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Suppression of cold fusion research? 248

Dylan Greene wrote to us with a story talking about the possible suppresion of cold fusion research from those whom you would expect to. It might be inflamatory, but it's also interesting.
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Suppression of cold fusion research?

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    how long will it be before we create perpetual motion?

    I'm also looking for the fountain of youth, BTW.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Sorry about the "Anonymous Coward" bit. I'm just to lazy to create an account. My email address is

    I've read a number of popular articles on Cold Fusion and my attitudes with respect to the reported phenomena are definitely ambivalent.

    There are a number of mischaracterizations made by both sides. A presentation at a conference is NOT what happens if the establishment is trying to bury a science. On the other hand, if the current physical model for fusion says that a cold fusion phenomenon isn't possibly real, you cannot use the current physical model as a guide for the likely characteristics of the phenomenon. That means that if a Cold Fusion cell has a smaller neutron flux than is predicted by the current nuclear physics, that would necessarily invalidate current nuclear physics, not the observed phenonena.

    On the other hand, the fact that there haven't been any significant results in 10 years makes it look, to me, like the phenomenon, even if it's real, may not go anywhere.

    Look, I'm an engineer, not a physicist. From my perspective, the whole point behind a fusion reactor is to generate electricity. If they're generating substantial amounts of heat, they can use it to boil water. If you can boil water, you can generate electricity. There is real money to be made in generators of 5-50kW capacity, (I'm in the market for a 20kW generator right now,) so a small generator with a manufacturing yield of 30% is a commercially viable product. "Manufacturing yield" is the ratio of functional devices to total devices manufactured. To extend the transistor metaphor, in the early days of microprocessors, the manfacturing yield was often well under 10%. Therefore, if you can generate enough heat to boil water, you have a product.

    If you have a product, you can go get a few million in venture capital (through a process that is eerily similar to getting a research grant) and go into production selling into a large market with no competition. After that point, the market will pay for the development costs and no government funding is required!

    So, if you can get 30% of the CF cells to work and the cells generate 50kW or so heat at a temperature high enough to boil water, then you don't NEED government funding.

    Since that obviously hasn't happened, it looks like CF is a chimera. Go ahead, prove me wrong. Please.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Hi Ben-

    This wasn't made very clear in my original comments, but the results of Pons & Fleischmann can be accounted for by a simple explanation: BAD CALORIMETRY. Calorimetry is the process of measuring how much heat/light (energy) you put into your experimental setup, and then measuring how much heat/light (energy) comes out. If there is a difference between the input heat and the output heat, you can attribute the difference to your experimental error, or to something new and exciting and cold fusion. If you're careful, you'll understand your experimental errors, and take care to minimize them.

    The input energy tends to be very large, and the output energy tends to be very large as well. What is interesting is the difference between these two rather large numbers, and this difference has proven to be rather small. In fact, this difference has usually been small enough to be consistent with zero.

    What about the case where the energy difference is not zero? Well, Stan Pons was extremely careless with his experimental setup, and you're welcome to read any multitude of available books. Nate Lewis, a chemistry professor at CalTech, was very careful with his experimental setup when he attempted to reproduce Pons' results. Lewis did not observe any excess heat--within his experimental error. Many, many, many other chemists attempted to reproduce Pons' results, and the only few who claimed to see appreciable energy difference were the ones who had reputations for being careless. And, as previously mentioned, no one ever reported seeing any radiation.

    Had there been ANYTHING to cold fusion, all of the scientists who specialized in electrochemical calorimetry would have trumpeted it to the high heavens. They would have won Nobel Prizes. They would have received guaranteed federal research funding for them and their field for eternity. This is why they all took Pons & Fleischmann so seriously when they first announced their results, and why they were so angry with these two for wasting months and years of their time and research dollars.

    The energy differences that are now claimed by those to still pursue the subject are extremely small, so small as to preclude any commercially viable production of energy.

    Anton Eppich
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 05, 1999 @07:16AM (#1866162)
    As a practicing high-energy physicist, I feel compelled to point out that this article is patently ridiculous.

    All nuclear reaction chains release some combination of so-called exotic particles: gamma-rays, neutrons, neutrinos, high-energy protons, positrons, and the like. Any reaction that does not emit such particles is NOT a nuclear reaction.

    In particular, the fusion chain that produces helium--the very reaction Pons & Fleischmann claimed to observe--releases neutrons. Neutrons are very easy to see with the right kind of detector, and any observation of neutrons would dramatically confirm the existence of fusion at the nuclear level.

    No cold fusion experiment has ever seen any neutrons. None. Ever.

    No cold fusion experiment has ever seen any gamma rays, which would also be released by the fusion reaction chain. Pons & Fleischmann at one time claimed to observe gamma rays, but it turned out that these rays were in fact produced by the radioactive source they were using to calibrate their gamma ray detector.

    In fact, the severe radiation--produced by any real fusion process producing as much heat as has been claimed to observe--would kill anyone working in the unshielded lab within a few days, or less.

    But there has never been any evidence of radiation by any of the labs studying cold fusion: not Utah, not Texas A&M, not MIT, not Caltech, not Portland State, not anyone.

    What has been observed is so-called "unaccounted heat". The problem with "unaccounted heat" is that it is extremely difficult to account for all the heat in the cold fusion experimental setup. One dips a palladium electrode in a solution of heavy water, and pumps a high voltage through the electrode. This vaporizes some of the water, producing bubbles (water vapor, hydrogen gas, and
    oxygen) and light and heat, and one can measure how much heat is produced. The problem is that it is difficult to measure accurately just how much electricity was pumped into the electrode to begin with!! So you don't know how much energy you started with, and because you don't know how much energy you started it is impossible to determine accurately whether there is any energy missing.

    Thus the surefire, absolute, undeniable way to prove that fusion is actually there is to observe neutrons and/or gamma rays. But no one has ever observed neutrons or gamma rays from a cold fusion apparatus.

    This is why cold fusion is not taken seriously by the scientific community.

    On a side note, I must object to the use of Einstein as a symbol for this discussion. Einstein would never have allowed himself to be associated with the poor quality of research exhibited by Pons, Fleischmann, and others.

    Anton Eppich
    Wilson Synchrotron Lab, Cornell University

    The opinions expressed are mine and mine alone.
  • imp wrote:

    The problem is that you cannot easily measure the amount of current flowing into the experiment with an anmeter. There will be slight losses associated with this measurement.

    They are saying that they get more energy out than they put into it. It seems to me that all the sources of error on measuring how much energy goes into the system are losses on the way to the electrode. Wouldn't this mean that they are getting at least as much energy as they are claiming?

    Regardless of whether it's fusion or some obscure electrochemical process, I think we should be investigating potential energy sources. If the scientific community is detecting energy there, and trying to hide it, that's unforgivable.

    Also, your reply didn't address the fundamental question of where are the nuclear by products. If it is a nuclear reaction, like Pons and Fleischmann originally claimed, then there should be by-products. Nobody to date has measured them.

    According to the article, they have detected excess helium (they didn't say whether it's helium-3 or helium-4). I'd say that's a likely fusion byproduct. I'd say that's somebody. It's not conclusive unless it can be reproduced, so why aren't people trying to reproduce the results?
  • I cant' see how McKubre could expect a technical physics talk to be teeming with journalists?
    Apart from that - from what little the article describes about his findings - they don't seem to be anything of consequence. In physics - it's often not the measurments that are important - they are just a step towards an understanding of the phenomenon. While he may have measurements, unless they are reproducable - they can't even further ou runderstanding of what's going on.
  • Posted by FascDot Killed My Previous Use:

    Pons and Fleichman were fools.

