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Academic Squabble Hides Breakthrough
By Editorial Board
The Exponent (Purdue's student newspaper)
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
A researcher on campus has been able to create bubble fusion.
The scientific process could create a clean source of energy that has minimal environmental impact. So why hasn't the scientific community been widely able to re-conduct the experiment?
The University looked into allegations of research misconduct by the researcher, Rusi Taleyarkhan, after scientists had trouble reproducing the fusion. According to a story in the Chronicle of Higher Education, scientific criticism of Taleyarkhan's 2002 paper on his discovery grew steadily. Charges of misconduct were levied. For a while, the only people able to recreate the experiment were two of Taleyarkhan's students, which created suspicion regarding the recreation's validity.
In 2006, Purdue decided to conduct an inquiry into whether Taleyarkhan influenced the experiment of two of his students.
He was cleared, but now Congress is doing its own investigation of the experiment.
The entire ordeal has been cloaked in secrecy from the start. According to the Chronicle's story, Taleyarkhan refused to share his raw data and provided poor design details. The University, as its policy required, refused to release the details of its inquiry.
Now, with Congress on the case, Purdue's reputation as a leading research institution has taken a hit.
But, more importantly, technology that could be doing our nation and the world service is being held hostage by a battle in the scientific community.
If the technology really does exist, it should be put to use as soon as possible. Both Taleyarkhan and Purdue do not seem to have interests other than their own in mind, as evidenced by both's unwillingness to make information on the experiment and the inquiry public.
It's time to put these differences aside and make the success of bubble fusion, rather than Purdue's reputation, the first priority.
And if that doesn't happen voluntarily, let's hope Congress makes it happen.
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