As laboratories throughout the world attempt to confirm the controversial "test-tube fusion" breakthrough at the University of Utah, the magazine expected to publish the researchers' scientific paper is turning a cold shoulder to the news that 12 days ago rocked the scientific community.
"Cold (con)fusion" is how editors of Nature Magazine describe the untraditional way the U. announced the extraordinary claims made March 23 by U. chemistry professor B. Stanley Pons and his British colleague, Martin Fleischmann.Joseph Palca, Washington news editor of Nature, said Monday that a decision has not been made to publish the article. "Even if it were accepted today, the production schedule would prohibit it from appearing in next Thursday's edition."
Palca also said magazine officials were told by aides to Gov. Norm Bangerter that the $5 million the governor wants legislators to allocate to the U. project in a special session Friday could be in jeopardy if the experiment isn't officially confirmed or if Pons' scientific paper isn't accepted by Nature.
"The latter is false. We are not going to let some English magazine decide how state money is handled. From the first request for funds, it (the allocation) was based on the experiment being confirmed," said Bud Scruggs, the governor's chief of staff. "Just because the funds are appropriated, it doesn't mean they will be spent. There will be language in the bill which says they are not to be disbursed until the experiment is confirmed."
Scruggs said it's their feeling that a $322,000 grant from the Department of Energy will tide the U. over until the experiment is confirmed.
An article written by Pons and Fleisch-mann describing their nuclear-fusion research has been accepted by The Journal of Electroanalytical Chemistry.
It was in a news conference at the U. - not in a scientific journal - that the scientists told the public they succeeded in controlling nuclear fusion - the power source of the sun and the hydrogen bomb - using a simple table-top apparatus available in any college chemistry class.
The announcement, U. officials said, was expedited to avoid the leak of inaccurate information and to protect foreign patent rights.
If the process works, it could mean the end of nuclear and coal-fired power stations. The world would someday rely on fusion for a clean, virtually inexhaustible source of energy.
Dr. Robert W. Nesbitt, dean of the faculty of science at the University of Southampton in England, told the Deseret News on Monday that he's been told of 11 laboratories that have attempted to duplicate the cold nuclear-fusion experiment.
"According to Dr. Fleischmann (professor of electrochemistry at the University of Southampton), five had produced positive results; six had negative results," Nesbitt said.
Reuters News Agency on Saturday reported that two Hungarian scientists are among the ones that have successfully reproduced the experiment. Italian scientists at the laboratories of the National Association of Alternative Energy in Frascati have given "maximum priority" to the experiment, and British scientists at Birmingham University and at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory near Oxford, are developing a theory to explain the Utah experiment.
But according to Fleischmann, it (the experiment) will take at least two months to measure. Currently, scientists worldwide are all measuring neutrons, Nesbitt said; what is important is the heat output.
"He (Fleischmann) wishes the speculation would stop and that they (scientists) would settle down to solid science," Nesbitt said. "Everyone is trying to get on the bandwagon."
Meanwhile, the researchers' discovery seems to have been clouded by the way it was first announced.
Editors of Nature are particularly annoyed that some news agencies have hinted that the paper will be published in that British journal. The truth, they say, is that no decision has been made - and likely won't be made for some time.
"The process of peer review, slow and irksome as it can be, has evolved to protect not only journals but scientists and science itself from a barrage of unsubstantiated claims which later have to be withdrawn," reads an editorial in the March 30, 1989, edition of Nature. "The more outlandish the claim, the less likely authors seem willing to submit to careful scrutiny by knowledgeable people working in related areas.
"There are understandable reasons for this reticence. It is the rare piece of research indeed that both flies in the face of accepted wisdom and is so compelling correct that its significance is instantly recognized," the editorial reads.
"Authors with unique or bizarre approaches to problems may feel that they have no true peers who can evaluate their work, and feel more conventional reviewer's mouths are already shaping the word `no' before they give the paper much attention. But it must also be said that most unbelievable claims turn out to be just that, and reviewers can be forgiven for perceiving this quickly."
Nature said "even with the best of luck and planning," it can't take a scientific paper from receipt to publication in less than a month.