Watching for UFOs, Probability, and Cold Fusion

   UFOs and probability
               "Cold Fusion" and probability

UFOs, scientific observation, and probability

UFOs are a sore subject. J. Allen Hynek desired to reduce them to a scientific subject (see The UFO Experience). Unfortunately, so far it is still a question whether they exist or not (as something other than reports.) Whether something exists is not a scientific issue - science is fundamentally unconcerned with questions of existence, because it focuses on 'the nature of what is'.   "Do robins exist?" is not a question for science. A scientific question is, "What is the nature of a robin, of all robins?" Observational science then proceeds to settle the latter question, by actually going out and observing robins.

Supposing the existence of robins were in question. How would it be capable of being settled, pro or con? By keeping watch for robins for an interval, then noting whether one has any "true", unambiguous, repeatedly verifiable observations of them. In practice, this question would come up negative - i.e. one would conclude, "there are no robins in existence," if one sat indoors in a windowless room, looking around one for robins, for several days. Or weeks, years, decades. Only in the very unlikely event of a robin getting indoors and coming into the room, would one see any evidence of their existence.

But if one watched for robins for even a few hours, even just one person, in the right area - say, a suburban lawn in a quiet neighborhood, with shrubbery nearby? One would conclude, "behold, robins do exist!" And commonly sensible people would say, what a lunatic, he wasted several hours of his life there! :) The point being: The evidence for the existence of the common bird called the robin, is easily obtainable from observations made in a locale where they are very likely to be found.

"Very likely to be found," is a statement of probability, that the likelihood of the chance event (of a robin passing through or being there) is high. (In a gambler's terms, "high enough to be worth betting on.") Probability is a vital part of all scientific endeavor - the probability of making an appropriate observation, must be high.

The answer to making the "UFO phonomenon" an area of scientific endeavor, is, quite simply and with great difficulty (requiring work):   Figure out where or under what circumstances, they most often, very usually, prodominantly, occur/happen/can be seen. The way to establish that, is to provide some sort of answer to this question that, when almost anyone of reasonable intelligence and ability tries it, works.

   (Yes, I am aware that this is not much of an answer, and leaves somebody else a lot to do. But nothing ever got done in science that was really worthwhile, that didn't require a lot of thinking/working/sweat and headache.    ...I am also aware, that it is possible that there is no answer to this question,    whether that were because "some phenomena are not subject to scientific observational method" -could be, though what you can do with such things is a good question too-    or because "UFO reports are all bunk".)

(To close the subject of UFOs: I myself, while keeping a sky-phenomena watch for several years in the mid-1980, during which I did regular scans to discover a bright nova [mentioned here] and occasional searches for new comets, I observed one or two "strange sights". The most definitely puzzling of these, unfortunately, could be explained as the pilot of a small aircraft or glider committing the crime of turning off his running lights (and engine?! dangerous under the circumstances) while flying overhead. Which is definitely possible.)
(In short, in a lifetime I have encountered quite a few outright liars as well as those who were completely indifferent to their own reputation in my sight and God's. This being so, while I find the subject of UFOs of interest, I have too little belief [in odd reportage], knowing what I do about 'human' nature. From observation.)

"Cold Fusion" and probability

"Cold Fusion": Does anyone remember? It nowadays seems almost fit to be ranked with "painted rats" as a scientific phenomenon. But at the time (the late 1980s), it was quite leading-edge (though the subject of some controversy and derision.) Two quite qualified persons, Pons and Fleischman(n?), who were working in the field of scientific experiment and observation, reported something like a meltdown of one of their electrolytic flasks. (By an "electrolytic flask", I mean a container holding a substance that is being subject to electrolysis (i.e. the substance in the flask is having an electric current passed through it, by way of two electrodes or contacts coming from an electric power source.) The electrodes, in the flask in question were made of or plated with (I'm not sure which!) the metal vanadium.

