Hours after setting a precedent - both in terms of attendance and interest - at the meeting of the American Chemical Society, B. Stanley Pons was out of the limelight and back in the lab.
Pons was back at the U. Thursday conducting more than a dozen new experiments on his cold nuclear fusion breakthrough that three weeks ago transformed him into an international celebrity."I hope this (hoopla) will begin calming down now because we have to get back to work," Pons told the Deseret News as he was leaving the Dallas Convention Center Wednesday afternoon. There, flanked by a bodyguard who looked like football player Mark Gastineau, Pons was grilled for four hours by his colleagues and the press, burning with fusion fever.
More than 7,000 of the 8,000 conference participants attended a scientific seminar where Pons explained how he and his British colleague, Martin Fleischmann, of the University of Southampton, unlocked the secrets of nuclear fusion and sent skeptical scientists into a state of fusion confusion.
But while Pons presentation in Dallas was met with overwhelming enthusiam, others - particarly physicists - are still not sure whether he'll be "the next Einstein, or just a footnote in history," as one French scientist quipped.
Harold P. Furth, director of the Princeton University Plasma Physics Laboratory, said with barely contained contempt that world-class physicists will not take the Utah findings seriously until the precise process involved is explained and demonstrated with control experiments.
Furth said that some experts believe the energy detected in the Utah experiment is actually a chemical reaction that is not understood.
"By his own admission there is room for a discrepancy in the results by a factor of a billion," Furth said. "To your plodding nuclear physicist, this is major loophole and is hard to accept."
And in Erice, Sicily, at a seminar to discuss the apparent breakthrough, scientists are pouring cold water on the claim.
"These guys have to come with hard data and it's just not there," said nuclear physicist Matthijs Broer of AT&T's Bell Laboratory in New Jersey. "Making energy out of water is really pie in the sky at this point."
But even Furth wasn't totally negative, suggesting more study is needed.
"One of the few redeeming things that could be said about us (providing it works) is that we devoted a small fraction of the bank to developing a new energy source that would keep civilization going after we've blown the other stuff.
"If by chance we succeed in developing fusion as an energy source, people may think we weren't all together bad."
For the past three decades, scientists worldwide have spent billions of dollars in an attempt to avert a likely energy crisis by the year 2030. But attempts to create and sustain nuclear fusion reactions - thought to be the ideal energy source - have failed.
"Now it appears that chemists may have come to the rescue," said Clayton F. Callis, president of the American Chemical Society, when introducing Pons.
The excited, supportive crowd shares a common hope: that the Pons phenomenon will provide a long-term economical solution to the world's energy dilemma.
Pons said the Utah team will, among other things, investigate the following:
-A key material in the experiment is the precious metal palladium, used because its ability to soak-up large quanities of hydrogen, including deuterium. Pons said cheaper metals may be used.
-Furth also challenged scientists duplicating the Utah experiment to test light water as well as heavy water in the palladium. Would regular water, which is far less expensive, produce as much heat as heavy water, rich in deuterium?
"It's not out of the question, but it's too early to speculate," Pons said.
-The scientists will also be trying to scale up the experiment.
"The possibility of scale up are real," Pons said. "But it takes a great deal of time to charge the large lattices up."
"We are in deep trouble come the year 2030 so we are going to have to do something fast. We are going to have to push as far as we can to see if this is going to work," Pons said.