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Cold Fusion Back From The Dead 635

Posted by michael
from the warmed-over dept.
misterfusion writes "Looks like the IEEE is warming up to cold fusion with the latest story "Cold Fusion Back from the Dead". This has been a good year for this field with several leading science journals (Physics Today, MIT Technology Review, etc) contributing stories. Things are warming up and if science Research & Development funding can be stimulated with a positive DoE report (due soon), it might be an interesting rebirth."
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Cold Fusion Back From The Dead

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  • by skrysakj (32108) * on Friday September 03, 2004 @10:29AM (#10148882) Homepage Journal
    I thought the article was referring to Macromedia Coldfusion!
    Phew!
    • That's what I thought too...

      I thought why?

      There are some many better things now.

      Let it stay dead man... just die a noble death.
      • by stephanruby (542433) on Friday September 03, 2004 @01:51PM (#10150980)
        "There are so many better things now. "

        Right now, CFML is the only language that will run on either a Java Server or the .NET framework [newatlanta.com]

        Sure, there are better cheaper tag-based languages out there, but CFML is still one of the easiest languages I've ever come across. If anything, it's too easy, that's why there is so much disdain for it, in many ways, it's so easy -- it doesn't feel like a real computer language.

    • bleh. i did CF development for 6 years before moving into IT security. CF is still quite qidely used in the private (bank of america, etc) and is extensively used in public sector shops. the majority of DoS and many DoD sites use it (and they port it to linux, so pbbt.) don't confuse their questionable products like flash and shockwave with a really solid, open standard web application language.
    • See, when I hear about a site powered by ColdFusion , I want that to mean the server runs in a large building somewhere getting all it's energy from within a glass jar stored in the basement.

      Moreover, when I hear about a site written in C# , I want that to mean a composer orchestrated the score for the site in a beautiful, somber key evocative of Brahms later symphonies.

      Also, when I hear about a site written in java , I want that to bring to mind a picture of some nut on the floor of a coffee house wri
  • Come on... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 03, 2004 @10:30AM (#10148887)
    You guys could've fit at least ONE MORE "warming up" pun in the summary. It's like you weren't even trying!
  • by FooAtWFU (699187) on Friday September 03, 2004 @10:30AM (#10148891) Homepage
    Given the history of cold fusion, the Nothing for you to see here. Please move along. notice seemed strangely appropriate. :)
  • by PingKing (758573) on Friday September 03, 2004 @10:33AM (#10148917)
    Apart from the fact that there were problems reproducing the cold fusion effects, it's very easy to see why cold fusion has always been given the cold shoulder. It would effectively end the fission power-based business aswell as fossil fuel generated electricity.
    • by meringuoid (568297) on Friday September 03, 2004 @10:44AM (#10149014)
      The fission power business depends on massive subsidy, at least in .uk. As for fossil-fuel energy, that may have the clout to squash new technologies in .uk and .us, but I suspect that in .jp, where they're wholly dependent on imported power, any alternative would be welcomed.

      Cold fusion was dropped because it could never be replicated, and perhaps because of Pons and Flesichmann's attitude. Science is not done by press conference, and you don't call an anomalous heat effect 'cold fusion' and cause a global hoo-hah without some damn good evidence.

      • The fission power business depends on massive subsidy, at least in .uk. As for fossil-fuel energy, that may have the clout to squash new technologies in .uk and .us, but I suspect that in .jp, where they're wholly dependent on imported power, any alternative would be welcomed.

        We all know that these kinds of experiments opened a blackhole in .cx
      • Ahem, RTFA. The point of the article is that the excess heat effect HAS been replicated now plenty of times, and the researchers are trying to figure out how it happens and why. Also, why they so rarely detect the generation of helium and tritium that one would expect from an actual fusion reaction. What is happening may not be fusion, but the point of the whole article is that it would be beneficial to understand what is going on here with the Pons/Fleischmann effect. If it isn't fusion, then what the
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 03, 2004 @11:17AM (#10149336)

      I love this notion that "the POWERS THAT BE suppressed the IRREFUTABLE EVIDENCE for their own evil ends!" It's such a charming fantasy.

      The Evil Vested Interests of the world are regularly blindsided by new technology. The usual pattern (*cough*RIAA*cough*) is that they ignore it until it really starts to hurt them, and then they try to make it go away through legal action. Those folks do not have a magic ability to predict the future. In fact, they demonstrably suck at it.

