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Sci Tech

Cold Fusion: Tangible Hope in an Age of Despair

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Report from the International Symposium on
Low-Energy Nuclear Reactions,
Williamsburg, VA July 1-3, 2012

You read OEN -- you won't be surprised to hear about government censorship. I've learned a great deal about political censorship in the MSM over the last few years, but scientific censorship is newer to me, and perhaps I wouldn't have believed how devastatingly effective it can be, in the face of stunning experimental results and tantalizing technological possibility. I attended a conference this week that opened my eyes.

Dismissed by mainstream scientists, denied funding and space in the scientific journals, Cold Fusion has occupied a scientific backwater for 23 years. Meanwhile, demonstrations have been repeated again and again, a great deal of know-how has been acquired and shared over the internet. The scientists who stuck with it have been vindicated, and once again people are saying that a solution to the global crises of pollution and climate change may be within our sights.

Background

Cold Fusion is a concept that was announced with fanfare in 1989 by a world-class electrochemist -- not a household name, perhaps, but a scientist at the top of his field. Fusion energy is the power source of the sun and the thermonuclear bomb. Tens of billions of dollars have been spent searching for ways to "tame the hydrogen bomb" for "cheap, limitless energy". Huge machines with giant superconducting magnets and dozens of the most powerful lasers on earth have been tried. But in 1989, Martin Fleischmann told the world he had done it in a test tube. The world's energy problems were over.

Six months later, at a press conference, scientists from prestigious labs around the world lined up to announce they had tried to duplicate what Fleischmann had reported with no success. The results were un-reproducible. Cold Fusion was dead, and the very word was to become a joke about junk science.

Along with the vast majority of scientists, I gave up on Cold Fusion and moved on. 22 years passed. Imagine my surprise when I read last year that an Italian entrepreneur had demonstrated a cold fusion boiler, and was taking orders for 2012 delivery. What a bizarre situation!

The science

For a physicist, there are good, sound reasons to doubt the possibility of Cold fusion. It is well-known that two atoms of heavy hydrogen can come together to form a helium atom, and release 5 million times more energy than if that hydrogen had been burned in a chemical fire. But this can only happen if "the pump is primed'. An enormous activation energy must be supplied. The goal is to get the two hydrogen nuclei close enough to merge, but each of them has a positive charge, and like charges repel. In order to overcome the electrical repulsion between the protons, you need 4 million volts, or a temperature as hot as the center of the sun. This can't happen in a test tube.

No physicist would say it's impossible, however. 4 million volts sounds like a lot of energy, but it's actually much less energy than it takes to blink an eye. The energy is plentiful enough at room temperature, but the problem is to concentrate it all in one pair of atoms. Left to its own devices, energy will spontaneously spread itself out -- that's what the science of thermodynamics is all about. To concentrate an eyelash worth of energy in just two atoms is therefore unexpected and unusual. But things like this have been known to happen, and a few times before they've taken physicists by surprise. Quantum mechanics plays tricks on our expectations. A laser can concentrate energy, as billions of light particles all march together in lock step. Superconductivity is another example of what's called a "bulk quantum effect'. Under extraordinary circumstances, quantum mechanics can leap forth from the tiny world of the atom and hit us in the face with deeply unexpected, human-scale effects that we can see and touch.

This is the reason that a physicist would say "Show me!" rather than "No way!" Cold Fusion could possibly be another such bulk quantum effect, unexpected but not in violation of any basic physical law.

Has this promising technology been overlooked, or was it actively suppressed?

If you're not a conspiracy buff, it sounds like a plausible explanation for the oblivion in which Cold Fusion has languished: First, it was so improbable theoretically. Then it could not be reproduced. No wonder scientists thought that they had better things to do than to follow the newest claims and results concerning Cold Fusion.

This is where the political story begins to take over the scientific story. At the conference, this weekend, I heard one story after another about censorship and suppression -- all whispered between conference presentations.

  • A Nobel prize-winning physicist writes his own theory of how Cold Fusion could come about. He sends it to the straight-arrow Physical Review, where he has never had a paper rejected for publication in his life. But Phys Rev sends it back to him -- they will not consider it or send it out for review. The Nobelist -- a towering figure in physics, named Julian Schwinger -- resigns from the American Physical Society in protest. (This was back in 1992.)
  • A mainstream physicist with a large working group in Illinois lands a $50 million contract for research in Cold Fusion, and after his work has already begun, he gets a call from his project manager saying that the project has to be canceled.
  • An MIT researcher lands a grant from a private entrepreneur (60% of which goes to the MIT Administration, as is standard), but gets a call from the Administration telling him they will not accept the funding, and he has to give it back.
  • Another MIT professor has stunning experimental results concerning a new and reliable way to kick-start cold fusion, and even the specialized engineering journal where he submits the article tells him they will not accept the article, as a matter of policy.
  • The US Patent Office has a backlog of dozens of applications on which it is not acting, demanding cumbersome and expensive on-site demonstrations in addition to the usual paper filings.
  • A Stanford researcher works around the blockade to get earmarked funding directly from his Congressman, using pork barrel channels, until a mysterious phone caller from the Department of Energy tells the Congressman that DoE would "prefer" if the funding did not go through.
  • Researchers who write about Cold Fusion results find that they are transferred from their departments, their lab space is cut, and all the rest of the work they do (unrelated to Cold Fusion) has been de-funded. Scientists have been ex-communicated. Careers have been poisoned.

