Cold Fusion: Winds of Change Approach
Date: Tuesday, July 22, 2008 @ 22:43:06 GMT
Topic: General

by Steven B. Krivit
Editor, New Energy Times
July 21, 2008
[This article is Copyleft 2008 New Energy Times. Permission is granted to reproduce this article as long as the article, this notice and the publication information shown above are included in their entirety and no changes are made to this article.]

In a comment to one of my recent blog postings, CMNS/LENR/”Cold Fusion” Journalist Silenced, Albert Alberts of The Netherlands, a LENR enthusiast, offered some kind comments about me. He also called my efforts “examples of unmitigated audacity.”

Alberts’ description of my scientific journalism is largely accurate.

I spoke before some members of India’s Atomic Energy Commission earlier this year. I told them that I’ve learned enough about LENR research to know its strengths - and its weaknesses.

By “audaciously” discussing weaknesses as well as the strengths of LENR research, I demonstrated that I was not afraid to tell the truth and report all the facts that I discover. Unless someone takes drastic action to interfere with New Energy Institute’s funding - or silence me - my truth telling will not change. Gene Mallove, editor of Infinite Energy, was murdered. Cause of death: crushed trachea. I do not take the right to freedom of speech lightly.

Alberts refers to unseen dark forces - massive research cartels and knowledge monopolies - working in the background to block progress in and acceptance of LENR research. However, the field itself may have room for improvement to make it stronger, more resilient to scientific criticism and attractive to industries, government agencies, or other groups that may have an incentive to profit from the field.

I suggested such improvements in September 2007 in an e-mail to David Nagel and Michael Melich, organizers of the 14th International Conference on Condensed Matter Nuclear Science. I urged them to demand a higher level of scientific integrity in work presented by some LENR researchers at conferences. Several months earlier, I had attended, as did they, the 13th International Conference on Condensed Matter Nuclear Science in Sochi, Russia. Among generally good work, I observed two cases of what I can most charitably call “significant sloppiness.”

“Folks in the CMNS community better get their act together,” I wrote. “I don’t know how to get this across. But there is rampant sloppiness that will not go over well for the gaining of public respect for the subject.”

By rampant, I did not mean widespread; I meant unchecked, condoned and, most important, uncorrected by presenters themselves, other participants, or conference organizers. I pointed out an example of this to Nagel and Melich that involved a relatively dramatic claim made at the Russian conference of an experiment that one group claimed had produced 5 Watts of excess heat.

The group’s presentation concerned an experiment that appeared to be credible; it was detailed, thorough and clear. The audience was enthusiastic and supportive. But in my follow-up with the researchers involved in the claim, and after some obvious reluctance on their part to discuss it with me, I learned that the data indicated only 2.5 Watts of excess heat, which is still not trivial. The researchers told me that they had made an interpretation error, and I simply reported that fact in the following issue of New Energy Times without criticizing them.

I told Nagel and Melich about another researcher at the Russian conference who represented that he had produced 300 Watts of excess heat. When I interviewed this researcher, it became clear to me that he was making, at a minimum, a gross misrepresentation of the experimental results. In this particular case, I did not report on the results because his claims were so weak that most people in the audience completely disregarded them. I strongly encouraged Nagel and Melich to set higher standards, and I cautioned them that continued incidents of sloppiness like this would hamper the progress of the field, particularly if mainstream reporters began to develop an interest in it.

“If any other reporters cover ICCMNS-14,” I wrote, “you can bet they won’t be as forgiving as me. And if I end up looking the other way at these sorts of things, then I will blow my credibility, so I’m not going to be able to cut people as much slack. If CMNS researchers do crap like this, the Washington, D.C., conference will make us all look like fools.”

I now realize that some LENR researchers have become uncomfortable with the knowledge and expertise I have gained about the field. Some of them also do not appreciate my public reporting of information that may relate to the field’s weaknesses or factual inconsistencies or exaggerated claims made by certain researchers.

In my presentations to India’s science leaders, I contradicted Mike McKubre (SRI International), who was in the audience, on one or two points. Quite audacious of me, I suppose. McKubre, of course, is a well-known LENR scientist, I am not. McKubre has advanced science degrees, I do not. But he and I are slowly, diplomatically and respectfully working out our disagreements.

I recently heard from some people involved with the LENR field that it would be best served by a unified representation of work in the field. Their idea was that hiding or ignoring any weakness in the field is the best strategy to achieve respect and credibility for the field in the media and mainstream science.

I disagree with that approach; I believe that full, forthright, fact-based reporting and exposure of the truth about LENR research will only enhance the overall credibility of the results. Honest reporting and “audacious” journalism will build outsiders’ trust and confidence that solid scientific research does in fact form the foundation of the field. LENR research which does not meet basic standards of science, lacks rigor, or is based simply on wishful thinking should not be condoned.

For example, LENR researcher Ed Storms, retired from Los Alamos National Laboratory, recently discouraged me from reporting all of the key facts of LENR research. He wrote this to me in an e-mail recently: “You need to be more careful in how you reveal the truth about the field. Eventually, the field will be big enough and so well-accepted that a little plainly spoken truth would not cause you any problem.”

A minority of prominent researchers in the LENR field may have their own pet theories and may prefer to maintain the status quo. But after 19 years, perhaps it’s time to try something new; perhaps its time to have a more open mind, as I wrote in my recent editorial.

Maintaining the status quo inside the field is not likely to change the status quo outside the field - that is, the still-common perception of LENR research as pariah science. Perhaps the way to growth, acceptance and progress is to consider pursuing other paths.

A schism within the field, which Alberts would hope to avoid, seems inevitable, but it may well bring the benefits the researchers and their supporters seek.

Despite the fact that I choose to report all the facts, good and bad, I remain convinced that the results seen in this field may represent one of the most important science discoveries for future generations: a new source of clean nuclear energy.

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