Monday, November 18, 2013

Does modern science discourage creativity?

Knitted brain cap. Source: Etsy.

I recently finished reading “The Ocean at the End of the Lane” by Neil Gaiman. I haven’t read a fantasy book for a while, and I very much enjoyed it. Though I find Gaiman’s writing too vague to be satisfactory because the scientist in my wants more explanations, the same scientist is also jealous – jealous of the freedom that a fantasy writer has when turning ideas into products.

Creativity in theoretical physics is in comparison a very tamed and well-trained beast. It is often only appreciated if it fills in existing gaps or if it neatly builds on existing knowledge. The most common creative process is to combine two already existing ideas. This works well because it doesn’t require others to accept too much novelty or to follow leaps of thought, leaps that might have been guided by intuition that stubbornly refuses to be cast into verbal form.

In a previous post, I summed this up as “Surprise me, but not too much.” It seems to be a general phenomenon that can also be found in the arts and in music. The next big hits are usually small innovations over what is presently popular. And while this type of ‘tamed creativity’ grows new branches on existing trees, it doesn’t sow new seeds. The new seeds, the big imaginary leaps, come from the courageous and unfortunate few who often remain under-appreciated by contemporaries, and though they later come to be seen as geniuses they rarely live to see the fruits of their labor.

An interesting recent data analysis of citation networks demonstrated that science too thrives primarily on the not-too-surprising type of creativity.

In a paper published in Science last month, a group of researchers quantified the likeliness of combinations of topics in citation lists and studied the cross-correlation with the probability of the paper becoming a “hit” ( meaning in the upper 5th percentile of citation scores). They found that having previously unlikely combinations in the quoted literature is positively correlated with the later impact of a paper. They also note that the fraction of papers with such ‘unconventional’ combinations has decreased from 3.54% in the 1980s to 2.67% in the 1990, “indicating a persistent and prominent tendency for high conventionality.” Ack, the spirit of 1969, wearing off.

It is no surprise that novelty in science is very conservative. A new piece of knowledge has to fit with already existing knowledge. Combining two previous ideas to form a new one is such a frequently used means of creativity because it’s likely to pass peer review. You don’t want to surprise your referees too much.

And while this process delivers results, if it becomes the exclusive means of novelty production two problems arise. First, combining two speculative ideas is unlikely to result in a less speculative idea. It does however contribute to the apparent relevance of the ideas being combined. We can see this happening on the arxiv all the time, causing a citation inflation that is the hep-th version of mortgage bubbles. My (unpublished) last year’s comment on the black hole firewall has been cited 18 times by now. Yeah, I plead guilty.

But secondly, and more importantly, the mechanism of combining existing ideas is a necessary, but not a sufficient, creative process for sustainable progress in science.

This study also provides another example for why measures for scientific success sow the seeds of their own demise: It is easy enough to clutter a citation list with ‘unconventional’ combinations to score according to a creativity-measure based on the correlation found in the above study. But pimping a citation list will not improve science, it will just erode the correlation and render the measure useless in the long run. This is what I refer to as the inevitable deviation of primary goals from secondary criteria.

And creativity, I would argue, is even more difficult to quantify than intelligence.
  1. Novelty is subjective and depends on the amount of details you pay attention to (the ‘course-graining’ if you excuse me borrowing a physics expression). Of course your toddler’s scribbles are uniquely creative but to everybody besides you they look like every other toddler’s scribbles.
  2. Novelty depends on your previous knowledge. You might think highly of your friend’s crocheting of Lorentz manifolds until you find the instructions on the internet. “The secret to creativity,” Einstein allegedly said, “Is knowing how to hide your sources.” Or maybe somebody creatively assigned this quotation to him.
  3. The appreciation of creativity depends on the value we assign to the outcome of the creative process. You create a novel product every time you take a shit, but most of us don’t value this product very much.
  4. We expect intent behind creativity. A six-tailed comet might be both novel and of value, but we don’t say that the comet has been creative.
Taken together this means that besides being subjective, it’s not only the product that is relevant for the assessment of creativity, but also the process itself.

In this context, let us look at another recent paper that the MIT technology review pointed out. In brief, IBM cooked up a computer code that formulates new recipes based on combinations from a database of already existing recipes. Human experts judged the new recipes to be creative and, so I assume, eatable. Can this computer rightfully be called a ‘creativity machine’?

Well, as so often it’s a matter of definition. I have no problem with the automatization of novelty production, but I would argue that rather than computerizing creativity this pushes creativity up a level to the creation of the process of automatization. You don’t even need to look at IBM’s “creativity machine” to see this shift of creativity to a metalevel. There’s no shortage of books and seminars promising to teach you how to be more creative. Everybody, it seems, wants to be more creative and nobody asks what we’re supposed to do with all these creations. Creativity is the new emotional intelligence. But to me teaching or programming creativity is like planning spontaneity, a contradiction in itself.

Anyway, let’s not fight about words. It’s more insightful to think about what IBM’s creativity machine cannot do. It cannot, for example, create recipes with new ingredients because these weren’t in the database. Neither can it create new methods of food processing. And since it can’t actually taste anything, it would never notice eg how the miracle fruit alters taste perception. IBM’s creativity machine isn’t so much creative as that it was designed to anticipate what human experts think of as creative. And you don’t want to surprise the experts too much...

It is a very thought provoking development though and it lead me to wonder whether we’re about to see a level-shift in novelty production also in science.

Let me then come back to the question posed in the title. It’s not that modern science lacks creativity, but that the creativity we have is dominated by the incremental, not-so-surprising combination of established knowledge. There are many reasons for this - peer pressure, risk-aversity, and lack of time all contribute to the hesitation of researchers to try to understand other’s leaps of thought, or trying to convince others to follow their own leaps. Maybe what we need is really an increased awareness of the possible processes of creativity in science, so that we can go beyond ‘unconventional combinations’ in literature lists.

57 comments:

George Musser said...

Do we really "expect intent behind creativity"? People routinely speak of Darwinian evolution as creative. And many creative acts are accidents.

Uncle Al said...

Science is now administered not pursued. Theoretic process is the product. Intent overrules output . Rather than foster brilliance we allocate for its suppression.

