25 years ago a dream caught fire — and died

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  • FredZ Ashburn, VA
    March 30, 2014 1:59 p.m.

    Pons and Fleischmann did inspire countless lunatics to pursue "cold fusion" and LENR research. A simple "history of technology" example should suffice to prove that "cold fusion/LENR" is nothing more than junk science. The Wright brothers achieved successful flight in December 1903. Less than 25 years later, Charles Lindbergh landed the Spirit of St. Louis in Paris (May 21, 1927). And all this was accomplished with sliderules and hand-drawn blueprints, no internet, no computers, no CAD/CAM, no calculators, no national labs, etc. If "cold fusion/LENR" were real, then where is any sign of progress in 25 years? Where are the peer-reviewed publications? Where are the patents? Where are the working devices? Why can't I buy one for my house? As the old saying goes, there is a limit to "smart" but clearly there is no limit to "stupid."

  • Big 'D' San Mateo, CA
    March 26, 2014 12:35 p.m.

    From the title, I thought this article might be about the hopes for a westernized/democratized Russia. But I guess reliving the ole 'Ponsi' scheme was fun too.

  • Hemlock Salt Lake City, UT
    March 25, 2014 11:34 a.m.

    Energy production from fusion is a virtual El Dorado and the solution to many of society's problems. If F&P's experiment had been valid certainly MIT, Cal Tech and other academic or commercial sources would have pursued it. Thus far it remains bad science at best and at worst an example of academic dishonesty that tarnished the state's university.

  • UT Brit London, England
    March 25, 2014 2:12 a.m.


    I agree with your sentiments but the sun ain't bathing us in safe radiation. Without our atmosphere I think you would a different opinion.

  • kiddsport Fairview, UT
    March 24, 2014 1:30 p.m.

    Thanks for pointing out the PDF of Beaudette's analysis. Having worked in an industry heavily involved in electrolysis, I was struck by the absence of any indications in F&Ps experiments or anyone's critique, of the effects or measurement of ambient pressure and relative humidity. Those two factors played significant roles in the success or failure of our electrolytic processes. Of particular interest were the "burst excess energy events" described in the experiments which appeared to replicate threshold events commonly found in semiconductors. I wonder if anyone has considered this as a variable that may act as a "gate" to precipitating such events.

  • citygrrl SALT LAKE CITY, UT
    March 24, 2014 12:22 p.m.

    So whatever happened to Pons and Fleischmann? I remember the cold fusion debacle well. It really set the U's reputation back. Did the scientists ever live this down?

  • joeandrade Salt Lake City, UT
    March 24, 2014 12:19 p.m.

    Cold fusion may not exist, but practical 'warm' fusion certainly does. It is the basis of the solar energy revolution that will eventually transform our economy and society. Traditional hot fusion is alive and well - a safe 100 million miles away - bathing Planet Earth with safe and secure solar radiation. Some of us are harnessing and using it. Most, including most political, economic, and business leaders, continue to deny its practicality and thwart its expansion, thus subjecting us to the air pollution and planetary instability resulting from the continued burning of fossil fuels.

    Our fossil fuel - based and growth dependent economy are on the way out. Let's just hope it doesn't take too long for the transformation. Spread the word.

  • Blue Salt Lake City, UT
    March 24, 2014 9:51 a.m.

    I would _love_ for cold fusion to work, but wanting something to be true is irrelevant to what really is true. The science simply isn't there. Dr. Keida identified the problem perfectly - if fusion was happening, where are the neutrons? Physics is physics.

  • Shawnm750 West Jordan, UT
    March 24, 2014 9:31 a.m.

    C'mon...we all know that cold fusion was really discovered in 1997 by Elizabeth Shue!

    March 24, 2014 8:57 a.m.

    I agree that seeing people who assert errors that can be proven so easily, who ignre facts that are public is fascinating.

    Roland Benabou in his paper "Groupthink: collective delusion in organisations and markets" propose an interesting model, of "Mutual Assured Delusion".
    His idea is that delusion grow when it is painful for the individual, who cannot get out of the community.

