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

Friday, March 16, 2012

The sinking of the E-Cat

This post is a modified version of a post by the author which appeared in Italian on "NuoveTecnologieEnergetiche"

Above: the cruise ship "Costa Concordia", Italian technological marvel, sunken after hitting a reef in front of the "Giglio" Island in January 2012. Recently, we saw the sinking of another pretended technological marvel from Italy, the cold fusion reactor called "E-Cat;" destroyed by its own contradictions.

It was Captain Kirk of the starship "Enterprise" who said that it is not a good idea to put oneself in a no-win situation. Good advice that was not taken by Mr. Andrea Rossi, inventor of the "E-Cat," the cold fusion device that he claimed to be able to solve the world's energy problems. After having been unable to show that his device produces energy, Mr. Rossi stated that he didn't need any more tests because he could now proceed to market it in millions of pieces. But, in reality, Mr. Rossi had simply placed himself in a no-win situation. The E-Cat is now fast sinking, hit by the contradictions of its inventor.

Let's start with what Rossi himself had declared about his E-Cat. He said that it is based on the fusion of hydrogen and nickel nuclei (see Rossi's patent) and that gamma rays are produced during operation (see here) so that lead shields had to be placed inside the device. Rossi also said that he was building a factory in the United States where he would produce E-Cats by the millions; to be sold as water heaters for people's homes. According to some recent statements by Rossi, the device had been undergoing safety testing for months at Underwriters Laboratory. 

It couldn't go unnoticed in Florida that someone was claiming to be producing nuclear reactors in large numbers. On February 24, an officer of the State of Florida Bureau of Radiation Control went to investigate what was going on in the pretended "E-Cat factory" in Miami. There, he found no factory, but an apartment and Andrea Rossi in person. Questioned on the E-Cat, Rossi declared that "no nuclear reactions occur inside the device." Rossi also stated that all the facilities for testing and production are "overseas," and that safety certification with Underwriters Laboratory will be arranged in the future. The officer then left, writing in his report that his bureau has no jurisdiction over a device which has nothing nuclear inside. (The complete documentation is here, comments can be found here and here. Rossi himself confirmed the story here.)

No matter how we want to see this story, it is clear that Rossi has been victim of his own "no-win" strategy. First, he claimed that he had developed a nuclear device, but he never could provide convincing proof. So he said that he didn't need proof because he could just produce and sell the device - the market would judge it. But if he wanted to produce and sell the device, then he would have to obtain the necessary certifications. And how to obtain the necessary certifications after having declared that the device is based on nuclear reactions and it emits gamma rays? Surely, Rossi's word is not enough to prove that shielding with lead foil is sufficient to remove gamma rays. Maybe there are arcane reasons (as claimed in this paper) that reduce, or even eliminate, gamma ray emission. But just the possibility of such an emission would required extensive investigations and years of work in order to provide the necessary certifications. So, you see? If it is nuclear, Rossi can't sell it. If it is not nuclear, who would buy it? A classic no-win situation. 

In the end, lacking experimental proof, the idea that the E-Cat produces energy rests only on Rossi's statements that say, basically, just "trust me". But after the Florida story, it is clear that this is, also, a no-win strategy. How can you trust Rossi after so many contradictions? Where is the E-Cat factory that he said was in the US and then, no, it is overseas? And where is the safety testing (not) being done? Incidentally, if, hypothetically, the E-Cat were really producing nuclear reactions, we should think of Rossi as a dangerous criminal who lied to the Florida officer about his plans to produce and sell without the necessary safety certifications a device that generates gamma rays. That Rossi can't be trusted has been clearly perceived also by Rossi's supporters, who have been abandoning the sinking ship: for instance Sterling Allan. The University of Bologna had wisely disengaged from Rossi already in January.

So, the E-Cat has reached the end of the line. It still maintains some faithful supporters, but, most likely, it will soon fade away in the darkness of pathological science, where it belongs. There remains a question: how is it possible that so much time and energy has been lost in this incredibly story?  Well, there has to be something wired wrong in the human mind but, at least, from this story we can learn what mistakes we should avoid. As Captain Kirk said, never put yourself in a no-win situation by believing without proof in salvific inventions.

Other posts on the E-Cat story on "Cassandra's Legacy"

The E-Cat loses steam (July 2011)
Peak E-Cat (Dec 2011)
 The Anti-Cassandra Curse (March 2012)
The E-Cat horror (March 2012)


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)