COLD FUSION AND THE FUTURE
For nearly aquarter century, the Progressive Review has been one of the few non-scientific American publications to take this issue seriously - not because of assurance that the theory would work out, but because the available facts and the rampant criticisms didn't add up.
James Burgess of Oilprice, CNBC - Back in 1989 two of the greatest electrochemists in the world, Stanley Pons and Martin Fleischmann, made a remarkable announcement. They had witnessed low energy nuclear reactions at an atomic level, which generated excess heat. It was the first ever accouof cold fusion, a third type of nuclear reaction after fission and fusion.
However, Pons and Fleishman could not consistently reproduce their results, and this led to the rejection of cold fusion, the discrediting of the two scientists by the general scientific community.
Cold fusion became a complete dead end. Two different Department of Energy panels dismissed cold fusion theories and recommended against creating a program to study it. No one would risk putting major funding into any research projects, and no reputable scientists were willing to risk their reputations by pursuing a science that many considered equal to alchemy.
However, following recent LENR demonstrations at reputable institutions such as MIT, the University of Missouri, and the University of Bologna, as well as presentations by the world's largest instrument companies, National Instruments, a report by the European Commission's research and development center that suggests LENR has its place in the future of renewable energy, and most impressively of all, the fact that NASA is interested and reportedly filed two LENR patents last year; serious companies are now considering the possibilities of LENR and investing in certain research projects. There are rumors that Boeing is working with NASA to test LENR powered aircraft.
The promise of discovering a clean, green, safe, and (due to the fact that it is fueled by the most abundant metal and gas on the planet, nickel and hydrogen) cheap renewable energy source is causing many investors and scientists to overcome their previous reluctance and enter the field.
I am not saying that the companies such as Boeing of National Instruments, or agencies such as NASA, the US Navy, or the DOE will publicly admit to spending large amounts on cold fusion research. In fact the Navy had to shut down its LENR research in California after a news report attracted unwanted public attention.
Brian Josephson, Guardian, UK- Accounts of the cold fusion claims of the Czech-born electrochemist Martin Fleischmann, who has died aged 85, and his American-French former student Stanley Pons often assert that their results could not be replicated. This implies that their original experiments, carried out at the University of Utah, Salt Lake City, in the 1980s were flawed. Cold fusion has since come to be commonly regarded as a delusion, but the true situation is more complicated.
The Fleischmann-Pons experiments were motivated by the idea that hydrogen fusion, the source of the sun's heat, which goes very slowly at ordinary temperatures, might go significantly faster if the nuclei involved were brought closer together, as when hydrogen is absorbed at high density in a material such as palladium. The project was more successful than anticipated: returning to the laboratory after one weekend, when the apparatus had been turned off, the pair found that so much heat had been produced that a large hole had been melted into the bench and concrete floor. As a precaution they reduced the scale of the experiment and announced their findings at a press conference in 1989.
While the original nuclear claims appear to have been erroneous it was not their area of expertise the parallel claim relating to excess heat production is different. Some scientists failed to replicate this, but others were successful, notably Michael McKubre of SRI International, California. At the Los Alamos National Laboratory, New Mexico, a nuclear product, tritium, was detected, indicating that nuclear processes were indeed occurring.
Fleischmann and Pons continued their efforts in France from 1992 until Fleischmann retired three years later and returned to Britain. In 2004 a US Department of Energy report supported the view that the excess heat claims were valid, but had little influence on general opinion. Though the nuclear difficulties were eventually resolved, the fact that heat had been observed in excess of anything that can be explained on the basis of the usual mechanisms was neglected, or talked away.
The fact that many who tried to reproduce the phenomenon failed should not have been considered conclusive, since phenomena in materials are sometimes difficult to reproduce. Scientists convinced that there was a real effect continued work in the area over the years in several countries, including France, Italy, the US, and Japan, often with government support. Some, hopeful that the process might ultimately become a useful source of energy, concentrated on increasing the power generated.
