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368) A cooperative 2009 project

Ludwik Kowalski

Montclair State University, New Jersey, USA
June 4, 2009


1) Introduction
The following email message was posted this morning on the public Internet list for physics teachers. I hope that at least three or four teachers will be able to join me in this process. Only results from several independent replications, either positive or negative, will be taken seriously (at this stage of the controversy). I wrote:

“Dear Friends, I am ready to replicate the experiment of Richard Oriani. His paper, presented at ICCF14 (International Conference on Cold Fusion, 14 in Washington D.C. 2008)  can be downloaded from:

http://pages.csam.montclair.edu/~kowalski/cf/368TGP_oriani.pdf

Richard claims that his spectacular results (a nuclear activity of some kind, triggered by electrolysis) are now reproducible-on-demand. Several days ago, he informed me that nine additional experiments were performed after the above paper was published. Excessive tracks of nuclear projectiles were observed in all of these experiments.

To verify this, I want to replicate his experiments this summer. But that is not enough. The same attempt must be made by several independent researchers. Please join me, if you are interested. Our results, either positive or negative, would be published. The ICCF15 is in October 2009, in Rome, Italy.

The equipment needed is probably available to some of you. Technical and practical details will be described in my next message, probably later today. Those who are tentatively (not yet definitely) interested, should contact me in private.

KowalskiL@mail.montclair.edu

P.S.

a) Consider also a possibility of working with a serious student. How often do students have a chance of contributing to an ongoing controversy.

b) One thing you will need is a d.c power supply whose output can be regulated between zero and 20 volts (and able to deliver up to about 70 mA).

c) For etching CR-39 chips, you would need an oven, in which a constant temperature, close to 70C, can be kept. Instead of an oven, I am using a hot plate which has a built-in thermostat, and which allows me to use a standard magnetic stirrer (to keep the temperature of the etching solution the same within the beaker). Your chemistry lab is likely to have this kind of equipment. They can also provide you with NaOH (for making the etching solution),  and the Li2SO4, (for making the electrolyte). Ask a chemist about dangers of working with NaOH; the Li2SO4 is not dangerous, unless you drink it, or put it into your eyes.

d) Our biology department allows me to use their microscope with a digital camera. A traditional microscope can also be used to see tracks on the etched CR-39 chips.

e) A platinum wire is reusable; you should be able to borrow a piece (about 6 to 7 cm), to make an anode. You will need a nickel wire, of approximately the same length, to make a cathode.

f) Details about the CR-39 material, about thin mylar, etc. will be provided after I know how many people would be willing to participate, and to share costs (perhaps as little as $25 from each participant).

g) That will be a serious attempt to contribute to the ongoing debate about what used to be called "cold fusion." The field is now known as CMNS, as explained in the recent CBS (60 minutes) broadcast.”

This unit will be used to report experimental results gathered during my experiments, and results reported to me by other teachers. Writing a paper, at the end of the summer, will probably be easy because all information will be in one place.


2) A simplified diagram of the cell:

Let me begin by showing a very schematic diagram of Oriani's setup. Details, and a more realistic diagram, will be inserted later, provided the anticipated cooperation takes place.



The electrolytic cell (dark walls), containing the electrolyte (gray) has an opening at the bottom. A plastic CR-39 chip (green in the figure; thickness about 1 mm) is covered by a thin mylar film. The mylar film protects the CR-39 chip from the electrolyte, and from the direct contact with the cathode. Two small circles (red, below the cell) represent an o-ring. A second o-ring (not shown) is located on the other side of the chip. That second o-ring is pressed upward by a clamp (also not shown), so that the electrolyte cannot leak. The cathode wire is standing on the mylar; it is mechanically supported by the CR-39 chip. The anode wire is approximately 2 cm above the cathode. The potential difference between the electrodes, approximately 15 V, is sufficient to produce a current of about 50 mA dc. The experiment lasts about 24 hours. Then the cell is dismounted and the CR-39 is etched. At least five such experiments are expected from each project participant.

The goal is to provide a clear yes-or-no answer to a simple question. Is the average track density significantly higher than the known track density (about 13 tr/cm2 and standard deviation 4 tr/cm2, as for my CR-39)? A mean of 50 and the standard deviation of 10, for my CR-39 material, would certainly be significant. But the mean of 25 tr/cm2, and the standard deviation of 10 would not be significant. More importantly, each project participant should observe excess tracks. That would allow us to say that results are reproducible on demand in different laboratories.