      When "cold fusion" was announced, the people who discredited it were academics who tried like hell to reproduce the effect, and found it to be irreproducible based on the information they had at the time. This is called "peer review". Scientists are supposed to be profoundly skeptical. In that respect, they differ from conspiracy theorists.

      If you RTFA, you'll notice that no extravagant claims are being made. If it turns out that there's something there which really is both reproducible and interesting, we'll hear more about it.

    • by mcbevin (450303) on Friday September 03, 2004 @11:22AM (#10149383) Homepage
      Yes, just like every other new technology around the world which makes old technologies redundant gets given the cold shoulder. Thats why we're still cooking over fire stoves (after the wood industry prevented any electrical ovens ever being developed), still riding horses (after the horse industry quashed those people trying to invent the automobile), using Windows (after Microsoft quashed Linux and the Mac OS) etc .... although hold on, that one might turn out to be true ....

      Anyway, lets just judge the science on its merits, not on conspiracy theories. If it has merit, you can be pretty sure theres lots of investors are going to start seeing the potential for a lot of zeroes after those $$$ signs and jump on it, and that probably the first companies to jump on the bandwagen will be the energy companies you claim are holding it up.
    • by afabbro (33948) on Friday September 03, 2004 @11:28AM (#10149447) Homepage
      Bwaaaahahahaha! The reason cold fusion got the "cold shoulder" is that it has no reproducible results and is very bad science. If you can't reproduce results and publish your work in a peer-reviewed journal, you are not doing science.

      The only people who claim there is a conspiracy to shush up cold fusion are crackpots.

      The physics community would have carried Pons and Fleischmann on sedan chairs to Sweden if they'd really discovered cold fusion. But they didn't, and they ignored all scientific process. They refused to share details of their experiment and refused to acknowledge errors in their experiments.

      Read Taubes' _Cold Fusion_ or Huizenga's book for a clear understanding.

    • No, it's because the opposite of hot fusion is not cold fusion: it's ugly fusion.
  • by Weaselmancer (533834) on Friday September 03, 2004 @10:34AM (#10148925)

    ...apologies to the pioneers of cold fusion, like Pons and Fleischman? Seems to me like a positive finding in a DoE report would at least be some verification that they might deserve one.

    • by pete-classic (75983) <hutnick@gmail.com> on Friday September 03, 2004 @10:43AM (#10148996) Homepage Journal
      I haven't made any great study of what happened, but I'm not sure any apology is in order.

      As I understand it, they made an astonishing scientific claim. That claim, while it might be absolutely true, was not substantiated by the experiment they describe.

      There is more to good science than turning out to be right.

      -Peter
      • by Shadowlion (18254) on Friday September 03, 2004 @10:57AM (#10149160) Homepage
        As I understand it, they made an astonishing scientific claim. That claim, while it might be absolutely true, was not substantiated by the experiment they describe.

        If you read the article (I know, this is Slashdot...), you'd note that some of the problems in reproducing the effect have been discovered. One problem turned out to be the "density" of deuterium atoms in the palladium electrodes. Above a certain threshold, you'd see the excess heat every time. Below that, even by only 10%, you'd only see excess heat in one out of every six trials.

        From this, it seems like the problem wasn't that the experiment was made up, but that the problem was the researchers had no precise concept of what steps and requirements were necessary to repeat it accurately.
        • If you can't describe the environment in which an experiment can be reproduced reliably, you don't understand the phenominon properly enough to be calling press conferences.
        • by srleffler (721400) on Friday September 03, 2004 @12:03PM (#10149772)
          From this, it seems like the problem wasn't that the experiment was made up, but that the problem was the researchers had no precise concept of what steps and requirements were necessary to repeat it accurately.

          Unfortunately, that is precisely the hallmark of junk science: experiments that appear to show amazing results that cannot be explained by conventional theory and as a result the exact requirements to duplicate the experiment are unclear. The crackpots are then free to argue that negative results by other researchers are due to a problem with their experiment. Scientists have good reason to be skeptical of discoveries with these characteristics.

          Now, Pons and Fleischman may have just been unlucky in having discovered a real effect that happened to have these characteristics. On the bright side, if they turn out to have been right their place in history is secure.

