Andrea Rossi and the Ideals of Science

Posted By on June 28, 2013

photo courtesy: www.coldfusionnow.org.

The E-cat is already manifest in Popular Culture. Is this another popular delusion and madness to which crowds are susceptible, or a new phenomenon rooted in reality? - You decide, but decide based on the evidence, not your preconceptions about what is or is not possible according to what you once thought you knew but perhaps didn't. Ok?

Some months ago I offered a blog commenting on what may well become the biggest underground story on the internet for the past three years:  Andrea Rossi’s so-called e-cat reactor, an energy producing device that is poised, if we are to believe Mr. Rossi and his followers,  to usher in a new, post-petroleum age of abundant inexpensive energy for basic needs as well as enable futuristic space flight.

To appreciate how big this may be, consider that proponents sometimes refer to the technology on which the e-cat is based– so called “cold fusion” or — more accurately, it might seem — Low Energy Nuclear Reaction (LENR) as “Fire 2.0.”

That’s right, Fire 2.0.

If so, that puts Andrea Rossi and many of his colleagues in a legendary league. The archive of LENR articles, many peer reviewed, available at LENR-CANR.org covers many highlights of the history of development of this highly controversial new energy source.

Although the book is somewhat dated now, the suppression of the field is documented in Fire and Ice: Searching for the Truth Behind the Cold Fusion Furor, by the late Eugene F. Mallove. Before and while writing this book, Mallove was a science writer and editor for MIT — not exactly the sort of person whom you would think likely to be taken in by an obvious scam.

While some think the designation “Fire 2.0” is hyperbole, if Rossi has been telling the truth  then the label fits. Personally I see many signs that Rossi has been (to the best of his ability) completely truthful in his public statements. There is more evidence that he has sometimes been awkward enough in his projection to inadvertently feed the monomania of his most excitable critics, who don’t seem to have much experience with paradigm shifts.

This is comedia delle Arte, not the Shakespeare you were forced to memorize in grammar school. Rossi is making things up as he goes along, and has learned that sometimes a problem he wants to tackle directly can only be approached more indirectly — following in the footsteps, we may notice, of Vienna’s Duke in Measure for Measure. LENR may be destined to become as important in our lives as cybernetics or the WWW.

In the month of May, supporters of Rossi were heartened to read a report, issued by seven scientists (mainly Swedish and Italian) with relevant backgrounds (including 6 PhDs) that confirms that the device, invented jointly by Andrea Rossi and University of Bologna physicist, the late very well respected Sergio  Focardi, works as claimed. Professor Focardi passed away on or about June 22, 2013,  but not before seeing Rossi fulfill his dream of turning his laboratory experiments into what by all reliable indications is well on its way to becoming a viable commercial product.

Recent interviews with both Focardi and Rossi, released on the occasion of the good professor’s decease, confirm their long-term working relationship, close collaboration, and mutual respect. According to Rossi, Focardi was not only a generous colleague, but one whose contribution to the safe working of the e-cat is “an order of magnitude” greater than those of his well-respected current collaborators.

It now appears that some of the alleged deficiencies in the Fall 2011 tests of the device are attributable to the fact of Rossi’s following the urging of his elder colleague, who knew that his time was limited, to move forward, perhaps with less caution than he might otherwise have done.

Most importantly, these interviews of Focardi and Rossi belong to a growing internet archive, of some dimensions and complexity, which supports the development of new science based on the LENR phenomenon and features many experts — Mike Mkubre of Stanford Research Institute or University of Missouri Provost Robert Duncan being two of the most credible in this 60 Minutes story from 2009.

Duncan learned of the truth of the LENR phenomenon only after being hired by 60 Minutes to review the findings and methodological procedures of LENR researchers all over the world. He came away convinced that the phenomenon is real.

The Report, which includes among its signatories Hanno Essen, a former President of the Swedish Skeptics Society as well as Director of Undergraduate Studies at the at the Department of Mechanics at Sweden’s Royal Institute of Technology, is available online (among other sites) at Cold Fusion Now!

Since the Report, The Washington Post admits that “Cold Fusion Lights up The Washington Post.”  Asked to write in about their favorite solution to the need for more and less expensive energy by removing the shackles of today’s rigged markets from the poor, by far the largest number of readers pointed to LENR as the solution, no doubt much to the surprise of The Post’s editors.

Also subsequent to the report, Rossi’s Swedish sponsors, the Swedish Utility group ELSFORK declared that “the catalyst produces significantly more energy than can be explained by ordinary chemical reactions. The results are very remarkable. What lies behind the extraordinary heat production can not be explained today.”

