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"Tabletop" Fusion Researcher Committed Scientific Misconduct 161

Posted by Soulskill
from the rebranding-doesn't-always-work dept.
Geoffrey.landis writes "A Purdue University panel investigated allegations against nuclear engineering professor Rusi Taleyarkhan, finding that he had in fact committed scientific misconduct in his work. Taleyarkhan had published papers in which he reported seeing evidence of nuclear fusion in the collapse of tiny bubbles in a liquid subjected to ultrasonic excitation — a finding that would be groundbreaking, if true, but one that apparently could not be replicated by other researchers. The allegations against Taleyarkhan were made in March of 2006. A local Indiana paper gives the full list of allegations against Taleyarkhan, and the resolution of each by the panel. The full report (PDF) is also available. Of the nine specific allegations, only two were found to comprise scientific misconduct. The committee 'could not find any other instances of scientists being able to replicate Taleyarkhan's results without Taleyarkhan having direct involvement with the experiments,' but notes that this comes 'just short of questioning whether Taleyarkhan's results were fraudulent.'" We've discussed this gentleman's work and the scrutiny it has received several times, and members of the scientific community seem to have given him the benefit of the doubt in many cases.
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"Tabletop" Fusion Researcher Committed Scientific Misconduct

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  • Fraud... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ZwJGR (1014973) on Sunday July 20, 2008 @10:33AM (#24262095)

    Better late than never, this guy has been either bullshitting or been genuinely incompetent for years.
    When I first heard about his whole ultrasonic bubble excitation fusion experiment, I honestly thought: WTF? This was quite a while ago, and all the evidence was against him then as well.

    It is people like these who give research scientists a bad name...

    • Re:Fraud... (Score:5, Informative)

      by vertinox (846076) on Sunday July 20, 2008 @10:42AM (#24262183)

      When I first heard about his whole ultrasonic bubble excitation fusion experiment, I honestly thought: WTF?

      The bubble itself is a quite interesting phenomenon, thought it is most likley not fusion as Taleyarkhan claims.

      For those not familiar of Taleyarkhan and the issue of the bubble this is a good BBC video [google.com] I saw a while back on the who topic and controversy. Either way the bubble was discovered by someone else and I personally think should be investigated for other properties other than table top fusion.

      • i just saw that video a few days ago and was more fascinated by the ultra-sonic bubble than the prospect of cold fusion.
        • Re:Fraud... (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Geoffrey.landis (926948) on Sunday July 20, 2008 @12:57PM (#24263497) Homepage

          i just saw that video a few days ago and was more fascinated by the ultra-sonic bubble than the prospect of cold fusion.

          Yep... but note that the ultrasonic bubble collapse thing-- "sonoluminescence"-- isn't something that Taleyarkhan discovered. It was his claim that sonoluminescence produces fusion that was noteworthy, not the sonoluminescence itself.

    • lay-person new thought

      if cold fusion were possible why isn't everything burning(?) at one temperature or another?

      • Point (a), "cold" is relative.

        Point (b), everything does burn at one temperature or another, or it dissociates.

  • OMG.. (Score:1, Insightful)

    by SuperDre (982372)
    this is ofcourse still up for heavy debate.. the conclusion is based on some statements that because other scientists can't replicate it without the help of the professor it would be misconduct.. Maybe all the other scientists just don't understand the 'problem'.. because you don't know how something works (even with full documentation) doesn't mean it is impossible.. If this guy had a trackrecord of 'misconduct' then it would propably be something else, but he hasn't...
    • Re:OMG.. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by langelgjm (860756) on Sunday July 20, 2008 @11:21AM (#24262561) Journal

      Maybe all the other scientists just don't understand the 'problem'.. because you don't know how something works (even with full documentation) doesn't mean it is impossible..

      You're quite right. I don't know the details of this specific case, but generally speaking, replication isn't as simple as it may seem. Even given full documentation and information, there is often an element of intangible know-how that goes along with an experiment - "tacit knowledge." [wikipedia.org] I'd suggest reading the chapter on the TEA laser [wikipedia.org] in H.M. Collin's Changing Order [amazon.com] for anyone interested in learning about the difficulties involved in replication.

