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Cold fusion: real after all?

Thanks, Eliezer. You suggested "Although many claims have been made and some claims continue to be made, none of the claims has ever been replicated reliably despite a very great deal of effort."

That is what the article claims. "The term was popularised with the work of Pons and Fleischmann, which gained tremendous publicity but was irreproducible.[1]

The citation is to a study on lenr-canr.org that clearly demonstrates the opposite. The entire Rational Wiki article is trolling, designed to insult and irritate, which is typical of the RatWiki approach.

I'm still an admin there, totally useless. Wikipedians came there to impose the Wikipedian view on the cold fusion article, there is a huge history (as the article points out, but doesn't point out details), but, bottom line, when I found that RatWiki was quite willing to tolerate me being told to "go fuck your kids," by a Wikipedian attack dog who had created the disruption on Wikipedia that led to the second cold fusion ArbCom case (where I was actually confirmed in my filing claim) I essentially gave up on the site.

David Gerard was a big part of that. Technocrat, VIP Wikipedian, and quite willing to impose his opinions instead of actually learning what is in sources. Hence the article is full of "information" that is contrary to the sources cited. Try to explain that there? Tl:dr.

Yet, at least, the article points to some sources of interest. Those have been excluded from Wikipedia. The article snark is visible on RatWiki, the Wikipedia article pretends to be neutral. Some of the same pseudoskeptical ideas prevail in both places.

The claim that cold fusion researchers are motivated by a dream of limitless energy is a common claim. It was said about me. I have no idea that cold fusion is necessarily useful for energy production, just that it is not impossible. My interest on Wikipedia was encyclopedic," not POV-pushing. I was very careful about that, but I confronted abusive administration, twice, successfully.* That is quite enough to make a non-administrator persona non grata on Wikipedia. So then, once banned there, I actually became involved in the field, hence my published article. My goal is to promote careful research, with increased precision, and I have the support of at least one of the most notable critics of cold fusion. This is what science is about.

Cold fusion: real after all?

Wow, it's been more than two years since I commented on Less Wrong. Great article here, though, as usual with cold fusion, it still contains some misunderstandings. Let me dispose of some of them by fiat.

Anything to do with Rossi is not science. There have been demonstrations and tests, including one with a level of independence that remained inadequate. Rossi is commercial, his methods are secret, and so any reports from him cannot be reproduced. It's trivially easy to dismiss Rossi as a fraud, but on closer examination, the matter is complex. He might be a fraud, or he might have something, and most of us, to know the truth about it, will have to wait. Personally, I don't trust a word he says without verification, which has nothing to do with fraud, necessarily, but everything to do with his being a commercial actor with possible motive to confuse competition.

Something like this is true with Swartz, though Swartz does disclose much more. In the end, it is proprietary ttechnology and crucial details are withheld. So while Swartz may have put on some interesting demos, again, this is not really science, and Swartz has an ... interesting ... reputation in the field. Swartz, in general, thinks that almost everyone else is wrong.

When I first saw Iwamura's results, I thought this was IT. Conclusive. However, the devil is in the details, and that was six years ago, I've learned a great deal since then. As noted, NRL was unable to replicate, even though working with Iwamura. To be sure, NRL has had great difficulty replicating any cold fusion results. I don't know why. I have discussed this extensively with an NRL researcher, and he has, in fact, seen results that convinced him that the phenomenon was real. However, this is the bottom line: sketchy and anecdotal results are far from enough to overturn a massive rejection cascade, which cold fusion went through in 1989, and the effects linger.

Direct evidence is needed. It exists.

What is remarkable is that the author here seems to be unaware of it. I attempted to cover that in the Wikipedia article, because this is amply found in reliable source. It was excluded, and so was I.

It remains missing, in spite of secondary peer-reviewed source. Editors who would have known to place it have been banned.

(Iwamura's results are still on the table, they have not been rejected. However, the significance of those results is entirely unclear. The reactions reported are not those reported by others. Transmutation reactions are somehow "sexy." However, the best established transmutation in FP Heat Effect experiments is to tritium, and that is about a million times down in level from helium. it's like the neutron results: people get all excited by them, but levels are very low, at best roughly a million times down from tritium. All this distracts from the main event. It's exciting because those results are "nuclear," and thus unexpected in a chemical environment. But nobody ever looked this close before.)

