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WHen cold fusion was hot

by Donald Prothero, Aug 22 2012

Stanley Pons (right) and Martin Fleischmann with a publicity shot staged to show them “working” on their experiment in 1989

The first principle of science is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool.
—Richard Feynmann

The passing of Martin Fleischmann on August 3 brings to mind one of the most famous (and infamous) recent episodes in the history of science: the cold-fusion fiasco. Those of us who were involved in science in March 1989 (or just paying attention to the news) could not avoid hearing about Stanley Pons and Martin Fleischmann of the University of Utah supposedly producing nuclear fusion at room temperatures. Announced with great fanfare and huge press publicity on March 23, 1989, Pons and Fleischmann claimed that they had run simple electrochemical experiments in the lab that had managed to start a nuclear fusion reaction. Conventional nuclear physics had always argued that fusion (squeezing two or more atoms together to produce another atom) could only be produced at extreme temperatures and pressures, such as the fusion reactions that occur now to drive the heat engine at the core of the Sun. This is why nuclear fusion has only been used for hydrogen bombs and is not yet practical for nuclear energy or other peaceful uses. If Pons and Fleischmann were right, their discovery would revolutionize nuclear physics and possibly solve our energy problems with a source of energy that was cheap to obtain and not as dangerous as the various proposals for fusion reactors. The media immediately ran with the story on a massive scale, so that nobody who paid attention to the news at that time could possibly miss the message.

Of course, when any scientist makes claims that are so far out of the mainstream yet seem potentially legitimate, it is a challenge to other scientists in their field to test their results. Most scientists were skeptical that true cold fusion had been achieved, especially since the announcement was made (apparently due to pressure from the President of the University of Utah, competing with BYU) without peer review of the paper, which had not even been published yet. Today, when someone makes a startling announcement, scientists expect the peer-reviewed scientific paper to be soon available so they can check the science for themselves—and this precaution was largely a result of the cold-fusion debacle. Back in March 1989, many scientists in many different labs around the world dropped everything they were doing to try to replicate the experiment. Even though there was no widespread use of the internet back then, scientists were chatting back and forth over the phone about their efforts and results (or lack thereof), and by the time the paper was finally published in Journal of Electroanalytical Chemistry (and NOT in Science or Nature, as the work’s importance would suggest), many of them were even more skeptical. Then when the paper came out, they jumped all over it, and within weeks there were numerous critiques and rejections of the research as  fraudulent, sloppy, incomplete, unreproducible, inaccurate, erroneous and unethical. Within months after the initial announcement, the work was widely denounced among the scientific community and no longer taken seriously. By 1992, both Pons and Fleischmann moved from Utah to the IMRA lab in France, where they were less notorious and could do research in a private lab with corporate funding and less scrutiny from the scientific community. Sponsored by Toyota, the lab spent over 12 million pounds with no results before it closed in 1998. Fleischmann continued to work in private labs, or US Navy labs, where his research was still considered potentially important. In 1995 he returned to England, where he served mostly as a “Senior Scientific Advisor”, and by 2006 he was suffering the effects of Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, and heart disease. He died this past August 3 at age 85. His student Stanley Pons (now 69 years old) still lives in France and works in the same lab, even giving up his U.S. citizenship.

Although cold fusion was a failure, it is an important object lesson in the nature of science. Many of the mistakes and problems that we saw with the cold-fusion experience inform other similar problems in scientific research and its acceptance by a scientific community.

1) Never do science by press release. In many fields, there is enormous pressure from institutions and sometimes from publicity-conscious scientists to promote their research to the hilt. As much as scientists would like to see their results get the attention they deserve, too much PR and hype is a bad thing. It always raises a red flag in the minds of most scientists, and also serves as a red cape to bait them into focusing on checking your results. In most cases, the highly promoted discoveries turn out to be not only less than claimed, but often just bad science. One thinks of the recently debunked claim that there are bacteria in Mono Lake who are build their DNA not with phosphorus but with arsenic; the overhyping of the alleged “impact” 11,000 years ago and its supposed effect on mass extinctions of Ice Age mammals (more on that in a future column); or more recently, the big hullabaloo over the Messel fossil Darwinius, which turned out just to be a nice articulated specimen of an adapid primate, and not even closely related to anthropoids (also the subject of a future column). Typically, the PR and development people at a university or foundation are always searching for ways to garner publicity and get their scientists into the media. To some extent, that’s fine, but as soon as it becomes an overhyped frenzy of attention, it’s sure to enhance the skepticism of the scientific community and guarantee the quick debunking of the claim if it can’t stand scrutiny. In the cold fusion case, it was the President of the University of Utah who pushed Pons and Fleischmann past their comfort limits, and ended up with with egg on his own face as well as embarrassing his scientists and his institution.

