Conspicuously absent from the Legislature's special session was B. Stanley Pons, whose fusion claims have divided the scientific community.
Still, Friday's meeting bonded Utah Republicans and Democrats seeking to boost the economy by making Utah the "fusion capital of the world."Rather than capturing the spotlight on Capitol Hill, the University of Utah chemistry professor kept a low profile in the lab where he and Martin Fleischmann performed the experiment that scientists worldwide are now trying to replicate.
Pons and Fleischmann, of the University of Southampton, England, electrified the scientific world two weeks ago with the announcement they had created nuclear fusion in a jar of heavy water.
If true, their technique could revolutionize power production, yielding a steady supply of clean, and maybe cheap, energy.
But not Pons, Fleischmann or anyone else can explain the principles of physics involved. Nor has their claim been confirmed.
But during the past week, a number of scientists from throughout the country have visited the 46-year-old scientist in hopes of solving the mystery.
"Dr. Pons couldn't be with the Legislature because he is simply too busy in his lab," said U. president Chase N. Peterson. "He is working night and day with groups coming through who want to learn how to do this."
Dr. Hugo Rossi, dean of the U. College of Science,
confirmed that scientists from MIT have spoken with Pons. Researchers from Los Alamos National Laboratory and Texas A&M University have visited the lab.
"They are performing the same calorimetry measurements as Pons and Fleischmann have done which will give evidence of the heat," Rossi said. "This is the first time that another experiment will try to reproduce that facet of the experiment, rather than the neutron and gamma ray measurement."
Although no lab replicating the experiment has officially confirmed Pons' claim, Peterson said U. officials remain optimistic.
"It's a long-term process. It probably takes three days to a week to charge the cells to push all the deuterium, all the heavy water into the palladium," he said. "Some people thought that was supposed to happen overnight, but it doesn't."
What are the odds of confirmation?
"Professor Pons told me yesterday, `If I was sure two weeks ago, I am more sure now,' " Peterson said.
Rossi said Pons expects confirmation of the experiment to be announced at the 197th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society in Dallas next week.
While Pons is addressing 8,000 chemists expected to attend the convention, U. physics professor Michael Salamon will be developing a protocol for experiments he wants to perform in Pons' lab.
Rossi said Pons, anxious to end the "dog and cat fight" between U. physicists and chemists, has agreed to collaborate with Salamon.
Pons, operating on overdrive since the breakthrough was announced March 23, also spent Friday responding to critiques from "Nature" Magazine, a second scientific journal to which the researchers submitted their paper for publication.
The paper has already been printed in the Journal of Electroanalytical Chemistry in the Netherlands.
Rossi said "Nature" asked for "extensive revisions" which editors want back in London Monday morning (which is Sunday night in the U.S.).
"Pons said he didn't have time to do the revisions and was considering withdrawing it (from Nature)," Rossi said. "But he spoke with Dr. Fleischmann and decided that between the two of them, they could get it done."
Dr. David Lindley, assistant physics editor for the magazine in Washington, D.C., said editors want "to see more than just a rehash of what's already available. We want clarification beyond what was printed in the Journal of Electroanalytical Chemistry."