    You should really read the book on beaudette. On symptom of groupthink is avoidance of dissenting data.
    On my side I'm still waiting for any evidence abel to challenge the calorimetry of F&P.
    Beside the four void critics, the only one is the CCS calim of Shanahan, which don't work on all the facts, if on any.

    Beside "everybody say so", what is your source to be sure of what you say ?

    Beside Roland Benabou, you can read Thomas Kuhn, Nassim Nicholas taleb (Antifragile: Lecturing birds how to fly, history being written by the losers), the history of Wright brothers and SciAM, the history of germs before Semmelweiss to Pasteur, 100 scientists against einstein, Schechtman against Linus pauling...
    Beaudette book is very good in reminding Popper and Langmuir criteria.
    Look into the telescope !

  • Thinkin\' Man Rexburg, ID
    March 24, 2014 8:34 a.m.

    Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of this to me is how many people cling to hoaxes even after they have been resoundingly shown to be false.

    As with almost any issue, you can find someone who publishes "your" side of the story. That doesn't make it true. Consider your sources. When the world's most experienced and well-respected authorities (not activists, politicians, or unqualified pseudo-scientists) are so adamant, you should listen to them. There isn't some kind of conspiracy against a new energy source. Just go with it.

    March 24, 2014 7:57 a.m.

    I am curious to learn where people get the myth that instruments were not precise.
    Sure the physicist were less competent in calorimetry, about 10x times less.
    Miles made a comparison of calorimetry between caltec/Lewis, MIT, F&P and Longchampt (the most exact replicator of F&P in 1996 in France...)

    Physicists made many student mistakes in the haste of the first weeks. Few were able to understand why. Recently ENEA in a joint project with SRI and US Navy NRL have identified the latest cause of hard reproducibility, the cristallography state of palladium and impurities... to add to long time know need of high loading, loading dynamic, current density, cleanliness...
    It tooks few years for chemists to replicate that tricky experiment.
    but in 1992 it was clear.
    Results obtained were 50sigma (50 times bigger than uncertainty)

    Where did you get those erroneous information?
    I agree Wikipedia is bad source (the admin of cold fusion page, Josuah Cudes in fact, is an activist), and source of real information are banned.

    Just read the book of Charles Beaudette (it is free), and after you can read all you want, you will understand where are the errors (calorimetry, logic, epistemology).

  • Flashback Kearns, UT
    March 24, 2014 7:25 a.m.

    SDI is running experiments according to KSL and having a lot of success generating heat.

  • timpClimber Provo, UT
    March 24, 2014 7:18 a.m.

    Unfortunately the instrumentation used to detect the supposed cold fusion was not as accurate as needed and the rush to be first published lead to the ensuing retraction. Then there are the politics that have never been fully discussed.

  • G-Day-M8 WVC, UT
    March 24, 2014 6:22 a.m.

    Almost from day one, scientists criticized University of Utah officials for allegedly pushing Pons and Fleischmann into a news conference. Some say the scientific peer review was rushed because of worries about patent rights and fears that a BYU scientist would publish something similar first.

    This paragraph struck me as funny, can anyone guess why?

    March 24, 2014 4:25 a.m.

    Facts are different, Cold fusion is proven since about 1992 and Fleischmann calorimetry is confirmed, replicated, hundreds of times.

    When Charles Beaudette , a retired engineer, attended a cold fusion conference, he was surprised how serious were the works, how normal were the papers.
    He found that there was in 1996 only FOUR (4) papers that challenged F&P calorimetry results, Lewis,Hansen,Wilson,Morrison.
    They were all refuted critics.
    Lewis and Hansen were simply incompetent and accusing F&P of being more than they...
    Wilson carefully refuted them, and introduced some corrections. But despite his correction he could not refute the biggest of the results.
    Morrisson just mixed up all and abandoned his paper.

    To have an educated opinion on cold fusion, you can read all good and bad book you want, but sure you have to read the book "Excess Heat" of Charles Beaudette,

    you can google it on University of Tsinghua , it is published as PDF too (courtesy of editor, who sell it on paper too)

    If you don't trust, check the citations.

    Currently it is becoming industrial.
    There are "executive summary on LENR" on lenrnews, and "LENR for the win" analyse current reactors claims.