Poverty of Some Blog ‘Thinking’

To do university research we might expect someone to spend three years as an undergraduate, get a first or close, then spend another three years doing a doctorate.  This is a very flawed route and by no means guarantees originality or even an individual capable of straight thinking or working on their own or in a team.  We tend to stress methodology and most people go through an MA in research methods these days.  You learn to publish under intense and sometimes ludicrous peer review. Much that is published in this way represents little more than a vanity press,but it is where the ideas and facts may lie.  Most students cannot really access and use this vast resource and sort the wheat from chaff.

The process of knowing is not really knowing more and more, but learning to spot one’s own prejudices,chronic bias in textbooks, media and the world generally.  Knowledge of doing is often very esoteric.  The infamous cold fusion experiments are a good example.  Almost no one could repeat the experiments of Fleischman and Pons, though these palladium anode things do work more or less as they claimed in terms of what can be measured.  Some claims of the traces one would expect if there is cold fusion going on are now being made.  They were chemists and got the physics wrong to some degree.  The traces being looked for are a bit like scratches on a special film made to trap any fusion products.  The work goes on and has not been trashed as many think.  If you swapped a chemist capable of doing the relevant work here and cop,neither would be able to do each other’s job, though it’s a fair guess more chemists could learn the cop work than vice versa.

I used to hope blogs would get more of the evidence into public review, but not much has moved in some ways from the old days of chat rooms with the flaming, snerts, trolls and so on.  One reason science becomes esoteric is that idiot views get in the way, though it is more complex than this.  In social matters, anyone should be able to have a say, but if we really want to find creative solutions we have to be able to say what is dross and upset people in a way that we can experience as fair as well as seek mutual understanding.  What we too often get is ‘debate’ no better than than teenage twaddle or its ghastly middle-aged bureaucratic form – as per Hutton and Widgery.

If you want to stress ‘first-hand’ experience, you should be able to discuss phenomenology to some degree and also what you do with other people’s first-hand experience.  If the relevant population and sample you need to get is special, you should expect to fail when you do a broad poll that evades this – there are methods.

21 thoughts on “Poverty of Some Blog ‘Thinking’

  1. “…if we really want to find creative solutions we have to be able to say what is dross and upset people in a way that we can experience as fair as well as seek mutual understanding.”

    Unfortunately, the rise in ‘offence taking’ has led to people often stifling themselves. We need to get back to the concept that I don’t give offence, you take it.

    And that no-one has a right to never, ever see something that offends them.

  2. A good post, ACO with equally incisive comment from JuliaM, who steals my much slower thunder.

    However I will add my recollection of fascination and apprehension, at the time of the Fleischman and Pons announcements. Had these guys just gone out on a limb without an assessment of the full potential of their work? Limitless energy supplies could wreak havoc on world economies and turn every sixth former into a potential global assassin.

    “…if we really want to find creative solutions…” Let us qualify this with a safety valve. Some research has extreme applications and thus the time has already arrived for every government to open an Area 51, ready to save us from Shijuro’s ‘Man in the White Suit’ plagues.

  3. One might wonder, MTG, that the purpose of cold fusion would be to produce tritium (which theoretically, it should). This is essential for hydrogen bombs. Frank Close wrote a good book on how confused the chemists were and that a brief chat with a few colleagues in physics would have put them right. One donkey sharing a lab with me once was doing a similar experiment which would have produced enough radiation to kill the building, had it worked.
    I go for what you and Julia are suggesting, but how could we translate it to the humourless?

    Most blogging argument has underlying assumptions that prevent the use of argument in practice – from disciplinary boundaries to some dirty hands philosophy assumptions.

  4. Whilst I agree in principle with julia’s statements, there us a little part of me that says that it could be a door for some to claim, “it’s your fault for taking offence”.

    Leaving them free to say what they like.

    With the freedom of self expression comes the responsibilty to think of other peoples feelings.

    Other than that, with you all the way.

  5. It’s more subtle than that SNGD. I’d be offended if you thought you had to be ‘polite’ with me over a few drinks – but I’d hope neither of us would want to offend more delicate ears with loud **** you (add ACO – SNDG to taste) you ******* **** language at the vicar’s tea party rather than my local vault.
    And it works the other way round with impolite, patronising ‘polite language’. The really foul language is often spoken in very ‘objective tones’ – though I can assure you I can demonstrate they are very nasty indeed.

  6. You are completely wrong about cold fusion. It was replicated in hundreds of major labs, and thousands of papers have been published describing these replications, including hundreds in mainstream, peer-reviewed journals. You will find copies in any university library, and a bibliography of 3,500 papers here:

    http://lenr-canr.org

    The evidence for it does not usually resemble minute traces on glass or some other elusive phenomenon. Cold fusion has produced heat at levels up to 100 W for up to 3 months continuously; tritium at levels millions of time background; and on several occasions it has it has melted or vaporized metal and ceramic samples. This evidence is not difficult to detect; on the contrary it is impossible to miss. Cold fusion has produced 300 MJ from a few grams of metal, or roughly 10,000 times more energy than any chemical fuel of the same mass could produce.

    I recommend you review the experimental literature before commenting on this research.