They went public with this, in a manner derided as hasty and sensationalistic. In the upshot, as things have turned out, derision of their haste seems to have been justified, since nobody has made anything out of this simple observation. (Except, from what I've seen, a few enterprising Russians in the early-mid-1990s, who advertised 'cold fusion power generation kits' for sale. This was in Boris Yeltsin-era Russia, newly freed from one-party domination, and freed to enterprise. Of any kind, it seems.) The favorable speculation at the time went, perhaps the lattice-like structure of solid vanadium, somehow channeled the hydrogen in the water (-Pons and Fleischman(n?) were electrolysing water...), or the hydrogen freed from the water by electrolysis, into a smaller space, increasing the likelihood of collisions or fusion of the hydrogen atoms.

(Incidentally, on a dry note of reality:    A) When you subject water or salty water to electrolysis, you dissociate the 'H2O' of water into free hydrogen and free oxygen. I've done it myself, bubbles of gas appear on and rise off one electrode cute as can be, & the other electrode discolors [but, that I observed, doesn't release gas bubbles.] Electrolysis of water is a commonplace thing, anyone with water, 2 wires, and a battery can do it.... But anyway, the dry note of reality is:   free hydrogen is esp. when confined, flammable & potentially explosive (as a matter of chemical reactions alone, not nuclear or fusion reactions), and certainly highly potentially energetic.       And B) In electronics technical college, I was taught some good sound operating principles under the category of safety: one of these was, "Electric outlets are like a big pipe, with water in it at high pressure;   If you open the valve, or worse, take the valve off, the water all floods out and keeps on flooding out." The meaning of this was, an electric power source can look quiet and harmless but possess huge potential energy. And when tapped, it can increase the amount of energy it delivers hugely at a moment's notice.)
(So, it is not by any means unlikely that the electrodes in one flask got too close together, or the electrolyte solution decreased in resistance to electric current enough to A) liberate LOTS of explosive/flammable free hydrogen and B) tap much much more of the potential energy of the electric power source*, turning the water at least into steam, and releasing HEAT.)
(All by completely conventional, 'hot', electric and chemical reaction principles.)
(If anyone has any good evidence that "cold fusion" in the Pons-Fleischman(n?) manner, was not just a brief flap, not just a fad, not just foolishness, please! bring your evidence forward or point it out to me. My email is )

- But at the time, it seemed possible to many. Mostly because 'hot fusion' (aside from being achieved in the H-bomb, and in nature in the core of the Sun and all active stars) has been attempted by probability-enhancement techniques (essentially), primarily heating and compression. (These count as probability enhancement because in all such 'Tokamak'-style devices, heat and compression increase the likelihood of hydrogen fusion by ... two hydrogen atoms slamming into each other by chance, the chance being increased by compression, which crowds the atoms closer, and heating, which makes them move about more energetically.)

(* RE the electric power source in the Pons-Fleischman[m?] experiment: unless it had current limiting, down to very strict levels very closely above those of normal power consumption, it could very well deliver sufficient quantities of electric energy, at a moment's notice, to produce said steam and heat. Even if the current limiter was there, but was only installed on the common power source for all flasks, instead of on the power source for the individual one flask in question. )

Conclusions - Probability, in science,  can be both admirable and contemptible.

Increasing the probability of making an observation, is admirable. It saves wasted time waiting, wasted expense spent on observational equipment or its use (J. Allen Hynek mentions a proposal or actual program, to distribute special cameras for UFO photography to every air base in the US. He also mentions putting up constantly on-watch UFO observatories as ridiculously expensive and unlikely - to significantly increase the likelihood of a useful result.)    Increased probability of observation is acquired by figuring out the circumstances associated with a phenomenon, and increasing the influence of those circumstances on the likelihood of the phonomenon (e.g. robins on a lawn).

Doing nothing but increasing the likelihood (as is the case with Tokamaks and their increasingly expensive successors), at expense and maybe-later-over-time, is contemptible. When there is a more insightive way to increase probability of success (e.g. with 'hot fusion'**), it will be ... the making of a great person's great endeavor!

[article (c) Monday July 14 2003 by Russell Hess.]

**( - About hot fusion':   Just by the way, I think it a highly unlikely power source, for power stations or power producing devices, -for obvious reasons! )
( If you can figure out why, email me -I would welcome evidence of practical intelligence in this world! )

- Page created July 14, 2003, by Russell Hess, Webmaster ( of 'UpSky2' & 'UpSky'.

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