Saturday, July 27, 2013

A primer: Defkalion and Rossi and the strange tale of unlimited free, clean energy

Of course, like everyone else, I knew about the debunked "Cold Fusion" debacle by Fleischmann–Pons and have thought nothing of it for years, only occasionally glancing at various fringe articles that would barely illicit a yawn from me before clicking on to greener webby pastures.
Then, a couple of years ago my news sources kept pestering me with persistent fringey articles about a shady Italian guy called Andrea Rossi who claimed he was running a functional LENR reactor (Low Energy Nuclear Reactions). Rossi was claiming his device, which he called an "E-cat", (short for energy Catalyzer  - was putting out energy and sustaining itself, something that hot fusion scientists have been attempting to do for the past fifty years.
Some desktop contraption that ran on nickel and hydrogen? Ridiculous. Snorting in disbelief, I dismissed this charlatan who apparently had a brush with the law in the past, for environmental pollution created with some shady pseudo clean-up technology. I forgot about it again.
But Andrea Rossi's name kept popping up on the web, in blogs, gathering ever more faithful followers - some of whom seemed surprisingly lucid. I put it down to wishful mass delusion or quackery.
Then Andrea Rossi got together with a Greek company called Defkalion Green Technologies for some purpose or another; whatever they were doing didn't work out; Rossi and Defkalion parted company.

Now, this is where I found myself raising an eyebrow; rather than the Defkalion company continuing on their merry way, doing whatever they were doing before they were associated with Rossi, they were suddenly dabbling with some kind of LENR technology, claiming absurd energy output parameters, very much like Andrea Rossi. This was getting weird and I started paying more attention.

Rossi's company moved from Italy to the US, and Defkalion pulled up roots and moved to Canada. Rossi, ever the non-stop-run-of-the-mouth entertainer, did all he unintentionally could to make LENR seem absurd - except of occasionally running new versions of his device in front of seemingly sane people and sending them away scratching their heads.

Then, in May 2013, Rossi's company presented his E-cat device for a group of scientists from the University of Uppsala (Sweden), running the E-cat, supposedly sustaining high energy output without an external source of power -  and to my astonishment, the observers publish their results - and they were favorable.

On July 23rd 2013, in conjunction with a conference on cold fusion, Defkalion demonstrated their Hyperion device with live streaming video, watched by over a thousand individuals, including myself. This was performed with a neutral and qualified observer present, who placed his report online - again favorable.

From my own subjective point of view, this prompts several questions that I feel need answering, and if you have not heard of this extraordinary subject before, it might be of use to the reader:
  • Why are both companies so shy about having their devices inspected independently by neutral, qualified scientists? Would this not go a considerable way for Rossi and Defkalion to patent their inventions so they could manufacture them for the public?
    The answers are fascinating and fantastic, but do not lack credulity. Incredible as it may seem, either company does not have a clear scientific idea of the physics this discovery - whatever is creating the heat largely remains a mystery, not only to the outside observer, but to the inventors themselves. This falls far short of scientific method and would be more aptly be categorized under the heading of alchemy.
    Consequently, Rossi and Defkalion are caught up in a vicious chicken and egg dilemma: They cannot get a patent, because they cannot explain the nature of the forces they are using to the satisfaction of the international patent office. Therefore, they have no protection from someone who might come forward and offer a clear, rational explanation for the process and thus beat them to the patent. If you think that is unreasonable, then consider the supposed binding contract that Defkalion was asked to sign by Andrea Rossi when the two companies temporarily got together - and after their estrangement, Defkalion completely ignored it. Rossi's company had no leg to stand on. How can you agree on a secret that has no substantial physical explanation?
    I believe to my own satisfaction that this is a very justifiable reason for both companies to be extremely cagey an secretive about the details within the guts of their mystifying devices. 
  • Why isn't the mass media paying more attention to this seemingly astonishing development?I believe that at moments of sudden astonishing innovation, such as the invention of the light bulb or flight, such pronouncements are justifiably greeted by a skeptical media and public with a large measure of denial, a general refusal to believe that drastic change is about come upon society.
    Some have argued that energy consortiums might not too hot no the idea either, because LENR speaks to a decentralized energy grid.
  • Why is the scientific world turning a blind eye to these developments?
    It's complicated. The Fleischmann–Pons cold fusion debacle of the '80's left a very sour taste in the mouth of the science community and any mention on a related subject brings with it the stink of heresy. As a scientist, your scientific career and be ruined if you are in any way found to be associated with cold fusion.
    One could also argue that there are powerful scientific interests at play. Huge resources have been poured into the search for a 'hot fusion' energy solution over the past fifty years with little to nothing in the way of results to show for that effort. I cannot imagine the scientists who's careers have been founded on this approach can look the the present goings on with any kindness, so asking a scientist about LENR, unless they are abreast of the VERY recent developments might be a little like eliciting an opinion on the heliocentric system from a trained pythagorean mathematician; you would not likely receive any enthusiastic nods.
This is a fast developing story, and what is written here will be history in mere weeks. I have placed some links below, pro and con that may help you determine if this is whole escapade is a hoax or some kind of mass delusion, or if society is on the cusp of a radical paradigm shift.