3) Some details

Some people might think that making a cell for an Oriani-type experiment is likely to be very difficult. This is not so. Here is what I think is an acceptable setup. All the components can probably be purchased in your local hardware store. The store might even be able to cut pieces for you, if you do not have tools (a drill and a hacksaw).

Instead of using a glass tube you can use a plastic tube (about 7 cm long, matching the size of your two o-rings (red in the figure below). My drawing should be obvious. The upper and lower plates (any rigid material, even wood, would be OK) constitute clamps. They are pressed toward the cell with long screws with bolts (not shown), as implied by the presence of drilled holes. My cell is an exact replica of Richard's cell. But I do not think that this is essential. Note that the cell is open to air (via a wide hole in the upper plate).




Start by finding a tube and the o-rings that match each other. The rest, including the size of the CR-39 chip, can be adjusted accordingly. The inner tube diameter close to 2 cm is likely to be the most convenient.

P.S.

1) The exact geometry of the cell is not important. But make sure   there is at least 2 or 3 cm of the electrolyte above the anode. You do not want to come next day and discover that too much water was lost and the anode is in air.  The distance between the anode and cathode, about 2 cm, is not critical. Richard's Ni cathode is spot- welded to a Ti rod. My cathode will be a Ni wire with a "foot," as described by Richard. What is important, however, is to make sure that the W-shaped foot is in contact with mylar, and thus only 6 microns from the CR-39 surface.

2) Make sure the initial concentration of Li2SO4, in light distilled water, is 0.022 grams per cm^3. Start with the current of 60 mA and run the experiment for 3 days. Richard said that adding water (to compensate what is lost via decomposition and evaporation) is not necessary, unless the level of the electrolyte comes too close to the anode.

3) My cell will take about 10 cm^3 of electrolyte. I will prepare about 100 cm3 (using 2.2 grams of Li2SO4, and will keep it in a small plastic bottle. Used electrolyte, after each experiment, will be put back into that bottle, to be used in subsequent experiments.

4) Etching (in 6.5 M NaOH at 70 C) will be 10 hours. Why so long? Because I know, from experience, that counting (and recognizing) tracks is easier when they are large. After 10 or 12 hours of etching tracks can be counted under the magnification of 40,   instead of 200. If I had a lot of time, I would do sequential etching, for example, six etching, 5 hours each. Let us leave this for later time. Our task is to validate or refute reality of excess tracks. Are they real or are they due to contamination of some kind?

5) Cutting a 3 by 3 cm chip from a large sheet can be done with an exacto knife (art supply store) or with another sharp point. First the blue protective cover is removed. Then keep scratching deeper and deeper on both sides. I think my remaining sheet is 9 cm wide. That means I will first cut one 9 by 3 cm piece, then another. After that  each piece will be cut into three chips. I will have six chips for three experiments and for three blanks. Blanks will be kept in the little bottle with the electrolyte, for the duration of each experiment.

6) Prolong exposure to air will be avoided by keeping all chips in salty distilled water. I insist on this; exposure to air should be minimized; estimate the number of hours each chip was exposed to air, for example, 2 or less. (Air contains alpha-radioactive radon. Radioactive ions might migrate toward electric charges on the CR-39 plastic. But this will not happen in salty water, or in the electrolyte. Exposing the already-etched CR-39 chips to air is fine, unless additional etching of these chips is anticipated.

7) After performing three experiment, each of us should report the results. We will have enough data to decide what to do next.

8) Please, do not hesitate to ask questions, or to make suggestions.

9) It would be a time-demanding job to etch each CR-39 chip separately (after each experiment). Furthermore, the hot plate I am using for etching is often used by students. So I do not always have access to it. Etching all chips at the same time (in a 500 cm3 magnetically stirred beaker) is not difficult. Each chip has a little hole by which it is suspended (with Ni wires) into the electrolyte from a glass rod, or pencil, supported by the beaker.

10) Drilling a little hole in a CR-39 chips works better with some very small bits than with others. A dental bit (from a friendly dentist helper) fits my electric drill. It is the best. First I create a pit with the tip of the  exacto knife. Then I apply the bit to that pit.

11) Distilled water can be bought in many supermarkets.

12) To make the 6.5 M etching solution I will add 130 grams of NaOH to 500 cm3 of ordinary water. Check my arithmetic, please. The solution should be kept in a polyethylene (not ordinary glass) bottle. The NaOH solution is dangerous. Wash your hands immediately   (with a brush, for at least a minute or two) if you touch the solution accidentally. Also ware your protection glasses.

