Feral Observations

Observing the stampede.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Breakout Labs-Funded Prototype of Atmospheric Vortex Engine Nears Completion

The most newsworthy events are, for some reason, never reported by big news services.

For example, experiments that could change the world are imminent.

The Atmospheric Vortex Engine prototype funded by Breakout Labs is nearing completion.   The current state of construction is in this picture taken by the inventor's son, Eric Michaud:

Click the aforelinked "Wired" article for a description of the project.

Is this description "could change the world" hyperbolic?

Well, Thiel's vision for Breakout Labs rather demands that if you are worthy of funding, you will likely be accused by militant ignoramouses of being hyperbolic in your claims.

I don't know what Dr. Michaud actually proposed to Breakout Labs but for the answer as to whether I am being hyperbolic in my description of the potential importance of the soon-to-be-commenced experiments, here is what I suggested that Louis Michaud send to Breakout Labs as his proposal for his Atmosphic Vortex Engine:


Dear Dr. Michaud,

The Paypal co-founder, Peter Thiel, requests revolutionary proposals.  He is doing this through Breakout Labs.  The application page is at this link.  Both he and another Paypal founder, Elon Musk are partial to space development.  Since I am familiar with that interest, I've written my suggestion for two sections of a proposal to build your initial model.  This propsal also addresses Dr. Fiedler's concern voiced when, of his review of the CFD models of tornadoes, he said, "I found CFD codes are surprisingly untested for high Reynolds number vortices."


James Bowery, Research Analyst
Diogenes Institute

Atmospheric Vortex Engine
Develop sufficient understanding of vortices with high Reynolds numbers, such as tornadoes and hurricanes to allow investment in construction of full scale Atmospheric Vortex Engines.  This would be accomplished by building a model AVE capable of generating an atmospheric vortex approximately 100 meters high.  Measurements made on this vortex would then refine existing CFD models of vortices -- models which are surprisingly untested for high Reynolds numbers. 
The CFD model, validated for high Reynolds number vortices, would then be applied to the design of larger scale AVE’s to estimate their performance.  The economics full scale AVEs would then be evaluated and, if found profitable, provide start of a business plan.

10 Peta Watts renewable baseload electrical generation with no pollution.  The global deployment of AVEs turns the Earth into a heat engine using space for its heat sink.  The work of these heat engines is turned into electrical power by compact, high power turbines. 
Deploying AVEs in the tropical oceans would provide ocean settlements with copious quantities of fresh water rain and electrical power while controlling hurricanes.  These settlements would reduce population pressures while developing new options for voluntary experiments in the social sciences that may prove useful in existing polities as well as potential new space settlements.


An addendum:

I had neglected to mention that Peter Thiel is the primary underwriter for The Seasteading Institute; the potential of the AVE to facilitate oceanic settlements is uniquely positioned for his support.  Moreover, Peter Thiel is largely motivated by his radical libertarian views which include support of alternative lifestyles, such as his own gay orientation.  Therefore, the verbiage in my suggested "LONG TERM VISION STATEMENT" appealing to "voluntary experiments in the social sciences" supported by oceanic settlements, directly addresses his core values.

The connection between his core values and Seasteading is made by an article written by Peter Thiel for the CATO institute titled "The Education of a Libertarian".

Saturday, April 06, 2013

A Circuit Minimizing Multicore Shared Memory Latency

A massively multicore system on chip (SOC) can be built that executes current code without modification and with good utilization of the cores if the real-estate normally assigned to cache memories and maintaining cache coherence can be used for interleaved banks of shared memory  -- but only if mutual exclusion circuitry that resolves bank contention between cores does not impose too much latency or real estate overhead.

If you're still with me, you're the audience I want for the following disclosure of my invention of such a mutex circuit.

