In 1989 Nature published a paper by Lewis  showing no excess heat in a cold fusion experiment. Several researchers including Noninski, Miles and Fleischmann discovered errors in this paper. Noninski wrote a critique of the paper describing one of these errors, and submitted it for publication. David Lindley, an editor at Nature, rejected the critique. This paper examines some of the errors in the paper, and Lindley’s reasons for refusing to re-examine the experiment.
MIT. A copy of the raw data trace from a pen recorder showed some signs of unexpected heat. The pen recorder data was converted to one-hour round points in the published version. These points were moved down to the zero line, and some were moved to the left and right, suggesting that the change was made manually by a person rather than a computer. This led some people to suspect the data was tampered with. [5, 6] See Ref. 5, pp. 21 - 24. Storms thinks the apparent
heat in the original data is not significant. It is only instrument noise.  However, it should not have been erased in the published version.
CalTech. The results from Caltech may have been positive. Lewis thought they were negative but in the opinion of several other researchers, he misinterpreted his own data. That is the subject of this analysis.
The worst problem is that Lewis made a simple mistake in analysis. He thought the heating coefficient (the calibration constant) was changing as the experiment proceeded. He thought that at the beginning of the test, 1 watt of electrochemical power caused the temperature to rise 14.0°C, and later that same power caused the temperature to rise 15.9°C, 14% higher. While it is conceivable that happened, that would mean the instruments were malfunctioning or the cell was configured wrong, so the experiment should have been done over. It is more likely that the
instrumets were working correctly, and the higher temperature was caused by 14% anomalous excess heat added to the electrochemical power.
Instruments sometimes do “drift,” gradually changing as an experiment proceeds. These were professional grade instruments so they probably did not do this. A change in the calibration constant with the same glassware other components in the same configuration is unheard of, and probably physically impossible. Furthermore, this only happened with heavy water in the cell; in a control test with ordinary water the heating coefficient did not change. So, the most likely explanation is that the temperature increase was real, and it was caused by anomalous heat. The
experiment worked. Miles described this in Ref. , p. 20:
Lewis may have observed the same level of excess heat that Fleischmann and others did with similar materials and electrochemical conditions. But instead of concluding that he was seeing 14% excess heat, Lewis concluded that the instrument had changed 14%. He did not specify a reason why it might have changed, and he did not perform recalibration tests that would confirm the change and pinpoint the source of the error in the instruments.
This was not a clear-cut result. If there was excess heat, it was marginal. There are reasons to think it was an instrument error. McKubre pointed out that at both CalTech and MIT the cathodes were only loaded to around 80%, which is not high enough to produce heat.
Noninski submitted a letter to the editor to Nature describing the problem. The editors at Nature sent the submission out for peer-review. It was rejected in the first round. At Noninski’s request it was sent out again, this time to Lewis himself. Lewis rejected the critique of his own paper. David Lindley, an editor at Nature, sent a final rejection to Noninski, with the comments by Lewis attached. In 1993, Noninski published a similar letter in Fusion Technology.
I would add that if Lewis thought the “abrupt changes in the rate of heat loss” were caused by a change in the rate of gas evolution, he should have measured gas evolution with a gas flowmeter. He should not have presumed this explained the change. An “abrupt change in the rate of heat loss” might just as easily be an abrupt increase in anomalous heat. You cannot tell the difference between these two phenomena unless you measure how much gas is leaving the
cell. The rate of gas evolution does not generally change in a cell where the components are not moved and power levels are unchanged. This paragraph gives the impression that Lewis saw anomalous heat then went out of his way to avoid looking for the cause of it.
Many aspects of this letter violate elementary principles of experimental science, but let us begin with the first paragraph, which violates the standards for peer-review. Lindley says that he sent the critique to Lewis himself for “advice.” In other words, he asked Lewis whether a critique
of his own paper should be accepted or rejected, and Lewis decided that his own work was fine.
This is not quite as bad as it looks. The paper was rejected by an “independent reviewer” in the
first round. As I recall, this letter was sent after the second or third round. Noninski tried to
rewrite the paper to satisfy the independent reviewer. In the later round, Lindley decided to skip
the independent review and have this paper checked by Lewis directly.
In other words, Lindley asserts that all cold fusion experimental results are uniform. The
experiments all produced the same result. One explanation must account for all of them.
Lindley rejects the idea that some null experiments failed for one reason and some for
another. It seems this idea never crossed his mind. He thinks that all experiments produce
a single yes or no result that can only be explained by a single set of equations. The effect
either exists or does not, and all experiments automatically prove the issue one way or
In reality, Lewis probably got positive heat but he made mistakes in his analysis, so he did
not recognize it. In many other experiments, the result was actually negative for various different
reasons. Lewis made a mistake in his equations and his assumptions about how cold fusion
works, but many other researchers used in the proper equations and actually did get a negative
result. Most got mixed results; some cathodes worked, and others did not. Noninski did not prove
that other negative results were actually positive. He never set out to do that, or claimed he had
done that. He did not even address these other experiments. But Lindley assumed this is what
Noninski was trying to do.
Lindley does not grasp how complicated this experiment is; how many different outcomes it
can produce, and how many ways it can fail. For example, in some cases it did not work because
the cathodes cracked; or because researchers did not wait long enough for the cathode to load; or
because the surface was contaminated. There were many other reasons it might fail, and many
unknown factors. In most laboratories they tested several cathodes. Some would work, but most
would fail. It was later determined that the cathode material varies a great deal and this is the
main controlling factor
In the third paragraph Lindley demands that the effect be produced “reliably and
reproducibly.” This is the goal of any research project, but it cannot be the initial demand. Most
phenomena are unreliable and irreproducible at first. The whole point of scientific research is to
make them reliable.
It is astonishing that an editor at Nature could be so ignorant of how experiments are
conducted, how varied and complex they are, and how people go about interpreting the results.
Lindley seems to have no understanding of experimental science.