Steel and LENR — Are We Repeating History? (Justin McCarthy)

The following post has been submitted by Justin McCarthy

A lone inventor announced that he had an invention that would change the world forever. It involved heating up metal to extreme temperatures with some special gasses. It involved unknown reactions which the inventor couldn’t fully explain how it worked. When the invention turned on, a ton of extra heat came off, making the process dangerous and violent. He announced it would soon be available on an industrial scale.

A lot of other people tried to reproduce his inventive process, because they understood the world changing nature of his invention. Huge amounts of money were at stake here. They failed. A number of industrialists bought the licensing rights, and could not produce his effect, even with the inventor’s description and help. They declared him a fraud. He had taken their money, they couldn’t reproduce the effect, and they sued him in court. His name was vilified, and the press laughed at him.

He couldn’t explain accurately why it worked for himself, but failed to work for them. He continued to work on his technology, now scorned and labeled a fraud. He changed his technique of heating metal with special gas, and the nature of when he added and removed chemicals, trying to get to a repeatable process. He announced he had a new- better process, and would sell it to the highest bidder. It was better, more repeatable, and had a higher quality product.

The world declared him a fraud, and insisted his invention was impossible, and it defied the known laws of physics. He was known as a con artist. In frustration, he started his own company and began to create and sell the stuff himself.

The above is not the Rossi story- it is the story of Henry Bessemer, who invented the first technique for making steel in mass quantities. Before this, only cast iron was available which would fracture and crack in larger structures, killing those in boats, on trains, or in buildings which had exceeded the limits of the material technology.

Henry Bessemer brought about the beginning of the steel age, and forever changed the face of the modern world.

If we look at the history of Bessemer, we can see he began his experiments to improve the quality of steel in 1854, and in 1856 figured out the magic of blowing oxygen through the hot metal to oxidize impurities and remove them. This technology was not licensed in the United States until 1863, and was first demonstrated industrially in 1867. Andrew Carnegie came in and started investing, and the huge Iron Works called “Edgar Thomson Steel” began production in 1875.

We can see from this history, even with the world’s largest investors and backing, it took around 20 years from the first invention to the mass production of the technology. Similar to Rossi, they had numerous setbacks, and he had extreme difficulty gaining acceptance as something other than a fraud.

The Bessemer process was made obsolete in 1968 when a better process came along that offered finer control of the inner chemistry of steel.

Does history repeat itself? Possibly. It is certainly strange that more than one hundred years ago a similar saga played out, with the same stakes, the same lawsuits, and almost the same players.

Advances in technology are difficult to reproduce, and even more difficult when most of the world doubts they are possible. If history does repeat itself, we can say it will take around another 20 years for this to really be mass produced, as we are just beginning the lawsuit era over fraudulent claims, which happened to Bessemer around 1857.

Most of the above information came from “Stuff Matters” by Mark Miodownik. I highly recommend this book to any follower of cold fusion, as it talks about the difficulty of material technology and there are numerous stories that parallel that of the cold fusion saga. Also check out the following links:

Justin McCarthy

  • greggoble

    A bit of further history


  • Alan DeAngelis

    “The pressure for conformity is enormous. I have experienced it in editors’ rejection of submitted papers, based on venomous criticism of anonymous referees. The replacement of impartial reviewing by censorship will be the death of science.”

    Julian Schwinger

    • Bruce__H

      I agree. But this problem is always with us in all fields. It is no reason for people in the LENR field to say that they are special victims of unjust criticism and therefore we should dispense with refereed papers and replicated work.

      Amd yes, that is what people are saying. I see a lot of people )with Rossi leading the charge!) saying “forget regular science, just wait for the product to hit the marketplace, that will decide things!”. This is the wrong road to go down because if there is no reality to the claims it all just becomes a never-ending waiting game.

  • Steve Swatman

    Seems to me that the negatives outnumber the positives by 1.8-1, including of course all the pseudo positives, you know, the ones that begin or end with a positive sounding note but are aimed at sending negative messages, its quite popular it seems, which is why I suspect apco and academi employees, that seems to be their style and forte.