A couple of crackpots engage serious chair parade in Columbia University's library. They then claim half of particle physics is wrong for a footnote[1]. A lady who selectively dispensed favors informs those powerful males about payback. The experiment is financed, assembled, run, and it works to spec[2]. Half of particle physics receives a left-handed complement. The blackly heretical observation is trivially confirmed in existing apparatus[3]. Now, the punch line! The same result was obtained in 1928, and disdained, because the universe must be mirror symmetric[4]. This was when science worked.

"previously unlikely combinations in the quoted literature is [are] positively correlated with the later impact of a paper. TRIZ, the art of inventive problem solving, and its 40 Principles[5]. All discovery is insubordination. Know the fear, do it anyway. "You create a novel product every time you take a"dvantage of a classic German toilet's viewing platform. Impalpable cultural assumptions bias interpretation. Reality says, "go ahead, drill a square hole. I'm with you on that."[6]

[1] Phys. Rev. 104(1) 254 (1956), http://prola.aps.org/pdf/PR/v104/i1/p254_1
[2] Phys. Rev. 105(4) 1413 (1957), http://prola.aps.org/pdf/PR/v105/i4/p1413_1
[3] Phys. Rev. 105(4) 1415 (1957), http://prola.aps.org/pdf/PR/v105/i4/p1415_1
[4] PNAS 14(7) 544 (1928), http://www.pnas.org/content/14/7/544.full.pdf+html
[5] http://www.southampton.ac.uk/~jps7/Lecture%20notes/TRIZ%2040%20Principles.pdf
[6] http://i.ytimg.com/vi/L5AzbDJ7KYI/0.jpg

Sabine Hossenfelder said...

George,

Well, I didn't make a survey. But I wouldn't call Darwinian evolution creative unless in the literal sense of the word, but then, in the literal sense of the word, what is *not* creative? And an accidental creative act I would call luck. Best,

B.

WNelson said...

Surely the problem in physics at least is mainly lack of data. We have many very creative approaches (e.g., matrix theory) to problems that don't even exist empirically (e.g., quantum gravity). In earlier times a person like Einstein could have their creativity sparked by easily accessible yet highly puzzling phenomena like the photoelectric effect, and the prospect of actually knowing whether they were right or wrong provided the energy to pursue the ideas. Now, there just isn't really anything like that.

L. Edgar Otto said...

One of the best blog posts SH, and Uncle Al 's reply is first rate too. Creativity in science my genral blog theme and poetic concern. IBM founders held that poetry should be part of sense of development .
I see evolution as that can be most creative, not just the shock waves of innovation by combinations at the frontier of connections thought an expanding source greater than or equal to the sum of parts. A new product design even evolved creatively has a lifespan of two years before it is thought of independently, copied, goes out of favor as a fad, vanishes or returns again nostalgically in the dimishing returns in the mechanical meme pool. Can the universe be creative in this self playing theoretical chess game with limited visions of moves ahead where the tactics and strategy half blind keep us in a habit were all such games are boring with no surprise they tend toward a draw? In the mind-matter issue both stances can evolve even as a measure by false vacuum.(

L. Edgar Otto said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
William Wallace said...

In terms of actual discovery, often most innovation comes from old-fashioned tweaking: playing around with the elements of a set and making novel combinations.

This can be approached systematically in some cases, usually following a base invention or discovery. The history of steam locomotives over the 19th and early 20th century in the US is a prime example.

I imagine playing around with numbers is another serendipitous source; as new maths can stimulate new looks at old phenomena.

But as one who has trained others to become more creative, there is nothing quite like the combination of input, heavy exercise, relaxation and the study of an entirely unrelated subject. Done properly, the rate of "ideas in the shower/driving to work" increases greatly.

Google John Cleese to see some of his (corporate) videos on creativity on YouTube. His observations are prosaic, but right on target.
-William

Daniel Lemire said...

I don't find the argument that there is a smaller relative number of interesting papers compelling.

As you increase the number of scientists, the output is not not likewise multiplied. This is a classical parallelization problem.

If we were to double the number of papers and scientists but only increase the number of interesting papers by 5%, we would be 5% better off.

The fact is that research is not embarrassingly parallel (to use a technical term).

In some sense, the more scientists you have, the more redundancy you have and thus, almost by definition, the less "creativity per unit scientist" you get.

At some point, we will reach a point where hiring more scientists will stop helping. Maybe we are near this point, but I doubt it.

DocG said...

With respect to (and respect for) your extremely apt and timely post, I am left wondering why it is that Einstein's radically innovative 1905 papers were immediately accepted for publication with no apparent delay, and his ideas so widely and enthusiastically accepted (or at least taken seriously) by so many shortly after publication. He was a genuine outsider so one might expect it would have taken many years just to get published.

Arun said...

“The secret to creativity,” Einstein allegedly said, “Is knowing how to hide your sources.” Or maybe somebody creatively assigned this quotation to him.

This reminds me of a Tom Lehrer song, the lyrics of which are here:

http://www.sing365.com/music/lyric.nsf/Lobachevsky-lyrics-Tom-Lehrer/D97B21BF6516390448256A7D0024B8B9

Excerpt:

"I am never forget the day I first meet the great Lobachevsky.
In one word he told me secret of success in mathematics:
Plagiarize!"

Eric said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Eric said...

I would just ask that before we do too much lamenting and rending of garments we ask individually "Are we playing the part of encouraging creativity or trying to suppress it." All to often here, as in politics generally, questions are posed by people as a way to acquire cover when subconsciously they know there might be a substantial part of themselves playing on the wrong team.

John Merryman said...

Any endeavor will promote its proponents and demote its skeptics. While this creates momentum, it circumscribes vision. How does one go about expanding vision? For example, in physics, not only is there significant hostility to outsiders, but often even those in related fields from engineering, to information and computers, optics, etc, don't get much of a hearing for ideas that take issue with 'The Model.'
One of the points I like to raise, is that time is not so much the present moving from past to future, but the changing configuration of what is, that turns future into past. For example, the earth doesn't have to travel some fourth dimension from yesterday to tomorrow, tomorrow becomes yesterday because the earth rotates. Suffice to say, this earns me the crackpot label, because it demotes time to an effect of action, similar to temperature.
Does physics need to keep marching forward, creatively patching whatever holes appear, or does it need to go back and examine its foundational premises?

Robert L. Oldershaw said...