NAVY EXPERIMENT GIVES BOOST TO COLD FUSION
DAILY TECH - Navy scientists claim that slices of CR-39 plastic. . . have recorded the passage of atomic particles emitted during successful cold fusion nuclear reactions. New proof that cold fusion works could fuel additional interest in generating power from low energy nuclear reactions
Cold fusion, the ability to generate nuclear power at room temperatures, has proven to be a highly elusive feat. In fact, it is considered by many experts to be a mere pipe dream - a potentially unlimited source of clean energy that remains tantalizing, but so far unattainable.
However, a recently published academic paper from the Navy's Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center in San Diego throws cold water on skeptics of cold fusion. Appearing in the respected journal Naturwissenschaften, which counts Albert Einstein among its distinguished authors, the article claims that Spawar scientists Stanislaw Szpak and Pamela Mosier-Boss have achieved a low energy nuclear reaction that can be replicated and verified by the scientific community.
COLD FUSION ACCEPTABLE FOR SCIENTISTS TO DISCUSS, BUT NOT MEDIA
AT THE MARCH MEETING of the American Physical Society there will be 14 papers delivered in a session on cold fusion. This isn't the first time there has been such a session, and cold fusion has also been considered a respectable subject at the American Chemical Society. Reports cold fusion advocate Ed Wall, "They have been presenting at APS for a number of years, as well as the American Chemical Society. They generally do not generate much of a turnout, but because the scientists doing the CF research are in good standing in such organizations, and the methods employed are standard stuff and quality of the work they do appears to be good, they were able to argue (Scott Chubb, most persuasively) that they should be allowed to present their work."
There is one place, however, where cold fusion is not permitted to be discussed or debated: the American press. Says Wall: "Once CF started getting treated as a serious science, not just by a strong-willed minority of appropriately credentialed scientists, but by scientific and engineering establishments around the world (Japan), it appeared as more than bizarre that it was still considered heresy in the US."
Cold fusion is far from the first new scientific idea to get the cold shoulder both from scientists, the establishment and the media. Gallileo's problems are well known but in a Nobel Laureates talk last June titled "Pathological Disbelief," Brian D. Josephson, a physicist from the University of Cambridge Lecture, gave some other examples:
METEORITES: The issue: do meteorites have an extra-terrestrial origin? Argument in favor: visual sightings, stones found at site of apparent landing, often warm Incorrect argument against: 'objects falling from space contradicts laws of mechanics' Alternative explanation offered: optical illusion, stone struck by lightning. Cause of capitulation: massive meteorite falls near Paris
CONTINENTAL DRIFT: Arguments in favor (Wegener, from 1912): Fit of S. American and African coastlines (Bacon 1620),.matching fossils, rocks, coal found in the Antarctic Argument against: claimed phenomenon is impossible. Cause of eventual capitulation: other geological observations led to theory of plate tectonics
Josephson's third example: cold fusion.
In his talk he quoted Charles D. Beaudette as offering the following characteristics of scientific skeptics:
1. They do not express their criticisms in those venues where it will be subject to peer review.
2. They do not go into the laboratory and practise the experiment along with the practitioner.
3. Assertions are offered as though they were scientifically based when in fact they are mere guesses.
4. Satire, dismissal and slander are freely employed.
5. When explanations are advanced ... ad hoc reasons are constantly advanced for their rejection. These reasons often assert offhand that the explanation violates some conservation law.
6. Evidence is rejected outright if it does not answer every possible question at the outset.
The problem with the media is even greater since it goes to the established scientific profession rather than the ground-breakers for confirmation.
Most of what your editor know about science he learned in high school. 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.
I was similarly 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 initially made it publicly clear it wanted nothing to do with the matter (although it has now backtracked a bit) 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, although the Japanese have since slashed their funding.
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.
OUR COLD FUSION ARCHIVES
BRIAN D. JOSEPHSON
COLD FUSION SITE
IT'S NOT OFTEN that we're stunned by the Washington Post, but we were amazed to find featured in the paper's Sunday magazine section a balanced article about cold fusion, the first such piece in a major publication in years.