2) Pathological science. Even though there are still diehards out there who still claim that they have achieved cold fusion, most of their work is not published in peer-reviewed journals, and is now regarded as “pathological science.”  Such a status is typical of a hot scientific idea that achieves a burst of fame and attention. Then when it fails to produce results, most scientists turn away, leaving only true believers behind, who pursue their research outside the mainstream science community. If you look hard enough, there are remarkable number of symposia conducted and volumes published within the diehard community, all to maintain their faith that they were right all along and that science has rejected them unfairly. In this respect, they closely resemble the followers of various millennialist cults and religions, who sold all their possessions to be ready for the Rapture at a predicted date, only to be disappointed again and again. As psychologists have shown, the human brain works in such a way that even though proven decisively wrong in their predictions, confirmation bias and reduction of cognitive dissonance works so that the “true believers” become even stronger in their falsified belief. They use classic ad hoc rationalizations (“the Rapture came but it was invisible” or “our prayers saved the world from destruction”) to continue to follow their belief system, because the emotional connections with the believer community override the rational portion of their brain that tells them they were wrong. So, too, do the pathological science communities such as the cold fusion acolytes, continue with their delusions.

3) Science is always scrutinizing and testing its claims. Not every claim in science gets a huge amount of publicity or immediate cross-checking by other rival scientists, but the really important and startling ideas do, often right away. The Pons and Fleischmann claim was completely dead within months of its publication. Similarly, the outlandish claims of impacts causing certain extinctions (such as the Permo-Triassic or Triassic-Jurassic) were debunked within months by people who went back and did the dating and geochemistry that the original author neglected to do. In some cases, it may take a few years before outrageous claims are fully tested and debunked in the published literature (often due to the slow pace of much scientific publication), but eventually bad ideas are winnowed out.

4) Peer review works. The startling claims of cold fusion advocates were made without peer review, and the authors were heavily criticized for publishing their results with minimum peer review in a small journal with less stringent standards than the top-line journals. Eventually, when they published results that any scientist could try to replicate, the peer review system showed their claims to be impossible, and the idea was falsified. Not every bad scientific idea is weeded out by peer review (most are only corrected years later, and some may survive scrutiny for even longer), and sometimes peer review is too strict and unfairly rejects good ideas that are out of the mainstream. But science is a human enterprise, with human failings and feelings built in. Given that this is true, science has the unique distinction of being the only system that is so heavily self-scrutinizing and self-correcting. No religious, economic, or political theory of the world can make this claim.

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41 Responses to “WHen cold fusion was hot”

  1. tudza says:

    I understand a couple of the faster-than-light neutrino folks who asked for peer review help got fired. This does not sound like good news.

  2. mike says:

    This reminds me of the recent flap over an alleged “new organism” that devastates genetically modified crops and causes animal miscarriages (or something like that).

    Don Huber wrote a letter full of fear-mongering to the Agriculture Secretary but has yet to publish the results in a paper. His claims have been all over the Internet, including the “hives of scum and quackery” (I forget who I’m quoting) whose names I won’t mention.

    http://articles.latimes.com/2011/apr/02/business/la-fi-gmo-mystery-20110402

    It’s amazing what legs this crap has on the Internet. Look:

    https://www.google.com/search?q=huber+genetic+modification&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&aq=t&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a

  3. mike says:

    By the way, a great debunking of the “Huber Fusion Fiasco” can be found here:

    http://www.biofortified.org/2011/02/extraordinary-claims%E2%80%A6-require-extraordinary-evidence/

  4. Max says:

    The U.S. Navy apparently still funds Robert Bussard’s polywell research five years after his passing.
    https://www.neco.navy.mil/synopsis/detail.aspx?id=351205

  5. Jed Rothwell says:

    I have a collection of 1,200 peer reviewed papers on cold fusion, that I copied from the libraries at Los Alamos and the Georgia Institute of Technology. You are under the impression that peer-reviewed papers on cold fusion have not been published. Evidently, you have never bothered to look for such papers. I suggest you review the scientific literature before commenting on this research — or any research.