16) Direct contact between the Ni cathode and the mylar is essential. Make sure that the sharp ending of the Ni cathode points up; you do not want to make a hole in mylar.

17) The picture of my cell is shown below. The power supply is on the left. The size of the cell can be compared with the size of the small apple. Two tiles turned the window of my room into an improvised lab.




The inner diameter of the tube, in my cell, is 15 mm; the cross sectional area, inside the tube, is 1.76 cm2.  The outer diameter is 21 mm. The foot of the Ni wire cathode, in the form of W, fits the are of about 1 cm2. The anode is a Pt wire spiral pancake; its diameter is also close to 1 cm2. The distance between the anode and the cathode is 25 mm. Without the current the electrolyte is transparent. The bubbles of escaping gasses make it white, when the current is flowing. The anode can actually be seen, reflecting light in the bubbling  electrolyte.

The potential difference is now 18.4 V; the current is 60 mA. The level of the electrolyte went down by about 6 mm in 24 hours.

4) First Updating
(*a*) Responding to the above B.W. wrote: “I see that Richard's results depend critically on the behavior of a plastic film. It is possible to argue that pitting effects are potentiated by the presence of a particular chemical solution carrying ionic currents. One can demonstrate the attraction of charged radon nuclear byproducts on dust to CRT screens using a cold war era survey meter - an experiment described in several threads here in prior years - and so it is natural to suppose that such a Geiger-Muller arrangement with a counter, would provide increased credibility to the linkage implied between pitting and nuclear effects here, if it were shown to detect such putative nuclear events also.”

= = = = = =

(*b*) Prompted by this, I responded, also on the Internet list for physics teachers. “Yes, indeed; paying attention to possible artifacts is essential in this case. That is why control experiments are necessary. A control chip is processed in nearly the same way as the experimental chip, except for electrolysis. If i had two cells I would do what Oriani suggested--placing a control chip into the identical second cell, in which the electric current is zero. My control chips will be placed into the container with electrolyte; that is close enough to the ideal. We will have much more to do, if our experiments also produced excessive track. Each possible artifacts should be investigated.

In the past I applied CR-39 to the Pt and Ni wires I am using (for weeks) and etched the chips, and to the glass of my empty cell. Nothing above the background was detected. I now suspect that electric charges are somehow created on CR-39 left in air for long time. That is why keeping chips in salty water (which Oriani does not do) is very important. A common Geiger counter might not be sensitive enough to detect the level of radiation needed to produce tracks observed by Richard. The mean background on my chips is 13 tr/cm^2 (st. dev. is 4). My threshold, for saying that excess tracks are real is high; the mean of 25 (and st. dev.. 5) would not be enough, no matter what a statistician might say. Why not? Because some of the assumptions   statisticians make might not be satisfied. But the mean of 100 (and the st. dev.. 10) would already be significant, with my CR-39 background. Do you remember what Ernest Rutherford said about reliance on statistics? Ask Google, s/he will find the quote for you. I would very much appreciate hearing about other possible artifacts. Thanks in advance. And do not miss an opportunity to expose your students to a real controversy.”

= = == = =

(*c*) I had two tentative commitments from the Phys-L list. One teacher (W.B.) added: “. . . Anyway, nothing here will necessarily penetrate the defenses of a disbelieving community. It's not a matter of rational reason. They can simply refuse to read the results .or more probably, refuse to acknowledge the main point or the success, and instead concentrate on niggling details forever.

What *can* penetrate the community is a well-designed experiment performed by their own children without their knowledge. The embarrassment of wide replication by K12 students could be as revolutionary in the same way the Wright Brothers would have been, had they decided to fly over the White house in Washington: attracts publicity difficult to ignore. Hence my interest in making experiments easy enough for an advanced K12 student to perform.  Then post the procedure on Instructables and in Make magazine, while making clear that this is the very experiment which the scientific community rejects as unconvincing.”

= = = = = = =

(*d*) Yes, indeed ! Let us hope that the first confirmation of reproducibility comes from open-minded teachers. It is important, in my opinion, to distinguish between the great majority of honest scientists and a small group of pathological dogmatists. I believe that honest skeptics will take our confirmation or refutal, of Oriani’s claim, very seriously. We will have to address the issue of strategy after the first set of experiments is over.

