Moulton Lava

Moultonic Musings

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Location: New England, United States

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Popular Epistemology

In Philosophy, the term epistemology refers to study of knowledge and justified belief.

In 1982, Philosopher/Logician Raymond M. Smullyan, Emeritus of the University of Indiana, published a popular treatment of the subject in a dialogue entitled, "An Epistemological Nightmare."

There does not exist a Journal of Experimental Epistemology, but Indiana University's Philosophy Department does boast an Experimental Epistemology Laboratory (EEL) where one can find a small collection of peer-reviewed papers on the subject.

Of course, what's really needed today is a lively periodical on Popular Epistemology (not to be confused with Steampunk, which is generally covered in Popular Pistonology).

EEL Mascot from Indiana University devours CF device

Wednesday, December 29, 2010


Title: Outfoxer
Artist: Moulton
Composer: Paul Simon, Art Garfunkel, and Barsoom Tork Associates
Midi: The Boxer

I am just a schmendrick and my story's ne'er been told
I've squandered my repentance for a pocketful of grumbles, such are promises
All lies and jest, still the man hears what he wants to hear
And disregards the rest, hmmmm

When I left my job security, it was no more than a lark
In the company of strangers
In the agora of teh intarwebs, runnin' scared
Laying low, seeking out the poorer quarters, where anonymous people go
Looking for the places only they would know

Li la li...

Asking only author's credits, I come lookin' for a role, but I get no offers
Just a come-on from admins with meta point of view
I do declare, there were times when I was so lonesome
I took some pot shots there

Now the years are rolling by me, they are rockin' even me
I am wiser than I once was, and dumber than I'll be, that's not unusual
No it isn't strange, after changes upon changes, we are more or less the same
After changes we are more or less inane

Li la li...

And I'm laying out my epitaph, wishing I was gone, goin' strong
Where the New York City lawyer isn't niggling me, teachin' right from wrong

In the docket stands Outfoxer, and a scholar by his trade
And he carries the reminders of every site that laid him down or cut him
'Til he cried out in his anger and his pain
I am leaving, I am leaving, but the scholar still remains
Yes his questions still remain

Li la li...

CopyClef 2008 Paul Simon, Art Garfunkel, and Barsoom Tork Associates.
Resurrection Hackware. All wrongs reversed.

"At Resurrection Hackware, our annoying song parodies are your everlasting earworm."

"The Boxer" ~ Simon & Garfunkel at Central Park

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Brené Brown Measures the Immeasurable

Brené Brown is a researcher in the Social Sciences who is also a wonderful story teller. Here she is, telling the story of her own research, in which she relates the challenge of measuring such immeasurable quantities as one's sense of worthiness, connectedness to others, vulnerability, shame, and courage.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Equal Time for Abd

Abd has responded, at length, to my trenchant, whimsical, and satirical commentary on Cold Fusion.

So, in the interest of Equal Time, here is Abd's lengthy rebuttal, posted on Wikipedia Review.

See what you think.

Posted by Abd on Thursday, Dec 23, 2010 at 6:07PM

This is long, about Barry Kort (Moulton), banned here and from most WMF wikis. Now I know why he's banned, more directly and personally.

I'd invited Moulton to help out with a Wikiversity Cold fusion resource, knowing he was skeptical about cold fusion, but I was unprepared for a full-on pseudo-skeptical, reject anything that contradicts "accepted models," assault, becoming very personal, attacking cold fusion scientists as "believers" and "deluded."

The scientific method was developed to move beyond "socially correct" opinion, by requiring that every theory be subject to falsification, at least to be accepted as "scientific." Moulton uses it, however, to defend orthodoxy, requiring no proof for "accepted theory," even when applied outside of experience, but demanding impossible standards of proof -- rejection of every "null hypothesis" no matter how preposterous, and criticism of published work for not addressing these preposterous hypotheses -- for any reports which falsify "accepted theory," i.e., which are the very kind of evidence that one should be searching for to expand the frontiers of science, to expose existing theories as limited (i.e., if they are "accepted," usually they have good explanatory power in previous experience, but may fail when confronted with a new realm, that was never tested. If they make predictions that fail in that new realm, should those experimental results be, therefore, rejected? That's what happened with cold fusion, in 1989, but the walls against publishing cold fusion research have fallen.)

