Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Get HideMyAss! VPN, PC Mag's Top 10 VPNs of 2016 for 55% off for a Limited Time ×
Science

Cold Fusion and the Reputation Trap (aeon.co) 344

An anonymous reader writes: Huw Price, the Bertrand Russell Professor of Philosophy at Cambridge, has written an article about how the scientific community regards research into cold fusion, and those who undertake it. His argument is not that current cold fusion research is necessarily correct, but rather that actual scientific progress is inhibited by what he calls a "reputation trap." "People outside the trap won't go near it, for fear of falling in. ... People inside the trap are already regarded as disreputable, an attitude that trumps any efforts that they might make to argue their way out, by reason and evidence." Central to his case is Andrea Rossi's work, which is not taken seriously throughout the scientific community, and yet he's still doing business.

Price's point is this: "Cold fusion is dismissed as pseudoscience, the kind of thing that respectable scientists and science journalists simply don't talk about (unless to remind us of its disgrace). ...the standard line is that the rejection of cold fusion in 1989 turned on the failure to replicate the claims of Fleischmann and Pons. Yet if that were the real reason, then the rejection would have to be provisional. Failure to replicate couldn't possibly be more than provisional – empirical science is a fallible business, as any good scientist would acknowledge. In that case, well-performed experiments claiming to overturn the failure to replicate would certainly be of great interest."

This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Cold Fusion and the Reputation Trap

Comments Filter:
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 22, 2015 @05:48PM (#51167585)

    Rossi is a huckster who has a black box that he won't let anyone see with inputs that he won't let anyone measure.

    If Rossi actually succeeded with cold fusion, he would be the richest man on the planet, instead he is a clown with a black box.

    • by Nutria ( 679911 ) on Tuesday December 22, 2015 @05:50PM (#51167601)

      Exactly. Cold fusion "researchers" head first to popular journalists, not research journals.

    • by Rei ( 128717 )

      More specifically, he uses a cord with the wires switched or shorted so that power is flowing through what's supposed to be the ground. So when he "cuts the current" it's not actually cut.

    • by Beck_Neard ( 3612467 ) on Tuesday December 22, 2015 @06:22PM (#51167801)

      Precisely.

      The reason cold fusion isn't taken seriously is because it's been a consistent source of bullshit, lies, data manipulation, outright fraud, and bogus explanations.

      Cold fusion didn't just lose credibility because of Fleischmann and Pons. It's lost credibility because of the 26 years of its history too. A lot of the time, reputable scientists do attempt to verify and duplicate the claims of the cold fusion people only to be rapidly turned away. The cold fusion people don't *want* real experts looking at their work. They want gullible idiots and journalists.

      • by taustin ( 171655 )

        Precisely.

        The reason cold fusion isn't taken seriously is because it's been a consistent source of bullshit, lies, data manipulation, outright fraud, and bogus explanations.

        And incompetence. Don't forget incompetence.

        Cold fusion didn't just lose credibility because of Fleischmann and Pons. It's lost credibility because of the 26 years of its history too. A lot of the time, reputable scientists do attempt to verify and duplicate the claims of the cold fusion people only to be rapidly turned away. The cold fusion people don't *want* real experts looking at their work. They want gullible idiots and journalists.

        And investors.

    • by Ol Olsoc ( 1175323 ) on Tuesday December 22, 2015 @07:37PM (#51168277)

      Rossi is a huckster who has a black box that he won't let anyone see with inputs that he won't let anyone measure.

      If Rossi actually succeeded with cold fusion, he would be the richest man on the planet, instead he is a clown with a black box.

      And note the Slashdot clickbait for the denialists, who have, in fine moonlanding conspiracy dudgeon, have now connected the cold fusion debacle with AGW. Boys, take it up with your buddies at Ezzon, who knew, admitted they knew, and purposefully lied about it. At this point, denialists have to get away from their creationist tactics, and bone up on your conspiracy theory stuff.

      But to the actual topic at hand, the cold fusion business is largely neglected for the same reason that the concept of heating your house with two tea candles and a couple clay flowerpots. Because as the scientists say - it ain't bloody likely.

      And this bit of silliness, the concept of the evil scientists intimidating others only works in the world of the weak-willed.

