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Science Technology

The Physics of Why Cold Fusion Isn't Real 350

StartsWithABang writes If you can reach the fabled "breakeven point" of nuclear fusion, you'll have opened up an entire new source of clean, reliable, safe, renewable and abundant energy. You will change the world. At present, fusion is one of those things we can make happen through a variety of methods, but — unless you're the Sun — we don't have a way to ignite and sustain that reaction without needing to input more energy than we can extract in a usable fashion from the fusion that occurs. One alternative approach to the norm is, rather than try and up the energy released in a sustained, hot fusion reaction, to instead lower the energy inputted, and try to make fusion happen under "cold" conditions. If you listen in the right (wrong?) places, you'll hear periodic reports that cold fusion is happening, even though those reports have always crumbled under scrutiny. Here's why, most likely, they always will.
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The Physics of Why Cold Fusion Isn't Real

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 17, 2014 @06:50PM (#48173047)

    Heavier than air flight is impossible...the world will only ever need 5 computers...no home will ever need a computer...people don't need a computer with more the 16 megabytes of RAM...

    • by qpqp ( 1969898 )

      people don't need a computer with more the 16 megabytes of RAM...

      They don't, actually, but it sure is convenient.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by terjeber ( 856226 )

      Heavier than air flight is impossible

      No scientist ever said that since it is quite self-evidently untrue. Birds are heavier than air and they fly. If someone actually said it, they were retarded.

    • by JazzHarper ( 745403 ) on Friday October 17, 2014 @07:27PM (#48173265) Journal

      Apparently, you don't fully understand the difference between physics and engineering. Technological barriers can often be overcome with advances in materials and design. Declaring them to be insurmountable has been shown to be foolish, many times. Barriers imposed by the properties of matter, on the other hand, are much more durable. Declaring them to be insurmountable is rarely a mistake.

    • by hey! ( 33014 )

      Well, there's a big difference between saying something won't ever happen because it's never happened yet, and saying that a claim that you've done something is presumptively not credible unless you can meet certain stadnards of proof.

    • And don't forget the crow NY-Times had to eat in an apology to R. Goddard after claiming rockets wouldn't work in the vacuum of space.

      http://www.popsci.com/military... [popsci.com]

    • If fusion is really happening then where are the neutrons? Where's the gamma radiation? Nuclear physics doesn't work this way. When pressed about lack of radiation, they (the cold fusion people) always change the subject or make up some gibberish argument that makes no sense. The absolute best argument they can come up with is some bogus idea about reverse beta decay. Unfortunately if you actually crunch the numbers (it's literally a two-line calculation), this turns out to be incredibly impossible. Again,

  • by RyoShin ( 610051 ) <tukaro@gma[ ]com ['il.' in gap]> on Friday October 17, 2014 @06:56PM (#48173083) Homepage Journal

    I've spent years trying to pretend that Coldfusion isn't real, but somehow I keep running into it now and then.

    ...oh, cold[space]fusion? Nevermind, then.

  • by wisnoskij ( 1206448 ) on Friday October 17, 2014 @06:56PM (#48173087) Homepage
    This PSA has been brought to you by the Vulcan Science Directorate.
  • As I recall, only some of the samples prepared by identical methods displayed superconductivity. Eventually fabrication became reliable, but it took considerable time. Granted, superconductivity is a whole lot easier to measure than excess heat on the scale that some LENR experiments claim to produce.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 17, 2014 @07:13PM (#48173181)

    1. Powered Flight
    2. Bending Light
    3. Traveling Greater than 300mph
    4. Transparent Aluminum
    5. Artificial Diamonds

    All of these "Feats" of human ingenuity were once thought to be impossible by the physics standards of the day.

    Physics and our understanding of it, continues to evolve every moment we live.

    To say the words "It Cannot Be Done" after seeing all we have done already... Is kind of foolish.

    We will learn how to accomplish this feat, or one very similar that accomplishes the same goal, Eventually...