    All of your assertions about cold fusion are factually incorrect.

    You are quite right that peer-review works. In this case, by 1991 it proved beyond any doubt that cold fusion does exist and the Fleischmann and Pons were correct.

    I suggest you review the bibliography and on-line papers at LENR.org

    • BillG says:

      Some items note here: cold fusion can be an abstract or malleable term – perhaps the absence of plasma fusion or such. Also, from my understanding, some reviews or confirmations have been retracted since initial reports.

      Most important and to our current day, NO net-energy gain has ever been proven from any means of nuclear fusion, be it cold fusion (or tabletop),laser, plasma or even the hundred million dollar tomahawks.

      • Jed Rothwell says:

        You wrote: “Most important and to our current day, NO net-energy gain has ever been proven from any means of nuclear fusion, be it cold fusion (or tabletop) . . .”

        That is incorrect. Plasma fusion at the PPPL produced roughly 10 MJ more output energy than input, although as a percent of input this was very small. Cold fusion has produced up to 300 MJ of energy, in a continuous reaction lasting 3 months at about 100 W. In some cases there is no input; the reaction is “fully ignited.”

      • itzac says:

        Minor quibble, BillG. Thermonuclear weapons have produced what I would consider significant net energy gains using fusion. Of course that’s hardly the kind of reaction we’re after here.
        /quibble

      • Gavin says:

        Further quibble: “tokamak”, not “tomahawk” – though I wouldn’t be too surprised at cold-fusion proponents trying to split atoms with a hatchet.

      • tmac57 says:

        tokamak…tomahawk…atom hawk

        cold-fusion…confusion…fusion con

  6. John H says:

    Jed – while we all certainly wish you were right, is it OK if we don’t start holding our breath just yet?

    • Jed Rothwell says:

      You wrote: “Jed – while we all certainly wish you were right . . .”

      Two points:

      1. This is not about me. I am not right or wrong. The people making these claims are distinguished experts at places like Los Alamos, China Lake, the PPPL, BARC, the Max Plank Inst. and 180 national labs and universities.

      2. If you wish to determine for yourself whether these experts are right or wrong, I recommend you read the scientific papers they have published over the years. You can read them the same place I got them: Los Alamos or Georgia Tech, EPRI, the NSF and so on, or you can go to LENR.org.

      It may be that you do not have enough expertise to evaluate some of these claims. For example, you probably do not know as much about tritium as the people at the PPPL. In that case, I suggest you defer to these experts and assume they are correct. You will not find any similar group of expert who have published papers showing errors in this work. I have read the literature extensively, and I have uploaded every negative paper I can. There are only a dozen or so, and none of them has any merit in my opinion.

      Note that if you do assume that world class experts in tritium are capable of measuring tritium at 60 times background, or 10E18 times background, that is not a so-called Fallacious Appeal to Authority (http://www.nizkor.org/features/fallacies/appeal-to-authority.html) These are real authorities, a fact you can easily establish.

      Let me also suggest you should be suspicious of people such as this author who call themselves “skeptics” yet who clearly know nothing about the subject, and have not bothered to read a single paper. That is not skepticism.

  7. BillG says:

    We have been chasing fusion energy that has a net-gain since 1950 with net-zero results. Many have bordered on fraud – raping state and fed coffers.

    When a scientist (or a crank) invests in his own claims, no crime, no victim, except oneself. Donald, as you posted previous about scarce grant dollars, it’s a battle and some are not always victimless as millions of tax dollars have gone for naught.
    (Except, possibly a few scientific resiuals.)