      Hell, after Fleishmann and Pons announced their discovery, many scientists attempted to duplicate their results - very little luck. Even after many critical reviews, The University of Utah created the National Cold Fusion Institute.

      side note - when the NCFI reported negative results, Fleischmann and Pons threatend to sue them.

      Is this how people want science to operate? Jeezuz, what a bunch of bullshit.

      And all Fleishmann and Pons had to do was to duplicate their own goddamned experiment.

      It goes down in history as a physics version of the "Vaccines cause autism" debacle.

    • by zmooc ( 33175 )

      If Rossi actually succeeded with cold fusion, he would be the richest man on the planet, instead he is a clown with a black box.

      That's not entirely true. The same could be said about super-efficient solar panels. Instead, they don't make you an instant billionaire either. There's always the economic component. Whether Rossi's eCat works or not, it requires fuel, hydrogen, a fat powerline and probably some hard-to-get permits. I can imagine it is very expensive to keep it running for longer terms and I think hydrogen storage is going to be a major issue when running this thing any longer than a few days. For comparison: the hydrogen

  • Bad argument (Score:3, Insightful)

    by guruevi ( 827432 ) <evi AT smokingcube DOT be> on Tuesday December 22, 2015 @05:50PM (#51167599) Homepage

    I mean, he's a philosopher but there is no such trap in science. There are people who are reputed to be swindlers like the Rossi guy, keep trying to sell their 'science' regardless that their proofs are irreproducible.

    There are plenty of people working on fusion, it's not a dead science, it's just a very, very hard problem with no theoretical or experimental models that currently work and it may never work, hot fusion or even residential-grade fission is a lot closer than cold fusion will ever become.

    • residential-grade fission

      That's the coolest phrase I've heard all week. Put a smile on my face.

    • "...it [cold fusion] may never work, hot fusion or even residential-grade fission is a lot closer than cold fusion will ever become."

      Notice how you went from a negatively toned "it may never work" (which, in principle, is the same as saying the positively toned "it may work someday") to the implied "it will never work"?

      The last part (about hot fusion, residential-grade fission) implies that none of them work and then states that their level of non-working is more than cold fusion will ever have. So there is

      • by guruevi ( 827432 )

        I think cold fusion may eventually work but by then it will be overshadowed by the cheap availability of small "portable" fission/fusion generators which are actually commercially 'available' (available as in if you want to deal with the restrictions the government puts on it and have a plan for it's maintenance, security and cooling, only viable for large entities (eg. military, universities or data centers)).

    • Re:Bad argument (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Goldsmith ( 561202 ) on Tuesday December 22, 2015 @08:57PM (#51168817)

      I've worked in a large government lab that included a small cold fusion group. The cold fusion scientists at that lab were extremely careful and competent (and never made any claims about power generation). Their work essentially revolved around running nuclear reactions using something other than heat to drive the reaction. Totally non-controversial.

      The management and senior scientists at the lab would routinely make fun of these people. They absolutely dealt with a completely undeserved lack of credibility because the words "cold fusion" were associated with their work. Scientists are people, we make human judgments, like it or not.

    • There is certain 'traps in science' although I think the term is very inappropriate. How many times have you heard someone call a certain field of study a dead end or a career killer. The opposite is true as well and string theory is a good example of how over-excitement can happen in a field, it was scene as the place to go for any theoretical physicists, and very few have panned out with any substance. PhD supervisors are sought for their fields of expertise and if you study cold fusion it is a career
  • In an analogy to the automatic dismissal of cold fusion experimentation that Price notes, for more than a century, the US Patent Office automatically rejected patent applications directed to restoring baldness, because it was "inherently unbelievable" and "involved implausible scientific principles". This was the same rejection applied to applications for perpetual motion machines, teleporters, etc. - they can't possibly work, by definition, so the application is claiming a useless invention and is therefore ineligible for a patent.

    Of course, then Rogaine and Propecia were invented and proven to cure baldness, and eventually the courts had to step in and tell the patent office that they were wrong and that hair restoration was at least theoretically possible.