Cold fusion was very much unexpected. The name could be misleading. Pons and Fleischman actually claimed an "unknown nuclear reaction," and they knew full well that what they had found didn't match the known deuterium fusion reaction. I could give many reasons why that's impossible under the PF conditions. There is an obvious conclusion: the effect is not the known deuterium fusion reaction. It is something else.

However, it is fusion, as to result, and what is being fused is deuterium, but that straight fusion reaction is very well-known, and half the reactions produce tritium and half produce a neutron, the latter would be at fatal levels if the heat produced were from this.

Instead, helium is produced. d + d -> helium plus gamma is a very rare branch, normally. In this case, the helium and heat are commensurate, and at the fusion ratio, but that is wonky! I.e., if there is a single nuclear product, there must also be a gamma, and those gammas are not observed, the energy ends up entirely as heat. There are proposed mechanisms that handle this, but none of them, so far, match experiment enough to be useful, none have been tested and confirmed.

Cold fusion is a mystery. That's been my theme, now, for some years. We do not know how this reaction takes place. We know some of the conditions, and we know the result (heat and helium). See my paper in Current Science: http://www.currentscience.ac.in/Volumes/108/04/0574.pdf

There is another article in that Current Science issue by Mike McKubre that fully addresses why there were so many early replication failures. http://www.currentscience.ac.in/Volumes/108/04/0495.pdf

This is all quite well-known.

Running a Fleischmann-Pons experiment is still very difficult. There are protocols now with "success" at greater than fifty percent, i.e., more than half of the cells will show statistically significant heat, sometimes much more than that. The search for a "reliably reproducible experiment" distracted many from studying what was already available, protocols that sometimes generate the heat. What is needed, then, is to measure helium. Helium is not easy to measure, at the levels involved. There is always a concern about leakage. However, leakage is unlikely to produce helium that is correlated to the heat production (and "heat" in these cases is not very hot, not enough to, say, foster leakage. In some work, the cell is held at constant elevated temperature, so the "excess heat" is how much that heating is backed off to maintain the temperature). This work has been done many times, see my paper. Don't pay much attention to the diagram, that was eye candy wanted by some. It is a result, but it could be very confusing, that's from gas-loaded work, not a Fleischmann-Pons experiment.

The fact is that this work could all be done again. It has not had a priority in the field for about a decade, because people working in the field already know that helium is the main product (almost entirely). If anyone is still not convinced that the Anomalous Heat Effect -- as it is now being called -- is real, supporting research to confim this with increased precision would be in order. (Right now, Storms estimate, the reaction Q is 25 +/- 5 MeV/4He, compared to a theoretical value of 23.8 MeV/4He. The difficulty is in capturing and measuring all the helium, but it can be done. McKubre's best work has the error bars at 10%, and that is still quite a bit seat-of-the-pants.

Setting aside the commercial efforts, which are almost entirely with nickel-hydrogen reactions, we think, palladium deuteride as a fuel may never be practical. However, we won't really know until we understand the mystery. Palladium is scarce. Unless reaction efficiency can be drastically increased, there isn't enough palladium to handle our energy needs. That's why nickel and hydrogen are so interesting, but ... the science behind NiH is nowhere near as well established as with PdD. We don't know the product, for example. Storms thinks it is deuterium, but he has no evidence, just a theory.

(The correlation is not weak, it is very strong. In particular, in extensive experimental series, if there is no heat, there is no anomalous helium. If there is heat, there is almost always commensurate helium, and the exceptions are not only rare, but explainable.

As to explosions, I know of none that were clearly nuclear. SRI was chemistry, and that might be so of others. The most interesting was a melt-down, not an explosion, the original Pons and Fleischmann event from 1984. In that case, the heat might have been nuclear; it was the P&F account of the damage that may have convinced the University of Utah to back these electrochemists. They responded by scaling down. Probably a good idea.

Why Real Men Wear Pink

Apathy isn't ever a virtue.

Why are you telling me what I can or cannot consider a virtue?

Ah, you may consider anything you like about anything. You may, for example, consider anorexia a virtue.

However, if simple indifference is a virtue, then I have a limitless supply of virtue, because I am indifferent to a limitless supply of possible objects.

"Lesser social awareness" is a recognized psychological impairment (it means "lesser than normal," or "lesser" as in lessened for the individual), perhaps a developmental or affective disorder.

Indifference about status may be something we might laud, under some circumstances, but it can also be an indicator of depression.