We got interested in the issue - and became a lonely media voice on the subject for nearly 15 years - largely because we were fascinated by the depths of hostility towards it by the energy and science establishment and the press. These folks don't get so worked up over nothing. We were further struck by the dramatic difference between the way cold fusion was being treated in the US and elsewhere.
Of course, if cold fusion proved real it would completely change the nature of energy policy, not to mention the economics of this country. At this point the theory is still far short of such practical impact but perhaps looming energy crises including the prospect of running out of oil has softened up the opposition against even investigating the matter. Even the Department of Energy now has research on the matter under consideration.
As the Post noted, chemist and cold fusion investigator Michael McKrube "the main reason cold fusion has been belittled all these years is that the mainstream scientists who dug in their heels long ago can't change their minds now: "If it turns out these people are wrong, they're dead. They're scientifically dead." So, let's say he's right, and the majority of scientists are wrong, and cold fusion does work. What will it take for the critics to accept it? McKubre quotes Max Planck, the father of quantum theory: "Science advances one funeral at a time."
NEW ENERGY FOUNDATION - The U.S. Department of Energy has agreed to perform a review of the entire "cold fusion" (LENR) question. . . Just as after the original announcements by chemists Drs. Martin Fleischmann and B. Stanley Pons at the University of Utah on March 23, 1989 and by physicist Steven E. Jones at Brigham Young University subsequently, this disclosure by the U.S. DOE is certain to prompt intense controversy and expectation. The great difference this time, however, is that a much larger body of excellent published experimental work now exists from researchers around the globe, which the DOE should be compelled to examine in its review. . . Another difference between now and 1989: there are now operational experimental electrolytic and other excess energy cells in various laboratories in the U.S. and abroad; these are producing repeatable, verifiable excess energy that cannot possibly be explained by ordinary chemical reactions. In some cases, for example, one watt of electrical input power goes into a closed cell and an output power of 3 to 4 watts of heat occurs for a prolonged time. Much more powerful cells have also been operated. . .
[For quite a few years now, the Review has been a lonely voice pointing out that, contrary to near unanimous media ridicule, there were responsible scientific figures still investigating cold fusion, not a few of them in other countries including Japan and India. Thus, while there are relatively few stories that surprise us anymore, but this is certainly one of them]
KENNETH CHANG, NY TIMES - Cold fusion, briefly hailed as the silver-bullet solution to the world's energy problems and since discarded to the same bin of quackery as paranormal phenomena and perpetual motion machines, will soon get a new hearing from Washington. Despite being pushed to the fringes of physics, cold fusion has continued to be worked on by a small group of scientists, and they say their figures unambiguously verify the original report, that energy can be generated simply by running an electrical current through a jar of water.
Last fall, cold fusion scientists asked the Energy Department to take a second look at the process, and last week, the department agreed. No public announcement was made. A British magazine, New Scientist, first reported the news this week, and Dr. James F. Decker, deputy director of the science office in the Energy Department, confirmed it in an e-mail interview. "It was my personal judgment that their request for a review was reasonable," Dr. Decker said.
For advocates of cold fusion, the new review brings them to the cusp of vindication after years of dismissive ridicule. "I am absolutely delighted that the DOE. is finally going to do the right thing," Dr. Eugene F. Mallove, editor of Infinite Energy magazine, said. "There can be no other conclusion than a major new window has opened on physics."
JIM LUND, STANFORD, CA - A bunch of labs tried to replicate the P&F result and failed. The rare experimenters reporting success were doing different variations on the P&F experiment, and when other labs tried to repeat a success using a particular variation they couldn't. Based on that, a consensus developed that cold fusion is bunk. If there is anything to cold fusion, strong evidence and a clear case will now be required as this point to convince the physics community. Ed Wall reports that recent cold fusion researchers are replicating each other's experiments, which I am glad to hear.
And as research on it is continuing, understanding will accumulate. Scientific disputes are kind of silly, because further experiments make the truth clear. As for me, I'll consider cold fusion bunk as long as it's 'controversal.'
