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348) A message from a student

Ludwik Kowalski
Montclair State University, Montclair, NJ, 07055
April 21, 2008

1) Three days ago I received a message from an American college student. He wrote: “Dear Dr. Kowalski, My name is X and I am a student at Y. I am impressed with your website. You seem to have been investigating ideas in this field for several years.

I've read some introductory material from and read some of your numbered items (#1, #2, #3, #4, #22, #24, #25 and several others). I already have the seminal Fleischmann, et. al. paper but I'm writing to you hoping that your years of experience may help guide me (and other interested students) in finding those papers which you think are essential reading (studies).

The cf information available from various sources seems voluminous.  I have tried to just starting reading whatever I find but I think a more directed approach would be more fruitful. Would you be willing to identify a few such studies that I should probably start with? I've already read some of the history, "pathological science" and surrounding controversial stuff and have not yet been dissuaded.  I'm skeptical but still wanting to find the science, i.e., credible evidence.  I'd like to focus on the studies and thought I'd turn to you for some advice. Any direction would be helpful, X”.

The message is authentic but I am deliberately using X and Y because no permission was asked to quote the message. That student is probably not the only one to wishing to learn about the ongoing CMNS controversy. Here is how i responded to this message (with the CC posted on the Internet list for CMNS researchers: “Dear X, It is difficult to advice without knowing your background. Here is what one of my colleagues suggested:

"Ed's reviews and summaries were most helpful when I first sought  
information about CF:

There's even a student's guide:

And CF for Dummies:

And the book of course."

Ed's book is an extensive review of the field. But the level of presentation is advanced. The review of that book, written by a Danish chemist, Dieter Britz, can be found at:

On the other hand, do not believe everything you might find on the Internet. Some people like to mix serious scientific issues with deceptive advertising, as in:

I strongly suspect that the device described at that unit never existed. The article was probably written to attract naive investors. Serious cold fusion researchers, like Ed Storms, are making progress and  trying to understand how excess heat was produced by Fleischmann and Pont. The original claim for excess heat has been confirmed in more that 100 experiments. But, in most cases the rate of generating such heat was close to 1 watt. There are other indicators, in addition to excess heat, that nuclear processes of some kind can indeed be triggered by chemical processes. What we need is at least one "reproducible on demand" demonstration of this. Technological advances would probably be made quickly after basic science is understood. Keep your eyes open on this developing field, no matter what your long-term plans.”

3) Shortly after sending the reply, I read a message posted by Steve Krivit. It contained a link to the list of books about CMNS that he compiled.

I wish I saw this link earlier; it should be given to anyone interested in CMNS topics. References to papers which are likely written to promote fraudulent claims are also worth showing to students. Here is a quote from an article entitled “Inventor claims discovery of free energy,” written by Kevin Smith (in 2002). The entire article can be downloaded from <>

”In a demonstration for Reuters, a prototype -- roughly the size of a dishwasher -- was run for around 10 minutes using four 12-volt car batteries as an initial power source. Emitting a steady motorized hum, the machine powered three 100-watt light bulbs for the duration. A multimeter reading of the batteries' voltage before the device started up showed a total of 48.9 volts. When it was switched off, a second reading showed 51.2 volts, indicating that, somehow, they had been reimbursed. The machine went on to run for around two hours while photographs were taken, with no diminution in the brightness of the light bulbs, which remained lit during a short power cut. ‘The draw on the batteries was estimated at more than 4.5 kilowatts. With any existing technology the batteries would have been drained flat in one and a half minutes,’ the inventor said.”

A knowledgeable student would probably notice that something is wrong with the last sentence. One of the parameters of a car battery is Ah, usually 50 Ah or more. Suppose that four 12 volt batteries are connected in parallel. What is the total current needed to support three 100 W light balls, of matching voltage? The answer, based on Ohm’s law, is I=300/12 = 25 A. Each battery would contribute 25/4=6.25 A. Thus, in two hours, each battery would use only 6.25*2=12.5 Ah. This is only 1/4 of its assumed capacity, 50 Ah. On what basis should one expect a battery to “have been drained flat” under such conditions? The same question would be asked if batteries were connected in series, supporting three 36 volt light bulbs (of 100 W each). I see nothing unusual for using four car batteries to power three 100 W light bulb for 2 hours. The draw on the batteries powering three 100 W light bulbs is 300 W, not 4500 W.

Another claim, that most likely was a fraud, is mentioned in Unit #279, at this website. Let me end this unit by quoting from what I wrote in unit #236, at this website. “Getting more out of a physical system than is put into it has been a persistent dream of humankind. Those who have tried to do this honestly -- by inventing their own ‘perpetual motion’ machines -- have invariably failed. The only people who have come out ahead in his area are those who claimed success and then got others to pay to see it. That it seems, was not difficult to do. In 1812 Charles Redheffer traveled through Philadelphia and New York, charging a dollar admission (a dollar was a lot of money in these days) to see his perpetual motion machine made up of wheels, gears, and pulleys which kept moving continually with no apparent source of energy. He did very well until someone discovered a little man in a back room turning a crank.

Another method of making money is to ‘invent’ such a device and then get people to invest in it. So gullible are some people, and so anxious to get something for nothing, that they will put money into all kinds of money-making schemes.” The iESi company was certainly not the first instrument to get money from greedy people; and most likely not the last one. Even people who studied science are not always immune to preposterous claims. They know that many ideas that turned out to be good were initially rejected as nonsensical. The germ theory of disease, for example, was ridiculed when it was first introduced by Pasteur. Today bacteriology is an essential part of medical science.

Or think about Wright brothers’ idea of airplanes. It was ridiculed by those who believed that only balloons “lighter than air.” could fly. But the brothers did not give up and their persistence paid off. How can one deny this today when heavier than air machines fly all over the world? Dismissing an idea which seems to be in conflict with what is already known may or may not be justified. That is why scientists are often reluctant to reject unreasonable claims. Sometimes it pays off and sometimes it leads to disappointments.

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