|vlad (email@example.com) writes: Date: Mon,
16 Dec 2002 06:47:08 EST
Subject: BlackLight Rocket Article Supplement
Sorry to be
tardy in fleshing out some points touched upon in the article (http://www.villagevoice.com/issues/0250/baard.php). I hope
these early morning notes are coherent.
The draft was short of 2,000 words, but the piece was published at a bit over
1,000. Web stories are usually brief. One irony of the web, where "space" is limitless, is that readers tend to have
shorter attention spans. I reveal nothing new of a technical nature here, just human context.
But first let me note up
top that Peter Zimmerman and Aaron Barth felt that I didn't convey the full force of Dr. Mills' offense in copying long
passages of standard physics from other texts into his own book. Though some have argued over what attribution was needed
and in what form, I had no intention of belittling the complaint and apologize if it came across that way. I don't think I
did underplay it given the thrust of the article was elsewhere, but for future articles I have asked Dr. Barth to provide me
with a brief quotation in an email that fully addresses the extent he feels Dr. Mills has violated academic
Second, I'm not in a position to judge, as some have asked me to do, if "real progress is being made." I know
that real work is being done, but whether it is potentially fruitful, properly directed, and along the lines of what many
people in this discussion forum would like is beyond my expertise to judge. What I can say is that BlackLight doesn't seem
to be a ship of fools -- these are bright people with serious goals who don't seem to have lost their marbles. As for Dr.
Mills himself, he's definitely unusual, charismatic, driven, brilliant, and I believe sincere. Some people have tried to
portray him as a snake oil salesman or madman frothing at the mouth. Neither will prove out when this is all said and done.
But that still doesn't make him right.
As for timetables, Dr. Mills has wisely stopped providing them (as a technology
reporter, I know it's nearly always a mistake to make such commitments). One thing I've learned about Dr. Mills in the
past year or so is that while he'll tell you that he can calculate "everything from quarks to the Cosmos in closed form
equation" he won't tell you, "Oh, check out the Journal of Applied Physics next week."
He's learned that Park et al will
go behind the scenes to scuttle his progress or public recognition. Given the history, for Dr. Mills to say, and this is
fiction, "GE is putting out a space heater with us in 2003 and that company is applying for patents through its R&D
department" would be foolhardy. I expect an announcement when a first product is practically loaded onto flatbed trucks and
heading for Walmart.
Now, a few quotations and notes left out of the article:
Referring to the Rowan work for
"We're just helping him out. It's not super-duper core to what we're doing as a company, but it's useful. We're
getting good data on power density."
"We might eventually be interested in further grants for propulsion, but it's not our
On sharing data with other scientists:
"I just gave a talk at Los Alamos and I'm giving one to the EPA.
But I'm not sure we can talk about those things in any detail yet."
"I have a former GE guy on the board and he says they
never put out papers at the rate we do. We have 85 papers in academic journals with a small staff. How many papers does a
professor write in a career?"
On the various PhDs on staff, ad whether they believe in hydrinos:
"A lot probably didn't
when we first hired them, but I think everyone does now."', '
"Going into this it was hard to tell if there would be any
use for it. Now I think we've demonstrated that there can be extraordinary usefulness."
The current round
of funding is seeking "less than five million [dollars]."
"One major focus is on microdistribution systems for
homes or cars."
Note: My impression is that immediately, Dr. Mills seems to expect to be very competitive with other
system existing and emerging systems, not to blow them out of the water right away. Then with recognition of the hydrino
effect, improvements developed through more resources being put into R&D would scale up steadily to a vastly superior
"It doesn't matter how long took us or the cost because at the end of the day, how could it matter? It's worth
every cent because it's priceless."
"I have a lifelong love for exploration of space and propulsion and here
was an opportunity. I had kept my eyes on what Blacklight was doing for the past five years and thought if the claims had
any validity it might be used for propulsion in space."
"Maybe he's [Mills] less interested in something like propulsion,
but I'm near their top priority because the work has gotten visibility, but I'm not the one to make or break them."
'"I wouldn't be there if I didn't think there was potential."
"I just looked at this from an aerospace engineering
standpoint. If you have this energetic plasma, why not exhaust rocket engine. Instead of converting it to heat, why not use
it for kinetic energy?"
"I'm convinced that at low pressures with some mixed gas plasma systems you produce some results
that suggest that the hydrogen atoms in those systems are energetic, more so than they should be."
