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The Reich-Einstein Experiment

On December 30th, 1940 Wilhelm Reich wrote to Albert Einstein in Princeton suggesting that he had an important scientific discovery to discuss. On January 13, 1941, Reich visited Einstein in Princeton. They talked for 5 hours, and Einstein agreed to test the apparatus that Reich would supply, an "orgone accumulator", a box made up of a Faraday cage (galvanized steel) insulated by wood and paper on the outside. Einstein performed the experiment which involved taking the temperatures atop and near the device. Einstein also stripped the device down to its Faraday cage. In both cases, Einstein observed a positive temperature difference for a week in his study, and confirmed Reich's finding in a published letter. Einstein originally agreed with Reich that this discovery was a "a bomb in physics". Since there was no explanation for the finding, Reich concluded that the heat was the result of a novel form of energy (massfree orgone energy) that accumulated inside the Faraday cage. However, Einstein's assistant, Leopold Infeld, interpreted the phenomenon as the result of thermal convection, but he failed to provide an experimental demonstration of his contention. Einstein reversed himself and concurred that the experiment seemingly could be explained by convection.

Reich and Einstein disagreed on the interpretation of the experiment. The entire correspondence between Reich and Einstein was published by the Orgone Institute Press in a book called The Einstein Affair. Official biographers of Einstein have seen fit to omit or insufficiently describe the only experiment that Einstein conducted with Reich, which is properly described in alternative scientific literature as "the Reich-Einstein experiment". In 2001, Paulo Correa and Alexandra Correa reproduced the experiment and introduced controls that rule out the possibility of convection as an explanation. A similar reproduction was independently carried out by Eugene Mallove.

References to the Experiment and its Replication

References to Reich's meetings with Einstein in the latter's Biographies

Fictionalized accounts

Other relevant links


William M Connolley, Roger Wilcox's peer, and the scientific poverty of Infeld's argument

William M. Connolley, a Climate Modeller employed by the British Antarctic Survey and a gallivanting member of the Wikipedia Science-Purification cabal, argues that Einstein never published his confirmation of the anomalous temperature atop a simple Faraday cage, in a peer-reviewed mainstream scientific publication; and thus, that his name should not be associated with this experiment which Einstein himself performed.

This is part and parcel of a post-modernistic twist of facts, at once a sanctification of science as peer-reviewed by mainstream publications and associated professional or specialist societies, and a demonization of all else that is science - minor, small, independent, alternative, nomadic - which is thrown into the same bucket as everything that is not science, whether it be religion or philosophy, representation or art. This view would proscribe publication of the letters of Einstein as they concerned the Reich-Einstein experiment, just as it would proscribe reference to Alvarez's letter of support for Carezani's Autodynamics, etc. Implicit in this narrow-minded dogmatism, is a revisionism of history and, in particular, of the history of science and technology. One would be led to disregard all the letters, private papers, manuscripts, etc, which all scientists and researchers have written and which serve to guide one through the internal articulation of both their thoughts and actions. And one would disregard all that was subtle and unstable.

The truth is that Einstein was informed that Reich had published 'their affair', the published letter was signed by Einstein, and never contested by Einstein or his legal counsel. So, it was published. That's a fact. Texts do not need to be peer-reviewed to be published. Not even in science. Maybe it should have been published in Nature, but that never happened - nor would it have happened...

Likewise, the Reich-Einstein experiment does not need to have been published by Einstein in a mainstream journal or magazine in order to exist, and be or have been a fact - including the fact of being a fact in the history of science. In his last letter on the subject, Einstein confirmed the existence of the temperature difference. So, his verification of Reich's finding was positive. Einstein could not come up with an explanation for the finding. This is when Infeld (one of those peers...) came up with the interpretation that permitted Einstein to dismiss the finding. Infeld's interpretation has now been shown by the Correas to be experimentally wrong, as they employed further controls that neither Reich, Einstein nor Infeld thought about employing to test Infeld's 'explanation'. This is exactly a case study of what Horrobin (a scholar on the subject for 3 decades, whose scientific study of peer-review was published in a peer-reviewed journal: Trends Pharmacol Sci http://www.digibio.com/archive/SomethingRotten.htm) found for peer-review in mainstream scientific publications. Horrobin described the major disadvantage of mainstream peer-review as an "antagonism to openness and evaluation". An antagonism that refuses to carry out the experimental controls that are required to assert one interpretation over any other. That is, a non-scientific bias or antagonism.

Now, let us consider how Einstein, after verifying the temperature difference, ceased seeing it as a thermal anomaly as he had originally thought it was, and instead came to regard it as a trivial phenomenon caused by convection of air-currents.

One might venture convection in a room or enclosure that is heated or cooled. But convection can be controlled (dark room conditions, unheated basement, central placement and mid-height, controls with stands, determination of temperature gradients, etc). If the phenomenon (the temperature difference) remains, there is nothing else in the accepted theory of heat that even remotely addresses the question: why should a box develop on its top a temperature greater than the surrounding air?

