The following is a transcript of an interview I conducted with Mats Lewans, Swedish journalist who writes for NyTeknik magazine, and author of the recently published book about Andrea Rossi and the E-Cat, An Impossible Invention. We spoke via Skype today.
The book came out as quite a surprise? Did you intentionally keep it secret?
Yeah, sure. I decided to start this project already in 2011, and I realized I couldn’t talk about it because this would make all my contacts very complicated, with everyone, but still I realized that as a journalist I could be very open with my questions, and sooner or later I could write it.
The story in itself is already so stigmatized, so infected, that if people knew I was writing a book they could accuse me of having that as my main goal — to write the story and sell a book, and then I would be put in question. So I had to keep it secret. Actually, until I released this book a few days ago, Wednesday, only five persons had read it. The people at my newsroom, my closest friends know about it. Not even my family, except for my wife and my kids, knew about it. I kept a very low profile.
There are substantial quotes by Rossi and others in the book — did they know you were doing research for the book?
The only one who knew about the book was Rossi himself. I told him right away that I would like to tell this story — you can choose whether you want to be open with me or not. He said, no problem, that’s okay with me; and he never asked me what I should write; he never asked me how to tell this story. Never, ever.
Did you find people have been open or closed with you?
Most people have been very open with me. As a journalist, I often feel that if you demonstrate that what you are reporting is honest, is more or less what you observe, and you don’t put any values into it, people feel comfortable about telling the truth. Because even though it might be a difficult truth, it might be things that are uncomfortable, it’s better to let the truth come out. And they would rather speak with a person who is honest, and who will report it honestly. That has been my experience with this. That normally makes it very easy to speak with people; if you build up that kind of trust in your reporting.
The only person, actually, that I never managed to get in contact with was Domenico Fioravanti, the Italian consultant who was supposed to have been working with the military (I could never confirm that). I was able to get some confirmation at least back to the story of when he was in contact with Rossi in the Petroldragon time — the early connection between these two persons, but I have no confirmation of his professional background after that. He never responded to any emails. The whole story about Rossi’s work with the military customer is not confirmed by anyone. We only have Rossi’s word on that.
What do you know about Rossi’s manufacturing plants? He had that factory in Bologna and that one in Ferrara. . .
They were not really manufacturing places. They were workshops where he did small stuff. When you talk about manufacturing plants with robotic lines, stuff like that — nothing of the sort. They were very simple workshops where maybe a couple of people were occasionally doingstuff and putting things together. And then he had this famous factory in Miami which no one has ever confirmed it existed — it could have existed. He said it was a small place, about 1000 square meters if I remember right. It was working under cover — the official site was some kind of plumbing workshop or something (that’s what he says), but that’s supposed to be closed right now.
He must have been doing a lot of shipping. He’s building these reactors in the US, and building this plant in Italy. . .
As far as I understood he only produced (did I mention that in the book, I don’t remember?), he only said he produced the powder in the US, I think, and some small parts — but the main parts that were inside the megawatt plant were produced in Italy.
Do you know anything about the preparation of this secret catalyst and this secret powder preparation?
Nothing at all. That’s what he kept secret.
I was interested in one section of your book where you talked about people who were watching Rossi and this activity, quietly — for example, you mention Volvo.
When they’ve been watching, they’ve been watching at a distance. They’ve been reading what I write, and what others write — I don’t think they have any more in-depth knowledge than that. Then I have this curious story about the CIA supposedly watching Defkalion. That came from a source which I considered very trustworthy, but of course I couldn’t confirm that. Of course, if this technology is real, it’s so revolutionary I would expect intelligence from several countries to be interested, and to try to follow it in secret.
How about Vatenfall? Are you close to anyone there?
In cases like Vatenfall and Volvo (I haven’t had personal contacts with anyone there, just occasionally, maybe), it seems to me that persons at mid-level for one reason or another are very interested in this thing because they have been looking at it before, or because they are openminded — but often at the highest level there is a big skepticism and a careful way of getting to the subject. So maybe you have persons at the mid-level trying to push it, but you don’t have a wholehearted commitment at the highest levels.
What did you find to be the most interesting aspects of your research over the last few years?
Let me put it like this. When I started, Rossi immediately told me about this famous test of the megawatt plant that he was supposed to do in Greece in October, 2011. A little bit naive as I was, I thought that would be the end of the story; everything would be clear at that point — I could write a book, and I could release it in the same year. Of course, it turned out not to be that way.
In the years that followed I have had a very good opportunity to look at this story from different angles, and that’s what’s been interesting for me. To look at researchers’ ways of looking at this — the skepticism or interest, being open minded, or deciding it’s impossible — the whole story I’ve tried to put in the book of whether you should go into the story, or try to push it away; I find that quite interesting.