"The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant but has forgotten the gift." - AE

Zephir said...

/*Science is now administered not pursued. Theoretic process is the product. Intent overrules output . Rather than foster brilliance we allocate for its suppression*/

Well said. The physics is now - just an branch of industry...

The problem is more complicated with the fact, this industry works well in the areas, into which it evolved and specialized. It's something like Lady Gaga. She does its product well.

The problem is, this product covers only few aspects of actual music. And I'm not even doubting the talent and working effort of Miss Gaga. She has full right to be peculiar and one-sided. She's an artist.

But the science as a whole?

Zephir said...

IMO the scientists are creative enough, just not in the areas, which are very useful for the rest of people. They managed to ignore important findings (cold fusion, magnetic motors, scalar waves and/or antigravity drives) for whole century - exactly like the medieval priests and scientists managed to ignore Copernicus and Galileo. The physics simply evolved into selfish meme and it lacks feedback of the rest of society. The physicists cannot change this situation by itself without collective effort - it's the problem of society which is paying them.

Kimmo Rouvari said...

Ah, so true so true! :) I once sent my paper to prestigious science journal and guess what? Editor shot it down because it was too speculative! (S)he even didn't pass it on to referees... Well, obviously I did surprise that individual "too" much ;-)

But being too speculative? What a heck! I even had experiments to back up my paper. So hilarious!

Phillip Helbig said...

"With respect to (and respect for) your extremely apt and timely post, I am left wondering why it is that Einstein's radically innovative 1905 papers were immediately accepted for publication with no apparent delay, and his ideas so widely and enthusiastically accepted (or at least taken seriously) by so many shortly after publication. He was a genuine outsider so one might expect it would have taken many years just to get published."

This is wrong on so many levels. Einstein's papers were accepted quickly because, back then, there weren't that many papers (as late as the 1930s, at least Feynman read all papers in Physical Review). There was probably less worry about the occasional wrong paper slipping through, since there were so few that readers could form the own opinions. (Now, one can barely keep up with excellent papers in one's own fields. Editors have the mission to filter.)

Pais, in his excellent scientific biography of Einstein, makes the point that no elementary particle needed as long to be accepted by the scientific community as the photon. (Einstein himself wrote that his paper on the photoelectric effect was the one time he had been really radical.) So, his photon paper was not immediately accepted, quite the opposite. Special Relativity was "in the air" and many others had almost gotten everything right. His other papers were so self-contained that there was no room for debate (though you probably wouldn't view these as radically innovative).

He was also not a genuine outsider. He studied at what is now the ETH, one of the foremost universities for physics in the world. True, he didn't get a university job right after graduation, but that does not make one a genuine outsider. He read all the physics literature and knew what the important questions were (which does not apply to genuine outsiders). His work at the patent office involved physics.

Phillip Helbig said...

"MO the scientists are creative enough, just not in the areas, which are very useful for the rest of people. They managed to ignore important findings (cold fusion, magnetic motors, scalar waves and/or antigravity drives) for whole century - exactly like the medieval priests and scientists managed to ignore Copernicus and Galileo."

A man does not attain the status of Galileo merely because he is persecuted; he must also be right.

---Stephen Jay Gould

To paraphrase a famous one-liner, if cold fusion works, why aren't you rich?

Sabine Hossenfelder said...

Daniel,

I agree with you. Very possibly this shrinking fraction is a consequence of other changes that science has been going through in the last decades. It doesn't make much sense picking around on the exact percentage anyway because it would be difficult to make a case that some number is sufficient or some other number too high (to begin with that would depend on the field) etc. I find it an interesting fact anyway. Best,

B.

Sabine Hossenfelder said...

DocG,

As Phillip already said, the idea that Einstein was an 'outsider' is far off reality. He was well connected to the community at that time. Best,

B.

Hal Swyers said...

Since I linked your article, just a courtesy comment
http://thefurloff.com/2013/11/19/creativity-dreams-and-unnatural-simulation/

susskind said...

@ DocG, probably the reason was that Einstein's ideas (particularly SR) were "in the air" in 1905, although not in the self-consistent form that Einstein gave them. It suffices to read, for example, "La Science et l'hypothèse" written in 1902 by Henri Poincaré, one of the leading mathematical physicists of the time, to get a sense of this. Namely, POincaré explains in his book the non-absolutness of the concepts of space and of time, the conventional nature of the Euclidean geometry to which he gives the same ontologic status as the non-Euclidean geometries, etc.

Zephir said...

/*If cold fusion works, why aren't you rich?*/

If it wouldn't need the official research, I wouldn't call for it. But if it wouldn't work, what all these publications are about?

In Czech we have a proverb: "He who really wants, looks for solutions, he who doesn't want, looks for evasions."

John Merryman said...

Bee,
Given your example of creativity was writing fiction, it should be noted that creativity, in and of itself, is not always a good scientific principle. Especially since the tendency towards mathematical platonism too quickly validates what amounts to patches between theory and observation.

Paul said...

Many fields today are not conducive to members of the creative and artistic communities. Imagine the possibilities and the various changes we would see in so many disciplines if there were more outreach beyond those dedicated to specific fields. Clinical psychology for example could be significantly altered if we actively encouraged some of the world's leading mimes to take leading roles in our clinics. The possibilities of bringing renowned Parkour artists into our surgeries seem limitless. There are some that still say that certain disciplines require a majority of emphasis to be placed by the individual on their specific primary field and that outside interests may be a distraction. Another view is that a majority of emphasis can be placed by the individual on their specific primary field while still perusing other interests(creative or otherwise) and thus develop to be multifaceted with an enhanced outlook and product.

Phillip Helbig said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Phillip Helbig said...

"But if it wouldn't work, what all these publications are about?"

One can study theology at university, but I don't see this as a proof of God's existence.

There is no confirmation of the Pons and Fleischmann result published in a serious journal.

Even if your conspiracy theory is true and the establishment boycotts cold fusion, why not just set up a power company and sell the energy? Because it doesn't work.

Sabine Hossenfelder said...

John,

Creativity isn't only not a good scientific principle, it isn't any scientific principle. Best,

B.

Robert L. Oldershaw said...

"Books on physics are full of complicated mathematical formulas, but thought and ideas are the beginning of every physical theory" - AE

John Merryman said...