    Pons and Fleishmann are like the early snake oil salesmen, selling "tonics" for hair restoration from their carts. Their "evidence" is non-reproducible and poorly tested, and they lacked even a theory for how their machine worked, instead insisting only that it generated more energy than could be explained. Like hair restoration, that doesn't make the entire field impossible - it just means that at best, they had no idea what they were talking about, and at worst, they personally were frauds.

    That doesn't mean that Rossi and his ilk are automatically frauds either - maybe they are (they're certainly in the "have no idea what they're talking about" camp, since they have no theories for why they're getting the results they're getting), or maybe they're like the first researchers for Rogaine who have some strange evidence of new hair growth. Until we have something that can be repeatedly and reliably tested and confirmed or rejected, or a defined theory that either works out mathematically or doesn't, then it should neither be accepted nor dismissed out of hand.

    • If Rossi's or anyone's claim that cold fusion (or some other power generation technique) worked was real, then they don't need anyone to believe them. They could just sell power and bootstrap themselves to millions/billions.

      For example, if I could produce a few MW of electricity cheap, with a compact form factor, I'd just go to Hawaii (which has really expensive electricity) and undercut the price of electricity there and sell the power to a datacenter or a high rise building. With the profits, I could bootstrap and make more power generators, and displace more competing capacity.

      And with generators that were powering MWs of buildings/datacenters, with no visible fuel inputs other than deuterium, I think credibility would soon be a non-issue.

      --PM

      • The problem with that reasoning is it assumes someone has secretly funded a potentially long and expensive development path that extends well beyond what a first stage researcher may have discovered.

        For example, let's say the Pons & Fleischmann experiment actually did work and was reproducible. It still wouldn't have sufficient output to do anything useful without further research. So there is no way they could sit on their discovery and make their own megawatt scale cold fusion generator.

        The key to dea

    • by jfengel ( 409917 )

      In an analogy to the automatic dismissal of cold fusion experimentation that Price notes, for more than a century, the US Patent Office automatically rejected patent applications directed to restoring baldness, because it was "inherently unbelievable" and "involved implausible scientific principles".

      Can you give any more details on that? Googling didn't turn up anything by way of confirmation.

      • In an analogy to the automatic dismissal of cold fusion experimentation that Price notes, for more than a century, the US Patent Office automatically rejected patent applications directed to restoring baldness, because it was "inherently unbelievable" and "involved implausible scientific principles".

        Can you give any more details on that? Googling didn't turn up anything by way of confirmation.

        Sure. In re Cortright [ipo.org] is a Federal Circuit case that discusses it, and cites to earlier cases:

        The PTO may establish a reason to doubt an invention’s asserted utility when the written description “suggest[s] an inherently unbelievable undertaking or involve[s] implausible scientific principles.” Brana, 51 F.3d at 1566, 34 USPQ2d at 1441; see also In re Eltgroth, 419 F.2d 918, 164 USPQ 221 (CCPA 1970) (control of aging process). Treating baldness was once considered an inherently unbelievable undertaking. See In re Ferens, 417 F.2d 1072, 1074, 163 USPQ 609, 611 (CCPA 1969); In re Oberwener, 115 F.2d 826, 829, 47 USPQ 455, 458 (CCPA 1940).

        And Oberweger (the above cite is a typo) [casetext.com] includes the quotes:

        It was the view of the tribunals below that the affidavits were weak in character and were not sufficient to show utility for a concoction which belongs to a class of compositions which from common knowledge has long been the subject matter of much humbuggery and fraud...

        Very much like the situation at bar, the affidavits in that case did not afford convincing proof of utility. Certainly there is nothing in this record to show that appellant's composition is any better than the many hundreds of similar concoctions that have been advertised and sold to a credulous public since the beginning of recorded history. It is a matter of common knowledge that numerous preparations, similar in many respects to the one at bar, have been advertised and sold for the purpose of producing hair on bald heads and which were totally lacking in utility, often harmful to the human body, and whose sale was generally understood to be a fraud upon the public.

        Having in mind the particular subject matter involved in the instant alleged invention, we are in full agreement with the tribunals of the Patent Office that the claims which are before us on their merits were properly rejected for lack of patentable utility and that the board committed no error in affirming the action of the examiner requiring division of the claims as aforesaid.

