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Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who covered Washington during all or part of ten of America's presidencies and who has edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review, which has been on the web since 1995, is now published from Freeport, Maine. We get over 5 million article visits a year. See for full contents of our site

March 23, 2010


PHYSORG - A potential new energy source so controversial that people once regarded it as junk science is moving closer to acceptance by the mainstream scientific community. That's the conclusion of the organizer of one of the largest scientific sessions on the topic -- "cold fusion" -- being held in San Francisco for the next two days in the Moscone Center during the 239th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society.

"Years ago, many scientists were afraid to speak about 'cold fusion' to a mainstream audience," said Jan Marwan, Ph.D., the internationally known expert who organized the symposium. . . Entitled "New Energy Technology," the symposium will include nearly 50 presentations describing the latest discoveries on the topic.

The presentations describe invention of an inexpensive new measuring device that could enable more labs to begin cold fusion research; indications that cold fusion may occur naturally in certain bacteria; progress toward a battery based on cold fusion; and a range of other topics. Marwan noted that many of the presentations suggest that cold fusion is real, with a potential to contribute to energy supplies in the 21st Century.

"Now most of the scientists are no longer afraid and most of the cold fusion researchers are attracted to the ACS meeting," Marwan said. "I've also noticed that the field is gaining new researchers from universities that had previously not pursued cold fusion research. More and more people are becoming interested in it. There's still some resistance to this field. But we just have to keep on as we have done so far, exploring cold fusion step by step, and that will make it a successful alternative energy source. With time and patience, I'm really optimistic we can do this!"

The term "cold fusion" originated in 1989 when Martin Fleishmann and Stanley Pons claimed achieving nuclear fusion at room temperature with a simple, inexpensive tabletop device. That claim fomented an international sensation because nuclear fusion holds potential for providing the world with a virtually limitless new source of energy. Fuel for fusion comes from ordinary seawater, and estimates indicate that 1 gallon of seawater packs the energy equivalent of 16 gallons of gasoline at 100 percent efficiency for energy production. The claim also ignited skepticism, because conventional wisdom said that achieving fusion required multi-billion-dollar fusion reactors that operate at tens of millions of degrees Fahrenheit.

When other scientists could not reproduce the Pons-Fleishmann results, research on cold fusion fell into disrepute. Humiliated by the scientific establishment, their reputations ruined, Pons and Fleishmann closed their labs, fled the country, and dropped out of sight. The handful of scientists who continued research avoided the term "cold fusion." Instead, they used the term "low energy nuclear reactions." Research papers at the ACS symposium openly refer to "cold fusion" and some describe cold fusion as the "Fleishmann-Pons Effect" in honor of the pioneers, Marwan noted.

"The field is now experiencing a rebirth in research efforts and interest, with evidence suggesting that cold fusion may be a reality." Marwan said. He noted, for instance, that the number of presentations on the topic at ACS National Meetings has quadrupled since 2007.

SAM SMITH, 2002 - I was attracted to the cold fusion issue because of political, rather than scientific, factors. After the initial Pons-Fleischmann experiments had proven faulty, a number of anomalies developed. Some of the media seemed to go out of its way to beat a presumed dead horse and a couple of anti-cold fusion books even appeared. The Department of Energy made it publicly clear it wanted nothing to do with the matter. The Patent Office refused to consider it.

Meanwhile, in other countries research continued, sometimes - as in Japan - with public monies, and some hardy American scientists kept plugging away, all gathering at international conferences notable for media absence. Even Toyota put money into the research.
Also in foreign lands was little suggestion that those interested in the subject belonged at Waco rather than in the lab. As one investigator put it, "In the U.S. there is a degree of envy among cold fusion researchers for their Japanese colleagues. In Japan, the debate over cold fusion is polite and scientific. Researchers are not rashly judged or branded incompetent for suggesting cold fusion could be real. Their American counterparts would like to conduct research in a similar atmosphere, without accusations and emotionalism."

The potential import of cold fusion, should it prove valid, along with the economic interests involved - including those involved in conventional energy or getting government money for other alternatives - raised the suspicion that some of the opposition might not be scientific at all. The hostility seemed to go beyond skepticism and veered towards political or public relations campaigning.

And when Jed Rothwell, who heads Cold Fusion Research Advocates, asked the editor of Scientific American why his journal had not covered the cold fusion story, he described it as "pathological science" with no merit whatsoever. But, as another reader noted, Scientific American treated the flight of the Wright Brothers the same way

WIKIPEDIA - The only photos of the [Wright Brothers] flights of 1904 -1905 were taken by the brothers. . . In 1904 Ohio beekeeping businessman Amos Root, a technology enthusiast, saw a few flights including the first circle. Articles he wrote for his beekeeping magazine were the only published eyewitness reports of the Huffman Prairie flights, except for the unimpressive early hop local newsmen saw. Root offered a report to Scientific American magazine, but the editor turned it down. As a result, the news was not widely known outside of Ohio, and was often met with skepticism. The Paris edition of the Herald Tribune headlined a 1906 article on the Wrights "FLYERS OR LIARS?"


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