"The issue is that maybe
there's a completely conventional explanation for these results, or maybe it's some new phenomena we don't
On BlackLight switching gears from one testing platform to another:
"I would have to say that's a fair
criticism. They've been learning, just like the rest of us. But they've gotten a lot better at doing the experiments they
need to do to demonstrate to the rest of the scientific community that this is a scientific endeavor and not a science
On BLP in more fringe or lesser-known publications:
"That's certainly the only place they published
for the first ten years of the company's existence. But now they've submitted to more respected journals."
', 'On BLP
"They've PhDs from top schools like Berkeley, in things like mechanical engineering, nuclear physics, and
spectroscopy. These are people really trained in their respective fields. They could easily get other jobs and I sometimes
wondered why they were taking such a risk."
"I don't ask this question because these are nice guys, but I often want to
ask what brings you here?"
"There are some really good engineers there. Mark Nansteel has a PhD from Berkeley and was a
professor at U. Penn. He could work at any national lab. He's not at BlackLight because he's unemployable."
the staff believes in the hydrino:
"I try not to grill them about that either. But the guys talk about an approach similar
to the way I approach things -- we stick to experimental data and to an extent we understand Randy's interpretations."
"We're going to leave theory up to him."
"The experiments they are doing there are good experiments and the data is
"Randy is also not an engineer. He relies heavily on the experimentalists."
"I'm here to
build a rocket. Violating the second law of thermodynamics is not one of my goals."
"These experiments are not very
difficult to reproduce. You can't do it in a garage, but any national lab or university physics department could reproduce
these experiments, and they should. If there's a debate, folks should reproduce them."
"The scientific community is
averse to risk, especially in academia, and it shouldn't be that way. Some of the folks who go into academia are the most
conservative people you could ever meet."
"There are those who say shouldn't go anywhere near this because it might affect
"I'm not crazy about reading my name in Nature or Scientific American, particularly in a negative light when
in academia your name is all you have."
', '"The only thing I can do is to approach this as a scientist. The feedback
to date from every camp of people who really looked is that I'm approaching this the only way a scientist possibly
"The Scientific American article I was actually pretty upset about. The guy didn't even have the decency to give me
"I haven't been burned by Bob Park as much as others have. I read his book, Voodoo Science, and I liked it quite
On how Dr. Mills has gone about things:
"The hydrino is a crazy thought for most people and I think the way you
need to approach this thing is to say, "Here's all of this interesting unexplained experimental evidence. The have other
people reproduce those experimental results and let them try to come up with explanations. Then say "Here's one possible
explanation." That might be the craziest of all theories, but if the other nine are ruled out over twenty years, then maybe
it's correct. Dr. Mills did it in a different order, saying, "I have this theory and let's try to prove if it's correct
But Marchese indicated that until light from stars was seen being bent, Einstein might be considered to have been
in the same boat.
On availability of compounds and other experiments:
"They don't say, 'Yeah, we've got it but you're
not allowed to test it.'"
"Blacklight people are not the only folks out there who have seen some of
these effects -- look at the literature for the plasma and coating industry, for hydrogen and argon. Some of them may have
been seeing similar results."
"I've seen those [early] experiments and that's certainly not an especially easy way to
determine conclusively what's going on. They've had ten years to devote to this so they've gotten a heck of a lot better
at experiments. The spectral data is certainly saying there's something unique going on. Calorimetry is more open to
debate, I think."
The condensed hydrogen:
"That's a really dramatic turn and that's why I don't even want to mess with
that now. If he's right [about having created the liquid hydrogen in this method], then it's true, he's done. But if
he's wrong, he's going to have to take a step back."
"He shows me a condensed vial, and it's another thing that's
Context: Marchese clearly meant "crazy" in the sense that it's wild and out-there, as is the whole hydrino
enterprise, not insane. This is made clear in the following part of the interview in which I pounded on that very
On Mills personally:
"I think the guy is definitely very intelligent. Maybe if this hydrino thing turns out to
be wrong, which happens to best of us, it might considered wasted energy because he can solve a lot of problems with his
intelligence. If he's right, it's the most amazing thing of all time."
"Certainly he's got a different personality than
me. If you walked down the hallways at Princeton or Rowan, you've got some wacky characters. It's not fair for me to say
"He certainly believes in what he's doing. Get him talking about it and he won't stop."