But I was leaving to travel, among other things to see Dr. Edmund Storms in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Barry decided that my responses to his questions in the CF resources were not adequate, so he wrote to Dr. Storms directly, asking a series of Really Stupid Questions. Storms spent quite a bit of time in the correspondence, but did essentially say, "Do your homework."

Dr. Storms is probably the world's foremost expert on Cold fusion. He wrote the book, literally, Low Energy Nuclear Reactions, published by World Scientific in 2007. His solicited review in Naturwissenschaften is the most authoritative coverage of the field to be published to date, under peer review. Storms retired from Los Alamos National Laboratories in the early 1990s, to continue cold fusion research in his own lab, which I was able to see. Not too many people have two mass spectrometers and a scanning electron microscope in their basement.

If anyone is interested, the latest review, "Status of cold fusion (2010)" is available for reading, because someone paid Springer-Verlag the $3000 it takes to make it public.

Moulton, in his typical style, converted every discussion of cold fusion into a diatribe about how "believers" were fooling themselves, not "falsifying the null hypothesis," and on and on, not realizing, apparently, how much he was describing himself. He would cited papers in the field as if they proved his crazy "alternative hypotheses," when, in fact, the papers showed the opposite. These "alternative explanations," proposed as "null hypotheses" in an idiosyncratic mannter, were unique to him, no published skeptic ever proposed these preposterous explanations, and they were so bad that sometimes I've thought that it was deliberately stupid, just to be provocative.

As it had been pointed out to him that the strongest evidence that what is happening in these experiments is fusion was that the anomalous heat was ultimately found (many studies, no exceptions) to be produced proportionally to helium, at the right value for any kind of fusion that starts with deuterium and ends with helium (regardless of mechanism), he proposed that the heat and helium was the product of radon decay, and he'd noticed that the full radon decay chain produces roughly the same energy as two-deuteron fusion. He failed to notice that the radon decay chain, for that energy, would produce three alpha particles, not one, so the energy per helium would be one third of the expected value, the value that has been confirmed, amply, by experiment.

But, worse, his theory would imply that, because of the 3.8 day half-life of radon, at the time of packaging by the manufacturer, in order to produce a modest effect by the time the experimenter uses it, the heavy water would be so radioactive that it would vaporize quickly from the decay heat, it would be a very dangerous substance. What Moulton had done was to come up with an "alternative hypothesis" that would -- badly -- explain one experimental fact, but he had utterly failed to "falsify the null hypothesis," thus properly being hoisted on his own petard. He did this not just once but a number of times, and I've not seen him, ever, admit an error.

(As I was writing this, I checked on Wikiversity and Barry had just admitted an error. I'm checking outside to see if the sky is falling. It was a math error I'd pointed out. however, the more substantial error, the very reason why he was doing the calculation, no response on that yet. We'll see.)

Anyway, Barry likes to spread conflict, and he turned whatever page seemed handy on Wikiversity to a discussion of Abd and Dr. Storms, those crazy fanatics, he edited Wikipedia IP, signing it Moulton, with a diatribe about me, and, of course, we have been blessed with a song parody, so some good came out of this. Except he had the facts completely backward, of course. He really doesn't understand -- at all -- what Storms and I think. He assumes we are drooling over cheap energy. Storms might actually find some, from what I saw at his lab, but it's years away at best, and I'm not even looking for energy. Just a few neutrons, that's all.

Wikipedia contributions
Wikipedia edit.

Here's his latest Moulton Lava post. I find it truly amusing, because he gets the metaphor backwards. Ouroboros is an ancient alchemical symbol, and, should it be that I'm writing "poop", as he thinks, well, my eating it would be absolutely the way to find enlightenment. Thus he's confirming my claim that I learn by writing. Nobody requires him to read this "poop."

