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132) Another testimony

Ludwik Kowalski (3/9/04)
Department of Mathematical Sciences
Montclair State University, Upper Montclair, NJ, 07043

After posting the historical testimony of Steven Jones (item #131) I realized that the recent article of Martin Fleischmann is also worth posting here. As many might remember, Fleischmann and Pons were the first to announce the unexplained excess heat, and to claim that it was generated through a nuclear process. Unfortunately, this was done via a press release (see details in item #131) rather than through a publication in a pear review paper. The photo of Fleischmann shown below was taken during a break between two sessions of the 10th International Conference on Cold Fusion. The text that follows was extracted from an article that Fleischmann published in a journal called “Accountability in Research” (2000. 8: p. 19). The entire article, entitled “Reflections on the Sociology of Science and Social Responsibility in Science, in Relationship to Cold Fusion” can be downloaded from the library at Let me add that Stanley Pons, who worked with Fleischmann, was not at the conference. People said he left research many years ago.

Extracts from Fleischmann’s paper

“Reflections on the Sociology of Science and Social
Responsibility in Science, in Relationship to Cold Fusion;”
Accountability in Research, 2000. 8: p. 19.

. . . Realization that models of electrolyte solutions had to be based on the Q.E.D. paradigm inevitably focused my attention again on the Pd/H and Pd/D systems. I had realized since the end of 1947 that these were the most extraordinary examples of electrolytes. . . . The question of whether one could induce nuclear reactions became more clearly-defined at the end of that decade [1960s]. Work on the isotopic separation of H and D showed that it was necessary to assume that the H and D present had to be modeled as many-body systems in order to explain the macroscopic behavior . . . In the early 1980's Stan Pons and I started a number of collaborative projects. . . . We decided that the project not only had to have a ‘hidden agenda’, it had to be totally hidden. This was all the more necessary because the military applications of any positive outcome of the research were not at all clear. . . . The overall structure of the problem had become reasonably clear by the summer of 1988. We were observing the generation of heat in excess of the enthalpy input to the cells, and far above that commensurate with the generation of tritium and neutrons predicted by measurements on ‘hot fusion.’ Moreover, the excess enthalpy was far beyond that which could be attributed to any parasitic chemical reactions.

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I would be very happy to append M. Fleischmann’s comments on what S. Jones wrote in the unit #131. On the other hand, I can understand his reasons for not commenting on political events of 1989-1990 at this time. So let me show how Peter Hagelstein, from MIT, summarized these events in “A Student Guide to Cold Fusion.” This recently published document (authored by Edmund Storms) is avaialble over the Internet at Less than a year ago, Hagelstein, who has also been an important player in the field if cold fusion, wrote:

“It Started in 1989 . . .

Many of us recall the controversy surrounding the announcement of claims of observations of fusion reactions in a test tube that were made in 1989. At the time, these claims were greeted with considerable skepticism on the part of the physics community and the scientific community in general.

The principal claim of Pons and Fleischmann
The principal claim of Pons and Fleischmann in 1989 was that power was produced in palladium cathodes that were loaded electrochemically in a heavy water electrolyte. The evidence in support of this was a measured increase in the temperature in the electrochemical cell. There was no obvious evidence for nuclear reaction products commensurate with the claimed heat production. Fleischmann speculated that perhaps two deuterons were somehow fusing to 4He through some kind of new mechanism.

Rejection by the physics community

This claim was not accepted by the physics community on theoretical grounds for several reasons:

First, there was no mechanism known by which two deuterons might approach one another close enough to fuse, since the Coulomb barrier prevents them from approaching at room temperature.

Second, if they did approach close enough to fuse, one would expect the conventional dd-fusion reaction products to be observed, since these happen very fast. Essentially, once two deuterons get close enough to touch, reactions occur with near unity probability, and the reaction products (p+t and n+3He) leave immediately at high relative velocity consistent with the reaction energy released. To account for Fleischmann's claim, the proposed new reaction would seemingly somehow have to make 4He quietly and cleanly, without any of the conventional reaction products showing up, and would somehow have to arrange for this to happen a billion times faster than the conventional reaction pathway. Most physicists bet against the existence of such a magical new effect.

Third, the normal pathway by which two deuterons fuse to make 4He normally occurs with the emission of a gamma ray near 24 MeV. There was no evidence for the presence of any such high energy gamma emission from the sample, hence no reason to believe that any helium had been made.

Finally, if one rejects the possibility that any new mechanisms might be operative, then the claim that power was being produced by fusion must be supported by the detection of a commensurate amount of fusion reaction products. Pons and Fleischmann found no significant reaction products, which, given the rejection of new mechanisms, implied an absence of fusion reactions.

An alternate explanation is proposed
The physicists decided in 1989 that the most likely reason that Pons and Fleischmann observed a temperature increase was that they had made an error of some sort in their measurements. When many groups tried to observe the effect and failed, this led most of the physics community to conclude that there was nothing to it whatsoever other than some bad experiments.

The claim of Jones
A second very different claim was made at the same time in 1989 by Steve Jones. This work also involved electrochemistry in heavy water and the observation of reaction products corresponding to the conventional dd-fusion reactions. The initial publication showed a spectrum of neutron emission that Jones had detected from a titanium deuteride cathode loaded electrochemically. The response of the physics community was skeptical, as the signal to noise ratio was not particularly impressive. Given the polarization of the physics community in opposition to the claims of Pons and Fleischmann (which were announced essentially simultaneously), the physicists were not of a mood to accept much of any claims that fusion could happen in an electrochemical experiment at all. Jones went to great lengths to assure fellow scientists that his effect was completely unrelated to the claims of Pons and Fleischmann, and was much more reasonable.

Also rejected
Physicists had reason to be skeptical. Theoretical considerations indicated that the screening effects that Jones was relying on were not expected to be as strong as needed to account for the fusion rates claimed. As this experiment could not seem to be replicated by others at the time, it was easy for the physics community to reject this claim as well.

Cold fusion, weighed and rejected with prejudice
Cold fusion, as the two different claims were termed, was dismissed with prejudice in 1989. The initial claims were made near the end of March in Utah, and the public refutation of the claims was made at the beginning of May. It only took about 40 days for the physics community to consider the new claims, test them experimentally, and then announce loudly to the world that they had been carefully weighed and rejected.

Following this rejection, physicists have treated cold fusion rather badly. For example, Professor John Huizenga of Rochester University was selected to be co-chair of the DOE ERAB committee that met to review cold fusion and issue a report. Shortly afterward, he wrote a book entitled Cold Fusion, The Scientific Fiasco of the Century, in which he discusses the claims, the experiments, and the extreme skepticism with which the new claims were greeted. Robert Park discusses the subject in his book entitled Voodoo Science. You can find many places where physicists and other scientists happily place the cold fusion claims together with claims of UFOs and psychic phenomena.”

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