|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
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
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
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.