    Not unlike Wall street, fraud is not always blatant and scientists and universities can be whores as well.

  8. scott says:

    So Rod, tell us about the conspiracy to keep the glorious news of cold fusion, as apparently proven by these 1,200 studies, under wraps.

    Most people don’t have the time to commit dozens if not hundreds of hours reading the quote-unquote literature produced by everyone on the web who claims some amazing truth that ‘they’ don’t want you to know about. I’ve taken the bait a few times and, surprise, surprise, these supposed findings or theories don’t even come close to panning out. Problem is, I don’t know who to go to get a refund on all the time lost exploring their rabbit holes.

    So rather than tell us to go blindly through these hundreds of studies until we can see the light, give us your best link (or a couple) that show there is some actual sound science behind your claims.

    Sure, it’s possible that the proclaimed skeptics here may have it completely wrong. I’ll grant you that. But really, a finding this huge has been kept hush hush for two decades? The smart money is on you turning out to be just another crank/conspiracy theorist.

    • scott says:

      Oops. Meant to address this to Jed.

      • Jed Rothwell says:

        Most people don’t have the time to commit dozens if not hundreds of hours reading the quote-unquote literature produced by everyone on the web . . .

        These papers were published in the J. Electroanal. Chem., J. Fusion Energy, Jap. J. of Applied Physics, and by institutions such as BARC, the ENEA, the NSF, China Lake and EPRI. They were not published on the web, although I later put some of them there.

        “. . . who claims some amazing truth that ‘they’ don’t want you to know about. . . .”

        I do not know who “they” would be. EPRI, the NRL and China Lake have no objection to your reading peer-reviewed research they paid for. They are not hiding anything. Go to any university or national library and you will find these papers.

        “. . . The smart money is on you turning out to be just another crank/conspiracy theorist. . . .”

        I do not embrace any conspiracy theories. You brought that up; not me. I know more than a thousand cold fusion researchers. Every one of them is from a mainstream organization. Not one of them is engaged in a conspiracy, or believes that anyone is conspiring against them. Frankly, that notion is ridiculous.

        I just came back from a week at the KAIST cold fusion conference (the Korean National Science Foundation). The week before that cold fusion was featured at the NIWeek conference (National Instruments), with demonstrations and lectures before an audience of 3,000 people. NI put together a demonstration of an ENEA device (Italian National Nuclear Lab.). The president and CEO of NI described the research in his opening remarks, and he was co-author of one of the papers presented at the conference. Organizations such as NI and KAIST do not engage in conspiracies.

        Perhaps you believe that papers you have not bothered to read are being hidden from you by conspirators. They are not. You will find them in a library, or online. If you will not read them I suggest you should refrain from discussing or judging them. People who try judge scientific research they know nothing about make themselves look foolish.

  9. MadScientist says:

    Why can’t I get funding for my N-ray research – don’t they think I’m whacky enough? From the reactions I get, you’d think someone had already discovered them …

  10. Ah – the “you’re not a real skeptic unless you have read my 12 foot stack of evidence” ploy.

    Since we are deferring to experts – why is it that the majority of the relevant experts reject claims or cold fusion? Perhaps the evidence is just not compelling. Amount does not equal quality.

    There are serious problems with claims for cold fusion. Perhaps the biggest, as has already been pointed out, is that no one has been able to actually generate energy with an alleged cold fusion reaction. Researchers have found some interesting physics perhaps – but not anything to support the claims of cold fusion.

    • Jed Rothwell says:

      “Ah – the “you’re not a real skeptic unless you have read my 12 foot stack of evidence” ploy.”

      It is a complicated subject. You should read 5 or 10 papers I think. But why not read this one, and tell us if you find any mistakes:

      http://lenr-canr.org/acrobat/McKubreMCHisothermala.pdf

      “Since we are deferring to experts – why is it that the majority of the relevant experts reject claims or cold fusion?”