      • by iwein (561027)
        I've done research to prove that someone was naughty once. And I can tell you that we had to deliver the same results from 25 different research groups that didn't match the faked results by a factor 10 before it finally got published and the guy was fired. This is not something that is done lightly.

        If dozens of researchers have reproducible results of bubbles that don't get anywhere near fusion temperatures, but converge nicely around 1/100'th of that you're better off putting your money on them. Give th
    • Bull. Knowing how something works is not part of the process of experimentation. If I provide an experiment to prove something and it works, it will work regardless of the understanding of the executor.
      • by quanticle (843097)

        Knowing how something works is not part of the process of experimentation.

        Nonsense. You need to know what you're trying to replicate, otherwise you don't know whether you've replicated it or not. Without at least a basic understanding of the phenomenon you're looking for, you won't know if you've found it.

        If I provide an experiment to prove something and it works, it will work regardless of the understanding of the executor.

        At the very least, the executor has to know how to build and evaluate your experimental apparatus. This requires domain specific knowledge.

        What you said might have been true in the 17th and 18th centuries, when scientific knowledge was simple enough for an interested layperso

  • How disappointing. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jcr (53032) <jcr@mac.cEINSTEINom minus physicist> on Sunday July 20, 2008 @10:51AM (#24262279) Journal

    I really want to see one of these fusion processes work. It would make a radical change in our society, by removing any reason for the US government to care what happens in the middle east.

    -jcr

    • This kind of fusion will not work because the new math he had to invent isn't valid. Sorry to disillusion you.

      What we can look forward to is a bunch of free energy nut jobs raving about how the oil companies are covering up this wonderful discovery...
      • Like the ones who seem to have convinced my father's cousin that he can run his car on tap water?
        • by maxume (22995)

          I think that makes your father's cousin a raving loony, and the ones who convinced him a little richer...perhaps unfortunately.

          • Not all that surprising, considering my father's side of the family. Thankfully he hasn't dropped any money on it....yet.
        • You can run a car on tap water. You 'just' need to electrolyse the water into its component gasses and then burn them in the combustion chambers. You can even collect the exhaust steam and condense it back into the water again.

          • by AndersOSU (873247)

            That would be a perpetual motion machine. It takes more energy to electrolyze the water than you get back burning the component gasses, so you need another power input somewhere - in which case your car isn't running on water, it's running on the other input.

            • by zmollusc (763634)

              Whoosh!

              Also,how would that be perpetual motion? I never claimed that the electrolysis would be powered by the burning gases. The burning gases power the car and the recovered water can be turned into the gases. You need a power input to run the whole show, hence the quotes around the word just.

      • "bunch of free energy nut jobs?" Are there in fact a "bunch" of them out there? Is this really a thing where you live, there being a bunch of people who are crazy about free power? I think what's more likely to happen is the linux nutjobs somehow getting involved. Like as soon as we do discover cold fusion, they'll be protesting until someone specifically says that it can be used to power linux too.

        Not that it's likely, just that I personally am dubious as to how many people there are out there that can

        • by Raenex (947668)

          Free energy, as far as nutjob themes go, is fairly popular. Wikipedia has an article [wikipedia.org] on it. Even MythBusters has gotten in on the act.

        • You don't get around much online, do you? There's a lot of crazy out there, and they have a whole community surrounding this. Look up KeelyNet for starters.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by GroeFaZ (850443)
      To bring it further off-topic, the US will not stop caring about what happens in the Middle East as long as Israel exists. Not to speak out against Israel, just stating a fact.
    • by wild_quinine (998562) on Sunday July 20, 2008 @11:35AM (#24262665) Homepage

      I really want to see one of these fusion processes work. It would make a radical change in our society, by removing any reason for the US government to care what happens in the middle east.

      I really want to see one of these processes work, but it's massively shortsighted to care on the basis of what happens in the middle east. We're talking about the next step in world energy here, not the end of one government's petty feud with a geographical area.

    • by TubeSteak (669689)

      I really want to see one of these fusion processes work. It would make a radical change in our society, by removing any reason for the US government to care what happens in the middle east.

      You really think the USA is going to abandon Israel?
      Or that the Suez Canal will suddenly stop being a critical transportation juncture?
      Will combatting Islamic terrorists suddenly stop being an issue?