A new source of energy would be important, and is undoubtedly a big factor in the continued interest. Cold fusion has excited the same dedication that the search for the Philosopher's Stone held in an earlier age.
Cold fusion experiments report success based on excess heat, generation of tritium and deuterium, and neutrons. The first two are difficult to measure, relying on accurate measurement of the difference between large inputs and outputs. Neutron detection is relatively easier, you look for a signal above background. P&F reported finding neutron emission, a signature of nuclear fusion. A few experimenters replicating the P&F experiment also observed them. In time, as the technique for accurate neutron measurement was adopted by the different groups running experiments, it became clear cold fusion produced no neutrons, and that P&F had erred in measuring them.
Then the cold fusion field changed course, and now figures that cold fusion works through a novel mechanism that generates no neutrons. The field now relies on the two difficult measurements, and has dropped the clearest test. This also makes cold fusion seem less likely to physicists on quite reasonable theoretical grounds - now cold fusion isn't just a new way to get atoms to fuse, but fuses them by a novel mechanism.
COLD FUSION CONT'D
[Given the revival on these pages of discussion of cold fusion, the following from a bulletin board on the subject posted by Ludwik Kowalski of Montclair State University is of interest. Bear in mind that we have no idea whether cold fusion works or not; what has troubled us is the manner in which investigators into the subject have been treated by academia, the government, and the media. There is also an interesting letter in today's Feedback]
The decade of excommunication of the so-called "cold fusion" was not good for science and for its reputation. Why should anomalous energy be treated differently than any other area of interest? Nobody benefited from mutual accusations, such as "pathological science" or "pathological skepticism." How can the scientific consensus about AE be reached? If I were an influential member of the Academy of Sciences I would call for the creation of two panels to reevaluate the entire field. One panel would consist of electrochemists and material scientists while the other would consist of experimental nuclear physicists. Each panel would have one well defined task, and a time limit, for example, two years, to accomplish it.
The chemists would be asked to answer one question: "is generation of excess heat real or not?" By definition, excess heat is thermal energy that can not possibly be due to chemical reactions. Physicists, on the other hand, would be asked a totally different question: "are chemically induced nuclear processes real or not?" . . .
Confirmation of only one of these processes would be sufficient to validate a claim that a new phenomenon has been identified and that it should be studied. Non-confirmation, likewise, would be very significant. If the results reported by so many workers are not validated then the phenomenon of self-deception among hundreds of highly educated investigators would have to be examined. It would be an alert indicating a possibility that other areas of science might be in danger of being transformed into pseudoscientific "societies of mutual admiration."
Those who are interested in sociology of cold fusion (ethical and political aspects), should definitely read the article of George Miley. That article deals with ethical issues associated with "cold fusion." . . . In the last section, entitled "Conclusion" Milye wrote: "With the growing pressures on researchers in modern society, we must work hard to preserve an atmosphere where the primary objective is to "seek the truth." Clearly, the turmoil and divisions in the CF area created by persons both within and without the field confused and retarded this search for truth. With human nature being as it is, it is hard to believe that we can prevent a repeat of the CF episode in future areas where high stakes of money and prestige are involved. The education of upcoming scientists, journalists, research managers, etc. in scientific ethics is the best defense. Indeed, my only formal training in the area was a one-hour course on "professional ethics" required of all science/engineering students when I was a senior in college." . . .
An Internet friend, physics teacher an electrical engineer and an observer of cold fusion, sent me a message about that field last night. I think his wise comments and quotations are worth adding as an item to my list. He wrote. . . "The biggest issue I have with the CF controversy is that each experiment supposedly takes upwards of six months, since it takes that long to build up sufficient protons in the palladium electrodes. Simply designing the appropriate equipment take more months. Yet the "ERAB" report condemning Cold Fusion was submitted only 8 months after the very first Pons-Fleischmann announcement. Cold fusion supporters label this historical event as "the rush to judgment," and point out that the CF claims couldn't possibly have been given honest testing. I can't see how it could be anything else. Whether or not the "CF" effect exists, the controversy appears to be a classic example of intellectual suppression. I like Arthur C. Clarke's prediction, that Drs. Pons and Fleischmann will be the only scientists in history to win both the Ignoble and the Nobel prizes.". . .