        35 USC 101 is the relevant statute and it gets a lot of discussion lately with regard to whether software is/should be patentable, and whether isolated genes are/should be patentable, but it's also had a long and interesting history. In addition to baldness cures and perpetual motion machines, slot machines used to be rejected under 35 USC 101 as unpatent

    • In an analogy to the automatic dismissal of cold fusion experimentation that Price notes, for more than a century, the US Patent Office automatically rejected patent applications directed to restoring baldness, because it was "inherently unbelievable" and "involved implausible scientific principles". This was the same rejection applied to applications for perpetual motion machines, teleporters, etc. - they can't possibly work, by definition, so the application is claiming a useless invention and is therefore ineligible for a patent.

      Of course, then Rogaine and Propecia were invented and proven to cure baldness, and eventually the courts had to step in and tell the patent office that they were wrong and that hair restoration was at least theoretically possible.

      Any citation for this story?

      No account I have found about the discovery of the hair-growing properties of minoxidil, and its patenting (like this one [webcitation.org]) mentions any such rejection, or lawsuit. I find lawsuits about patent priority, profit-sharing, about misleading marketing of the drug, and patent infringement, but absolutely nothing about the USPO rejecting the patent or being forced to grant one by any court.

      Indeed when Upjohn filed a patent for hair loss prevention in 1971 it was granted right away [findlaw.com].

      But, a

      • Any citation for this story?

        Yep - just to avoid copypasta spam, check out my reply to the same question here [slashdot.org].

    • "That doesn't mean that Rossi and his ilk are automatically frauds either" in the case of rossi he is a fraud, he just skipped prison with a plea deal.
    • by sribe ( 304414 )

      ...maybe they're like the first researchers for Rogaine who have some strange evidence...

      No, Rossi and his supporters are NOTHING AT ALL like that ;-)

  • Actually cold fusion works just fine, and powered the first practical time travel engine. Unfortunately, inevitably time travel leads to paradoxes until the universe (well the one with observers remaining) settles into a consistent steady state as increasingly improbably events take place until the result is no time travel.

    Last time it was the bird with a baguette sabotaging the Large Hadron Collider at a critical point in time (ha!). http://www.theguardian.com/sci... [theguardian.com]

    And poor Pons and Fleishmann are victims of the same process. No one (who will be believed) will ever be able to replicate their work. Something will always go wrong.

    Oh, and don't try and take advantage of this information to do anything about it. I barely survived the Orca landing on my garage where my experiment was running, and I was 200 miles inland.

  • Cold Fusion just need a branding make over:

    COOL FUSION - Gota have it!

  • Coulomb Barrier (Score:4, Informative)

    by PvtVoid ( 1252388 ) on Tuesday December 22, 2015 @06:22PM (#51167805)

    What a load of horseshit.

    While cold fusion did get a huge black eye with Pons and Fleishman, that's not the primary reason people are skeptical. There is a really simple physical reason why cold fusion probably doesn't work: the Coulomb Barrier. Like charges (i.e. protons in nuclei) repel, and electromagnetic forces between nucleons are incredibly big. So big, in fact, you can calculate the kinetic energy required to overcome the Coulomb barrier, which gives you a minimum temperature at which you expect fusion to be possible. Now, maybe there's a clever way around that, but it would have to be something truly extraordinary. And extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof.

    Some nut like Rossi with a black box isn't going to convince anybody. He's got to explain precisely how it manages to circumvent the Coulomb barrier before his claims, or those of any other cold fusion researcher, are remotely credible.

    • Re:Coulomb Barrier (Score:5, Informative)

      by roca ( 43122 ) on Tuesday December 22, 2015 @08:21PM (#51168567) Homepage

      I'm no fan of cold fusion, but the Coulomb barrier alone does not make cold fusion impossible. For example, muon-catalyzed fusion works at room temperature. (Muon-catalyzed fusion is currently impractical as a power source for reasons unrelated to the Coulomb barrier.)

    • Not to imply that this is the mechanism for cold fusion, or even a mechanism for cold fusion, but quantum tunnelling allows subatomic particles to move through space without traveling through the space between the start and end points. Given the oddities involved with quantum effects, it is at least theoretically possible for fusion to occur locally without a high-temperature environment. The results to date, however, argue that if it does occur, it does not occur at a rate that makes it viable as an energy

    • by XXongo ( 3986865 )

      What a load of horseshit.