Its primary characteristics are:

1) Its real estate requirements are proportional to C*B where C is the number of cores and B s the number of banks.  In other words, a standard cell crossbar switch containing both shared memory elements and the mutex circuit is all that is needed in addition to the standard cell for the core -- regardless of the value of B and C.  Each core directly sees B crossbar standard cells that are aligned in a row seen directly by no other cores.  Each bank consists of C crossbar standard cells that are aligned in a column.

2) The latency introduced by mutual exclusion is log(C) where the base of the log is a large number -- much larger than 2.

3) Its power requirements are minimal.

Here's a brief disclosure:

Let's say you have 4 voltage sources, set to V1, V2, V3, and V4 with respect to ground feeding the anodes of respective diodes D1, D2, D3 and D4. What is the voltage across each of the diodes?

Consider this circuit.

In this circuit, each voltage source is producing a sine wave of different frequency.  Its transient analysis looks like:

The dark blue line represents the voltage on the wire that connects all the diodes together (at their cathodes).  The other colors represent the voltages of the respective voltage sources -- hence the voltage on the input to the diode (its anode).  Therefore the voltage cross each of the diodes is the distance from the dark blue line to their respective colored lines.

The thing to notice is the darker blue line is always just below, or on top of, the highest voltage at any point in time.  That means at almost any given point in time there is only one "winning" diode -- a positive voltage across it.  If a positive voltage sensor is placed across each diode, and that sensor outputs a binary 1 or 0, declaring if its sensed voltage is positive, we have a way excluding all but one of a number of "supplicants" from access to a shared resource such as a bank of memory.

So now, we place one of these voltage source, diode pairs in each crossbar switch and connect their cathodes in a line that reaches across cores to provide mutual exclusion for each memory bank.

That's where we get near constant-time, regardless of the number of cores.

We might want to use filtered noise voltage sources instead of sine waves, in order to be more random, but the principle is the same.

However, what happens in the "unlikely" event that two sensors report they see a positive voltage?  (I scare-quote "unlikely" because the more cores you have the more voltage sources you have hence the more likely there will be such a collision.)


Go ahead and settle for O(log(C)).  How?

A way to do this off the top of my head:  Lets say about 10% of the requests for a given bank will end up with voltages that are sensed as "winners".  That means 10% of the cores accessing that memory bank will have their sensor falsely report it has exclusive access to that interleaved bank.  90% of the core's crossbar sensors will block's its sensor from further contention but the remaining 10% continue to generate changing voltages.  At some point the 10% remaining contenders' voltages will diverge sufficiently to distinguish them.  Terminating this tournament depends on being able to detect when there is exactly one op amp for the interleaved bank reporting itself winner -- in the unlikely event it goes to 0 then the mutex is restarted with all requesting crossbar sensors active.  This results in a total mutex time that is, on average, log base 10 of the number of core's.

In this way, in System On Chip layouts -- where shared memory is on the same chip as the cores -- an exceedingly small latency for shared main-memory access can be achieved which obviates much of the real estate for cache hence cache and coherence logic per core.  This leaves more real estate for main shared memory.

One might object that the main memory would be of inadequate size for most practical applications however, keep in mind that the feature sizes now being achieved are below 20nm.  Moreover, if the cores are limited to 32 bit rather than 64 bit, the the number of banks and cores can be increased to the point that quite substantial applications can fit within the shared main memory constraints.

I leave it as an academic exercise how many cores and how much memory can be fit on a single chip -- and how long would be average main memory latency (including suspending execution while waiting for bank access), assuming all cores are executing threads.

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

The Delightful Cosmic Coincidence

The delightful "cosmic coincidence" between the Chelyabinsk meteor that produced widespread damage in Russia on February 15, 2013, just 16 hours before the closest pass to Earth of a sizable asteroid known in history, has created a lot of "buzz" involving a lot of wild speculation despite authorities assuring us that the two events were independent.

It is rational to engage in otherwise "wild" speculation about possible explanations of a "coincidence" when two conditions are met:

1) The coincidence is between two events of possibly profound consequence.

2) The "odds" of the theories being batted around are at least as likely to be true as the "odds" of such a "coincidence".

