2012: Cold Fusion, Atheism, and Doubt

One article from Forbes, one from Huffington, suggesting that this year could be either the Year of the Atheist, or the Year of Cold Fusion.

Ooh, baby, I favor both!

First, Huffington: Brandon G. Withrow, Assistant Professor of History of Christianity, Winebrenner Theological Seminary, weighs in on atheism:

I am certain there are religious people in my own community and elsewhere who welcome these numbers, but I suggest three reasons to reconsider that reaction and to resist the urge to silence the atheist voice. Underlying each of these points is The Golden Rule: to treat others as you would have them treat you.

If religious folks need a selfish reason to accept their atheist neighbors, consider this: it may not be too long before the shoe is on the other foot and the religious minority will be the ones hoping for a place at the social table. What I can say for sure is that inviting atheists to be open and engaging them as valuable neighbors is not only best for all involved, but also, simply, a better practice of The Golden Rule. Don’t suppress the voice of others if you do not want them to suppress yours.

Wait, don’t Christians already feel suppressed? The loud ones certainly do, which makes me doubt the Golden Rule argument — which sort of depends on a rational mind to appreciate, doesn’t it? — is going to carry any weight with them.

Second, Mark Gibbs writes, somewhat doubtfully, about cold fusion:

I could go on and on with boos and hoorays for pages but there’s one topic I want to focus on: Rossi’s Energy Catalyzer or “E-Cat” system that is, despite everything we know so far, still in limbo somewhere between Boo! and Hooray!

If this topic is new to you, the really short summary is that the E-Cat is a Low Energy Nuclear Reaction (LENR) or “cold fusion” device that generates large amounts of heat for a miniscule cost.

Alas, despite a large amount of mainstream press coverage (most of it pretty uninformed and uninformative) and an incredible amount of blog coverage, the question of whether the E-Cat really works remains unproven because over the last year the E-Cat’s inventor, Andrea Rossi, has given a number of impressive but inconclusive demonstrations. These were inconclusive because they weren’t run in such a way as to remove doubt about what’s really going on and whether more energy was being generated by the E-Cat than was being put into it.

If the whole thing is a fraud it’s going to be one of the greatest in modern times. If it’s not, 2012 is going to be the year when everything changes.

We may not get cold fusion anytime soon, but as far as atheism is concerned, to me it looks like things are going along just fine. The critical fact of atheism is that there is now an international community of atheists. Which means, mainly, that it doesn’t matter what one family or another does, or what religious people think. The community itself, as a body, is moving forward boldly.

2012: The Year of Cold Fusion? Eh, probably not, but … we’ll see.

2012: The Year of the Atheist? Yes. Oh, yes.


Zoning Out on Liberal vs. Conservative Issues
Beta Culture: Seeing The Brackets
Beta Culture: Being Grownups on Planet Earth
  • http://www.kevland.com/ Johnny Vector

    I’ll bet as much money as you’re willing to wager that cold fusion will not be in any different shape one year from now. If you actually know what you’re doing, there’s only one reason to fail to run demonstrations in such a way as to remove doubt about what’s really going on.

  • Midnight Rambler

    Man, that cold fusion stuff was a whole lotta bullshit. One thing that always bugs me about these things – I know enough physics and chemistry to understand why they don’t work, but not enough to actually do the calculations. And it seems to me that if you’re really fusing atoms like this, it’s going to release pretty large amounts of energy. Rossi is talking about 10% of some amount (undefined, but apparently macro-measurable, since it’s described as a “slurry”) of nickel being consumed. Not enough for an atomic bomb, given that it’s in a controlled reaction, but still…

  • erk12

    You don’t really need the calculations, all you need to know is that none of these supposed cold fusion experiments produced gamma rays or neutrons, two by-products of fusion. The rationalwiki article on the E-cat is informative and short.


    I think Jonny has a safe bet.

    • Midnight Rambler

      Right, but I’m wondering what the actual expected energy output would be if it were real. It just seems like that would be a more obvious thing to point out to non-scientists, that it ought to do more than raise the temperature of the water tank by a couple of degrees if fusion were actually happening.

      • erk12

        I can see your point, sorry I don’t know enough about it either to come up with the needed calculations. IMO the problem there is that it’s so technical any of the calculations may be incorrect, and any non-scientist wouldn’t know it.

  • http://thetimchannel.wordpress.com The Tim Channel

    This Rossi guy certainly has a lot of top people fooled if it is a scam. I tend to favor scammage as a default setting, but there is a possibility that this guy is onto something. The scam angle seems to be undercut by a claim that he’s not seeking any outside funding. It really doesn’t matter though. I live in Germany and they’re not waiting for ‘the next big thing’ since ‘the last big thing’ (solar and wind) are actually products that can (and are being) be deployed. Germany invests ONE BILLION EURO per MONTH into solar. So while the world waits for the ‘next big thing’, Germany is likely to be the only post-oil, post-nuclear power country that will have the affordable and available power (man and machine) to produce said advances should they ever come to pass. In the meantime, the wind and solar are doing just fine. Check the stats on solar electric production to verify my claims.


    • Tod

      I’ve always been skeptical of Cold Fusion, kind of go with Randii on that one, although it would be great if it happened I don’t understand why it get’s so much promotion over Hot Fusion using lasers which actually seems to be getting somewhere..


      • http://thetimchannel.wordpress.com The Tim Channel

        In the time since I first posted my comment my belief on the POTENTIAL viability of Rossi or this technology my understanding of the subject has advanced to the point where I find NO reason to believe him or any of the copycat attempts currently being advanced have any validity behind them. I did a bit of sarcasm on the subject at my website.


  • jedrothwell

    Rossi’s results have not been widely replicated or confirmed yet. Other cold fusion results have been replicated thousands of times in hundreds of major laboratories, often at high signal to noise ratios. There is no question they are real. The experimental method works. When an effect is widely replicated at high s/n ratios, that proves it is real. There is no other standard of proof in science.

    I have a collection of 3,000 papers on cold fusion, including 1,200 peer-reviewed papers copied from the libraries at Los Alamos and Georgia Tech. I have uploaded a bibliography of these papers and about a thousand full text papers here:


    Shortcut LENR.org

    • jedrothwell

      That HTML link to LENR-CANR.org does not work. Anyway, just type LENR.org.

    • Midnight Rambler

      Can you give an example of a few from reputable journals? Because I checked your site and most were conference presentation abstracts, and most of the journal articles were things like “the presence of hydrogen in palladium alloys”, which doesn’t really sound like it’s talking about cold fusion results.

  • Kurt

    Ethan Siegel over at Scienceblogs did a pretty thorough take-down of these cold fusion claims, here.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/thetimchannel timfuller

    Rossi scam continues to morph and shift. Seems to have abandoned the “home hot water heater” angle (which, he was touting as having factories to produce millions of at the time….) to a more audacious scam which involves even higher temperatures (and more $$SSEED money) necessary for large scale electrical turbines. If you marginally still believe Rossi at this point, you are either cluelessly-blind to the facts, or a shill in the army of new-age energy pyramid schemes.

    Once you see the obvious fakery of it, the fun is in watching the players and scammers do their bit. I keep an eye on Twitter and as a result, can identify several accounts that are obvious Rossi astroturf, either from Rossi or those who are also profiting off the false buzz. The Australian Skeptic society busted Rossi quite awhile back, though to be honest, it was already painfully obvious Rossi would never come through.

    It is a testament to the vagaries of international law that Assange is under threat of prosecution and Rossi (Bush, Cheney, Rice, Rumsfeld, Addington and Yoo) are still walking free.


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