      While cold fusion did get a huge black eye with Pons and Fleishman, that's not the primary reason people are skeptical. There is a really simple physical reason why cold fusion probably doesn't work: the Coulomb Barrier. Like charges (i.e. protons in nuclei) repel, and electromagnetic forces between nucleons are incredibly big. So big, in fact, you can calculate the kinetic energy required to overcome the Coulomb barrier

      About 5000 electron volts or so. Which is well under a quadrillionth of a joule.

      It's not the amount of energy. It's getting that energy focused to a single particle.

      which gives you a minimum temperature at which you expect fusion to be possible.

      Yes, one thing we can say for sure is that cold fusion has to have some mechanism other than thermal.

      But that was already obvious, and hardly needs to be pointed out.

      I think it's pretty unlikely, myself, and I think that the previous generation of researchers damn well made me want to see very extraordinary evidence before believing in su

  • by Kilobug ( 213978 ) <le-mig_g AT epita DOT fr> on Tuesday December 22, 2015 @06:32PM (#51167861)

    It's not like mainstream scientists give low credits to cold fusion out of nowhere.

    There are strong theoretical reasons against cold fusion being possible. The repulsion force between two charged nucleus gets very, very strong when they get close (inverse square law, if they are twice as close, the repulsion is 4 times bigger) and they need to get very close in order for "fusion" to happen. That's called the Coulomb barrier. So charged nucleus need to go very, very fast in order to have a chance to get close enough to fuse, and that's why fusion requires very high temperature (temperature being directly linked with average particle speed).

    Pretending to have "cold fusion" mean that the Standard Model of physics is wrong. It might be wrong (or more likely, incomplete), sure. But that's an extraordinary claim to make, and an extraordinary claim requires extraordinary proof. That's what the "reputation trap" is all about. The same goes for FTL travel, or perpetual motion. Those things defies our current understanding of physics, and while our current understanding might be wrong, it's solid enough so we ask for very strong evidence before even considering it seriously.

    And sure, you can try to find loopholes without actually breaking the Standard Model, like, doing neutron capture and then beta-decay. It doesn't need to break the Coulomb barrier, and it might look like fusion. But first it's not fusion (although it might serve the same energy-production role), and then even that is not as easy as it seems. Getting a reliable source of neutron isn't easy, the neutrons need to have the required speed for the capture to be efficient, and even then, the capture tends to be not be complete, so you would detect leaking neutrons.

    • by angel'o'sphere ( 80593 ) on Tuesday December 22, 2015 @07:10PM (#51168085) Journal

      That's called the Coulomb barrier. So charged nucleus need to go very, very fast in order to have a chance to get close enough to fuse, and that's why fusion requires very high temperature (temperature being directly linked with average particle speed)
      You are explaining "high temperature fusion" here. Not cold fusion, nor why cold fusion can't work ;D

      At very low temperatures, nucleii can come close enough to fusion, too ;D

      Anyway, the general term for cold fusion is: low energy nuclear reaction.

      We know since roughly 1890-1910 (well, we, as in "we who care") that cold fusion is possible. If you google for it you find hundreds of especially Italian and Japanese PhDs working in that area before roughly 1930.

      Pons and Fleischmann simply had bad luck. They found something in their lab and hurried to go public. Unfortunately as only a few other researchers could reproduce the stuff they found. On top of that as they accidentally said in an interview "might be cold fusion", they got disgraced by the news networks. (Actually at my university the experiments where reproduced as well, UniversitÃt Karlsruhe, KIT)

      Regarding Rossi, as far as I can tell, there is nothing into it. The proclaimed reaction is ofc possible ... wasn't it some fusion that leads it excited Bor that decays then? However the apparatus seems not to make any sense.

      Pretending to have "cold fusion" mean that the Standard Model of physics is wrong.
      No, it does not mean that. Why should it?

      Superconductivity was not explainable by the standard model either, until Cooper had an idea. And that idea makes absolutely no sense at all (looking at paired electrons as if it was a sound wave in a crystal). Nevertheless it is the standard in our days how we work with super conductivity.