Bee,
Yet as your post points out, it can be a useful tool, but like all tools, needs to be used carefully.

Zephir said...

As CIP writes: "Lumo has up one of his anti-Sabine rants. As far as I can tell, he doesn't make any point that she didn't make more clearly and concisely"

The obstinate effort in having the very last word has often its roots in wasted opportunity to have the very first one, i.e. in lack of creativity.

Alain Coetmeur said...

"Phillip Helbig said...
There is no confirmation of the Pons and Fleischmann result published in a serious journal.

Even if your conspiracy theory is true and the establishment boycotts cold fusion, why not just set up a power company and sell the energy? Because it doesn't work."

In fact it seems that you are absolutely unaware of what is happening in cold fusion alias LENR.

F&P have been confirmed many hundreds times with varied experiments, protocols and symptoms (heat, he4, tritium, transmutations), and reproduced exactly by Longchampt97@CEA...

This is a tragic symptom of what that article denounce. impossibility to publish and even acknowledge publication of dissenting facts.

the initial arguments against Cold fusion were clearly pathological, and today no one having tested LENr do oppose it. there is only parrots and armchair critics, beside hundreds of researchers and dozens of labs who confirm it in a handful of different ways.

http://www.lenrnews.eu/evidences-that-lenr-is-real-beyond-any-reasonable-doubt/

this wikipedia erazed article is more deeply explaining that tragedy of pseudo-science
http://pages.csam.montclair.edu/~kowalski/cf/293wikipedia.html

You are right, it is time to make money.
few dozen of small and multinational companies are on the subject, to build reactors, applications, or share the glory (like National Instruments)

Here is an executive summary
http://lenrnews.eu/lenr-summary-for-policy-makers/


Elforsk the R&D consortium of Swedish electricity industrials&utilities have tested, confirmed the reality of E-cat LENR reactor. They even write it in an article in their corporate magazine:

http://www.elforsk.se/Global/Trycksaker%20och%20broschyrer/elforsk_perspektiv_nr2_2013.pdf


Toyota recently published a replication of Mitsubishi/iwamura transmutation LENR in JJAp (refereed).
Spawar have dozens of refereed papers published since long..
and despite the impossibility (dumping article upfront without reading like Enea/Deninno report41, dumping after positive peer-review like Oriani ) to publish in the gang of high impact journals, many peer-reviewd article can be found...

as you show, they succeed anyway to mal all people believe there is nothing happening...

if LENr was a fraud, an error, why does nobody insult those crazy companies and institution, to protect shareholders and taxpayers :
- National instruments
- Toyota
- Mitsubishi
-Elforsk
-ENEA
- SRI
- University of missouri (Robert Duncan)
- US navy NRL/Spawar, DoD
- NASA GRC
- STMicroelectronics
- ARPA-E (they just allowed a LENR company, LENR Cars to be funded by Future Energy Ultra light startups by ARPA-E. you canvote for it http://futureenergy.ultralightstartups.com/campaign/detail/1864 )

if it was what it is said to be, it will be in the media...
no doubt it is working, and simply the media know it is TABOO.

Alain Coetmeur said...

"There is no confirmation of the Pons and Fleischmann result published in a serious journal."

is natur wissen schaften not a serious journal
http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs00114-010-0711-x

is Journal of Electroanalytical Chemistry, or Physics Letters A, The European Physical Journal Applied Physics , where SPAWAR published it's LENr article not serious ?
http://newenergytimes.com/v2/reports/SSC-SD-Refereed-Journal-Articles.shtml

is JJAP not serious
http://jjap.jsap.jp/link?JJAP/52/107301/ replicating http://jjap.jsap.jp/link?JJAP/41/4642/ (oops here a replication... officially it is not replicated. worsk of all there are hundreds of replications of various protocols beside that)

now you probably will say nothing in Nature or Science
You can see how the Report41/Deninno of ENEA proving corelation between He4 production and Heat production was dumped upfrom fro "no room"
http://www.lenr-forum.com/showthread.php?404-Report-41-DeNinno-by-ENEA-and-rejection

You can see also how Oriani's paper was dumped after a positive peer-review
http://www.lenr-forum.com/showthread.php?374-Nature-policy-on-CF-critic-Oriani-s-paper-dumped-despite-positive-Peer-review

beside that you can find many stories, like how the calorimetry of key negative experimenst sabotaged in 6 weeks , was weak... (and moreover hopeless because unknown key condition were not met).
how fraud was detected in on of those experiments, how nature refused to reexamine caltech experiments...

Such bias "toward the consensus" in high impact journal is very common and not specific to cold fusion.

all that is not personal, because what you say, which is factually wrong, is replicated by wikiprevda, by APS, by all media...

can you feel how disinformation works...
in fact it is "normal science" as explain Thomas Kuhn...
it is "lecturing birds how to fly" and history written by the losers as say Taleb in Antifragile, it is Mutual Assured Delusion and Delusion Trickle-down as explain Roland Benabou, it is Groupthink...

not a conspiracy, but USUAL mechanism
http://amasci.com/weird/vindac.html

I just think that today with globalization, concentration of decision, lack of genetic variety, it is getting worse.

Todays science have gone too big to fail, too big to save.

as nassim nicholas taleb, what save from that academic pathologic consensus, are garage inventors, practitioners , aliens of many kind, like was Pasteur, Fleischmann, Roubini, Taleb, Wegener...

very good article indeed... raising a key subject.

I just hope the raise of LENR out of Science Hell, will not ruin trust of the public in Science, and push popularity of plain pseudo-science.

Bruno Paul said...

I wrote last year about this general problem in sciences nowadays, and specifically about the scientific crisis in physics, theoretical physics and economics.
I wrote in french but some of you might be interested in reading some of the references used in the article and in the comments:
Les réseaux Euro-BRICS comme réponse à la crise scientifique

Une théorie et un homme en crise : les cordes et Alain Riazuelo

La démocratie scientifique comme réponse à la crise scientifique

Uncle Al said...

@Alain Coetmeur The uncooperative Pons-Fleischmann exotherm requires Li-based electrolyte, high current density, thick Pd rods. Li is only slowly reactive in water. Pd dissolves Li. As with Hg dissolving Na, Pd dissolving Li is a hugely exothermic Lewis acid-base neutralization. Pd-Li alloys have deep melting point depressions vs. Pd 1552°C mp: 145°C mp for 12 atom-% Pd, 950°C mp for 75 atomic-% Pd, J. Less-Common Met. 55(1), 67 (1977).