If 500 researchers fail to replicate, while 5 researchers claim success, this proves that the claimed phenomenon doesn't exist? When doing science, majority rules? Consensus leads the day? The real world doesn't work like that. Yes, maybe those 5 researchers made mistakes, so that their success was an artifact. But maybe the 5 were right, while the 500 unsuccessful attempts only prove that replication is extremely difficult. . . . .
1) "If I want to stop a research program I can always do it by getting a few experts to sit in on the subject, because they know right away that it was a fool thing to try in the first place." . . . .- Charles Kettering, GM
" . . .By far the most usual way of handling phenomena so novel that they would make for a serious rearrangement of our preconceptions is to ignore them altogether, or to abuse those who bear witness for them." - William James
"A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it." - M. Planck
"Theories have four stages of acceptance: i) this is worthless nonsense; ii) this is an interesting, but perverse, point of view; iii) this is true, but quite unimportant; iv) I always said so." -J.B.S. Haldane, 1963. . .
CHARLES PLATT, WIRED, NOV 1998 - "It's pathological science," says physicist Douglas Morrison, formerly employed by CERN in Geneva. "The results are impossible." Yet some highly qualified researchers disagree.
George Miley, who received the Edward Teller medal for innovative research in hot fusion and has edited Fusion Technology magazine for the American Nuclear Society for more than 15 years: "There's very strong evidence that low-energy nuclear reactions do occur. Numerous experiments have shown definitive results - as do my own."
John Bockris, formerly a distinguished professor in physical chemistry at Texas A&M University and a cofounder of the International Society for Electrochemistry: "Nuclear reactions can occur without high temperatures. Low-energy nuclear transformations can - and do - exist."
Michael McKubre, director of the Energy Research Center at SRI International: "I am absolutely certain there is unexplained heat, and the most likely explanation is that its origin is nuclear."
Arthur C. Clarke, science fiction writer, futurist, and funder of Infinite Energy magazine: "It seems very promising to me that nuclear reactions may occur at room temperatures. I'm quite convinced there's something in this."
HAL PLOTKIN, SF CHRONICLE, MAY 17, 1999 - Two months ago, I reported that Dr. Michael McKubre, an electrochemist at Menlo Park-based SRI, was, like other researchers, generating unaccounted-for heat in a carefully-controlled cold fusion experiment. McKubre presented his findings at the centennial meeting of the American Physical Society, the nation's premier gathering of physicists. Close to 100 scientists attended McKubre's talk, a sizable audience for a technical session. Despite the crowd, and the importance of the subject, no major news stories have been published about the event. According to McKubre, there was only one journalist present.
In his talk, McKubre detailed the results of SRI's nearly 10-year effort to replicate the work of Utah chemists Stanley Pons and Martin Fleischmann. McKubre confirmed that, under the right, difficult-to-achieve conditions, sustained reactions are taking place in SRI's cold fusion cells. McKubre says the reaction appears to be nuclear in origin. . .
Since writing my first report on McKubre's work two months ago, I've become convinced that the federal Department of Energy is responsible for a massive failure to serve the public interest. Rather than budget the funds needed to explore this new, emerging science, our top national energy science officials have adopted what might be called, at best, a policy of benign neglect. At worst, it's a policy of fraud and deceit.
How could this be happening?
The stakes in the debate about cold fusion are enormous. In this case, an unholy alliance seems to have come together. The principle players are the fossil fuel industry, which has no interest in seeing itself eclipsed by a new, non-polluting source of energy, and the mainstream physics community, which wants to protect, seemingly at all costs, the federal funding it relies on to continue its massively expensive hot fusion experiments.
I've seen how squirrelly even good people can get when a few of their bucks are in jeopardy. So it's not surprising that when several trillion dollars are on the table, there are signs of skullduggery.