There is a branch of mathematics taught at Ivy league business schools such as Harvard University called "decision theory" that does simple arithmetic to make investments of resources in exploring theories in just such a rational manner. The idea is that you have to take into account not only the probability of something, but its value in determining how much to invest in finding out more about it. A classic example is deciding how much to invest in mining assays of potential ore deposits before it makes no sense to pay attention to a potential mining site.

Regarding #1 (the value) we can certainly say that an asteroid impact on Earth results in a very large amount of damage ranging anywhere from a low yield nuclear bomb to the extinction of most major life forms, as has happened throughout the geologic history of Earth.

But what about #2: The odds of such a "coincidence"? How can we estimate those odds so that we can discount #1 rationally and not waste resources prospecting theories that are simply, themselves, too improbable?

Well, we have two statistically similar events, each with its own "probability" of occurring on average about once a century, give or take.

First of all, the correct treatment is as a Poisson process:


P is the probability
k = the number of times the rare event occurs
λ= the rate per unit time
t= the time interval over which the k rare events occur


  1. The Chelyabinsk meteor and the 2012 DA events are statistically similar events.
  2. These events occur roughly every 100 years.
  3. Our unit of time is 1 hour.
  4. A human lifetime is 80 years.

1 / ([100 * year] / [1 * hour])
= 0.0000011415525
= 0.00001826484
([e^-0.00001826484] * [0.00001826484^2]) / 2
= 1.6679914E-10

So, the odds of any particular 16 hour interval experiencing 2 of these rare events is about:

1/1.6679914E-10 1 / 1.6679914E-10 = 5.9952347E9
1 in 6 billion
So in an 80 year "generation" the odds of experiencing such a coincidence is:

1 - ([1 - 1.6679914E-10]^[{80 * year} / {16 * hour}])
= 0.0000073057752
1 / 0.0000073057752
= 136878.01

about 1 in a hundred thousand.

What a delightfully improbable coincidence to have been alive to witness an event of such quasi-eschatological impact! (Forgive my pun.)

Before I get into talking about the most plausible theory I have come up with to explain the otherwise delightful coincidence of February 15, 2013 between the close Earth flyby of an asteroid and the largest meteor entry to Earth's atmosphere in over a century -- both at mutually independent vectors -- I want to talk a little about another delightful coincidence:

While working at Science Applications International Corporoation's Roselle St. offices in Sorrento Valley of La Jolla, CA during the Reagan administration's "Star Wars" project, I would frequently receive mail addressed to a prior occupant of my office there: Peter Vajk. You might recall Peter Vajk as the author of "Doomsday Has Been Cancelled" in which he modified the Club of Rome's dynamical global model to incorporate non-terrestrial resources. In 1974, I wrote the first multiplayer 3D virtual reality (first person shooter) game called "spasim" in which I concocted a set of differential equations doing a mock up of the Club of Rome's model and the major theme of the game was the acquisition of nonterrestrial resources to keep the planet's population from going into revolt over terrestrial limits to growth. Vajk did his first work in this area in 1975. Oh but the delightful coincidence doesn't end there, because every day on my way to the industrial assembly area next door where I was managing the production of control software for an automated ordnance inspection system, I would walk past the Strategic Defense Initiative bays where, among other things, there were some rather impressive structures, presumably intended for orbital operation such as a very light-weight but powerful Van de Graaff generator intended to power who-knows-what.

I bring up this delightful coincidence because my early involvement with Gerard O'Neill's Space Studies Institute as Senior Associate 401 (right behind Ronald Reagan's membership number of 400) made me aware of an apparent disconnect between the DoE's solar power satellite studies and those of the non-terrestrial materials strategy popularized by O'Neill and Vajk: Not one of the studies of solar power satellites conducted by the major players such as the DoE even attempted a critical assessment of non-terrestrial materials studies. The citations were content-free dismissals. While we can chalk this up to a variety of bureaucratic characteristics, including conservatism or more simply bureaucratic stupidity, the events of February 15, 2013 lead me to suspect something more.