      I would not be surprised if H - H cold fusion in a crystal matrix works similar than Cooper pairs in a super conducting matrix.

    • by Cramer ( 69040 )

      There's one other way... it's what happens to super massive stars when they die. Gravity collapsing the matter into a "neutron star", or black hole. Of course, we don't have the technology to even begin to approach that. We can get shit wicked hot, but pushing nuclei together to the point of fusion is beyond us.

      [Yes, there have been ultrasonic devices claimed to have done it, but they're just as much snake oil as the rest. 'tho it is theoretically plausible -- it's how atomic weapons work (shockwave takes a

    • by roca ( 43122 )

      Low-temperature fusion is possible without breaking the Standard Model, e.g. muon-catalyzed fusion. You've oversimplified the issues.

    • by narcc ( 412956 )

      the Standard Model of physics is wrong [...] or more likely, incomplete. But that's an extraordinary claim to make

      I don't see that as extraordinary. I'd go, in either case, with 'very likely' or 'most certainly'. This isn't my area, by any stretch, but even I could tell you that.

      an extraordinary claim requires extraordinary proof.

      Never has a more vacuous statement been repeated so often. There is so little meaning here. So little grounding. Why not just say, simply, 'claims require proof'. It doesn't alter the meaning in the slightest. It takes away nothing, save a bit of empty rhetorical punch. Oh, I see. It's the empty rhetoric you're after. That's the whol

  • by mveloso ( 325617 ) on Tuesday December 22, 2015 @06:35PM (#51167883)

    The history of science is littered with ideas considered crazy.

    The problem is that something is considered crazy until it isn't, and there's no way a priori to tell if something considered crazy will pan out. That doesn't stop people from having an opinion about it.

    Of course, it's difficult for a reporter to actually quote someone saying "well, I really have no idea." Reportage is biased towards certainty, and the reporter can always find someone willing to say something.

  • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Tuesday December 22, 2015 @06:54PM (#51167989) Homepage Journal

    I used to work in the public health field of vector-borne disease surveillance, and there is a long-standing myth that you can tell the species of a mosquito by the frequency of its wingbeats. This is nonsense -- like claiming you can always tell the difference between a flute and a saxophone by the notes they happen to be playing: their frequency ranges largely overlap. Nonetheless the myth resurfaces on a regular basis, and every few years someone will come up with a machine for identifying mosquitoes by their wingbeat frequency.

    Why do people keep coming back to this myth? Because if you could do it that would be incredibly useful. Not all mosquito species bite humans, and not all species that bite humans or animals transmit diseases. In a West Nile Virus outbreak you'd set up listening stations all around your area. You'd roll the spray trucks if your equipment told you Culex pipiens was on the wing, because Cx. pipiens vectors WNV and bites both humans and avian WNV hosts. If it were Culiseta melanura you probably wouldn't because that species almost never bites humans. But using wingbeat frequencies this way can't possibly work, and mosquito researchers get thoroughly sick of debunking these devices every few years.

    Now I was at a meeting, and I ran into a guy that had an acoustic mosquito identifier that worked on a slightly different principle: it did a fast fourier transform of the acoustic signal and attempted to distinguish between species based on the pattern of frequencies. I was intrigued; if you know anything about math you know this is very different from just taking the loudest frequency of a signal. It's more like telling the difference between a flute and a saxophone playing the same note by the instruments' timbre.

    Now the idea that you could actually distinguish between species this way is far-fetched, because species is largely an arbitrary human construct. But if you could distinguish between distantly related mosquito clades that would be very useful (e.g. genus Anopheles is a severe concern in a Malaria sitaution but genus Culex is not). Now I have a friend who was editor of an entomology journal at the time. I ran into him at the same conference and as I was chatting with him I asked him whether he'd heard this guy's pitch. As soon as he heard the words "identification" and "frequency" come out of my mouth he literally turned his back on me and walked away -- and he was a personal friend of mine.

    Now the chances that this FFT mosquito ID device worked and was practical were pretty small. It may even have been crackpottery, but it wasn't the same old crackpottery. It just sounded enough like the old crackpottery to elicit a strong disgust reaction from an expert.