= = = = = = =

(*e*) Another person, probably ex-teacher, wrote: “My son is a 7th grader and looking for an award-winning science fair project for next year.  Do you think that this is something that would be reasonable for him to do with my help?  I am not in the classroom anymore, but could get access to high school labs or university labs if need be. If you think that this would work . . . I'm in.

= = = = = = =

(*f*) And here is how I responded: “I do not think that the replication experiment I suggested is appropriate for a science fair project, unless the laboratory work of students is supervised by a teacher. Your 7th grader son is probably not ready to do this kind of work alone. (Preparing and using the NaOH solution, for example, is a dangerous operation.)  But your son would probably learn a lot by assisting a trained scientist. You wrote that you "could get access to a university lab." That is good. Perhaps you can find a researcher who needs an assistant. Feel free to show my messages to that person. Good luck to both of you. Early exposure of motivated students to research can be very beneficial.”

= = = = = = = =

(*h*) Next morning I received this clarification: “I would be supervising my son's work, he would certainly not be doing it alone.  I was a chemistry and physics teacher and I am now an administrator. Although I don't have my own lab, I have many teacher and professor friends who would let us use theirs.” To which I responded: “That is a totally different story. You are welcome. As you probably know, I have a web site devoted to so-called "cold fusion." First several units contain references. Some of them are likely to be available in your school or town library. If not then they can probably get what you want via the interlibrary program. Select something appropriate for your son. That would be a good introduction.”

= = = = = =

(*i*) Responding to the above, the teacher wrote: “Although I understand why his work couldn't be included in your experiment, please keep me in the loop so he could do his own research and experimentation.  He's very interested in this and he is a difficult kid to get interested.”

And here is my reply: “Your experimental results will be as important as results of any other participant. The fact that you have an assistant, and that his work is also a science fair project, does not matter to me. I want to have results from several science teachers who attempted to replicate Oriani's experiment. I do not know if his claim is valid. Our task is to provide a clear yes-or-no answer. In either case, our collective project is likely to be an important scientific contribution. Start preparing what is needed. We will talk about this in a week or so. Each of three experiments will take 3 days (with minimal intervention). This will be followed by one full day of etching, and by several days of counting tracks under the microscope. 

= = = = = = = =

(*j*) Appended on 6/7/2009
My first three days of electrolysis are over. The initial current was 60 mA and the level of the electrolyte was about 30 mm above the anode. At the end of day 3 the level of the electrolyte was about 7 mm above the anode and the current was 87 mA (probably because a more concentrated electrolyte has lower resistivity). Since I am not in a hurry, I just added distilled water (with a pipette) and let the experiment to continue for another three days. Oriani said that he does not try to keep the level of the electrolyte constant. So I do the same. There is very little to do during the experiment. Only an occasional look, for example every 8 hours, and recording of the current in the logbook. The really interesting part is observing tracks and counting them. I am still looking for qualified collaborators. Write to me in private, if you want to participate in this very important replication. Will we also observe tracks from an unexplained nuclear effect or not? That remains to be seen.

(*k*) Note that my electrolytic cell is open to air. The hydrogen and oxygen from from decomposed water simply bubble up into air. Oxygen and hydrogen, if allowed to accumulate in a closed cell, would be be able to explode, for example, due to an electric spark. I assume that science teachers willing to replicate Oriani’s experiments are aware of such dangers. The hot plate I am using for etching is located under the hood, in out chemistry lab. Please do not hesitate to ask questions about safety aspects of our experiment.

(*k*) Note that my electrolytic cell is open to air. The hydrogen and oxygen from decomposed water simply bubble up into air. Oxygen and hydrogen, if allowed to accumulate in a closed cell, would be able to explode, for example, due to an electric spark. I assume that science teachers willing to replicate Oriani’s experiments are aware of such dangers. The hot plate I am using for etching is located under the hood, in out chemistry lab. Please do not hesitate to ask questions about safety aspects of our experiment.