I had a bit of a hostile encounter with an old man who showed up at a space development conference in 1983 in San Francisco where I was representing Space Studies Institute and had designed their booth. Part of the booth was the book "The High Frontier" by Gerard O'Neill sitting next to the book "High Frontier" by Gen. Daniel Graham. Above the two books I had a sign that said "The Real Thing" and "Cheap Imitation" respectively. The old man walked up, his finger shaking in rage at the book by Gen. Daniel Graham and said, "This book could save this county!" I merely looked at him and told him that O'Neill's book had come out before Graham's and that Graham's didn't focus on the economics. The old man, still shaking, asked "Do you know who I am?" as he opened Graham's book and pointed to the name of the person who wrote the preface: "Robert Heinlein" at which point I merely looked him in the eye and said nothing with an expression saying "...and?..." He added, "There is no copyright on book title." I told him that Space Studies Institute had service marked ¨High Frontier" and that Graham had used it without permission. Heinlein then said simply, "I don't believe you." and walked off in a huff.

Heinlein, as you may recall from "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress", described a space-based kinetic energy weapon which, although of limited capacity, was of sufficient capacity to bluff a super power into submission.

Just one more thing before I get to the events of February 15, 2013:
A private company has now formed called "Planetary Resources" which is enjoying not only a lot of positive press, but substantial and prestigious financing and they are utilizing declassified spy satellite technology to prospect for Earth-approaching asteroids. As you are well aware, spy satellites technology has been far more advanced for a far longer time than has been openly acknowledged -- except perhaps by rumor -- and it is certainly the case that these technologies were being dramatically advanced and deployed during the Reagan administration.

So, now WHAT IF:

The limited military utility of tactical nuclear weapons was seen as mitigated by using kinetic energy weapons of similar yield?

The use of space-based kinetic energy weapons of high yield could be plausibly denied as "acts of god" only so long as the existence of such a weapons program was kept so secret that not even rumors of its existence leaked?

The potential value of such a plausibly-deniable, non-nuclear weapon system -- with potential high impact propaganda "Acts of God" on populations such as Islamics or American Christian Zionists -- was so great as to motivate massive military black project investment as early as the Reagan Administration if not the 70s?

The spy satellite technologies were, during this era, turned toward a comprehensive assay of low delta-v asteroids, including large meteoroids for use in such weapons?

The Department of Energy, being intimately involved in the execution of nuclear weapons policy, might have a conflict of interest in accurately reporting the potential of nonterrestrial materials in the construction of solar power satellites, as space-based kinetic energy weapons using nonterrestrial materials were being developed?

The near-earth flyby of the asteroid, now called 2012 DA14, was actually known well in advance of the amateurs -- indeed long enough in advance that a much smaller meteor could be vectored into a shallow-angle atmospheric entry over Russia to coincide with the asteroid flyby?

Perhaps without even any control over 2012 DA2012, the motive of concocting such a coincidence would be to telegraph a message to intelligence agencies that "You will notice we sent the asteroid's little brother in a controlled shallow-angle entry. Think what we could have done? Notice, also, how we've made your politicians who posit a US weapon system look like baffoons -- we still possess plausible deniability hiding behind an "act of God" propaganda." This has the Heinleinesque feature that it may be a bluff based on a very limited capacity to actually deliver such kinetic energy weapons from nonterrestrial resources -- a limit that would be very very difficult for adversaries to place reasonable error bars on.

The importance of the ABM and START treaties to this issue are that no one even conceived of limiting kinetic energy weapons as replacements for nuclear warheads.

To commemorate the signing of the START I treaty -- which may well have given impetus to find non-nuclear energetic weapons of mass destruction -- on July 31, 1991, the House Subcommittee on Space held hearings on space commercialization. During those hearings I gave testimony.on legislation my coalition had promoted to privatize space launch systems. Then I became Vice President for Public Affairs at E'Prime Aerospace, which had been given license by the Bush Administration to take control of the Peace Keeper Missle production lines for the purpose of turning them to commercial launch services by adapting the MIRV upper stage with a geostationary orbital system.

