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The Believers: Cold Fusion at the Chicago International Film Festival

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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A compelling science documentary about the story behind the controversial “discovery” of cold fusion is an official selection of the Chicago International Film Festival, playing this week!

Yes, you read that right, a SCIENCE film at an International Film Festival!

Check out the film trailer.

137 films, the Chicago based production company that created this documentary “makes films that tell the human stories behind compelling scientific discoveries, finding the poetry in the often intimidating world of theory, data and equations. With this unique approach, inspires viewers to deepen their relationship to science.”

I have written about this film previously as I had watched it in pre-screening. I found the film to be particularly enjoyable as it put a human face on how science is done and how it is an example of what happens when we share scientific findings much too soon.

Below are more details on how you can attend the world premiere of “The Believers” if you are up in the Windy City this week:

October 16, 8PM and October 20, 2pm
Chicago International Film Festival
AMC River East 21
322 E. Illinois, St
Chicago, IL 60610

Click here to buy tickets!

“More than three years in the making, The Believers is the second feature-length documentary from Chicago filmmaking group 137 Films.

The Chicago screening marks the beginning of The Believers’ festival run. Check back soon for other festival dates and locations.

137 Films is underway with attempts to find distribution for The Believers so that a worldwide audience can watch the film.

You can help! Spread the word about the film. Visit the facebook page and “Like” it. Join in the conversation. Forward the youtube or vimeo trailer. Consider supporting our organization and our efforts to promote science literacy through storytelling.”

I hope some of you will take the opportunity to watch this terrific film in a terrific city!

Joanne Manaster About the Author: Joanne Manaster is a university level cell and molecular biology lecturer with an insatiable passion for science outreach to all ages. Enjoy her quirky videos at www.joannelovesscience.com, on twitter @sciencegoddess and on her Facebook page at JoanneLovesScience Follow on Twitter @sciencegoddess.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.





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  1. 1. Jed Rothwell 1:29 pm 10/15/2012

    I have not seen this film, but I do know about cold fusion. I have a library of 1,200 peer-reviewed journal papers on this topic, copied from the libraries at Los Alamos and Georgia Tech. This body of evidence proves beyond question that the effect is real, and that it is nuclear. Manaster and others interested in cold fusion should review this literature before commenting on it. I have uploaded hundreds of the peer-reviewed papers plus about a thousand other papers from Proceedings here:

    http://lenr-canr.org/

    Link to this
  2. 2. maryyugo 4:34 pm 10/15/2012

    Jed Rothwell is fond of claiming that cold fusion is an established fact. However, the papers on his web site do not prove it. Some are unclear or badly written. Most are not verified by independent investigations. None shows verified robust power (or “excess power) for prolonged time, for example, properly measured dozens or hundreds of watts for weeks. Almost all experiments with cold fusion require a lot of power input compared to power output. Many could be errors in measurement, self deception, or even fraud.

    Speaking about fraud, the recent extravagant claims by Defkalion and Andrea Rossi that they have powerful tabletop reactors ready (or near ready) to market show many of the hallmarks of an investor scam. In particular, no such claim has been independently properly verified by correctly calibrated and blanked experiments. Worse yet, both parties consistently refuse such tests, even though they would not endanger intellectual property rights. Both entities have asked for considerable money from investors and franchisees.

    Defkalion claims tests have been done by seven major companies and the Greek government but nobody has ever presented the results of such tests and the companies have not been identified.

    Rossi claims he has worked with specific universities and National Instruments. However they all deny working with him or testing his device. Rossi says he sold 13 “megawatt plants” but no customer has ever stepped forward and admitted buying one, much less showed it to the public. Rossi says he is building a million unit factory to make home heaters with cold fusion power sources but won’t say where the factory is and denied to a Florida Nuclear Regulatory Agency inspector that it exists.

    After two years of making empty promises, Defkalion and Rossi are smelling like frauds.

    Nothing about current cold fusion claims is confidence inspiring, unfortunately.