      Be honest with yourself:
      the best case scenario is that OPEC prices drop to match synthetic oils
      the worst case, the sellers of synthetics match prices with OPEC

      • by WhatAmIDoingHere (742870) <sexwithanimals@gmail.com> on Sunday July 20, 2008 @11:56AM (#24262831) Homepage
        If we didn't need oil, we wouldn't have troops in the ME. If we didn't have troops in the ME to begin with, 9/11 would never have happened.

        You're ignoring the cause of the problem, which is that we stick our noses into everyone's business.
        • by emarkp (67813) <slashdot&roadq,com> on Sunday July 20, 2008 @12:10PM (#24262957) Journal
          You misspoke. If the world didn't need oil, the ME wouldn't have the money and power to be a threat. 9/11 might just as well happened--bin Laden's excuse is that he didn't like US troops on the Arabian peninsula. However, he cut his teeth against us in Somalia (no oil there) and against the Soviets in Afghanistan (no oil there either).
          • by kestasjk (933987)

            You misspoke. If the world didn't need oil, the ME wouldn't have the money and power to be a threat. 9/11 might just as well happened--bin Laden's excuse is that he didn't like US troops on the Arabian peninsula. However, he cut his teeth against us in Somalia (no oil there) and against the Soviets in Afghanistan (no oil there either).

            But now I have no reason to flog myself for the atrocities perpetrated against my society. :-(

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by rubycodez (864176)

            the locations don't change the fundamental reasons for Bin Laden's hatred of the U.S: actions by U.S. in Lebanon, support of Israel, support of what he considers amoral leaders in the middle east.

            Bin Laden, unlike G W Bush, has no reason to lie about his motives regarding terror.

          • by AndersOSU (873247)

            if we didn't need oil bin Laden would never have had enough money to finance al-queda

        • "If we didn't need oil, we wouldn't have troops in the ME. If we didn't have troops in the ME to begin with, 9/11 would never have happened."

          As long as Israel continues to exist, and receives funding from the United States, Al-Qaeda would have reason to attack the United States.

          Read Bin Laden's letter to America [guardian.co.uk], it explains all of this.

          You don't even need to go far in the letter:

          "As for the first question: Why are we fighting and opposing you? The answer is very simple:

          (1) Because you attacked us and conti

        • by CycoChuck (102607)
          So the US is suppose to pull out all support we have in Israel? The US has been involved with that country since it was formed after World War 2. The only thing that is keeping the other Middle East countries from doing a gang bang on Israel is the fact they are afraid of US retaliation.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by westlake (615356)
          You're ignoring the cause of the problem, which is that we stick our noses into everyone's business.
          >.

          The root cause is deeper and simpler.

          Bin Ladin dreams of a pan-Islamic medieval caliphate.

          This isn't Islamic civilization in its creative prime. It is a redaction of that culture embalmed and hermetically sealed.

          He hates the West because the West has been successful - and the success of the West has never been one-dimensional. The West exports culture as effortlessly as it exports food and new tech

    • by jmichaelg (148257) on Sunday July 20, 2008 @11:51AM (#24262785) Journal

      You don't need future tech to give the middle finger to the Middle East - you can do it now.

      One way you can reduce the Middle East's influence is to drive down the value of oil and you can do that by switching your car to natural gas. There are several companies like this one [cngoutfitters.com] that will sell you a kit to make the switch. Googling "cng conversion kits gas" brings up a host of sources.

      Since natural gas is not taxed as heavily and demand is lower, a gallon-equivalent of natural gas costs about half what gasoline costs. The conversion kits allow you to choose between natural gas and gasoline so if you're somewhere you can't find a natural gas station, you can switch back to gasoline. If you there isn't a natural gas station near where you live, you can install a natural gas compressor [myphill.com] in your garage that'll fill your car overnight. The downsides are you lose some trunk space to the extra tank, natural gas stations aren't as numerous as gasoline stations and since methane doesn't store as many calories as gasoline, you lose about 10% of your engine's power. For me, the later issue isn't a big deal since my car has more power than it needs to get me around.