I think most people who don’t belong to the science community believe that science is a very pure kind of activity, where there is black and white, truth and falsehood — and I discovered it’s not. Because even scientists are humans, and they behave like all of us do, in that they are influenced by not only what they know scientifically but also by feelings, trends in society, trends in science, by what other people say, and by sociological factors, and I think that most people don’t realize this. Most of what happens inside science is actually dependent on sociological factors — specifically when it comes to what could be a paradigm shift, and big theories come to an end and are substituted by others.
That’s one part of the story. And then when it comes to the E-Cat, what’s been particularly fascinating are the stories about what has happened when the reaction has gone awry, when they lose control. I find that actually more interesting than all the measurements of the E-Cat when it works as normal, because it makes me more impressed. If you’re dealing with fraud, I wouldn’t expect a fraudster to make a demonstration of something that goes awry, or talk about it, because that wouldn’t fit into the expected fraud. If you want to be convincing you should make it perfect — unless you’re a very skillful fraudster and you think you should do it a little bit bad as well because it looks more real.
How about your assessment of Andrea Rossi as a man? What has stood out to you?
I’ve gotten to know him, and I think I describe that in a few parts of the book, of his typical entrepreneurial aspects of him, like an inventor. With all the strong parts and weak parts that they typically have. We often see them at our newsroom because our publication, NyTeknik, often focuses on small companies with new inventions, and you see that story all the time. about good inventions, and inventors’ difficulty in getting to market because they think the invention will sell itself. They have difficulty bringing in other persons who have other points of view and who can help you build a company. And Rossi has some of those characteristics — but he also has this huge experience of having been severely burned a couple of times in his background, so that makes him very experienced, also, for not making mistakes.
Let’s say his technology is real, and he actually makes it in the end — his earlier experience in having been burned has been crucial in this story. Because what he has been going through — how many people would try to fool you if you have the most important invention of the century? He has been in a very difficult situation, I think.
How has your status as a journalist been affected by your work with this story?
There have been lots of discussions. When I’ve been writing articles for NyTeknik our readers have been divided, as everyone is, regarding this technology. Lots of readers have been accusing me of being gullible and foolish and unintelligent, and whatever. Other readers have been thanking me for actually having the courage to report on this, which is such an interesting subject. So they’ve really been divided, and there have been very strong feelings. I have never in my newsroom been questioned where my career could be put into danger, but I fell that even though no one has never questioned me right out, the situation could still come up because it’s so controversial. Some people have a couple of times advised me to be careful, people close to me.
Have you ever regretted getting into this?
No, never, ever. It’s been so interesting.
How would you compare LENR/E-Cat with other technologies you cover at NyTeknik that are being developed?
I’ve got a Masters of Science in Engineering and Physics, but I’ve been dedicating my journalistic career mostly to information technology, and at the moment the impact of the internet and IT right now is underestimated by most people. People in this sector, they are understanding what is happening and one part which is coming close is artificial intelligence, which has been such a difficult subject for decades and people have believed it’s not ever possible. But it’s actually happening. Ray Kurzweil was actually hired two years ago by Google as director of engineering, and his last book was called How to Create a Mind — it’s very controversial. But people in the sector understand that the impact that information technology is going to have in the coming decades is huge — much bigger than most people understand. And I think that’s one of the most important things that is happening right now.
And then you have others, in areas like the material sciences — the graphene part, the 3D printing of human tissues, nanotechnologies which is developing faster than first thought — and there are many areas that are going to have an enormous impact. Still, I think that the most important is information technology.
On the other hand, on the greentech side, even though there has been big interest, not much has happened. You don’t have new energy resources, really. Big resources are going into solar power and wind power, that’s a strong development, but nothing’s really happening. So from that point of view, LENR is of enormous importance.
Because if you could have the same development as in information technology where information and processing power that was once concentrated to a few persons is now in the hands of everyone in the world — you just have to have a tablet or a smartphone anywhere in the world and you have access to more information than the president of the United States had fifteen years ago — if you could have the same revolution in energy that is today concentrated and controlled by the few, you could have it distributed in the whole world. That would change the world in the same way if you look at it from the big perspective. So it’s a huge invention from that point of view. If you go into detail, you could have clean water for everyone in the world; you could save people from being affected by pollution; you could lower the prices for lots of things — it could have a huge impact, of course.
What’s specifically interesting is that this is the first time something significant has happened, as has happened in information technology, on the energy side.
One thing I will get to in a blog post that I haven’t written yet is that we all know that there is a big discussion about the climate crisis. Whether you believe it or not — there are people on both sides, believing in the role carbon dioxide has had on the climate, or not — it’s still a potential threat, so we’ve got to solve it in one way or another. It’s good that lots of resources are put into developing sustainable power — solar, wind, whatever. But I believe we have here what I would call a streetlight problem. You know the joke about the streetlight — a police officer comes up to a man looking for something under the streetlight, and he says “did you lose something,” and the man says, “yes, I lost my key”. “Did you drop it here?” “No I dropped it there, in the dark.” “So why are you looking here?” “Because here it’s light.”
