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363) Alchemy and other controversial fields

Ludwik Kowalski

Montclair State University, New Jersey, USA
April 30, 2009



Introduction

Unit 310, entitled “Alchemy Versus CMNS,” can be seen at my cold fusion website. A reader of that unit, X, sent me an email message with an article from The Times of India (June 1, 2008). This unit is inspired by a set of back-and-forth messages about alchemy.

Quoting the first part of the article
On one of the walls of the Birla temple in New Delhi is engraved an unusual inscription. Unusual, because it contains an amazing first-person account of an alchemical experiment purportedly conducted in the early 1940s in Delhi, which was witnessed by a few prominent people of that time. It was an experiment in which mercury was successfully transformed into gold - or so the inscription claims. Here's a translation of how the inscription, in Hindi, describes the event:

‘On 27 May 1942 AD (Jyaistha Shukla 1 Samvat 1998) in Birla House, New Delhi Shri Pandit Krishnapal Sharma made approximately 1 tola of gold from 1 tola of mercury in front of us. The mercury was put inside a shell of reetha. In the mercury was mixed about 1 or 11/2 ratti of a white powder of some herb (jari-buti) and another yellow powder. Then the reetha shell was closed by clay and the whole thing put into the hollow of an earthen lamp and put on fire. For about 45 minutes, the fire was stoked by a fan till the coal got burnt completely to ashes. The lamp was then put into water to remove the contents. From the hollow of the earthen lamp a lump of gold was extracted. On weighing it was found to be one or two ratti less than 1 tola. It was very dry.

"We could not find out what these two powders were. Pandit Krishnapal stood at a distance of 10 to 15 feet from us during this whole process. Present at that time were Shri Amritlal B Thakkar (prime minister, All India Hindu Sevak Sangh) Shri Goswami Ganesh Duttji Lahore, secretary, Birla Mills, Delhi, Shri Sitaramji Kemka, chief engineer Shri Wilson and Shri Viyogi Hari. All were quite amazed to witness the process. We could witness this process by the kindness of Shriman Seth Jugal Kishore Birla.

A similar inscription also exists at Varanasi's Birla temple:

"In the month of charitra mas, Samvat 1999 (Indian calendar, 1943), a resident of Punjab, staying in Kashi, one Pandit Krishnapal Rasavaidya, performed the experiment in Rishikesh in the presence of Mahatma Gandhi's PA Mahadeva Desai and Goswami Ganesh Dutta and G K Birla. Mercury provided by Desai was made into gold, about 18 kg in weight.

"This was given as donation to Samadhan Dharma Pratinidhi Sabha, Punjab which fetched Rs 72,000 to the said trust. Sri Krishnapal repeated this experiment in the presence of Pratap Singh, Benaras Hindu University."

What prompted the detailing of these experiments on the walls of the Birla temples? The reason, according to V K Mishra, administrator of the Birla temple in Delhi, was to make people aware of the vast alchemical knowledge possessed by ancient Indian rishis, who apparently knew the secret of converting mercury into gold.

In fact, there are plenty of references in ancient Indian texts to this kind of alchemy. Researchers say that if they indeed occurred, they'd be a type of low-energy nuclear reaction, popularly termed cold fusion. This is a field that has always been surrounded by controversy, as modern science has consistently refused to believe that cold fusion - essentially a nuclear reaction taking place at room temperature - is possible. "With our present knowledge of the known facts of condensed matter of physics, there is no explanation for cold fusion," admits Amit Roy, director of the Inter-University Accelerator Centre in Delhi. "However, if proven, it could re-write the rules of science," he adds. Among other benefits, cold fusion could lead to the development of a clean, decentralized (gridless) source of power. This opens up limitless possibilities, as virtually every house can then create its own electricity using clean sources of fuel like water, without producing any radioactive or hazardous waste. Also, when perfected, cold fusion can yield results of the kind described in the Birla temple inscriptions. “


Excerpts from our messages
I was not aware that spectacular demonstrations of that kind were performed during my lifetime. The sender of the article wrote that Newton was preoccupied with alchemy, at the end of his life. I was aware of this. But my impression was that traditional alchemy disappeared after Lavoisier. It is clear to me that X is well aware of well known nuclear transmutations, and of recent CMNS transmutation claims. He also informed me that The Chemical Heritage Foundation (in Philadelphia) convened an International conference on Alchemy in Philadelphia during 2006. Their website, I responded, shows that alchemy is only a very small part of their agenda.