      Natural gas is domestically produced and there's enough of it to last 100 years and that's not counting the undersea hydrate fields. I'd rather burn domestic gas than give Al-Qaeda a cut of every dollar I spend on gasoline.

      • That's fine when it comes to gasoline consumption.
         
        But gasoline consumption is but one use of oil. In the long term, we need to rethink the infrastructure of a whole slew of industries which use petrochemicals as their input feedstocks.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by CycoChuck (102607)
        We can get off Middle East oil IF the environmental wackos would let the US actually drill its own oil. Just because we can come up with other things to power our cars, it doesn't mean we don't need oil. Oil is used in just about everything in our lives, from the Tupperware container you store leftovers in to the triple antibiotic you use on cuts and scrapes.
        • by jmichaelg (148257)

          You're right that we could provide more of our oil. Had we drilled in ANWR when it was first proposed in the 90's, we'd have an extra 1.5 million barrels/day or about 15% of our domestic consumption. That would help a lot. Offshore would help on top of that.

          But the fact is we didn't and it's going to take time to get Congress to wake up to that fact and act.

          In the meantime, those of us who aren't Congress can do something today that'll help cut the flow of funds to people who really don't like us. It really

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            The problems with the "we need to drill more domestically" solution are:

            1) Most people in favor of more offshore drilling are typically the ones who are looking for a solution that requires the least amount of effort on their part. Just imagine how things would be different if people actually conserved energy instead of buying the biggest SUV they could find simply because gasoline was cheap.

            2) Developing countries (eg China) have a growing demand for gasoline, which is driving up the speculative price of

        • by AndersOSU (873247)

          right
          Even if we could harvest every drop of oil in US territory we still wouldn't have enough to be energy independent. This is not a problem we're going to drill ourselves out of, and the US simply doesn't have enough reserves to meet its own needs.

          I'm sure you've heard by now that any drilling that started today wouldn't produce any oil for a decade or so, and that's providing that the resources necessary for building rigs are available (they're not) and that the oil companies actually would drill off sh

    • It's "TABLETOP fusion", not "under the hood fusion."

      In all honesty, if this worked and was able to be implemented soon, this would eliminate our need for coal, not oil. We would have to make fusion power plants, then get people to start using their electric cars before this would make much of an impact on oil imports.

    • by kestasjk (933987) on Sunday July 20, 2008 @02:04PM (#24264169) Homepage
      To be honest there's no real reason to think fusion would be cheaper than coal, and nuclear fusion isn't much different to nuclear fission in most practical regards. It would be more like an improved form of nuclear fission than a revolutionary new technology.

      Fusion (in the most viable tokamak form) does produce radioactive waste products because of all the neutron flux, but (like lots of forms of fission) the waste isn't dangerous in the long-term. I also haven't seen any real data on how much fusion would cost on a practical level.

      So I don't see why fusion should be treated as anything more than a possible improvement to fission in the future; why aren't we going for fission as the technology to free us from the Middle East in the meantime?
      That's what the US did last time there was an oil crisis, and it worked out well, but this time our reactors are much better and safer for the experience.
      • by gnuman99 (746007)

        Fusion is SOO much more than just improvement over fission. Fusion technology completely eliminates the following two problems.

        1. nuclear weapon tech proliferation - fusion is completely unrelated to any weapon systems

        2. short supplies of uranium 235 - fusion essentially uses water to make energy

        Long term waste is not really an issue in a *properly* run nuclear cycle as ALL the long term fissionable material is used up. There was a reactor type called "Fast Integral Reactor" that eliminates

      • by Prune (557140)
        You can't be serious. Uranium (and thorium as well) reserves are pretty limited, even with breeder reactors. If peak oil really hits hard in the next few years and there's a large increase in use of fission for energy, ores will be depleted within decades. Then you're left with trying to extract uranium from seawater, which has been deemed impractical in the only paper to carefully examine the technological obstacles (it is an extremely inefficient process). On the other hand, the energy spent on extrac
        • by kestasjk (933987)

          You can't be serious. Uranium (and thorium as well) reserves are pretty limited, even with breeder reactors. If peak oil really hits hard in the next few years and there's a large increase in use of fission for energy, ores will be depleted within decades.