    The main thing is, I can never understand the people who come into the cinema or the theater with packets of crisps, phones ringing, acting like screaming kids, who talk through the movie or show, negatively comment on the actors and the producers/directors and generally spoil the fun those who have bought popcorn, and are sitting back and enjoying the show.

    I do not know why some people want to spoil other peoples fun, dampen the excitement and generally just crash the party, even though they do not want to be there, who do not want to celebrate the achievement, you know what I mean?

    Why would anyone feel the need to constantly tell everyone they are wrong, that the movie is a lie, that actors are frauds, what type of person feels that such actions are worthwhile, productive, reasonable?

    Who really cares what negative commentors say, its all about potential, possibilities, dreams and that single spark of light in an otherwise dark world. And Mr Rossi may or may not be that spark.

    • Bruce__H

      Which threads did you survey when coming to you figure of 1.8-1?

      • Steve Swatman

        Do you mean to say that you did not quantify my results by running your own survey on a few threads? the thing is, that you have to read each and every comment on the threads you choose and use logic rather than pre-concieved bias to spot the truly positive comments and negative ones, its often difficult if you just scan the comments, because there are so many that begin or end with false positives while intentionally leading the reader to a negative after awareness. it iss a proven method of internet commenting, so be aware of that when doing your survey, but then again, I am pretty sure you fully aware of planting false positives and its effect on the reader.

  • Steve Swatman

    It seems to me Bruce (from this site alone) that the shills, naysayers, spoilers and apco/academi boys have really upped their game and are posting more religiously than ever, and they appear to outnumber the few regular positive posters, In fact it appears that the apco/academi boys are the first to jump on every new post and seem to post far more comments than the few positive minded followers.

    Personally I view this aggressive negative influx as a positive sign that Mr rossi is moving forward, the more negative comments the more the desk jockeys are been forced to try and undermine the PR.

  • Steve Swatman

    Different times, different unknowns, different circumstance, the same bias and bigotry.

  • Ged

    Problem is this time nuclear weapons may not leave anyone advanced or strong enough alive to continue current progess.

  • Alan DeAngelis

    Bessemer like Rossi had the right approach because even if you were a world renowned electrochemist from Texas A&M and you did successfully reproduce F&P’s experiment by finding tritium this was the thanks you got.

  • Alan DeAngelis

    And the crazy idea of washing your hands before examining a pregnant woman.

  • Pekka Janhunen

    A nice story. Big inventions are rare, they are made by individuals, and the involved difficulties haven’t changed much in hundreds of years.

  • Alan DeAngelis

    This is another good one. Banting and Best found the “antidiabetic principle” in the pancreas. Prestigious institutions failed to find it in the pancreas so the initial response from the prima donnas was that these guys from the sticks must be wrong. I remember my father telling me that Banting and Best also froze the pancreas before their isolation procedure to prevent the digestive enzymes in the pancreas from hydrolyzing any protein that might be responsible for the antidiabetic effect.

  • Bruce__H

    This is an interesting historical tale but it is intellectually illegitimate to draw from it the conclusion that when we see work being neglected it means there is a great discovery in the offing.

    The problem here is confirmation bias. There a many stories like Bessemer’s, or the Wright brother’s in history, but there are even more of good researchers diligently working on projects of great potential that then don’t pan out. To concentrate on the successes and ignore the failures is comforting but wrong.

    There is a sort of infantile character to the stories that the LENR community likes to tell itself. I wish the whole field would grow up and, instead of looking for comforting stories and indulging in paranoid fantasies of persecution, just be curious about what is really out there. If LENR is real then that would be delightful, but if it turns out not to be real then there is no dishonour in doing the research. Just the opposite really. Explorers should be honoured even if they don’t find the promised land.

    • Alan DeAngelis

      Yes, we do need more adult supervision here.

    • Alan DeAngelis

      On the other hand, there is a psychiatric symptom called “overqualification”, an endless string of “What about this…what about that…what about this…what about that…”,

      LENR is real.

    • Albert D. Kallal

      It’s really going to come down to when viable products are demoed and sold.

      I mean the public 1MW plant Rossi demoed in 2011? was impressive. However, not much data was produced for public consumption.