Again, the operative conditional is "may be." The word "apathy" is also important. That's why I distinguished between apathy and indifference. Apathy is an abnormal indifference. Someone who is apathetic about food is anorexic.

The situation under consideration was someone "giving up on being fashionable." That implies a change, that the person was concerned about fashion or appearance previously. Obviously, this might be the result of some turning to more important concerns, but, as stated, and with real people, a shift like that can be a symptom of a disorder.

So, Kawoomba, what is your concern here? What's important about this topic?

Personally, I'm concerned about anyone who would think of apathy as a virtue. Apathy is a psychological condition, it is not "rational."

Indifference may be rational. One who is apathetic will not even consider issues or investigate possibilities. One who investigates possibilities may decide that they are indifferent among a number of possible choices.

I might even be a fashionista, but on a particular day decide to wear those old torn pants and shirt, even if they are the "wrong color," and so what? But that's not apathy, it's indifference. Apathy isn't really a choice, it's a disabling of the mechanisms that make choices and take action.

At least that's what "apathy" means to me. When I'm apathetic, I don't want to get up in the morning. It's all too much trouble. It could mean anything from not enough coffee to girlfriend deficiency anemia.

Or it could be something deeper.

Why Real Men Wear Pink

Apathy isn't ever a virtue.

It might indicate that something is irrelevant, but it was only stated that this "may be" an indicator of a "deeper problem," i.e., various psychological disorders do have apathy, particularly a loss of concern for how one appears to others, as a symptom.

Rationality Quotes November 2012

I adopted an African girl. What "race" is she? What determines this?

What determines it? Ancestry. Race is basically a way of asking "who were your ancestors?" and accepting a blurry answer because, well, each person has a lot of ancestors!

That is not what "race" means when people use the word. Race is a division of humanity into categories. Who determines the categories? Do those categories naturally occur? On what does the "race" category depend? Can "race" be identified visually? Can it be genetically determined?

Yes, if you divide people up into "races," or into geographical population groups, and study their genetics, you can find statistical significance, but the two divisions will produce differing evaluations for individuals.

The classic way to identify someone's "race" involves identifying one's own group visually (and sometimes behaviorally, perhaps through dialect or language), and then lumping together those who don't seem to match "my race" into other groups. That is why someone who is "mixed race" will be lumped into the "other group," until the mixture becomes small enough to not be visible. How people perceive themselves is irrelevant to this process.

"Race" is a racist concept, naturally. The word "racist" is hot, and gets mixed up with racial chauvinism, but that's distracting. I use "racism" to refer to the belief in race as an objective reality.

That version of race is obviously a biological reality, because people have different ancestries, even going back long distances, and the ancestry distribution can be geographically plotted.

I wrote that population genetics was a reality. Race is not. It's arbitrary, and race is not scientifically defined. The conclusion is a non sequitur. Race has been totally discredited academically, and that's not just political correctness.

Knowing she was adopted from Africa, odds are good that she's mostly African.

Odds are entirely that she is African, i.e., she was born in Africa. I know that her grandparents were born in Africa, in her tribal region. Beyond that, I don't know. Probably it goes back further, but there are always strays.

If her ancestry plot maintains "African" location, say entirely, back, say, 20 generations, does that mean that she is racially "African"? I hope you'd know that this could give results that might seem preposterous to those who depend on visual identification of "race."

The basic question is being ignored. How is "race" identified? As used, my "race" does not depend on where I was born. It depends on ... what? Where someone else was born? Who, specifically? What lumps all these people together? And separates them from others, who might look quite the same?

That's only one step more informative than "human," since it only gives you the archaic racial category- Negroid- which tells you as much as "Caucasoid" or "Mongoloid."

"Archaic racial category." So race is being used to define race? Those are just as you stated, "racial" categories, which assumes some identity based on ... what?

Ethnicity would give a much narrower picture- about one person in six is African, but only about one person in four thousand is Gurage.

Adding on the data that she's Ethiopian muddies the picture- due to its northeastern position, Ethiopia has been the site of significant mixing, and there's quite a bit of ethnic diversity: the primary ethnicity, Oromo, is only a third of the population- your Chinese daughter, though, most likely has significant Han ancestry (92% of the population of mainland China).

Lucky guess about my Chinese daughter. The one-child policy impacts Han Chinese the most.

