Andrea Rossi and Charity: or, the Ox, the Cart (and the Cow)

Posted By on March 15, 2012

“When the Ox is Yoked to the Plow, he must pull.”

The underside of the internet has been working like mad trying to paint Andrea Rossi, inventor of the e-cat, as the worst guy since Al Capone.

Rossi, it is true, talks back, having  sometimes characterized his enemies as “snakes” or “clowns.” Rossi, who clearly has a poetic as well as metaphysical bent of mind, enjoys the battle of words. In his version of this modern Aesop’s fable, as he explained to the dedicated, able, and charming “new journalist” Ruby Carat at the ColdfusionNow website, he’s the Ox — and  “when the Ox* is yoked to the cart, he must pull.”

Those willing to extend to Rossi even the slightest degree of charitable intellect in the midst of so much caterwauling about his controversial past will realize the guy has been pulling pretty damn hard for a number of months now.

In October he staged two separate major tests of the e-cat with international coverage in the blogosphere and multiple international observers, including experts from the Swedish skeptics society (those Swedes can be pretty skeptical, I think : ).

The second test was of a 1 MW plant consisting of smaller e-cat reactors hooked together. It generated 479 KW (just under half its rated power) for over 5 hours.  While the tests have been widely criticized for design flaws, that does not seem to have stopped preliminary sales of Rossi’s 1MW e-cat. According to Rossi, a military organization he did not name promptly ordered 13 of the units at a cost of $1.5 million each.

Asked about his capitalization needs, the laconic inventor replied: “We are a well-armed battleship.”

Rossi went on to hold discussions and negotiations with some of the biggest and most reputable companies he could approach: National Instruments, Siemens, and UL Underwriters. When his comments about his relationship with NI were challenged, NI stepped up to confirm Rossi’s account, underlining its trust in Rossi’s public relations by including a link pointing back to Rossi’s own statement.

He has allegedly been discussing with Seimens plans to use one of their advanced turbines to power an “infinite COP” 15 MW electric plant. COP, for the uninitiated, stands for Coefficient of Productivity, that is the ratio of energy required to run a reaction to the energy gained in output. Such a plant would generate perhaps 45 MW of heat, 1/3 of which would be converted into electricity and the rest used for heating.

How much is 15 MW?  A whole lot. Your average plutonium-belching waiting-for-a-meltdown fission reactor does only about a 1000 MW.

Since the electricity generated would be 6 times the amount needed to sustain the reaction, the machine would effectively seem to be defying the 2nd law of thermodynamics. It could feed a grid 24/7 all year round while supplying abundant “waste” heat for environmental controls — not only heating but also, with appropriate technologies, cooling as well.

I’m sorry, but the people who say that Rossi is such a bad businessman aren’t very convincing to me in the face of evidence like NI’s very public nod towards his reliability. He’s laid plans, if we are to credit what he says, for a major manufacturing plant in the United States, ready to produce via robotized assembly line, a million 10 KW home-use e-cat units a year.

He says he’s waiting for UL to propose the necessary modifications and that when that is done the factory will be cranking them out within months. Is he really?  One doesn’t have to wait that long to know.

What was our government doing during the same time period, you may ask?  Well, maybe more than we know. Listen to President Obama’s March 7 energy speech at Daimler in Mt. Holly, North Carolina.

“Oil is the fuel of the past,” declared Obama.

A week ago Rossi met with representatives of the Florida State Radiation Bureau, who cleared him of some of the wild accusations that had been made against him by a “concerned citizen” who had complained that he had been told that Rossi was “committing many felonies.”

Gimme a break – who said that terrible thing? Anonymous himself! No need to worry about accountability here.

Let me put it this way. If I were going to write a screenplay with industrial psyop in it, I couldn’t have improved on that script. Float an effectively libelous but unattributed rumor in a Florida state document  and crank up the internet machine. Right out of the playbook. Works like a charm.

Joe Citizen went on to allege, incorrectly as it turned out, that Rossi was poisoning south Florida with his unleashed e-cats.

I sometimes wonder how naive do the people who dream up these stunts think the rest of the world really is. Its no wonder that Rossi turns to Aesop for a little help once in a while. And yes, he shouldn’t be  be using ad hominems – even Aesopian ones – but given some of the liberties his extremer critics have taken with the larger truth, it is perhaps unsurprising that he does.

Be that as it may I enjoyed noticing the turn in Rossi’s mind when he compared himself (indirectly) to the Ox, pulling the cart. It’s a repeated theme in his public statements. “What you see as pressure,” he said, “I translate as responsibility.”