(0) Catalyst in the condenser recombines electrolytic D_2 and O_2 to D_2O. It occasionally explodes when granules shift to expose fresh surface. This does not count.
(1) Li metal electroplates onto the Pd cathode. Most reacts with heavy water. Some dissolves in the rod's surface, creating a lowering melting point Pd-Li alloy rind.
(2) Very high current densities have the rind eventually liquefy vs. Li reaction with water and diffusion inward. Sudden reaction with bulk rod is the Pons-Fleischmann exotherm having no neutron, tritium (net 4.03 MeV), or He-3 (net 3.27 MeV) production.
(3) About 24 nanograms of D + D fusion is one gram of TNT detonation. How big is the Pons-Fleischmann boom?

1 gram TNT detonated = 4184 J (one dietary Calorie)
D + D = 3.65 MeV average, 5.848×10^(-13) joules
0.5 mole D + D, 2.0141 g total = 1.76×10^11 Joules
1 gram TNT detonated = 23.8 nanograms D + D fusion

Alain Coetmeur said...

@uncle al
the question you raise have been addressed since long.
don't you think the peer-reviewer were not aware of those old claims.

You can get some reference in tha article
http://ludkow.info/cf/293wikipedia.html
which list the common misconception that you repeat.

Note that real cold fusion experiments last long, and suche reaction cannot explain long lasting heat. neither the explosions than Biberian observed.

Your claims don't explain Tritium, isothermal experiments, He4/Heat correlation, Iwamura transmutation, neutrons, gamma.

Longchampt confirmed F&P protocols in 1997, showing that it was far better than many competitors and matching 1997 better technology.

it seems critics have not been updated since 1989.


I relay the position of Jed Rothwell who watche the whole story as librarian

"I do not know of any prominent, published skeptics who have observed positive experiments.

Steve Jones did experiments, as you noted, but they did not work. Kamikande was a good example. Richard Garwin often attacks cold fusion in public, but when he visited SRI and saw a positive experiment, he agreed it was working in a report he wrote. Nate Hoffman measured helium and agreed it was real. He wrote a book in which he did not mention excess heat results and he claimed that the tritium comes from used CANDU reactor moderator water. He was egged on by people at EPRI who oppose cold fusion.

The other prominent skeptics have never seen an experiment as far as I know. Most of them have not read any papers and they know nothing about the research. You can see that from their comments, and in the Wikipedia article.

A few of them did read papers. Huizenga and Morrison read papers and attended conferences. Britz has read more papers than anyone other than Storms. There may be a few others, but I don't recall any names.

There are not many people actively opposed to cold fusion. There is inchoate opposition in the general population and among scientists."

you can check.

if you find an error, eg: someone who have seen positive results and could explain it without LENR. tell me.
Same for isotherm experiments (McKubre), for Tritium, for He4/heat...

You can also see the CV of the great electrochemist of that time (Fleischmann was one of them, Bockris,Miles),, see those who tried, those who succeeded of failed, and those who are ridiculed, moved, fired, who resigned...
Look also for the CV of those who found tritium like M Srinivasan

its seems this consensus is simply a cascade of denial launched by powerful willing-ignorant, and followed by willing-ignorant physicist afraid to change their books, and who follow the pack.

that is what this article talk about... current tragedy.

Really look for evidence, and please, get out of the denial zoo like Wikiprevdia, Nature/Science, Huizenga, Cudes. they have problems with facts they don't like.

Look for Heinz Gerischer, Robert Duncan, Dawn Dominguez, and the great electrochemist of that time.

I'm sorry to flood you with many names, but I follow it since 2 years, and seing the quantity of data available, current denial is a psychiatric case.

Uncle Al said...

@Alain Coetmeur
Tritium contaminates heavy water. Its beta-ray's kinetic energy varies, averaging 5.7 keV - nasty for quantitative trace detection differentials (decay energy residual is in an electron antineutrino). Electrolysis concentrates tritium. Tritium content and neutron detection reports are below research standards. Japan invested $(USD)20 million researching cold fusion 1992 - 1997, finding nothing. Yoshiaki Arata's 2008 claims are not reproducible.

23.8 nanograms D + D fusion is a one gram TNT detonation. National Ignition Facility targets are milligrams of fuel - 84,000 times larger and also crap in action. The densest low average atomic weight targets are (Li-6)D and (Li-6)T, not 17 K frozen DT. Recycle an H-bomb secondary for business models' $(USD)0.25/target, and still fail. Cold fusion "long lasting heat" is engineering nonsense for MW and GW energy production, even it were true.

Forget DTO "enhanced" cold fusion. Tritium oxide specific activity is 2634 Ci/g, 21.28 calories/second. It boils itself within seconds. Storage will be interesting, including remarkable oxidative corrosivity from radiolysis products.

"Does modern science discourage creativity?" It certainly rewards theoretic pandering orthogonal to empirical application.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Remote_viewing
http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2007/06/dinner-with/
"They lacked discipline and protocols."

Alain Coetmeur said...

I relay the answer of Ed Storms
about your initial claim:


"Uncle Al said...
>@Alain Coetmeur The uncooperative Pons-Fleischmann exotherm requires Li-based electrolyte, high current density, thick Pd rods. Li is only slowly reactive in water. Pd dissolves Li. As with Hg dissolving Na, Pd dissolving Li is a hugely exothermic Lewis acid-base neutralization. Pd-Li alloys have deep melting point depressions vs. Pd 1552°C mp: 145°C mp for 12 atom-% Pd, 950°C mp for 75 atomic-% Pd, J. Less-Common Met. 55(1), 67 (1977).
<

This description is not accurate. Li is not required in the electrolyte, the Pd can be any shape from wires to foils, and the Li reacts only very slowly with the surface and diffuses over a distance of a few tens of microns from the surface.

>(0) Catalyst in the condenser recombines electrolytic D_2 and O_2 to D_2O. It occasionally explodes when granules shift to expose fresh surface. This does not count.
<

The recombination catalyst seldom explodes.