The dramatic reduction of MIRVs in the strategic arsenal, on the very day that I testified, freed up a lot of resources.

Finally, I'd point out that John Pike, as recently as 2004, was quoted in Popular Science as saying that a space-based kinetic energy kill weapon called "God's Rod" was unfeasible because of the high launch costs from earth. John Pike, as I recall from the Reagan Administration era, was the same guy who was referred to as "the expert" by popular press accounts of the unfeasibility of solar power satellites due to launch costs.

If, as I posit, there already existed a space-based kinetic energy weapon utilizing nonterrestrial resources at the time John Pike wrote his dismissal, why would anyone be interested in developing a weapon like "God's Rod"? Well, perhaps they aren't really interested in it.... perhaps it is just a diversion/cover On the other hand, there is a very good reason for wanting a weapon like "God's Rod" over a kinetic energy weapon that requires years of set up time for targeting:

Tactical, as opposed to strategic, utility.

So, to wrap up this second part of the story we are now in a position to estimate the probability of this theory and whether it is as least as probable as being alive during a 1 in a hundred thousand 80 year lifespan.

It boils down to this: The least plausible aspect of this theory (the weakest link in the inferential chain) is that a government possessing ample means, motive and opportunity, could actually pull off a black project spanning 2 decades with funding of on the order of a few tens of billions of dollars (at most). Does this stand a chance of at least 1 in a hundred thousand?

PS: There is also the delightful coincidence of my walking into Memex Corp. for the first time and having the 3-way exchange between Gary Olsen, Keith Henson and myself of "What are YOU doing here???" as we had all known each other for 15 years as being leaders of the nonterrestrial materials use advocacy.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Sortocracy's Compassion

Sortocracy:  Sorting proponents of social theories into governments that test them.

Why is this compassionate?

1) It protects people from the political imposition on them of bad social theories.

2) It teaches people with bad social theories the consequences of those theories.

3) It demonstrates the efficacy of good social theories so that progress in the social sciences is practical.

4) It reduces a major cause of war:  the continuation of politics by other means.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Eggs For Nothin' and Your Chicks for Free

If food resilience is your problem, here's the cornerstone for a first-order solution.

People are heaters. They produce heat at the rate of a light bulb: 100 watts more or less. Problem is, you can't plug them in. You can't shovel coal into them or petroleum products. You can't even use wood!

You have to feed them FOOD. Moreover you have to feed them food at a rate of 100 watts, day and night, week in and week out, month after month, year after year, decade after decade or they stop heating. Once they get cold, they stay that way -- forever.

R. Buckminster Fuller once opined that a major technological advance would be the production of a wearable life-support system for humans powered by solar energy.

OK, I don't have that designed, but here's the next best thing:


Well there's more to it but that's the foundation for the rest because eggs provide the key ingredient that enables you to consume the rest of your calories in relative health:


Moreover eggs do it with virtually no capital costs, no labor and no land.

Here's what you do:

Prepare to move to an old farm house (you have to live somewhere anyway), that's at the end of a dead-end road, or that has about a quarter-mile driveway setting it back from the road. (We're assuming food resilience is a priority in your life here.) You can find a lot of them vacant in the midwest due to the decimation of family farms. You'll save on rent or mortgage but that's just garnish on the soufflé.

Get a Great American Cattle Dog puppy and spay or neuter it. (This is a hybrid and hybrids don't make good breeding stock unless you're well versed in the techniques of terminal and rotational cross for heterosis.) If someone is advertising a litter and you want to save money (they can run hundreds of dollars) there is a chance that the last of the litter sold will have purely cosmetic defects, such as asymmetric markings on the face. Cosmetic defects are no handicap for a working dog.

Raise the dog for a year while you're preparing to move to the old farm house.