    If you don't like that, feel free to send me email. Flames will be directed to /dev/null.
    "Please remember that how you say something is often more important than what you say." - Rob Malda
  • Funding for this sort of thing is based on potential returns. I have a friend who is a physics Postdoc at McGill University (Montreal, CA) and is very bright. He has no stake in this research, and has told me that the amount of money required for this research does not even come close to making sense in terms of reward, considering that even if they were getting results, it would take on the order of at least 100 to 120 years to make it feasable for general use. There is more promising and rewarding energy research going on (although he didn't say what). I will be sure to ask.
  • IIRC, the book was Broca's Brain(though I just read both of them one after the other, so I could be wrong).

    And Sagan actually did show some equations to show how wrong Velikovsky was very wrong(his ideas seemed to be trying to scientifically prove Biblical stories).

    But, point is, yes. Sagan was very against the treatment Velikovsky got. I think Sagan actually got a confrence or something set up just so both sides could present their arguements.
  • by YuppieScum ( 1096 ) on Friday June 04, 1999 @03:36PM (#1866168) Journal
    Maybe we should just have "Cold fusion reactor" added to the list for the next University of Chicago scavanger hunt...

  • There are a number of ways cold fusion MIGHT happen without screwing up QM and other theories. One possability for example would be a tunneling effect where a small number of deuterium atoms end up close together. The 'heat' of that small number could be in the millions of degrees but because there are very few of them, the average temperature of the apparatus remains near room temp.

    Calorimetry is indeed tricky stuff. I find the apparent He production more interesting. That simply does not happen at random. Any given reading could still be off, due to calibration problems and equipment malfunction, but I find it hard to believe that the readings would be consistantly off for the experimental setup, yet dead on for the calibration runs.

    As far as funding goes, I suspect that if there were no practical use for cold fusion (for example, if we already had clean and unlimited energy too cheap to meter), it would have little problem getting low level ongoing funding. Many interesting but 'non-exploitable' phenomina are researched that way.

    There's no need for a conspiracy theory here, it's just that cheap energy is a field that is FILLED with psychoceramics and wishful thinking, so it's easy to write off even a genuine discovery.

  • I worked for a few years at SRI (Stanford Research Institute) and know that two people died in a chemical explosion while working on this subject about 8 years ago. The researchers at SRI are brilliant and determined people whose results should be viewed with excitement. I only wish the cost weren't so high.

  • SRI has contributed much to science and the world. In fact, without the contributions of SRI I would not be posting this right now to slashdot. A small list of things SRI invented that make this post possible: the IP protocol, mouse and hypertext/multimedia.

    I am biased though, I worked there for two years.
  • Interesting that a meltdown created by blowing bubbles on platinum would not create more attention...

    Heck, there are lots of chemical reactions where metals, once ignited, would burn underwater...
    Phil Fraering "Humans. Go Fig." - Rita

  • " ... get enough
    minds together, and eventually good stuff comes out. "

    Yeah, like the collected works of Shakespeare. . .

    "The number of suckers born each minute doubles every 18 months."
    -jafac's law
  • Mmmm.... You aren't an electrical engineer are you? Doing precision measurement in electronics is a major PAIN in the ass.

    I am an electrical engineer (by trade, not by degree) and it is not a pain in the ass to get accurate measurement of voltage, current and power. The fact that you spent a quarter in lab indicates to me that you were following a cirriculum designed to teach you how not to measure it, then teaches you how to properly do it.

    Measuring thousands of volts accurately (to an accuracy of a volt or less) is not difficult. Measuring current is not difficult, either. You don't need equipment which has a range of 0-10kV in 0.01V steps. You don't need equipment which can measure fA to MA in fA steps. The trick is to pick your range and measure accurately in that range. Use equipment which is designed to give you what you need.

    Measuring power is a little trickier. You must ALWAYS take instantaneous voltage and current measurements or you will fall short of the true measurement. Taking your peak and multiplying by 0.707 to get RMS only works for sine waves. Most meters are average responding RMS reading, meaning that they actually measure average voltage/current but the meter (digital or analog) does the *0.707 to show an RMS value. Start measuring with pulse waveforms and that number starts to give you horrendously wrong results. Fluke 87 meters are great for measuring nonsinusoidal waveforms, but even they have a certain crest value past which they start to measure incorrectly.

    I'm speaking with over eight years of industrial power electronics design and development experience. I design analog and digital systems, from concept to final software candy. Saying that it's difficult to measure electicity is just plain wrong.
  • by ChrisRijk ( 1818 ) on Friday June 04, 1999 @03:47PM (#1866175)
    Cold Fusion research is being carried out in lots of countries, and they all have similar problems - getting funding and people to pay attention. Here in the UK, a friend of mine is doing research into fusion-like stuff - they're not trying for commercial applications, just researching into how the physics work. They're having trouble getting funding too, and it's not like they don't have a lot of respect from the rest of the scientific community.

    However, in the university where they work, nobody would be able to do Cold Fusion research there, even if they paid for it themselves. There is such a bad stigma attached, that it would be just impossible.

    Sad huh...

  • ... the difference in the case of relativity and quanum mechanics being that nobody was disputing the experimental results being obtained. Such is not the case here.

  • The main problem is that Fleischmann and Pons went to press far to early and didn't go through due process in checking there results. They also had done this on a number of other occasions. So, maybe they had something and maybe they didn't. In the mean time all the press that quickly published their results in the first place looked awfully bad when it looked like the scientists were overstating their results.

    Was cold fusion total bunk? I don't know, but now to get any press at all for it the results are going to have to be pretty darned conclusive. Reporting excess energy that may or may not be the result of a nuclear reaction probably won't get a nod in the mainstream scientific media anymore.

    This is why normally when you read a scientific press release there are a lot of caveats added by any interviewed scientists, even when the main stream press adds on a more sensationalistic headline. The fact that something happened takes the back seat to a plausible explanation of why that something happened.
  • As I sat reading the article, and the comments, I kept wishing to myself someone with knowledge would comment ...

    Thanks for doing so. This is truly the value of Slashdot (and probably OSS as well) ... get enough minds together, and eventually good stuff comes out.

    (Well, maybe that's reaching, but thanks for the comment!)

  • by dattaway ( 3088 ) on Friday June 04, 1999 @02:34PM (#1866180) Homepage Journal
    My step-dad is a chemistry professor. I remember when some cold fusion experiments hit the news and asked him about it. He said they got together in the lab in an attempt to recreate it. He would only say they had some "unexplained" energy and a meltdown of the platinum plates. Never heard anything more on that.

    Interesting that a meltdown created by blowing bubbles on platinum plates would not create more attention than Beavis and Butthead would have toward "fire! fire! fire!"
  • If a mug suddenly floated off your desk in apparent contradiction to the law of gravity, the correct scientific response would not be to deny it because it is impossible, but rather to explain it.

    No, the correct scientific response would be to try to reproduce it under laboratory conditions. You can't do science on things you can't reproduce. Anything else would just be speculation.

  • and just look where that got us :-)
  • Our current theories of nuclear fusion and QM are completely up the creek. These theories have correctly predicted just about every phenomena observed in High Energy Physics over the last 50 years, from the atomic bomb to the transistor. Never mind, its all wrong

    Of course, if we think back to when Newton formulated his laws, they were accepted by the scientific community, and correctly predicted just about every phenomena observed in the motion of moving objects.