      That is incorrect. Most peer-reviewed papers accept the claims. There were 20 studies in 1989 that did not produce positive results, compared to about 90 that did, but a null result is not a negative. The reasons these early studies failed soon became apparent. See:

      http://lenr-canr.org/acrobat/RothwellJtallyofcol.pdf

      There may be many scientists out there who think that cold fusion does not exist. I know of only one public opinion poll of scientists, from Japan. It shows them split about evenly. However, to the best of my knowledge, only a few scientists have written papers challenging the results. There are about a dozen papers; I have only gotten permission to upload a few. Here is the best known example:

      http://lenr-canr.org/acrobat/Fleischmanreplytothe.pdf

      The others are similar to this.

      Opinions expressed by scientists who have not published papers do not count. There is no way to evaluate these opinions, or to determine whether the scientists have read the literature and understand the claims. Most “skeptical” assertions about cold fusion that I have seen are made by people who know nothing about the research. Most of their assertions are based on a fantasy, with no connection to the actual claims, instruments, methods and so on.

      There were several papers published in 1989 claiming that cold fusion violates theory. I do not count these because they were published before anyone had a chance to replicate. (Replications take months, or years.) These were predictions more than critiques. In any case, theory cannot be used to dispute widely replicated, high signal-to-noise experimental results. That is a violation of the scientific method.

      • MadScientist says:

        Let me guess – Big Coal, Big Gas, Big Oil, and Big Energy are all conspiring to keep Cold Fusion out of the market?

      • Jed Rothwell says:

        No one is conspiring to keep cold fusion out of the market. That notion is absurd. I did not say anything like that. What I said was:

        1. This author knows nothing about cold fusion. His statements about is are factually wrong.

        2. If you wish to learn about cold fusion, I suggest you read peer-reviewed scientific papers from university libraries, rather than rumors in the mass media and the Internet. These rumors are nonsense.

        I do not understand why this second recommendation of mine is considered so controversial, or why I am accused of being a conspiracy theorist or some sort of cult member. I recommend you get your information from a university library rather than Wikipedia. Why is that considered “cultish” or “tin-foil hat” behavior? It seems to me that people like this author, who publish blogs based entirely on mass media nonsense are the ones engaged in cult behavior. I get my information from respected scientists at major institutions. This author gets his information from who-knows-where on the Internet, or from some mass media “science journalist” who does not know the difference between power and energy, and has never heard of the laws of thermodynamics. So who is mainstream here? Who has credibility? By conventional standards, I do, and you people are the tin-foil-hat conspiracy theorists.

        I realize you do not see it that way, but this is because you are never skeptical about your own beliefs, and because you do not do your homework and learn about this subject before blathering on about it.

      • MadScientist says:

        In your first link there, yes there are mistakes (though whether they’re a problem or not can’t be determined by the information in the paper). The big thing though is that the authors never claim cold fusion, so why do you assume that the experiment is somehow proof of cold fusion? Paladium in particular has some very interesting interactions with deuterium; personally if I were to investigate that particular experiment I would concentrate on an experimental setup to determine whether or not the group were simply observing one of the well-known properties of Pd+D (and yes, the behavior with D is very different from the behavior with H). Another question to ask is: if it were cold fusion, what are the initial reactants, what is the product, what is the fusion ‘cross-section’ in the experiment and is it consistent with the rate of power generation? “Anomalous excess power” does not equal cold fusion.

      • tmac57 says:

        “Anomalous excess power” does not equal cold fusion.

        Right.It does have all of the hallmarks of anomaly hunting,just as “UFOs” do not equal exterrestrial aliens.

      • Jed Rothwell says:

        You wrote: “In your first link there, yes there are mistakes (though whether they’re a problem or not can’t be determined by the information in the paper). . . .”

        You will forgive me but I doubt that you found mistakes in this paper. You may think there are mistakes, but this is probably your misunderstanding. This paper passed very rigorous peer-review by skeptical experts. It took a couple of years as I recall.

        If you have found mistakes, I suggest you write a paper and submit it for peer-review. You should be willing to meet the same standards of rigor the authors do.

        I think there is enough information in this paper to cover the topics it describes. It does not describe all of cold fusion. In any case, if you think something is missing I suggest you read other papers by the same authors.

