Family Magazine


By Sandwichedboomers @SandwichBoomers

photoToday we are delighted to welcome award-winning playwright, essayist, and fiction writer A. R. Taylor. She is the author of the unpredictable winningly bizarre satire, Sex, Rain, And Cold Fusion. A. R. has a wicked sense of humor–go ahead and see for yourself:

 Mentors: This book is written primarily from the point of view of a 30-year-old male scientist. Was it difficult writing as a man?

 A. R. Taylor: For some reason, not at all. I could hear David Oster speaking, and at one time the entire book was written in the first person as a man, but my agent said it wouldn’t sell! Shoot me, but I still think it’s true that men can say things that women can’t, they can act in ways that would be censured if a woman behaved that way. Promiscuity comes to mind. A woman’s a slut, but a man is a playboy or sometimes a heartthrob. Get angry, dress someone down, and you’re a bitch, but a man is considered appropriately assertive and demanding. Oscar Wilde once said we can really only tell the truth when we wear a mask. The male mask fit me just fine, and I’m guessing that many women know way more about men than they’re willing to say out loud, but give them a mask and oh boy.

Mentors: There’s more than one May-December romance in this book. Any reason you’re drawn to this?

A. R. Taylor: David Oster has so far made a mess of his romantic life, despite being a very bright physicist form Caltech. Because he’s the child of a forty-seven year old mother and an alcoholic father, he has been left to his own devices growing up, improvising all the way, but when he finally meets a fully developed woman with a solid identity and few problems asking for what she wants, he sees right away that this is what he needs. Of course, it’s not at all easy to get it––or her. If there is indeed reincarnation, this is the first time he’s been here, the baby of the universe.

Mentors: Intelligence seems a two-edged sword in the book. Even though engaged in exotic experiments and advanced theories, these characters have terrific trouble with personal relationships.

Confident in their own mental abilities, left brain type people, especially scientists, try to think their way through relationships, and I’m not sure this works. We always ask why smart people do such stupid things? Just look at the news. Even though love makes fools of us all, in some sense, we’d all like to think ourselves the lesser fool. Keep in mind too, that this is a comic novel, and comedy thrives on mistakes and absurdities. In the end too, people sometimes act crazy to keep from going crazy, in this novel mainly because of the constant rain.

Mentors: Yes, it does rain an awful lot up in the Pacific Northwest, where this novel takes place. Do you really think weather influences behavior that much? 

A. R. Taylor: I do, and an old theory about alcoholism suggests that the wetter and darker your environment, the more you drink. So if we go by that, Norwegians drink more than Spaniards. It’s dark, it’s wet, it’s just raining all the time in Washington state, to which David moves after leaving Southern California. I wanted the rain to become almost a character, like a party-guest who refuses to leave. In David’s analytical mind, the rain in the Pacific Northwest gets fatter and fatter, then thinner and thinner, like some meteorological eating disorder. One day David gets through a boring meeting by counting the time it takes a drop of water to fall from a leaf to the ground.

Here, sadly, we have almost no rain, but that leads to bad behavior as well, perhaps laziness, wanting to play outside all the time, sun damage, a kind of sun-idiocy if you will. William Faulkner said when you live in Southern California, you sit around doing nothing, then one day you wake up and you’re sixty, not having known how the time went by.

Mentors: I noticed that you deal with a strong male friendship between an older and younger man, a buddy relationship, and the older one leads the younger into more and more mayhem but also into the wilds of scientific theory. So it’s symbiotic and sometimes destructive, but then ultimately mind-bending for David, ultimately helpful.

 A. R. Taylor: Viktor Pelliau, a Latvian physicist, becomes the father figure David never had, and alas, he shares some of his father’s characteristics––the love of danger, the need to get loaded a significant period of time, the great importance of having a romance always in the works. But through his obsession with cold fusion, he leads David into new ways of thinking and more responsible actions, oddly enough.

Mentors: What exactly is cold fusion anyway?

 A. R. Taylor: In 1989 chemists Stanley Pons and Martin Fleischmann claimed they had induced fusion reactions at room temperatures, on a tabletop, in a lab. According to these two under an electrical current, atoms of deuterium in heavy water would fuse into tritium in platinum electrodes, releasing heat and neutrons––thus replacing the need to build massive, expensive fusion reactors. Unfortunately no one could really replicate their experiments, and their work was discredited. However, experiments continue on this, and in the more exotic reaches of the government there are promising studies.

Both the scientists in the book are working on discredited theories, refusing to give up. I find that heartening, sometimes comic, but always worthwhile.

Mentors: Our thanks to you, A. R., for sharing your thoughts with us today. Readers, now it’s your turn! Do you have any concerns or ideas about women and comedy, cold fusion or a writing career? Use the “Leave a Reply” section to make a comment or ask a question.

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By Alain Dit le Cycliste
posted on 26 February at 19:36

About Fleischmann&pons, it seems you have the reality in you hand... Physicist despite intelligent have pathological psychology problems . a big ego, and impossibility to admit they are wrong, especially facing lower special like more competent chemist.

