The world is made up of two basic tribes
Those who do, and those who do not
The latter, the do not’s, often, perhaps too often, pontificate
In the world of science these tribes are known as ‘experimentalists’ and ‘theorists’
As an experimentalist I don’t completely eschew the notion that theory is useful but theory has strangely moved in the modern age of institutional physics to the beginning not the end of the pioneering process of discovery. This is a subterfuge perpetrated upon the world of science by those minions who have dutifully memorized, recanted, neh regurgitated all that was taught to them and required of them on exams by legions of ‘do nots’ of their tribe. Experiment is the essence of empirical ‘testable’ science and theories, no matter how attractive they might be, are but questionable philosophy without being ‘testable.’
Krishna Murti once posited a long established meme that has recurred over the ages of man by saying,
“One does not catch the unknown it a net of the known.”
His words were repurposed by Master Yoda in the Star Wars Epic when he chastised his young apostle who refused to attempt something new and challenging by saying,
“Do or do not, there is no try.”
These memes are the very essence of the experimentalist tribe. The tribe is sparse and diverse in its makeup. They defy a common characterization, surely the ordinary inside the box certifications are nearly antithetical to characterization of its true members. Certifications are almost entirely issued by those who are so far inside the boxes of conventional dogma that they don’t even know that boxes exist. It’s not uncommon for some few certificated box dwellers to climb out, or be tossed out, of said boxes, where upon they may see the light.
But my pontification on this is far from perfect or consistent as even the most outside of the box experimentalists are always drawn also to scientific theory. We all would like things to be more simple to understand and experience, sigh. The older I get the more I know and understand that the knowing only comes with time, lots and lots of time. The desire to know, curiosity, is a conundrum we face that is like a proverbial tar-baby, theory first is an ever so enticing shortcut, it draws us close, but to remain a true pioneer one must learn which tar baby to touch and which not to touch. Mistakes are often stickily fatal or at the very least leave one with a nigh unto impossibly time consuming job of hand/brain cleaning.
Cold fusion theorists
In what has become perhaps the most legendary ‘out there’ of all pioneering fields of physics, cold fusion, it is rivalled perhaps only by the EM Drive. Experimentalists are very very few and perniciously subjected to ridicule and hate-mongering, theorists have seemingly proliferated as fast as internet social media can execute a fast cut and pasted notion based on mere moments of Googling. In this age of the internet sorting the kernels of theoretical goodness from an endless growing mountain of chaff is a daunting task.
What I have found as my only hope has not been reading and adhering to one proselytizing Obi Wan Kenobi or another but rather trusting to my own decades of experimentalist discoveries. These have been guided in part by my good fortune of having discovered others, the like-minded, of my tribe along the way. It’s a wonderful thing about experimentalists they are filled with genuine scientific curiosity and share their joy of discovery freely and openly with those who are truly of their kind. Those in the field that one commonly crosses paths with who seek their rewards in the form of inside the box wealth, authority, power… undoubtedly prove to be posing tar baby’s more often than not.
Cold fusion thinkers worth their mettle
But every so often, rarely, some theorists prove their mettle. For me I learned from some of the best, all greatly older and wiser than myself but somehow they found my experimentalist soul was sufficient to touch me with their sticky wisdom. I count amongst these of course my friend Martin Fleischmann, but as well Julian Schwinger, Linus Pauling, Art Schalow, Edward Teller, Dick Taylor, Michele Boudart amongst the famous, and of lesser known but equal stature John Dash, Bob Kohn, Tom Passell, the Chubbs, Guilliano Preparata and more than a few more.
One of my favourite friends who has helped me won his Nobel prize in physics for being both an incredible experimentalist as well as theorist. One day upon going direct to him with some remarkable new experimental data showing massive production of cold fusion helium I asked him for his opinion, his response was perfect.
I’ll give you my opinion Russ, it’s all horseshit! But that’s my religious conviction of course, now show me that data!
Years later he helped tutor me in the real mysteries of the ‘quark’, the critter for which he was awarded his trip to Stockholm. The ‘quark’ is part of a quintessential proof of Albert Einstein’s statement that.
“It is enough for me to contemplate the mystery of conscious life perpetuating itself through all eternity, to reflect upon the marvelous structure of the universe which we dimly perceive, and to try humbly to comprehend even an infinitesimal part of the intelligence manifested in nature.”
What my collective view of the pieces of the puzzle of the yet to be assembled of the nature and theory of cold fusion is simply that the new physics data almost always speaks to us in a language that we have barely begun to be able to provide a perfect translation to our presently known world. The key to cold fusion is that somehow the components of atomic nuclei move back and forth amongst neighbouring nuclei when they are constrained, contained, and stimulated in relatively dense states of matter. When the various quanta that we know as nucleonic bits make their exchanges they do so in a fashion that doesn’t yield the same sort of energetic chaos, aka high energy emissions, that common Hot fusion does when it is seen or made to occur in most highly energized states and the thinnest of plasmas.
Oh god, now I am pontificating…. on to the point
What moved me to write this post was reading of a new theory by Andrea Rossi and his Swedish theoretical physicist understudy a phd student. Rossi and Carl-Oscar Gullström write in their just published theory about how some form of nucleon tunnelling explains the cold fusion/lenr of Rossi’s ‘E-Cats.’ The lenr/cold fusion social media is abuzz like it often is with this apparent rehash of what Julian Schwinger mused in his very first words following the Fleischmann and Pons announcement in 1989 on how one might account for the mystery at hand.
Many have followed to restate the same obvious ‘theory’ that it has to be something that involves coherent and quantum states. Along my way I found great value in my time spent with Art Schalow talking about coherent states (Art won the Nobel Prize for the LASER) and was keenly interested in cold fusion though at the time in his 90’s. At the same time as I was having tea with Art I was similarly engaged with another nonogenarian, Edward Teller, his sage advice was to follow the experimental path and evidence and forget about the theory save as an amusement.
Teller liked my experimental work enough to help me understand that while I might be self-effacing of my particle detector equipment I should take comfort in doing the work in the manner that he trusted most, in the same fashion as was done, as he said to me “when neutrons were discovered”. Of course he and I agreed that my massive cold fusion emissions could not be something of the ‘known’ and had to be something new and of hitherto ‘unknown’ definition. He called my catch crazy neutrons, mischugenons, behaving somewhat like neutrons but very very much different as they lacked the ordinary neutrons prompt secondary unmistakable radiations when interacting with matter.
So today when I see the Swedish student musing with Master Rossi about a theory that explains cold fusion/lenr I am struck by those notions being rather familiar. But I will give Andrea one very big positive, I know of no one who is more determined and dedicated as an experimentalist. I will give him all the leeway he might require to continue on his charted course and be grateful for the occasional reports on his epic journey. Perhaps he has indeed found a way through the Bermuda Triangle of Cold Fusion that the dogmatista’s of in the box physics have foisted upon the world.
I will admit that I very much like the hints and tips about the refinements and characteristics of Rossi’s newest E-Cat’s his Quarks which in so far as I can gather are very near to my own presently favoured embodiment of practical cold fusion. He is a brother from another mother. Tally ho the chase is on.
I like many others are impatiently awaiting the next stylish Italian shoe to drop.