(Quotes taken from a Facebook thread)

Robin: “This report on a test of the E-Cat cold-fusion device is disturbing. Our theoretical prior is against it, but this does look competent, if not elegant or overwhelming. I think it has earned a replication attempt; someone should try to replicate it.”

Me: “This is fraud every six ways from Sunday.”

Matthew Bailey: “This “independent verification” is biased just like the previous one was. Rossi chose someone who was heavily invested in the E-Cat to “review” it (making them not so independent). Remember, about a year ago, he did this EXACT same thing.

Yes… It has earned a Replication Attempt. BUT…………………….. Rossi won’t tell anyone what is in the actual Reaction Vessel so that it CAN be replicated. Remember, this is the guy who has been convicted of Fraud about half a dozen times, nearly every one of them involving some form of “Free Energy.”

As someone else said: The priors seem to indicate that this too is fraud.”

Robin: “Matthew, I agree Rossi’s track record is a big cause for concern, and justifies a very careful test watching for that. But I don’t think one should need to see Reaction Vessel details to attempt replication.”

Me: “Robin: what are your odds that Rossi’s discovered anything which might plausibly be useful for fusion? Want to make a bet?”

Robin: “Alyssa, I’d give at least 2%, so 50-1 odds. That tempt you?”

Me: “Robin: You’re on. $10,000 against $200? Am at work now but can draw up formal terms tomorrow.”

Robin: “Alyssa, can you wait 25 years for settlement? It has already been 25 years since the first cold fusion results were claimed, so clearly this subject takes a very long time to sort out.”

Me: “The claim is not for cold fusion generally but for one specific device. Fleischmann’s results from 1989 were thoroughly debunked within a year or two (for that specific experiment).” [link for context]

Robin: “Conditional on this new device working as claimed, it seems not at all clear the ’89 results were debunked. I could give $200 to one of my sons, and make him responsible for paying you, so you could be assured the responsible party will probably be alive. It could be $200 then, or what $200 today becomes using a standard investment vehicle.”

Me: “What evidence would you accept, then, as it having been debunked? The 1989 results were given dozens of replication attempts, all of which failed.”

Robin: “Showing that experiments didn’t rise to a reasonable standard of proof to convince an audience is not at all the same as a showing that its claim was false. Just as a lack of a statistically significant estimate of a parameter is not proof that the parameter equals zero.”

Me: “Robin: Can you name one single case, in the history of the hard sciences (physics, chemistry, biology, etc.), where:

a) a specific experiment was conducted, and it produced results which were both implausible under contemporary science and commercially valuable;

b) at least a dozen other people tried the same experiment, with the exact same setup and materials and tools and equipment, and got different data which were in accordance with science as then understood and indicated no commercial value;

c) the results from a) were later shown to be real after all?”

Robin: “Alyssa, I don’t have time or stats to debate all possible experiment scenarios. Experiments are almost never exactly the same, that is why replication is hard. See Collins’ book Changing Order, for example.”

Me: “Collins spent a lot of time investigating the paranormal, and was apparently convinced by proponents that it was at least plausible. That certainly doesn’t mean he’s wrong about everything (Newton wasted years on theology), but as a source of information on the scientific method it makes him highly suspect.”

Robin: “Collins is an excellent sociologist of science.”

[context: Collins’ paper “The construction of the paranormal: Nothing unscientific is happening” sadly does not seem to be online. However, the book Robin recommends (Changing Order) is on Google Books in snippet form, and in it Collins says (for example) “It is particularly unfair to expose fragile new sciences to the rigours of critiques based on a canonical model which even established sciences cannot attain. The ‘Committee for the Scientific Investigation of the Claims of the Paranormal’ and other such vigilante organizations are suspect in this regard.”]