          Can you give a source for that? I realize U-235 is limited, but as I understand we have abundant fuel with breeder reactors.

          • by HanClinto (621615)
            This is something I've also been wondering about -- I've generally heard we have plenty of fuel (esp with breeders), and only recently have I been hearing (always un-documented) rumors of a severe shortage in nuclear fuel. I second this request for a source for the grandparent's statement.
    • I really want to see one of these fusion processes work. It would make a radical change in our society, by removing any reason for the US government to care what happens in the middle east.

      Unfortunately, wanting something doesn't make it real [xkcd.com]

  • "TableTop"-less Fusion? Count me in.
  • looking back (Score:5, Informative)

    by smoondog (85133) on Sunday July 20, 2008 @10:57AM (#24262325)

    When I was in graduate school/postdoc, I wrote for the Stanford Daily a couple of times for fun as way to practice my writing skills. One of the articles I wrote was on this research [stanforddaily.com]. Interestingly, I interviewed Nobel winner Douglas Osheroff and he shared his thoughts with me on this research. If memory serves me, he thought it was interesting, but prematurely published.

    Interesting to look back on this in light of this finding.

  • Do you mean no more flying cars either ? :(
  • Who cares about tabletop fusion?

    I want my "Mr. Fusion" that I can slap into my car!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 20, 2008 @11:03AM (#24262393)

    you still shouldn't out the others working on similar things:

    -------------

    By 1991, 92 groups of researchers from 10 different countries had reported excess heat, tritium, neutrons or other nuclear effects.[73] Over 3,000 cold fusion papers have been published including about 1,000 in peer-reviewed journals (see indices in further reading, below). In March 1995, Dr. Edmund Storms compiled a list of 21 published papers reporting excess heat and articles have been published in peer reviewed journals such as Naturwissenschaften, European Physical Journal A, European Physical Journal C, Journal of Solid State Phenomena, Physical Review A, Journal of Electroanalytical Chemistry, Japanese Journal of Applied Physics, and Journal of Fusion Energy (see indices in further reading, below).

    The generation of excess heat has been reported by (among others):

    * Michael McKubre, director of the Energy Research Center at SRI International,
    * Giuliano Preparata (ENEA (Italy))
    * Richard A. Oriani (University of Minnesota, in December 1990),
    * Robert A. Huggins (at Stanford University in March 1990),
    * Yoshiaki Arata (Osaka University, Japan),
    * T. Mizuno (Hokkaido University, Japan),
    * T. Ohmori (Japan),

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cold_fusion#Experimental_reports [wikipedia.org]

    "Despite a backdrop of meager funding and career-killing derision from mainstream scientists and engineers, cold fusion is anything but a dead field of research. Presenters at the MIT event estimated that 3,000 published studies from scientists around the world have contributed to the growing canon of evidence suggesting that small but promising amounts of energy can be generated using the infamous tabletop apparatus."

    "MIT's Peter Hagelstein, on the other hand, said "cold fusion" reactions have yielded surplus energy from as far back as the initial experiments in 1989. Verification of these controversial results is not the problem -- many labs around the world have reproduced parts of the results many times. "

    http://www.wired.com/science/discoveries/news/2007/08/cold_fusion?currentPage=all# [wired.com]

    U.S. Navy Report Supports Cold Fusion:
    http://www.infinite-energy.com/iemagazine/issue44/navy.html [infinite-energy.com]

    ""Last March, scientists at the annual conference of the august American Physical Society heard presentations on cold fusion. Next month, the Second International Conference on Future Energy will be held in Washington, D.C. The vast majority of physicists remains skeptical, but at the Office of Naval Research, six of the nine experiments performed produced an unexplainable amount of excess heat.""

    http://www.concordmonitor.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060808/REPOSITORY/608080316&SearchID=73253345954312 [concordmonitor.com]

    "Researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have developed a tabletop accelerator that produces nuclear fusion at room temperature, providing confirmation of an earlier experiment conducted at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), while offering substantial improvements over the original design."

    http://www.scienceblog.com/cms/ny_team_confirms_ucla_tabletop_fusion_10017.html [scienceblog.com]

    Science in Neglect - Nobel Laureate S

    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 20, 2008 @11:37AM (#24262683)

      Despite a backdrop of meager funding and career-killing derision from mainstream scientists and engineers, cold fusion is anything but a dead field of research.