5) Second Updating (6/17/2009)

a) About two week ago I started the first experiment in The Curie Project. The first experiment, lasting 12 days, ended yesterday. The second experiment is in progress. Here is a little story of that project, in the form of messages I posted on the private Internet list for CMNS researchers. Unfortunately, no one wanted to particpate. Why is it so? There are many electrochemists amomg them; performing a set of Oriani-type experiment would be trivial for them. Perhaps they know something I do not know. What follows are messages I want to preserve

b) Ludwik’s message (April 4, 2009) Dear al; Two CR-39 protocols have been used to discover, and to confirm,   reality of nuclear-like tracks produced during electrolysis: Oriani’s ordinary-water protocol and SPAWAR heavy-water protocol. I was lucky to familiarize myself with these protocols (helped by Richard and by   Pam) and to observe tracks with my own eyes. Actually, there are two Oriani protocols; let me call them A and B. Protocol A, described at

http://pages.csam.montclair.edu/~kowalski/cf/333physrevc.html

can be used in a totally independent experiment. Protocol B is essentially the same as protocol A, except it requires a seeded ring from Oriani. Spectacular clusters of tracks were found by using the protocol B, as I reported in Catania. But subsequent investigations of   one of Oriani’s seeded rings, performed by Marissa and Scott Little, indicated that the o-ring might have been contaminated with thorium. Arguments against this conclusion were presented by Richard. The issue remains to be resolved. In any case, using an o-ring supplied by   Richard would interfere with the idea of “independent confirmations.”

Results reported in Oriani’s rejected manuscript (see the URL above)   are more recent and they are said to be 100% reproducible. I know that   many people on this list are able to independently replicate Oriani’s protocol A. With this in mind, I would like to suggest a cooperation, to be called “Curie Project.” The purpose of The Galileo Project,   organized by Steve Krivit, was to independently confirm SPAWAR results; the purpose of Curie Project would be to do the same for a subset of Oriani’s results (see the URL above). I am certain that Richard will be happy to assist those who need technical help. I have enough CR-39 for at least ten experiments. I can also perform microscopic examination of already-etched CR-39 chips, for someone who has no access to a microscope. The entire experiment, including etching, must be performed in different labs (a possible alpha- radioactive contamination is no longer a problem after etching).

 We would give ourselves a deadline. Then one of us would draft   a cooperative paper to be submitted to a journal. All results, both   positive and negative would be reported. Later we would discuss which journal to choose. More detailed reports, focusing on individual   results, are likely to be suitable for ICCF15. Please reply by sharing   what you think about this idea, even if you are not interest in   participation in the Curie Project. P.S. I think our experiments should be as identical as possible. Let us use   a constant-voltage source of 12 volts (a car battery or an equivalent   power supply). We all should be using Ni foils as cathodes (Pd is more   expensive) and light distilled water (heavy water is much more   expensive). Richard, confirm that these are good suggestions. If not   then suggest something else.

c) Message from John Fisher (April 6): Although I think we could learn a lot from the Curie Project I doubt that it would convince a hard-nosed skeptic.

Even if all of the participants were to report positive results, the skeptic would note that they had selected themselves. The request for volunteers was submitted to a large number of individuals. Before committing to the project, many might have attempted to achieve a positive result. Those that failed may have declined to participate. In light of this potential bias the skeptic would reject a claim of reproducibility.

If some participants report positive results and some report negative results, the absence of reproducibility would be demonstrated. The skeptic would likely believe that unidentified and uncontrolled factors were responsible for the positive results.

The protocol does not include studies of radon contamination, of other radioactive contamination, or cosmic rays, to eliminate them as causes of the etch pits.

It has not been shown that in all cases the etch pits are actually associated with particle tracks, and the identities of the presumed particles making such tracks have not been determined.

In light of such considerations a skeptic would probably conclude that although something odd my have been observed in some electrolysis experiments, there is no reason to believe that these observations are evidence of nuclear reactions

If, however, we view the project as a means of educating ourselves, of discovering factors that disfavor or favor reaction and removing or enhancing them as appropriate, we then may be able to achieve a reliably reproducible protocol and a much stronger project.

d) Ludwik’s message (May 21, 2009) The deadline for a commitment  is approaching (end of May). But I am still waiting for the first serious commitment to participate in The Curie Project. Why is it so?

e) Ludwik’s message (May 28, 2009): In a private message Richard Oriani informed me that he will participate in The Curie Project. That is good news. Who else is willing to participate? . . . The task is well defined. Richard has a protocol which is said to yield reproducible-on-demand results (excessive tracks in CR-39 detectors). I hope we will be able to confirm this. Please participate in this cooperative project; the more people we have the more valuable our conclusion will be. The task is well defined; your help is needed.