      • Jed Rothwell says:

        To understand the meaning — and significance — of the term “anomalous excess power” you have read a lot more about cold fusion. The excess power is only one aspect of the phenomenon, albeit an important one. To understand why, you need to compare the net energy from the reaction to the mass of the cathode and the other materials in the cell

        There are other important aspects of the phenomenon such as helium production at the same ratio to the heat as plasma fusion produces, and also tritium, neutrons and transmutations. This paper is about the anomalous heat only, not these other subjects.

    • Jed Rothwell says:

      You wrote: “. Perhaps the biggest, as has already been pointed out, is that no one has been able to actually generate energy with an alleged cold fusion reaction.”

      This is a good example of a fantasy statement. Cold fusion experiments that work always produce energy. That is how you know they are working. Some of them have produced 50 to 300 MJ of energy, at power levels ranging from 20 to 100 W.

      300 MJ is the amount of energy produced by 7 kg of gasoline. That came from devices the size of a coin weighing a few grams, which did not undergo any chemical changes.

      If you think it is difficult to detect 100 W, I suggest you hold your hand over an old fashioned 100 W incandescent light bulb. Tell us whether you think Toyota, Mitsubishi, a national laboratory or NI would have difficulty detecting that much heat when they use equipment ranging from $25,000 to $300,000.

  11. Sharon Hill says:

    The LENR backers comment on nearly every critical post about cold fusion. That’s really the least credible way to make a convincing case in science. As well as NOT working via press release, science doesn’t work via blog comments, either.
     
    Good post, Don. The cold fusion story is used in textbooks to illustrate pathological science and fringe claims. It’s a great example.

    • Donal Prothero says:

      Thanks, Sharon. I figured we’d get someone defending it, which is why I put in the section on “Pathological Science”. I WAS aware of some of that literature Jed mentions–but I’m also familiar with what most physicists think of the cold-fusion subcult.

      • Jed Rothwell says:

        You wrote: “I’m also familiar with what most physicists think of the cold-fusion subcult.”

        I doubt that you have conducted a poll of physicists so I do not think you know what “most” of them think. In any case, you should limit your sample to physicists who have actually read 5 or more papers on this subject. I am touch with several thousand people in that category, because they download ~9,000 papers from my website every week. As far I know, most of them think that cold fusion is real.

        If these physicists that you imagine are so common would publish peer-reviewed papers describing their objections to cold fusion perhaps you will have a point. Most of the ones I have encountered know nothing about the subject. They statements would never pass peer-review. They make offhand assertions that reveal they have read nothing beyond Wikipedia and mass media descriptions, which is like reading a Creationist website on biology.

        This boils down to a stark choice –

        You can get scientific information from mainstream, peer-reviewed journal papers written by experts. If you do this, you will see that cold fusion has been replicated thousands of times in hundreds of laboratories by leading experts in calorimetry, tritium detection and other relevant disciplines. You can check the bona fides of these experts, and read other papers they have published.

        OR, you can get your information from an internet rumor mill, written by people who name themselves after comic book characters. This is like drinking water out of a sewer. If you use this method of “learning” about cold fusion, you will end up posting baseless nonsense — as you have done here.

        You back up this willful ignorance with empty, unproven assertions about opinions of physicists — opinions you have not polled and you cannot verify. You might as well try to disprove evolution by pointing to the opinions of the American public. A physicist who has not done his homework and not read the literature has no more right to an opinion about cold fusion than the the guy behind the counter at Dunkin Donuts does. You cannot do science by ESP! You cannot magically know the facts about cold fusion until you learn them, and they are not easy to understand.

        You call yourself a “skeptic” yet you buy opinions wholesale from people who know nothing. You are gullible, to say the least. You apparently believe it is possible to understand research without reading anything about it. This is the opposite of skepticism.

      • tmac57 says:

        Jed, would you share what your credentials and background are,so that those of us who are skeptical can at least decide whether or not you are in any position to make the kind of claims that you are making here?
        On almost any fringe or controversial claim,there are those individuals who will bombard skeptical blogs with a Gish Gallop of information that would take weeks or even years to refute if you weren’t already an expert in that subject,so naturally most skeptics will tend to stick with the mainstream opinion until such time as it becomes clear that there is better science on the side of what was formerly the underdog claim.
        That is why you are having problems with getting people to accept what you are saying,and I would also
        like to point out that when you descend into the kind of ad hominem attacks that you just did,and try to belittle your audience,you are looking more and more like the kind of crank that we see regularly,rather than a sober science minded underdog trying to make a case in an uphill battle.Just saying…take it for what it’s worth.