His dream was, surprise, a message for him. He'd be advised to consider himself as Ouroboros, and reread his own material and carefully digest it. Probably not yet, he should wait some time to allow some perspective to develop.

And he's suggesting that I need "a whack on the side of the head," or a "kick in the seat of the pants." With the whack, he cited the Creative Whack Pack. I wonder if Kort knows that the story there is one of my favorites. He quoted, on Wikiversity, again and again, Richard P. Feynman, also one of my inspirations. I sat with him for two years at Cal Tech. Barry is preaching to the choir what the choir knows and the preacher does not. He sees in others what he needs to recognize in himself.

Barry actually posted the same thing as his blog on Wikiversity. I'm not intending to try to get him banned again, but what I see is that Moulton is, indeed, the kind of old man who cannot change, I was shocked at the degree of it. (Moulton is about 64, I'm 66.) He'd ask a question about a issue, I'd give a detailed response, and then he'd complain about the length. He'd not respond on the substance, he'd not look up the citations or reflect on the issues.

He's not interested in discussing the subject, he wants to "expose" the people involved. Actual discussion of the topic is ... boring. He'd repeat the same errors, over and over, even though they'd been pointed out -- with evidence -- because he didn't read the responses, or if he did scan them, he was just looking for possible errors to attack.

What actually happened was that he got whacked, as to his facts. He was ignorant, but wrote confidently and aggressively anyway. Sticking one's foot in one's mouth is okay, it's a fast way to learn (I do this all the time!), but it only works if you actually read the responses and consider them, and check out alleged facts. This is how I came up to speed on cold fusion in less than a year, to the point that I was accepted into the community of cold fusion researchers, in spite of the lack of credentials or other qualifications. I'm still ignorant of many aspects of the field, these are senior researchers, professors, people with over forty years of experience in the sciences, and twenty years with cold fusion. But they will explain to people who actually want to know. And some of them have been debating arrogant idiots like Kort for twenty years. Most of them ignore the peanut gallery. They just continue to do the research.

Barry cannot tolerate debate with someone as smart or smarter than him. Today, he completely fell apart, it became purely personal attack. I intend to ask for expert review of the discussion, because I could have made mistakes, easily. But .... Kort didn't just stick his foot in his mouth, he ate it, excreted it, and ate it again. So to speak.

He used the phrase "battery charger," for cold fusion cells. His motives were transparent. A common and obvious critique of cold fusion would be that all that is going on is that a long period of electrolysis before the CF effect appears is simply concealing some small, accumulating error in calorimetry, allowing energy storage, and, then, this energy is somehow released, quickly, creating an appearance of excess energy. However, Barry wasn't, initially, examining this hypothesis, he was just trying to be irritating. Yes. Theory of mind. I'd bet on it.

When I did challenge the "battery charger" theory, which is massively defective (for starters, there is a whole class of CF experiments that don't involve energy input), he came up with "evidence" that proved it incorrect, but which was confidently asserted as if it were proof of the theory. When I pointed this out, that's when he came completely unglued, reduced to name-calling.

Anyway, Barry remains banned for every WMF project (globally locked). He's got an account at Wikiversity, Caprice, which was unblocked by Ottava as a kind of last gasp, motive unclear. It may have been "you're gonna miss me, take this!" or perhaps he had better motives than that. He's got an account at betawikiversity, under Moulton, because JWS there was protecting him and is a 'crat who could do the renaming trick. I worked for Barry to be unblocked at Wikiversity, though it was not nearly as easy as with Thekohser, who was cooperative. Barry wasn't. Barry seems to crave being blocked, I suspect he'll eventually engineer it at Wikiversity. He denies the right of communities to regulate participation.

My position had been that all communities have this right, it's intrinsic and necessary, but that it is not necessarily wise to exercise it when there are lesser remedies to a problem. However, sooner or later, Barry finds a way to provoke even the most patient of communities, it isn't quite so easy to be banned from Wikipedia Review, which he pulled off. I get his email diatribes about Wikipedia Review, and he was cc'ing his correspondence with Dr. Storms to everyone and their second cousin. Something is completely off about his sense of social appropriateness; it happens with some very smart people, especially as they degrade near the end.