      And I much agree that public demos really did eventually help the Wright brothers.

      At this point our only hope is for working products. Such products will have to come from Rossi, “jet”, Biroullium etc.

      As noted, I don’t think the issue is LENR – there is sufficient evidence for LENR. So there not some worry about “shame” in this regards.

      And I don’t think the LENR community is looking to the past for “comfort” as to when LENR or who dropped the ball.

      History shows how past technologies were adopted, and the hurdles that existed. Learning from history is a good idea. So this is not really about “feeling” good, but what we can learn from the past.

      This LENR race is simple:

      Whoever gets a working device out in the wild will win this race.

      Our frustration is that we simply don’t really know when the LENR horse will get out of the starting gate – we just don’t know!

      The people following LENR want more certainty in regards to when a working LENR device will appear with obvious use to the public at large.

      Certainty exists in that LENR is real – but not in regards to a commercially viable product.

      Albert D. Kallal
      Edmonton, Alberta Canada

    • Alan DeAngelis

      Eugene Mallove was the chief science writer at MIT in 1989.

    • Steve Swatman

      With so many concentrating on and expressing the possible invalidity of Mr Rossi’s work, one has to expect a few and really it is very few (compared to number of paid shills) to look for positive examples.

      Those are the type of people who give inventors a chance to show their work, who feed positive attitude and add a little bit positive energy to the world.

      There is far too much negative attitude expressed on this subject and Mr Rossi in general.

      So let the positive thinkers enjoy a moment, you don’t have to jump on everything with so much negative inflection.

  • Stephen

    Thanks Justin, what an interesting Parallel. I enjoyed it a lot. I wonder if we will ever learn to stop repeating our mistakes. Thank goodness for the stubiness of geniuses. And for those with the right words to remind us of historical struggles mistakes and achievments

  • builditnow

    Similar story with the Wright Brothers, they almost failed to make it, trying to balance keeping hold of their intellectual property, to not give the secrets away and at the same time get some investment funds. About 5 years after the first flight, the Wright Brothers were convinced to give a demonstration flight to a large crowd in France or face going out of business.
    Since flight was a dramatic demonstration, they received instant celebrity status, estimates are that within a year over a million were working on flight. About 5 years later aerobatic planes were flying to large audiences around the world.
    That’s the rapid development model.

    LENR could to go the rapid path because of the potential for so many to get involved.
    It all hinges on when “the big demonstration” happens. Seems to be when either an open researcher comes up with a fantastic demo, or …. Rossi decides to give the big demo. Perhaps Brillouin could have a breakthrough.

    Personally, I don’t think Rossi needs to do the big demo, giving certain and clear proof to a large audiences that his reactors work. Rossi can keep milking the profits while everyone disbelieves LENR. It’s probably up to some open researcher to open the flood gates.

  • SG

    Nice writeup. In fact, most important advancements over the course of history have followed a similar path. I highly recommend watching the American Genius series, which documents the giant battles between inventors, their investors, and the public:

  • Gerard McEk

    Nice story, but it started more than 26 years ago, so LENR is over time….;)

    • Warthog

      Well, what does that say about “hot fusion”??

  • Mats002

    Good one – agree with OR below that progress is faster now, but I don’t think progress is exponentially faster for a single invention. The talk about exponentially progress goes for the sum of inventions because the body of science and engineering as a whole is growing fast and new discoveries/inventions can be combined, making progress even faster.

    What really differs from back then is time-to-market when the invention is ready for that.

  • Ophelia Rump

    Your timeline fails to account for the exponentially changing rate of progress.

  • bfast

    This is an impressive parallel.

  • Warthog

    Historical tidbit. A Catholic monastery in England who specialized in blacksmithery (yes, monks did do such odd things) was right on the verge of inventing the Bessemer process, when Henry VIII disbanded the monasteries and doled their lands out to his buddies.

  • Zephir

    History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does
    rhyme. This is very often attributed to Mark Twain, but the earliest
    published source yet located is by Joseph Anthony.. But currently we are rather at the stage, when the history returns back to the WW II era.

    • Ged

      Scary thought on how close we are to a world war that could make all this progress of society moot.