    That, is the power of Consciousness My Friends.

    All hail the thinking, reasoning, Problem Solving, Human Consciousness!

    • 1. Powered Flight 2. Bending Light 3. Traveling Greater than 300mph 4. Transparent Aluminum 5. Artificial Diamonds

      All of these "Feats" of human ingenuity were once thought to be impossible by the physics standards of the day.

      Physics and our understanding of it, continues to evolve every moment we live.

      To say the words "It Cannot Be Done" after seeing all we have done already... Is kind of foolish.

      We will learn how to accomplish this feat, or one very similar that accomplishes the same goal, Eventually...

      That, is the power of Consciousness My Friends.

      All hail the thinking, reasoning, Problem Solving, Human Consciousness!

      Hold up there, turbo. Transparent aluminum? Surely you're not serious. And don't post a link to something about aluminum oxide or other ceramics.

      • Transparent aluminum would probably be sapphire, and Im not sure what genius thought it impossible.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by markass530 ( 870112 )

      guess this needs to be said again

      "Apparently, you don't fully understand the difference between physics and engineering. Technological barriers can often be overcome with advances in materials and design. Declaring them to be insurmountable has been shown to be foolish, many times. Barriers imposed by the properties of matter, on the other hand, are much more durable. Declaring them to be insurmountable is rarely a mistake"

      • by AthanasiusKircher ( 1333179 ) on Friday October 17, 2014 @11:01PM (#48174163)

        guess this needs to be said again

        "Apparently, you don't fully understand the difference between physics and engineering. Technological barriers can often be overcome with advances in materials and design. Declaring them to be insurmountable has been shown to be foolish, many times. Barriers imposed by the properties of matter, on the other hand, are much more durable. Declaring them to be insurmountable is rarely a mistake"

        Hmm, yes, let's see. Nowhere in the history of science has any fundamental "property of matter" been found to be completely in error. Nope. Never.

        Oh wait...

        -- According to Aristotelean physics, each "element" has its fundamental natural place of rest. So the idea that matter would continue in motion forever was impossible. The idea that the Earth could possibly be in motion was ridiculous, since "earth" (the element) was heavy and came to a state of rest. Well, until Newton and Galileo and those folks came up with the idea that inertia allows things to keep moving forever and the entire Earth (and all matter on it) were actually in motion.
        -- Phlogiston was a fundamental component of matter that made combustion possible. It was ascribed increasingly bizarre properties (including negative mass) until it was shown to be a myth.
        -- Waves can't propagate without a medium -- that's a fundamental property of matter. Light therefore required luminiferous ether to travel through space... until Einstein showed it didn't.
        -- Atoms are fundamental indivisible parts of elements, an idea that had been around since the Greeks. Until the electron was discovered. But even then, electrons and other parts of atoms were fundamentally a kind of "plum pudding" mixed in creating solids... until Rutherford showed they were mostly empty space, with a concentrated positive nucleus. But they were immutable, until things like nuclear fission showed they could be changed. And we could go on with the various problems with all the atomic models that assumed to be the fundamental structure of matter, but which were wrong.
        -- Matter is made up of particles which are definite things which are in a particular place... until theories of uncertainty and wavelike characteristics showed that things were a lot more complicated and sometimes apparently indeterminate.
        -- Etc., etc.

        I could go on, but hopefully you get the point. Throughout the history of science, there have been multitudes of assumptions about the fundamental, essential, and immutable "properties of matter" which must be the case. And these theories have often been shown to be incomplete misunderstandings or sometimes utter falsehoods.

        I have no idea whether cold fusion will ever be possible. I have no idea what holes or misunderstandings may still be present in our current understanding of the "properties of matter."

        But I'm not so stupid as to ignore history and declare that our current understanding of the the laws of physics and fundamental "properties of matter" is so utterly complete that we could declare such a thing impossible for all time.

        Given our track record for thinking we've come to a final complete understanding of nature, only to realize we were completely wrong, I'd say it's a pretty egotistical perspective to say that we actually know exactly the "barriers imposed by properties of matter" to a high degree of certainty FOR ALL TIME.