"When I go
there, I'm there a couple of hours doing experiments. I don't seek him out. I purposefully try not to deal with him that
much. He's a nice guy, but I'm there to get very specific things done."
', '"He's not the best communicator, but
he's gotten a little better. There are those who talk at various levels, and can dumb things down. That's not one of his
strengths. When he's talking to me outside of my field I can have a hard time following."
Note: If my writing has made
any sense to laymen, I'll take my Pulitzer right now, thank you. : )
', 'On being contacted by others since I
reported on his work for Wired:
"A major company in the energy business asked me about the work. They didn't really say
why, I'm not sure if they are already investors or looking to invest or what. They already saw some of my results. I
presume BlackLight said they could call me...I don't think it's appropriate that I name the company, but yes, it was a
"A Department of Energy scientist was curious as to why I was pursuing this work since he had evaluated in
some way -- read some papers or something but didn't do experiments -- and didn't think there was much merit to it. I
just told him the effects we were seeing warranted further study. I referred him to more recent papers Mills and others have
published in that area."
Note: HSG members have also reached out to Marchese.
MICHAEL SHERMER OF SKEPTIC
useful to have fuzzy shades of evaluation. Maybe we could say, "Gee, he doesn't fit the profile of a total crackpot. Maybe
there are three or four categories between pure bunk and acceptable science, but that still doesn't make it
"Scientists are the most open-minded group of people there are. I don't think it matters a bit what investors
think. Maybe he's passed the hurdle of getting investors interested, but that doesn't at all make it right."
make me nervous that most people can't make sense of this work and those who say they can remain pretty divided."
In context it was clear that he was not nervous Mills might be right, but rather nervous that we might be seeing more crank
science. I got the impression that he felt the more firmly grounded science was, the more convergence of understanding there
would be about a phenomenon.
"As a general principal I find that some ideas may work for reasons
completely different than those their claimants originally cite. Chiropractics, muscle manipulation may work for reasons
that have nothing to do with charkras and energy fields and other nonsense."
ROBERT A. CASSANOVA
"We like vigorous
debate. We look for ideas that may have some uncertainty attached to them. This was one we thought was worth another look,
based on the research that's gone on for the last decade or so."
"We don't endorse anything. We look for the facts.
Just because we fund something doesn't mean we think it's going to work. Most of what we fund is high risk."
over 170 credible peer reviewers around the country and the vast majority hold PhDs."
"We're looking for significant
advancements, even paradigm shifts, that address challenges in aeronautics and space. We take a lot of chances with
Note: Since 1998, there have been 80 Phase 1 studies funded by NIAC, and 21 for Phase 2. Phase 1 work can pull
down $75K for six months and Phase 2 up to $500K for two years.
"We're looking for a very high failure rate, but also
significant breakthroughs well beyond what NASA does now."
"We're not really afraid of controversy. We want open debate
"We've had some we thought were questionable and did question some projects in our meetings, but they
turned into a real successes."
Note: One example was Dr. Winglee's M2P2 propulsion:
On Cold Fusion:
"With cold fusion something they observed
something no one was able to repeat reliably experimentally. And now there's a report out by the Navy that summarizes work
over the past decade that is very credible. There may be something undiscovered going on with those experiments, now they
are saying there's something there. I'm saying we need to have open minds. We're not taking a stand pro or con on the
Blacklight Rocket; were just investigating it."
"We're not in the mode of responding to sensationalist comments like were
heard from Park."
JAMES VICCARO, Journal of Applied Physics
"The reviewers were aware of the [hydrino] theory but felt
there were enough international observations to be worth publishing."
"If this were obviously crackpot or really
controversial, it would be recognized as such. It's a rather run of the mill article, he's [Mills] not proposing anything
outrageous here. There's no reason to suspect anything strange by reading the abstract." Mills played down the hydrino in
his Applied Physics article. "He basically did an analysis of it, but it wasn't the main point of the manuscript."
notes that Mills has recently published in Chemical Physics Letters. "That's also impressive," he says.
"This was one of
the more thorough reviews I've seen, but the ultimate level of peer review is the community itself."
"If a cold fusion
paper came to me I'd look at it very carefully and send it out to a few people for review."
Note: The Journal currently
has a 44% rejection rate.
Erik Baard', 'http://www.baard.com