Some of Barry's blocks had seemed excessive to me, but ... maybe it was intuition, maybe certain people, just as Jimbo, realized that it wasn't going to work. Jimbo tried to negotiate with Barry, back in 2008, and Barry basically pissed in his face.

This recent exchange was ironic. Barry had been attacked and run out of town by the ID Cabal, which is pretty much the same people who had, long-term, sat on the Cold fusion article -- and they still are --, excluding anything that smelled like "fringe" to them, no matter how reliably sourced, same people as the Global warming cabal, etc., and arranging for anyone inconvenient to that agenda to be banned. Even if they were civil and followed all guidelines. 'nother story.....

Barry was, really, on their side, as to how they read Science. I think he just dove in, originally, because a personal friend had been attacked by them. Philosophically, he's with them.

So there you have it. That's what Abd thinks.

(See also this "abrasive comment" from TungstenCarbide.)

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Poopular Culture

Ouroboros Sigil
I awoke this morning, fresh from a deep dream sleep of some 5 ½ hours, with an afterimage of an Ouroboros sigil devouring its own tail. I had retired to bed a bit earlier than normal last night because I had been reading the mind-numbing and sleep-inducing postings of a tireless and tiresome chap on Wikiversity. And it occurred to me that my erstwhile correspondent, Abd ul-Rahman Lomax, writes not so much to learn but to spin tall tales of abduction — preposterous flights of fancy — which he then devours, much as the Ouroboros devours its own tail.

But the mind-numbing tales of Abd are lamentably devoid of spice, color, amusement, or redeeming cultural value, and yet this is also how he sustains himself, day after day, week after week, year after year, endlessly dining upon the effluvia of his own peculiar brand of poopular culture. And it occurred to me that this practice of re-ingesting one's own daily drivel was probably more toxic than nutritious, and that Abd could benefit from a whack on the side of the head, or a kick in the seat of the pants, lest he become hopelessly addlepated.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Antinomy and Antagony

Cold Fusion research has achieved something remarkable. They managed to take two precious metals — Platinum and Palladium — and (by means of an over-excited battery charger) dramatically transform them into the surreal elements of Antinomy and Antagony.

Antinomy, in case you didn't know, is a term used in logic and epistemology. Antinomy is "the mutual incompatibility — real or apparent — of two laws."

Antagony is either a blackened death metal band or John Milton's idea of an epic battle between Christ and Belial.

Antagony by Robert Steven Connett

Above is a painting of antagonism, disaffection and hostility which, according to the artist, illustrates addiction, sickness, symbols of war, insanity and people watching too much TV.

It seems a fitting frontispiece for obsessions with Cold Fusion, too.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Steampunk Science and Technology

Steampunk is a genre of science fantasy fiction that emerged in the 1980s and 1990s in which authors re-imagined the 19th Century Victorian age of steam power in terms of 20th Century notions of science fiction and fantasy fiction. The "punk" of "Steampunk" is a riff on Cyberpunk. The "punk" of Cyberpunk, in turn, comes from the Punk Rock cultural genre of "high energy" and "ragged" musical style introduced in 1966 by a Bay City, Michigan, garage band called ? and the Mysterians. In this case, "punk" is also characteristic of the "punka punka" sound of steam-driven devices with oscillating pistons and rotating cams.

SPAWAR Cold Fusion Cell

At the Midnight Hour, will this mysterious cell Cry 96 Tears?
The US Navy's Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (SPAWAR) in San Diego has given steampunk science and technology a boost with its 21st Century Cold Fusion Cell. In this device, a precision battery charger pumps electric current into an electrolytic cell filled with heavy water.

