B. Stanley Pons will be in Utah next week when an independent team of scientists reviews his experiments at the University of Utah's National Cold Fusion Institute, his British colleague said Friday.
"Stan Pons is going to represent us," Martin Fleischmann said in a phone interview from his England home.Fleischmann said he received a fax Thursday inviting him to the meeting, but he can't travel because of health problems.
Neither fusion researcher was in Salt Lake City last week for the quarterly meeting of the state's Fusion/Energy Advisory Council. Council members demanded more details about the experiments funded by state money. Reached by phone, Pons' North Carolina attorney promised his client would fly to Utah for the review.
The scientists' absence came at a crucial time for beleaguered officials who continue to defend the phenomenon despite the increasing din from a chorus of scientists worldwide who say the U. hasn't discovered cold fusion.
State auditor Tom Allen is set to release a financial audit of the institute. That's in addition to the team of four independent scientists who are being flown in on Wednesday for the review, a sort of scientific audit of fusion experiments being conducted with state money.
The independent review was called for by a team of disgruntled U. faculty members, angered by the university's transfer of $500,000 to the fusion institute. The review team's report is considered crucial for the institute to receive outside funding and continued state support.
Whether Pons will show up appears to be this week's $64,000 fusion question - the postscript to last week's question: "Where is Stan Pons?"
Some U. officials question whether the command performance will actually happen and joke about forming a betting pool. But Fritz Will, director of the fusion institute, remains optimistic. "I feel totally confident," said Will, who is communicating with Pons only via fax. "Of course, I don't want to get hanged if he doesn't."
Fleischmann said he is limited as to what he can reveal about the fusion experiments because of the U.'s pending patent applications. "It's not so simple. People think one can release information willy-nilly, and this is not so."
Another complication seemingly barring the scientists from talking is the U.S. Atomic Energy Act. Joe Tesch, chief deputy attorney general, said the law defines atomic energy and restricted material. If the U. experiments are producing nuclear energy, information released would be restricted under the law.
"I've read the law," Tesch said. "From what I know of what the scientists are doing, they are in the neighborhood. When we receive the advice from council who are experts in this area, that's all I need to hear."
Fleischmann said he wasn't invited to the earlier meeting - in fact, he just learned about it when a television reporter called him at home. At the same time, U. and fusion officials admitted last week they weren't sure where Pons was.
Will said the communications breakdown occurred when Pons told him he could be reached only via his North Carolina attorney. Will said that method may be OK for others, but he refuses to discuss science through attorneys.
Pons' Salt Lake phone number was disconnected, his home was listed for sale, and neighbors said the family was living in France. Questions about Pons' whereabouts were fueled when he requested a one-year sabbatical from the U. to begin Nov. 15.
On Friday, Hugo Rossi, dean of the U. College of Science and Pons' boss, said he hasn't yet received an official sabbatical application from the tenured chemistry professor. "We wrote back asking for further information. Presumably that will come in before then."
But besides just procedural questions, Rossi said the U. might have a problem granting Pons' request for a paid leave because of funding concerns.
State council members, who are charged with overseeing Utah's $5 million investment in fusion, say they are disappointed with the lack of information their two star fusion scientists have revealed.
Council member Karen Morse, provost at Utah State University, said Pons and Fleischmann have been "coddled," and along with Utah Science Adviser Randy Moon, demand more accountability.