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Review: "The Science of Cold Fusion: Proceedings of the II Annual
Conference on Cold Fusion"
text only version of this essay is
available to download.
Science of Cold Fusion: Proceedings of the II Annual Conference
on Cold Fusion"
(June 29 - July 4 1991 "Volta" Centre for Scientific Culture,
Villa Olmo, Como, Italy.
Eds Tullio Bressani, Emilio Del Giudice, Giuliano Preparata. Societa
Italana di Fisica, Bologna, Italy, 1991. ISBN 88-7794-045-X.
has been said that those who remain ignorant of history are destined
to repeat its mistakes. I hope that, in the light of the pioneering
work that is taking place at The Centre for Frontier Sciences
and its goal of supporting a balanced and responsive position
to new ideas, one that remain critical yet open minded, science
will have learned a salutary lesson from the case of Cold Fusion.
And, should we have begun to forget, "The Science of Cold Fusion:
Proceeding of the II Annual Conference on cold Fusion" provides
a timely reminder. This book, edited by Tullio Bressani, Emilio
Del Giudice and Giulaino Preparata presents overviews and scientific
papers on this intriguing topic. Ironically, some of the work
as already been surpassed and we await the proceedings of the
Fusion, burst into notoriety on March 23, 1989 with independent
announcements coming from Fleischmann and Pons at the University
of Utah, and Steven Jones from Brigham Young University. What
followed was closer to a community lynch trial in the Wild West
than to due scientific process. Using the various media of electronic
networks and bulletin boards, fax machines, and television interviews,
self-proclaimed experts battled it out claiming either to have
confirmed the effect or to have exposed it as poor experimentation
or even worse - incompetence and delusion. The Cold Fusion made
instant converts on both sides of the fence, it aroused anger
and passion and exposed, for all to see, the unsavory underbelly
of scientific research. Indeed, there were times when the social
phenomenon itself seemed far more interesting than the putative
effect. Certainly anyone who dares to transgress the bounds of
orthodoxy had better be wearing a flack jacket.
own feelings at the time, for what they are worth, (and reading
this conference report gives me no compelling reason to change
them), was that something very strange was going on. Admittedly
far too many people had rushed to publicize their results without
even having a clear grasp of what they were doing - if chemists
were not too experienced at making reliable nuclear measurements
then physicists certainly had no idea of what was going on in
a common or garden electro-chemical cell. And attempting to make
reliable measurements of excess energy production over the life
of a cell proved extraordinarily difficult. Nuclear fusion and
excess heat may have remained open questions but it was clear
to anyone willing to look at the evidence that something highly
anomalous was taking place.
this ground alone there is eminent reason for a serious study
to be made of the curious behavior of deuterated platinum - as
well as a related systems and phenomena. Even if nuclear fusion
should prove not to have taken place other mechanisms may be operating,
the elucidation of which cannot help but give insights into the
less familiar boundary between physics and psychical chemistry.
Proceedings of the Second International Conference are an attempt
to keep open serious investigation and debate of the whole Cold
Fusion phenomenon. It is appropriate that the conference should
be held in Italy for it was there that alternative approaches
to Cold Fusion, using deuterium in the gas phase were first reported
by F. Scaramuzzi and the Frascati group; as well the theoretical
approaches of E. Del Giudice and G. Preperata have shown the importance
of coherence in many body effects, a conclusion that is echoed
by P. Hagelstein. In addition to the forementioned, other major
players are represented in this book including S. Pons and M.
Fleischmann, J O'M Bockris, H. O. Menlove. One assumes that Steven
Jones and "Pons and Fleischmann" are still not seen at the same
parties together! An appendix to the book contains the report
of the Utah State Fusion/ Energy Council which made an analysis
of Fleischmann's and Pon's data.
a strong European and North American contingent it is encouraging
to see activity in China and Japan. I was interested to read in
V.A. Tsarev's overview of Cold Fusion studies in the former USSR
how so much research has suffered from "rush and inexact experiments
of the initial period, widely boosted with a mass media" - an
all too familiar complaint!
in the light of this book, what is one to make of it all? The
whole topic is beginning to look a little like one of those observer-created
realities beloved of Star Trek for the evidence suggests that
different people see very different things. However, many of the
papers in this book indicate that much more carefully considered
and executed research is being directed to specific aspects of
the overall problem. In addition, anomalous phenomena are reported
in systems that do not conform to the more familiar Jones, or
Pons and Fleischmann, electrolytic cells. Theoreticians for their
part present credible theories that account for what has been
experimentally observed - but then given a couple of weeks a really
good theoretician can account for almost anything, and then some!
it is becoming increasingly difficult to dismiss the whole field
out of hand. However, there still does not appear to be overwhelming
and conclusive evidence, supported by independent researchers,
that points to a single phenomenon or explanation. The field remains
confusing and, in the last analysis, I am left with the conclusion
expressed by Xing Zhong Li of Tsinghua University, Bejing "a window
has been opened towards the back yard of the physics. A rose is
there, although it is thorny." The Proceedings may not remove
any thorns but at least one is forced to take a closer look at
Cold Fusion: The Making
of a Scientific Controversy
Contact F. David Peat