8) Burden of Proof

Ludwik Kowalski, <kowalskiL@mail.montclair.edu>
Montclair State University, Upper Montclair, N.J.

Return to the clickable list of items

What follows was copied from J. Huizenga's book "Cold Fusion; The Scientific Fiasco of the Century," Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1993. It is the beginningof the last section (pages 285-287) of the Epilogue. The author is a well knownnuclear chemist; he was the Chairman of the DOE/ERAB panel (Department ofEmergy/Energy Research Advisary Board) which produced a highly critical 1989 report on cold fusion.

“The term ‘cold fusion’ as presently used encompasses a ‘melange’ of claims as discussed in the previous sections of this chapter. The more avid proponents of cold fusion continue to argue that the excess heat in many experiments is so large that the source of the energy must be nuclear fusion or some other unknown nuclear reaction. A fraction of these proponents takes the more conventional point of view and admits that if the process is truly nuclear, there should be a commensurate amount of nuclear ash. The task for these advocates is clear-cut: find the nuclear products. If the reported intensity of nuclear products is orders of magnitude less than the claimed excess heat, then the excess heat is not due to a nuclear reaction process. Furthermore, if the claimed excess heat exceeds that possible by other conventional processes (chemical, mechanical, etc.), one must conclude that an error has been made in measuring the excess heat.

There are, however, many proponents who ignore or deny the fundamental equality between the magnitudes of the excess heat and nuclear reaction products. They cite the unsubstantiated claims of insignificant amounts of neutrons, tritium, helium, etc. to bolster their belief that the claimed excess heat must be nuclear. The latter school of advocates wants to put the burden of proof on the skeptics! They challenge the skeptics to prove that the excess heat is experimental error. What is required, they say, is a modem-day R.W. Wood to rise up and find the critical mistake being made in calorimetry. This, of course, is impossible because the level of absurdity of cold fusion claims has grossly multiplied with time. First, heat was reported to be produced with heavy water and palladium, where light water served as the control. Then it became fashionable to claim even greater success and larger power gains with light water and nickel.

For good measure, element transmutation has also been reported to occur in different media including biological solutions. Even the ultimate dream of the alchemists is claimed, the production of gold from mercury. All of this wishful thinking about nearly-for-free energy has attracted a fringe element of charlatans attempting to promote their own fame and fortune. It is not the responsibility of skeptics to disentangle this web of cold fusion claims ranging from the marginal to the ridiculous. All of these unsubstantiated claims seem to merit the same value to proponents who lump them together as equally-weighted contributions. It is this assorted package of claims that serves as the basis for the oft-heard myth that cold fusion has been verified hundreds of times. No claim is too preposterous to be denounced by the advocates. Any and every result is acceptable under the umbrella of cold fusion. Denial of the equivalence between the magnitude of excess energy and the number of products associated with a nuclear reaction is a rejection of the law of conservation of mass and energy, and qualifies as blatant pseudoscience.

In the final analysis, the burden of proof falls squarely on the shoulders of the proponents of cold fusion. That is the way science works. Advocates must describe their experiments in sufficient detail in publishable papers so that their results can be replicated by knowledgeable scientists. Ten (or some other incommensurate number of) nuclear products per second does not serve as a replication of one watt of excess power. Verification will occur when enough separate and independent replications have been performed so that experienced scientists agree on the outcome. After nearly four years and the expenditure of many tens of millions of dollars worldwide, we still only have unsubstantiated and fragmentary claims of watts of excess heat generated from light and heavy water (and H2 and D2 gases) by some unknown mechanism reported to have a nuclear origin. To this date, not a single, well-controlled and reproducible experiment has been reported where corresponding amounts of excess heat and nuclear reaction products are reliably measured.

This is the current [1993] status of cold fusion. Hence, I conclude now, as I did in July 1991, that the claim that cold fusion is a nuclear process producing watts of excess power, without commensurate nuclear reaction products, is a chimera and qualifies as pathological science (see Chapter 12). At best, the cold fusion fiasco may lead to new information on materials and energy storage, but even this has not been established at this time. Furthermore, there is still no persuasive evidence that any nuclear reaction products have been positively identified in cold fusion experiments in very low level background environments. Regrettably, the idea of producing useful energy from room-temperature nuclear reactions is an aberration. . . .”

Return to the clickable list of items