Responding to this, X wrote: You are correct that Alchemy is only a very small part of their interests. But the very fact they are willing to talk about it is interesting. No self- respecting scientist is ever willing to talk about it, even within the cold fusion community. AS ONE WHO IS PRIVY TO THE TRANSMUTATION RESULTS OF THE CMNS COMMUNITY ARE YOU NOW WILLING TO GO AHEAD AND CONCEDE THAT ALCHEMY MAY ALSO BE TRUE? DO YOU PUT YOURSELF IN THE COMPANY OF BOCKRIS AND ROBERTO MONTI, PEREZ-PERIANTE ETC ?”

My reply was: “Yes, I am open-minded. But first I should find time to learn ordinary chemistry. What I learned in high school evaporated long ago. The number one priority, in our CMNS field, is to find at least one reproducible-on-demand demo of a nuclear effect caused by a chemical effect. The protocol should be simple enough for wide use. Producing one gram of gold from 100 grams of initially pure mercury would rule out most objections. But producing one microgram will be much less convincing. ”

X wrote: “I am not suggesting that we make gold from mercury. You have misunderstood me. . . . My objective is to strike at the very root of Chemical Science and thus indirectly at one of the fundamental tenets of modern science which states that you cannot transmute one element into another in a simple chemical or physical experiment (except inside a nuclear fission reactor, in an particle accelerator experiment, or by using alpha particles.)!

In the last message X wrote: “The Chemical Heritage foundation has encouraged the study of the alchemical works of Newton & Boyle and others. Of course they are blissfully unaware of the very laudable work done in China, India and Arab world, centuries before the West got involved.

Anyway they hail Newton as the greatest scientist of all time. [They] appreciate his discovery of the laws of motion and calculus and so on, (including the book Principia Mathematica, etc.) but in the same breath state he  was nuts when it came to Alchemy. Was he a split personality - mad at times and great at others? These historians study Newton’s works with great interest. Have you noticed the number of scholarly books on Alchemy which have been published by the Princeton University Press during the last decade alone? So my objective is to convince these guys to have a relook at Alchemy after listening to the transmutation results of the CMNS field. If we do that there will be a quiet revolution in science without the protests from the nuclear physicists!”



Comments and observations
1) At the root of the so-called “cold fusion” controversy is a contention that a chemical processes, such as electrolysis, can trigger a new nuclear process. Interest in old alchemy will naturally emerge when at least one of the demonstrations is generally recognized as valid. Results from experiments performed by CMNS researchers, such as Iwamura, Arata, Oriani or Boss are strong indications that nuclear processes of some kind can indeed be triggered by some chemical processes. Will attempts to replicate these experiments be made in other laboratories? Will similar results be reported by others? Will most scientists agree that what is observed are indeed new process and not some kind of artifacts? That remains to be seen. CMNS researchers know that their most important task is to offer at least one experiment that is both convincing and reproducible-on-demand. That is what we need to turn the field from protoscience to real science.

2) In a recent message, posted on the list for CMNS researchers, Dennis Cravens wrote: “I think the most important thing at this time is to get people to do experiments. Talk does little, it is only by doing that we will advance”. That is certainly true. Dennis is a good example of an active CMNS scientist. Experiments he plans to perform this summer will probably be described at the 15th International Conference on Cold Fusion (ICCF15), in Rome, Italy (October 2009). That conference, by the way, is open to anyone; details can be seen at:

http://iccf15.frascati.enea.it

3) Listening to conference presentations, and to arguments between CMNS researchers, is probably the best way to be introduced to what is going on in this controversial field. How can negative attitude toward CMNS, on the part of mainstream scientists, be explained? Part of the answer has to do with monumental mistakes made in 1989, by Fleischmann and Pons. The phenomenon they discovered should not have been named “cold fusion.” And it should not have been announced to the world via a press conference. These two mistakes were clearly recognized by Fleischmann in a recently broadcasted CBS program:

http://pages.csam.montclair.edu/~kowalski/cf/360cbs.html

Most physical scientists believe that electric forces, responsible for chemical reactions, are not strong enough to produce nuclear reactions. That is why they often refuse to participate in CMNS conferences, or even read papers published by CMNS researchers. This apriori rejection of claims, made by recognized scientists, is rather unusual. Our scientific establishment does not support CMNS projects; it also prevents CMNS papers from being published in peer-reviewed journals. How can the twenty-years controversy be resolved in this situation? I do not know how to answer this question.

