Are LENRs stuck in a status trap?

Low Energy Nuclear Reactions have been, for a long time, the archetypal crackpot technology.

Huge promises. Failed replication attempts. Dismissal by the academic community. Accusations of handwavey pseudoscience. Advocates generally having low status. Associations with conspiracy theorists.

Anyone associated with it or even expressing anything less than absolute certainty that it’s an unscientific non-starter is risking not just a reputation hit, but aggressive ridicule.

Based on my understanding of the history of science, I think that the feelings I have around talking about this, that fear of that ridicule, should be a red flag. If the incentives are stacked too strongly against an idea (for good or bad reasons), it can become impossible for respectable people to entertain the idea. Often this is a correct approach, the vast majority of amateur science with big claims is nonsense. But what if something valuable was stuck in this trap?

If not for observations of current dramatic failures of the scientific process in nutrition and medicine, my priors against a demonstrable discovery of this magnitude being ignored would be very formidable. As it stands, this would still be shocking civilizational inadequacy, but I can see a process by which it could have occurred.

So I decided it was worth a couple of hours of investigation. Low chance of turning up anything of value, but low investment and in the worst case I’ll know a few more things and be able to hold up a conversation using actual understanding about why it’s bunk if someone ever tries to sell me on it, rather than simply using the “experts are probably right” heuristic

 

 

And now.. I’m not quite sure what to think.

 

 

Huw Price’s articles on Aeon (Why do scientists dismiss the possibility of cold fusion and Is the cold fusion egg about to hatch?) are the best general introductions I’ve found. In Cold Fusion 2.0, Who’s Scamming Whom? has a balanced but skeptical take on the recent developments.

There’s a collection of material on Wikiversity which seems fairly carefully presented / not obviously wrong, which outlines the observed phenomenon and outlines proposed explanations. The supporters story of the technical details of why it was initially rejected seems plausible.

There have been many diverse independent verifications, some relatively amateur, but many from apparently otherwise respectable scientists

If there is something here, that’s a very big deal. Big enough that it may well be worth looking at more closely, if finding this would affect your decisions or priorities, even if you’re as suspicious of this as I was.

And the dismissals I’ve found so far feel, universally, like they were written by people who knew the conclusion they were aiming for from the start, apparent cases of undiscriminating skepticism (e.g.) rather than careful analysis. This does not make them wrong, of course, but merely fails to provide strong evidence either way.  It’s entirely plausible that there are well-formed arguments against this being a real technology I’ve been unable to find among the writers competing to show how sure they are. I’d be interested in non-sneering counterarguments which display a non-strawman understanding of the claims, if anyone knows where to find them.

And as a last note, how would the markets react? Well, according to someone they already have.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s