      • by sphealey (2855) on Friday September 03, 2004 @11:01AM (#10149197)
        As I understand it, they made an astonishing scientific claim. That claim, while it might be absolutely true, was not substantiated by the experiment they describe.
        Understood and mostly agreed. But it is instructive to read Enrico Fermi's account of how he and his team missed out on a second Nobel prize because they couldn't reproduced the results of one experiment. Turned out that the original experiment was done on a lab table made of wood and the attempts to reproduce were done on a lab table made of granite. The wood had a much higer index of neutron moderation, but they didn't know that and never thought that such a factor might affect the experiment.

        sPh

    • ...apologies to the pioneers of cold fusion, like Pons and Fleischman?

      Nope. Apologies are for scientists who publish their work in good faith in peer-reviewed journals. Apologies are for scientists who submit a short manuscript to Phys. Rev. Lett. saying that under such-and-such conditions we observe extra heat and neutrons.

      Apologies are not for scientists who first present a phenomenon they don't understand at a press conference and enjoy being media darlings until other people can't replicate their

  • by PatrickThomson (712694) on Friday September 03, 2004 @10:34AM (#10148929)
    Waffle waffle

    Cold fusion regarded as a joke for ages

    waffle waffle

    "THE FIRST HINT that the tide may be changing came in February 2002, when the U.S. Navy revealed that its researchers had been studying cold fusion on the quiet more or less continuously since the debacle began. "

    waffle waffle

    "At San Diego and other research centers, scientists built up an impressive body of evidence that something strange happened when a current passed through palladium electrodes placed in heavy water. "

    waffle waffle

    "Other researchers are finally beginning to explain why the Pons-Fleischmann effect has been difficult to reproduce. Mike McKubre from SRI International, in Menlo Park, Calif., a respected researcher who is influential among those pursuing cold fusion, says that the effect can be reliably seen only once the palladium electrodes are packed with deuterium at ratios of 100 percent--one deuterium atom for every palladium atom. His work shows that if the ratio drops by as little as 10 points, to 90 percent, only 2 experimental runs in 12 produce excess heat, while all runs at a ratio of 100 percent produce excess heat. "

    Summary: Cold fusion wasn't reproducible because not all factors were accounted for, and millitary scientists think they nailed it.
    • by TrentL (761772) on Friday September 03, 2004 @10:40AM (#10148975) Homepage
      "Other researchers are finally beginning to explain why the Pons-Fleischmann effect has been difficult to reproduce. Mike McKubre from SRI International, in Menlo Park, Calif., a respected researcher who is influential among those pursuing cold fusion, says that the effect can be reliably seen only once the palladium electrodes are packed with deuterium at ratios of 100 percent--one deuterium atom for every palladium atom. His work shows that if the ratio drops by as little as 10 points, to 90 percent, only 2 experimental runs in 12 produce excess heat, while all runs at a ratio of 100 percent produce excess heat. "

      Does this mean Pons-Fleschmann used the 100 percent ratio? Why in the world didn't the other scientists use this exact same setup when trying to reproduce the results? If you're trying to repeat a result, don't you make sure all variables are the same?
      • by Mr_Dyqik (156524) on Friday September 03, 2004 @10:48AM (#10149053)
        Well, maybe you decide you understand what's going on, and therefore that particular variable can't possibly be important, or you overlook it, or the variable isn't reported correctly etc.

        Scientific papers and experiments are just as susceptible to bugs as software. Generally peer review and repetition and further work on the subject of the papers catches these eventually, but it can take time. The claims of cold-fusion were so startling (and hyped), there wasn't an awful lot of attempts to sort mistakes and understanding out before it was declared unscientific.

        Best analogy I can think of is a software project that launches, claiming it will revolutionise user interface or something, but that only works on the developers own system, as they've hacked up much of their OS and hardware. It could be years before the software would work on a general computer, but if nothing works to start with, then most people won't be interested in developing and improving it.

        Look how long it took to get the linux kernel reasonably mainstream supporting common hardware, and compare to Hurd...
      • by CrimsonAvenger (580665) on Friday September 03, 2004 @10:48AM (#10149064)
        I suspect that, if this was the case, it was accidental. That is, P&F didn't set out to saturate their electrodes with D, but it just so happened that they were. So they were unaware that they had achieved a special case condition prerequisite for cold fusion.
      • Does this mean Pons-Fleschmann used the 100 percent ratio?

        Not necessarily. They could just have been extraordinarily lucky.
      • by Minwee (522556) <dcr@neverwhen.org> on Friday September 03, 2004 @11:18AM (#10149339) Homepage
        You can't make sure all the variables are the same if you don't know what all the variables are.