  7. The point isn’t really about cold fusion, but argument itself. Most people think it was a failure, but this is because the matter wasn’t covered properly in our simplistic media. I was thinking of experiments like that with the plastic wafer Frank Gordon used, which looks like an ordinary microscope slide. If he is to be believed, the pattern of pits embedded in this unassuming sliver of polymer provides confirmation for the idea that nuclear fusion reactions can be made to happen at room temperature, using simple lab equipment. These claims were around when I was a chemistry undergrad – a long time ago. Gordon’s plastic wafer is the product of the latest in a long line of “cold fusion” experiments conducted at the US navy’s Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center in San Diego. The results were published in Naturwissenschaften, which counts Albert Einstein, Werner Heisenberg and Konrad Lorenz among its eminent past authors (DOI: 10.1007/s00114-007-0221-7).
    Cold fusion was suggested as a mechanism for a lot of problems with experiments that ‘outperform’ standard electro-chemistry expected yields in Nature in 1949.

    My point was we are often just exchanging routines in doxa, and this was only example.

    • You wrote: ”

      The point isn’t really about cold fusion, but argument itself. Most people think it was a failure, but this is because the matter wasn’t covered properly in our simplistic media. I was thinking of experiments like that with the plastic wafer Frank Gordon used, which looks like an ordinary microscope slide. . . .”

      That’s true. That experiment does resemble “scratches on glass” (actually holes in CR39 plastic). The evidence is rather subtle. My point was that some of the other experimental evidence is not subtle.

      Here is an example of a less subtle evidence. This is x-ray film made with tritium in titanium. It isn’t hard to see the effect. Several hundred images were made from the sample and all showed the same pattern of radiation:

      http://lenr-canr.org/Experiments.htm#AutoradiographsMSrinivasan

      SPAWAR recently published a paper with a broad introduction to the use of CR39. I hope to upload it soon. In the meanwhile, here is a copy:

      Click to access 2010BossP-ComparisonOfPDD-DT.pdf

      • I hear you Jed and I got your point. My area was stoichiometry and I’m 30+ years out of that. The chemistry isn’t the point here – it’s the general one that we are arguing ‘before enquiry’ and in substantial prejudice. Your splendid intervention shows how easy it is not to be up to the mark. How much further off do we get once people’s hidden assumptions about ‘human nature’and such are at work?

  8. I should have added that Jed’s link above shows just how much there is to read up on LENR, has some great pics and many papers that demonstrate scientists’ ability to stick with what observations may mean, rather than leap to conclusions faster than a rabid rottweiler.

  9. Love the comment about more chemists being able to be police than the reverse…

    Since most scientists I have met know as much about the real world a common sense as an Illford based gnat knows about life in Peking, I an disinclined to agree…

    Hence them being scientists…

  10. You have some ingrained attitudes bad SNGD, though after my last week trying to satisfy some academic babies on project IT, I do know what you mean. In terms of all possible worlds thinking, it just might be that nearly all cops are not fitted to their job (research suggests 60% of us aren’t). We pay a substantial premium over the skills and intelligence of post-holders. Of course,one might have to give up some deep-set ‘superiority’ to get one’s head rounds this.

  11. MTG asks: “Had these guys just gone out on a limb without an assessment of the full potential of their work?”

    Nope. They were well aware of the full potential. They did not want to go public, but circumstances forced their hand. The work was well advanced and they were certain of the results, but they wanted another 3 to 5 years to work on it quietly, without going public. They asked the government to classify it, because it may have weapons applications.

    On the day of the announcement Fleischmann predicted, correctly, that they would be vilified and thrown out of the university. (Beaudette, p. 149) This is not because cold fusion may solve the energy crisis and put fossil fuel companies out of business. Actually, Amoco, Shell Oil and others have been helpful, and they have made important contributions to the field. As far as I know, the opposition comes entirely from academic rivals, mainly people in the plasma fusion. It is academic politics run amuck.

    The Beaudette book is here:

    Click to access BeaudetteCexcessheat.pdf

    Other comments not in the book are based on my recollection of conversations with Fleischmann and Pons.

  12. Indeed, the information is welcomed Jed. What’s obvious in scientific debate is the way it leads to what work is needed to be done to establish what the arguments and explanations actually are and what steps we take take both to rule out error and demonstrate the best explanations. The scrutiny of false method and claims is severe.
    The lack of this in social argument (which often deforms to argument for ‘entertainment’)is the problem, often deformed by interest groups with no intention of anything other than retaining a false view.

  13. ” This is a very flawed route and by no means guarantees originality or even an individual capable of straight thinking or working on their own or in a team.”

    Funnily enough, there was a very interesting article on the rise of the ‘professional & qualified’ social worker in ‘CiF’ today (sorry, can’t link on the mobile).

    It was by a former recipient of care, and he contrasted the difference between his ‘unskilled’ social worker with today’s professionals. Unflatteringly, it has to be said….

    • I’m not sure what work can be learned other than on the job. Wuckfits I’ve taught seem to end up teaching with no experience and are a pale shadow of those who taught me at work or got out my way at university yet still encouraged me to the hilt. Maybe all our energy is now soaked-up learning to puke hackneyed drivel?

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