A box of metal without insulators is a box of thermally-conductive material.

Even Roger Wilcox - the professional skeptic of Wilhelm Reich who specializes in simplistic caricatures - in a most objectionable link (because of its inaccurate and contradictory information), pw1.netcom.com/~rogermw/Reich/accumulators.html states the obvious:

"When the warm air rises to the top of such a poorly insulated enclosed space, it will conduct out and reach equilibrium with the air temperature of the surrounding room much more rapidly".

Yes, Wilcox's english needs polishing, but what he says is what anyone would expect to find. Given a suitable amount of time, such a box should equilibrate with the (control) temperature of surrounding ambient air. Even in a room that is neither heated or cooled, but which is subject to small thermal fluctuations, the temperature inside the box should be seen to lag a little and thus generate slight positive differences when the surrounding air would cool a little, and slight negative differences when it would warm up a little. As for the temperature above the box, given a suitable amount of time, it should essentially be the same as the temperature of the surrounding air.

It should. It should but it isn't. Indeed, what is found (Reich, Correas, Mallove) is that, in both cases, the temperature difference is constantly positive.

William M Connolley also doubts whether Infeld had anything to do with the 'Reich-Einstein affair', and whether Einstein was really concerned with it. He is simply ignorant of, or indifferent to, Infeld's "sneaky" record, even towards Einstein himself. As for Einstein, he was excited enough with the subject that he met twice with Reich. William M Connolley could not find anything better than the confused Roger Wilcox to provide confirmation for Infeld's argument of convection, which Einstein had made his own.

The problem with Wilcox's presentation (if we are to forget his poor prose, spelling and grammar) is his departure from the record of events. Without a pristine record, scientists are not able to make accurate determinations. Indeed, Wilcox is a poor choice for a criticism of Reich if only because Wilcox is an armchair critic who does not have to reproduce any of Reich's experiments, nor be taken to task for misrepresenting them. Here are some of Roger Wilcox's fundamental mistakes:

1. The experiment that Reich conducted with Einstein is different from that which Wilcox describes. Wilcox describes (and not very well) Reich's more sophisticated, later evolution of his own experiments with Orgone Accumulators, not Faraday cages. The original experiment that Reich and Einstein conducted has a simplicity that deserves to be noted. It simply compared a suspended thermometer with a thermometer placed above a galvanized steel box that was tested with and without poor insulation (that is, one that should also readily permit in principle thermal equalization given a suitable amount of time). The height of the thermometers was the same. The control thermometer was also suspended over the table, on which the metallic box was placed.

2. Though Wilcox quotes Reich's statement "Since heat rises, the most favorable spot for temperature change to be registered is above the top metal plate." The Cancer Biopathy, ch. IV, sec. 4 (p. 113, 1973 trans.), he incorrectly claims that "Einstein quickly discovered that, yes, the temperature inside the box did indeed tend to be higher than the temperature outside the box." The original Reich-Einstein experiment measured not the temperature inside the box, but above it. Even at this level, a misrepresentation.

3. Wilcox does not appear to have read Einstein's letter to Reich: Wilcox writes: "he {Reich} didn't conduct these experiments in the room where Einstein's assistant had noticed the air currents." This is a subtle distortion of the truth. Infeld did not notice convection currents in the room where the experiments were conducted, or in any other room for that matter. He simply brought to Einstein's attention that a room with a temperature gradient between floor and ceiling will present air-convection currents. If a table is placed in such a room, convection from the floor to the underside of the table will cool the underside of the table, whereas convection above the table will heat its top. On his own, Einstein found a difference of 0.6 deg C between the underside and the top of the table, and he judged that this was enough of a control that he now could explain the "anomaly". But Einstein failed to explain why, if a convection current above the table heated the top of the table and thus the underside of the metal box placed on that table and everything above it, why did it not heat (and more rapidly) the thermometer that was also suspended over that same table?

