Welcome to the age of diminishing returns

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Peak E-Cat

Number of searches of the term "E-Cat" according to Google Trends

The interest in the "E-Cat", the supposed "cold fusion reactor" invented by Andrea Rossi and Sergio Focardi, is waning. You can perceive that clearly from the activity of the various sites dealing with it; while "Google Trends" confirms that the trend is indeed down. After a flare of curiosity that peaked in november 2011, people found that there was nothing to see about the E-Cat except some purported "demonstrations" that didn't really demonstrate anything. So, they lost interest. 

What remains of the E-Cat is a core of diehard supporters - especially in Italy. - who will likely keep the myth alive for a long time. It is typical and well known: "free energy" theories never die. Today, people are still discussing the supposed free energy devices attributed to Nikola Tesla and that go back to almost a century ago - poor Tesla is probably still rolling over in his grave. And, in the meantime, plenty more cranky theories have been proposed. In this field, the E-Cat will remain remarkable for the amount of noise it generated when compared to what little evidence (actually, none) was presented.

About the E-Cat, you may be interested in two well thought and in depth articles that demolish Rossi's claims at their basis.


  1. The two articles, especially the one of Ethan Siegel, are impressive.
    I'm not a scientist, I won't try to write about nuclear physics.
    I may only add that the story available on the web isn't complete.
    The point of wiew of Prof. Piantelli could be perhaps more interesting than those of Mr. Rossi.

    Cordiali saluti.

    Fausto Ghini

  2. If you look at the top of the story by Ethan Siegal, it says "This post is coauthored by Dr. Peter Thieberger, Senior Physicist at Brookhaven National Laboratory." If you read the article itself, it is doubtful that Siegal did much more than allow Thieberger to use his web space to give a re-hash of 20-year-old arguments against cold fusion. Physicists have had trouble with cold fusion from the beginning for a number of reasons but one of the primary ones is that it was discovered by chemists. Yes Cassandra, petty jealousies do exist in science.

    As has been typical over the last 20 years, Dr. Thieberger argues against a straw man. Rossi (a chemical engineer) never claimed his e-Cat operated on any sort of fusion principle. As a matter of fact, few researchers in the field make claims to fusion. Those few who do have written quite extensively about why fusion is able to occur at room temperature under very precise conditions (ones often ignored by physicists attempting to replicate the experiments) and those conditions do not in any way resemble conditions needed for so-called "hot fusion," (the unsuccessful pet project of many physicists for nearly 60 years), which include multi-million dollar equipment and attempts to replicate the conditions of the sun.

    But, again, Dr. Thieberger's rousing, but admittedly dated, rebuttal of cold fusion claims is invalid because Rossi himself never made claims to cold fusion. Cold fusion is a popular meme often used to describe a phenomenon that is still not fully understood but has been extensively documented. Dr. Thieberger's approach is typical. He argues against something that was not claimed and refuses to acknowledge the experimental evidence that something very real is occurring in these cells.

    Instead of reading Thieberger's rehash of dated, dogmatic arguments, one should peruse the 4 slide show presentations recently released in which NASA scientists document their firm belief in this technology and offer their explanations for what they believe is actually going on in these cells. I would also recommend a video and slide show presentation by the US Navy’s Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (SPAWAR) from 2009 that was given at the University of Missouri. In these presentations members of this group of scientists also vouch for this technology and offer a quite lengthy analysis and explanation of their work.

    Antonio Turiel's article is similar to Dr. Thieberger's, and also comes from a physicist who ignores the experimental evidence. Turiel adds a nice touch by implying everybody who gives the claims of Rossi credence does so out of desperation. The tone mirrors that of physicist Steve Koonin who in 1989 assserted that electro-chemists Dr. Pons and Fleishmann were "incompetent and delusional." That kind of arrogance is better suited for fictional TV physicist Sheldon Cooper of the "Big Bang Theory."

  3. Sometimes I have this feeling that there exist parallel universes that occasionally intersect, but only in a minimal subset, while all the non-intersecting volume is completely different.

    Ben, are you from one of these parallel universes? Because this minimal intersection means that in both universes there exists something called "E-Cat", but in completely different forms. "Rossi never claimed his e-cat operated on any sort of fusion principle" ??? What??? In your universe, perhaps. In my universe, he and his associate Sergio Focardi have been claiming over and over that the e-cat is a miraculous catalyst that manages to enormously accelerate the fusion of nickel and hydrogen to form copper. This is nuclear fusion - actually cold fusion. This is what Turiel and Siegel have been criticizing.

    I mean, seriously, Ben, what galaxy are you from? Andromeda? Here we are in the Milky Way, just to be sure......

  4. OT, but one of the more scary graphs recently: Methane measurements off Barrow, Alaska: 2001-2011

    and there you can find original (methane) NOAA data.

    I am scared of finances. I am scared of our attitude to environment even more.


  5. Gosh, Alex. That's not so OT, after all. It makes me understand why people so desperately want the E-Cat to work

  6. Hey Ben @2,

    I'm the Ethan Siegel you refer to above.

    Your speculations about the authorship of the article are incorrect. Peter and I engaged in a spirited dialog for some time -- about twenty emails went back and forth -- with both of us focusing on both major issues. There were a few things about the nuclear physics of stars that I knew that Peter did not, and a few things about terrestrial nuclear physics that Peter was able to teach me.

    In the end, the actual writing of the piece was entirely mine, but we both revised it a number of times -- including in-depth discussions of possible mechanisms for the alleged production of Copper from Nickel -- before we agreed on all the changes and were comfortable publishing it.

    But Peter and I have both said that if the "black box" is removed, the mechanism (or device) is fully described and is able to be reproduced, then, in fact, we can do science here. Personally, if this device can be reproduced and shown to actually fuse nickel and hydrogen into copper, resulting in a net output of energy far beyond what is inputted, I will happily write a much longer and more detailed post in praise of what is happening. Rest assured, however, that this is not a matter of petty jealousy, and that, in fact, just one week prior to my coauthored article with Peter, I had written a prior one on why I thought the e-Cat was likely to be fraudulent: http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2011/11/cold_fusion_is_it_possible_is.php Note that I freely admit that it may be possible, in principle, and even describe a plausible mechanism for it. But there has not been sufficient evidence presented to support those claims, and so, scientifically, we dismiss them.


  7. Alex,

    The last three data points are below the peak two, so I suspect this is nothing to worry about - yet. Actually, I looked at that site before Christmas and the chart had a date of the 20th; now that's gone. Which is a bit odd.

    The hourly in-situ data doesn't actually show that spike at all, even though it has a later date on it.