However, "Ethiopian" tells you almost nothing about "race." Let's start with this: Each tribal grouping in Ethiopia, by default, considers itself to be very different from the others. There are over seventy such groupings in Ethiopia, if we mark them by language.

So, using the archaic terms and assuming she's from one of the more prevalent ethnicities, your daughter probably has about 60% Caucasoid ancestry and 40% Negroid ancestry.

Unlikely, in fact. She's from the Kambata-Timbaro Tribal Region, her native language was Kambatigna. It's a minor ethnicity, there are maybe a few hundred thousand Kambata.

In the U.S., she is readily identified by people as "Black." She doesn't look "Ethiopian" (which is popularly known through high-Arab ancestry general appearance). Is "Black" a race? What defines it?

I once had a friend tell me that my Chinese daughter was, of course, going to be more intelligent than the Ethiopian girl.

So, good IQ estimates in Africa are generally hard to come by, but Ethiopia supposedly has the world's lowest average IQ, at 63 (administered in 1991, sample size of 250), and China is estimated to have an average IQ of 100. Working off that data (and assuming both groups have a standard deviation of 15), that gives a 96% chance that the Chinese daughter is smarter.

Was that a test administered racially, or was it according to how and where the child was raised and tested?

What kind of intelligence was measured? Intelligence generally confers survival value, but the form of intelligence selected shifts with environment.

Garbage in, garbage out.

Of course, given that they're your daughters, there's not much reason to guess; you could just get them both tested, which would be way cheaper and more informative than sponsoring another test of Ethiopian national IQ.

Ethiopian "national IQ" is totally irrelevant. Somehow, Ethiopia, with that supposedly low IQ, managed, almost uniquely in Africa, to avoid extended outside control, with an ancient and literate culture.

What I personally know is that, possibly contrary to stereotypes, the Ethiopian girl is highly competitive, she stars at whatever she does, the Chinese girl -- raised here since she was under a year old -- is shyer and suffers from the shadow of her younger sister. Both girls have no difficulty figuring out how to do what they want on computers. I have no confidence that IQ tests would tell me much of value, though at some point both girls will be tested to determine if they belong in "gifted" programs.

My racist friend knew nothing about my daughter's ethnicity, he was judging entirely on "African," based on his early experience with "Blacks" on the street in America (are they "African"?) , which wasn't, shall we say, "positive."

Rationality Quotes November 2012

The fact is, race is a good predictor of things like civilization, intelligence, violence, etc. I offer no explanations.

Eh? What is this thing you call "race," Earth Monkey?

We used to think the answer was obvious. You know, it's obvious what "race" someone is, isn't it? Until you start to look at the details.

Race is a cultural convention. There is a science of population genetics, and it isn't about "race." Rather, people use population genetics to infer the social marker called "race."

I adopted an African girl. What "race" is she? What determines this? She has tribal markings on her eyes -- or the scars from tribal medicine for conjunctivitis, hard to tell -- but the markings are characteristic of her region and tribe, so someone who knows could tell where she comes from, as to the region.

I once had a friend tell me that my Chinese daughter was, of course, going to be more intelligent than the Ethiopian girl. The Chinese daughter is no slouch, intellectually, but her younger sister is definitely smart as hell. My friend was a racist. Lots of people are racist. That is, they believe that race is a biological or even a "spiritual" reality. He wasn't being mean, he was just being ignorant.

Rationality Quotes November 2012

We are seeing political memes here, standard stories or arguments. First, the mercury in CFLs compared to the impact of incandescents. That one is just plain silly, and hairyfigment cited some good sources. Sure, mercury in CFLs is a matter of concern, but in the real world, we must compare choices until we have better ones.

As to Female Genital Mutilation, I have a perspective on it, as I have a daughter from Ethiopia, a place where female circumcision is practiced, and there was some suspicion that she had been circumcised. (Believe it or not, it's not always easy to tell. The ultimate professional opinion was, No.)

Is it "mutilation" or is it a "cultural practice" or does it have some other purpose?

There are all kinds of variation in the process. But to start, what about "Male Genital Mutilation," i.e., circumcision, which is practically universal in Islam and Judaism? Female circumcision is controversial in Islam, and, apparently, was a pre-Islamic practice that was allowed, the Prophet is reported as saying, "If you cut your women, cut only a little." It was never considered an obligation by sane Muslim scholars.