        If you believe that you are studying the effects of an electrical current on two metal electrodes submersed in water then you would make note of the current strength, the composition and dimensions of the electrodes, the temperature of the water and that kind of thing. You don't often record what kind of shoes you are wearing when you set up the equipment, what you ate for lunch or how long the fluorescent lights in the room had been on before you started taking measurements. Why not? Because it never occurs to you that it would be important.

        Good experimental procedure is to document everything as well as you can, but if you are investigating something entirely new you can't always know what matters.

        Sometimes even very smart people overlook small things that turn out to be important. Ask Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee about that if you see them.
    • I think this is a good summary.

      IMNSHO (see profile for why I don't have a humble opinion on this) fusion may or may not be happening, but energy might be released by some mechanism, so it's certainly worth funding proper research into it as a possible energy storage or generation mechanism.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 03, 2004 @10:37AM (#10148944)
    Cold Fusion Back From the Dead

    U.S. Energy Department gives true believers a new hearing

    Later this month, the U.S. Department of Energy will receive a report from a panel of experts on the prospects for cold fusion - the supposed generation of thermonuclear energy using tabletop apparatus. It's an extraordinary reversal of fortune: more than a few heads turned earlier this year when James Decker, the deputy director of the DOE's Office of Science, announced that he was initiating the review of cold fusion science. Back in November 1989, it had been the department's own investigation that determined the evidence behind cold fusion was unconvincing. Clearly, something important has changed to grab the department's attention now.

    The cold fusion story began at a now infamous press conference in March 1989. Stanley Pons and Martin Fleischmann, both electrochemists working at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, announced that they had created fusion using a battery connected to palladium electrodes immersed in a bath of water in which the hydrogen was replaced with its isotope deuterium - so-called heavy water. With this claim came the idea that tabletop fusion could produce more or less unlimited, low-cost, clean energy.

    In physicists' traditional view of fusion, forcing two deuterium nuclei close enough together to allow them to fuse usually requires temperatures of tens of millions of degrees Celsius. The claim that it could be done at room temperature with a couple of electrodes connected to a battery stretched credulity [see photo, "Too Good to Be True?"].

    But while some scientists reported being able to reproduce the result sporadically, many others reported negative results, and cold fusion soon took on the stigma of junk science.

    Today the mainstream view is that champions of cold fusion are little better than purveyors of snake oil and good luck charms. Critics say that the extravagant claims behind cold fusion need to be backed with exceptionally strong evidence, and that such evidence simply has not materialized. "To my knowledge, nothing has changed that makes cold fusion worth a second look," says Steven Koonin, a member of the panel that evaluated cold fusion for the DOE back in 1989, who is now chief scientist at BP, the London-based energy company.

    Because of such attitudes, science has all but ignored the phenomenon for 15 years. But a small group of dedicated researchers have continued to investigate it. For them, the DOE's change of heart is a crucial step toward being accepted back into the scientific fold. Behind the scenes, scientists in many countries, but particularly in the United States, Japan, and Italy, have been working quietly for more than a decade to understand the science behind cold fusion. (Today they call it low-energy nuclear reactions, or sometimes chemically assisted nuclear reactions.) For them, the department's change of heart is simply a recognition of what they have said all along - whatever cold fusion may be, it needs explaining by the proper process of science.

    THE FIRST HINT that the tide may be changing came in February 2002, when the U.S. Navy revealed that its researchers had been studying cold fusion on the quiet more or less continuously since the debacle began. Much of this work was carried out at the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center in San Diego, where the idea of generating energy from sea water - a good source of heavy water - may have seemed more captivating than at other laboratories.

    Many researchers at the center had worked with Fleischmann, a well-respected electrochemist, and found it hard to believe that he was completely mistaken. What's more, the Navy encouraged a culture of risk-taking in research and made available small amounts of funding for researchers to pursue their own interests.

    At San Diego and other research centers, scientists built up an impressive body of evidence that something strange happened when a current passed through palladium electrodes placed in h
  • by Dark$ide (732508) on Friday September 03, 2004 @10:37AM (#10148949) Journal
    In the next Slashdot story perpetual motion is shown to be possible.
  • Let science work. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 03, 2004 @10:39AM (#10148964)
    It is good to finally see a fair balance in the study of this idea. It may not generate anything usable, but then agin, it might. I think that is the key... to get real science studying the situation, not having the ideas tested and approved through the media.

    With ITER in a political freeze, there is ample time to study cold fusion concepts further. I don't see how one can create fusion conditions at room temperature. But if we understand how to control the collisions of the atoms better, then we may lower ignition temperatures. If the temperatures required were only several tens of thousands of degrees, then we do away with the complex containment systems and have a very viable energy source without multi billion dollar energy stations.

