Small update on "cold fusion", Steorn

Posted by bert hubert Sun, 17 Jun 2007 21:07:00 GMT

Ok, people have been harassing me that I should update my blog more often. This strikes me as somewhat odd, blogging is not mandatory - sometimes I feel the need to share some thoughts with my readers (it appears there are 3000 of you!), and sometimes I don’t.

I still don’t have a lot to say, but perhaps this might interest you.

“The trouble with physics”

I’ve been following cold fusion, and other ‘alternative’ physics subjects for a long time now, and I keep tabs on quite a number of interesting investigators. Over time it has become clear to me that physics is dangerously locked in to the ‘mainstream’.

Careers are built on getting grants; grants are disbursed by risk-averse boards, journals are very worried about their reputation, and rely on vested scientists to review papers. The upshot of this is that it is very dangerous for a physicist to do ‘interesting’ research.

I felt like this for a long time, but as I’m not part of the physics community, and in fact never got past half of my physics degree, what I feel is not very interesting.

However, when Lee Smolin feels something, it is. He’s written a captivating book called ‘The trouble with physics’. Its main point is that physics has become stuck in a rut called String Theory, which is a complicated set of ideas that has for decades been hailed as the next big thing.

Dr Smolin describes the current state of physics very well, and he appears to confirm the feelings I describe above.

I heartily recommend this book, it is one of the few books that continue where an earlier generation of ‘books for laymen’ stopped.

There are some indications the physics community is more open to ‘interesting’ results again, which should be very good. I’ve made a small list of things I find interesting, and keep track of.

“Cold Fusion”, or as it is often called these days “Low Energy Nuclear Reactions”

I’ve blogged about this before, but this field appears to be heating up again in a big way. Basically, hot nuclear fusion (which powers the sun, as well as hydrogen bombs), would solve most of our energy problems. However, it turns out to be very hard to make a hot nuclear fusion reactor that survives its own operation AND generates energy.

Cold fusion started out by the claim of Messrs Pons and Fleischman to have found proof of hydrogen fusing under ‘kitchen table’ conditions. It quickly turned out nobody could (reliably) reproduce their results, and controversy ensued. Additionally, our current understanding of physics appears to prohibit ‘cold fusion’.

However, over the following 18 years, it never went away entirely. There is a slow but steady trickle of results that appear to form the smoke to a possible fire. Dr Dieter Britz keeps track of all cold fusion related papers and reports, his database now contains over 1200 items.

Some of the die-hards in researching cold fusion have been a group of employees of a US Naval laboratory, called SPAWAR. Recently, they’ve developed a very simple experiment that reproducibly shows signs of “low energy nuclear reactions”. There has now been at least one replication of their simple experiment, which appears to show the same signs.

The experiment is simple enough that it can be performed at home, and I am sometimes tempted! I’ve since found that quite a number of replications are already going on, so no need to try to build a laboratory at home :-)

More information can be found here

Strange gravity effects

Much of the same goes for experiments with rotating superconductors affecting gravity. It should be realised that gravity is truly unstoppable, as far as we know, there is nothing that could ever ‘shield’ oneself from this universal force.

If one could do that, spaceflight would become a lot easier. It would also put a rather large dent in our understanding of physics - although gravity is poorly understood anyhow.

The Russian metallurgist Evgeney Podkletnov grabbed the attention around 1992 and 1996 with papers describing gravity shielding above a rapidly rotating superconducting disk. The problem was that his disk was very hard to make, so the experiment was not easy to reproduce.

His reports were interesting enough to get NASA to try however, but they never really managed to replicate his conditions. Interestingly, one of the theorists (Ning Li) involved with the experiment appears to have vanished!

This is the stuff of conspiracy theories, but it has been reported that Boeing has at one stage been involved in making devices based on this theory, but this has been widely denied. Meanwhile, Podkletnov has withdrawn some of his papers. All very messy.

However, some time ago, a scientist working for the European Space Agency, made similar claims, which are however very different in detail. Interestingly, Tajmar cs also have theories on why their spinning superconductors produce gravity effects.

It appears their work is being taken seriously. I’ve been in contact with them, and although they didn’t want to reveal a lot, they did say they expected to report new results.

Less controversial, but no less strange, is the current state of our understanding of gravity, which includes such incredible things as invisible objects which do have gravity (dark matter), as well as invisible things that offer ‘negative gravity’ (dark energy). We currently only know that we need these dark things to explain the universe - we just don’t know what lies behind these science fiction-like names!

Unlike other things mentioned in this post, dark energy and dark matter are 100% part of mainstream physics - even though we have only faint ideas on the physical nature of these forms of ‘matter’.

Steorn

I’ve blogged about this fascinating company before, so I’ll only post an update here.

It is hard to figure out their strategy. They claim to have discovered a device which generates free energy, and that they are trying to make some money from this invention, while also making it generally available. They’ve assembled a jury of 22 scientists which is supposed to validate their technology, but this is expected to take a long time.

In the meantime, their CEO has been posting quite a lot on their forum, dropping hints on how their device works, while otherwise retaining a high level of secrecy.

One of the forum members, Mike Rosing (known as ‘drmike’) heard enough to design an experiment to test at least part of what Steorn intimates lies behind their technology.

This revolves around ‘magnetic viscosity’, which is one of the darker areas of how permanent magnets work. Drmike now has data, but no results yet, as he has to extract these from his heaps of data.

I’ve been in contact with Mike, and we’ve worked out something I might try to program to extract results from his data, but I didn’t yet find time to work on it.

Steorn is said to demonstrate their device in London in July, and Mike and others are going to see this demonstration, and I’m again sorely tempted to join in :-)

More information can be found on the two blogs that follow Steorn, called Free Enery Tracker and Dispatches from the Future.

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