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281) Reporting negative results

Ludwik Kowalski; 2/23/2006
Department of Mathematical Sciences
Montclair State University, Upper Montclair, NJ, 07043

Thanks to Tom, Scott and Dennis for permissions to quote from private messages. Yesterday Tom Benson wrote: "Hello Ludwik and Scott, How are you doing? I've just finished reading your (Ludwik's) unit # 267 in which your non-confirmation of the electrolytic experiments is shown. I'd like to thank you personally for publishing a good solid NEGATIVE report...CF people need to double-check each other's work more frequently and point out problems. . . . ”

Replying to the above, Scott Little wrote: “Thanks Tom. Both Ludwik and I agree that there is indeed value in publishing negative results. I just wish we had the opportunity to publish some positive results once in a while. . . . To date, I have never really seen (i.e. confirmed) the excess heat effect in the Earthtech labs. Oh, there have been times when something positive-going occurred in our experiments but it was either an artifact that we subsequently identified or something very small near the detection limit that was never adequately explained and could not be repeated.

Over the years we have gradually improved our calorimetry to the point where we can now achieve +/- 0.1% relative accuracy with our latest instrument. We have run a small variety of CF experiments in this new calorimeter and none of them have shown even 0.25% excess heat. It is a great frustration for me to see the CF community claiming over and over again that there can be no doubt as to the validity of CF, yet I can't find/make an experiment that shows the basic effect.

But I have not tried Dash's recipe, nor the Szpak approach. We've worked a lot with Dennis Letts who takes the standard F&P cell and excites it with laser light. So far that has not shown excess heat in our new calorimeter. . . . Please keep our calorimeter in mind. It is currently available for work and we offer to test any viable CF cell in it for free.”

The issue of reporting negative results was raised in my ICCF12 poster, as shown in the unit #270. The only person who commented on the issue was Ed Storms. He wrote "I think publishing negative results is a waste of time unless these results reveal a useful pattern." I disagree. If a positive result is an interesting fact, such as generation of excess energy, then the failure to confirm such result is also important. What is a “pattern?” It is something about how things are arranged. Right? An experiment describing a discovery and another, apparently identical, experiment confirming it, form a useful pattern to be aware of. The same should be true for a pattern consisting of a pair of reliable experiments contradicting each other. Withholding one kind of results creates an illusion of success; it is not scientific. I am certain that Ed will agree with this. The only facts not worth sharing are those which are suspected to be unreliable, for example, after discovering that an instrument became faulty, that a solution was contaminated, or something else of that kind.

Another issue on which I have mixed feeling, as far as Ed Storms is concerned, is the concept of NAE (Nuclear Active Environment) that he invented. It is something that remains to be identified. The rate of progress toward control and understanding of CMNS phenomena would certainly accelerate if the main cause of such phenomena were known. But what evidence do we have that all CMNS phenomena have the same cause? And how can we be certain that the cause is “nuclear?” How do we know, for example, that it is not electromagnetic or gravitational? Yes physicists did identify three kinds of interactions (gravitational, electromagnetic and nuclear). But why should this be the end of the story? Perhaps the CMNS phenomena are due to something that remains to be discovered. But that is a separate issue.

Replying to Tom I wrote:
“ If you are reading item #267 then go to item #270 as well. But this is not the end of the story. The experiment described in #270 is going to be repeated. The chance of success is higher this time. Pierre Clauzon, and other people at the ICCF12 (including Mizuno himself), identified something that was not done correctly. Our protocol did not allow for sufficient loading of Pd with hydrogen. As you know, a Mizuno-type experiment can be relatively simple and relatively inexpensive. I hope it could be used to produce excess heat on demand. That is why we are anticipating another attempt to replicate the French experiment.

In replying to Scott, I wrote:
I am glad that your highly sensitive, and very accurate, calorimeter is now available to researchers. But it does not seem to be appropriate for a Mizuno-type cell in which excess heat is measured by the amount of evaporated water. But the instrument is probably highly appropriate for measuring excess heat resulting from diffusion of deuterium through palladium. Several CMNS researchers reported on reality of such heat. In one case a Pd tube (with thin walls) was filled with the gas at the initial pressure of several atmospheres. Did you try to experiment with such setup? I did write to Dennis Letts and he provided additional details about what you mentioned.

As you know, Dennis was successful in triggering excess heat with a laser beam. This was reported at ICCF10. But the effect was observed only with palladium that he originally had. Last summer he told me that attempts to reproduce the effect failed with other stocks of that metal. So I asked Dennis what the present situation is. He wrote: “In November 2005 the effect returned in my lab with experiment 641--the laser triggered about a 1 degree cell temp increase with ambient temperature controlled to within +/- .05C and cell input power controlled to within +/- 10 mW on a 10 Watt input power. I started experiment 642 Jan 10, 2006 in MOAC [Scott’s calorimeter] and so far the laser has had no effect on cell temperature beyond laser heating of about .1 degree C. ”

Should such mixture of positive and negative results be known to other researchers? I thing so. Reporting about the 641 experiment and not saying anything about the 642 experiment would be highly inappropriate. In this case the new origin of Pd is the ‘meaningful pattern.’ But suppose the negative result is obtained in an experiment in which everything seems to be the same as before. Why should negative results not be reported when “meaningful patterns” cannot be identified? Nothing is strictly identical in nature. Unfortunately, we still do not know which differences are significant and which are not.

Anticipating a possibility of success, in the next set of Colorado experiments, I would like to know who would be interested in building similar devices in order to either confirm or refute reality of large amounts of “excess heat on demand.” Once we have reliable Mizuno-type cells we can start demonstrating them at local high schools and universities. Experiments performed at scientific conferences, for example, during poster sessions, can also be very helpful. Concentrated effort of many might turn out to be very productive at this stage. Please write to me, if you are interested. Even 80% reliability would be a giant step forward toward the reconciliation with mainstream science.

I am glad that Dennis gave me a blank permission to quote. Here is how he responded when I asked for the permission yesterday. “You may use any material that pertains to me in any way you wish. I only require that you tell the truth as you see it. I think it is wrong for me to tell others what to print or withhold; I don't believe that represents academic freedom, freedom of the press , or my idea of freedom in general.” Let us hope that Scott’s calorimeter, called MAOC, will confirm reality of excess heat in Dennis’ experiments. MAOC, by the way, stands for Mother Of All Calorimeters. It took Scott several years to build and test this superb instrument. I am honored to communicate with people like Dennis and Scott. How do some physicists dare to say that CMNS researchers are voodoo scientists. Failure to reproduce experiments does not turn a researcher into a pseudoscientist. But what should one think about an author who writes about something without making an effort to study it? The answer is obvious; such an author does not act as a scientist. Yes, I am thinking about Dr. Robert Park, the author of the Voodoo Science book. His crusade aganst real pseudoscience is highly valuable. But labeling cold fusion as voodoo science is not. Why didn't he come to recent ICCFXX conferences to learn about what is going on? Why are his arguments based on what was known in 1989 and not on what is known today.

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