    Bottom line: Let real science work. The worst case scenario is that we have a better understanding of the atomic interactions that will be used in whatever fusion reaction processes that we eventually use.
  • by surprise_audit (575743) on Friday September 03, 2004 @10:39AM (#10148965)
    Heh... Cold Fusion Back From The Dead is almost as good as Stealing Fire from the Gods
  • by dspacemonkey (776615) on Friday September 03, 2004 @10:40AM (#10148978) Homepage
    From the article it seems like Fleischmann saw more energy coming out than he put in (up to 250% apparently) and thought to himself:

    "Aha! This must be cold fusion."

    Is it just me, or does that seem to be a bit of a leap of faith? After all, if one sets light to petrol one gets more energy out than a match puts in. Surely there are other possibilities.

    Occam's razor [princeton.edu] anyone?

    I'm not sure about "strong evidence" from a single research laboratory either...
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 03, 2004 @10:46AM (#10149037)
      You are very correct. This is why we publish results, and have peer review. We are in the infancy of this branch of science. Worst cast scenario: it doesn't work period. We have at least investigated another possiblity. We learn and apply to other endevours into fusion power.

      Will anything major pop out of this research? Maybe, maybe not. But we are learning. At the very least, this should train another generation of people to not buy into hype one way or another. First it was "COLD FUSION IS HERE!" then it was "COLD FUSION IS A TOTAL SCAM!". Neither is correct. But with the attention span of the media this is all you will get.

      Be patient. Let science work.
    • by radtea (464814) on Friday September 03, 2004 @11:43AM (#10149592)

      The thing that we know with certainty is that whatever is going on, it is not a nuclear effect.

      It goes like this: in any nuclear effect, you wind up with lots of energy being dumped into a single nucleus. That energy can come out in only a small number of ways, because no matter what process produced the energy, all energy is created equal. And the nucleus is a well understood system.

      So either you get gamma rays, neutrons, or nuclear recoil. The suggestion that you get lattice recoil, as occurs in the Mossbauer effect, does not hold water as it would require the lattice to behave in ways that are contrary to known physics, and again: all energy is created equal. Simply because an exotic process produces the energy does not allow us to suspend the rest of the laws of physics once that energy has been created.

      If you have gamma rays or neurtrons, particularly in the quantities implied by the rate of energy creation, they are easily detectable. If you have nuclear recoil, you also, necessarily have neutron creation, because given the energies involved you'll knock nuetrons off the recoiling nucleus or the lattice nuclei. Again, it does not matter what exotic unknown process makes the nucleus move: once it is in motion in the lattice we can predict quite accurately how many neutrons will be produced.

      Nothing like the expected numbers of neutrons or gamma rays are produced. Ergo, whatever is happening is not a nuclear process.

      For what it's worth, IAANP, I have heard Fleishmann speak, and was peripherally involved in some early experiments to (in)validate the 1989 results. I've not thought much about the subject in the past decade, and hope not to do so for another decade. There's too much real science to think about instead.

      --Tom
      • How do you explaine the generated Helium that some researchers have produced? There's no chemical reaction that I'm aware of that can raise helium ratios in a sealed environment.
      • the nucleus is a well understood system.

        LOL! you just keep living that dream. (yes, i AM a particle physicist)

  • by nizo (81281) on Friday September 03, 2004 @10:41AM (#10148982) Homepage Journal
    Thus spake the article:

    Over the years, a number of groups around the world have reproduced the original Pons-Fleischmann excess heat effect, yielding sometimes as much as 250 percent of the energy put in.

    (snip)

    Other researchers are finally beginning to explain why the Pons-Fleischmann effect has been difficult to reproduce. Mike McKubre from SRI International, in Menlo Park, Calif., a respected researcher who is influential among those pursuing cold fusion, says that the effect can be reliably seen only once the palladium electrodes are packed with deuterium at ratios of 100 percent--one deuterium atom for every palladium atom. His work shows that if the ratio drops by as little as 10 points, to 90 percent, only 2 experimental runs in 12 produce excess heat, while all runs at a ratio of 100 percent produce excess heat.

    Something is going on here that we don't understand, and it looks like it can be reproduced. Yeah I would say it would be worth looking into further. The 250% heat output sounds like a good thing (especially if no toxic by-products are produced) so how does that compare to other types of heat generation I wonder?

