The following e-mail correspondance took place July 8-9 between me and a science journalist who interviewed me for a story about low-energy nuclear reactions. Our discussion may be helpful to New Energy Times readers.
JOURNALIST: Steve, I have asked you some questions below.
Krivit: Hello, I am happy to help you with answers to your questions.
JOURNALIST: You wrote, “Between 1992 and 1996, two of the most prominent researchers in the field, an experimentalist and a theorist, knew – and stated publicly – that the LENR experimental observations were highly inconsistent with a fusion process. The theorist said that neutron-based processes were far more likely to explain what was going on. But he couldn’t figure out a complete theory to explain the whole thing.”
Question: Which theorist and experimentalist?
KRIVIT: The theorist was Peter Hagelstein. The experimentalist was Michael McKubre. See source references at the bottom of this page.
JOURNALIST: What experimental observations did they focus on?
KRIVIT: Hagelstein and McKubre were referring to most of them — for example, the ones that produced tritium, low fluxes of neutrons, heavy-element transmutations, anomalous isotopic shifts, energetic alphas, all of which occurred without strong gamma and high-energy neutrons.
JOURNALIST: Whose experimental observations were they? Theirs? Theirs and others?
KRIVIT: The experimental observations were the reported results from nearly everyone in the field, including McKubre. Hagelstein summarized the whole field in 1992 in this document: Peter Hagelstein’s ICCF-3 trip report. McKubre spoke about the whole field in 1996 on television.
JOURNALIST: How is a neutron-based process different from cold fusion?
KRIVIT: “Cold fusion” is not a process. “Cold fusion” is a hypothesis based on the idea that positively charged particles (protons or deuterons), by some kind of “new physics,” overcome the Coulomb barrier and enter a nearby nucleus.
A neutron-based process hypothesizes that a neutron, rather than a proton or deuteron, is captured by and enters a nearby nucleus, by a normal physics process, and decays to a proton, again by a normal physics process.
JOURNALIST: You wrote, “The theorist said that neutron-based processes were far more likely to explain what was going on. But he couldn’t figure out a complete theory to explain the whole thing.”
Question: What was going on that he believed cold fusion couldn’t explain?
KRIVIT: First, let me clarify something. In 1992, Hagelstein couldn’t figure out a complete neutron-based theory to explain what was going on. He had already abandoned attempting to fit the results into the idea of “cold fusion.”
What was going on? Hagelstein was referring to the wide variety of experimental phenomena reported in the field. He came up with a neutron-hopping theory, but it was incomplete. He could not envision where a real neutron would come from.
Hagelstein wrote, “If a reaction is to involve a neutron transfer with a nucleus, it immediately becomes problematic as to where the neutron would come from. There seems to be no obvious source of real neutrons associated with the experiments.”
JOURNALIST: You wrote, “But 10 years later, a pair of theorists figured out a source of real neutrons. For many people, the experimental data, along with this new theory, made it clear that these phenomena had nothing to do with fusion but, instead, had to do with weak interactions and neutron-capture processes.”
Question: Widom-Larsen, correct?
KRIVIT: Yes, correct. Allan Widom and Lewis Larsen figured out how ultra-low-momentum neutrons would be created in LENR environments in a way that was able to cause these nuclear reactions, but because of the neutrons’ ultra-low momentum, they would not and do not go outside of the immediate vicinity of the experiment.
JOURNALIST: Whose experimental data suggested that the phenomena were not related to fusion?
KRIVIT: The experimental data that showed a correspondence to the weak-interaction and neutron-capture processes come from many of the well-performed experiments in the field. I have cited many examples in my papers and encyclopedia chapters — for example, the work of Tadahiko Mizuno, George Miley and Yasuhiro Iwamura.
JOURNALIST: What phenomena had nothing to do with fusion?
KRIVIT: When I use the term “phenomena,” I am referring to the experimental observations — for example, production of tritium, low fluxes of neutrons, heavy-element transmutations, anomalous isotopic shifts and energetic alphas.
JOURNALIST: What do you mean by “weak interactions” and “neutron-capture processes,” and how is this different from cold fusion?
KRIVIT:“Cold fusion” is the hypothesis that positively charged particles (protons or deuterons), by some kind of “new physics” process, overcome the Coulomb barrier and enter a nearby nucleus.
Weak-force interactions and neutron-capture processes are conventional physics. They do not require “new physics.”
Weak interactions are any reactions that emit or capture neutrinos. An example is [e+p -> n + neutrino].
Nuclear fusion involves two nuclei having like charges that overcome electromagnetic forces such as the Coulomb barrier.
Neutron capture involves a single particle, such as a neutron with no electric charge, entering a nucleus.
JOURNALIST: Has anyone in mainstream science recognized the Widom-Larsen theory?
KRIVIT: Many have recognized the Widom-Larsen theory:
The European Physical Journal C – Particles and Fields
Pramana – Journal of Physics
The American Chemical Society
Wiley Encyclopedia of Nuclear Energy
The U.S. Patent Office
Defense Threat Reduction Agency
Johns Hopkins University
You may want to see whether anyone in mainstream science has recognized any other CF/LENR theory besides the Widom-Larsen theory. It would be good to show some kind of balance and compare WLT with a competing theory from the “cold fusion” paradigm.
Unfortunately, aside from a few journal papers, I have not been able to find any third parties or institutions that have recognized any other CF/LENR theory. Here’s a helpful index: http://newenergytimes.com/v2/sr/Theories/TheoryIndex.shtml.
JOURNALIST: You wrote, “But ‘cold fusion’ doesn’t pass the Duck Test, and it never did. Even its originators knew that.”
Question: I’m not sure what this means. Does it mean that experiments from Pons and Fleischmann and thereafter don’t fit the definition of fusion?
KRIVIT: Yes, you are correct. Pons and Fleischmann knew it in 1989, even before the infamous press conference.
For example, I quote from Gary Taubes’ Bad Science: “On March 13, an obviously frustrated Fleischmann sent a fax to Dave Williams at Harwell [Laboratories in the U.K.]. Fleischmann explained their situation and included a provisional tabulation of the heat data they’d taken so far. He declared that this ‘information is still very incomplete so you can imagine how annoyed we are to be rushed into premature publication.’ Fleischmann added that the rate of tritium generation in their cells was much less than it should be, considering the copious heat production, and neutron production was lower still. ‘What on earth is going on?’ he wrote. All of this should explain, he said, ‘why I am so nervous.’”
JOURNALIST: You wrote, “Mainstream scientists knew this, and this is precisely why so many of them treated it with contempt and still do.”
Question: I’m not sure what this means. Mainstream scientists knew what? That cold fusion experiments weren’t, in fact, cold fusion?
KRIVIT: Yes, you are correct. Mainstream scientists knew that LENR did not look like fusion. It failed the Duck Test. They knew it didn’t walk like fusion, didn’t talk like fusion, and therefore wasn’t fusion.
JOURNALIST: You wrote, “I understand that many of your readers still relate to it, out of habit and context, as ‘cold fusion’ rather than ‘low-energy nuclear reactions.’”
Comment: The conflict, misunderstandings, etc., among these terms are compelling subjects and worth discussing.
KRIVIT: Now you know why it is incorrect and unscientific to call this “cold fusion.”