5) Let me return to alchemy. It is tempting to speculate about consequences of alchemy-based technologies. Yes, I am thinking about manufacturing rare and expensive chemical elements (or isotopes) from common elements. I am also thinking about destruction of radioactive waste, production of short-lived radioactive isotopes for medical applications, etc. But I am not going to be tempted. Likewise, I am not going to speculate about consequences of CMNS-based energy technologies. I prefer to focus on what is known rather than on what is desirable. Practical applications will come later. A reproducible demonstration in which excess heat is generated at the rate of 100W will contribute much more to our progress than volume of speculations.

6) I do not think that claims made by ancient alchemists, or the Hg-->Au claim described in two Indian temples, should be linked with modern CMNS research. This is more likely to hurt us than to help us. Our claims should be based on what we do. Turning several controversial fields into one broader field is not a promising strategy. I can understand why people, discriminated against, tend to stick together. But I am not in favor of alliances with other controversial fields. My unit 310 (see the link below, if you are interested) was written two and a half years ago.

http://pages.csam.montclair.edu/~kowalski/cf/310roberto.html

Roberto Monti
7) Reading this unit again reminded me of claims made by Roberto Monti, "a real alchemist among us." His website still shows the same stuff, as far as I can tell. Referring to his May 1998 experiment, Roberto claims that two grams of uranium (50% of his sample) were destroyed. What was his uranium transformed into? I asked him this question several times (and other questions) but he did not answer.

8) Introducing his "cryogenic model of nuclear fusion" Monti wrote: "When, in 1989, Fleischmann and Pons published their experimental results about the "cold fusion" D + D in Palladium lattices R. A. Monti had already published (in Italian) his new model of the atom and the Periodic Table. Consequently it was easy, for him, to understand what had really happened and where Fleischmann and Pons were wrong. R. A. Monti explained these facts for the first time in the Erice Conference (Italy, Spring 1989).”

9) A scientific theory confirmed by numerous experiments should not be criticized in this way. CMNS scientists do not say that nuclear physics, as described in many textbooks, is wrong; they say that they discovered something that the existing theory does not explain. And they are trying to convince others that the already-accepted theory should be further developed. That is what Einstein did for Newtonian theory. Relativity did not disqualify classical physics; it established its limitations. One does not need special relativity to design cannons, airplanes, or satellites.

Joaquin Perez_Parinte
10) One thing should have been mentioned in my unit 310. It is the paper entitled “Evidence on the occurrence of LENR-type processes in alchemical transmutations,” presented at ICCF11 (11th International Conference on Cold Fusion, Marseilles, France, 2004). The author, Joaquin Perez_Parinte, thinks that centuries-old alchemical transmutation records (Philosopher’s Stone being a catalyst) should be revisited. I agree that "rational/scientific examinations of alchemical transmutations" are desirable. But I do not think that investigations of Philosophers' Stone should be part CMNS. The ongoing struggle for recognition of NAE (Nuclear Active Environment) is likely to be complicated by linking classical alchemy with CMNS. The same is true for those who study experiments performed by medieval alchemists; it is better for them not to be linked with CMNS. They should investigate ancient claims with modern tools; the results should be published in journals (or at conferences) devoted to chemistry. The situation might change in the future; for the time being it is better to proceed independently.

John Bockris
The ICCF11 proceedings also show a long article of John Bockris, a well-known electrochemist. Was he also a person with split-personality? In that article Bockris tells us that he and his coworkers discovered presence of tritium (in the electrolytic cell) only three weeks after they started using Fleischmann’s protocol. Two years later they discovered presence of helium. Roberto Monti and Joseph Champion introduced Bockris to alchemy. This was in 1991. It is hard to imagine how a distinguished physical chemist could so easily be influenced by Champion, who was not a chemist or physicist. Was it the same Bockris whose textbook on electrochemistry I was trying to understand several years ago? His very informal article (written as if it was a diary) is a good summary (25-pages) of early work on CMNS transmutations. Bockris was probably aware of what Monti wrote about Einstein at

http://www.lowenergytransmutations.org/documents/the-real-Einstein_EN.pdf

What did he think about that kind of criticism? Why was Monti’s attitude toward an accepted theory not a warning that his attitude toward experimental science might also be questionable?