The main effect of the electric current is to split heavy water molecules into their constituent elements, Dueterium gas, and Oxygen gas, which bubble up to the top of the cell where they encounter a device known as a catalytic recombiner. The catalytic recombiner operates as a steamy hearth where the Oxygen and Deuterium gases recombine to form hot water vapor, which then condenses back to liquid heavy water in a foggy steambath. There is thus a miniature weather cycle in process inside SPAWAR's Cold Fusion Cell, although there are no oscillating pistons or rotating cams as in conventional steampunk devices. The sonic vibrations within the cell are limited to the bubbling vapors and possible sonic vibrations of the metal electrodes in the cell. The softly weeping tears of heavy water that condenses and dribbles back down the inner walls of the cell presumably don't contribute to the sonic output of the cell.

The SPAWAR Cold Fusion Cell doesn't emit a nostalgic "punka punka" sound, but that's made up for by the hullabaloo of the diehard fanatics who champion this 21st Century revival of steampunk science and technology.


When I think back
On all the crap I read from Lomax
It's a wonder I can think at all
And though my lack of information
Hasn't hurt me none
I can read the text slog on his wall

Cold Fusion cells
Gives us those nice hot ions
Gives us the steam of tryin'
Makes you think all the work's a funny play, oh yeah!

I got an IR camera
I love to take a neutron image
So Krivit, don't take my Steampunk Cell away

Krivit, don't take my Steampunk Cell away
Krivit, don't take my Steampunk Cell away
Krivit, don't take my Steampunk Cell away

Krivit, don't take my Steampunk Cell
Krivit, don't take my Steampunk Cell
Krivit, don't take my SteampunkCell (away)

Krivit, don't take my Steampunk Cell
Krivit, don't take my Steampunk Cell
Krivit, don't take my Steampunk Cell (away)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Dialogue on the Fooled Cheat Duel Schism

A parable on the parting of the ways.

Two travelers named Capricio and Stormidio meet at a crossroads where they encounter an intrepid Innkeeper named Solvitio.

Capricio and Stormidio are having an argument. The Innkeeper, Solvitio, serves them each a warm cup of tea as he listens to their argument and to their individual tales.

Stormidio, who is traveling along Discovery Road from Ponds Pt to the Fleisch Manor, is waiting for Good Dough. Capricio, who is traveling on Theory Road from the Low Country to the Highlands, predicts Good Dough will never come.

The two argue incessantly. Solvitio, having nothing better to do, compiles a transcript of their protracted argument, which he frankly doesn't understand.

Eventually Solvitio suggests that the two travelers say their goodbyes and depart, each continuing along the road they were on when they first arrived at the Crossroads Inn. It takes a while, but eventually the two travelers agree to part company with each other and with the good Innkeeper and they each continue on their respective ways.

Solvitio sends off the transcript of the argument between Capricio and Stormidio, where it is published (in an obscure English journal) as "Boxcars of Gibberish" and (in a prestigious German publication) as "Frachtwaggons von Kauderwelsch." Alas, neither of the editions become a best seller.

Solvitio also writes his own personal account about how terribly long it took to say goodbye to the two curious travelers who met up at the Crossroads Inn. Solvitio's account is published under the title, "Much Adieu About Nothing."

Alas, no one reads it, either.

The Needle in the Haystack Game

A traveler in the countryside notices a kid playing in a haystack, while the farmer piles on ever more hay.

"Having fun?" inquires the bemused traveler.

"Yes," replies the farmer. "This is my boy. He's looking for a needle in the haystack."

"How come you are still piling on more hay?" asks the traveler.

"Because if he finds the needle, the game is over."

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Cold Fusion Chorus

Title: Cold Fusion Chorus
Artist: Edmund Storms and Abd Ul-Rahman Lomax
Composer: George Frideric Handel and Barsoom Tork Associates
YouTube: Hallelujah Chorus — The Silent Monks

We found Cold Fusion! We found Cold Fusion!
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! We found Cold Fusion!
We found Cold Fusion! We found Cold Fusion!
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! We found Cold Fusion!

For the Excess Heat hath surely been measured.
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Cold Fusion! It's Real!