    • Now I was at a meeting, and I ran into a guy that had an acoustic mosquito identifier that worked on a slightly different principle: it did a fast fourier transform of the acoustic signal and attempted to distinguish between species based on the pattern of frequencies. I was intrigued; if you know anything about math you know this is very different from just taking the loudest frequency of a signal. It's more like telling the difference between a flute and a saxophone playing the same note by the instruments' timbre.

      That's cool, but you left off the punchline! Did the FFT identification work?

      • by hey! ( 33014 )

        Well, I don't know. You'd think the guy's claim would be easy enough to test, but to do it properly you'd have to set up some kind of double blind test against an expert mosquito identifier, because it's clearly possible to delude yourself into thinking something like this works. All I know is that he wasn't back again the following year. That could be because his device didn't work, or because he couldn't convince anyone to test it, or (very likely) even if it worked in principle, there was no obvious w

        • That happens all the time in mosquito control, which attracts way more than its share of Rube Goldberg inventions.

          Like the bug zapper.

          • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Tuesday December 22, 2015 @09:32PM (#51168973) Homepage Journal

            Stuff way cooler than a bug zapper for sure. The coolest thing I ever saw was a sonar device that killed mosquito larvae. Mosquito larvae are aquatic, but they can't extract oxygen from the water; they have to attach to the surface. This device emitted a powerful, upward sweeping frequency chirp, and when it hit the resonant frequency of the larvae's buoyancy bladder the larvae would pop like popcorn and sink to the bottom of the tank. All you needed was a fish tank full of larvae and he had one hell of an impressive demo.

            The guy thought he was going to sell tens of thousands of these things, that mosquito control agencies would send armies of workers out to lower these things into stuff like storm drains to kill all the larvae. The thing is it's a lot cheaper to hire a college student at the beginning of summer, put him on a scooter with a bag of 180 day briquets; he doesn't even have to stop the scooter to chuck them into the storm drains as he passes. Even the environmental justification is relatively weak; the pesticides used on mosquito larvae tend to be very narrow spectrum to aquatic flies or arthropods and break down rapidly in the environment after being emitted by an extended release briquet. Used in things like storm drains and abandoned swimming pools they're extremely benign.

            But the guy has been moderately successful; from what I hear agencies buy them to bring to public education events and fairs to do the same awesome demo he'd done, then they put them away.

    • Now the idea that you could actually distinguish between species this way is far-fetched, because species is largely an arbitrary human construct. But if you could distinguish between distantly related mosquito clades that would be very useful

      That's getting into rather advanced pedantry about species. I'd also argue that they're not entirely a human construct. Life forms a DAG (causality means it must be directed). The graph is for many things (well eukaryotes) pretty similar to a tree at coarse scales.

      Spec

      • by hey! ( 33014 )

        Taxonomy is pedantry. For example someone noticed that sum populations of the mosquito Cx pipiens have a couple of little white dots on their abdomen, so they proposed a new species Cx restuans, and the proposal was accepted. Cx pipiens and Cx restuans are except for a couple of minor color markings interchangeable, and they interbreed in many places to produce populations of fully fertile "hybrids".

        Life is a DAG because an organism can't be an ancestor of one of its own ancestors; however that doesn't me

  • by Zobeid ( 314469 ) on Tuesday December 22, 2015 @08:24PM (#51168583)

    One of the most frustrating things about this is the extent to which *hot* fusion has also been tarred by cold fusion's reputation -- not among scientists, but among businesses, investors and government agencies -- the people who fund research. Scientists know perfectly well the difference between hot fusion research and cold fusion (or LENR), but a lot of people who control funding just hear "fusion" and think it's bogus.

    Hot fusion also has its own semi-justified reputation for not working. We've all heard the old semi-joke: "Fusion power is 40 years away -- and always will be!" Well, for 40 years we've funded very little fusion research, which has resulted in very little progress, which has resulted in a belief that fusion research isn't worthy of funding. The whole cold fusion flap only aggravated this situation.

    • by XXongo ( 3986865 )

      We've all heard the old semi-joke: "Fusion power is 40 years away -- and always will be!"

      Fusion was around the corner in the 1940s. It was ten years away in the 1950s, twenty years away in the 1960s, thirty years away in the 1970s, forty years away in the 1980s...

