Monday, May 27, 2013
Ethics of the E-Cat
I said in a previous post that the story of the E-Cat has lost all interest for me in scientific terms. However, it is still interesting as a probe of the way the human mind works and for the several ethical and professional issues it raises. So, here is a letter from professor Guglielmi of the University of Bath which addresses some questions to the authors of the latest E-Cat report. It is published here with professor Guglielmi's kind permission.
From: Dr. Alessio Guglielmi
To: Drs. Giuseppe Levi, Evelyn Foschi, Torbjörn Hartman, Bo Höistad, Roland Pettersson, Lars Tegnér, Hanno Essén
Dear Doctors Levi, Foschi, Hartman, Höistad, Pettersson, Tegnér and Essén,
I have read your recent manuscript `Indication of anomalous heat energy production in a reactor device containing hydrogen loaded nickel powder´ on arXiv and I am very perplexed.
You are aware that several alleged technical mistakes have been pointed out, such as omitting control on DC current input (which has been acknowledged by Prof. Essén in a recent interview) and assuming that the output heat is released by a perfect black body (this assumption is contested by Prof. Gianni Comoretto, for example). The picture that emerges, and I am sorry if this sounds offensive, is that some crucial measures have not been taken seriously enough on a discovery that, if genuine, would alter the history of mankind.
However, I have an issue that appears to me even more important, because it concerns the very essence of your continued activities on Rossi's device. Our job as researchers is to advance knowledge, and to do so whatever we investigate must be reproducible by other researchers, so that the knowledge we generate becomes established and we can move forward. This seems at odds with your behaviour. You went to the workshop of a private individual who claims to be solving half of mankind's problems, and performed measures on a device that you could not fully control and that is not available to other researchers. Therefore, your manuscript does not contain any reproducible experience. So, how does it advance knowledge? What do we learn?
This brings me to asking another natural question: who will profit from the release of your manuscript? You do realize that Mr Rossi sells distribution licences and that he needs to convince customers to order some of his plants. There is no doubt that your manuscript will help that market, but is this something that academics should do? Is our job to help a private sell his stuff in the absence of solid, reproducible evidence?
In other words, I wonder whether you are adhering to the scientific method and I wonder whether what you are doing is legitimate for academics. Others questioned your technical ability, but I think that the ethical questions that I am posing here come before, also because they are more understandable by the layman. I trust that you appreciate my frankness, and I hope that you can prove my concerns unjustified.
I am forwarding this letter in copy to several persons who are following this matter: Ugo Bardi (Professor of Chemistry, Univ. Florence, blogger), Dario Braga (Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research, University of Bologna), Sylvie Coyaud (Scientific Journalist, Il Sole 24 Ore), Camillo Franchini (blogger, former Supervisor of the CAMEN nuclear plant) and Giancarlo Ruocco (Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research, La Sapienza, Rome). Whoever wishes to publish this letter is welcome to do so, of course, and I hope that also the answer could be given public form.
Could you please forward this letter to Dr. Foschi, whose address I could not find?
University of Bath
Ugo Bardi is a member of the Club of Rome and the author of "Extracted: how the quest for mineral resources is plundering the Planet" (Chelsea Green 2014)