Bockris lists several commercial analytical laboratories that independently confirmed presence of gold. In the experiment performed on May 22, 1992, for example, “the gold concentration increased from 4 ppm in the raw material to 420 ppm [in the material collected after the experiment].” The experiment consisted of “firing” of 1.65 kg of raw material and collecting 0.85 kg of residuals. I suppose that 420 ppm refers to the entire sample and not to a randomly selected spot. Under that assumption, the total mass of produced gold was a sizable fraction of one gram. Table 3 shows that the amounts of Hg2Cl2 and PbO, in the raw material, were 100 and 50 grams, respectively. Table 5, shows that the amount of gold in the residuals was about 800 units (depending on the method used) while the amount of gold in the raw material was of the order of one unit. Unfortunately, the unit is not specified; it is probably one gram.

Bockris does not suggest, as Joaquin does, that medieval alchemy protocols should be investigated; he encountered claims (made by Joseph and Roberto) and decided to investigate them objectively. But experiments were not performed by him; a possibility of fraud is mentioned in his article in several places. Would he take gold-making claims seriously without being influenced by spectacular claims made by Fleischmann (who was his student in England) and Pons? Probably not. Would it be possible to separate CMNS claims from other controversial claims, such as ancient alchemy, astrology, UFO, hydrinos, ether energy, etc.? If so then separations, as I wrote above, are dessirable.

It is interesting to compare reports of Monti and Bockris with the published 1919 report of Ernest Rutherford.

http://web.lemoyne.edu/~giunta/RUTHERFORD.HTML

That report is usually referred to as the announcement of the first man-made transmutation--changing an atom of nitrogen into an atom of oxygen. Rutherford was studying collisions of alpha particles with light atoms. Was he aware that this was new kind of alchemy? He probably was. But the word “transmutation” does not appear in his article. The article describes the unexpected result (more scintillations after air was added to the apparatus) and numerous control experiments, showing that nitrogen was most likely responsible for what was observed. What would the reaction of most scientists be if he wrote something like “my discovery confirms changing one element into another seems to be possible”? His 1937 book, on the other hand, was entitled “The Newer Alchemy.” That was five years after production of radioactive phosphorus from aluminum, another kind of transmutation induced by alpha particles, was discovered by Joliot-Curies.

Appended on 5/10/2009
Replying to the above (on a private Internet list for CMNS researchers, Michel Jullian wrote: “Nice piece! Your argument about CMNS not wanting to be linked with even more controversial fields is reminiscent of mainstream scientists not wanting to be associated with CMNS of course, but a line has to be drawn somewhere I guess.”

That is an important observation. Where should the line be drawn? If someone asked me how to define CMNS I would say something like this. CMNS is a field of investigations of nuclear processes, presumably induced by atomic processes. The field, originally (and unfortunately) named “cold fusion,” remains to be controversial. The first claims that such processes are possible were made by M. Fleischmann and S. Pons, and independently, by S. Jones. Expected nuclear signatures, investigated by CMNS researchers, are: (a) generation of excess heat, (b) emission of nuclear projectiles, and (c) transmutations (of chemical elements and their isotopes).

I propose to define CMNS in terms presently claimed nuclear signatures. CMNS consist of contemporary studies (both experimental and theoretical) of excess heat, nuclear projectiles and nuclear transmutations, not explainable in terms of traditional nuclear physics. The adjective “contemporary” excludes medieval alchemy but includes ongoing investigations, for example, those conducted by Bockris and his coworkers. Methodology of validation of CMNS claims is not different from the methodology used in other areas of science. Validations based on authority are not acceptable but claims made by qualified researchers are taken more seriously than claims made by amateurs. Preliminary attitude toward claims is also influenced by known professional accomplishments of authors, by their modesty, and by their willingness to answer questions. Secrecy of traditional alchemists is not compatible with contemporary science.

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