    • At least DT fusion of thermal plasmas that are magnetically confined.

      Most of the energy comes out as fast neutrons or gammas, and getting energy from those requires a large thermal conversion plant (steam generator).

      Check out this link, where it is argued that direct electric conversion technologies will win on cost vs. thermal conversion plants:

      https://matter2energy.wordpres... [wordpress.com]

      Basically, fusion will always fail on economics. Unless someone comes up with a way to do fusion of species that produce energetic

      • by Zobeid ( 314469 )

        I reject the arguments in that article. First, his economic analysis is simplistic and naive, and if followed to its logical conclusion would imply that coal-fired power plants can never -- ever -- be viable either. (Taken even further, it also seems to imply that there can never be more than one economically viable energy source at a time. Whichever source has the most favorable financial numbers is the only thing that gets built! But it has never worked that way, and it isn't going to start working th

  • by meglon ( 1001833 ) on Tuesday December 22, 2015 @08:39PM (#51168681)

    Price's point is this: "Cold fusion is dismissed as pseudoscience, the kind of thing that respectable scientists and science journalists simply don't talk about (unless to remind us of its disgrace). ...the standard line is that the rejection of cold fusion in 1989 turned on the failure to replicate the claims of Fleischmann and Pons. Yet if that were the real reason, then the rejection would have to be provisional. Failure to replicate couldn't possibly be more than provisional – empirical science is a fallible business, as any good scientist would acknowledge. In that case, well-performed experiments claiming to overturn the failure to replicate would certainly be of great interest."

    Which is true somewhat, although the wrong words are used: IF a well-performed (and repeatedly verifiable) experiment OVERCOMES the failure to replicate, it would be of interest. Lost in this is: THAT HASN'T HAPPENED. The author seems to think that because Rossi is "still doing business," then somehow his claim to fame is justified, and everyone else is wrong. That ain't it. Rossi may be selling something (PT Barnum knew about how that worked), but it isn't cold fusion... and given this guy is a convicted fraud, it's not hard to think that the device he claims to do something that physics says shouldn't be able to happen, while refusing to submit it to 3rd party testing... or any peer review at all, nor explain how it performs the physics/miracle, and yet seems to be constantly "seeking investors" (you know, that whole con man looking for a mark part), is probably just that... a con.

    Now, it sounds like the author has been duped, and now either wants to cover his embarrassment, or still believes the con is real. Name recognition isn't what's making the whole cold fusion thing a reputation trap.... it's the fact that it's pseudo-science that's been beaten to death for almost 100 years now (cold fusion was first brought up in the 1920's), and now attracts people like Rossi and, well, Huw Price, who apparently are "simply looking for investors," while ignoring reality.

    • Here's something that the original article did not really discuss...

      Most of science proceeds by small steps. Someone notices an anomaly. Someone manages to repeat it. Someone manages to extend the current theory to fit it. Someone may come up with a radical theory that also fits. Someone finds another prediction from the radical theory, and looks for verification of that. And so it goes on.

      We know that there is a large potential barrier to getting light nucleii close enough to fuse. We can whack a few

  • by seoras ( 147590 ) on Tuesday December 22, 2015 @11:19PM (#51169341)

    There's an elephant in this room and it's the oil and gas industry.
    It's not so much that so many of us dream of a world where energy is free and limitless as a glass of cold water.
    It's that most of us realise how much less horror would be in the world if there wasn't constant fighting over the limited fossil fuels that cold fusion would replace.
    Scientific reputation and the laws of physics can go to hell if these are the things that are preventing us from living in a better, safer, cleaner world.
    I'm willing to believe that it's all a hoax if it's 100% certain it is BS.
    However, for the love of humanity, if there's even a shadow of a possibility that any of these experiments have shown something worth checking further then please can everyone shut up and stop shouting it down until we really are 100% certain it's snake oil.
    Otherwise, it looks to many of us, like the elephant in the room is behind the angry mob goading them on to burn the heretics...

  • So, the scientific community is being inhibited by a wide-ranging use of the genetic fallacy? In a way, not surprising, given how much modern public discourse is dominated by Bulverism (another form of the genetic fallacy).

Those who can, do; those who can't, write. Those who can't write work for the Bell Labs Record.

Working...