Scientific Progress Always Delayed By Entrenched Dogma

The human race uses ‘mob rule’ to dictate what is fact and fiction.

Environments that facilitate mob rule are characterized by barking dogma, or worse the anonymous piddling marking of dogmatic territory.

It’s not just in sports, politics, and religion but also in the world of science.

“Elite scientists can hold back science” is a blog post by Brian Resnick on It reviews a paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research titled “Does Science Advance One Funeral at a Time?”.

The study looked at the publishing patterns of scientific articles by top scientists and shows that after the death of these scientists there is a considerable drop-off in publications by their collaborators, assistants and colleagues, and a corresponding increase in publication by non collaborators.

This study concluded:

Overall, these results suggest that outsiders are reluctant to challenge leadership within a field when the star is alive and that a number of barriers may constrain entry even after she is gone. Intellectual, social, and resource barriers all impede entry, with outsiders only entering subfields that offer a less hostile landscape for the support and acceptance of “foreign” ideas.

The study also found that after the death of these luminary scientists, grant funding in their fields dropped off.

Goliaths Shadow

All this suggest there’s a “goliath’s shadow” effect. People are either prevented from or afraid of challenging a leading thinker in a field. That or scientific subfields are like grown-up versions of high school cafeteria tables. New people just can’t sit there until the queen bee dies.  What’s interesting is that the deaths seemed to hurt the careers of the luminaries’ junior collaborators, the ones who frequently co-authored papers with them but not in a senior role.

It is a common fallacy held and defended by many if not most who think of the field science as being impartial and unaffected by human weakness. There has always been a battle with this misperception, indeed sales pitch of science. Human natures shortcomings afflict all fields of human activity and endeavour.  This study reveals examples of how the quest for the advancement in knowledge is persistently afflicted by the influence of the elite who command high esteem among their peers and wield that command in a ruthless manner.

The character of science has also been afflicted by the monetization of teaching of science and the countless ‘puppy mill’ degree programs that have created a huge bubble of “certified” but often frustrated drones whose only avenue to be acknowledged is their adherence to the reigning (or perhaps raining) dogma of the day.

There is a not so old joke about the problem of the puppy mills, it goes like this. “What do you say to catch the attention of a physicist (fill in your own fav discipline), you simply put your finger in the air and loudly say, “waiter.”  

Frustrated people commonly resort to barking dogma or marking their dogmatic territory with anonymous piddling wise cracks. Proof of the long standing ‘mob rule’ in science comes from none other than Albert Einstein who said in response to a 1931 book skeptical of relativity theory entitled 100 Authors against Einstein, “Why 100? If I were wrong, one would have been enough.”

Exotic Nuclear Fusion

The history of ‘cold fusion vs. hot fusion, it’s ecology, is filled with such examples. The exploding wire experiments involving exotic inexplicable nuclear reactions were done at University of Chicago some 86 years ago. In 1922, Wendt & Irion, two chemists at the U of C, reported the results of relatively simple experiments that consisted of exploding tungsten wires with a very large current pulse under a vacuum inside of flexible sealed glass “bulbs.”

A huge scientific controversy erupted because Wendt & Irion claimed to have observed the presence of anomalous helium inside the sealed bulbs after the tungsten wires were blown, suggesting that transmutation of hydrogen into helium had somehow occurred during the “disintegration of tungsten.” That could not be as if true it would be evidence for something other than the accepted nuclear fusion dogma.

Following immediately on the publication of those ‘cold fusion’ results at a regional American Chemical Society meeting, widespread global media coverage in the form of breathless newspaper headlines about “transmutations of elements” triggered a response from the existing scientific establishment in the form of a wildly hostile critique of Wendt & Irion’s work by one of the most elite scientists of all, Sir Ernest Rutherford, promptly published in the Journal Nature.

Rutherford of course reigned supreme while Wendt & Irion, mere peon chemists and comparative nobodies from the University of Chicago, were not. They were destroyed by the vicious blast from Nature and Rutherford.

After 1923, Wendt and Irion abandoned their exploding wire experiments and turned to other lines of research. Sadly, Gerald Wendt died just a few years later; Irion then left the University of Chicago to teach chemistry at a small Midwestern college. No other researchers at Chicago continued their line of inquiry.

After seeing what Rutherford had done to them, who on earth would have had the courage to follow in Wendt & Irion’s footsteps? In the US, little subsequent research was done on the subject of exploding wires until W.W.II when Luis Alvarez re-invented the exploding-wire as the bridgewire detonator for the Fat Man Atomic Bomb! Atom-ecology proved as this appears to be an intermediate between cold and hot fusion, more than sufficient and vital to explode Fat Man and the beginning of the great snow job against cold fusion becoming known to the world.

Paneth and Peters performed another break-through experiment where under conditions impossible for fusion within the prevailing dogma it appeared again. Helium could be produced from the fusion of hydrogen at temperatures that were millions of degrees too cold to be possible. In 1926 the two German scientists had discovered a way of fusing hydrogen into helium with the use of Palladium, a rare element that comes in the form of a shiny, silvery white metal. In their paper they write, “The basic idea for our work is therefore to test whether hydrogen, without adding energy, can be transformed into helium if one brings it together with a suitable catalyst. We thought from the beginning of Pd (palladium) as a catalysing substance.” (Paneth & Peters, 1926) Paneth showed that they had created an impossibly large amount of helium after having treated hydrogen with palladium.

Unfortunately, just like what was to happen with Fleischmann and Pons in 1989, the experiment was aggressively studied by elites of science who claimed the excess helium production was the result of errors. No experiments were conducted to prove the error hypothesis as the imprimatur of the elite critics made their unsubstantiated opinions of greater worth than the hard data of those they attacked. It was concluded that the helium had come from the environment instead of being a result of the fusion of hydrogen and palladium. The initial excitement that Paneth and Peters had accidentally discovered something that would change the world was quickly extinguished and the two scientists could do nothing else but retract their publication “On the Conversion of Hydrogen to Helium.”

Fleischmann and Pons 1989

Of course the more recent and famous case of mob rule destroying a breakthrough out-of-the-box scientific advance is the case of the cold fusion of Fleischmann and Pons in 1989. The story of cold fusion is abundantly told on this blog. Fleischmann and Pons were driven from the hallowed halls of science by relentless attacks by elitist scientists who to this day defend their fallacious attacks, along with their blind devoted mob, lest those “masters’ names go down in history as the heretics of science that they are.

Today there are thousands of papers confirming cold fusions real and powerful details reported on in scientific journals and conference proceedings. Here’s a link to a library.

Fortunately eventually time has a way of revealing the truth. So while that dear and brilliant man Martin Fleischmann has passed on, his, and his understudy Stan Pon’s great discovery is being brought to fruition all over the world. Just in time perhaps to save the world from the ravages of the fossil fuel age and its’ menacing CO2 that Cold Fusion will replace.

OK OK enough sermonizing, here’s your reward link her to watch Kevin Smith sermonize about dogma he’s so much better than I.