Italian Engineer Dr.  Renati Estri also “came out” in a related video.  Estri is apparently a “Rossi insider”  who is speaking out, without violating any NDA language, about the prospects for  the new device.

Those prospects? High, if we are willing to place confidence in the word of Estri, Essen, and many others.  Most likely, Estri and his company are both players in the new development. As the e-cat world administrator explains, “Dr. Estri works for Artech, an Italian company which designs software control systems….” Hmmmm.

As a topic much more well known already in Italy, it is even quite conceivable, as was suggested by one reader of E-cat world, that this remarkable and amusing Fiat ad, was produced with an awareness of the e-cat in mind. If I were on the board of directors of Fiat, I would sure be talking to Andrea Rossi about the virtues of doing business with other Italians. If there’s no connection between the two things, then Fiat is just lucky. A reader on e-cat.com made the connection, noticing that “the first Italian is already here” (i.e. in the US), viz. Andrea Rossi.

Nor is Rossi alone in the race to commercialize the first LENR reactors for industrial or domestic application: his former associates, the owners of Defkalion (now incorporated in British Columbia), are said by others to be closing in on salable product. Similar rumors are reported also for Brouillin, another major player in the new research sector.

All in all, how well does this proposed paradigm shift qualify for real? As far as I can tell, its pretty much a done deal at this point. That is not to deny that rational basis for withholding judgment does not exist; only that those of Rossi’s critics who attack his person, rather than responding to his accomplishments, are missing the point and have been for some time.

Online surveys at e-catworld.com show that since the May report about 63 percent of all readers have become “more convinced” that the technology is real; another 23 percent say that the test has not changed their opinion of Rossi’s device because it remains “as strong as ever.”  Only 5 percent of respondents said that the test had diminished their confidence in the e-cat.

Count me among the 63 percent who conclude that this report greatly increases the plausibility of Rossi’s entire career (bumps and all) towards becoming one of the most important inventors of the 21st century.  If you plan on investing in LENR or companies that may benefit from it, of course do your own due diligence.

It appears that we are in for a real roller coaster ride in the energy markets. Rossi has been quick to emphasize, over and over again, that his goal is to work within the existing energy infrastructure so as to cause the least possible dislocation of markets consistent with the reasonably swift dispersion of the new devices. Unfortunately that has not prevented Rossi from becoming an active target in the shrill online world of professional “skeptics” — who seem skeptical about everything except the things they really should feel skeptical about.

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

Comments

9 Responses to “Andrea Rossi and the Ideals of Science”

  1. alainco says:

    Hi, you seems better informed tha average, but still focused too much on Rossi.
    What is happening around LENR/cold Fusion is not new. This report in only the 3rd from a 3rd company by a 3rd tester…
    This is the most formal papers, but all 3 test let the testers play as he like with the reactor…fraud would be too risky for the companies, because tester can test what they want…

    There is a group of various companies on the ramp, big, startup, inventors… I have made an executive summary for the newcomer:

    http://www.lenrnews.eu/lenr-summary-for-policy-makers/
    eg , recently NASA launche a startup research program on a NASA powered plane, National Instrument boss will open ICCF18 with a keynote…

    there is another article on scientific evidences linked inside.

    About why “normal science” reject it, one should read Thomas Kuhn.
    http://fr.slideshare.net/sandhyajohnson/the-structure-of-scientific-revolutions-thomas-kuhn-book-summary#
    and then my article on evidences (cited in the summary)

    best regards, and continue tracking, the landscape is wide.

    — AlainCo the techwatcher of lenr-forum.

    • Roger Stritmatter says:

      Hi AlainCo,

      Thank you for supplying that larger perspective that was not very well emphasized in my initial post . You are I think quite right to note its importance. This larger perspective — the fact that LENR reactions are known from labs all over the world, some of them examined by Robert Duncan when he was asked by 60 Minutes to look into LENR claims.

      As a result, he realized LENR is real.

      Some of the labs have strong replicability records and have learned much about the reaction. I think where Rossi comes in is that he does appear to be the horse to catch, i.e. the scientist-entrepenuer with the best shot at full commercialization in the near future. This may not be quite fair to Brillouin and Defkalion, who seem to also have fairly pro-active timetables for launching a product. And maybe there are others as well, still off our radar. We just don’t right now how big the wave is going to be. But I was very moved to hear Focardi and Rossi speaking about one another in recently released footage.