For the Excess Heat hath surely been measured.
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Cold Fusion! It's Real!

The truth of this word
Is become the truth of the world,
So we were right; so we were right;
And heat shall flow for ever and ever,

For ever and ever, forever and ever,
Heat is there, and Helium too,
Heat is there, and Helium too,
And Neutrons (a few),
And heat shall flow,
And heat shall flow forever and ever.

Heat is there, forever and ever,
Helium too,
Hallelujah! Cold Fusion!
And we shall exult forever and ever,
Heat is there, and Helium too!
And we shall exult forever and ever,
Heat is there, and Helium too!
Hallelujah! Cold Fusion! Hallelujah! Cold Fusion!
Cold Fusion Is Real!

CopyClef 2010 George Frideric Handel and Barsoom Tork Associates.
Resurrection Hackware. All songs dispersed.

Hallelujah Chorus — The Silent Monks

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Excuse me sir, but exactly how did you falsify the Null Hypothesis?

This is a story about a strange field of research called Cold Fusion, and my encounters with two individuals working in the field.

In case you don't recall, a Cold Fusion cell is a small electrolytic cell (like a cell in your car battery) that uses heavy water as the electrolyte and two precious metals (palladium and platinum) as the cathode (negative terminal) and anode (positive terminal) respectively.

The theory is that when you apply electric current to the cell, the deuterons (the nuclei of the heavy isotope of hydrogen) are driven to the surface of the palladium cathode, where some of them fuse to make helium and release energy. Fusion of hydrogen into helium takes place in stars (like our sun) and in hydrogen bombs.

Most mainstream scientists don't believe any nuclear fusion is taking place in Cold Fusion cells, and they note that there is no theoretical model to support the claim that any nuclear fusion is at work in these cells.

Much Ado About Scoffing
There is a curious chap named Abd Ul-Rahman Lomax, who I met online (at Wikipedia Review), who is into Cold Fusion. He is a true believer, proponent, and enthusiast who also wants to peddle kits to hobbyists who want to build Cold Fusion cells in their kitchen.

Abd has struck up a relationship with one of the few diehard professionals still working on Cold Fusion Research. Down in Santa Fe NM, a chap named Edmund Storms is the Branch Manager (and sole employee) of KivaLabs. Storms has been involved in Cold Fusion Research since its inception. He, too, is a true believer, proponent, and enthusiast.

Recently, Storms published one of his occasional papers surveying the state of Cold Fusion Research to date. Having nothing better to do for a week, I offered to contribute a review of this paper as part of a little project that Abd was setting up on Wikiversity.

I ended up corresponding with Storms (via E-Mail) and learned quite a bit about the story of his 21-year journey through the field of Cold Fusion Research.

He feels that his efforts to demonstrate Cold Fusion are largely unseen and unappreciated, and he expresses significant levels of frustration, vexation, disappointment, anger, bitterness, and disdain at mainstream scientists and government agencies who have withdrawn confidence in (and support for) research in his field.

Storms expresses high levels of personal confidence that he is on the right track, and he exhibits high levels of hope and determination to achieve success at demonstrating Cold Fusion, which he sincerely believes to be real, and not a misconception arising from any failure to rigorously adhere to the protocols of the scientific method in the course of his experimental work.

My extensive interview of Edmund Storms (mostly in E-Mail) has provided me with an unexpected opportunity to examine how emotions such as confidence, surprise, confusion, perplexity, anger, disappointment, hope, and determination arise in the course of a difficult learning journey.

It appears to me that the emotions he expresses and the beliefs he espouses jibe with and illustrate the mathematical model of emotions and learning that I have been working on for the past 25 years.

I was curious to understand how Storms could look at the data from the many experiments and come to one conclusion (that CF is real) while others look at the same studies and come to the opposite conclusion.

It quickly became clear that Storms and I have substantial differences in how we construe and apply the protocols of the scientific method. Specifically, we have notable differences in how we envision the use of the Null Hypothesis and Control Groups.