I’m sorry, but I have difficulty reconciling this statement with Rossi’s alleged crimes and misdemeanors. I prefer the analysis of Brian Westenhaus, the blogger at Oil Price.com, who commented that  the story of the Florida Radiation Bureau  “has been picked up by others that at this time won’t be mentioned or linked out of kindness” — and went on to suggest that the reporting of Rossi’s chief critic Steven Krivit was “tedious, obviously unbalanced and suspect in completeness.”

It all surely does make one wonder, on the other hand, if Rossi’s fable can come true.

Will the cart budge from the rut into  which the world’s dependence on oil, coal, and nuclear power has precipitated our civilization? The energy industry has, I understand, historically had the lowest rate of reinvestment into R&D of any sector of the world’s economy.  It seems to have thought that it’s easier to invest in bullets than in substantive, transformative technologies that might make our world a better place to live. There’s not as much money in that.

Is there a path past the environmental violence and bloodshed this industry has brought on, in its blinkered refusal to envision a future where it’s no longer in control?

Whatever the answers to these questions, my own feeling is the one shared by the regular bloggers at http://www.e-catworld.com or  http://e-catsite.com/.  The blogosphere would be a better place if some of the most extreme statements about Mr. Rossi hit the roundfile paper shredder.

Skepticism is fine – God knows the world can always use more of that, in its authentic form. But the blogosphere is a landscape in which charity is in danger of being smothered by a kind of cynical “skepticism” that usually amounts to nothing more edifying than intellectual laziness coupled with a need to curtsy to authority, whether real or just imaginary. But that’s the new ideology of the internet’s volunteer thought police — who seem to keep pretty busy.

I’m really just suggesting that maybe it would be a good idea for everyone to wait until you’re really damn sure that Rossi isn’t doing pretty much exactly what he says he’s doing before rejecting his claims as ipso facto impossible or even wildly improbable.

Rossi’s claims are quite possible.

Twenty years of dedicated scientific research from “Cold Fusion” pioneers have proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the alleged anomalous  source of Rossi’s effect is real.

“I know what I’ve seen,” Stanford Research Institute’s electrochemist and “Cold Fusion” researcher Michael McKubre told 60 Minutes on learning that DARPA had substantiated the longstanding claims of his and many others.

This being so, Rossi’s research would merely be taking something that may be still be considered improbable from the state of present knowledge and showing that it is possible.

It is improbable, moreover, only in the relativistic sense that, if true, it represents a quantum improvement in stability and total energy output (far greater COPs, though on a much smaller scale, have been demonstrated in many labs) over known technologies.

Since when in the history of technology is such a thing in itself seen to be unusual?  It is no more extraordinary in kind than taking a wood fire and turning it into a ceramic kiln by more carefully controlling a natural reaction through careful engineering.

Most people, however, do not understand this.

Indeed, a great deal of confusion lingers over this point precisely because it has been expedient for Hot Fusion scientists on the public gravy train to keep up the jeering about the idea that one can create some sort of wholly novel nuclear effect in a lab beaker at temperatures under the boiling point of water without creating hazardous byproducts.

That’s pure sedition when you are writing grants for hundreds of millions at a crack and promising that your multi-billion dollar hot fusion reactor is just about to finally net a few Kw…tomorrow….you keep saying.

But here’s the deal: you can.

So, if anyone cared about my opinion, it would be this.

Let the man show what he can do.

If he fails, then criticize him. Arguing that he failed in the past (for which there is apparent evidence), is no argument against him at all in the present, partly for the simple reason that the causes of these past failures are far from clear to most of us and may have involved dimensions, favorable to Rossi’s view, yet about which there is scant public record.

Yet Rossi’s critics seem skilled in the fine art of leaving out significant parts of the story, such as that after he had been convicted he allegedly obtained a complete pardon from the higher Italian courts.  That stuff matters.

Perhaps — I know this is difficult for some of us to imagine —  Andrea Rossi is one of those rare persons who grows by learning from his own mistakes. Perhaps he knows how to pull even in a room full of jabberers. I’m sorry if saying that makes me a “believer” rather than a “skeptic,”  but until I feel convinced otherwise, I’m going to assume he is, and he can.

Call me mad, call me foolhardy, call me naive, or just label me “skeptical”:….I’m still not convinced otherwise.

*********************************************************************

*Rossi, I believe, actually said “cow.”  But my hunch is, however much some may object, he probably did intend to say “Ox,” since he doesn’t strike me as someone who doesn’t know how a farm runs.

About the author

Roger Stritmatter is a native liberal humorist who lives in Baltimore, Maryland. Contrary to rumor, he does not live on North Avenue. He does, however, work on North Avenue. A pacifist by inclination, one of his heroes is John Brown. But he thinks that Fredrick Douglass, another of his heroes, made the right decision. Stritmatter's primary areas of interest include the nature of paradigm shifts, the history of ideas, and renaissance literature, the latter a field in which he has published extensively

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