Letter requesting correction of inaccuracies in Nature article
Dr. Philip Campbell,
Editor, Nature Journal,
Sept. 10th., 2006.
Dear Dr. Campbell,
I do not appear to have had any response from you to my letter of Aug. 29th. where I gave a rebuttal of essentially all of the points made in your letter of Aug. 23rd.
I am not particularly surprised at this non-response, since there is
little that anyone could say in answer to my arguments.
Under the circumstances, I should like instead to take you
up on your offer to address any 'specific and substantive
errors' in Reich's article. Here are two such:
1) The article speaks of "an analysis by ... Brian Naranjo, showing
that the neutrons described in Taleyarkhan's latest paper ... came not
from fusion as claimed but from the radioactive decay of standard lab
According to the dictionary, to 'show', in such a
context, means to "prove: establish the validity of something".
Naranjo's analysis is based upon assumptions that have been challenged
by Taleyarkhan; see the May 2006 issue of IEEE Spectrum, on line at http://spectrum.ieee.org/may06/3428,
for details. A paper by Taleyarkhan and his
collaborators that has been accepted for publication in Physical Review
Letters, a copy of which I attach here for your convenience, reporting that deliberate addition of Cf-252 produces a different
spectrum, provides strong evidence that Naranjo's conclusions are
invalid. Additional evidence against the contamination
hypothesis has been
provided by a replication of the PRL experiment, submitted for publication, by a research group
from a different laboratory.
Reich was manifestly in error, for a number of reasons, to assert that Naranjo had shown
neutrons did not came from fusion. This false attribution, given
its almost certainly incorrect implication that Taleyarkhan's PRL
in error, has to be classed as a substantive one in need of correction.
[It may be worth noting also that non-sphericity of bubbles, as in the example below, provides a likely explanation for
the failure of some groups to replicate the Taleyarkhan claims.
Claims of non-replicability need to be treated with considerable
2) You say, quite correctly, that the article does not say that funds
have been misused. On any normal reading of the article, however,
that conclusion is implied, as I shall now demonstrate:
(i) You say that Putterman 'believes' [that DARPA funds were applied to
the PRL experiment]. Reich links this belief, in the paragraph
that immediately follows, with 'misuse of federal dollars'.
(ii) You list in detail
the accounting information that led him to conclude this. Since
accounting information is normally accurate, the average reader would
take it that Putterman's conclusion based on this information and linked by you, as noted,
to 'misuse of federal dollars', was
correct. That is the apparent implication of the article, whether
or not you stated it explicitly.
(iii) You have, it is true, included the "statement [by Taleyarkhan]
that Professor Putterman's views about the funding are wrong".
But given the apparent strength of Putterman's case, that statement
would cut little ice, being the kind of statement that a guilty person
would make in any case. Worse, it would tend to imply not only
that Taleyarkhan used the funds in the way indicated by Putterman, but
also that he lied in denying that.
(iv) These impressions given by the article are in fact incorrect, since Putterman's
argument is faulty for
the reasons I have indicated. There is no reason to accept what Putterman claims to be the case.
Nature has impugned the
reputation of a physicist who has made an important discovery and who I have reason to
believe has higher standards than many of Nature's staff. I trust you will now take action directed at correcting these misimpressions.
In the belief that the question of Nature's behaviour in regard to
Taleyarkhan is a matter of public interest, I am posting this letter on
my web pages, with links to it as appropriate elsewhere. An
parallel critique is being prepared by the maintainer of the
newenergytimes.com web site.
The Editor's response was
afraid that I do not agree that either of the points you raise amount
to factual errors in what we published. Therefore I do not agree that
they require Nature to issue a correction.
In reply, I asked if the opinions of people unconnected with Nature had
been consulted at all. I also raised the question of whether the
article was consistent with advisory journalistic ethics, such as the
recommendation from an Ethics Code that journalists 'should make
certain that headlines ... do not misrepresent. They should not
oversimplify or highlight incidents out of context", an issue of particular relevance in regard to the box-heading "Where did the money go?", which in isolation has connotations of fraud.