Cassandra has moved. Ugo Bardi publishes now on a new site called "The Seneca Effect."

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The E-Cat Horror

In a horror movie, when a young lady decides to undress and take a shower while alone in the house, well, you know exactly what's going to happen to her. It is the predictability of horror.  (above, from the 1960 movie "Psycho")

Some things, in life as in fiction, are highly predictable. One of these is the plot of horror movies. As the story moves on, you know exactly the destiny of the young lady who decides to undress and take a shower while alone in the house. And you know exactly what's going to happen to the hapless character who, while exploring the haunted house, says, "Hey! I heard a strange noise coming from the basement. You stay here, I'll go down there to investigate". It is part of the fascination of this kind of movies: rational judgment is suspended as the plot unfolds and you keep watching without asking yourself why exactly those people found themselves at midnight in that cemetery, in the moonlight, while a horde of zombies is approaching.

It is with the same kind of fascination that you may have been watching the plot of the "Energy Catalyser," or "E-Cat" unfold, the weird device that Andrea Rossi claimed to be a nuclear reactor, able to solve all the energy problems of humankind. A real horror movie set in Bologna, Italy, where plenty of hapless characters have been sucked in and metaphorically devoured by the E-Cat horror. The plot has followed all the predictable steps for this kind of stories. First, in January 2011, there was the announcement of the discovery of the home-made nuclear reactor. That attracted plenty of hopeful people looking for a solution for the energy crisis just as, in movies, old haunted houses attract scantly clad young ladies.

Then, the plot moved on, according to well known rules. We saw plenty of scenes in which inventor Andrea Rossi attempted to demonstrate how his device was supposed to produce energy. He looked very much like Gene Wilder in "Young Frankenstein", while trying to revive the monster (Image by Renzo B, from 22passi: Frankenstein and Igor on the left, Andrea Rossi and Sergio Focardi on the right). And what we heard from Rossi about the innards of his machine sounded very much like the introduction speech about space vampires in the famous movie "Plan 9 from outer space"

Some of the cheap effects of the movie were easy for everybody to detect. Just think of the gas heater used to warm the factory when the nuclear reactor was supposed to do the job alone. Nevertheless, the interest in the movie never waned: with plenty of twists in the plot, evil characters, monsters, conspiracies, mysteries, the military, secret services, and more.

Still, even a good horror movie must end at some moment: after a couple of hours, you go home and you forget about zombies and vampires. So, the E-Cat movie arrived to a close, with recent events leading to the final showdown. The villain has confessed his crime, the secret has been revealed. Is it the end of the E-Cat horror?

Maybe it is the end, but we can't really say. Maybe there will be a sequel. It will have new twists in the plot: most likely, we'll see how the efforts of the savior of mankind have been  thwarted by the evil conspiracy of oil companies or the lobby of renewable energy. The E-Cat horror still lurks in the shadows! 

In case you are interested in the real world, rather than in fiction, you can read an excellent confutation of Andrea Rossi's claims about the E-cat in an article by Antonio Turiel. The recent events, in which Rossi confessed that his device is not a nuclear reactors are described here and here. The complete documentation can be found here. Rossi himself confirmed everything here here.  

h/t to Antonella for providing the inspiration for this post.


  1. Hi Ugo, nice picture of Bela Lugosi.

    One of my favourite pictures is Alien, which some class as horror. Besides the outstanding work of H.R. Giger and the well above average cast, one of the things that makes it stand out is how unpredictable the plot is. It turns out that it is the thin clad young lady with a secondary role the sole survivor to the ordeals of outer space.

    What always struck me about the story of the ECat was the fact that Rossi had already played the same con plot in the past. By some reason people wanted to believe him once again.


  2. Well, Luis, we all tend to make the same mistakes, over and over. Rossi is no exception, nor are his followers.

    About "Alien", yes, outstanding movie! I still perfectly remember the plot! Not your typical horror B-movie

  3. Just a notation: In Frankenstein Junior Gene Wilder tried to revive the monster (Mel Brooks was the Director), and by the way succeded in doing it (what seems not to be the case of E-Cat).

  4. sacrilege!!

    Rossi near one of my favourite actors!!

    You should use this, instead ;)

  5. @Ugo
    The sequel has just been announced:
    Da Bologna arriveranno novità: buone o cattiva che siano. MA ARRIVERANNO.

    Interesting, how did the gentleman at the back get those hair curlers?

  6. The most important question whether mankind has more than a few years to go; Energy.
    This has been known since,.. "ever" to some?
    Yet the behaviour is that of children at play, wait maybe not even that serious.

    Any one finally declaring state of emergency? Or just keep on playing until we can't; And take the living planet with us.