The first April that you're in the farm house, order 50 chicks of some heritage breed (or an assortment of heritage breeds) from a place like Sandhill Preservation Farms. OK, so these chicks aren't for free, but we'll get there soon enough.

Get two rectangular garbage cans with a hinged lid.

Get a few live roosters from a farmer that was gong to kill them. Before turning them loose, put one of the garbage cans next to your house, on its side, with the lid propped up like an awning. Choose a place where the storm winds are minimized, and weigh it down with something like a cinder block placed at the entrance length-wise. At sunset, put bread crumbs in it and watering dish just outside it, and place the roosters in it gently so the roosters get the idea its a nice place to stay for the night. This is your initial "chicken coop". You probably won't have to take out a second mortgage. They'll come back to that can every sunset.

Your dog is a hybrid of very obedient and intelligent herding breeds so a simple "no" should suffice if the roosters seem like toys to the dog. You won't have to repeat yourself very many times before the herding instinct kicks in and your roosters have a protector. On the other hand, as frequently happens, the roosters might get the "I'm not a toy!" message across on their own.

When the chicks arrive, introduce your one year old dog to the chicks. This may take a bit more convincing that the chicks aren't toys but not much. You'll get help from the roosters as they start to think of the chicks as part of the flock.

Place the other garbage can a short distance away from the roosters' can, with the cinder block weighing it down from the inside. Let its lid hit the cinder block to maintain just enough room for the chicks to get in and out of the can. At sunset, place the chicks in it, similarly equipped with crumbs and water. They'll huddle together at the back end to keep warm. When they come out in the morning to start grabbing insects and whatnot, they'll have imprinted on the can, and come back to it every night.

Never again let your dog in the house between sunset and sunrise -- not even -- especially not -- on the coldest winter nights. They're cold-tolerant. Just make sure they have a nice warm dogshelter or pet door into your garage.

At this point, you'll have a little ecology set up for the maturation of the chicks:

Roosters protect the chicks from birds of prey, as well as the dog "playing" with them. The dog protects the roosters and the chicks from predators like coyotes, foxes, etc. The humans feed the dog and provide them with territory to play out their instincts. All the critters in this ecosystem will be doing what they enjoy.

During the summer and early fall, build a leanto against your house, positioned to hit the house over a window so you can look out the window and see the inside of the leanto. That will house your flock for the winter with fulltime observation and additional light (for egg production) and heat.

You shouldn't have to feed your chickens unless snow is on the ground. You'll lose some of them during the winter. That's animal husbandry for you. It also may strengthen the "breed" so you can start incubating eggs laid during the winter for next year. I use "breed" cautiously here because there is no control of mating here. Uncontrolled hybridization tends to produce very unreliable results in the second generation and beyond. You can also end up with some roosters doing most of the siring while providing nothing in the way of the qualities you need for resilience. The best way to counter the rooster problem is to subject the roosters to more rigorous winter conditions. That way they'll die if they can't feed themselves and survive the cold. Sorry, that's animal husbandry for you. Again, this is of concern only if you want to truly "get your chicks for free" by hatching your own.

Now back to those 100 watt heaters.

The foundation of calorie intake is adequate protein intake. Forgetting about calories for the moment, just to maintain your body tissue, if you're a 220 pound man, you need a minimum of 3 ounces of protein a day and that protein has to be of a type that your body uses to build tissue.

"Ridiculous!" you say "Eat a dozen eggs a day!?!?"

Just a second -- we're talking about food resilience here: the minimum requirements to make it through a severe disruption of food supply. That 3 ounces of protein doesn't supply the 100 watts required by that 220 pound man, but it does enable your diet to healthfully include a broader range of foods to supply the needed calories. Moreover, at 70 calories per egg, this 220 pound man is more than a third of the way to avoiding starvation, with 840 calories from that dozen eggs.

This 220 man has lifted a finger to collect those eggs, but not much more labor is required.

