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274) Washington Post on Fraud in Science

Ludwik Kowalski; 1/9/2006
Department of Mathematical Sciences
Montclair State University, Upper Montclair, NJ, 07043

An interesting article on fraudulent science has been published yesterday in an American newspaper. What follows is the letter to the editor I emailed last night. It is followed by my own comments, and by appendix in which the content of the original paper, sent to me by Jed Rothwell is shown.

My letter to the editor:

Dear Editor:

Please publish the attached letter; it refers to the "Trials & Errors" (written, on 1/8/06) by Bettyann Holtzmann Kevles.

Thanks in advance,
Ludwik Kowalski

The content of the attached file:
Accusation without evidence

To the Editor:

In "Trials & Errors" (January 8) Bettyann Kevles points to real dangers in science. But to suggest, without any evidence, that cold fusion (CF) claims are fraudulent is inappropriate.

As a retired physics teacher, and a nuclear science researcher investigating the CF field for more than three years, I have found no evidence of a fraudulent claim. Nor have I found the field pseudoscientific. Scientific methodology of validation is evident in nearly all publications I have read; they are downloadable from <>. At three International CF conferences I witnessed numerous debates and saw no difference between these debates and those at other scientific gatherings. A lot of healthy criticism reflected honesty and dedication. The CF field is unfairly discriminated; but it is alive.

In my opinion, however, that field is still not science; it is only a very promising proto-science. To become science the field needs at least one truly reproducible effect -- an effect recognized by many qualified mainstream scientists. Unfortunately, due to numerous errors made when the discovery was announced in 1989, validating a cold fusion claim became much more difficult than in other areas. This letter is sent from Japan where I came (at my own expense) to assist a university scientist investigating a CF phenomenon. The quality of his research is just as high as in other projects I have worked on.

Ludwik Kowalski
Professor Emeritus
Montclair State University
Montclair, New Jersey.

A message from Jed Rothwell:
Jed is a long time observer of the cold fusion. Last morning he posted the content of the Washington Post article. In a subsequent message he suggested that some of us write letters to the editor with comments about the unfortunate Kevles’ article. I am afraid that my input will not be published. It will probably be ignored, like two other, recently submitted letters to editors, one to The New York Times and another to Physics Today. The editors seem to follow a “party line” according to which cold fusion letters should be rejected. This is not limited to letters; it applies to scientific papers as well. Fortunately, the LENR-CANR library, managed by Jed, preserved several hundreds of papers. Future generations of real historians of science will thank him for this work.

My own additional comments:

I suspect that the author of the paper, Bettyann Kevles, was simply not aware that cold fusion is still alive, as I was, up to about 3.5 years ago. This is rather surprising for a Yale University lecturer whose research interests seem to be in area of history of research. She is certainly not alone among those who took premature rejection of curious cold fusion claims for granted and stopped paying attention to what was going on in that field.

But, apart from labeling cold fusion a fraud, some of her observations are valid. Motivation for fraud is very well described by Kevles. She is right that we should be aware of it. She is also correct in saying that fraudulent episodes are not going to hurt established areas of research, such as paleontology. But the situation is dramatically different in proto-science, like CMNS, struggling for recognition. In that case even a single case of fraud can deliver a devastating blow to the entire discipline. The consequences of such episode would be difficult to repair.

One kind of potential fraud was not mentioned in the article. It is possible use of honest research to support fraudulent manipulations of financial investments. Secrecy is not compatible with science. But it is compatible with business; financial officers are not obligated to reveal work in progress before soliciting investments. Responding to a request for clarification they may say, for example, that “nothing can be revealed to protect a patent application”. Secrecy makes us vulnerable. What would the effect of a disaster, in the area of financial manipulation of proto-scientific claim, be? Would it destroy reputation of honest scientists whose work has nothing to do with the disaster? How would it affect reputation of scientists whose work was actually exploited by financial wheelers dealers? That is difficult to predict. I hope, perhaps naively, that such things will not happen.