      The same can be said of creationism, but that doesn't mean it isn't totally bullshit.

      BTW, the "tabletop" fusion in the current article isn't at all the same thing as CNF. This work is based on the observation that collapsing bubbles in a fluid generate extremely high temperatures, which some people think could be used to trigger ordinary hot fusion.

      • >>The same can be said of creationism, but that doesn't mean it isn't totally bullshit.

        Perhaps.

        I suspect that if there were a bit of scientific evidence of creationism - something to go on other than religious texts - there would be a flock of people investigating the topic..especially given the importance of the answer (important on many levels).

        Rather the fusion/cold fusion thing does have a bit of 'unexplained result' to dig into, thus the interest and studies.

      • by dubl-u (51156) *

        The same can be said of creationism, but that doesn't mean it isn't totally bullshit.

        Yeah, I remember being Christmas-morning-level excited about the Fleischmann-Pons experiments -- 20 goddamn years ago. Maybe they're something there, but 20 years is an awful long time to have, as far as I can tell, gotten nothing more substantial.

        I know fuck-all about the field, but one of my physics professor pals was pretty cutting about the field when I asked him about it a few years back. He said, "Some second-rank labs reproduced the results, but the best ones couldn't find anything."

        • Some second-rank labs reproduced the results, but the best ones couldn't find anything.

          Maybe? [padrak.com]

          Take, for starters, the Energy Resources Advisory Board (ERAB) panel appointed during the 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, citin

          • by dubl-u (51156) *

            Your evidence is one 9-year-old article by some low-rent technology journalist about the giant oil-company/hot-fusion conspiracy against fusion? Please.

            Right now there is more investment in any and every half-baked energy plan than there has ever been. The Economist magazine just did a 14-page special section listing all of the exciting options. If the conditions were ever such that large companies could suppress promising energy research, they have since passed.

            • Your evidence is one 9-year-old article by some low-rent technology journalist about the giant oil-company/hot-fusion conspiracy against fusion? Please.

              No, that was the top link on Google and I only excerpted the factual part. Mallove was well-respected at MIT and told the story about the excess heat 'cover up' many times before he was murdered. Nice try at Appeal to Ridicule, though.

              Right now there is more investment in any and every half-baked energy plan than there has ever been. The Economist magazine

              • by dubl-u (51156) *

                Nice try at Appeal to Ridicule, though.

                I'm not appealing; I'm actually and directly ridiculing your suggestion that it's all a ginormous big oil conspiracy.

                Perhaps there's nothing there at all. There's some data that says there might be.

                There's some data that says people might be able to read minds. There's some data that says maybe dinosaurs and humans walked the earth at the same time. There's some data that says there might be canals on Mars. The preponderance of evidence is that none of those are true, and that cold fusion is more of the same bunk.

                That you're bringing up stale conspiracy theories to explain the lack of

                • I'm not appealing; I'm actually and directly ridiculing your suggestion that it's all a ginormous big oil conspiracy.

                  In that case I'll feel free to ridicule your reading comprehension skills. What I quoted had nothing to do with any oil conspiracies, I merely cited the source from which I quoted a factual excerpt and stated it was the first hit on Google. Are you expecting rigorous research in a Slashdot comment? Please. Other opinions drawn by that source are clearly not my own, especially as you'll n

  • Scientific Fraud (Score:3, Informative)

    by Ganty (1223066) on Sunday July 20, 2008 @11:23AM (#24262573)

    There was a TV programme on this guy a couple of years ago. No other scientists were able to duplicate his work so as part of the investigation the TV production company gathered together the finest fusion scientists they could find and they tried one last time to duplicate the experiment. Although Rusi Taleyarkhan agreed to interviews he refused point-blank to take part in the on camera experiment and (surprise surprise) there was no evidence of fusion.

    Ganty

    • Re:Scientific Fraud (Score:4, Interesting)

      by itsdapead (734413) on Sunday July 20, 2008 @01:04PM (#24263571)

      There was a TV programme on this guy a couple of years ago

      NB: The following is more about the quality of the TV show than any attempt to wish away the apparent irreproducability of Taleyarkhan's results so that we can all have Mr Fusions for Xmas.