      • Jed Rothwell says:

        You wrote: “Jed, would you share what your credentials and background are . . .”

        My credentials are not relevant. I did not conduct research or write these papers. You can check the credentials of the cold fusion researchers. In some cases their C.V.s are included in the papers. Here are two examples:

        http://lenr-canr.org/acrobat/GerischerHiscoldfusi.pdf

        Memorandum On The Present State Of Knowledge On Cold Fusion

        Prof. Heinz Gerischer, Director of the Max Planck
        Institute for Physical Chemistry.

        http://lenr-canr.org/acrobat/EPRInsfepriwor.pdf

        TRITIUM MEASUREMENT: METHODS, PITFALLS, AND RESULTS

        Roland A. Jalbert
        *25 years working with tritium and tritium detection
        *involved in the development, design, and implementation of tritium instrumentation for 15 years
        *for 12 years he has had prime responsibility for the design, implementation, and maintainance of all tritium instrumentation at a major fusion
        technology development facility (Tritium Systems Test Assembly).
        *Consultant on tritium instrumentation to other fusion energy facilities for 10 years (Tokamak Fusion Test Reactor at Princeton)

      • MadScientist says:

        So what do you think of Andrea Rossi and his cold fusion demonstrations a year or 2 ago?

      • tmac57 says:

        Good question.I would also like to know what Jed thinks about Rossi.I believe that he was defending, at least in principle,Rossi in a blog last Nov.

      • Jed Rothwell says:

        I do not have enough information on Rossi to reach a firm conclusion. However there have been a number of other claims of heat from nickel hydrides, so it would not surprise me if Rossi’s claims are true.

        Ni-H claims were made by people at U. Illinois, the ENEA, by Piantelli, and various others. They have a lot more credibility than Rossi, since they have been peer-reviewed etc.

        Ni-H results were most recently claimed by the people at NI and Celani (ENEA), with treated constantan Isotan 44 wire. That material awaits confirmation, which I hope will come soon. The instruments provided by NI were among the best I have seen. The equipment was configured and the results were presented by the CEO of NI himself, in collaboration with the ENEA, so you can bet they did a good job.

        The cell was moved from a steel cell to a transparent cell and displayed during NI Week and the KAIST conference. It ran for two weeks all told, producing between 14 and 21 W. The calorimetry was lousy because it was in a transparent cell in a conference exhibit area. Better calorimetry has been done in the lab over the last year or so. The cell has previously produced ~15 W continously for a month. Since it has only 0.3 g of material, a chemical source of heat is ruled out.

      • MadScientist says:

        Would that be “NI” as in “The Knights Who Say `Ni!’” or “The Knights Who Used To Say `Ni!’”? So where are the publications on this crystal chamber that produces 15W for a month? As for Rossi, it’s such an obvious con that I’d like to hope that chemistry students who do not immediately spot the con should not be allowed to graduate – same goes for physics students doing basic thermodynamics.

      • Jed Rothwell says:

        NI is National Instruments, the world’s preeminent instrumentation company. NIWeek is the annual technical meeting of the company, with 3,000 participants.

        Information on the NIWeek cold fusion sessions are in the NIWeek 2012 website text and video sessions. See the 19 minute keynote address by the President and CEO Dr. James Truchard, starting at minute 15. See also the presentation by Duncan and Morrow.

        I usually advise ignoring the mass media, but you may want to see the US News report, “New Burst of Energy Could Bring Cold Fusion to Front Burner.”

        http://www.usnews.com/news/blogs/at-the-edge/2012/08/08/new-burst-of-energy-could-bring-cold-fusion-to-front-burner

        NI engineers led by Truchard spent a couple of weeks before NIWeek revamping Celani’s experiment with all new instruments, controls and software. They sent a product engineer with the experiment to the conference in Korea. He told me there is about $25,000 in equipment in the setup. It looks a lot better than the original instruments from the Italian Nat. Nuclear Labs.