In a typical experiment, the Null Hypothesis is that nothing unexpected is happening. The Experimental Hypothesis is that something new and interesting is happening, in accordance with a new theory or model that is being developed and tested.

I asked Storms how he falsified the Null Hypothesis, as well as other mundane hypotheses not involving any new and otherwise unexplained observations.

To my surprise, he told me that they don't use the Null Hypothesis Method in Chemistry. He told me that's only used in Physics. Basically, he simply assumed the Null Hypothesis was false, and set out to prove that Cold Fusion is real. Here is a typical quote from Storms on the point:

"As I keep saying, the Null Hypothesis idea does not work in chemistry or in Cold Fusion. All kinds of possibilities are eliminated based on experience and knowledge of chemistry up front and without much effort." --Edmund Storms, E-Mail, December 4, 2010

Then I asked him about other hypotheses, including the effect of any impurities or contaminants in the heavy water (such as residual radioactive substances that would have been present if the heavy water were reclaimed from decommissioned heavy water nuclear plants).

Again, he simply assumed the fuels were free of impurities or contaminants that could account for any of the observed effects in the Cold Fusion cells.

I pointed out that in his survey of the literature, at least two experimenters had assayed the impurities found in both ordinary water and heavy water. Both kinds of water had impurity levels corresponding to the levels of the effects attributed to Cold Fusion. Notably the heavy water was found to have Xenon in it. Xenon is an inert gas of high atomic weight. It comes just above Radon in the Periodic Table. It occurred to me that if Xenon were found in samples of heavy water, wouldn't that suggest Radon might also have been present? Radon decays in a matter of weeks to Lead and Helium, both of which were found in these assays. How do they explain the Lead, and the other trace heavy metals? Storms says the hypothesis is that they are the result of alchemical transmutation, in which the nuclei of the metals in the cathode and anode absorb deuterons and change into other elements.

I asked him why he did not consider the hypothesis that these heavy elements were the residue of impurities in the electrolyte (that being the mundane Null Hypothesis). Again he said that they don't use the Null Hypothesis, and that he assumed the fuels were pure and free from any contaminants that could account for the residues found in the cells.

My tentative conclusion is that Storms adopts a variant of the Scientific Method that is at odds with the method of Hypothesis Testing that I am familiar with, and his departure from the Scientific Method (as I construe it) accounts for the discrepancy between his beliefs and the beliefs of the skeptics who are not convinced that Cold Fusion is real.

Falsifying the Null Hypothesis
For the past week, I've continued my correspondence in E-Mail at some length with Edmund Storms, and I now have a pretty good bead on him. I've found out where he differs from me in the way he construes the protocols of the scientific method, and how he differs from me in the tools for thought that he relies on when carrying out his work.

The question that I couldn't get a straight answer to was, "How did you falsify the Null Hypothesis?"

At first I got a lot of hand-waving, along with a variety of disdainful and dismissive remarks like: "That's a "silly" question, a "dumb" question, a "trivial" question, that reveals the person asking it is is "ignorant of science."

I pressed him on it, and finally obtained this succinct quote from Storms:

"As I keep saying, the Null Hypothesis idea does not work in chemistry or in Cold Fusion. All kinds of possibilities are eliminated based on experience and knowledge of chemistry up front and without much effort." —Edmund Storms, E-Mail, December 4, 2010

In a nutshell, he discarded the Null Hypothesis at the outset and never looked back. Thereafter he systematically ignored or dismissed evidence for the Null Hypothesis and systematically began collecting and compiling evidence to support the CF hypothesis.

Another clue came in E-Mail when he expressed disdain for my reliance on "fuzzy logic." From that clue, I discovered he was evidently relying on Aristotle's Law of the Excluded Middle, that if something is false, then its inverse must necessarily be true, and vice versa. Since he assumed the Null Hypothesis to be false, then (by Aristotle's Law of the Excluded Middle), another explanation must necessarily be true, and that explanation, he maintains, is Cold Fusion.