Once we have reproducible results we can start asking for theoretical predictions and test them experimentally. For example, what happens when the Pt anode is replaced by a nickel or Zr anode, when H2O is replaced by D2O, etc. Actually Richard already has the answer to the second questions.

f) Ludwik’s message (May 29, 2009) Richard’s unpublished paper, containing the protocol, can be downloaded from

http://csam.montclair.edu/~kowalski/cf/ 368oriani_paper.pdf

It helped me to understand why some people are not willing to participate in The Curie Project. Anyone with experience would recognize that it is practically impossible to do everything that Richard did, even if one worked 8 hours each day for only one year. Please do not be afraid; we will focus on what is essential.

P.S. *) The exact geometry of the cell is not important. But make sure there is at least 2 or 3 cm of the electrolyte above the anode. You do not want to come next day and discover that too much water was lost and the anode is in air.  The distance between the anode and cathode, about 2 cm, is not critical. Richard's Ni cathode is spot-welded to a Ti rod. My cathode will be a Ni wire with a "foot," as described by Richard. What is important, however, is to make sure that the W-shaped foot is in contact with mylar, and thus only 6 microns from the CR-39surface.

*) Make sure the initial concentration of   Li2SO4, in light distilled water, is 0.022 grams per cm^3. Add pure water, when necessary, to compensate for losses. Keeping concentration constant all the time is not required by Richard's protocol. Let us agree to make the initial current 70 mA. In my case it would mean to choose the appropriate voltage at the simple d.c. power supply. Keeping the current constant is not required. But I will adjust the voltage (and the level of the electrolyte) when I am around. But this is not essential.

*) What about the duration of experiments? That is an important parameter. Too short time might not be enough to accumulate enough of excess tracks; too long time will not be practical. Let us look at Richard data (Table 2 in the pdf file. Without calculating the mean and the standard deviation, I see that a typical experimental track density is 200 tr/cm^2. This is more than ten times larger than my background (mean=13; st.dev.=4). Assuming 200 tr/cm^2 is accumulated in 4 days (Richard's typical duration), I suggest that each of our experiment lasts 3 days. This would allow for two experiments per week. Having 150 tracks/cm^2 from an experiment and 20 tracks from the background would already be significant.

*) My cell will take about 10 cm^3 of electrolyte. I will prepare about 30 cm^3 and will keep it in a small plastic bottle. Used electrolyte, after each experiment, will be put back into that bottle, to be used in subsequent experiments.

*) Etching (in 6.5 M NaOH at 70 C) will be 10 hours. Why so long? Because I know, from experience, that counting (and recognizing) tracks is easier when they are large. After 10 or 12 hours of etching tracks can be counted under the magnification of 40, instead of 200. If I had a lot of time, I would do sequential etching, for example, six etching, 5 hours each. Let us leave this for later time. Our task is  validate or refute reality of excessive tracks. Are they real or are they due to contamination of some kind.

*) Cutting a 3 by 3 cm chip from a large sheet can be done with an exacto knife (art supply store) or with another sharp point. First the blue protective cover is removed. Then keep scratching deeper and deeper on both sides. I think my remaining sheet is 9 cm wide. That means I will first cut one 9 by 3 cm piece, then another. After that each piece will be cut into three chips. I will have six chips for three experiments and for three blanks. Blanks will be kept in the little bottle with the electrolyte, for the duration of each experiment. Prolong exposure to air will be avoided by keeping all chips in salty distilled water. I insist on this; exposure to air should be minimized; estimate the number of hours each chip was exposed to air, for example, 3 or 5.

*) When pieces of CR-39 are cut from a large sheet, the blue protective cover often also peels off at the edges of the remaining sheet. Use a masking tape, or scotch tape (along the edges) to make sure no naked CR-39 is exposed to air.

*) After performing three experiment, each of us should report the results. We will have enough data to decide what to do next. Suppose two more people become participants, in addition to Richard and myself. We would have 12 experimental chips and 12 background chips. That should be enough for a preliminary report or paper.

*) Please, do not hesitate to ask questions, or to make suggestions.

Let me continue [next day].

*) After reading what was suggested last night (see point 3 above) I changed my mind. Each experiment should last 4 days, as in Richard's protocol. My reasoning was based on the assumption that excess tracks are produced at a steady rate. But this might not be true; more tracks might be produced on day #4 than on the first three days.

*) It would be a time-demanding job to etch each CR-39 chip separately (after each experiment). Furthermore, the hot plate I am using for etching is often used by students. So I do not always have access to it. Etching all chips at the same time (in a 500 cm^3 steered beaker) is not difficult. Each chip has a little hole by which it is suspended (with Ni wires) into the electrolyte from a pencil supported by the beaker.