      If I believed in Taleyarkhan, that TV program certainly wouldn't have changed my mind. The scientist conducting the experiment appeared to be an outspoken critic of Taleyarkhan and we (the audience) had to accept his word that differences in equipment c.f. Taleyarkhan's experiment were inconsequential. As far as I remember, the originally stated purpose of the experiment was to check if the neutrons detected were in sync with the flashes from the bubbles (something not shown in T's results). We were told at the end that the experiment had failed, but with little explanation as to how (no flashes? no neutrons? not in sync? the first two of those would not have been "as was to be demonstrated").

      As for Taleyarkhan attending the experiment, why would he do that? If he'd participated in any way, it would have destroyed the independence of the test.

      ...which was a pity, because in an earlier show they gave the same treatment to a test of the "memory of water" theory beloved of homeopathic medicine: in that case the experiment was presented beautifully, from the careful setting up of independent, blind tests through to analysis of the results for statistical significance. One of the best science documentaries I've seen.

      The "desktop fusion" show was not up to the same standard.

  • by Tsalg (828169)
    It's amazing how many tabletop cold fusion experiments [wikipedia.org] have attracted public attention, and all turned out to be fraudulent when they claimed to have started nuclear reactions. The worldwide large-scale not-so-cold fusion project ITER [iter.org] has just started, with an estimated cost of 5bn EUR, and there are still guys out there trying to outsmart them on a tabletop and some cookbook chemistry.
  • The committee 'could not find any other instances of scientists being able to replicate Taleyarkhan's results without Taleyarkhan having direct involvement with the experiments,

    I see two possibilities there...

    First, he could have made up numbers. Absolutely unforgivable, and we should all break out the tar and feathers.

    However, if reputable scientists have reproduced his work, even with his direct involvement, then he has accomplished something interesting (even if not necessarily what he believes).
    • What I want to know, given that results have apparently been reproduced with him involved, is what is happening different when the guy is involved? Is something different about his device, his sensing equipment? Does he just like setting up one part at a different angle? Does his body odor involve a strange mutant chemical that effects the results of the experiment? Or is he just really good at making people see what they want to see?

      I have no clue about how the experiment is done, so I don't know what

  • by Animats (122034) on Sunday July 20, 2008 @12:06PM (#24262915) Homepage

    It's really frustrating. When Pons and Fleischman originally announced "cold fusion", there was an immediate attempt at Stanford to replicate the result. The researchers gave a talk, which drew hundreds of people. In their first attempts, they had the apparatus surrounded with radiation detectors and alarms, in case there was a sudden burst of radiation. After a while, they realized that wasn't going to happen. The effect, if any, resulted in a few extra neutrons per hour over background.

    They saw some variations in neutron flux, but discovered that people standing around the apparatus affected the result. Humans have lots of water and are neutron reflectors. So they moved the apparatus into a cube of lead blocks. No more neutron emissions.

    Somebody may eventually get fusion this way, but probably won't get out more power than they put in. If you can figure out some way to put a macroscopic amount of energy into a microscopic volume, you can get a little fusion. It's been done with big capacitor banks, with lasers, with explosive compression, and with the Farnsworth Fusor. But far more energy goes in than comes out.

    • by tirerim (1108567)
      Right, the problem with fusion is that it needs to be self-sustaining to be useful. The only way that's going to happen is if the reaction continuously generates enough heat to keep going, which almost certainly requires some significant minimum scale, and makes any sort of tabletop method pretty much impossible.

      I think we'll have real fusion power plants once we figure out how to scale up the current methods enough to be self-sustaining. That's not easy, though, as it amounts to containing a small sun
  • The perpetuum mobile machines of the present.

    Now, I don't want to discount it as snakeoil altogether, but it's one of the fields where a lot of money is pumped into questionable "research". It saddens me that some self proclaimed scientists manage to siphon money away from honest, hard working researchers by producing spectacular (if only ... ok, I don't find a better word, fraudulent) results that surprisingly nobody can reproduce.

