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Rossi’s E-cat: the slow death of a meme

Alternative Energy


Results of a search using Google “Trends.” The E-Cat is dead, but it keeps bouncing, a little. 

News about the E-Cat, the (in)famous desktop nuclear fusion reactor: Mr. Andrea Rossi, the inventor, has announced that he finally succeeded in obtaining a patent for his device and that, again, it will be soon commercialized as a home water heater.

After four years of similar claims by Rossi, all regularly unfulfilled, it is not interesting to discuss this new one except, maybe, to note that, in the patent, the famed “nuclear reactor” has now become just a chemical reactor, hence contradicting all of Rossi’s previous claims. But, at the same time, in one Rossi’s sites (as described here), it is still claimed that a nuclear reaction takes place, but not anymore the one that once was described, involving nickel and hydrogen. Truly, Rossi seems to aim at the world Guinness record for the number of times a person can contradict his/her own public statements.

So, from a scientific viewpoint, this story is a dead cat, but it is still interesting in terms of describing the trajectory of a meme. For those of you who don’t know what a meme is, let me say that it is a self-replicating unit of information existing in the human knowledge space, a subject studied by a science called “memetics”. As you can see in the figure at the beginning, the “E-cat” meme has had a typical viral trajectory, literally exploding in 2011. Then, it peaked and started a slow decline, that is still ongoing. It is a very general behavior of Internet memes, for instance the recent story of “Cecil the Lion” is following the same trajectory.

Some of the “bumps” that you see in the curve, above, are the results of Rossi attempting to revitalize his idea by means of new, flamboyant statements, of which the latest one is about the patent. It is likely that this new claim will result in a further, small bump, that then will subside. Apparently, memes have this “natural” trajectory, that resists most attempts of modification.

So, the story of the E-Cat raises an interesting series of questions: why do memes behave in this way? What determines the intensity and the duration of their penetration in cyberspace? How can these parameters be modified? It is a truly fascinating subject which has to do with the way human beings exchange ideas and define common beliefs. And from this story I am starting to understand a basic point that has to do with our current plea: we are doing everything wrong by searching for a technological miracle.

Many people were so eager to follow Rossi’s unfounded claims (a few still are) because they genuinely thought that we need a new energy source in order to solve our problems. Well, I think not. We don’t need new gadgets, we need something much more fundamental: we need cooperation. That is, we need to work together to manage the planetary commons (that the Pope calls the “Creation”, it is the same concept). And management is not the same as exploitation: it means caring for the commons. If we don’t get to do that, no technological wonder will ever do more than worsen our problems. Think of climate change: there is no reasonable kind of gadgetry that can reverse the damage we are doing to our own ecosystem, as long as we keep doing it. What we need, first of all, is an agreement to stop destroying the ecosystem. But how can we arrive to such an agreement? Well, it may be largely a question of memetics. So, the E-cat, though mostly a loss of time for everyone, may turn out to be useful, in the end, for learning something new.

Cassandra’s legacy by Ugo Bardi

8 Comments on "Rossi’s E-cat: the slow death of a meme"

  1. JuanP on Thu, 27th Aug 2015 7:05 am 

    The fact that there are people that believe this kind of utterly unbelievable crap confims the very low opinion I have of humanity’s average intelligence. I love being an arrogant misanthropic prick!

  2. Makati1 on Thu, 27th Aug 2015 7:38 am 

    Once upon a time…

  3. AlainCo (@alain_co) on Thu, 27th Aug 2015 9:15 am 

    The fact that you don’t accept LENr is simply proven, mean you are not informed, and not aware of it, and not willing to get informed, not that you have a lower than average intelligence.
    I use the concept of negative intelligence for case of groupthink, where all the intelligence of an agent is used to avoid getting informed, and preventing others to get informed. Ugo Bardi is such a mind guard, a common evolution of groupthink victims.

    Using trend is really a good argument…

    And they don’t count the support of Tom Darden

    The move of Tohoku university to LENR with mitsubishi

    Indian academy trying to restart the cold fusion program ended at BARC

    Airbus Innovation interest in LENR

    Brillouin claims of funding and public recognition

    Carl page attending ICCF19 in Padua (I was there BTW, after having met Airbus Innovation executive chief scientists in Milan at LENRG event)

    NTVA and Statoil interested in LENR

    Elforsk support to LENR, beside E-cat

    Each of this announce should be a bomb in the media, and notice how it was not covered, not even criticized (except by Sveriges radio remote controlled by hysterical Sylvie Coyaud)
    all the attack come from incompetent people, like theorist, journalists, non material science physicists…

    They all claim without evidence, imagine conspiracy without evidence, spread innuendo with talent and no evidence…

    Why less E-cat research? maybe because there is no need to search… I see traffic increase on e-cat world and lenr-forum.

    The meme is that cold fusion was debunked… still living, despite they have no paper to support it.

    Lewis, Hansen and Morrison are debunked, and Wilson in fact confirm the reality of F&P results.

    Anyway whatever you think of F&P, few of the best experts in calorimetry (unlike Caltech and MIT), there is hundreds of reviewed papers showing anomalous heat, and just hearing the skeptic being 100% sure, not even admitting the possibility of LENR, you know they are in desperate groupthink.

    Given the evidence anyone sure it is impossible is a tinfoil hat, and academic tinfoil hat.

    Just analyse the fact reasonably, and this is all crystal clear.

    Start by bringing evidence, remove theory, remove failures, remove frauds, remove debunked, remove innuendo, remove eliminated artifacts… there is 0 papers, 0 artifacts that survived, 0 proven fraud except their own (2).

    This is pure pseudo-science, the exact pseudo-science they denounce.

  4. Dubya on Thu, 27th Aug 2015 10:46 am 

    The pons-fleichman cold fusion experiment from 25 years ago still has unexplained traits. There is something here that might, in some way be useful.
    Unfortunately I can guarantee that whatever that something is, we cannot implement it on a speed or scale that will in any way affect the trajectory of biosphere collapse.
    However, if everyone tomorrow rode the bicycle in the garage to work that would actually make a difference & cost nothing.
    Sorry, I’m obviously delusional.

  5. penury on Thu, 27th Aug 2015 10:51 am 

    As I have said before, call me when you have a commercial version, that actually produces you know -usable energy, like people actually use.

  6. Becktemba on Thu, 27th Aug 2015 12:43 pm 

    Whoever wrote this article is pathological, clearly with an interest to perpetuate the hydrocarbon economy. Your time is coming to an end.

  7. peakyeast on Thu, 27th Aug 2015 4:40 pm 

    If there was anything about it – it would have been a success by now.

    It is as simple as that.

    Besides it was obvious to anyone with even a little critical thinking to realize why Rossi was hiding simple details during his tests that would prove his claim, but not expose any important knowledge about the construction..

    That can only be because it is fraudulent.

  8. Anne Ominous on Tue, 12th Jan 2016 8:12 pm 


    The exact argument you present was used against the Wright brothers.

    Because the Wright brothers wanted to actually PROFIT from their invention, they gave only closed, invitation-only demonstrations.

    As a result, Scientific American said their claim was false and actually credited someone else with the invention of heavier-than-air flight. They did not correct their error for something like 6 years, when someone with connections to their staff saw a (closed) Wright demonstration in France.

    When people want to profit from an invention, they don’t just give it all away for free. That is a pretty simple principle.

    And it can take some years for something to go into production.

    I don’t know for sure whether Rossi’s device works or not. I have no “belief) either way. But a growing body of evidence seems to points to the conclusion that he probably does have SOMETHING rather extraordinary.

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