*) Drilling a little hole in a CR-39 works better with some very small bits than with others. A dental bit (from a friendly dentist helper) fits my electric drill. It is the best. First I create a pit with the tip of the  exacto knife. Then I apply the bit to that pit.

*) Distilled water can be bought in many supermarkets. To make the 50 cm^3 of the electrolyte I will add 50*0.022 =1.1 grams of electrolyte to 50 grams of distilled water.

*) To make the 6.5 M etching solution I will add 130 grams of NaOH to 500 cm^3 of ordinary water. Check my arithmetic, please. The solution should be kept in a polyethylene (not ordinary glass) bottle. That solution is dangerous. Wash your hands immediately (with a brush, for at least a minute or two) if you touch the solution accidentally. Also ware your protection glasses.

*) Can Oriani's electrolyte (Li2SO4) also hurt me if I touch it? Perhaps a chemist will answer this question.

1*) Is the direct contact between the Ni cathode and the mylar essential? Yes, but only because it is in Richard's protocol. One of the experiments to do later, if excessive tracks are indeed reproducible-on-demand, is to see what happens when the cathode does not touch the mylar. It is reasonable to suspect that nuclear particles are not produced on the surface of the cathode. This would be consistent with results from earlier experiments of Oriani and Fisher (see their ICCF10 reports). The distance between the cathode and the mylar film will most likely become an important parameter to investigate, in the future. But that is not our task. At this time we want to know if Richard's new protocol always produces a significant number of excess tracks. Confirming this would be a monumental achievement.

*) Please become a participant in The Curie Project.

g) Ludwik’s message (May 31, 2009): Dear all,

**) Let me return to the last point. If tracks observed by Richard are   alpha particles of several MeV, as they most likely are, then tracks   would be located only next to the foot of the cathode. The foot, as   described in Richard's paper, was a Ni wire forming the letter W. The   tracks would match this well defined pattern.

**) It looks like only Richard and myself are participants of The Curie   Project. I will most likely perform and analyze three experiments in   June. Would you be able to do the same, Richard? If so then we will   have six electrolysis chips and six background chips from experiments   in which chips are not exposed to air for more than two or three   hours. Suppose significant numbers of excessive tracks are confirmed   by our six experiments. Suppose that tracks are distributed uniformly   (more of less) in all chips. That would be much more than confirmation   of Richard's results. It would be a clear evidence that tracks are not   emitted from the surface of the cathode only.

**) P.S. Richard, please confirm that what follows is acceptable. What current   should we begin each experiment with?

h) Ludwik’s (Jun1, 2009): Richard adviced me to “avoid penetrating the mylar with the sarp point of the cathode.” He said that his experiments usually last for 3 day, at the cureent of 60 mA should be sufficient. He also said, on the CMNS list, his recent three sucessful confirmations should be counted as his contribution to The curie Project.

i) Ludwik’s message (same day): The deadline for commitments passed. At least one other person, preferably not Richard (whose data we want to replicate), should participate. My results only, either positive or negative, would have a negligible impact.

Two people can perform two experiments per week (each lasting 3 days, as suggested by Richard today). That translates into at least eighteen experiments in two independent laboratories. The "two independent laboratories" seem to be essential, in our situation.

I will wait several days before dismounting the setup. Fortunately, I did not have time to cut CR-39 chips today. Perhaps the remaining sheet will be used in an experiment that is likely to have a better impact.

I will be happy to analyze the CR-39 chips (after they are etched) for the second participant. This, by the way, is the most time-consuming task. Please contact me in private, if you prefer.

I am very disappointed that no one is able to participate. It does mean something. What is it?

I am still waiting for at least one partner. Please ask someone who might be able and willing to participate. That person does not have to be on our list. DO NOT MISS AN OPPORTUNITY TO MAKE AN IMPORTANT CONTRIBUTION.

j) Ludwik’s message (6/5/2009): Dear all: Not able to find participants on this list, I approached a list for physics teachers. My invitation message was posted yesterday and I already have three tentative commitments. That is good.

6) Third Updating (6/16/2009)
Three teachers for Phys-L list (M.H, P.L., and W.B.) joined me in The Curie Project. We are communicating by email. I sent the small CR-39 chips that were irradiated with alphas. Their first task, for practicing, is to etch the chip, to train the eyes and to measure the mean track density. Here is a message I sent to them this morning.