>(1) Li metal electroplates onto the Pd cathode. Most reacts with heavy water. Some dissolves in the rod's surface, creating a lowering melting point Pd-Li alloy rind.
(2) Very high current densities have the rind eventually liquefy vs. Li reaction with water and diffusion inward.
<

The surface does not liquify. A few local melted regions are occasionally seen, but these are few and widely separated.

>Sudden reaction with bulk rod is the Pons-Fleischmann exotherm having no neutron, tritium (net 4.03 MeV), or He-3 (net 3.27 MeV) production.
<

No neutrons are detected, tritium is occasionally made, and helium-4 production appears to be the source of energy.

>(3) About 24 nanograms of D + D fusion is one gram of TNT detonation. How big is the Pons-Fleischmann boom?
<

The total energy is being compared to the rate of energy production, which is not correct. The rate of energy production from TNT is huge. The rate from F-P is small even though the same amount of energy is released. Consequently, the Pons-Fleischmann cell does not explode.

Ed

--
Ps from alain: are you Josuah Cude ? or you copy his wiki?

Zephir said...

We already understand, why the first cold fusion experiments weren't reproducible. The trick is in proper (and relatively high) level of palladium saturation by hydrogen. The early replicators were impatient, they didn't wait for weeks, required for full loading of hydrogen.

The Fleischman and Pons were patient enough, the problem was, they did use a bulky palladium electrodes and the cold fusion is so exothermic, it annealed and occasionally destroyed the electrode, once it started. Once you handle the electrode cooling, the cold fusion tends to be quite reproducible (after all, as the above graph indicates clearly). Another point is, the LENR is sensitive to commonly present sodium ions, which must be avoided in electrolyte.

Zephir said...

/*.. Yoshiaki Arata's 2008 claims are not reproducible..*/

So how is it possible, they were replicated multiple-times? What all opponents and doubters of cold fusion have in common is the ignorance and lack of relevant informations.

JimV said...

George Musser beat me to it. I think intelligence and creativity is based on the evolutionary algorithm:

1. A mechanism for generating random variations in existing versions of whatever is being evolved (genes, in the case of biological evolution; designs, in the case of designed products, e.g., cars, computers, phones, etc.; ideas, in the case of intelligence and creativity).

2. A selection criterion or criteria to distinguish good results from bad ones (in the case of design products, survival of the fittest in the marketplace, leading to the reproduction of designers' salaries).

3. Some kind of memory, to preserve knowledge of the good results for future use (in the case of biological evolution, DNA).

Memory is where human intelligence and creativity trump biological evolution - brain memory, written memory, computer files - but this is a difference in degree.

For me, this explains how engineering design works (based on my 35 years of design engineering experience) and also how intelligence works, based on anecdotal evidence such as the year I spent deriving a proof of Fermat's Prime Theorem. In the latter case I have no direct evidence since there are no nerves monitoring what my 86 billion neurons (far more processing power than any super computer, the last time I checked) are doing as I struggle with a problem. But I know this process works (it produced us), and I don't believe in magic, so I don't believe our brains are doing anything magical.

In biological evolution, change accelerated once a basic body template (Hox genes) was in place, and available to be tweaked. Similarly, mechanical design evolution accelerated during the Industrial Revolution as the steam engine was adapted for use in one machine after another. Purely random wild leaps in an evolutionary process are possible (or should be), but it is much easier (likely) to tweak or recombine existing elements.

Now all I have to do is prove that I'm not a robot (even though I think I am one - a biological robot with a nanotech brain).

Alain Coetmeur said...

@uncle al
I relay the answer of Ed Storsm...
Jed seems to think you relay wikipedia data which are not only biased by false and outdated, can you confirm?

"On Nov 20, 2013, at 3:58 PM, Alain Sepeda wrote:

Thanks, I relay.

the same continue his story

>@Alain Coetmeur
Tritium contaminates heavy water. Its beta-ray's kinetic energy varies, averaging 5.7 keV - nasty for quantitative trace detection differentials (decay energy residual is in an electron antineutrino). Electrolysis concentrates tritium. Tritium content and neutron detection reports are below research standards. Japan invested $(USD)20 million researching cold fusion 1992 - 1997, finding nothing. Yoshiaki Arata's 2008 claims are not reproducible.
<

Where does this person get his information, Alain?

Tritium can be detected with high accuracy and sensitivity. Yes, tritium is present in heavy-water at low concentration. Yes, electrolysis concentrates tritium. This information is well known and is taken into account when tritium is reported. The reports have now exceeded 67 papers describing successful production of tritium and many efforts have produced tritium many times greater than background or produced by enrichment. It is also produced by gas discharge and gas loading where D2O is not used.


>23.8 nanograms D + D fusion is a one gram TNT detonation. National Ignition Facility targets are milligrams of fuel - 84,000 times larger and also crap in action. The densest low average atomic weight targets are (Li-6)D and (Li-6)T, not 17 K frozen DT. Recycle an H-bomb secondary for business models' $(USD)0.25/target, and still fail. Cold fusion "long lasting heat" is engineering nonsense for MW and GW energy production, even it were true.
<

The NIF is producing hot fusion, not cold fusion. Consequently, these comments do nor apply to cold fusion.

>Forget DTO "enhanced" cold fusion. Tritium oxide specific activity is 2634 Ci/g, 21.28 calories/second. It boils itself within seconds. Storage will be interesting, including remarkable oxidative corrosivity from radiolysis product.
<

Tritium is well understood for use in the hot fusion process. Tritium is not used to create heat by cold fusion. I think we all agree, hot fusion will not be a useful source of energy any time soon. Cold fusion has already made useful energy. The only handicap is lack of understanding, which is being gradually achieved, no thanks to skeptics.

Ed"


Hope this helps.

Alain Coetmeur said...