Its a lot more work to grow a garden than you might think. In fact, let's talk about what it takes to feed that 220 pound man on a garden alone:

Sunlight in temperate climates is about 100 watts per square meter average. If that man could eat pure sunlight all the time at 100% efficiency, he'd have his caloric requirements filled. But he's not photosynthetic. Plants are only about 1% efficient at turning sunlight into biomass. A typical garden captures at most about 50% of the incident solar radiation. Only 50%, at most, is edible, and plants can grow, at most, only half the year without very expensive greenhouse equipment with high operating costs. They also require substantial human work (calories) to work a garden, including all the ancillary tasks, so now you're suffering as much another reduction in effective solar conversion efficiency, but we'll ignore that and pretend you have an advanced solar-powered gardening robot or trained chimp or something.

So multiplying that all together:

100W/(.01*.50*.50*50) = 80,000W of solar energy

At 100W/m^2, we're talking 1800m^2 which is a gardened area about 100ft by 100ft and more like 200ft by 200ft if you include things like walkways. That is a BIG garden.

This is why agriculture has been heavy on the starch: Very high density calories both in terms of mass and in terms of production per cultivated land area.

So how much land area do you need to cultivate for your chickens?

Your yard in the country.

That's the magic of the protein gathering process:

The chickens are like vacuum sweepers clearing out the yard of insects. This wide-open-space, free of insects is filled as nature does a vacuum -- by more insects. So your chickens are really gathering photosynthesis, in the form of bugs that eat plants directly or indirectly, from miles around into your eggs!

Whatever else you do to in your food resilience architecture, eggs, done right, are a great high-return-on-investment cornerstone.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Institutional Incompetence, "Conspiracy Theories" and Pol Pot

Institutional incompetence defends itself by portraying all observation of its effects as "Conspiracy Theories". This defense mechanism is now, itself, an institution. Moreover it is an institution that is extraordinarily effective at protecting incompetence in all institutions (including itself).

Part of the problem is that almost all institutional incompetence derives from faulty incentive structures, so it is easy to impute to the critic the claim that such incompetence is not incompetence at all but, rather, is self-interest. The critic is hard-pressed to deny this (except insofar as such self-interest is unenlightened hence incompetent in that meta-sense) and is thence imputed to "theorize" a "conspiracy" of self-interested individuals as the basis for the maintenance of the institutionalized incompetence. Again, the critic may not have put forth nor even have thought of such a theory but he is hard-pressed to disprove that a "conspiracy" -- in some sense -- is at work so he cannot very well vigorously deny such a theory. This vulnerability of the critic is then viciously attacked. This all goes on within a subtext of the conversation so it is a rare critic that recognizes how the burden of proof has been shifted from the institutionally incompetent needing to prove that the critic has theorized a "conspiracy" (which, of course, would require defining "conspiracy") to the critic needing to prove that such a "conspiracy" (the definition of which is, after all, in the mind of the institutionally incompetent) is clearly out of the question despite the vagueness of the term multiplied by the lack of information with which to support or deny even a clear definition.

So, the institution of "Critics are crazy people." successfully defends all institutional incompetence.

While this is merely part of the problem, its effectiveness in promoting institutional incompetence leads to a rather undesirable state of affairs.

As an extreme illustration let me describe a fictional dialog between Pol Pot and a government funded "physicist" regarding the "cold fusion" debacle.

First a bit of background on this conversation between Pol Pot and a government funded "physicist":

January 26, 1990, the journal Nature rejected Oriani's empirical validation of Pons and Fleischmann's 1989 announcement of "excess heat" on the grounds that he didn't provide evidence of nuclear ash and, besides, others were having difficulties replicating the experiment. It is no exaggeration to say this rejection established the foundation for all future claims that there had been no replication of Pons and Fleischmann's announced results -- hence the summary rejection of virtually all submissions related to so-called "cold fusion": Nuclear "physcists" must be satisfied in their irrational standard of conformance to expectation before any experimental results would be published.

