University of Utah chemistry professor B. Stanley Pons got a vote of confidence Saturday from another internationally known Utah researcher who has felt the heat of scientific scrutiny.
Dr. Robert K. Jarvik, creator of the Jarvik-7 artificial heart, said it doesn't matter if Pons' cold nuclear fusion discovery revolutionizes world energy sources.What's important, Jarvik said, is that it has prompted scientists to take risks.
"It has encouraged people to try new ideas - and not just assume that traditional theories of how things work are the final answer," Jarvik told the Deseret News in a telephone interview from his home in Manhattan.
"There are situations in which people depart from the standard approach, and those things occasionally are extraordinarily fruitful. Major scientific advances are made by taking new looks at things."
Jarvik, who said he has been interested in theoretical physics for a number of years, declined comment on Pons' actual test-tube experiments.
He said he has received no direct information; he's read about the breakthrough only in the press and still has questions.
Jarvik said he isn't really qualified to comment on cold nuclear fusion. But he's no stranger to new scientific ideas and to other scientists' intense scrutiny and criticism of them.
"The thing people should wonder about this is the issue of how much of science is conducted by scientific bureaucracy vs. the importance of an individual scientist's power of thinking," he said.
Jarvik believes people have become complacent in science and "think we understand 99 percent of the way things are."
Therefore, to him, the most interesting aspect of Pons' research is this: "It's showing there is considerable open-mindedness about things that are different from conventional theory - and yet could still be real phenomena."
Jarvik, who's working on the Jarvik-2000 permanent artificial heart, said his biggest fear is that people will make an early conclusion - right or wrong - about Pons' discovery, based on traditional scientific theories.
The danger, he said, is that people will say the discovery won't pan out or isn't cold nuclear fusion.
"People should look to the question of whether a new phenomenon is being discovered rather than all the hype of whether it's going to solve the world's energy problems," he said. "That's the most exciting thing."