July 30, 2010
Issue #35


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10. Fleischmann: It Must be Neutrons

Telephone Interview Conducted June 3, 2009 (audio)

Steven B. Krivit: When the 60 Minutes program aired about a month or two ago, they had a clip of you saying something about regrets, and I think you said you regret calling it fusion. I was curious about that. Can you tell me more?

Martin Fleischmann: Well, fusion has a special meaning in the scientific literature – hot fusion – and perhaps it was a mistake to call this process fusion. It should have been called a nuclear effect, you see.

Calling it fusion gave people the opportunity to say, “No, it isn’t fusion.” It isn’t like that. If it had been called a nuclear effect, they couldn’t have related it back to the fusion process, as such.

SK: How about from your own perspective? I remember reading something [from about] a week or two before the [1989] public announcement. I think you wrote to David Williams at Harwell, “The neutron-to-tritium ratio doesn’t match. I’m very concerned.” I think you said in that message or another message around that time, “What else could it be?” It seems like that was your best guess, and it seemed to me that you felt like that was a reasonable guess to make at the time. Was that?

MF: Yes

SK: That’s a fair statement?

MF: Yes.

SK: I suppose you probably had no idea what the reaction was going to be like.

MF: No. It seemed to me that calling it fusion drew attention to the type of process which it could be, you see. It seemed reasonable to call it that at that time.

SK: I suppose there was nothing else, to your awareness, from which to categorize it?

MF: No, it was a type of process to which one could refer.

SK: Yes, certainly. Well, 20 years later, now it seems like that distinction is much easier to see. I’ve seen other ideas that relate to neutron-related processes that could be – not perhaps as simple and direct as D+D > 4He – but other more-complex processes, perhaps other alternative pathways to getting to heat and helium.

MF: Yes, it seems reasonable to have called it that, but perhaps one shouldn’t have called it that.

SK: Yeah, that seems understandable. I was wondering whether you had a chance to catch wind of the ideas in the last few years about neutron-catalyzed reactions?

MF: Yes, it must be. You know, the neutron is not very strongly bound in deuterium so maybe there is some substance to those thoughts.


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