    Of course, there were things that didn't fit in. That's where General Relativity comes in. It fixes the flaws in Newtonian math. Perhaps there are flaws in the current theories of Quantum Mechanics and Nuclear Fusion?

    No! Never! Of course not.

  • ...the fact that there haven't been any significant results in 10 years makes it look, to me, like the phenomenon, even if it's real, may not go anywhere.

    How about controlled hot fusion?
    Artificial Intelligence?
    EM weapons?

    Ten years is not a long time. Look at all the technologies that were developed from initially slight, but unexplained phenomena. Most scientists, though typically human, aren't stupid. Scientific process is designed, among other things, to make sure that the successes outweigh the wild-goose chases.

  • Cold Fusion that produces usable power practially would be nice if it were real. All of the wishing you can do won't make it real.

    Sure, there was a campaign to suppress the little gadget that turned water into gasoline, we heard all about that 20 years ago.

    We can't suppress real things, like atomic bombs. Although there is a lot of applied science to do, the basics are understandable by every high-school science student.

    I think slashdot editors need to switch from reading Popular Science Magazine to something a bit more sophisticated.


  • This is a specious argument. Airplanes that carried people practically was a applied science problem, the planes had already flown. Demand for computers is a marketing issue, not a scientific one. In contrast, the scientific theory behind cold fusion was wrong. There wasn't any fusion. All of the applied science in the world won't make there be fusion if the theory's wrong.

    Wishing just won't make it true. Faith doesn't make the theory work if you have a bad theory.


  • in addition to what the guy from cornell said, the way pons and fleischmann announced their results pissed everyone off. instead of publishing what they had done in a scientific paper (and hence subject to peer review, duplication of the experiment, etc) they held a press conference.

    it was sketchy on details but long on speculating about future possibilities, and it attracted a lot of public attention. but pons and fleishchmann refused to tell anyone what their setup was, so guys at mit et al had to try reproducing the setup from what they saw on tv.

    it was clearly ridiculous. they never had any real evidence; why wouldnt they have gone through the conventional channels? and dont say it was so they could make money- they couldve patented it, and still published what they did. and if, as conspiracy theorists claim, it was because big gov't and big industry shut them up, then why didnt they start out by telling everyone EXACTLY what they had done, instead of trying to keep it to themselves?

    nobody has ever gotten their experiment to work. they never showed anyone any credible data. they couldn't possibly have accurately measured the heat/energy production in their setup, there was no significant radiation, and the amount of helium they claimed to have produced was within statistical bounds of what is already found in the atmosphere.

    i cant believe that anyone is still looking at this crap. theyre wasting their time.

  • I used to doubt that conspiracies actually existed in many cases. However more and more evidance of smaller one surface... I think I might start takeing the smaller conspiracy theories seriosly... Not the larger ones (too many logistic problems..).
    On anouther note... I can't wait to put a cold fusion cell in my Motorcycle! No more stopping for GAS!!!
    "There is no spoon" - Neo, The Matrix
    "SPOOOOOOOOON!" - The Tick, The Tick
  • "The fact that researchers from Los Alamos are presently researching this (10 years later) may serve as an indicator that there may be some substance to these claims, and that it may be worthy of future research."

    Uh, no. I work at Los Alamos and we have a great deal of personal freedom here. While we all have programmatic requirements, most of us have little side projects going on that (if successful) we push for funding and what not for. The CF researchers here are free to look into it. They would also be free to look into perpetual motion or superluminal travel. Just because an employee of LANL is studying something, you shouldn't attach the Lab's prestige to it.

  • by Ethan Butterfield ( 7481 ) on Friday June 04, 1999 @03:41PM (#1866190)
    Supression of anything like this is bad. Just because they're completely out of their minds doesn't mean we have the right to make their work go away. So we don't agree with it? So it's wrong? Ok, it's wrong. Let the scientific method pick apart their arguments in a rational way, rather than Inquisitioning them out of existence.

    The late Dr. Carl Sagan, in his Cosmos series, talked about this same kind of thing happening when Immanuel Velikovsky published the first compilation of his astronomical views in Worlds in Collision in 1950. He came up with some wonderful ideas about Venus being a rogue planet that was captured by the Sun's gravitation, the Moon being ejected from Jupiter, an explanation for the sun standing still in Biblical times, and much more.

    Sure, the man was completely wrong about many things. He was also right in his theories that in the past, mankind has witnessed global catastrophes of cosmic origin. But rather than prove him wrong, Worlds in Collision was instead banned from numerous academic institutions, and his works suppressed. He is still to this day looked on as a kook more than a scientist who was wrong.

    "Do not destroy that which you do not understand."

  • Even if it takes 100-120 years to get the technology working well enough to be a viable source of energy, it could very well be worth the time (and money). Consider:

    1. Fossil fuels don't last forever ( I don't know if they'll even last that 120 years...if someone has numbers please post them). Hydrogen, OTOH, is the most abundant element in the universe. In the long-term, fusion makes a lot of sense.

    2. Fusion as an energy source is better by far than anything we've got. Tremendous amounts of energy for what you put in, and it doesn't pollute like fossil fuels or fission reactions.

    3. If you can do *cold* fusion (which is obviously a subject of debate at the moment), then you may have found a way to make it a practical energy source.

    So what if we sink a century of work into something that could be a useful power source for millennia?

    I'd also note that while funding is limited, funding a little cold fusion research doesn't mean we have to drop everything else. And somehow I don't see fossil fuel research as having a whole lot of relevance compared to fusion, since we're well on our way to using up those fossil fuels. If we needed to cut money from somewhere to fund fusion, why not that (political lobbying aside)?
  • Things some people in academia have to lose if cold fusion works:

    1) Federal research grants - if CF becomes the new "hot" technology, then it stands to reason that the "old" technology isn't going to get as much funding. There's only so much $$ to go around.

    2) Prestige/pride - all those who dismissed CF as the product of quacks would suddenly find themselves in a rather uncomfortable situation. Most people just hate being proven wrong - especially if they've been very vocal about it. It would be kinda like going on national television back in the 40s to claim an atomic bomb was impossible, and then the next day the US drops the bomb on Japan... people would have a hard time taking you all that seriously afterwards.

    This doesn't require any sort of conspiracy, just people looking after their own self-interests. I doubt the oil companies are conspiring with the hot fusion folks, but it's quite possible that each tries to dismiss CF because if it were to be developed/researched, it could pose a threat to them.

    Any troubles the University of Utah may have with giving away the rights to that research is not evidence against cold fusion. It is just as likely that researchers have founded better processes. Or perhaps they saw how P&F were labeled as quacks and would rather try to avoid a repeat by avoiding that process (due more to politics than science). Or it could be as you say. But there is no obvious way to distinguish which is the case. Which, I think, is why we need further research into these areas.
  • In order for you to maintain these theories of government cover-ups, government conspiracies, black helicopters, etc...

    ... you would have to have a really incorrect perception of the capabilities of the individuals working for the US government.

    I find them all to be so completely incompetent, that I find it implausible that they could exhibit such control over the US.

  • Never. In the 1000's of experiements that have been conducted since the original Utah scientists announced their findings, only a vanishingly small number have produced any amount of excess heat at all. Also, if this were a nuclear phenomenon, the researches doing the research wouldn't live long enough to report their findings. The levels of excess heat in the original utah experiments would have produced enough high energy neutrons to result in lethal radiation posioning.

