This gets involved. If you find it objectionable that a discussion actually goes into some depth, you may be part of the problem at Wikipedia. For an alternative, consider asking for a summary, if you need it. tl;dr could mean "If you think it's Too Long, Don't Read it."
QUOTE(papaya @ Tue 1st November 2011, 10:43pm)
Well, yeah. And in some ways even worse, it's an endorsement of amplifying the mistakes and carelessness of others. It should not be a big deal that, when the NYT makes a boneheaded mistake, we ignore them. Right now we're having a big battle over a cheap energy scam because we can't clamp down on it by saying, "look, I don't care about their documentation, the science is all wrong, and besides this looks like every other such scam device that ever came along." Brittanica just yawns and says "call us back when you have a working power plant," and we should too. Instead, we have some fool at Forbes who is too dim (or whatever) to figure it out, and nobody can say, "look, this guy is an idiot; ignore him."
The problem is structural, for sure.
The basic concept is that if it's in reliable source (which has to do with independence, really, not with what people ordinarily understand as "reliable," not directly), it can be in the project. However, that doesn't say how
it's presented. That's up to ... consensus. And Wikipedia never figured out how to do genuine consensus. It's possible, but it takes skilled facilitation, frequently. Instead we get "rough consensus," which means, in short, if there is more of us than you, tough luck for you, unless you have more administrators, in which case we kiss your ass or we are history. If it takes more than a few sentences of "discussion," forget it. We are too busy.
These are all problems that have been faced in standard institutions, and there are many known methods for resolving them. Try suggesting one of these on Wikipedia, if you want a short life there.
Above, papaya may be referring to something relating to Energy Catalyzer
, which is notable and which should therefore have some coverage. This may have infected Cold fusion
. Papaya has, shall we say, oversimplified the situation. The cold fusion community, which is mostly scientists, and senior ones at that, is mostly skeptical about the Rossi device, but some think it might be working. The Rossi device is not science, it's business and engineering. There is no scientific reason why it can't work, because there is no solid operating theory. You can't rule out the possibility of something that functions through an "unknown reaction." There are reasons to think that some kind
of low-energy nuclear reaction is possible, i.e., that little detail called experimental evidence
, and this is now reasonably covered in mainstream reliable source (peer-reviewed journals), but is still mostly excluded from Wikipedia. But that doesn't mean that Rossi has discovered a way to make this practical, the published experimental evidence is about a reaction that, it's been clear for years, isn't close to being practical, it's entirely too fragile. But someone might hit the jackpot and figure it out.
That's what Rossi is claiming, but he is, shall we say, eccentric. At best. This is real news, but isn't yet "real science." And that's how it should be covered, by the impact, as has appeared in reliable source. Presented by consensus.
All this "show us a working power plant" side-steps the very real issue that something might be real but unreliable or impractical. Nobody in the cold fusion community was seriously surprised that Rossi claimed success, others had been working in the nickel-hydrogen system, with scattered reports of significant excess energy. However, getting this to work continuously rather than merely until the reaction sites are poisoned was the big advance claimed. Rossi isn't a scientist and doesn't much allow serious scientific investigation of this. He's got some great excuses from defective patent law and practice. So it's a mess.
I see now Wikipedia:Articles for deletion/Energy Catalyzer
. Yeah. Forbes.
There is no doubt in my mind about the notability of the topic. You might notice a participant in editing that article and commenting in the AfD: Brian Josephson
. Nobel Prize, who is Brian Josephson (T-C-L-K-R-D)
. He seems to be convinced the thing works. I'm not. We have conversations about it. Great guy. Actually listens.
I socked on that article for a while as EnergyNeutral (T-C-L-K-R-D)
, until someone smelled "sock" and an arb checked it. I hadn't been at all careful. I was doing good work, and being supported by some who had been, shall we say, on the "other side" from me. That's probably because I was actually seeking consensus, including with them.... Of course, I'd been doing that for years....
When I jumped in, the forces were gathering to block Mr. Josephson. I asked him (off-wiki) to tone it down, and he did. And the article became more neutral, which, of course, won't satisfy the anti-fringe crowd, who want to totally exclude whatever they don't understand from the project, or, if they can't get that, then label it with tags or descriptions that represent factional judgments, not true neutrality.
Possibly I should have let them do it. That would have been great publicity, eh?
"Most scientists think cold fusion is not a real phenomenon" is probably true, if by "most scientists" we mean most people who would be called scientists, rather than those with specific knowledge in the specific field. Which is what field? Nuclear physics?
Nuclear physicists are trained in the techniques of nuclear physics, and are familiar with a particular set of theories, which have been very successful in making accurate predictions under narrow constraints (essentially, two-body problems, as found in most particle physics). However, I learned from Richard P. Feynman
that we did not have the mathematical tools to apply quantum mechanics to the solid state, and it turns out that there were quite a number of quantum physicists who, when "cold fusion" was announced in 1989, noted the same thing. It wasn't impossible, merely unexpected. And that is still true, and we still don't know what is actually happening, though the latest published major review of the field says that there are "plausible theories." None of which produce much accuracy in prediction. No cigar yet. It's a Nobel Prize for someone who figures this one out in detail, but I'm not holding my breath.
The math is still horrific. So what actually happens? Experimental evidence from the old Pons-Fleischmann approach: deuterium is being converted into helium, that's well-established. But it's probably not the classic idea of a collision between two deuterons, it's something else. For Rossi, this is not the reaction. Rossi's claims, however, cannot be trusted, even his friends suggest that his behavior reasonably leads to serious suspicion of fraud. Most real information remains proprietary, so it's no wonder that people remain skeptical.
In any case, cold fusion is an experimental phenomenon, found originally using the techniques of electrochemistry, and being a very difficult experiment. Physicists with no experience tried for a few weeks to reproduce what had been found with five years of work by one of the world's foremost electrochemists, and it was still marginal, Pons and Fleischmann only found excess heat in about 15% of experiments. (More recent work, state of the art, is up to almost 100%, but the magnitude of the results is still highly variable. There are unknown or very difficult-to-control conditions required.) When these physicists failed, they announced that it was all bogus.
I think this is fun. I like it that there exist things we don't understand yet. Some people don't like that, to be sure. So they exclude it and explain it away by imagining that competent scientists, successful in their careers, are simply making mistakes. And repeating them because of wishful thinking and collective delusion. Talk about collective delusion, indeed!
, though, the original (Pons-Fleischmann) effect does not
disappear with increased accuracy of measurement and better control, and no coherent explanation has appeared that fits the data, other than the very general claim made by Fleischmann when they finally published, "unknown nuclear reaction." "Unknown," because it obviously did not fit the well-known d-d fusion, but "nuclear," because of the energy density. No known energy storage mechanism could match that. Further, helium as the "ash," which was confirmed by roughly 1993, and which confirmation still stands, reproduced, ices it. Only a nuclear reaction could produce helium at the known energy for d-d fusion, 24 MeV/He-4, which really confirms the calorimetry, which was the basis for the Pons-Fleischmann claims. (They reported neutrons. That was an error.)
But that energy doesn't prove "d-d fusion," because any reaction that starts with deuterium and produces helium will produce that energy, and there exist a number of candidates. Further, the reaction must be catalyzed in some way, and how to catalyze it is the trillion dollar question.