    Partly at least this can be blamed on our society that wants immediate retur

  • by cliffiecee (136220) on Sunday July 20, 2008 @12:23PM (#24263093) Homepage Journal

    The committee 'could not find any other instances of scientists being able to replicate Taleyarkhan's results without Taleyarkhan having direct involvement with the experiments'

    The fix for this is very simple. Rename the entire process to the "Taleyarkhan Effect." Taleyarkhan will then be directly involved in every experiment, and the results will be reliably reproducible.

    • by Dekker3D (989692)

      yes, and one day we'll have a giant generator with the withered corpse of this taleyarkhan guy embedded in the middle to keep it all going. it'll be dedicated to running the world's largest supercomputer, which in turn would be used solely for running windows 47, codenamed "fuzzball", on bootcamp. it'll be grand!

  • by l2718 (514756) on Sunday July 20, 2008 @12:44PM (#24263357)

    Allegation: Taleyarkhan intentionally used data in a paper to a scientific journal that already had been used in another journal written by other authors.

    Conclusion: While Taleyarkhan broke copyright laws, the authors agreed to share the data and have not claimed plagiarism. This is not research misconduct.

    In fact, there is no copyright in data (that is, in the facts); actually, using data published by others is a hallmark of scientific progress. That's why they published the data in the first place. If he had claimed the data as his own it would be scientific misconduct; if he failed to attribute the data to its authors it would be scientific misconduct. But there is no way for him to break copyright laws by publishing facts that were generated by others. In fact, even if he used the author's actual graphs and tables (which may be copyrighted), it is not so obvious that he actually broke copyright laws -- scientific use (with attribution) may very well come under the defense of fair use. We are seeing here the results of the propaganda campaign to extend copyright beyond all bounds.

    • by claus.wilke (51904) on Sunday July 20, 2008 @01:27PM (#24263807)

      scientific use (with attribution) may very well come under the defense of fair use.

      It helps to read the report. Attribution was missing, that was the whole point of this allegation.

      • by pavon (30274)

        That would just be plagiarism not copyright infringement. Nothing about copyright law or fair use requires you to attribute the work. Which is exactly what the parent post said - that the panel was right in calling it potential scientific misconduct*, but wrong in calling it copyright infringement.

        * just potential because he did have permission to use the data and the team hasn't complained about not be attributed.

    • The point of copyright (nowadays) is to control what information people are allowed to think and share, for the benefit of the few. Including data and facts is the natural next logical step, unfortunately.

  • If you look up "Bubble Fusion" on Wikipedia, you'll see that there have been replications. Perhaps not convincing enough replications to change people's minds, but there does seem to be something interesting enough going on with the collapsing bubbles to warrant further investigation. I'm concerned that everyone who makes a claim that could revolutionize energy production finds themselves facing attempts to destroy their reputations. What kind of environment is that to perform science in? If you follow the
    • by hubie (108345)

      Don't make the whole Pons and Fleishman thing out to be a story of the Davids going against Big Oil and getting squashed, because that isn't what happened. I was in graduate school at the time P&F released their preprint and it was a very exciting time. That preprint flew around the world via fax machines very quickly (if I can dig, I should still have my nth-generation copy) and it was all you heard in the hallways.

      My memory is a bit foggy, but P&F did a string of things that were quite out of bo

  • Strikes me as odd that one one has tried to implement a plasma wakefield accelerator in a configuration that would fuse hydrogen.

  • This seems like the typical gut reaction of any society who doesn't understand a new theory or technology. I can't count or list how many different discoveries have had this same reaction by both the scientific community and the public. Galileo comes to mind. It is likely that only after this guys death will they really discover what his work meant. Sounds like some serious penis envy in the scientific world.

    This is exactly what is wrong with our world.

  • Is it me, or does everyone that seems to make some progress involving cold fusion is accused of faking results and scientific misconduct? Is this kind of behaviour normal?
  • Wait - I've seen this one before, it's a bad Keanu Reeves movie called Chain Reaction, where they get a type of fusion system working (iirc was fusion), but is sabotaged because it would cause the world economy to collapse as oil wouldn't be needed...

    Summary: of course it's a false claim - Keanu Reeves is supposed to do that!

What this country needs is a good five dollar plasma weapon.

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