There is no real need to discuss the facts around the E-cat– Rossi was either deluding himself or being dishonest, and given his history, I will leave it to the reader to decide which.
But that was not the source of the real harm of this event, and we cannot blame Rossi for what followed. The chorus of mocking skepticism once again rises, that any non-traditional approach to fusion is the work of fools and charlatans, and the groups who were only too ready to uncritically accept what in hindsight were completely specious “tests” bear the blame for that.
Even ignoring the odd proliferation of “independent” sites that seemed more intent on generating investor cash, many individuals let their hopes run away with their skepticism. As with most things, in some cases, they then ran to lands of full scale paranoia, blaming “The scientific community” for criticism and spinning theories about how the great man might be suppressed.
How this alleged conspiracy managed to convince Rossi to ignore most scientific procedure, or obtain his degree from a shut down diploma mill, or refuse to ever actually show any proof, was never stated. But at the end of the day, many nontraditional fusion advocates were seen as fools, willing to accept nearly anything as long as it came with a website and claims of cold fusion (or LENR).
Why shouldn’t mainstream scientists discount the non-traditional fusion community?
It’s a serious question– because a community that tolerates sloppy research, publicity stunts disguised as demonstrations and other such examples of bad science and outright fakery shouldn’t be taken seriously. Not all advocates do, and in fact some of Rossi’s most ardent critics came from the LENR community, but the community needs to go further, to understand that “great claims require great proof” and that science that is seen as being on the fringe by many mainstream groups cannot afford sloppy research. If a mainstream scientist fudges the figures on say, his or her work on fission reactors, he may be discredited, but the science will not be. In the case of LENR, many will see both the scientist and the theory as discredited.
This means that LENR advocates must work to ensure that, whatever doubts there are about the validity of their theories, there are none about their methodology. By doing so, LENR advocates can help ensure that while there may be questions about the theory, there are none about the work that went into proving it.
In any group that is seen as a minority, for whatever reason, there is always the temptation to take a fellow believers side against critics– even if those critics may have a point. That does not help the cause of LENR, and in fact hurts it. The way forward for LENR is to conduct experiments that are designed to be as accurate as possible, and be willing to call out others who are letting their enthusiasm, or worse, get away with them, and most importantly, be willing to admit when it appears that an experiment proves a negative, rather than a positive result.