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Cold Fusion: 20 years later

By       Message Ludwik Kowalski     Permalink
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How many are aware that "nuclear cold fusion"- is still an active research field? The initial 1989 claim, made by Fleischmann and Pons, was that a new kind of nuclear reactions can result from a chemical process, such as electrolysis. This claim has been rejected by most scientists but a group of over 100 researchers, from several countries, continues to report puzzling effects (1). They meet each year and share results of ongoing investigations. The next International Conference on Cold Fusion (ICCF15) will be in Rome (2). A small sample of a current debate (among CF researchers) can be seen at my own website devoted to cold fusion (3). As a nuclear physicist, I was highly excited by CF reports in 1989 and 1990.

Several years later I accepted the prevailing view that the field was pseudo-science. That was a mistake; more recent experiments seem to confirm the reality of new nuclear effects. I came to this conclusion after meeting some CF researchers and hearing their reports (at a mainstream 2002 nuclear physics conference). One experiment, described in an ICCF10 report (2003), fascinated me and I decided to replicate it, first working with Richard Oriani (in Minneapolis) and then at Montclair State University. Like Oriani, I observed tracks of nuclear particles in CR-39 detectors.  Results, however, were not reproducible (4). That is typical in the CF field.

What the field needs is a protocol for at least one simple, reproducible-on-demand, experiment yielding undeniable evidence of a nuclear effect due to a chemical process. Such a protocol has recently been offered by SPAWAR scientists (5). I was  one of several researchers who successfully replicated the SPAWAR experiment and observed similar results. This line of investigations is in progress (6). For the time being I do not agree with a tentative interpretation of SPAWAR results (7). Hopefully, the situation will become clear after ICCF15.

In my opinion, a field in which experiments conducted by competent scientists are not reproducible belongs to protoscience, not to science. My ICCF14 report (8) contains two flowcharts. Flowchart 1 shows what is needed to turn protoscience into science. But that is not sufficient to convince mainstream scientists that observed effects are real. What is needed is shown in Flowchart 2. The total cost of activities represented by this flowchart could be less than two or three million dollars. That is negligible in comparison with money already invested in hot fusion. It is probably too early to speculate about practical applications of CF. But it is not too early to organize a coordinated governmental effort for finding a clear yes-or-no answer about validity of at least one or two claims made by highly qualified researchers.

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Ludwik Kowalski is a retired physics teacher (Professor emeritus, Montclair State University, New Jersey, USA). He is the author of two recently-published FREE books:

1) "Hell on Earth: Brutality and violence under the Stalinist regime" (more...)

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