      Some things that Rossi said were clearly aimed at responding to his critics, like when he explained the reasons why he refused to disclose the “secret sauce” (which Rossi somewhat humourly refers to as the “big bang” prime mover) to Focardi. As a professor, Focardi belonged to a “culture of publication,” in which one trades one’s knowledge through publication to acquire status within one’s community of scholars. But the “secret sauce” could not be published. Since Focardi never knew the concealed details of the reaction he could only render an opinion as to whether the device worked but not how it worked. In his opinion, it worked. Nor would he be the last to say so as we see an ever-widening net of interests and signs of a major, but on the whole very beneficial, revolution in our relationship to energy sources. Driving the price of energy down can especially assist those in greatest need, but also stand in the long run to do so for everyone.

  2. Mark says:

    Hi Roger. I’ve only recently joined up here but, as a scientifically educated (and interested) layperson, I hadn’t heard of Rossi until reading your blog, and so have done some surfing, and remain quietly skeptical. Novel scientific experiments require replicability by disinterested (unbiased) third parties to achieve acceptance. I realize he wants to protect his potential financial windfall, but to hide behind a secret catalyst only fuels distrust. I too hope for a era of cheap, clean energy — but the only way for an earth-shaking discovery to fend off institutional denial by Big Energy is to come absolutely clean in the peer review process: complete specs and descriptions enabling anyone to reproduce the rig and theorize about the principles involved. Otherwise you play into the hands of deniers and allow them to claim you’re a charlatan or hiding something. Since you have a physicist among the most respected Oxfordians, have you asked Mark Anderson for his take? Cheers – Mark Woodward

  3. Roger Stritmatter says:

    Hi Mark, Mark A. and I have indeed often discussed over the last two years our common interest in what is by now in my opinion (and, I think, Mark’s) that “Cold Fusion or “Low Energy Nuclear Reaction” (LENR) is very real and that the current science is on the verge of a paradigm shift. Our views diverge somewhat after that point, with Mark being more skeptical of Rossi than I am. Whether Rossi has what he says he has is at this point anyone’s guess. However, the report cited in this blog made by seven University professors, each with little to gain by lying and much to lose by appearing to endorse something later proved to be fraudulent, has changed the minds of many who were previously skeptics. Meanwhile we wait. But the science on which Rossi’s alleged devices operate is, imho, definitely a real thing. The only difference is that Rossi claims to have taken a phenomenon demonstrable in the lab and turned it into a commercializable product.

  4. Roger Stritmatter says:

    Also, as a strategic matter I disagree with your assessment. By far the preferable solution for the entrepreneur inventor is to produce a salable product and sell it. Surely if we know one thing as Oxfordians it is that the academy can tie a good idea up in knots for a half a century if we give it the chance. So I like Rossi’s strategy, as he has articulated it. Check out some of his videos. To me he comes across as absolutely the genuine article.

  5. Mark says:

    I admit to feeling having been burned by Pons and Fleischman, but I don’t doubt the possibility of LENR because quantum physics is far from a closed book. Nevertheless I am increasingly skeptical about Rossi’s claims. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary verification, and absolute openness on the part of the claimant, both of which are lacking in this case. Rossi’s hiding behind his “secret catalyst” is not unlike Ponzi’s remarkable non-specificity about his currency trading operation. He’s clearly more interested in ginning up money and investors than science. Nor do I doubt the honorableness of the scientists from Uppsala, etc. But I question how carefully they examined Rossi’s apparatus against the possibility of surreptitious introduction of outside energy from other sources, if they did it at all. As James Randi and Martin Gardener have repeatedly pointed out (in regards to debunking the Stanford ESP experiments, among others), scientists are among the easiest people to put one over on, because their adherence to the honor principle is way ingrained, and they don’t expect their experimental apparatus to try to fool them. Rossi raises too many red flags for me.
    Cheers –
    mark

  6. Roger Stritmatter says:

    I am quite content to wait and see how the Rossi saga shakes out, along with the rest of the LENR ferment. It is now pretty clear that the ones who were “burned” were Pons and Fleischmann. They were burned by professional arrogance, envy, and competition for resources (primarily by physicists with a great investment in “hot fusion” who saw “cold fusion” as competition – which it was and is).

    Your judgments about a report you apparently haven’t read, however, and about professional physicists whose reputations you still don’t know anything about, strike me as generally premature. But your point about the trusting nature of many scientists is noted as a relevant observation. You may be correct – we shall just have to wait and see how things develop.

  7. Roger Stritmatter says:

    Mark, here’s a good link for the current state of the debate in re/LENR: http://www.e-catworld.com/2013/10/elforsk-magazine-features-lenre-cat/.

    A major Swedish utility Company has just featured Rossi’s invention in its industry magazine.

  8. Mark says:

    Thanks for the link. I have no vested interest in being right — and in the long term would much rather be wrong (unlike some of our Stratford friends 🙂 .
    cheers-

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