    Cold fusion is a hoax and a myth. Just like Polywater before it.
  • >right up there with polywater

    Ah, a man after my own heart. :-)

    For an excellent book on the subject of Cold fusion and another on the pseudoscience check out:

    Science and Unreason by Radner and Radner (isbn 0-534-01153-5) and Cold Fusion, The Scientific Fiasco of the Century by John R. Huizenga (isbn 0-19-855817-1).

    The latter provides a complete and thorough study of cold fusion, the experiments performed, the financial motivations, etc. It draws parallels to other cases of 'Pathological Science'.

    The former was used in a course on Pseduo Science I took in college. There is another book that went with this course as well, but cannot find it right now.

    Read Huizenga's book. If there are any doubts about the huge amounts of $$$ that have been wasted by this fiasco, they will be dispelled.
  • >Voltmeter measures voltage. Ammeter measures >current. power = voltage x current.
    > energy = power x time.
    >Where is the problem?

    The problem is that you cannot easily measure the
    amount of current flowing into the experiment with
    an anmeter. There will be slight losses associated with this measurement. You can account for most of them, but not all of them. You will wind up with a figure for energy put into the system, but it won't necessaryly do you any good. The energy could be stored in the form of chemical bonds or in the form of heat. The heat you can mesaure, but it is very hard to measure how much of the energy went into the creation of new chemical compounds.

    There are also small, but measurable losses due to the resistance of the wires used, the connectors used in the setup, etc.

    It is a very hard problem to measure accurately all these factors at the same time.

    Also, your reply didn't address the fundamental question of where are the nuclear by products. If it is a nuclear reaction, like Pons and Fleischmann originally claimed, then there should be by-products. Nobody to date has measured them.

    People reading and posting should take some time to study the parallels between Cold Fusion and other scientific fiascos of the past. There are many many many parallels. Again, Huizenga's book that I posted in another message goes into this.
  • Peer review??

    Get real, the "hot" guys want the money!!

    History repeats again. Does anyone remember what the IA guys did to the neural network guys in the 60s?

    The military belived the IA lies, and neural network was underdeveloped until the 80s.

    Moreover, where are the IA miracles??
  • Yes and no.

    Certainly in the case of a fission (Hiroshima/Nagasaki type) bomb, the power source comes from an uncontrolled chain reaction; the process being, if I remember correctly, the decay of uranium-238. The chain carriers are neutrons, which can be absorbed by carbon rods (forming carbon-13, a naturally occurring radioactive isotope of carbon); thus, the use of carbon control rods can reduce the rate of reaction dramatically, basically giving you a controlled explosion - commonly called a nuclear reactor.

    Thus, you are right in saying that the difference between a nuclear FISSION bomb and a conventional fission reactor is one of reaction rate.

    However, H-bombs are a very different animal indeed.

    Fusion is essentially the reverse of fission - it is sticking two small nuclei together, such as 3-H (tritium) and 2-H(deuterium), to form, in general, 4-He (the naturally occurring isotope of helium). This releases phenomenal amounts of energy, but requires huge amounts to get it going. Now, in the absence of fusion energy to trigger it (the reaction being self-sustaining in the presence of reactants once it has started), we need to stick a lot of energy in somehow to get it going. The only way we have to do this in weapons is by placing a fission weapon beside it and firing it (although a small one); this pumps enough energy in to get fusion going, releasing huge amounts of energy.

    Of course, if I am totally wrong, please correct me!

  • I talked to someone once about cold fusion, and he had a relatively interesting explanation for the occational positive result. It is widely known that palladium, and some other metals, can contain within their crystal lattice an extraordinary amount of hydrogen (including deuterium). So far, nothing new. He *also* claimed that when there is a crack in the metal, electrostatic charges in the tens of kV can built up on the opposing edges of the crack. If so, that would be sufficient to ionize some hydrogen atoms, and accelerate them at higher speeds than the Coulomb barrier of hydrogen nuclei. The result would be a *very small* amount of fusion. If this indeed is the cause for the occational positive result, cold fusion is definitely doomed to remain a scientific curiosity.

    I find it amusing that the article claims to have found traces of He-4. However, most cold fusion experiments I have read of are pure H-2 (deuterium), which would result in He-3 and n. Admittely, He-3 can in turn fuse with H-2 to form He-4 and H-1, but that would be a secondary reaction, and it would still not be a neutron-free reaction. There are a few aneutronic fusion reactions known -- mostly involving various isotopes of Li -- but even fewer which wouldn't result in parasitic neutronics (He-3 + H-2 for example; at conditions suitable for this reaction you will also have H-2 + H-2 -> He-3 + n).

  • 2. Fusion as an energy source is better by far than anything we've got. Tremendous amounts of energy for what you put in, and it doesn't pollute like fossil fuels or fission reactions.

    Pesky lethal levels of radiation aside.

  • Did it ever cross your mind that the atomic
    structure of the palladium might somehow contain and recycle your neutrons with such effencicy that none are ever detected? Quantum fusion through superstring exchange? :P We dont know what it is, and good scientific research into it will do nothing worse then advance our knoweldge

    Personally I think the evidence for the existence of Fusion Faeries is being suppressed.
  • > According to standard physics a jet engine is thermodynamically IMPOSSIBLE.

    According to yon scroll of wisdom, thou shalt surely fall off the edge of the earth and be devoured by the serpent shouldst thou undertake this folly to sail beyond the west ocean.

    I heard from an obscure source that jet engines are reproducable. I eagerly await the same for cold fusion.
  • Then your high school physics course was truly pathetic. My regular non-AP physics course in HS, using a standard textbook, had extensive coverage of basic particle physics and subatomic theory.

    Mind you I flunked it. Happens when you sleep through every class.
  • 'cept Echelon exists. The NSA admits as much. Which of course has the conspiracy theorists incoherently screeching about what they're REALLY covering up ;)
  • ... I would classify as being perfect for an "open source" web community to discuss, expand and develop in a public forum.

    Joseph Foley
    InCert Software Corp.
  • Considering that nobody's able to get funding for cold fusion research, I suspect the next step would be to continue work on it without any funding. This would only be possible if people were willing to pursue it as a hobby. Heck, if we're getting any kind of results, then hobby-level research could be cheap.

    Or, assuming that the cold fusion phenomenon is for real, why not build a small power plant on the principle?

    Granted, it's not the same as peer review. But if this stuff is even remotely for real then the worst we could do is waste our time, our money, instead of taxpayer money.

    Fun fact: If infinitely many rednecks shoot infinitely many highway signs with buckshot, they will eventually produce Hamlet in Braille.
  • Neutrons don't have to be such an issue. If we consider a fuel source of deuterium and He3, we will get hydrogen, He4 (which has been observed) and no neutrons. This does beg the question of where the He3 came from, which is very rare in nature, but I would not be so quick to discard this phenomenon.

  • It seems as if both parties are to blame. First, the original scientists who first discovered the effect, dubbed it cold fusion, right away. This was a fatal mistake. They didn't understand enough about what they were looking at before they dubbed it with such a weighty moniker. The word "fusion" means something very specific, and until they were sure that what they were looking at was in fact, a form of fusion, they should have chosen a name with fewer strings attached. The "Pons-Fleischmann Effect" would be a good choice. Instead they chose a name for which they had no theoretical basis.

    This was blatantly irresponsible.

    Pity. It is unfortunate that the scientific community has siezed on this obviously incredulous moniker, and rejected whatever science may lie behind it.

