Response to Ethan Siegel's Science Blog Critique of E-Cat Test

I don’t often do this, but I thought this comment below by ECW reader ‘Dr. Mike’ deserved to be placed in its own post. He is responding to the article “The E-Cat is back, and people are still falling for it!” written by Ethan Siegel on Science Blogs site.

I have carefully read the 3rd party report and Ethan Siegel’s blog. Whereas Ethan gives the researchers a grade of “F”, I would give them an “A”. After reviewing the second test (December) results, I had the following concerns:

1. A portion of the e-cat was screened by structural supports from the thermal imager, resulting in poor temperature measurements of some areas on the device.
2. There wasn’t a good way to accurately determine an emissivity measurement of the device surface. The thermal imager needed an accurate local emissivity number to calculate the surface temperature. With radiant heat being proportional to temperature to the 4th power and to emissivity to the 1st power, it just wasn’t possible to accurately calculate the radiant power without knowing the emissivity.
3. The true surface temperature of the device was not cross-checked with a thermocouple.
4. There was no real control in the experiment (namely, if the Ni powder charge is removed does the excess heat disappear?).

After reviewing the results of the 3rd test (March), I found that each of these concerns was addressed in this test. (My guess is that other peer reviewers pointed out these needed improvements to the initial report, which was probably written after the second experiment.) I really can’t find much of anything wrong with the report of the third experiment.

Now perhaps I should address some of Ethan’s concerns. Let’s start with his statement:

“What we must do, when confronted with a claim that’s this extraordinary — that we have a device, at low-temperature, with neutral atoms, fusing atomic nuclei — is demand evidence that shows this is really true, and that we aren’t falling victim to some elaborate ruse.”

Actually, Rossi has not told us yet what he believes the mechanism is for the production of the excess heat. Is it really neutral atoms, fusing atomic nuclei? We don’t know yet so let’s just keep an open mind until a well-defined theory is proven with good experimental data.

Now let’s look at what Ethan claims that needs to be done:

“There are a few ways we could do it:
1.Allow a thorough examination of the reactants before the reaction takes place, and another of the products after the reaction, and show that nuclear transmutation has in fact taken place.
2.Start the device operating by whatever means you want, then disconnect all external power to it, and allow it to run, outputting energy for a sufficiently long time in a self-sustaining mode, until it’s put out a sufficient amount of energy to rule out any conventional (i.e., chemical) energy sources.
3.Place a gamma-ray detector around the device. Given the lack of shielding and the energies involved in nuclear reactions, gamma-rays should be copious and easy to detect.
4.Accurately monitor the power drawn from all sources to the device at all times, while also monitoring the energy output from the device at all times. If the total energy output is in sufficient excess to the total energy input to rule out any conventional (i.e., chemical) energy sources, that would also be sufficient.”

For #1 to happen, Rossi will have to first have to get some patent protection. Ethan is certainly correct that a careful study of the initial reactants and the final products would go a long way toward understanding what’s going on in the device. I assume that Rossi has already done extensive studies on this. His #2 does not make any sense at the present time since it appears that the current device needs periodic power for controllability. As far as ruling out conventional (chemical) energy sources, the data from the experimental show that chemical sources have been ruled out by at least 2 orders of magnitude with the limited duration of experiments #2 and #3. A six month test would stretch this out to more than 4 orders of magnitude. In his item #3 he is assuming that LENR produces high energy gamma rays just like hot fusion. I believe this is a very unscientific assumption on his part. If Ethan would have read the report carefully, he would have found that the input power was carefully monitored by taking 1 per second videos of the power meter. Plot 7 and 8 on page 27 show the input power cycling between ~810W and “OFF”, with the power being “OFF” for about 65% of the time. (One additional recommendation that I would have made to the experimenters would have been to have a separate power meter on the output side of the control box for the entire duration of the experiment. As far as Ethan’s “Power Magic” diagram, the report clearly states that the input to the control box was 3-phase and the output was single phase so the diagram (single phase in, single phase out) is not applicable.

As evidence of Ethan’s failure to read the report carefully, let’s look at what he said about the power in experiment #3:

“They claim that the input power is well-measured and comes out to an average of 360 Watts, over a timespan of around four days. They provide no data for this, they simply claim it. What can you do; are they telling the truth, are they telling the truth as best as they know it, or something else? Without the data, how can you know?
So… it wasn’t a continuous 360 Watts, but rather there was a switching between on/off states, where it was drew over 900 W of power for about a third of the time, and then far less for the other two-thirds. They also only approximate, rather than measure (or provide data for) the amount of power drawn.”

Both the discussion of how the power was monitored and plots 7 and 8 on page 27 show a sample of the data from input power measurement. When the text of the report says the power was “OFF”, I believe it can be assumed that the input power was measured as “zero” to the accuracy of the meter. Perhaps the scale of the meter should have been changed to see if ht control box was really still drawing some fraction of a Watt in the “OFF” state.

I do not agree with Ethan’s assessment of the data taking:

“I’m done pretending that this is science, or that the “data” presented here is scientifically valid. If this were an undergraduate science experiment, I’d give the kids an F, and have them see me. There’s no valid information contained here, just the assumption of success, the reliance on supplied data, and ballpark estimates that appear to be supplied “from the manufacturer.” ”

The data appears to have been taken quite carefully. Also, the accuracy of the measurements was given for all of the equipment used to take the data. The accuracy of the radiant heat output was greatly improved by using the emissivity calibration dots. The dummy test run provided a reasonable calculation of the contribution of the flange. My conclusion is that Ethan just didn’t read the report carefully enough.

As far as Ethan’s statement:

“This is not a valid way to do science at all. And this is certainly not even close to meeting the criteria required for extraordinary evidence to back up such an extraordinary claim.”

I would have to disagree that this report is not valid science. The report does not include everything that Ethan would like to see (and I would like to see), but he needs to appreciate Rossi’s needs to protect his commercial rights. The report is actually some fairly extraordinary evidence; it’s just not quite (or even close) to the complete evidence needed for full understanding of LENR. Also, since Rossi has not yet presented his theory for LENR (assuming he is partially or mostly correct in his theory), we really don’t know if his claim is really that extraordinary!

One final thought in this rather long comment is to consider how LENR fits in Ethan’s chart of Science vs. Pseudo-science:
“Willingness to change with new evidence” Followers of LENR and Rossi appear to be willing to change with new evidence, but Ethan seems to want to ignore the new evidence.
“Ruthless peer review” By putting this report out on the internet, it is certainly getting ruthless peer review, even by people such as Ethan, who has apparently not read the report carefully.
“Takes account of new discoveries” It’s the LENR believers that are willing to accept that there is a lot unknown about LENR. Just because there are gamma rays being detected does not mean there is no possible means of producing excess heat from a new nuclear process.
“Invites criticism” I’m not really sure that anyone invites others to criticize their ideas, but there certainly has been a lot of criticism of cold fusion from those with questionable motives (the hot fusion scientists).
“Verifiable results” My guess is we won’t have truly verifiable results until someone independently discovers Rossi’s catalyst or he releases the information in a patent. (He won’t get a patent without defining the catalyst.)
“Limits claim of usefulness” Rossi has done a good job of stating that the initial use of the e-cat is only to produce heat.
“Accurate Measurements” I believe the experimenters have done almost everything possible to achieve accurate measurements, especially with the improved emissivity measurements in the third experiment.

One other thing that I would add to this list is “Experiments run with controls”. I was really happy to see that the third experiment included running the device with no charge!