I will base my answer on one of the most serious review of cold fusion research done in 1996, and update about 2000 (no new critic emerged) : the book of Charles Beaudette, "Excess Heat" that he kindly published as PDF for ICCF9 in University of Tsinghua.

The paper of F&P was peer-reviewed, even if criticized later by only 4 authors, Lewis, Hansen, Wilson and Morrison.

The incompetence of Lewis is proven, since instead of admitting his incompetence in calorimetry, not able to stir automatically his cell, he accused without checking, F&P of his incompetence. He also ignored later the work of McKubre who used flow calorimetry at stable temperature (via compensation), the work of Oriani using Seebeck calorimetry (immune to that artifact), the presentation made few days latter by F&P proving with colorant fast mixing, and the precise measurements done by F&P until 2012 proving their cell was precise at 0.01C, and having few % imprecision with few 10% of anomaly... reaching sometime 50 sigma of signal (much above Higgs).

Hansen did the same late about recombination, ignoring the work of McKubre who used closed cell with recombination, of Oriani who separated the gases, and ignoring that F&P were measuring recombination (during refilling) which was kept at the usual (known by electro-chemist, unlike him)

Morrison was enough honest to flee when he realized he simply missed key points.

Wilson was enough competent to explain how Lewis and Hansen were incompetent and how Fleishmann have proven anomalous heat in the most important event, yet claiming the opposite.

Add to that the paper of Oriani which was Peer-reviewed, even if Nature refused to publish it for no reason relative to the real question, the calorimetry, and no doubt the real reason was cold fusion was satanic for that high impact journal.

The book of Beaudette, gives much more detail, about the blank, about the media manipulation, about the ethic violation, about the communication errors of F&P too, about University of Utah responsibility in the carnage, as much as of the "few outspoken US nuclear physicist", son of Manhattan project, who were totally unequipped intellectually to work on a chemistry problem... because yes, cold fusion is experimentally a chemistry problem, to be managed by top electro-chemist. None of the experiments or evidence are nuclear (except latest Tritium and He4 evidences).

Beaudette makes a nice summary of the tragedy:

"Unfortunately, physicists did not generally claim expertise in calorimetry, the measurement of calories of heat energy. Nor did they countenance clever chemists declaring hypotheses about nuclear physics. Their outspoken commentary largely ignored the heat measurements along with the offer of an hypothesis about unknown nuclear processes. They did not acquaint themselves with the laboratory procedures that produced anomalous heat data. These attitudes held firm throughout the first decade, causing a sustained controversy.

The upshot of this conflict was that the scientific community failed to give anomalous heat the evaluation that was its due. Scientists of orthodox views, in the first six years of this episode, produced only four critical reviews of the two chemists’ calorimetry work. The first report came in 1989 (N. S. Lewis). It dismissed the Utah claim for anomalous power on grounds of faulty laboratory technique. A second review was produced in 1991 (W. N. Hansen) that strongly supported the claim. It was based on an independent analysis of cell data that was provided by the two chemists. An extensive review completed in 1992 (R. H. Wilson) was highly critical though not conclusive. But it did recognize the existence of anomalous power, which carried the implication that the Lewis dismissal was mistaken. A fourth review was produced in 1994 (D. R. O. Morrison) which was itself unsatisfactory. It was rebutted strongly to the point of dismissal and correctly in my view. No defense was offered against the rebuttal. During those first six years, the community of orthodox scientists produced no report of a flaw in the heat measurements that was subsequently sustained by other reports.

The community of scientists at large never saw or knew about this minimalist critique of the claim. It was buried in the avalanche of skepticism that issued forth in the first three months. This skepticism was buttressed by the failure of the two chemists’ nuclear measurements, the lack of a theoretical understanding of how their claim could work, a mistaken concern with the number of failed experiments, a wholly unrealistic expectation of the time and resource the evaluation would need, and the substantial ad hominem attacks on them. However, their original claim of measurement of the anomalous power remained unscathed during all of this furor. A decade later, it was not generally realized that this claim remained essentially unevaluated by the scientific community. Confusion necessarily arose when the skeptics refused without argument to recognize the heat measurement and its corresponding hypothesis of a nuclear source. As a consequence, the story of the excess heat phenomenon has never been told."

Beaudette stay very moderate, but the facts he describes talk alone. One of his gem is the description of the denialist, that he name "skeptics" by oppositions to critics (the real skeptics):

In general, skeptics display the following habits.

1-They do not express their criticism in those venues where it will be subject to peer review. 2-They do not go into the laboratory and practice the experiment along side the practitioner (as does the critic). 3-Assertions are offered as though they were scientifically based when they are merely guesses. 4-Questions are raised that concern matters outside of the boundaries of the claimed observation. 5-Satire, dismissal, and slander are freely employed. 6-When explanations are advanced for a possible source, ad hoc reasons are instantly presented for their rejection. These rejections often assert offhand that the explanation violates some physical conservation law. 7-Evidence raised in support of the claims is rejected outright if it does not answer every possible question. No intermediate steps to find a source are acceptable

I make a call to skeptics to find me a real critic, rebutting F&P, Oriani, McKubre AND Miles/Bush that was not addressed and rebutted to the point of dismissal. I will surely manage to bring the rebuttal after some inquiries to more competent people.