The devastating results of censorship

The blackout at mainstream journals, combined with similar prohibitions at professional meetings and funding blocks at every turn have crippled the professional communications process on which science depends. At the meeting this week, the field was clearly in disarray, with some scientists proposing experiments that had been done decades ago, and others continuing to promote long-discredited ideas. The cumulative effect had been devastating. Communications had been effectively disrupted, and progress impeded.

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Josh Mitteldorf, an editor at OpEdNews, blogs on aging at http://JoshMitteldorf.ScienceBlog.com. Read how to stay young at http://AgingAdvice.org. Educated to be an astrophysicist, he has branched out from there to mathematical modeling in a (more...)
 
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One type of cold fusion,  fusion catalyzed by... by david78209 on Thursday, Jul 5, 2012 at 12:02:35 AM
There are two programs pursuing Pion fusion.One is... by Mark Goldes on Thursday, Jul 5, 2012 at 12:51:28 AM
Yes - muon-catalyzed fusion has been known and und... by Josh Mitteldorf on Thursday, Jul 5, 2012 at 4:07:48 PM
This is an extremely important and urgently needed... by Mark Goldes on Thursday, Jul 5, 2012 at 12:44:10 AM
rather than face loosing their monopolist extortio... by Paul Repstock on Thursday, Jul 5, 2012 at 9:38:54 AM
Good article.  I agree with everything except... by Iggy Dalrymple on Thursday, Jul 5, 2012 at 10:09:43 AM
Sorry, it is bad science and bad measurements. As ... by Martin Bauer on Thursday, Jul 5, 2012 at 12:12:20 PM
Martin-    What you say is very reasonab... by Josh Mitteldorf on Thursday, Jul 5, 2012 at 3:48:18 PM
What Are the Energy Alternatives? (Pt. 2 of Serie... by Joe Giambrone on Thursday, Jul 5, 2012 at 12:25:04 PM
Josh, Your article was welcomed as a kind of quart... by Lexi Mize on Thursday, Jul 5, 2012 at 1:01:11 PM
I read an article on Free Energy, by Katie Ellen Z... by Maxwell on Thursday, Jul 5, 2012 at 1:18:49 PM
Josh, if cold fusion is so unmistakable why has no... by Maxwell on Thursday, Jul 5, 2012 at 1:31:27 PM
Are you suggesting there is a conspiracy by the en... by rob Chapman on Friday, Jul 6, 2012 at 9:17:29 AM
  The powers that be will not let this th... by Theresa Paulfranz on Thursday, Jul 5, 2012 at 2:04:56 PM
was the work of a genius, which is not quite the s... by Michael Rose on Friday, Jul 6, 2012 at 8:05:43 AM
of this nature here and there, but not as condense... by Daniel Geery on Thursday, Jul 5, 2012 at 2:05:52 PM
  This universe, or the 3D part of it, runs... by Theresa Paulfranz on Thursday, Jul 5, 2012 at 2:41:31 PM
Give humans any more power from the realm of near ... by Theresa Paulfranz on Thursday, Jul 5, 2012 at 2:45:47 PM
This is the very first piece to combine a substant... by Joe Shea on Thursday, Jul 5, 2012 at 3:01:23 PM
"mainstream media" reporters that are working for ... by comncents on Thursday, Jul 5, 2012 at 4:28:17 PM
The 60 Minutes piece that I reference at the end o... by Josh Mitteldorf on Thursday, Jul 5, 2012 at 6:31:29 PM
Hammering the suppression story and implying a gra... by Gerrit Smith on Friday, Jul 6, 2012 at 3:27:18 AM
You acknowledge that Cold Fusion research is hinde... by Stefan Thiesen on Friday, Jul 6, 2012 at 5:18:51 AM
You forgot a word on your bio. I thought to 'ad... by Ned Lud on Friday, Jul 6, 2012 at 7:09:04 AM
Nothing more edifying than reducing complex and im... by rob Chapman on Friday, Jul 6, 2012 at 9:23:09 AM
Nothing less edifying than more beating around the... by Ned Lud on Friday, Jul 6, 2012 at 5:03:57 PM
By your (lack of) logic Gerrit, you would have adv... by Michael Rose on Friday, Jul 6, 2012 at 7:51:55 AM
That Jones, in a previous life, prior to his highl... by Maxwell on Friday, Jul 6, 2012 at 9:09:36 AM
Michael, you are saying because we can do this one... by rob Chapman on Friday, Jul 6, 2012 at 9:26:01 AM
it could be more irrefutably logical for smart OEN... by Michael Rose on Friday, Jul 6, 2012 at 6:13:55 PM
Sir, you had my hair standing and my jaw dropped o... by Stefan Thiesen on Friday, Jul 6, 2012 at 3:54:13 AM
Hey Stefan, great to see you again, my friend. ... by Ned Lud on Friday, Jul 6, 2012 at 7:04:13 AM
and it is happening everywhere with the poor and r... by Theresa Paulfranz on Friday, Jul 6, 2012 at 6:54:35 AM
that cold fusion processes may ultimately provide ... by John Sanchez Jr. on Friday, Jul 6, 2012 at 7:18:26 AM
I've looked at some of the videos of McKubre's pre... by Maxwell on Friday, Jul 6, 2012 at 9:02:27 AM
Lightning can occur with both positive and negativ... by rob Chapman on Friday, Jul 6, 2012 at 9:12:36 AM
If we could use science to do something other than... by Theresa Paulfranz on Saturday, Jul 7, 2012 at 8:03:57 PM
It would be helpful to see irrefutable data publis... by Paul from Potomac on Friday, Jul 6, 2012 at 9:37:35 AM
One thing I believe is almost beyond reasonable di... by Maxwell on Friday, Jul 6, 2012 at 1:15:44 PM