    Is cold "The Pons-Fleischmann Effect" fusion? No. Almost certainly not.

    It it "real." Possibly. Although it will take some time to sort through the calemetry data, and some new theory, before we can say for sure. What we really need are minds open to the possibilities.

    Afterall, isn't that why we got into science in the first place?

  • We already have perpetual motion:

    The mouths of the people who think it's possible.

    Remind me to beat you over the head with the second law of thermal dynamics, next time i see you.

  • For a point of argument, let's take the stand that these experiments actually did produce an excess of heat, as claimed.

    There are still some serious shortcomings (IMHO) with the conclusions reached by the experimenters.

    First and foremost is the assumption that the excess heat generated must be the result of a nuclear interaction of some sort. As a previous poster stated, there is no evidence of the expected byproducts of a nuclear interaction. As far as I know, there is no model for (or evidence of) any kind of nuclear level interactions that do not produce some amount of these byproducts (neutrons, gamma radiation, etc.).

    Second, even if we assume that it is possible (however unlikely) to have nuclear interactions without particle emission, where is the description of the mechanism of this type of interaction? It is not enough to label this process a nuclear process, one must also hypothesise the mechanism (at the nuclear level) that would produce this effect. Science is not just about trying to repeat (or test) some observed phenomena, it is even more about hypothesizing the mechanism of that phenomena, and then testing that hypothesis. Without the test of a hypothesis, all you are doing is demonstrating an effect, but not explaining it.

    That being said, there is still also the fact that it must also be verified that the phenomena being examined is truly an extant phenomena, and not an artifact of the experiment itself. The numbers usually provided as evidence of the cold fusion phenomena are extremely small. It is not enough to say that the experimenter has the ability to measure a temperature change with an accuracy of one-thousandth of a degree, the experimenter must also be able to account for *all* of the energies used in the experiment to at least that level of accuracy (including incipient environmental conditions).

    I think if the cold fusion experimenters cannot meet these criteria, it's no wonder that they get little consideration from the mainstream science community.

    I'm not a physicist, just an EE with a good knowledge of physics, and I have not examined every bit of information about the cold fusion experiments, so take my comments above in that context. However, what I have seen does not meet the criteria I state above.

  • Really hate to break this to you, but the jet engine is fully understood in our current knowledge of physics and aerodynamics.

    Also, there are only **TWO** types of mechanisms that can be categorized as thermodynamically impossible, those that claim to generate more energy than the system contains, and those that claim to generate energy from a single potential level.

  • Didn't you read the article? It's pointing out the sun is technically short neutrons also. Maybe we're wrong about how fusion works.

    And, if we're not, let's figure out where this heat is coming from. It might not be fusion, but maybe we can use it anyway.

  • It doesn't make sense to say that the fossil fuel industry would have a vested interest in suppressing cold fusion research. In fact, with their huge accumulated wealth and equity, they would be the very first to jump in the foray and fund it, since being the greedy sons of a bitches they are, they'd surely be glad to get rid of their expensive raffining plants, their cumbersome transportation network, and the politically uncertain stability of their sources of raw material and replace it with something that will essentially almost give you something for nothing...
    Naaah, if I were (insert your favourite oil tycoon here), I'd hugely fund cold fusion research, and also plain old fusion research, too...
    -- ----------------------------------------------
    Vive le logiciel... Libre!!!
  • I think that if we can get cold fusion working reliably and get broad use of it, we will be able to have perpetual motion-esque effects (devices that run so long with so little fuel and with little waste product).
  • I suspect that more energy has been expended acoustically talking about CF than has ever been produced by the process, worldwide. Remember, the claims are of the (100W in, 100.01 +/- .008 out) variety rather than the "boil a lobster with an AA cell" variety.

    Okay troll, point out a single other instance of any other fuel source creating more energy than is put into it. Even if it is .01 per 100W, a city-sized power plant isn't going to be interested in creating power 100W at a time. They are going to be creating huge amounts of power and those extra .01W will quickly add up to free, useful, clean power.

    Also, I don't know enough about it, but perhaps the effect is more potent/more stable on a larger scale?

  • First of all, it's too bad Pons & Fleishmann called it cold "fusion" because that's really got the physicists pissed off that two chemists would dare to infringe on their turf. Maybe they should have named it better. Something like "energy boiler" or "paladium fuel cell".

    A few years back, I saw a "where are they now" item on P & F. They're in France, quietly plugging away in a lab funded by Toyota. Hmmmm...

    They also showed a university lab that tried to repeat the experiment and had their setup blow up on them, killing one of the technicians. There's got to be something to this. I only hope that someday science matures enough to explain it.

    Finally, it really saddens me to see this research dismissed outrightly. Good grief, have an open mind! Have we really become so arrogant to think that science knows everything about everything? Did you read the bit about the first transistors failing? Where would we be today if those researches simply gave up on the idea?

    Thanks, Slashdot, for permitting this kind of discussion! This is why I come back again and again.
  • Consider yourself corrected. Get an intro physics text, and read it.

    Look up "Lawson Criterion" in your physics text.

  • Like the title says, what about Helium 3 fusion? It isn't supposed to produce any neutrons, just charged particles.

    Fusion reactions of any kind would still produce gamma rays, as this is one of the ways that nuclei shed excess energy after fusion. These should be easily detected, as the original poster stated.

  • Interesting. You just repeated exactly what you said before. What specifically do you have to say that will offer some substance to what is, in terms of how you've described it, nothing more than an unsubstantiated opinion? EVERYONE has opinions.
  • (bleh - cookie got munged, wasn't logged in, so trying again so as not to be an AC).

    > No. The experiment *was* not repeated. What's
    > the difference between that and *could* not be
    > repeated?

    Really? The fact that after the announcement, everyone and their dog _tried_ to repeat it, and failed miserably, speaks for itself.

    Oh wait - the elite DoE gremlin teams were simply really busy sneaking into every physics department across the world (not just in the US, for you Americentric conspiracy buffs) carefully sabatoging all the experiments. Yeah, that's the ticket.

    Getting something for nothing is harder than it looks. Cold Fusion is the physics equivalent of MMF spam, only people are more ready to believe that our wonderfully incompetant government is actually a real whiz when it comes to complicated conspiracies.
  • > all true scientific breakthroughs have been
    > fought against (non geocentric universe,
    > relativity)

    Two things -

    1) Browsing the rest of the threads here, you're in good company. "Galileo was right and persecuted, so therefore all people who are persecuted are right".

    2) The way the scientific method _works_ is for there to be conflict between old ideas and new. In a Darwinian sort of processes, the bad new ideas get discarded, and the good new ideas replace the old, less good ideas.

    CF was a really attractive idea. In the form it was proposed, it was proven wrong with far more certainty than most new ideas, simply because if it worked, the rewards would be enormous, so everybody took a look at it.

    I'm not saying people shouldn't be interested in understanding weird electrochemical reactions. But journalists invoking government conspiracies or the ghost of Galileo to cover their own ignorance is pretty annoying.
  • It reads like a hoax. Sure it was not written on April 1.

    I just love a web page from a "web-based" magazine without a $&*%&&)&) DATE. Get with it. Put a date on the damn thing.

    Hey, put some dates in the Article, too, while you are at it.

    How about a nice like to a few articles other than WIRED, and other atilces.

    PEER REVIEW. There is a reason for this. They make sure that you follow some standards. The original artilces got published. The reports are not peer reviewed. The original reports have errors. The peer reviewers caught the errors, and they were corrected before they got published. This is not a conspiracy. This is science.