But danger is real. The big question is how to protect the CMNS field from fool’s gold sellers. Hope for the best, assume nothing, suspect everything and ask good questions? That sounds like a good advice. But not in an area protected by secrecy. The essence of science is its methodology of validation, and its openness. And even that is not enough, as far as an individual is concerned. One has to be trained to ask right questions, and to understand the answers. Dependence on recognized authorities, and on institutions, such national academies, national laboratories, etc. is also very important.

A fraudulent scandal whose probability is small, will happen, sooner or later. Fortunately, nothing of that kind surfaced in the nearly 17 years since the discovery of cold fusion was announced. But it can happen any day. This might kill the entire field, unless it is no longer proto-science. Unresolved controversies about CMNS should be resolved as soon as possible. In my opinion an injection of research founds, combined with an official rehabilitation, would be perfectly justified at this level of development. Even a very modest support, less than one percent of what is being spent on hot fusion, would be a big help. Major CMNS researchers are old; their knowledge and skills will not be available in another decade or so. Young scientists, on the other hand, will not commit themselves to a highly discriminated field. They know that research in a “forbidden area” could hurt them, even if their work is excellent. That is the tragedy of the present situation.

Appendix 1:
Trials & Errors: Barely a Drop of Fraud; Why It Shouldn't Taint Our View of Science
From the Washington Post, Jan. 8, 2006; page B03.
By Bettyann Holtzmann Kevles

Seldom in our history have fame, fortune or a heady mix of the two tempted so many people into committing fraud. The halls of Congress are reverberating with the jingle of hastily discarded donations as elected officials distance themselves from lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Onetime employees have not forgotten Enron, WorldCom and the giant compensation packages of failed CEOs.

No surprise, then, that South Korean biologist Hwang Woo Suk, the putative creator of Snuppy, the first cloned dog, should come to occupy the spotlight of suspicion. There is doubtless a sense of schadenfreude among people envious of -- and at the same time fearful of -- scientists whose work they only partially understand but nonetheless depend on. Some are even asking whether biomedical research can be trusted.

But the specter of a cloud of fraud hanging over the microscopes and telescopes of scientists around the world is largely imaginary. It is true that there have been some great scientific misdeeds in the past. Who can forget Piltdown Man , the manufactured fossil skull that puzzled anthropologists for decades? Or the claims of the discovery of cold fusion in 1989 at the University of Utah? But those examples are famous because they are so rare. And, as the South Korean stem cell case shows, the scientific process means that frauds are typically revealed before they harm anything but the reputations of the perpetrators themselves. The far greater risk is that they erode our faith in science. . . .


P.S. (1/20/06)
I do not know why neither Washington Post nor Dr. Kevles replied to my messages.

Appendix 2: Added on 1/26/06
What follows are comments on Kevles’ article made by Edmund Storms. His letter to Yale Daily News (first item below) was published in that newspaper on 1/13/06. The second item is the letter to the editor of Yale Daily; it has not yiet been published, as far as I know. Ed gave me permission to post his message, as below.

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Appendix 3: Added on 1/29/09
What follows is a message that Dr. Robert Bass posted at a restricted Internet list for the members of ICCMNS (International Society of Condensed Nuclear Matter Science). Replying to my request for permission Robert wrote: “A friend pointed out that there IS a Yale connection [Dr. Mitchell Swartz’s collaborator Dr. Alex Frank IS a Yale Graduate] so I have made a couple of minor additions/correctionsand wish now to submit for publication the following REVISED version:”

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Professor Kevles rebuttal still shockingly misinformed!

The letter from Prof. Kevles published on Tuesday, January 17 remains shockingly replete with demonstrably false statements. As Nobel Laureate physicist Julian Schwinger pointed out at the time, the claims of Fleischmann & Pons (F&P) did NOT "contradict the known laws of physics" because "the circumstances of cold fusion are different" than the circumstances in which the theoretical predictions pertaining to conventional hot fusion were made, i.e. in a rarified gaseous plasma wherein fusion reactions between two deuterons can be treated as a collision between two isolated particles in a vacuum, contrasted with a periodic lattice of deuterons embedded in a Palladium lattice.

