Fusion and LENR Update from David Bailey and Jonathan Borwein (Update: Now on Huffington Post)

UPDATE (Aug 28, 2015)

I have been informed that an adaptation of the article linked to below has now been published on the Huffington Post. See here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-h-bailey/post_10010_b_8052326.html

David H. Bailey of the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab (retired) and University of California, and Jonathan M. Borwein, Laureate Professor of Mathematics, University of Newcastle, Australia, are the publishers of the Math Drudge website where they write about math and science subjects.

They have previously had articles published about LENR on the Huffington Post (see here and here), where they expressed interest in, as well as caution about about the claims of Rossi and others. Now they have written something of a follow-up article where they look at the latest news in both the hot and cold fusion fields.

The article is titled “Cold fusion heats up: Fusion energy and LENR update”. The full article can be read here, but here are some excerpts on the topic of LENR:

Several “reliable sources” have visited Rossi’s commercial site, and have verified that the system is working as claimed, as evidenced, for example, by the customer’s significantly reduced electric bills.

On the downside, from a scientific point view, Rossi’s work leaves much to be desired, to say the least. Rossi remains tight-lipped as to technical details, preferring to protect his company’s intellectual property through silence.

However, a few details have now come to light. For example, Rossi was just granted a patent by the U.S. Patent Office. The patent includes some heretofore unknown details, such as the contents of the “fuel” in Rossi’s reactors: it is a powder of 50% nickel, 20% lithium and 30% lithium aluminum hydride.

[. . .]

The present authors are as perplexed as anyone by these developments. As we observed in an earlier blog, Rossi’s work in particular leaves us with three stark choices: (a) Rossi and those working with him or independently have made some fundamental and far-reaching blunder in their experimental work; (b) Rossi is leading a conspiracy of sorts to cover dishonest scientific behavior; or (c) Rossi has made an important discovery with sweeping potential impact.

With each passing month, and with more researchers finding similar results, (a) and (b) look less likely. On the other hand, skepticism is certainly still in order until Rossi comes forward with more details on the designs and control techniques used in his system.

So it’s a cautious appraisal, but I think one that is actually quite typical of people who look at the picture with open minds, and yet with caution. I sense there is less of the assumption of a fraud or scam nowadays from people who carefully look at the overall picture with Rossi and the E-Cat, but the claims of Rossi are still considered by many as being so improbable and too-good-to-be-true, that there is an almost reflexive instinct to want to dismiss them. However I find that careful examination of the evidence makes the dismissal option quite difficult.

Drs. Bailey and Borwein contemplate some of the implications of what might happen if any of the the hot fusion or LENR projects deliver — which include an ‘environmental windfall,’ development of new energy applications, and a further drop in oil prices which could lead to more financial and geopolitical instability.

It’s good to see these mathematicians covering this important story. I look forward to more articles from them in the future.