Take, for starters, the Energy Resources Advisory Board panel appointed during the [first] Bush administration to look into the cold fusion claims made by Pons and Fleischmann. That panel leaned heavily on an experiment done at MIT that found the field unworthy of financial support. Since then, however, Dr. Eugene Mallove, the chief science writer at MIT at the time, has come forward to denounce the MIT study, citing irregularities in the way MIT's results were presented.
Mallove contends MIT's researchers did generate excess heat in their cold fusion experiment, and then fudged that finding in their final report. As evidence, Mallove has produced a copy of the original heat-measurement graph used in the MIT experiment, which showed slight heat production above the expected level. That graph did not appear in the final MIT report. In its place, the MIT team published an "adjusted" graph that showed no production of excess heat. Mallove resigned in protest and demanded an investigation. . .
Since then, with funding from futurist Arthur C. Clarke, Mallove has been publishing Infinite Energy magazine, a publication devoted to spreading news about cold fusion experiments. . .
In a telling interview, former Electric Power Research Institute executive Tom Passell says that at least some of those involved in the campaign to debunk cold fusion intentionally misled congressional investigators and the public. EPRI is the Palo Alto-based consortium of utility companies that conducts research into power generation and distribution technologies. Besides his professional credentials, Passell has an excellent reputation as a longtime, well-known, Palo Alto civic volunteer.
Passell says that shortly after the ERAB panel persuasively denounced cold fusion as junk science in congressional testimony, some of the members of that panel quietly came to EPRI seeking money so they could study the phenomena themselves. Apparently, cold fusion research was only worthless if someone else was getting the money to do it.
If Passell's charge is true, it means some members of the ERAB panel intentionally lied to Congress, offering scientific testimony that cold fusion was unworthy of further study, testimony which they knew to be false. In non-scientific language, that's called perjury. "The search for money, for research funds, is a big thing," Passell says, "and sometimes takes precedence over the search for what we call truth." Despite the federal government's ongoing obstruction, scientists around the world are continuing to investigate cold fusion. . .
DR DAVID WHITEHOUSE, BBC ONLINE SCIENCE EDITOR, 1999 - A decade later, many scientists and commentators have dismissed it entirely. There are cold fusion conferences, but they attract only enthusiasts and rarely the media. This is a pity. Cold fusion researchers feel outsiders in the scientific effort. Mainstream scientists ignore them. The result is that neither camp talks to each other and science is the poorer because of it.
Millions of dollars are still being spent on it and large labs still hope to explain and develop the technology. Cold fusion has had only a tiny fraction of the effort and resources that have been lavished on "hot" fusion research. And we have had virtually no return on that investment.
We should give the cold fusion camp time and encouragement. We live in a fusion universe. The Sun shines because of fusion at its heart. Likewise the stars are visible at night because of the distant fusion fire.
Our coal will not last forever. Neither will the oil or gas, and there will never be enough wind and wave power for us. Nuclear power based on splitting atoms has its problems and disturbs many. So sooner or later, we will simply have to tame the power of the stars.
BBC, 2000 - The author and visionary Sir Arthur C. Clarke says society has made a huge mistake in rejecting out of hand the idea that cold fusion may be possible. And he mocked editors and journalists at the British Association's Festival of Science for not giving the technology serious consideration. . . Sir Arthur said the results coming out of some labs demanded attention. "Over the last decade there have been literally hundreds of reports from all over the world from highly qualified people and distinguished institutions of anomalous sources of energy," he said in a recorded video address to the festival. "They may or may not be cold fusion and in some cases have nothing to do with nuclear power. Although there are lots of crooks, cranks and cowboys in this field, I believe there is now enough published evidence to prove that something strange is going on."
DR EDMUND STORMS, 21ST CENTURY MAGAZINE, SUMMER 2001 - The literature now consists of more than 3,000 papers having some relationship to the effect, with about 1,000 of these useful for an understanding. Many are published in peer-reviewed journals. More than 500 variations on various themes have been proposed as explanations, with about a dozen being useful. Work is being done in six countries with official government support in most.