    I guarentee that's the way it works. In reports you write things that you really cannot back up with evidence. When confronted with your own facts, you generally back off, and say somewhat less grandious claims in an article.

    Then there are those who got he way of belief. "Believe me," becasue I failed statistics. Run a lot of things you are bound to find some anomalies. Life is a bell curve, Things will occasionally fall outside of the expected norm, becasue that is the norm. The real question is "is it real, or is it statistics" If you run an experient at the 95 % confidence interval, and 5% of your results fall outside of the expected, then it's not unexpected. If 25% of your results are outisde the unexpected, then you've got a phemonemnon.
  • When will a person who has something oposing to say about something learn to reveal themselves?
    This is nothing but sniping from the side lines. Either that or your another person who's best interest is to cast extream doubt on anything or everything associated with the article commented on....
    I suspect that you either don't understand the current situation or you understand it so well that you wish it to be burried much like most of the corperations who know they would loose all cash supplies if such a product was produced.
    it's nice to know that no matter what. Freedom of speach even extends to them that would try to destroy it.
  • actually they found something rather interesting... the experiment was repeated several times and out of thoes tries, several of the did actualy work. the difference was that the ones that DID work lacked one important thing. Microfractures in the main paladium rod. and in fact it was found that there were several other replacement rods that could be used instead of an excruciatingly expensive paladium rod. a nickle alloy rod could also work.....
    How do I know.... I will not say.
    Thanks anyways.
  • I wouldnt say that all the sources of error are losses. There should be several effects on the energy passing through the water which may have ot be measures real-time.

    The conductivity may change with temperature of the water. Anything sitting in the water might be dissolving and changing the conductivity as well. The boiling itself may have an effect on the energy passing through the system.
  • The problem is that it is difficult to measure accurately just how much electricity was pumped into the electrode to begin with!!

    Really? They should know exactly what voltage they are putting across it, why would it be at all hard to meausure the current? The power company does a fine job of measuring the amount of current they send into my appartment at relatively high voltage. And once they have the voltage and the current it should not be hard to multiply.

  • I wouldn't be surprised if a student to
    do this would be expelled.
  • If you are going to say things like Hydrogen 4,
    then I suggest you refrain from discussion,
    because you sound like an excitable layman.
    Besides that, it is very hard to contain gamma
    rays. These things penetrate most matter,
    including relevant quantities of palladium
    and water.
    Furthermore, the article was weird in that
    it denounced "old school" high energy and nuclear
    physicists, while refering to Teller as a major
    Lastly, let's not forget that a lot of
    resentment in scientific community was
    generated at the outset, when the two brash
    researchers announced to the world their
    observations, without waiting for peer
    review. When people talk about bad science,
    this is one of the major examples of that,
    irrespective of whether or not the observations
    were correct. I am sure a lot of people wanted
    to prove them wrong just to show that this is
    not the way you do science.
  • Experiments are designed to disprove a theory.

    Not all experiments are designed to disprove a theory. I recall reading a study done by two sociologists who had discovered that priests used disconfirmatory methods more often than scientists. I always thought that was pretty scary.
  • If it produces a significant ammount of excess heat, an ammount that brings in the possibility of using it for power generation, then it is a VIABLE ENERGY SOURCE WHATEVER IT MAY BE.

    I am sick of all the Yes/No Cold Fusion BS.

    -- The BS

  • Actually, the Takomak reactor here in Canada was nearing the break-even point. The scientests & engeneers involved had, and still have, world recognitian in the field. Our "honorable" elected officials have canceled the project.
  • the fundemental difference between a nuculear reactor and a nuculear bomb is the speed of the reaction.
  • I think that was probably a literary reference. Something like the reference to Simon Newcombe's paper on heavier than air flight being impossible (when what he had actually shown was that modern [ca. 1900] steam engines weren't practical for airplanes). I vaguely recall seeing a reference to the "jet engines are impossible" statement (it wasn't a paper), but that was years ago so I couldn't provide you with a reference. Sorry.
  • Sagan campaigning for openness? That's wild! I guess everyone's inconsistent. And that's sort of the point of what I mean...

    Cold fusion doesn't look to be an econimic threat to ANYONE. So economic theories of why it would be suppressed don't make much sense. However, it is a conceptual threat. It means facing a universe that we don't understand. If we never did think that we understood that part of the universe, then this doesn't look like much of a threat. possibly even like something promissing. But if we have devoted years to studying how things in this area work, then this is something that threatens to make our life's work a waste. We don't want to believe it. So unless there is much good evidence, we don't. And attempts to collect that evidence FEEL like threats to make our life's work meaningless. Worthless. Perhaps not very serious threats, if the theory really seems rediculous, but threats. So we don't want to support them. And we don't want them to be supported.

    This is what I think is going on.
  • Believe in them! But also in the small ones. And the big one's don't have that many logistic problems... They just aren't that all inclusive, and are mainly constructed of lots of small conspiracies SOME MEMBERS of which work in sync with SOME members of another. Another word for this is chaos. How do you know which conspiracies you are a member of, when seen from outside? The FSF, perhaps, conspiring to overthrow Microsoft?
  • I don't really think it fair to expect them to have a theoretical model at this point. OTOH, to call the results marginal is to be charitable. This is a place where I feel that more convincing evidence is needed before more public money/time/effort should be invested. As to private, you should do what you want. It's expensive, but not horribly expensive. Any small college/buisness/etc. should be able to sponsor it. Many individuals might. It's just a matter of convincing someone. Or you could form a consortium. (Well, maybe. That one might have legal traps in it.)
  • I'm a grad student in physics (doing astronomy) at the university of Chicago. Many people here (slashdot) know more about cold fusion than I so I will let there comments stand

    BUT, he does talk about the solar neutrino problem. It is true that for 30 years we have measured less neutrinos from the sun than calculations predict. There are two explanations, possibly not understanding the physics of the sun (possibly cold fusion) or not understanding neutronos. The evidence has been piling up recently to suggest veyr clearly that we didn't understand neutrinos. That they have mass. This completely explains the problem. I wouldn't call it a known physics fact as yet but it would explain many problems (especially as we have no reason to believe that neutrinos need be massless).

    Anyway one more reason not to believe this. Off course, don't believe any science an newspaper publishes, its always slightly wrong.
  • There is no evidence supporting that the sun is short of neutrinos. What is clear is that we don't see as many neutronis coming from the sun as we would expect.
    Two possibilities
    1) some new process in the sun is occurring
    2) we don't understand neutrinos
    For 30 years we have been looking into this. As time has gone by we have tested our models of the sun and found them to work better and netter with many different measurements. While, at the same time, we have had no evidence to understand the neutrino better.

    Guess which theory we favored, we don't understand neutrinos! Anyway last year the Japanese Super kamiokande experiement found evidence that neutrinos have mass. Giving them mass would cause type oscialltions which would make it impossible to detect these neutrinos. This would explain why we didn't see neutrinos easily. And, as we have no evidence to support massless neutrinos astrophysicists have been very excited about this new piece of fundamental physics!