The horror stories that are told about FGM are far, far from a "little." Probably the soundest approach to alleviating suffering here would be education, and that is exactly what is going on in Ethiopia.

Someone who imagines that there is some moral absolute here is dreaming. It looks like a cultural absolutism is being suggested. This culture is good and that culture is bad. Personally, I'm horrified by the extreme stories. However, I was also circumcised as a boy, it was routine, and my parents were Christian. And that has gone in and out of fashion over the years. Because my older boys were born at home, they were not immediately circumcised. There were problems, later, and eventually they went through the procedure. And it was a real problem, the doctor botched it. It would have been trivial at birth. Does that mean that boys should be circumcized?

No. It may indicate that if it's going to be done, doing it earlier is probably less traumatic, for technical reasons. And doing it is largely a matter of cultural preference, and people do get crazy over Male Genital Mutilation.

Empirical claims, preference claims, and attitude claims

I don't know how much to trust the Wikipedia article, but logical positivism, in its strong forms, is meaningless. That is, it is based on a proposition that by its own criteria, is not verifiable. However, what is truly valuable -- because I say so! -- is developing a recognition of what is verifiable and what is not. To go further and claim that unverifiable statements are therefore meaningless is to go too far.

A writer here wrote, about the statement "[JB] sucks." And another commented, what if "JB's music is objectively crappy music??" After this was tagged as not a rational statement, he changed the text to read "That JB's music is crappy music according to some standard."

It gets preposterous. Yes, the writer was correct. If there is a standard, which can be objectively applied, for "crappy music," then one could make a claim that the music is "objectively crappy by the standard."

But that standard itself, is it objective? How was it determined? Suppose we take a survey of his target audience, choosing 100 children in a certain age range. If the survey has a scale of 1-10, with names for each choice, with, say, 1-2 being labelled "crappy," and we play them a song, and ask for their response, and a majority of them rate it as "crappy," that would allow us to claim a certain kind of objective measurement (of a subjective response).

But this is not what we ordinarily mean when we say something is "crappy." I would mean

(1) I don't like it.

(2) We don't like it. (I.e., me and some undefined group, maybe my friends).

(3) It doesn't work, it's buggy, ugly, etc.

But the expression is not objective, it doesn't point to objective measures or standards. If we had something objective to report, we wouldn't say it that way, except perhaps as a summary or lead-in.

Language is fluid, ordinary human speech is not mathematics. I'll put it this way: it's always wrong and it's always right. That is, it is always possible to interpret it to find flaws, and always possible to find something that works.

I don't want to say "is true," because that would enter a completely different territory of discussion. Right now, we are talking about types of statements, and it's a valuable inquiry.

Empirical claims, preference claims, and attitude claims

Anyone who would propose "objectively crappy" isn't expressing rationality. There is no "objectively crappy," unless you have objective standards for "crappy," and apply them objectively.

I think Justin Bieber sucks.

I'm not going to tell my daughter that, because it's just my own reaction, and my daughter would kill me.

Okay, okay, she wouldn't kill me. She'd just tell me I'm an idiot. She'd be right.

I'm training her to distinguish between judgment and fact. It's a task, she's eleven. She does understand, when she's sane. But the programming is strong that opinion is Real, man. And you actually are an Idiot, Dad.

Except when I just did something she likes (which is most of the time) and she is saying You are Awesome, Dad. Hey, I think she's Awesome, too. That's an objective fact.

Heh!

"Justin Bieber sucks" is a subjective comment. It would be so even if every human being agreed, and, rather obviously, that's not the case.

Empirical claims, preference claims, and attitude claims

For example, how do you classify your very first (meta-)claim: "None of them are falsifiable claims about the nature of reality." Is it an opinion?

The snarky answer: It's not a falsifiable claim.

Any claim might be falsifiable if it is adequately specified, so that it becomes testable. If a claim, as stated, isn't falsifiable, it might become so through specification. The author hints at this with:

"Justin Bieber sucks". There are a few ways we could interpret this as shorthand for a different claim.

And some of the "different claims" may be falsifiable.

Ultimately, we could also take unfalsifiable claims as being expressions of some attitude. It's only when we try to determine if they are "true" as applied to some reality "out there" that we run into trouble.

The value of the post is in practicing and developing the skill of ready identification of the whole class of claims that are not factual, i.e., not about reality aside from our judgments, opinions, estimations, theories, preferences, conclusions.

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