    Link to this
  3. 3. Jed Rothwell 6:38 pm 10/15/2012

    Maryyogo wrote:

    “Jed Rothwell is fond of claiming that cold fusion is an established fact.”

    The authors of the peer-reviewed papers make this claim. Not me. I have not published any papers. These authors include many distinguished, tenured professors and Fellows of major institutes, Fellows of the Royal Society, Nobel laureates and others. They know a great deal more about this subject than Maryyugo does, so I recommend to the readers here that they should read the literature before judging these results.

    “However, the papers on his web site do not prove it.”

    Some of them do, in the opinion of experts.

    “Some are unclear or badly written.”

    That is true of any group of scientific papers about any subject. Some are good, and some are bad. You should read the good ones. Most experts recommend papers by McKubre, Storms or Miles.

    Most are not verified by independent investigations.”

    That is incorrect. All of these studies are independent. The effect has been independently verified at over 200 major laboratories. Similar results are seen with similar systems. A few experiments use different materials, but most are with the original Fleischmann-Pons palladium-deuterium system.

    “None shows verified robust power (or ‘excess power’) for prolonged time, for example, properly measured dozens or hundreds of watts for weeks.”

    That is factually incorrect. Many papers show this. Some show power continuing for 3 months, at power levels that would not last for 5 minutes with a chemical source of heat with this mass of reactants. In other words, many cells have produced between 1,000 and 100,000 times more energy than any possible chemical source of heat of this size and weight could produce. When a metal sample the size of a small coin in water produces as much heat as a gallon of gasoline, that cannot be a chemical effect.

    Link to this
  4. 4. joshua cude 6:58 am 10/16/2012

    Rothwell wrote:
    “I have a library of 1,200 peer-reviewed journal papers […]. This body of evidence proves beyond question that the effect is real, and that it is nuclear. ”

    If that were true, then people would not question it. But the fact is that nearly all those peer-reviewed papers were published in the 90s, and in 2004, a panel of 18 experts *did* question the evidence. 17 of 18 judged that the evidence for nuclear effects was *not* conclusive, and were unanimous that special funding for the field was not merited. Such a decision would be unconscionable if the effect were real beyond question.

    And to this day, mainstream science continues to consider cold fusion fringe science. And that includes (by omission) Stephen Hawking and Brian Cox, who said recently that they anticipate the most important scientific advance in the coming decades to be the extraction of energy from fusion. Cox, in particular, is passionate about science and society, but does not give cold fusion a mention in an episode about fusion on the BBC’s “Horizon”.

    Jed Rothwell wrote:
    “The authors of the peer-reviewed papers make this claim [that cold fusion is an established fact]. Not me. ”

    In fact you did make the claim when you wrote what I quoted just above. True, the authors of the papers make the claim, and your belief is based on their claim, but you nevertheless make the claim. Most scientists do not believe the claim.

    Rothwell wrote:
    “These authors include many distinguished, tenured professors and Fellows of major institutes, Fellows of the Royal Society, Nobel laureates and others.”

    Many tenured professors, yes. I would challenge *many* distinguished professors. There are a few, starting with chemists Fleischmann and Bockris, and then some physicists like Schwinger, Arata, and a few other fossils. But the most active in the field (McKubre, Storms, Miles, Piantelli (et al)) are pretty ordinary scientists who probably got seduced by what is almost certainly an example of pathological science.

    By far, the most dramatic claims in the field are made by people wholly undistinguished scientifically, like Dardik, Mills, Godes, and Rossi, two of whom (Dardik and Rossi) have a background in fraud instead of physics, two of whom are medical doctors (Mills and Dardik), and none of whom are physicists, let alone nuclear physicists. One could dismiss these claims as those of unethical opportunists, were it not for the wide support they manage to command in the cold fusion community. In particular, Rothwell has said that “Rossi has given out *far* more proof than any previous cold fusion researcher. […] That test is irrefutable by first principles.” The obvious holes in Rossi’s demos reveal the gullibility of cold fusion advocates like Rothwell.