For those who want to her the position of the future ex-chancellor of research of Missouri University, going to TTU
http://www.infinite-energy.com/images/pdfs/DuncanMove.pdf

He met Cold fusion to debunk it for 60minutes, and discovered it was real.
I quote his position:
"DUNCAN: Like many researchers around the world, including many in major national laboratories, I am convinced that the anomalous “excess heat” is real. At first I was not convinced of that, but the repeated results of hundreds of careful researchers and my own inquiry have convinced me now that the anomalous excess heat is real. I do not yet understand its origin, but I can think of many hypothetical effects that may be causing it to occur. I want to apply the scientific method as I conduct definitive experimental tests using well controlled materials in an effort to understand what is actually going on. To do that, I have to be able to design experiments that rule out various hypothetical possibilities, and along the way I will refine the most likely hypotheses based upon clear experimental results.
Eventually, if enough of us do this, then as a scientific community we will have convincing evidence and we will then understand what is going on. I don’t yet know if this will ever become a new abundant source of energy conversion, but I do know that the only way to figure out the answer to this question is to follow our scientific curiosity in a very disciplined way, using only the scientific method. If we inhibit each other from exploring this effect, then we will never be able to know if it will someday be useful. In my opinion, we will just have to wait and see where good science leads us. I don’t think that anyone is clairvoyant, so it is very unlikely that anyone will make a huge discovery in the future without carefully following the scientific method."

He is the example of a scientist who before he touched the reality, was a victim of a pathological consensus.
Hopefully he was enough old and autonomous to admit reality and face oppositions.

Your researchers today are not free enough, and it is not a surprise that in many domain you find old ape who are able to stand in from of the community of "normal science" and says "there is an anomaly" (cf Kuhn).

Sabine Hossenfelder said...

JimV,

I agree with you! That's why I am wondering whether the mechanism to generate random variations, and the mechanism of selection, are working optimally in science right now. Best,

B.

Sabine Hossenfelder said...

Alain, Zephir, Uncle:

Please take your cold fusion discussion elsewhere.

Zephir said...

Science needs to be more dangerous In short, scientists need room to propose ideas that could seem too far-fetched or controversial at first glance.
Wired writes about it in connection with cold fusion research:
"In a huge, grandiose convention center I found about 200 extremely conventional-looking scientists, almost all of them male and over 50. In fact some seemed over 70, and I realized why: The younger ones had bailed years ago, fearing career damage from the cold fusion stigma. I have tenure, so I don't have to worry about my reputation," commented physicist George Miley, 65. "But if I were an assistant professor, I would think twice about getting involved." This generation shift trend is supported even with Nobel prize statistics - the elderly physicists are today more successful than these young ones at the beginning of the last century.

Alain Coetmeur said...

@zephyr
on another controversial subject I've heard a tenured geophysicist of french academy of science, supporting unconsensual position.

he said to a neigbhour, that he could not ask his post-graduate PhD to work on his computations, because it would ruin their career.

I confirm that today older people are more free than young people.

Alain Coetmeur said...

@Sabine Hossenfelder

ok, but is'nt it what this article is talking of ?

and is what you do not exactly, what is the problem?

inability to talk of the elephant in the kitchen?

does talking of our elephant did not raise the concern about Wikipedia and similar "reference" sources as the problem.

So now let us talk of the unamed elephant.

Sabine Hossenfelder said...

This blogpost is not about cold fusion, and I'm not interested in hosting a discussion about cold fusion.

Alain Coetmeur said...

Ok.
what about talking of the theory of thomas Kuhn, that "normal science" after succeding to organize knowledge have infinite difficulties to admit anomalies, and is thus blocking any creativity, any realism, which propose something out of the paradigm.

in fact what you raise is very old subject. It is how the administrated science can block any real innovation, which go out of the "usual innovations we do".

recently I tried to push on wikipedia the quote of the work of Roland Benabou on Groupthink. His work is innovative because he does not use psychology, but an econometric model based on a solid psychology hypothesis (that people can ignore what they dislike).
I get kindly reverted, because it was not in the "psychology" corpus of paper about groupthink.

Benabou paper was clearly titling about Groupthink, refering to that, but like pasteur, F&P, Wegener, he was not of the same profession as the "owner" of the subject they contributed.

Today real evolution is caused by crossing subjects, like applying fuild dynamic to relativistic geometry.

Sometime the result is simply some stupid critics, which get forgotten when the success is too clear. but when the success is hard to show, hard to measure, hard to obtain, a very efficient locking syndrome can take over the scientific landscape and block any research, any funding, any publication, any prize, which are the motivators of most scientists, and if not of scientists, of their boss, of their administration, of their funders, their governments.

The problem compared to one century ago, is that today the (academic) science have become a monolith of criterias, of values, of journals. At least Western research which is dominant.
Whenever MIT decide that a domain is to be erased from the tables, Science, Natures, Sciam, wikipedia, do follow, and then the media and the politicians, then the funding agencies...

To fight that oligarchy of truth, I have seen, like Nassim Nicholas Taleb, few solutions :
- the garage inventors
- the entrepreuneurs and greedy investors
- the islands of thinking (which are destroyed by common criteria like endangered species are)

this is the opposed of big science, government science, rationalized science...

as Taleb says, we should kill the "too big to fail"... Today Science as a system is too big to fail, too big to save. Science as a concept is dying of that.

Hopefully it seems that in Asia, they are discreetly resisting much to our western groupthink (they probably have their own).

we don't even see it. locked in denial.

Phillip Helbig said...

"what about talking of the theory of thomas Kuhn"

Kuhn's theory of paradigm shifts is wrong. I find it strange that "sceptical" people who are concerned about "the establishment" always quote Kuhn, but none of them is willing to question Kuhn. Kuhn himself has become a sort of establishment.

Consider the following: Either Kuhn's theory is a scientific theory or not. If not, we don't have to worry about it. If so, then like all scientific theories it is just a temporary paradigm which will be replaced by a new one so, again, we don't have to worry about it.

Alain Coetmeur said...

It is funny because you use the same strawman of kuhn as ID fan.

The fact is that Kuhn theory will be improved to better match the fact,e evn if it mean changing the way it is expressed, or some key assumption.

In a way, Benabou model is a way to rewrite it.
Taleb concept of "Lecturing birds how to fly" and "history written by the losers", which challenge the academics separately from the scientists, are reinterpretation of the problem.

note that I have noticed how this annoying model, is stramanized by academics to make it less dangerous.

You should really read Antifragile.

Like Psychoanalysis, academic science, have explanation for anybody who challenge it's...

if you tae the case of the elephant in the kitchen, what I have noticed is that the scientific method have worked and identified the elephant.
the industrialists have found the elephant and since they could not cook it, most stopped, and few just keep an eye on it.

finally it is crazy garage cookers that found an unusual way to cook it, because they camed from another place.

taleb propose that the was is not "normal science" agains "new paradigm" , but Academics inside the cheese who have no flesh in the game if they are wrong in group (and much to lose if they dissent from the group), facing practitioners who have fleshi in the game.