On my website, in the Science sub-site, the reader can find Schwinger's 1990 ICCF1 paper, together with my 2005 MIT Colloquium slideshow containing references to my paper at ICCF4 (Dec. 6-9, 1993), based in part on pro-CF papers by Schwinger and by Nobel Laureate physicist Willis Lamb, which passes the "Rabinowitz Acid Test" in that my theory ("albeit crude" in Schwinger's words) predicts that an F&P experiment of electrolysis with Pd cathodes will produce aneutronic d+d fusion & excess heat in the case of heavy water but will fail with ordinary water, whereas both d fusion & p fusion will work in a Nickel cathode. It is not true that the Utah legislature made available $1 Million to F&P; the Utah "National Cold Fusion Institute" was directed by former GE electrochemist Dr. Fritz Will, who did achieve a reproducible protocol for producing radioactive tritium via deuterium fusion in an F&P type of experiment before giving up, though this more conventional reaction established that contrary to Establishment dogma Low Energy Nuclear Reactions (LENRs) are indeed possible.

Distinguished electrochemist John Bockris of Texas A&M not only replicated the F&P aneutronic excess heat but found massive amounts of the nuclear "ash" (helium-4) in a Pd cathode which had been quick-frozen in liquid nitrogen while producing heat. Similarly electrochemist Dr. Melvin Miles of the Naval Research Labs not only duplicated the F&P excess heat but measured the helium "ash" in sufficient amount to "explain" the heat. Other early F&P replicators included Dr. Dennis Cravens, Dr. Edmund Storms (of LANL), Dr. Michael McKubre (of SRI International) and Drs. Mitchell Swartz & Alex Frank (of

As documented in the recent books of Beaudette and of Krivit, which Prof. Kevles has evidently not read, the most notorious "failures to replicate," in the cases of Caltech, MIT, and Harwell (UK) reflect negatively upon those famous institutions. The neophytes at Caltech evidently had not read the earlier papers of F&P because they neglected to check that their "loading" had passed beyond alpha phase into the known beta phase. At the MIT Fusion Plasma lab there was outright criminal "fraud on the public" in that a curve which oscillated around 10% excess heat was, prior to publication, artificially moved down to oscillate around zero excess heat! As Dr. Mike Melich demonstrated at ICCF4, after he had prevailed upon Harwell to release their raw data for his study, they had given up prematurely because they had actually achieved positive results in the form of bursts of excess power using heavy water, but nonesuch ever when using ordinary water (and had been receiving active cooperation from Fleischmann contrary to Prof. Kevles's falsehood that F&P had "persistently refused" to supply colleagues with more information).

To verify the utter incorrectness of the Establishment version of this historical episode, which Kevles irresponsibly parrots, the reader need only read the cited two books & visit the cited websites and also visit and for overwhelming documentation. For justified sarcasm about all this from a Nobel Laureate, visit Shortly before his death in 1993, this Nobel Laureate physics professor wrote: “…my first topic, cold fusion, has caused many eyebrows to raise. Cold fusion? Isn’t all that nonsense dead and buried? How can anyone be so insane as to talk about this totally discredited subject?”    Sadly, Dr. Robert W. Bass, Prof. of Physics & Astronomy, BYU (1971-81, retired),   [no connection with Yale, though Dr. A. Frank mentioned above is a Yale graduate]
Dr. Robert W. Bass,
M.A. Oxon [Rhodes Scholar]
Prof. of Physics & Astronomy, BYU (1971-81, retired)
Adjunct. Prof. of Systems Engineering, F.I.T.
Registered Patent Agent 29,130
45960 Indian Way (#612)
Lexington Park, MD 20653
RES:  (301) 866-9657
FAX: (301) 866-9674

P.S. (1/30/06): I am going to send the URL of this item to Dr. Kevles and ask her to reply to our comments. If she does then I will be happy to append her input. I do not think that she will disagree with our attempts to open a path of reconciliation between CF researchers and mainstream scientists. She was simply not informed (and not interested) in what others wrote about CF after the first two or three years of great excitement. I was in the same situation up to about four years ago. She will probably be with us, after learning that we are not charlatans or con artists. Her input below will probably enrich this document.

Appendix 4: Added on ???

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