    You used the plural for Nobel laureates, but I know of only Schwinger who published on the subject under peer-review (after being rejected at APS journals), and he was well beyond his distinguished years by that time, not having made significant contributions to physics for a few decades. Josephson has also expressed support for cold fusion, but I’m not aware of any refereed publications on the subject, and no actual experimental or theoretical contributions. In any case, Josephson’s interest in the paranormal mean that his support for cold fusion does not strengthen the credibility of the field.

    Rothwell wrote:
    “They know a great deal more about this subject than Maryyugo does, ”

    You may not respect the view of Mary Yugo, but if you respect the view of Nobel laureates, and in particular Nobel laureates with expertise in nuclear and particle physics, then it should be mentioned that nearly all who have made explicit statements about the field consider it without merit. These include Gell-Mann (who called it baloney), Weinberg, Glashow, Lederman, Seaborg, and also distinguished scientists like Close, Lewis, Koonin, Garwin, and Park.

    Essentially all scientists working in the energy field (or advocating alternative energy) have rejected cold fusion implicitly. The cold fusion advocates would have to be smarter than all of them because a scientist who doesn’t keep up with developments is incompetent. These people include (as mentioned already) Stephen Hawking and Brian Cox, who advocate hot fusion research, Frank Close, who (like Cox) is passionate about science and society, and Nobel laureate Carlo Rubbia, who has in fact given cold fusion an audience, and was involved in cold fusion experiments, but is now working on sub-critical thorium reactors.

    maryyugo wrote: “However, the papers on his web site do not prove it.”
    Rothwell wrote: “Some of them do, in the opinion of experts.”

    Some do, in the opinion of *some* experts. Not in the opinion of most experts.

    maryyugo wrote: “Some are unclear or badly written.”
    Rothwell wrote: “That is true of any group of scientific papers about any subject. Some are good, and some are bad. You should read the good ones. Most experts recommend papers by McKubre, Storms or Miles.”

    According to a review by Nagel in 2009, essentially all the papers are disappointing. In the review, Nagel takes to lecturing the incompetent researchers on the basics they should have learned as undergraduates. They are not good enough to get into prominent journals like Science or Nature or Physical Review Letters, where they would naturally appear, if the results had any merit.

    maryyugo wrote: “Most are not verified by independent investigations.”
    Rothwell wrote: “That is incorrect. All of these studies are independent. The effect has been independently verified at over 200 major laboratories. Similar results are seen with similar systems. A few experiments use different materials, but most are with the original Fleischmann-Pons palladium-deuterium system.”

    Most experiments are different, and replication is limited to claiming a positive result. As McKubre wrote in 2008, there is no quantitative reproducibility in the field, and inter-lab replication requires interchange of personnel. To most scientists, that means reproducibility has not been achieved.

    maryyugo: “None shows verified robust power (or ‘excess power’) for prolonged time, for example, properly measured dozens or hundreds of watts for weeks.”
    Rothwell: “That is factually incorrect. Many papers show this. Some show power continuing for 3 months, at power levels that would not last for 5 minutes with a chemical source of heat with this mass of reactants. ”

    If you’re referring to the Roulette work, that was not published under peer review, which is the subject here. Anyway, it also had substantial input, and the conference paper had inconsistencies, so proof of excess was not unequivocal, which is probably why it was not published.

    Rothwell: “In other words, many cells have produced between 1,000 and 100,000 times more energy than any possible chemical source of heat of this size and weight could produce. When a metal sample the size of a small coin in water produces as much heat as a gallon of gasoline, that cannot be a chemical effect.”

    True, but if the container is connected to the power mains, it can be an electrical effect. If a metal coin really produced that much heat without any input, it would be dead easy to prove, and yet, no one has proved it. Which is why you wrote recently: “With a small (half liter) insulated cell, the surface area should be small enough that the heat from the outer wall will be palpable (that is, sensible). … It is utterly impossible to fake palpable heat…. I do not think any scientist will dispute this. …An object that remains palpably warmer than the surroundings is as convincing as anything can be…”

    Since scientists still dispute cold fusion, obviously such a demo has not yet been realized.

    Link to this

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