Of this group, only the United States has resisted supporting any but a small effort. In fact, the U.S. Patent Office is unique in refusing to issue patents on the subject. The United States is now the largest user of polluting energy, yet resists any change in this situation, even to the point of completely ignoring a method to make safe nuclear energy. How much worse must the situation become before our leaders come to their senses?
[Dr. Edmund Storms is retired from Los Alamos National Laboratory where he worked for 32 years. His research there was on the SP-100 space nuclear program, and space nuclear propulsion systems.]
COLD FUSION CONT'D
[Although cold fusion is an idea thought by many to be totally discredited, support for it continues to crop up in interesting places]
As I write this Foreword, California is experiencing rolling blackouts due to power shortages. Conventional engineering, planned ahead, could have prevented these blackouts, but it has been politically expedient to ignore the inevitable. We do not know if Cold Fusion will be the answer to future energy needs, but we do know the existence of Cold Fusion phenomenon through repeated observations by scientists throughout the world. It is time that this phenomenon be investigated so that we can reap whatever benefits accrue from additional scientific understanding. It is time for government funding organizations to invest in this research. - Dr. Frank E. Gordon Head, Navigation and Applied Sciences Department, Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center, San Diego, in the forward to 'Calorimetric Principles and Problems in Pd-D2O Electrolysis, Anomalous Effects in Deuterated Systems, Final Report'
Progressive Review, June 1992 - You may recall the flurry of stories three years ago about that miracle of physics, cold fusion, that turned out, we were told, to be a flop, if not a scientific fraud. That's where the American media left us, but in the process may be missing one of the biggest stories of our time.
Cold fusion is a phenomenon that some researchers believe occurs when a special form of hydrogen interacts with certain metals. It is argued that this interaction releases quantities of energy far beyond that occurring in an ordinary chemical reaction. And it does so with little radiation and potentially at very little expense.
Despite an American media blackout on the subject, there are at present some 200 scientists around the world actively studying cold fusion. The Electric Power Research Institute in Palo Alto, Calif., which does research for the electric utilities, has spent $2 million on cold fusion research since 1989 and budgeted another $3 million to be spent in 1992. On January 27, top cold fusion researchers gathered in Nagoya, Japan, to bear a series of reports on cold fusion projects. Major Japanese newspaper covered the event. The Japanese, it is estimated, are spending $10-$15 million a year on cold fusion research and the leading journal Bungeishunju says that cold fusion "is no longer open to discussion. Cold fusion experiments and replication left those levels of doubt a long time ago, and entered a more concrete stage of development. Anyone who still says, 'such nonsense, it can't be!' is simply not looking at reality.
Meanwhile, in the United States, no federal or state money is being spent on cold fusion and as recently as last November The Washington Post ran a review by the director of the American Physical Society that attacked the cold fusionists with less than scientific reserve:
If everyone knows it is wrong, why are they doing it? Inept scientists whose reputations would be tarnished, greedy administrators.... gullible politicians who had squandered the taxpayers' dollars, lazy journalists... all had an interest in making it appear that the issue had not been settled. Their easy corruption was one of the most chilling aspects of this sad comedy. To be sure, there are true believers among the cold-fusion acolytes, just as there are sincere scientists who believe in psychokinesis, flying saucers, creationism and the Chicago Cubs. A Phd in sciences in not inoculation against foolishness. or mendacity.
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.
Yet the Japanese version of the same publication ran a two-page story in March. And the signers of a petition to Congress to hold hearings on the matter include the names of a Nobel Laureate in physics; scientists from MIT, Los Alamos, Oak Ridge, Tufts, the US Army, Rockwell, Dow, and Motorola; the chair of the atomic energy commission of India, and leading scientists in Japan, China and Russia. Will cold fusion pan out? Who knows? But the indifference of the media, Congress and the Bush administration to an idea that is being treated seriously in as serious a country as Japan, that even has attracted the attention of the American utility industry, seems strange at best. At worst, it could provide highly dramatic evidence that America's genius for invention and discovery is well on the decline.