Roland Benabou propose another similar model.
His vision is that first there are rational people taking rational position from partial data (like no elephant can be in the kitchen, and the maid is probably drunk). they invest some of their asset: reputation (insults, claims), money (big science funding), according to that belief.

at one moment there are new data which dissent with the decisions.

Benabou explain that if individual actors can benefit of their peers being delusioned (like entrepreneur can shave their competitors who are wrong) then the dissenting data are accepted by most.

However if individual cannot benefit, but suffer from the delusion of their peers, and especially of their boss, funders, jury, hierarchy, then even if they will lose at the end, they will support the delusion. (the econometric model capture that)
The model show how delusion trickle down hierarchy of management or of funding.

What is observed is also that when the end is neer, and more and more dissenters appears, and that data are hard to hide, then the violence against dissenters will increase. Another effect appers which is that naive people observing the delusion will not believe their own eyes, thinking that it is probably an artifact, because of others behavior.


As you say the theory of how scientific community delusion happen and what is the mechanism, is a discussed fact.

anyway the facts are numerous that shows that this happen
http://amasci.com/weird/vindac.html
and you confirm the "history written by the losers" concept of taleb, (and a chapter of Kuhn) which explain how history ignore those facts.

to go back to the subject of tha post, this mechanism of dissenters elimination, explain why creativity is dangerous, thus less practiced.

as i say earlier, it is not because the mechanism change, but before that the size of the gang of truthers was smaller, and that there was many gang, and it was easy to create a gang... time was simply cleaning the unproductive delusion in a sea of varied delusions. Today the genetic pool of allowed delusion is limited to 1, the one MIT & al have decided.

Maybe not so, because with internet, some community can survive in the underground. They are just much less funded than when there was one scientific community per country. It takes longer for time to clean the errors if the error are mainstream.

note that NGO, when funded by billion, can be alternate source of "truth" thus of delusion... Not scientific but dominant and finally scientific follow the money, thus the NGO.

complex question to estimate genetic diversity of science.

what this article show is that it is an endangered species.

Don Foster said...

They tested “surprise me but not too much” on toddlers back in the fifties. When the child was quiescent they would suddenly hold up a toy in front of it. If the toy were familiar or not too strange, the child would laugh and reach for it. If the toy were odd or too unusual, the child would start to cry and shy away.

Science has always had some form of patronage and required a degree of gamesmanship in its players. Now there may be systemic constraints to creativity, but the fundamental situation is the same – someone looking out the window with a pregnant mind and no certain due date.

I suppose cognitive creativity deserves the gold medal, it is the most subtle, gives to “airy nothing a local habitation and a name.” And, surely in the manifest creativity competition the folks that manufacture all the intricate devices of experimental inquiry must earn their own form of gold.

Yet, creativity transcends Olympic criteria. It is universally entwined and must follow all paths to find that not every pile of sticks makes a fire. Fortunately some do.

Alain Coetmeur said...

@don foster
Similar test were done for cars design.
People love innovative design , but not too much innovative...

On science I've been answered that physics is very much accepting crazy ideas (string theories)... First there was insult at the beginning but clearly there are kind of crazy ideas that please the mainstream.

I image that normal science is like a boat.
At the from you have where the researchers look the future revolution, more complexity, more power...
At the back you have the retrograde fan of the past who try to go backward (flat earther, anti quantum)... they will be awfully ridiculed , but quite numerous too, because the new paradigm is hard to swallow by some...

and on the side you have crackpots attack from monkey around (stratrek fan, free energy)... scientist have organized a strong defense.

and people forget there is a bottom, which every body assume to be the fondation, where nothing can come new.

some discovery are chocking because thy attach the foundation. like space-time lattice for newtonian theory.

some are ridiculed instantly because they seems to came from the side-monkey... free energy...

the problem is that the fact to accept or reject discovery is thus mostly decided by heuristic, not by reading the data.

I see every day claims which are unchecked accepted by mainstream, despite what I know, because they are from the fromt of the boat...

and you see many things, true of crackpot, rejected because they came from the side or the bottom.

so innovation have to be not only moderate as you say, but in the good direction, toward the official future, far from revolutionizing the basics, not backward, and nor from the monkeys sides.

Don Foster said...

Alain, I would love some seismic shift in our understanding of physics and cosmology, something with a tsunami of consequence.

At least I think I would. Maybe I simply have not heard the news.

"The truth will set you free.
But only when it is done with you."
-David Foster Wallace

Alain Coetmeur said...

an interesting article that match the diagnostic
http://www.freeinews.com/science-and-beyond/research-funding-has-become-prone-to-bubble-formation

“In finance, the first condition for a bubble occurs when too much liquidity is concentrated on too few assets. The second is the presence of speculators. In science, similarly, if too much research funding is focused on too few research topics, and all researchers speculate in the same fashionable scientific templates to attract funding, a potential science bubble may be forming,”

Budtz Pedersen says and adds that studies have shown that peer reviewers and lay citizens are more likely to find explanations of e.g. psychological phenomena more convincing when they contain neuroscientific information, even when it is not relevant to the explanation.

Incentive structures pull researchers in the same direction

A central cause of this is, according to Budtz Pedersen and Hendricks, the institutional design and incentive structures within science funding and research management, where traditional scientific incentives such as academic capital and reputation are being replaced by monetary incentives and competition.

“Numerous international studies of research management document how many Western universities have set up financial incentives and reward systems to encourage researchers to publish in high-impact journals on popular topics that generate research funding. This means that researchers often will have very little interest in spending time on problems that break away from mainstream or do not lead to publishable results, and they will tend to they dress their research claims up in ways that appeal to policy makers and external evaluators,” Professor Hendricks points out.
“Even in the highly rationalised science community, people are susceptible to a social-psychological phenomenon like pluralistic ignorance, where every researcher and policymaker individually may doubt the promises made by a particular research programme but also wrongly believe that everybody else is convinced of its robustness; so they all end up collectively supporting a dubious programme which subsequently receives generous funding,”