  7. Rossi says his factory is in Italy and the reactions generate less than 100kev photons. this ecat horror show is just creating confusion.
    the only info that counts is reporting on ecat heat output under lab control conditions.

  8. When the smoke clears it will be obvious to all, and our
    current critics will claim it was obvious to them all along.

  9. I see nothing conflicting in the remarks by Andrea Rossi. The type of radioactive material they were looking for was absent, and unless a factory is completed in the U.S. where else would construction take place?

    The radiation bureau was probably more embarrassed by their giant red and yellow radiation suits they arrived in (That's fiction, unsure if they wore radiation suits.)

    Andrea Rossi has been not only rich but extremely rich more than a few times in his life. In the past he was prosecuted but he never ran... He faced his accusers and hired high priced lawyers. Is this how a scammer behaves. He has a long history of environmental science.

    The argument is whether LENR has been harnessed. There is no doubt LENR exists, and if you doubt that then your education needs updating.

    LENR is confirmed for years and Pons/Fleischmann were the first to recognize something went on. It has taken 21 years to be able to replicate it without fault. Not only is LENR confirmed worldwide, but the Ni-H is now claimed to be replicated by at least 16 separate entities.

    Whether Andrea Rossi can control this is still in question, however I think it is unquestionable that he is doing Ni-H LENR.

    Controlling this reaction to make it a viable source of energy is quite a task. You mix all the ingredients and what stops it from interacting all at once? This is subatomic manipulation here.

    I could explain the Widom=Larsen theory well enough for most to understand, but the main thing to understand is that LENR is associated with low Gamma Rays. A normal physics major would look at the low Gamma Ray radiation and claim nothing nuclear is going on. This is not true. We create Heavy Electrons (not heavy but behave slower) that absorb the Gamma Rays and convert them into harmless infra red (for the most part).

    Dr George Miley associate professor from the University of Illinois, has claimed his LENR fuel cell can remove some Gamma Ray radiation from the environment. That is a fun fact.

    Cold Fusion has a history of being scoffed at, but it has arrived.

    I have written this for the author of this article more than as a comment to the pathoskeptics (skeptics beyond reason), and expect it to not last past moderation.

    Just read up on LENR in general. It is only CONTROLLED LENR in question.

    1. "It is only CONTROLLED LENR in question."


      The list of companies and individuals that have demonstrated LENR is long. A much better position than the first years after Pons- Fleishmann, However, making the leap to a reliable product, seems to be the problem.

      In 2010, Blacklight Power seemed to be the contender. They had the device. They had a new theory. They had scientific support from Harvard of all places. But since those early news reports we haven't heard much from them. Based on the early excitement, we would expect millions of LENR devices out there by now.

      Then there is Mark LeClair of Nanospire who came up with a different approach called cavitation. The astounding thing there was the device was so energetic, it produced intense transmutation elements in the core as well as intense gamma. The radiation was so intense it sickened LeClair and coworker Lebid for over a year. That was in 2009, A device that powerful should go to the head of the class of LENR. But we haven't heard much since then except a report this year verifying the transmutation elements in the core.

      So what is going on with the many successes and why do they get stalled? I think its back to the original issue you brought up:

      "Controlling this reaction to make it a viable source of energy is quite a task."
      It is probably several years away from a product people can buy,

    2. Yes there's nothing conflicting in Andrea Rossi's remarks.
      LENR exists.
      The E-Cat doesn't use nuclear reactions. I.e., no LENR.
      He promises a thermal output of 6x the electrical input these days.

      Sounds like a heat pump to me.

    3. So, you mean that Mr. Rossi has re-invented hot water?

  10. If this was this an attempt it was very poor. Rather than compare Rossi and Focardi with the two actors why not just draw mustaches on their images? For a better and proper mix of irony and humor try this:

  11. It is to my mind at the very least pathetic that supposedly responsible 'critics' of Mr. Rossi's assertions are acting like little children. Denied of the candy that they so desire and presume to be their right (as in full disclosure from Mr. Rossi of everything he does) they start screaming and crying and are ready and willing to demonize him for thwarting their demands.
    Grow up! Maybe Rossi has something, maybe not, but at no point should you dredge up every conceivable (and mostly irrelevant) genre of slander and insult because he won't play ball with you.
    What will you do should it turn out that he is right? Will you be as quick (and vitriolic) in condemning your own behaviour?
    Believe me, not even the most ardent believers in Mr. Rossi are uncritically willing to give him the shirt off their backs. We're all simply watching and waiting. Keep the hysteria down please.



Ugo Bardi is a member of the Club of Rome, faculty member of the University of Florence, and the author of "Extracted" (Chelsea Green 2014), "The Seneca Effect" (Springer 2017), and Before the Collapse (Springer 2019)