But there is no satisfactory theory for a mechanism of Cold Fusion that jibes with what we know about Atomic Physics.

How can he conduct experiments without working from a technical theory that offers any insight into what's presumably going on?

And this is the next big difference I discovered in my correspondence with Storms. I routinely rely on Model-Based Reasoning, using scientifically reliable models constructed in accordance with the protocols of the scientific method. If I don't have a reliable model about something, I don't really have a good way to think about it, because I can't reliably anticipate what's going to happen if I tweak things this way or that.

It became clear that Storms could not be relying on Model-Based Reasoning, as he agrees that no one has a satisfactory model to work from, so the question arises, what tools for thought is he relying on, in lieu of Model-Based Reasoning?

Here, I get very fuzzy responses from Storms, that he simply knows things from long observation and experience.

So I turned the question around. I asked him what dispelled his skepticism and turned him into a believer. His response was simply to tell me to read his book, where he lays out all the evidence to support the theory that Cold Fusion is real.

I kept looking for some singular observation that converted him from a skeptic into a believer. Where were the "Aha!" moments when things became clear?

And, astonishingly, he said there weren't any. Gradually, over the years, his doubts just slowly melted away, like an exponential decay.

How could that be? Simple. He stopped looking at evidence for the Null Hypothesis, and interpreted all "relevant" evidence as support for CF. Any possible evidence going the other way was "not relevant" and not worthy of his time to figure out what was wrong with it. Evidence that he once noted as surprising or challenging to address, he now blithely dismisses as probably a misreading of the meaning of the data. And he quietly ignores it, thereafter.

This led him to concoct a number of fantastic reasons and non-standard methods to reject stubborn evidence or analysis that didn't concord with CF. The most fantastic concoction was adding alchemical transmutation to CF, a development that I was previously unaware of and astonished to find in the CF literature.

Again, I asked, "How did you falsify the Null Hypothesis regarding the presence of the heavy element anions cations that you are now explaining by alchemical transmutation?"

And that's where things got weird. Of course he didn't falsify it, he simply assumed that all the evidence must necessarily be interpreted to fit his preferred theory, that CF is real.

I posited, for example, that the heavy element cations, found at trace levels, were simply trace impurities in the fuel. He insisted the fuel was free of impurities. Then, when I pointed to the specs from the suppliers, listing the purest grades of heavy water to have roughly 1 ppm of otherwise unanalyzed miscellaneous impurities, he conceded there were impurities, but he insisted they made no contribution to the observed effects.

I worked out, as an exercise, that 2 parts per trillion of dissolved Radon gas in the heavy water sufficed to account for the excess heat, Helium and residue of Lead found in the cells. He countered that there could not be any Radon in the heavy water, because the stuff is radioactive, and if there were any Radon, you'd "quickly die." I frankly didn't believe that, but I didn't yet have the knowledge to rebut it.

In the most recent E-Mail, when he maintained that one would die from heavy water, I asked what the coroner would put down as the cause of death. Storms replied, "Poisoning from drinking heavy water," pointing out that you can get sick from drinking 100 mL of the stuff.

So I looked it up.

From one site: "Heavy water toxicity manifests itself when about 50% of the water in the body has been replaced by D2O. Prolonged heavy water consumption can cause death." The stuff costs $300 per liter, and one would need to consume (and not pee out) at least 40 liters of heavy water, at a cost of $12,000, just to get into the ball park of toxicity. But I'm not drinking the stuff. Nor am I bathing in it. There are even musings of a murder mystery based on administering heavy water to an invalid. Surprisingly enough the numbers were run by a guy I happen to know. He got the same answer I came up with.

Anyway, Storms conveniently forgot that it was Radon contaminants at a few parts per trillion that I was reckoning, not personally drinking a few gallons of the stuff.

Bottom line, the guy is apparently self-deluded, not a source of reliable information, not a very good scientist, and otherwise exemplary of what's wrong with our system of science education in this country.

Watch for me to make this my annoying new mantra: "Excuse me, but exactly how did you falsify the Null Hypothesis?"