Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Thinking is hard work

It is one of my conceits to view myself as a thinker.  In my more humble moments, I realize that I am often too lazy to really think as well as I ought.

I wanted to write something in connection to that last post about the language that was being used in the cold fusion controversy.  It was about semantics and then I recalled that I wrote something about that once.

That post is contaminated with conceit.  The truth is that I am not that sharp with the language.  It is also true that I make the effort to improve it, though.  So, here I am about to embark upon the discussion of language. If it is littered with more of the same conceit, well, I am only human, and a bit lazy.

This brings me to this notion of "cold fusion".  Martin Fleishmann denies that he ever used the term.  It appears that the term was invented by the media.  The media, for its part, is in business to sell itself to the public.  One way of doing that is to sensationalize an event.  Cold fusion became more of a media contraption designed to sell the public than a scientific discussion to enlighten the public.  The unfortunate part about this is that the media is the interface between such events and the public. If the media won't use the appropriate terminology, the public's right to know is being ill served. Now this term is forever fixed in the public mind as something that it never was from the beginning. This makes it difficult to go forward with an intelligent discussion when your viewpoint can be ridiculed from the start.

It has struck me that there can be no such thing as cold fusion.  The terminology is faulty from the beginning. The misconception may arise as to what is the nature of heat.  Heat is the opposite of cold, and most everybody knows that fusion is hot.  Therefore, the term "cold fusion" invites controversy.  It is a self contradiction.  An oxymoron.  But what is heat, and what is cold?  The terms are not well defined in this context, and were most likely, not supposed to be.  They were supposed to attract attention in order to sell newspapers.  Such an oxymoronic term certainly achieved that effect.  The term "cold fusion" will live in infamy.  So will the true ideas behind it, which are forever linked to the term.

People don't think about these things.  I know I didn't.  After listening to Dr. Robert Bussard's discussion of Polywell fusion, I didn't get it.  The part that was giving me trouble was that very notion of heat.  I just didn't understand, couldn't wrap my mind around the notion that he could fuse anything in such a small device because it wasn't as hot as the sun.  For if it were, it would melt.  The misconception I was having was about heat.  How it is measured.  I never did get Polywell until I heard another discussion of it from Tom Ligon, Bussard's assistant, who explained the equivalent way of expressing heat was in electron volts.  Bingo!

It turns out that the old TV sets used electricity in thousands of electron volts, which should have been enough to melt them into a useless slag.  Why doesn't that happen?  This requires an explanation that I may botch pretty badly, so I won't go too much into that.  Let's put it this way: "heat" isn't always what we think it is.  It can be manifested as electricity, or as infrared radiation, which we feel as heat.  In the end, it is energy, which can be expressed in a different way than with a thermometer. It is still energy, whatever its manifestation.

So, "cold fusion" was never cold at all.  The process used energy in order to accomplish a task.  Therefore, it was hot.  It was called "cold fusion" not to help understand what was going on with this device, but to sell newspapers.  It made it difficult to discuss the subject with intelligence.  And we are all a lot worse off now because of it.  Not necessarily because it was valid, or not.  No, because some basic ideas have been relegated to the equivalent of a taboo, just because of way some media people reported the event.

It is the product of laziness.  The public is too lazy to think for themselves, so they can be easily misled.  The media is too lazy to learn a little of the science behind it and report it honestly, as opposed to sensationalizing it.  Those who should know better are too lazy to educate us as to why this was an error.  It is hard work and thinking is hard work.


It will no longer be called cold fusion on this blog.  Instead, it will be called "cold fusion", to emphasize the inappropriate use of the term.  Other terms may be adopted as they are found, such as LENR.  Since there are no appropriate theory available to explain the phenomenon, there seems to be an inadequate way of expressing it.

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