And I think in the energy sector, we’re stuck in that kind of problem. We’re looking where there is light — we’re looking at solar, and wind, and the energy resources that we know. On the nuclear side, we’re looking at fission — ordinary nuclear power — and we’re looking at plasma fusion power. Those are the only energy sources that we know about.
In the end, we have chemical reactions and we have nuclear reactions. Chemical reactions are very weak so we need a lot of fuel. Nuclear reactions are very good because they are very compact. But they are very dirty. They are producing radiation and you’ve got to have big structures because they are so complicated.
In the end, the only energy source that is bringing some new energy to the earth, except for solar, is nuclear reactions. Because everything else is solar. If you look at petroleum, or wind, or solar, or burning wood, or hydro power — whatever it is, it’s all solar power coming to the earth. So in that sense you can go to the solar power directly.
So the only energy source that brings you something new is nuclear power. But then we only look at the fusion power and fission power that we know about. Einstein tells us that energy is mass x speed of light squared. And that tells us that one gram of matter has as much energy as the first atomic bombs over Japan — Hiroshima and Nagasaki — because that was the amount of power that was used. Any energy that you get out of something is matter transformed into energy, be it chemical reactions or nuclear reactions. Chemical reactions are much less effective at doing that. Nuclear reactions are much more effective — but still they are just using a small part of matter that you have in your hand to produce energy. So what you actually have — we don’t have an energy problem, we have a scientific problem; because we have an infinity of energy in grains of sand in our hand. We don’t know how to get at it. And cold fusion — now I come to the end if it — cold fusion is the first time since the discovery of nuclear fission power, that we have — maybe — discovered a new kind of nuclear reaction, and I believe that this could be the invention of the century, but there could be thousands of ways of getting energy out from matter which could be much more effective than cold fusion, if it’s real. We’ve just started.
Do you have any assessment of current competition to Rossi? Do you think there is anyone close to him, or have passed him?
I mention a few of them in the last chapter. I mention Defkalion which I have an enormous difficulty to assess all the time. I still have strong doubts about Defkalion, but they have been the one that have seemed to have something close to Rossi that I knew of. But I would not say that I am sure that they have it; on the contrary, I have several doubts about what they have, or have not. And then you have Brillouin Energy and Blacklight power, and I know very little about them. There is this Finnish company that I mention which released a patent application. I don’t know what they had but I learned through contacts which I have that these people are qualified scientists; that doesn’t mean or say anything. I don’t know if there is competition.
From a scientific history point of view you would expect this to be discovered by several persons contemporaneously; that’s normally the way it happens when a new invention comes, but this could be quite a unique case since it’s been so stigmatized that few people have tried to get in close. I don’t have any clear ideas about strong competition.
As things stand today, what is your personal level of confidence in the E-Cat as a viable technology?
Personally, this is absolutely my personal assessment, I’m quite confident that it works. Of course I couldn’t prove it; I could be wrong; but for me there are so many factors supporting the idea that it works, that I actually think it does. Still, I got an email from a nuclear scientist today that told me that he was absolutely convinced that it’s just a fraud. But the funny thing is that most often, those people who know that it’s a fraud, they have never been close to it and they have never been interested to look into it — they’re just convinced.
It’s only been a few days since the book’s been published — what’s been the reception to it?
I’m actually overwhelmed. I had a contract with one publishing company early on, but in the end they didn’t feel ready to publish the book. I felt in January of this year it was time to publish the book — I couldn’t wait any longer; this was the time to put an end to the book and get it out, but they were not ready to publish it, and at that point I decided to publish it myself as I have done. And I decided I would distribute it myself and sell it on my web site, and I can tell you I have some work to do, because orders are flowing in, and lots of people have been very interested. Some of the critics — I am glad that they actually say that “I still don’t believe in the E-Cat, but I believe you’ve done a good job” — that’s good to hear! And people who are more positive about the E-Cat, they are very positive, and more positive than I expected.
I was asked by my own colleagues the other day when I presented the book in the newsroom, those who knew less about the story, “why do you think that so few have been engaging in this?” And I think the easy answer is everyone is so afraid of having (I don’t know what you call it in English) — the ‘dumb hat’ or ‘fool hat’. People actually don’t dare to touch it.
Have you ever had that fear yourself?
No, because I feel, like you, that this story has to be told — no matter what. I’m telling it — there’s nothing wrong with that. As soon as you keep a balance, and try to stick to the truth, there can’t be anything wrong with that. The story has to be told.
If there was someone in a high position who said, ‘yes, this is important, this is real, we should follow this, I think there would be a lot more interest, but I don’t think to this point, at least, anybody with sufficient authority or respectability in the larger media world has come forward and said it — and I’m hoping for that time to come, I don’t know when it will come.
If I have a very modest hope for my book for bringing some change for this subject, is that somebody in that position could read it and get influenced, and get some more knowledge about it, and maybe speak up. I’m trying to push some connections that I have to get the book to persons that could have more attention than the ones that have been speaking about the subject before, and that would be the biggest satisfaction that I could have as an author of this book.