Communication from Richard Lahey to Eugenie Samuel Reich of Nature
May 12, 2007
I have now had a chance to read the material that you sent me. As I am sure you know, the charges raised by Congressman Miller are not new and mostly have to do with things that may or may not have taken place at Purdue University. Since I have no first hand knowledge of what took place at Purdue I can not comment too much on this. Only that it is my understanding that Purdue did conduct a through investigation into the charges raised about whether or not there was any research misconduct on the part of Professor Taleyarkhan. Since this investigation had to do with matters internal to Purdue, neither I nor (to my knowledge) others external to Purdue were asked for input, and I believe that this may have been appropriate given the matters being investigated. In any event Purdue has now exonerated Professor Taleyarkhan of all charges. Anyway, this action was no surprise to me, since I have known Dr. Taleyarkhan for many years (indeed since he was a student at RPI) and I have full confidence in his research abilities and integrity.
As I understand it, Purdue has now initiated another investigation into the validity of the claims associated with Sonofusion. This stems from doubts which have been raised by some critics and these doubts were repeated in the letter of Congressman Miller. Contrary to the previous Purdue investigation I hope in this case that everyone involved will have a chance to give input to the Investigating Committee at Purdue. Some of my colleagues and I (e.g., Professor Robert Block , Professor Robert Nigmatulin) have been very involved for many years in the analysis of the data and physical mechanism associated with several of the Sonofusion experiments which have been published [ Science , PRE , PRL ,etc ]. We have found the data taken at ORNL, and later at Purdue, to be very self-consistent and plausible. Indeed, we have verified [Nigmatulin et al., Physics of Fluids, Vol.176, 2005] that Sonofusion can indeed produce conditions suitable for thermonuclear fusion. Thus we would welcome a chance to discuss this matter with the Purdue Investigating Committee in order to dispel some of the misguided (and often self-serving) doubts that have been raised by others.
The fact that some other investigators have been unable to duplicate the published Sonofusion results is, in my opinion, due to the fact they have not used an adequate test section design and have not followed proper test techniques. This is not an easy experiment to run and I see no problem with independence having other researchers come to a user facility (like Professor Taleyarkhan’s at Purdue) to take independent Sonofusion data (indeed the use of user facilities is common in the Physics community). As you know, this is exactly what has been done by several groups that have now presented/published their peer-reviewed findings.
Unfortunately there is a lot of misunderstanding out there concerning issues related to Sonofusion technology. For example, in footnote-27 of the Subcommittee Staff Report to Chairman Miller there are a number of statements that I know for a fact are untrue (e.g., the first time I saw the NE&D paper in question is when I got a copy of the NE&D publication; I had no involvement in this paper at all. Moreover, the Editor and Chief of NE&D, Prof. Dr. G. Lohnert, has told me that he handled the peer review of the paper in question and that Professor Taleyarkhan was not involved.) It appears that the subcommittee staff did not carefully check their facts; rather they apparently relied on biased input from others. Unfortunately this is typical of how this type misinformation is generated and takes on a life of its own.
I hope that you avoid the temptation to continue the “muck raking” and “yellow journalism” of the past. There is a story to be told but I believe that it is one of an exciting scientific discovery, not one of research fraud.
Dr. Richard T. Lahey, Jr. - NAE
The Edward E. Hood Professor of Engineering
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Troy, NY - USA