“1) Does one of you has mylar to share? I have just enough for my anticipated experiments (see below). A meter long and three inches wide sheet of 6 micron mylar costs less than $1. But they sell it in spools, costing $73 each. Perhaps we can avoid buying mylar. Look around, especially in X-ray structural analysis labs.  They use it to support analyzed samples. Perhaps someone will be more successful in finding a less expensive source with google. We need only about 2 by 2 inches per experiment. But it should be a high quality mylar, such as sold by SPI supplies.

2) My second experiments will be finished tonight; after 3 days of electrolysis. The first experiment lasted 12 days. I will etch all chips after all experiments are finished, probably in the second week of July. But I am not going to examine the chips till the end of the project. I do not want to influence you.

a) To economize on the use of CR-39 and mylar, I decided to run a 12-days-long experiment, instead of four experiments of 3 days. The first long experiment ended on June 15. I filled the cell with the electrolyte and set the current to 65 mA. The needed potential difference was 18.4 V. The current was growing as the level of the electrolyte was going down. At the end of day 3 the current became 85 mA; the level of the electrolyte was about 1 cm above the platinum anode. At this time I turned the current off for one hour. That was part A of my first experiment. This was followed by nearly identical parts B, C and D.

b) Then the cell was dismounted. The big surprise was that mylar had a narrow slit, about 8 mm long and about 0.2 mm wide. The sharp point of my Ni cathode was deliberately bent upward, to avoid this. It is possible that the slit was where the cathode wire was in contact with the mylar. But I cannot be sure of this. I suspect that the slit-shaped hole was made when the cell was being dismounted. The basis for this is that the CR-39 surface, below the mylar, was completely dry. I am absolutely sure of this. Will I see some corrosion pits at the center of CR-39 from this experiment? That remains to be seen.

c) Suppose the upper surface is totally covered with pits due to corrosion. This would not prevent me from seeing pits due to nuclear particles on the lower side of the CR-39 chip. Oriani observed such pits on both sides of his detectors. Now I have no choice but to conduct one experiment without mylar. Something will be learned from this. In fact, it will be a good idea to perform two experiments without mylar: one in which the cathode ''foot'' is in direct contact with CR-39 and another in which it is several millimeters from it.

d) After discovering the hole in mylar, I decided to reduce duration of my experiments to 3 days; as in most Richrds’s experiments. Perhaps too long exposure of mylar weakens it mechanically. Fresh electrolyte and fresh mylar are used in my 3-days-long Experiment 2. Another difference, between this experiment and the first one (in addition to duration) is that a layer polyethylene (thickness of about 0.5 mm) was placed below mylar. The purpose of this was to protect the lower side of the CR-39 detector from radon in air.

e) I hope that no hole in mylar will be found this time. Experiment 3 and 4 will be very similar to Experiment 2. In other words, I will have three replications of Richard's protocol. Hopefully, each of you will also have one replication.

f) After that I plan to perform two experiments without mylar, as described above.”

3) P.S. “It is nearly midnight 6/18/2009. Experiment 2 ended nearly three hours ago and Experiment 3 is in progress. This time the mylar film was not broken (the hole that I described yesterday was an 8 mm long slit along a diameter of the o-ring.). But something important was observed. In pulling the cathode-anode column very slowly, I definitely filled a resistance, as if the cathode were glued to mylar. I pulled the column out, disassembled the cell, and examined the mylar film. I was glad that it was not broken. But looking more carefully, under strong illumination, and at angle, I noticed a faint indent, about 8 mm long, again along the diameter of the o-ring. That is where the nickel wire was probably “glued” to mylar.”

3) P.S. “It is nearly midnight 6/18/2009. Experiment 2 ended nearly three hours ago and Experiment 3 is in progress. This time the mylar film was not broken (the hole that I described yesterday was an 8 mm long slit along a diameter of the o-ring.). But something important was observed. In pulling the cathode-anode column very slowly, I definitely felt a resistance, as if the cathode were glued to mylar. I pulled the column out, disassembled the cell, and examined the mylar film. I was glad that it was not broken. But looking more carefully, under strong illumination, and at an angle, I noticed a faint indent, about 8 mm long, again along the diameter of the o-ring. That is where the nickel wire was probably “glued” to mylar.”

Appended on June 26, 2009 (a list of pefrormed experiments)

Experiment 1 duration 12 days (hole in the mylar was found)
Experiment 2 duration 3 days (no hole in the mylar)
Experiment 3 duration 2.6 days (not using mylar)
Experiment 4 duration 3 days (no hole in the mylar)
Experiment 5 duration 3 days (will end tomorrow)

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