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Excerpt from Excess Heat & Why Cold Fusion Research Prevailed (2nd Edition)
By Charles G. Beaudette

A Retrospective View

This book was written by one who loves science. I wrote it in the hope that this new field of scientific research, misnamed cold fusion, might become known to mainstream science rather than being known only to a small cadre of scientists working in an intellectual ghetto.

Throughout history, a lack of available energy to substitute for human power has been the source of much human misery. A technology that made available a local source of heat energy for family use would bring about a revolution in human well being. It would solve one of the world’s worst environmental hazards: the scraping bare of the wooded growth of the landscape for fuel. So far, the study of excess heat offers a potential technology in low quality heat sufficient to substantially augment world energy resources.

Do I anticipate that those scientists who have followed my narrative this far will agree that a well-measured observation of anomalous power began in 1984–1989? No, perhaps not. The history of science is replete with many who have gone to their graves refusing the latest turn in the course of discovery. Some will find my extended concern with the methodology of science to be an unfortunate digression. Others will be dismayed at my recognition that the strict criterion does not bind all of science. As for the rest of us, What was learned?

To answer that question, it is best to look at what was announced, while investing that look with the power of retrospection. At the University of Utah in March 1989, there were in effect three announcements, each independent of the other two. First, Fleischmann and Pons claimed that a sustained deuterium-deuterium fusion was achieved. Their measurements were poorly done, their claim was reasonably dismissed, and the two chemists turned to a redesign of the experiment. They later published data showing neutron emission from their excess heat experiment, but that experiment has not been corroborated.

The second independent claim was that of the appearance of massive amounts of unexplained heat energy in their cell -- megaJoules of energy. That claim of excess heat was well corroborated during subsequent years. They postulated that the source of that energy must be an as yet unrecognized or undiscovered nuclear process. Studies undertaken to find a nuclear source reaction for the heat production concluded with evidence for the generation of helium- four in amounts that corresponded to the excess heat, as though that reaction were the only branch of deuterium-deuterium fusion with its 23.8 MeV energy discharge and the discharge were absorbed by the lattice as heat.

The third claim was for recognition and hypothesis of a class of nuclear reactions that release useful amounts of energy while not producing the well-known lethal radiation usually associated with nuclear power. That lack of penetrating emissions continued to be a characteristic of the field during the ensuing decade.

Any one of these three claims standing by itself would justify a major public announcement and, if confirmed, be considered revolutionary by the scientific community. For one press conference to announce all three simultaneously was simply beyond belief. That the three claims were intertwined with one another assured confusion on the part of the most level headed scientist.

There were at least two additional sources of confusion. Fleischmann and Pons presented a classical chemistry experiment that now had the word fusion bonded to it. The strict criterion of the nuclear physicists would unfortunately be applied to a discipline foreign to them, namely chemistry, with disabling consequences: those who would speak for the orthodox position of the nuclear community failed to develop a functional acquaintance with the experiment. They knew, a priori, that there was no need to get their hands wet in the laboratory.

The second source of confusion resided within the Fleischmann and Pons cell. The cathode consisted of a piece of commercial palladium rod or sheet metal. As such, it could not be exactly reproduced, thereby limiting the reproducibility of the experiment. Without exact reproduction, the strict criterion produced a false negative response to the second and third claims. Once the skeptics were wedded to this conclusion, there was the natural tendency, as satisfactory reproducibility was attained during the ensuing years, for them to avoid public admission of an error in evaluation.

The outspoken nuclear scientists stood on their demand for only nuclear data; the cold fusion scientists were confined to their empirical results in the discipline of chemistry. The chemistry profession, as such, was nowhere to be found. The two schools of scientists, in the essence of each, did not contend with one another; they merely took different kinds of stands: “Cold fusion is as dead as it ever was,” and “the existence of anomalous power is virtually without challenge.” The strict criterion placed anomalous power outside of science, namely, in chemistry, although none of the skeptics would say so for the public record. They merely repeated the statement that cold fusion was dead. The scientific community was thoroughly confused by this. The controversy was not really a scientific controversy when articulated in this way. It was one of attitudes and manners.

If the cold fusion contention were about the quality of the excess heat measurements—were they definitive, and if not, why not—about, for example, the need to subtract two large numbers to obtain the claimed excess, there would be no story to be told and no book to be written. The issue would have been about the proper interpretation of a succession of measurements—about science. Unfortunately, the contention was political, not scientific.

The skeptics did not say that the excess heat measurements were inadequate; they simply ignored them as though the laboratory work did not exist and the scientists doing that work were dead. The experiments were not reported in the books by Close, Huizenga, Taubes, in essays by Park, or in ICCF reports by Morrison. In this way, they created and maintained a circle of silence around the cold fusion ghetto, one recognized by all involved as a profound refusal of orthodox scientists to communicate in any reasonable way with the practitioners. They characterized the controversy not as one about the adequacy of the observations but as one carried on between science and foolishness.

A scientific controversy about cold fusion would have been a continuing debate about calorimetry, its capabilities and limitations: how to measure heat accurately. But the skeptics always expressed themselves in such a way that the heat claim was not directly referenced. They spoke in ambiguous language: one was never sure whether the term “cold fusion” was meant literally or as the name of the field. Other professionals and science reporters saw fit to not enter the fray with questions aimed to lay bare these meanings. The result was a political controversy involving clever maneuver, rather than a scientific controversy about the quality of the calorimetric measurements.

Nature, Science, Scientific American, and Chemical & Engineering News ought to have started reporting the many corroborations of heat after the aggregation of evidence became clear at the end of 1994. American science was harmed by the indefinite delay in publication that allowed the scientific community to remain unaware of that advancing state of the art in the generation of anomalous power.