        Information on Celani’s work is here:

        http://lenr-canr.org/acrobat/CelaniFcunimnallo.pdf

        Regarding Rossi you cannot always judge a book by its cover. He convinced the head of the Swedish Skeptics Society, and the chairman of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences’ Energy Committee (the committee that picks Nobel winners). In my opinion, Rossi would make the world’s worst con man, because he inspires no confidence in anyone I know. However, his materials and techniques have not yet been independently replicated, unlike most other cold fusion claims, so we can’t be sure.

      • Jed Rothwell says:

        Note that all cold fusion experiments are predicated on the laws of thermodynamics. The only way these experiments could be wrong would be if these laws are invalid.

      • MadScientist says:

        Eh … I still see no evidence of cold fusion. I didn’t know National Instruments was in on the act, but that means nothing to me. Kooky Kurzweil’s got plenty dough but that doesn’t make him right, or even sensible for that matter – Nat’l Inst.’s in the same boat as Krazy K. The articles you link to make the same claim as Rossi – Ni + H = something. Ethan Siegel on his blog ‘StartsWithABang’ did a great post some months ago on why Ni + H won’t work. As I wrote before, anyone claiming cold fusion needs to provide a plausible reaction pathway and demonstrate that the reaction rate and expected energy per event is consistent with the observed power output. I would be very generous and say even a 50% agreement would be good enough to be interesting (but really, nuclear physicists have a much better handle on how much energy would be liberated).

      • Jed Rothwell says:

        You wrote: “Eh … I still see no evidence of cold fusion.”

        I suggest you look more carefully. This is a complicated subject. You cannot expect to understand it after reading one or two papers.

        You should not assume that a few thousand professional scientists are all making a mistake, and the objections that pop into your mind after first glancing at the data never occurred to them. These people have thought carefully. They have defined the discovery and what they mean in ways that you have not yet learned, and that you cannot understand without careful study. You should stop making flippant, dismissive comments about these researchers and about difficult research you have barely looked at. You sound like a know-it-all “climate change skeptic.”

        “As I wrote before, anyone claiming cold fusion needs to provide a plausible reaction pathway and demonstrate that the reaction rate and expected energy per event is consistent with the observed power output.”

        This is an experimental finding. A theoretical explanation is not needed to justify it. Many discoveries in the history of science could not be explained theoretically until long after they were made, yet no one doubted them. No one could explain radioactivity or fusion in the sun until decades after they were discovered. No one can explain high temperature superconductivity today. Yet no one doubted these phenomena existed. There is no doubt that cold fusion produces thousands to hundreds of thousands of times more energy than any chemical reaction with an equivalent mass of reactants. The upper limit is probably in the millions. There is no question that it produces no chemical changes in the reactants, and that with deuterium it produces helium in the same ratio to the heat as plasma fusion does. Therefore it is a nuclear reaction, and probably fusion. No theory is needed to justify this conclusion. When you demand a theory, you put the cart before the horse. Science is based on experiments, not theory.

        Some people have even rejected the experimental findings because they appear to violate theory. This is a gross violation of the scientific method. It is a kind of religion, no science. In science, when replicated experiments conflict with theory, the experiments always win, theory always loses. No exceptions granted.

  12. d brown says:

    Boses (?) maker of hi-fi equipment uses the money he makes to fund his own lab to do what he wants. Not long ago he said he looking at cold fusion and made something happen over and over. But from what I remember he did not know what it was. I probably don’t remember something he said. I am not saying its right or wrong. But what would was said about the ridiculous idea that America and Africa were once one land. Say before 1959.

    • MadScientist says:

      The difference of course is the level of ignorance of the subject; literally nothing was known of continental drift and plate tectonics when the pangaea hypothesis was put forth but in the case of fusion, physicists have a very good idea of the energy that must be overcome for any proposed fusion reaction. (Nuclear) Physicists were very skeptical of cold fusion from the start because they’ve spent so much time trying to think of means of exceeding the energy threshold in a controlled and relatively low-power (as opposed to H-bomb scale of power) reaction.

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