torsdag 21 april 2016

Cold fusion circus update

A symposium under the title New Energy World Symposium was to be held in Stockholm and I recently commented on this here and offered to give a talk at the symposium titled "Science, nuclear physics and the E-Cat".

Meanwhile, Rossi and Industrial Heat get hot over cold fusion. On April 8 the following statement was made:
"Industrial Heat has worked for over three years to substantiate the results claimed by Mr. Rossi from the E-Cat technology – all without success."
The beforehand (!) so highly praised independent report (yes, yet another) that was to prove (wait, wasn't it already proven many times?) is delayed (surprise).

Finally the New Energy World Symposium has been cancelled. What a pity. I was so looking forward to give my talk. 

onsdag 2 mars 2016

The absence of religion is not a religion

From time to time religious people claim that atheism is a religion too [1]. This is strange for - at least - two reasons. First of all; how can the absence of something be this very thing? How can the absence of religion be a religion? And, secondly, how come religious people take the right to define atheism from their world-view, i.e., that everybody has to have a belief?

The latter actually reflects the problem we are facing here rather well. Since a large majority of the worlds population is religious of some sort, religious people simply take the right to define the reference frame from which to judge everyone's views on their own religious believes.

This reference frame, sort of, sits in the word "atheism" itself. Atheism is defined relative to theism. Actually it should be the other way round. Let's illustrate this by trying to replace the word "atheism" with a different word, e.g., "freethinker" [2]. If we call all people that are free from religion freethinkers, than Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Hinduists, Jews, Shintoists, etc etc etc, are afreethinkers or non-freethinkers.

Get the point? Hope so. But let's take a one more example. Ghosts. I know that many people believe in ghosts but the large majority does not [3]. Hence you would assume that someone you just met somewhere in the street does not believe in ghosts. You might, however, eventually find that this person actually does believe in ghost [4]. Now, the question is: how many people would have to believe in ghosts to swing the balance so that is you that has to come out as an "aghostic"?  

Since repetition seems to be a fruitful concept in pedagogics, lets add yet another example. Science. If I am supposed to "believe" in the Higgs particle (yes, pun intended), I reasonably ask for the evidence (see, e.g., here for the current status). Similar with so fantastic a thing as gravitational waves [5]. Now, if I tell you there is a teapot in some orbit around the sun and you do not believe me, how would you feel if I tried to define your non-believing in the existence of this teapot by calling you an ateapotist and claim that your non-belief in the teapot is as good as mine, i.e., it too is "a belief"?

Well, this is the classical burden of proof problem. In the the case of the teapot or the ghost most people will see the point. But when it comes to religion the claim that atheism is a religion too remains widespread.

But it is nevertheless false.


[1] Religious people do, of course, their best to spread this claim which I see as nothing but cheap propaganda. Guess it helps them to reduce their cognitive dissonances and makes them feel better. A recent example from Sweden is found here. A good comment and some background on this article by Jonna Bornemark is given by Patrik Lindenfors
[2] I don't think this is a good word in this context and in a way the word "freethinker" contains the same problem as "atheist", but, for the sake of the argument, let's use it here.
[3] Though I might be wrong with my "large majority" believe here.
[4] And you might be fine with it as long as the person does not try to convince you and does not do you any harm based on this ghost-believing thing.  
[5] Wow, look at the list of authors at the end of this paper and compare it with the author list of some "holy" scripture ...

onsdag 24 februari 2016

Cold fusion circus comes to town

This summer new spectacular promises are promised to be promised; Mats Lewan organizes a symposium under the title New Energy World Symposium, to be held in Stockolm on June 21, 2016. Just read the title of this symposium. Doesn't it sound fantastic?

Yes indeed, that is exactly what it is. Maybe something for trekkies? No, I guess this is unfair. To Star Trek fans. I take that back.

Anyway, here are some goodies from the announcements:
“it has been scientifically proven that elite scientists really can hold back scientific progress”. 
“One of the most promising is an ongoing one-year test of a heat plant producing one megawatt of thermal power—the average consumption of about 300 Western households, including electricity, space heating, water heating and air conditioning—from mere grams of harmless fuel.” (my emphasise)
You see? 

General statements and promises of hugh gains are made. Earlier critique is simply washed away as if it didn't exist. Such critique has been given in several posts on this blog, see, e.g., "How often does one have to kill the cat". It has actually been shown that fraud cannot be excluded or is even likely.

The critique is very severe (slight understatement). But believers rush elsewhere (maybe a case of displacement activity?) and make new bold promises in an attempt to blind the public, and, of course, potential investors: “One of the most promising is an ongoing one-year test of a heat plant producing one megawatt of thermal power—the average consumption of about 300 Western households, including electricity, space heating, water heating and air conditioning—from mere grams of harmless fuel."

Of course: this is just a statement, yet another claim not a proof. The proof will come from another test. Maybe. Eventually. Sometime in the future. With yet another E-Cat version. The typical moving target. As in most pseudoscientific adventures.

But Lewan, as an insider, claims that these new tests should give “good reasons to believe that the technology is valid”. I heard that before: we are just one tiny step away. Be patient ...

Regarding that new test I wonder: Is it public how the test is being made? What protocol? How to ensure that the serious problems from earlier tests are avoided (see, e.g., Where is it made? Who is involved? Why is it secret? Where will the results be published? Who will scrutinize the validity of the results and claims?

Meanwhile, Lewan just knows that it will be a game changer, will be have "disruptive consequences" that "may literally change the world, promising Planet Earth clean water, zero-emission vehicles with unlimited mileage, a solution to the climate crisis and much more."

For pseudoscientific claims it is rather popular to cite well known scientists as general excuses. In this case Lewan uses a quote from Max Planck as support for the bold LENR claims: “A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.”

Looking at the list of speakers, it seems more likely that LENR-believers eventually will die out.