  • Bob Park (Score:4, Informative)

    by paugq (443696) <pgquiles@elpauer ... g minus language> on Friday September 03, 2004 @10:51AM (#10149097) Homepage

    Oh, shit! This again and again.

    Cold fusion is impossible and Physics have long demostrated it.

    Robert L. Park [bobpark.com], the President of the American Physical Society [aps.org], wrote a book that deals with this and explains it clearly: Voodoo Science [amazon.com]. He will probably treat this "rebirth" of the hype on his What's new [aps.org] science column.

    How long until the USA Government understands they cannot beat the Second Law of Thermodynamics [wikipedia.org]?

    • Re:Bob Park (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Vengeance (46019)
      I read a rather interesting report some months back, which attempted to explain the 'cold fusion' phenomenon through use of localized time-reversal zones, which were in fact proven a year or three ago. Essentially, the line of argument was that in a temporary time-reversal zone, the forces which keep nuclei apart would act to bring them together, and that when the time reversal went away, the combined 'supernucleus' (or whatever they called it) would spontaneously fuse. Of course, at the time I was follow
    • Re:Bob Park (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 03, 2004 @11:34AM (#10149501)
      I guess I need to bow down to Robert L. Park as God. If he says that "cold fusion" is impossible, then it must be. Physics, of course, knows all -- there's no more problems to solve, and the theories explain everything. If there's an effect observed in some experiment which seems to violate all the theories (that cannot be explained in any way), then the effect DOES NOT EXIST and those who observe it must be executed at dawn for their apostasy and unorthodoxy. Of course, no one will be allowed to reproduce the experiment, and those who attempt to do so will also stand against the wall.

      All hail Robert L. Park, the keeper of scientific orthodoxy!

      I think the article sums it up -- there is clearly *something* going on to produce the excess heat. Apparently the researchers have now figured out how to get more reproduceable results, so others may now verify the effect and thereby focus on studying the effect itself rather than just trying to reproduce it.

      Now what that *something* is, is another matter. Maybe it is a chemical reaction of some sort, or maybe some other energy-release mechanism based on the thermophysical or thermochemical properties of the palladium substrate. Or maybe it is some unusual type of catalyzed nuclear reaction ("cold fusion".) Or maybe it is something else heretofore unknown. Now that the effect appears to be more reliably reproducible, it will now be possible to study the effect itself and solve the mystery. Although I am skeptical it is "cold fusion", it nevertheless appears to be interesting enough to study it in earnest.

      Regarding "the Second Law" as Mr. paugq mentions, I suggest he brush up on his thermodynamics since I assume he is uttering it with respect to energy conservation, which comes under the First Law.
    • Re:Bob Park (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Havokmon (89874) <rick&havokmon,com> on Friday September 03, 2004 @11:39AM (#10149552) Homepage Journal
      Cold fusion is impossible and Physics have long demostrated it.

      Nothing is impossible. If you think the limit of our knowledge is already in textbooks, you have quite a rude awakening coming.

    • Re:Bob Park (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Mr_Dyqik (156524) on Friday September 03, 2004 @12:09PM (#10149815)
      What, "entropy tends to increase in a closed system"? I think you mean first law of thermodynamics. "When _all_ energy forms are taken into account, energy is neither created or destroyed in a closed system".

      This isn't about creating energy from nothing, it's about finding a suitable high entropy form of energy to convert to lower entropy kinds, thus allowing physical processes to occur. Physics cannot prove anything impossible by the way, but it can measure how unlikely something is.
    • By impossible, I assume you mean according to the 2nd law of Thermodynamics (given your reference).

      Cold Fusion is simply Fusion at a lower macro-temperature (as in a room-temperature room). Fusion clearly is possible, unless you care to explain atomic weapons, stars, nuclear power another way (do I hear giant government conspiracy maybe? matrix-like pseudo-reality?).

      Cold fusion may or may not be possible, but clearly science hasn't proven it either way. And as another form of Fusion, it certainly doe

    • Re:Bob Park (Score:3, Insightful)

      by srleffler (721400)
      I'm skeptical about cold fusion too, but unlike most "free energy" schemes, if cold fusion worked as claimed it would not violate the second law of thermodynamics, for the same reasons other nuclear reactions don't.