    • All of these "Feats" of human ingenuity were once thought to be impossible by the physics standards of the day.

      These "feats" you describe were engineering problems, not physics problems.

      The "Boy Mechanic" of 1880 could build a rubber-band powered model plane. Samuel Pierpont Langley built elegant steam powered miniatures, no less appealing and no more practical.

      Power was never a problem in aviation. The problem was the need for dynamic control of an aircraft moving in three dimensions. The Wrights taught themselves to fly by building and refining man-sized gliders. In parallel with their work on lift and propulsion

  • by Anonymous Coward

    "Here's why, most likely, they always will."

  • I find it amusing how people continuously claim to "know" what is and isn't possible based on our infinitesimally short stint into the sciences. We have had electricity in any meaningful fashion for what, 120 years? I'm not saying that cold fusion is possible, and even if it is it may take a society that has been advancing technologically for over a million years to achieve it. But we aren't even children when it comes to knowing the intricacies of the universe, we're a few cells dividing. Claiming what

    • I find it amusing how people continuously claim to "know" what is and isn't possible based on our infinitesimally short stint into the sciences.

      Exactly!

      When I see articles like this, and especially with a "[likely] always will be" clincher I like to imagine how the exact same tone could be (and often was) applied prior to previous breakthru advances. Such as traveling several times faster than a horse could run. (Breathing would be impossible at such speeds!) Such as heavier than air flight. (A bird can fly because its body is optimized for flight but no matter what heavier substance you add to the body of a man it only makes him heavier and thus

    • by ganv ( 881057 )
      We just discovered that we are made of atoms a little over one century ago, and our ignorance is vast. But we should also be careful not to err on the side of blindly assuming that anything is possible. It is essential to think clearly about what might and might not be possible based on what we know now in order to direct our investigations. Will we discover new laws of physics that are relevant to releasing energy from nuclear reactions? I suspect the answer to that is probably no, and the reason is
  • Only the sun you say?
    A hydrogen bomb yields more energy than was put it, by a large margin.

    We can do fusion, we just cannot control it yet.

  • The article seems to contradict itself:

    While perpetual motion machines would violate known physical phenomena—like the conservation of energy—cold fusion is possible in principle.

    Oh, so it's possible!

    The combination of the energy barrier of normal matter, the Coulomb barrier of individual nuclei, the negligibly low probability of quantum tunneling at all but the shortest distances, and the fact that the physics of nuclear reactions is so incredibly well-understood (and verified) all tells us that low-energy cold fusion should be impossible.

    Oh, so it's impossible. But even here, don't you mean it's just unlikely?

    Even though I’m a theoretical physicist myself, I’m open to the possibility that physics has it wrong, and that cold fusion could be possible

    Wait, you said it was possible in principle. Now you're saying that cold fusion contradicts theory.

  • you'll have opened up an entire new source of clean, reliable, safe, renewable and abundant energy

    I'd like to know how elemental hydrogen is a renewable source of energy. Sure you could rip apart the more complex elements that are the product of said fusion to make more hydrogen, but that's hardly what I consider "renewable".

    As for the viability of cold fusion, it's a great software tool, but I don't think it's got much of a future as a solution for any energy crisis.

    Lastly, you can't ever extract more en

  • by msobkow ( 48369 ) on Friday October 17, 2014 @11:44PM (#48174271) Homepage Journal

    ...we don't have a way to ignite and sustain that reaction without needing to input more energy than we can extract in a usable fashion from the fusion that occurs

    Bollocks. The break-even point was passed this year. Sure it's not reached a point of economy-of-scale, but it was a critical change in the fusion story.

    http://www.cbc.ca/m/touch/news/story/1.2534140 [www.cbc.ca]

  • What's that all about then? Are you telling me that their IS no ColdFusion? That Adobe is the name of a garden gnome? That CFML is just a crazy rant?

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