Luboš Motl [aka Lumo around here] over at the The Reference Frame, my go-to-guy on String Theory, Particle Physics, and Physics in general, has a post up entitled MSNBC VS FOX NEWS ON COLD FUSION. In this post our super-stringy, super-symetric, non-quantum loopy correspondent strays form the physics implications of the possible invention by Italian physicist and inventor Andrea Rossi of the University of Bologna of a device claimed to produce cold fusion by some unknown physical mechanism, to the quality of reporting or biases in reporting on the subject by MSNBC and Fox News – with predictable results – a lot of bad humor and name calling on all sides.
Here are the links to the original MSNBC article “Italian cold fusion machine passes another test” , and the Fox News article “Cold Fusion Experiment: Major Success or Complex Hoax?”
I’m not a physicist, so I cannot comment on the plausibility or implausibility of the Rossi’s E-Cat machine or what ever process is supposed to make it work. However I will point out that people in general, left and right wing tend to be more willing to ‘buy in’ to a story that tends to reinforce another dearly held belief. [they also seem to irrationally distrust the motives of their counterparts [this is called paranoia btw]].
I’m also not particularly concerned that Rossi lacks a theoretical basis for how his invention, the E-Cat machine works. If the E-Cat does what it claims to do – work – someone smarter than Dr. Rossi will figure it out, all that will take is some time and some careful experiments. However you will note that in both the the Fox News and MSNBC case, what we are hearing described to us is not a “test” or an experiment in any normal scientific meaning of the word, but a “demonstration”.
I’m not inclined to follow either of those particular lines of argument any further today, but this bit from the MSNBC report did set my intellectual antennae vibrating [and hackles rising]:
Rossi has not published any details about the inner workings of the E-Cat because the device is not patent-protected, but other cold fusion researchers have theories as to how the process works.
The scientific method is supposed to require the disclosure of the “inner workings” of an experiment so that the claims of one group can be tested by an independent group, a point that will not hammer on too hard today because I noticed this more significant discrepancy in the story.
That point is that the claim that the so called “inner workings”of the E-Cat Device have not been disclosed due to the fact that, “the device is not patent protected” is a complete red herring. The patent process requires the disclosure of the “inner workings” of the invention, the “gist of the invention” in patent-speak FIRST, before the granting of patent protection. The patent system is founded upon the notion of “teaching” in that the inventor is granted a patent of exclusivity on his invention in the short term in order to get some economic benefit from the invention, in exchange for “teaching” society how it works so that the invention improves the state of the “art” and benefits the cultural inheritance of society in the long term.
It looks to me like Rossi just doesn’t want to show the world what it going on inside the black box of his, but he sure seems interested in trying to sell it.
From the Fox News article:
Rossi claims his company, Leonardo Corp., will produce the E-Cat machine, which he first demonstrated earlier this yearat the University of Bologna. Proof of the experiment’s success is that the customer will pay for the technology and start using it, he said.
As for the skeptics, Rossi said he needs to prove the experiment only to his customer.
“We have nothing to say, just to make plans that work properly and let those facts win against the skepticism,” he said.