      It is impossible to say with scientific rigor that cold fusion is "impossible". It doesn't seem likely under current theory, but one can never rule out errors in our current theoretical understanding. The quantum mechanics of solids (like the palladium lattice) are complicated. It's possible (t

  • by Critter92 (522977) on Friday September 03, 2004 @10:51AM (#10149099)
    1) The research will only go forward with more funding 2) SRI International is involved ("No, really, Uri Geller *is* a psychic!") 3) "Mike McKubre from SRI International, in Menlo Park, Calif., a respected researcher who is influential among those pursuing cold fusion" is not the same as "Mike McKubre, a respected researched who is also working on cold fusion" 4) It's an election year and DOE, hardly a bastion of good science under Bush, is about to announce Cold Fusion is workable at a time of record world oil prices?
  • by Mateito (746185) on Friday September 03, 2004 @10:52AM (#10149103) Homepage
    Pons and Fleischmann, the original perpertrators of Cold Fusion, were from the University of Utah.

    What's the bet that this "re-birth" of Cold Fusion has something to do with SCO?

    Judge: Mr McBride, do you have anything to say before the jury adjourn to find you guilty and sentence you to death by stoning?

    Darl: Look! Excess neutrons!

    Jugde: Where? [Looks away]

    Darl: [Exit, stage left]
  • Slow down (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Oligonicella (659917) on Friday September 03, 2004 @10:58AM (#10149174)
    Palladium, tritium? Even if they can consistently get more heat out than energy in, that only describes the current event.

    It does not describe the entire economic input. That palladium and tritium has to come from somewhere, and it's expensive.

    Until this can be done with non-exotic materials, it will probably be a push as its worthiness.
    • Re:Slow down (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Tritium is a byproduct of the reaction, not a required fuel source. What they need it deuterium. Also moderately expensive to produce, though.
    • I beg to differ. Palladium only costs about as much as gold, and is used commonly for things like spark plugs and catalytic converters for cars. It's also not consumed by the reaction, so it's a one-time cost.

      In regards to tritium, I'll agree that it's expensive now. This may not always be the case, though, especially if there's a use for it besides thermonuclear devices and glowing keychains. The article seemed quite optimistic about the possiblity of getting the needed heavy water from the sea ("Much

    • Re:Slow down (Score:3, Insightful)

      As I understand, the palladium is a catalyst to whatever happens, and is not consumed in the process. Question is whether it generates more energy than (input + extraction of deuterium from H2O + saturation of Pa electrodes).

      Actually, even that isn't the question. The question is "can we come up with a theory to explain "cold fusion"?"

  • by harlows_monkeys (106428) on Friday September 03, 2004 @11:07AM (#10149248) Homepage
    Here's an interesting article [caltech.edu], written about 10 years ago, by David Goodstein of Caltech, pointing out that the scientific process was not working correctly with cold fusion. (Basically, almost all CF was junk, but there were a couple of results by careful and competent experimenters, that should have been examined more deeply, but were dismissed as part of the "it's all junk" reaction).

    The article is a good look at the whole CF phenomenon as of 1993.

  • Technology Review (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Ellen Spertus (31819) on Friday September 03, 2004 @11:15AM (#10149320) Homepage
    The article blurb referred to Technology Review [techreview.com] as a "leading science journal". It isn't. It's a magazine. I like to think it's a good magazine, as I've written for it, but it is most definitely not a scientific journal.
  • Wikipedia (Score:5, Informative)

    by Efreet (246368) on Friday September 03, 2004 @11:44AM (#10149599)
    I'd highly recomend the wikipedia article on cold fusion, here [wikipedia.org].
  • by absurdist (758409) on Friday September 03, 2004 @12:03PM (#10149768)
    ...ever bothered to pick up a copy of Infinite Energy magazine?

    If you had, you might have noticed that there have been papers posted from labs around the world with consistent, reproducible results, for the past 10 years. I realize it's fashionable in some circles to read Skeptical Inquirer and be devotees of The Annoying Randi, but an open mind and a real scientific inquiry is actually sometimes needed. Rejecting something out of hand because you don't understand what's occurring doesn't qualify as objective scientific inquiry, no matter what experts are doing the rejection. (And yes, that's exactly what the reaction was of many of the experts in both the fusion and fission communities... "I don't understand what's happening here and it contradicts all my pet theories, and, more importantly, may affect my sources of funding and research grants... so it MUST be a lot of crap. Even though I've never investigated it, I just know it.")