    PS I'm a grad student in physics at the University of Chicago
    PPS Physicists would love to see a new cheap energy source, fossil fuels kill the environment, but the cold fusion people have been proved wrong time and time again (unquivocally). Something might be going on, thats recognized, why do you think they get any funding, but in the meantime methods which have better track records and more promise will get more money. If you want to see more funding go to your congressman and get him to increase the science allotments (alternate forms of energy have been hit harder than they sould have been)
  • Acually the point is that no one is sure about either 1 or 2. And since current science doesn't explain them (3) we are more likely to disbelieve 1 and 2. That any heat is being produced is very controversial. Especially as the original experiment was wrong!
  • The CF article mentions the neutrino deficit as supporting evidence that we don't understand how many neutrinos should be produced in a reaction, therefore we shouldn't worry so much about them missing from CF experiments. They also claim
    that "we just can't measure them accurately enough". This is a half truth.

    Current theory is that neutrinos have mass and oscillate from one type to another. In some ways this would be as significant a discovery as CF. It changes the standard model and introduces a lot of information into our understanding of the world. If you check you can find information about the MINOS (2.1.3 of the project paper talks about the solar deficit, BTW). More on neutrino mass at which is doc about the Super-K project published last year. MINOS is cool because the neutrinos will be created at Fermilab of a known flavor, so if the composition has changed by this time they hit the detector in Minnesota then we'll know the nature of the change quite precisely.

  • If you could co cold fusion in your garage, the smart paranoids would send exactly how they did it over the net, ham radio, to news agencies, and various other organizations around the world. It would be impossible to shut every one up. This has not happened, I don't believe it. Cold fusion might exist, but not in the way current conspiracy theory buff's understand it.

    Wait! Wait! Cold fusion does exist! It's called Bose-Einstein condensation. It's just not the nuclear physics definition of fusion.

  • This thread proves, once and for all, that our half-assed science education produces a society filled with people who couldn't calculate the speed a ball rolls down a ramp, let alone the intricacies of nuclear reactions. Instead, we get people who place great faith and fervor in conspiracy theories, where the Man is everywhere, all powerful and crushes everything that is Good.

    Yes, you same people who flooded John Katz's mailbox a month ago screaming how high school was hell apparently got nothing out of your science classes and rely just as much on superstition and irrationality as those who believed that the Black Plague was a curse from God (they were wrong--The Spice Girls are a curse from God). Yes, instead of utilizing that which would make you a nerd, namely logical, rational thinking, you sit here and argue that the Bavarian Illuminati, with help from the CIA, the NSA, the Cycle Gangs, and the Convenience Stores, are attacking to destroy the Cold Fusion Scientists. fnord.

    Of course, by saying this, I must instantly be part of the Conspiracy. If so, I'll gladly take your money, crush your hopes, see your people scattered before me, and hear the lamentations of your women. It is useless to resist--after all, The Conspiracy is all-powerful, all-knowing. If you feel the need to give up, please send your material belongings to the kind co-conspirators who run slashdot. After all, without them, how would we disseminate disinformation among the disaffected nerds of the world?
  • Actually, the premise of "Chain Reaction" wasn't all that shabby, given the knowledge back when it was released ('96?).

    The fusion experiments in that film were based on a concept called sonoluminescence. In a nutshell, it was found that when bubbles in a certain medium were exposed to certain types of sound waves, they would collapse and release visible light. One of the prevailing theories at the time is that the light was due to a fusion reaction, albeit on a very small scale.

    I recall, a few months ago, reading that someone had verified experimentally that fusion does indeed take place in sonoluminescence.

  • No, it's a different variation. It seems that a lot of people are willing to dismiss cold fusion out of hand simply because they believe too strongly in the current scientific theories. That's scientifically wrong as well.

    If an experiment gives results that theory doesn't predict, you need to look at BOTH the theory and the experiment. The experiment may have been conducted wrong, but there's also the possibility that the theory is incorrect or incomplete. If all the results leaned one way - either every experiment got excess heat, or no experiment got excess heat - it would be easier to say whether the theories or the experiment need revising. The mixed results only lends some confusion to the process.

    Nobody is saying that we should throw out our theories and start tossing random explanations in the air. On the other hand, it's far too arrogant to say that our theories are fixed in stone. After all, not too many centuries ago the Catholic Church held as inviolable the fact that Earth was the center of the universe.

    So much for that theory, eh?

  • Cold Fusion proponents have been claiming for almost ten years now that their work has been "just about" ready, that "the evidence" will prove them right, and that "the establishment" is trying to suppress them.

    It's not as if scientists haven't looked at cold fusion research--- the experiments have been duplicated many, many times and there is "excess heat" in only a very few cases. One experiment, contrary to belief, is not enough to cause the theory to be thrown out--- one _repeatable_ experiment is. If the accepted level of error in an experiment is 1%, then 1% of experiments will produce false results. 100 researchers are bound to turn up evidence.

    Finally, the amount of heat we're talking about is very, very small. If cold fusion is real and practical, you won't _need_ a calorimeter accurate to thousandths of a degree to measure it.

  • My only problem with this is that it's not diffacult to measure change in current flow through a wire in real-time. I do it every day using comercial products. When you wrap a coil of wire around another wire, any change in the current going through the wrapped wire will cause a change in it's magnetic field, causing lines of force to cut through the coil, inducing a voltage in the coil, that voltage isn't hard to measure. I believe these experiments are using DC based upon the explinations I've heard, which means that calculations of the energy in the wire are as straight forward as voltage * current (as someone already pointed out). I'm not an EE, but from my (albiet limited) knowledge on this field, I see no reason they wouldn't be able to measure the energy going in. Think about it, the company that provides your electricty measures how many kWh you use, kWh is a measure of energy. They do it with about $50 worth of equipment, of course a scientific experiment would require more exact (and expensive) equipment, but measuring the energy in a circut is not hard to do. Although there will probably be energy drains that aren't part of the experiment, but if this is producing the amount of energy some people have been saying it does, all they need is a reasonable upper bound. Maybe they need to talk to their electric company... or learn to read bubble meters.

  • I'm in more or less the same boat jobwise, and I'd just like to say that the Fluke meters, while they're quite good at what they do, aren't the most accurate devices for the job either, my company makes a product that does power monitoring, mainly for power quality and predictave matinence type situations, It's not really in are I'd imagine, it's more used by utilities and LARGE power consumers who either don't trust the utility or want to be able to trouble shoot problems. None of that *.707 to get RMS either, does cycle by cycle RMS calculations by actually Root Mean Squaring things.

    Back to the topic, I think the CF experiments are pumping DC into a vat of water, in which case RMS doesn't apply (unless you're in marketing and need another techie term to put in the brochure). If I'm right about that, they shouldn't have much trouble measuring the power accuratly.


    Note, none of what I've said here, or anywhere, is endorced by my company. Nor am I an expert, just someone who's been around this stuff forever and has some stupid ideas of his own.
  • I noticed a well defined lack of focus... (hows that for an oxymoron) to the subject matters. I kept bouncing between the computational materials talks, the computational biology talks, and the computational chemistry talks.

    I should have submitted something in retrospect. I had 4-5 projects that I could have written about. At least this year I will be ready with 2 or 3.

  • Folks, I think that there might be some substantial points that were glossed over by the article. The article makes charges of a cover up, supression, and all sorts of other nastiness. What it really doesn't cover is that the general scientific view at the moment that the experiment had fatal flaws due to very poor design/implementation, had shoddy data analysis and error identification, and a myriad of other things that need to be fixed long before the data will be acceptable by the scientific community.

    Add to this an interpretation based upon a non-existant theory, and unsupportability due to missing information (e.g. where are those darned neutrons... should be streaming outta there like mad). Also add to this a non-conservation of a conserved quantity, and you get an audience with a high degree of scepticism which is properly placed.

