Monday, December 12, 2011

My own hunch

In the previous post I wrote about my great surprise at finding that claims of cold fusion, or "low energy nuclear reactions," as the field is now generally called, live on.  Since then I've done a little reading and have begun to become acquainted with some of the history of the last twenty years.  What I have learned in the past few weeks is far outweighed by the work that remains in order for us to properly assess whether the LENR claims amount to anything.  But already I have begun to get a sense of where my own sympathies lie.  In this regard I am with Arthur C. Clark, who, in the preface to Krivit and Winocur's Rebirth of Cold Fusion, wrote, "I cannot quite believe that hundreds of highly credentialed scientists working at laboratories around the world can all be deluding themselves for years."

My sense is that the skeptics overreacted in 1989 to some errors that were made and failed to give due consideration to some of the other evidence that had been presented, and that, since then, they have continued to speak against the LENR research with a confidence that is not justified by the evidentiary standards that the physical sciences impose on other types of claim that are made from time to time.  I am neither an electrochemist nor a physicist—I work with software.  But I am starting to be led by a purely formal analysis of their reasoning to the conclusion that they have been systematically talking past the important issues.  In any other field of knowledge one would probably do well to defer to the experts.  On this particular topic, however, one becomes quite reluctant to give committed critics among physicists (and they might be in the majority) much deference.  For reasons that are unclear, they do not appear to have approached the matter with the attention, care and objectivity that it requires.

In the breach, an option that is available is to make a best effort at becoming acquainted with the details and reasoning of the experiments.  It's not an approach that is assured to lead to greater clarity, but we can at least give it a try.

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