    BTW, for the tinfoil hat crowd, shortly after the DoE announced that they going to reinvestigate the published research, the founder and editor of Infinite Energy magazine, Dr. Eugene Mallove, was found murdered in his home. Make of it what you will.
  • by Jon Kay (582672) <jkay@[ ]hcache.com ['pus' in gap]> on Friday September 03, 2004 @12:05PM (#10149780)
    I was at the APS meeting where Cold Fusion was officially debunked.
    About five different highly respected labs, including at UMD and
    Caltech, tried and failed to reproduce the results.

    BUT.

    Here's the thing: at least one (maybe two?) of the labs noted that
    Pons & Fleischmann's results could be reproduced if one neglected one
    of the steps needed to reproduce it (stirring?). If one failed to do
    that step, you would get a chemical reaction of about the magnitude
    P&F described.

    Note well that the likeliest reason for any other researcher to
    observe the reaction P&F describe would be a similar carelessness.

    Could it be cold fusion? Could be. But it's very, very, very
    unlikely. The chances of human error are alot higher than the
    chances that physical theory is so wrong.

    There was one embarrassing mistake. The funding agencies had already
    promised funding for cold fusion. Thus, a (sometimes persuasive)
    constituency was created for keeping cold fusion research dollars
    flowing. That constituency is basically being paid to keep the cold
    fusion myth alive. That's anothing thing you should keep in mind when
    you hear about cold fusion nonfailures (because it's as likely that
    you'll see cold fusion generators as it is that you'll get a real
    opportunity to own the Brooklyn Bridge...)

  • by Baldrson (78598) on Friday September 03, 2004 @12:49PM (#10150182) Homepage Journal
    In 1992 I circulated draft legislation that would have established a system of prize awards for milestones in fusion [geocities.com]. Like the later Ansari X-prize [xprize.org], my inspiration was the Orteig prize [charleslindbergh.com] that preceded Lindburgh's flight across the Atlantic.

    A former head of the Atomic Energy Commission's fusion program -- indeed one of the 3 primary founders of the Tokamak program, Robert Bussard, picked up that legislation and sent it to all members of the Congressional committees on energy as well as to the various physics labs. In his cover letter he admitted that the Tokamak program had been a sham program -- promoted in the wake of the Apollo program -- to try and get funding to try out all the "hopeful ideas" out there. The Tokamak program turned into a Frankenstein monster and instead started killing all the hopeful ideas they had originally set out to fund.

    It's taken quite a while for the government to lose its fixation on the Tokamak.

    Maybe now they'll reconsider my legislation -- especially now that the prize award approach has been largely vindicated.

    Or will it take another Viet Nam, or worse, WW III for them to wake up to the stupidity of their energy policies?

    • Is a more generic form of prize devoted to energy sources. It would be worthwhile to have a prize that would simply related to non-patented technological changes that make their way into energy sources-particularly power plants.
  • really.. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by RayBender (525745) on Friday September 03, 2004 @12:51PM (#10150214) Homepage
    Physics Today, MIT Technology Review

    With all due respect to the above journals, they are not peer-reviewed journals where research results are reported. If the journals had been Nature, Science and Physics Review, then I'd be excited. But they aren't, so I'm not. Besides, I read the articles, and I didn't get the impression they were all that enthusiastic...

  • Phew... (Score:5, Funny)

    by PhotoBoy (684898) on Friday September 03, 2004 @01:18PM (#10150520)
    I thought they meant Macromedia Cold Fusion was back from the dead.
  • Difficult to measure (Score:3, Informative)

    by SiliconEntity (448450) on Friday September 03, 2004 @01:47PM (#10150935)
    I read a lot about cold fusion when the controversy first erupted and in the next few years. It's much more difficult to evaluate than you would think.

    The problem is that there is a pre-loading phase where you are running the current and nothing is happening. This is when the hydrogen is being taken up by the palladium electrodes. Then after a while you start to get some heat, often sporadically.

    But is it excess heat? Or are you merely recovering energy you spent in the pre-loading phase?

    This question is the subject of calorimetry, or heat measurement, and it is one of the most difficult types of measurements to do precisely. Making it harder is the fact that the experiments run for several days or even weeks and you have to monitor the energy spent and recovered throughout that time. Some of the early experiments went bad because the stirring of the water by convection wasn't properly taken into account. That's how subtle and difficult it is.

    It seems clear that at least some of the early cold fusion results were merely calorimetric errors. Now, it's possible that they have improved their experimental technique and that the new data is more convincing. But the nature of the experiment - long periods of feeding energy in, then short bursts of heat out - makes it inherently difficult to come up with convincing proof of what is happening.

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