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The Jones "Vote" Against Fleischmann and Pons
Screen shots from successive frames from archival video shot during Baltimore American Physical Society press conference, May 2, 1989

1989 News Story: (New York Times) Physicists Debunk Claim of a New Kind of Fusion

 

 

Steven E. Jones polled the panelists at the Baltimore American Physical Society press conference on May 2, 1989, to obtain a simple verdict on the Fleischmann-Pons claim.

In the first frame, Jones looks down the row of his fellow physicists and asks them whether they are convinced that Fleischmann and Pons did not attain fusion.

"How many think we can rule that out at this time?"

New York Times: "vote by eight of nine physicists calling the Utah experiment dead."
Associated Press: "In an informal show of hands, the scientists on a panel at the American Physical Society meeting Tuesday voted 8-1 that they were 95 percent confident the excess heat was not produced by nuclear fusion."
ABC-TV: "At this point, the bulk of scientific opinion is skeptical that cold fusion exists as Pons and Fleischmann reported it."

Jones' vote came on the heels of his peers' derisive, sarcastic and cynical statements that day, and the day before, that Fleischmann and Pons were incompetent, delusional, ignorant, sloppy and simply wrong.

Jones' vote was not about whether the Fleischmann-Pons excess-heat claim might have been the result of some other nuclear process. The question was whether the excess heat was real.

Jones also used the voting procedure to promote his own work.

Associated Press: "However, the panel also voted 6-3 against ruling out that experiments in Utah and elsewhere had produced neutrons."

 

Before he has finished asking the question, Jones begins to raise his hand, signaling his bias to the other physicists.

 

Jones keeps a straight face, but his collaborator, Johann Rafelski, to his left, finds the vote amusing.

Both physicists were asked to review the Pons-Fleischmann proposal by the Department of Energy in August/September 1988. They initially rejected the proposal while reviving their own similar research, which had been dormant for two years.

Jones claims that his work was not dormant but that he was simply waiting for the construction of a new neutron detector. The new detector was ready just as he and Rafelski received their copies of the Pons-Fleischmann proposal.

 

Jones has his hand raised high and is looking at the other physicists for their vote. Steven Koonin, to Jones' immediate left, is the first to decide, he begins to raise his hand. The others need a moment to think, and perhaps watch their peers.

 

A physicist to Rafelski's right cautiously raises his pen. The others just look on.

 

The physicist to the far right, who has been watching Jones the whole time is next to raise his hand. The second one from the right had also been watching Jones. He has decided and he begins to look away from Jones and raise his hand.

 

The phsyicist to Koonin's left now cautiously raises a hand. All but Rafaelski raise their hands.