Then we are treated to the statement by the DoE's chairman of the panel appointed to investigate cold fusion, John Huizenga:

"Although the McKubre experiment is considered by many advocates to be the premier evidence for excess heat, no nuclear reaction products were reported."

Huizenga is not a Nobel Laureate but a co-chair who was a Nobel Laureate, Norman Ramsey had to threaten to resign if the conclusion of the panel was to cut off future research -- as was Huizenga's agenda. Ramsey managed to prevent a prohibition on future research funding -- and a recommendation that such research should focus on replication of the calorimetery, hence excess heat. That is all he was able to accomplish with his ultimatum. There was no positive recommendation that funds be put forth. Hence, no research was funded.

These two events created an environment in which it was career death for anyone to request funds for "cold fusion" research, let alone so-allocate discretionary funds.

For a complete account of the premature and enduring attack on "cold fusion" research, see "Excess Heat: Why Cold Fusion Research Prevailed" by Charles G. Beaudette.

Pol Pot: So what did you do to replicate the P&F experiment?

Government funded "physicist": I ran a duplication of their experimental protocol and got no heat or neutrons.

Pol Pot: So, that's that?

Government funded "physicist": Of course. Falsifiability is the touchstone of science and I falsified their theory of "cold fusion". My G-d man, haven't you read Karl P-pper? Karl P-pper is generally regarded as one of the greatest philosophers of science of the 20th century!

Pol Pot: No, I must confess I haven't read Karl P-pper. Never heard of him.

Government funded "physcist": Why am I even talking to you?

Pol Pot: Maybe its because I'm holding a show trial and have my Khmer Rouge thugs over there drooling at the thought of torturing and killing you if you don't talk to me.

Government funded "physicist": Good point.

Pol Pot: OK, so getting back to reproducibility, how do you explain the discrepancy between P&F's results and your results?

Government funded "physicist": Wishful thinking by P&F? Pathological science? Inadequate calorimetry? The list of possibilities is endless. Why would you even bother asking? Its not my job to explain the falsity of their results -- merely to falsify. That I have done.
Others have tried and failed as well, and the weight of the evidence is what we scientists are interested in when falsifying claims. Absolute proof is for mathematicians.

Pol Pot: So you and the others who claim to have falsified P&F have no obligation to replicate their experimental error?

Government funded "physicist": We've got better things to do with our limited time and money.

Pol Pot: Have others tried and succeeded in replicating P&F?

Government funded "physicist": No neutrons, gamma rays, tritium, etc. At least none at the level required by fusion. Marginal levels with poor reproducibility are the recipe for pathological science.

Pol Pot: What about heat?

Government funded "physicist": Why would anyone care about measuring heat if you can't get fusion products to show up?

Pol Pot: To keep from freezing in the winter?

(Khmer Rouge thugs get restless and one asks Pol Pot politely: "Can we eat his brains now?" Pol Pot ignores the request -- waiting with bated breath for the answer to his own question.)

Government funded "physicists": No, I mean if its fusion, there have to be fusion products.

Pol Pot: Isn't heat a fusion product?

Government funded "physicist": Well, yes, but it can't be present in the absence of the other fusion products.

Pol Pot: Why not?

Government funded "physicist": Because it flies in the face of the physical theory!

Pol Pot: So even though mathematicians spend their lives exploring the full implications of a few axioms and barely make a dent in the potential theorems, and even though physicists can't claim the formal rigor of mathematical proof, you claim that it has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the statement "deuterium fusion cannot occur with heat but without neutrons, gamma rays or tritium" is true?

Government funded "physicist": Well, when you twist my words around that way, I suppose I'd have to say no.

Pol Pot to Khmer Rouge as he steps back: OK guys. But don't eat his brains. It might be contagious.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Science Citation Index Bibliography of Cold Fusion aka Low Energy Nuclear Reaction

Science Citation Index includes only the most reputable science journals. It is for this reason that a bibliography of "cold fusion" aka "low energy nuclear reaction" publications limited to those in Science Citation Index is necessary.