4. Wilcox may rightly mock the reproduction of this experiment as carried out by Reichians, old (eg Blasband) and neo (eg DeMeo). But he fails to recount what it is that the Correas and Mallove did and found. One of the core questiosn is: why not simply remove the table from the experiment altogether when testing only the metal boxes? That is what the Correas did. They provided new controls, amongst which they compared the temperature above a suspended metal cage, with suspended thermometers placed at identical heights, with the temperatures above a metal cage placed on top of a stand made up of boxes with an area identical only to that of the base of the metal box. The experiment was conducted in a basement room, in the dark, with no heating inside the room or of any of its outer walls. In the absence of a table whose top can heat up the base of the suspended thermally-conductive cage, the underside of the cage will now cool (not heat) if any convection from the ground up occurs. Since the cage is thermally conductive, and given a compensating convection current from the ceiling to the top of the box, one expects equilibration of the air temperature inside and above the box. The cage on the stand has no convection current on its underside, since the stack of boxes prevents it and there is no lateral surface dividing the room and contiguous with the box's base, such as a table. Both boxes showed a positive temperature difference, and the difference was greater in the box placed on the stand. This is consistent with both Einstein's argument regarding convection currents, and the existence of a thermal anomaly. If one insulates the top of the box on the stand from the convection current from the ceiling, so that the box is isolated from both top (heating) and bottom (cooling) convection currents, and with no table around, the temperature difference increases even further. Convection currents exist, but their effects must be subtracted from the thermal anomaly. It is Einstein's argument that is taken experimentally to task. Infeld's objection was a good one, but in fact not sufficient to erase the phenomenon.

5. Lastly, Wilcox fails to realize the novelty of the Correas Hyborac technology http://www.aetherenergy.com/Technologies/aether_technologies.php. In fact, he fundamentally distorts its significance. * Whereas the Reich-Einstein experiment aimed at reducing and, if possible, eliminating the positive temperature difference*, so that one (or Einstein, as the case may be) would experimentally disprove Reich's claim of a thermal anomaly,*the purpose of the Hyborac technology is to increase the temperature difference and sustain it whether during day or night, not for a box that is closed, but for one that exports that heat and performs work in the process: a thermal engine*.

With the excuse that the Correas 'want money' for their publications (who isn't paid, one way or the other?), Wilcox states his (false) hunches as facts:

"The third experiment (code-named AS2-32) does claim to measure the average power produced by the accumulator over the course of 48 hours. (">173 kJ per day," which works out to about 2 Watts; but since this is a time-average, the actual amount of heat produced at any given instant may be much higher than this during the day and much smaller (or even negligible) during the night.)"

For all those who did not read the original material, it might seem that Wilcox's "may be this or that" is a "may" of critique by someone who knows the facts; yet, it is only the "may be this or that" of someone who doesn't not know whether it is "this or that" which is being claimed by the Correas. Indeed, the report mentioned by Wilcox shows virtually identical thermal profiles for delta-T during daytime and nighttime, with nearly identical daytime and nighttime work outputs.

Wonderful, no?, how mediocre people who are poor readers and understand little of a subject matter are quoted by a graduate from Oxford as the evidence that buttresses Infeld's argument against the thermal anomaly discovered by Reich? Somehow, those who look for their own kind, surely have no trouble finding them...

When one contrasts two different views of a phenomenon, one must consider that they are both worthy of the same consideration because they are both capable of addressing the same empirical observation. One cannot consider an opinion of a phenomenon as being valid when it purports to be an opinion of the same empirical observation but then proceeds to alter the description of this empirical observation to the point that "above" becomes the same as "inside", "maybe's" become "facts", and an argument based on the existence of an unwanted table becomes so opaque that apparently it cannot be controlled for, experimentally or empirically.

Perhaps the old Reichians and the neo-Reichians deserve a good dose of contempt. But the last remark of Wilcox is particularly malicious and deserving of still greater contempt: "To my knowledge, no other orgone-related experimenters have attempted to build a heat engine out of an accumulator. Perhaps a few other orgonomists did try to build such a "free energy generation" device, and when it didn't work, they simply ignored that line of inquiry from then on and never published their results."

It works. And apparently the Correas are in the process of commercializing it http://www.aetherenergy.com/Technologies/aether_technologies.php. If no 'orgonomists' tried it before, or after, or if they tried and failed to publish their results, what possible concern should it be, even to Wilcox?

The problem posed by the Reich-Einstein experiment is, at the end of the day, psychiatric

Even a simple experiment can be a challenge - not only to entrenched beliefs, but to the abilities of the most common or the brightest of human beings. The Reich-Einstein experiment is an example in point - it is a simple experiment, yet, its controls need more thought than most scientists are willing to give to it. Why?

Yes, in an historical record, we must quote from the Wikipedia Talk on this experiment - for the brief time that it had existence as a separate entry - to show the simple proof that the problem is at once collective and psychiatric: the problem of becoming open-minded to unexplained natural anomalies is the abyss that separates Big Science from nomadic science. Those who believe that science is or should be the handmaiden of power, treat it as a new religion, as the savior found at last, as a value over and above life; those who, instead, try to place science in the service of life, can only find in it a guide to life, a tool to free life from all power systems.

So, the old spirit of the Catholic Inquisition is now made more subtle, further spiritualized by an educated atavism, a resistance to consider facts - facts of history and facts of science, experimental facts. Thus this exchange with a Wikipedian representative of the Science-Purification cabal:

Sit back, relax, when it becomes mainstream I'll believe it is science...A viewpoint so debile in its bias that it is impervious to reality and facts, save "the reality" made dominant by social power.