    Now go overboard, have some computer science professor from MIT patent a theory (almost unheard of) on how it works, have many others try the thing and start patenting techniques like mad, and what you have looks suspiciously like a money grab/gamble. If the thing is real, these people are rich. If it is not, it is just a reputation, which may be repaired.

    This is not suppression. It was bad science. Was there some effect being witnessed? Who knows? The measurement process was sufficiently bad as to effectively nullify any data. This is what people complained about.

    I remember in grad school (and after in my pseudo postdoc), I did months and months of calculations to test a theory we were putting forth. I had a nagging doubt about my results, but just wrote about it to my coworkers. Well, the referees picked it up and blasted us for it. Sure enough, my nagging doubt turned out to be problematic. Should I call up some (generalized science-illiterate) journalist type to complain bitterly of suppression or should I read their comments carefully and see why they rejected the paper?

    The right answer is the latter. You know you have a crackpot when you see the former. I think this article is an example of the former. I could go off on a tangent about journalists, what you read/see on TV, and all that, but I will not. Someone claimed suppression. They missed the point, they didn't understand the peer review process. If you are going to claim something fantastic, you had better be prepared to defend your views with data, theories that explain something and match known existing observations, etc. Crying suppression is the best way to marginalize yourself.
  • There are several problems with the results that I see. Primarily there is no neutron flux that should be produced if fusion is actually happening. Although the researchers claim that there is another mechanism for this, they haven't proposed any mechanisms for this that are credible.

    The experimental setup that they use also suggests an alternative possibility. The pallladium electrode has the ability to absorb hydrogen gas within it and then later release it. Suppose the electrode absorbs some of the hydrogen floating around in the water and then when the current's voltage is high enough it starts to release the gas which then ignites. This would give you heat and light without radiation.

    I also find th researcher's suggestion about the sun using an alternative method of fusion to be shady. They seem to be suggesting that the sun is also using a mechanism similar to cold fusion. However, palladium is a heavy atom which wouldn't be present in the sun in any sizable quantities (I believe only ~100 kg of palladium is mined every year). In addition the conditions present in the sun would prevent any thing like a electrolytic cell from being present.

  • Did anyone responding here actually read the article? The whole point of it is that the results HAVE been reproduced. Supposedly, adding a carbon catalyst of some kind has increased the reliability. One researcher claims to have lowered the failure rate to 10-20% Interesting enough results to beg additional research if you ask me.

    There was also reproductions in the Polywater dispute. The difference is that the Polywater dispute like the N-ray dispute came to a closure as they discovered why some people got the odd results. With polywater they discovered that small amounts of pollution in the test samples was the reason for the results.

    In the Cold Fusion dispute it has not come to a closeure as one has not found out why some gets these claimed results. Those who don't believe in Cold Fusion have left the "field" long time ago so there are only the "believers" still doing research.

    Personally, I do not believe in Cold Fusion, but I don't think people will stop trying to make it possible any time soon either.

    Preben Randhol

  • Whoo Hoo!! Someone with knowledge!!
  • I remember at one time meteorites were treated the same way as cold fusion is by most researchers. The commonly heard line: "Occam's Razor tells us that the simplest explanation must be that there was already a rock there and you happened to find it. It was hot and glowing because it was struck by lightning. There are no rocks in the sky, therefore rocks cannot fall from the sky."
  • wow, I didn't know He4 was a byproduct of burring platnum!
    Chad Okere
  • And the Dean Drive and N-Rays. Lots of claims with no reproducible evidence whatsoever.

    Did anyone responding here actually read the article? The whole point of it is that the results HAVE been reproduced. Supposedly, adding a carbon catalyst of some kind has increased the reliability. One researcher claims to have lowered the failure rate to 10-20% Interesting enough results to beg additional research if you ask me.


  • This is hardly the first time a researcher from SRI has generated an "irreproducible result". Anyone remember the Targ and Puthoff tests of Uri Geller's alleged psychic powers?

    When the scientific community listens politely to someone's theory and then fails to dissolve in a chorus of hosannas, it's unsound to assume that they're in a conspiracy of silence. If they really wanted to suppress McKubre, why let him give his presentation at a prestigious physics conference? Did Plotkin even try to find out what criticisms exist of McKubre's work? I see no evidence of that in his article. The man positively drips indignation and credulousness; I wouldn't be surprised if McKubre is embarrassed by his partisanship.

    If McKubre is on to something, he'll have some noteworthy results to report after a while. Let the media feeding frenzy begin then. Until that time, let's not lose our heads.

  • Thanks for contributing to the discussion, Anton.

    When F&P did their experiment in the late 1980's, I and my senior class went through their results. They did find (or claim) a 1200% return on the energy they were pumping into the experiment. I don't have my papers with me...but I recall that some other chemist pointed out that palladium acts as a catalyst between free hydrogen and oxygen, releasing heat. The excess heat produced could be explained by a chemical reaction between the palladium, hydrogen liberated in the water, and oxygen at the surface of the bath.

    The Fleischmann and Pons results were worthless, pure and simple. I think that some minimal funds should be put into cold fusion research, because it is an interesting field. But people, don't get your hopes up.
  • There seems to be some confusion about what the physicists claim is going on in this cold fusion thing. It isn't exactly the same concept as hot fusion.

    Basic hydrogen fusion occurs when two atoms of hydrogen get squeezed together very tightly. If the nuclei get close enough, they decide that hanging out together might not be such a bad idea, and it becomes deuterium - an isotope of hydrogen. Eventually another couple hydrogen come along, get squished into the mess and the whole thing becomes helium. No big surprises here, but that isn't usually what happens in the sun.

    Solar fusion actually uses carbon for a leg up. Basically, a hydrogen gets pressed too close to a carbon and the carbon becomes an isotope (13). It then steps up to become nitrogen, an isotope of nitrogen, and then a carbon and a helium. Same energy release, but the reaction energy is smaller. This isn't what they are claiming is happening in Cold fusion, either.

    Do you remember the old electrolysis experiments in high school? Drop two ends of a hot wire in a jar of water and watch oxygen bubble up one side and hydrogen up the other? Same thing, except on the hydrogen side we make the wire (or cube, or plate) out of palladium or platinum in which hydrogen happens to be soluble. (yes, a gas can dissolve into a solid). They use heavy water, so all of the hydrogen in the metal is deuterium. The theory goes that if you squish two deuterium together, they decide that they don't mind being a helium. No spare electrons to go flying off, no spare neutrons to go killing researchers.

    Unfortunately, the concept of adding carbon making the thing work better sounds like hokum to me because cold fusion isn't supposed to be using that chain reaction.

    This issue is complicated because the pro-cf contingent sounds a lot like snake-oil salesmen trying to sell us a panacea for our energy problems, and the anti-cf group just wants to protect their profits. You have to boil it down to hard evidence.

    What I'm hearing is that there is an unexplained increase in temperature in this process. I'm not too terribly sure where the idea came from that we can't measure the energy going into the thing. Any report that didn't account for experimental inaccuracy of that kind of measurement would be laughed out of publication.

    I won't state a hard view that Cold Fusion exists and works. The bottom line is that SOMETHING unexplained is happening here. Until someone can explain it, it is something that should be researched. Even if it doesn't provide us with a clean, safe form of limitless energy, it will still help us understand the world we live in, and possibly provide us with clues to make the hot fusion concept a little easier.

"Never face facts; if you do, you'll never get up in the morning." -- Marlo Thomas