR laser, another suggests an altered high frequency
    • by sl3xd (111641) on Thursday May 23, 2013 @02:18PM (#43805441) Journal

      You obviously have no experience in the realm of charlatans.

      In every single case of too-good-to-be-true power sources, there is a gimmick to make the results seem legitimate to the untrained.

      It's little more than an magician's trick of misdirection, and ignorance of the audience. There's no real magic in a magician's act; misdirection and suspension of disbelief are their breadwinners.

      There's a reason charlatans won't allow people who know what they're doing to examine their apparatus. It has nothing to do with "trade secrets", and everything to do with the fact that experienced chemists, engineers, and physicists generally find the gimmick and expose their fraud in minutes.

      There are a lot of ways to heat up the reactor chemically. If you honestly believe that "it can't be done conventionally," then you've utterly failed chemistry.

      Simply heating a lithium-ion battery pack over 185 C starts an unstoppable chain-reaction that quickly reaches a couple thousand degrees. Surround a LiPo battery with a chunk of steel, short circuit it, and it it will reach a temp over 185 C. Now you just wait for the steel to slowly heat up. Create an array of a few of these, add copper to equalize the heat in your bank of LiPo batteries, and voila, you've got a heat source of well over 500 watts that can last for hours - days even, if you set it up right.

      As much as the /. crowd hates to admit it, there are reasons for most intellectual property law, NDA's, patents, and so forth: one of them is to protect a in inventor - so he can have outside experts verify his apparatus, and can publish how it works for expert scrutiny, yet still retain the rights to profit from his work.

      I'd like to believe that Rossi has somehow found out how to generate abundant, clean, and cheap energy. His actions, however, are identical to a garden-variety charlatan. Activities such as grandstanding before customers or the press, "demonstrations", and refusal to let experienced and external experts examine his device.

      Rossi does none of this. The smell of charlatan coming from the guy is overpowering. His behavior is identical to a classic con/charlatan. As the saying goes, you don't have to eat the whole turd to know it isn't chocolate.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Several of the points he makes were actually old arguments that were specifically addressed in the report. He appears to have missed that they measured power directly before the device, and that they did in fact have several types of radiation detection equipment.

    Phys.org has a less skeptical article: http://phys.org/news/2013-05-rossi-e-cat-energy-density-higher.html

  • by briancox2 (2417470) on Thursday May 23, 2013 @02:53PM (#43805805) Homepage Journal
    Instead of all this babbling and opining on the manâ(TM)s write-up, apply the Scientific Method and REPEAT the experiment per the writing. And until youâ(TM)ve done that, shut up about it.

    Leave the debate to the fields of politics and journalism where they belong. Science is about LOOKING! If you look and you find it to be false, THEN share your results. Until then, you've lowered yourself to the level of a TV Talking Head. That's a very low place for a Scientist to sink to.
  • by Baldrson (78598) * on Thursday May 23, 2013 @04:29PM (#43806739) Homepage Journal
    Ethan Sh*t-For-Brains Siegel declares that if there is no known theory for producing heat in excess of that which can be accounted for by chemical means, that we're dealing either with a hoax or with a particular class of nuclear reactions.

    For such SFBs Theory rules over Experiment.

    Clue: If the Enlightenment has anything at all to offer, it is that Experiment rules over Theory.

    The question isn't whether nuclear products are present.

    The question is whether heat beyond that explicable by chemical means is present. If so, we can go ahead and posit a hoax or we can posit that we Just Don't Know what the physical mechanism is for producing the heat but Whatever It Is It Sure Is Interesting. In the latter position, we call this the beginning of scientific research.

    For a clue exactly how clueless Mr. SFB is, one can look at Figure 3 of the paper and, using physics 101 application of the Stefan Boltzmann law, calculate the power output during the thermal excursion to be 10kW for 1kW input.

    With that kind of power gain, the niceties Mr. SFB posits as essential measurements just don't matter to the importance. Its either a hoax or its a revolution that should receive more resources and attention than middle east politics and American Idol combined.

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