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81) Where are Theories ?

Ludwik Kowalski (July 18, 2003)
Department of Mathematical Sciences
Montclair State University, Upper Montclair, NJ, 07043

This is another expiration based on Beaudette’s book (1). In Chapter 16 he speculates about possible mechanisms of cold fusion. First he quote P. Hegelstein who wrote, in 1998, “that major outstanding theoretical problem is not how to elude the Coulomb barrier; and it is not how to account for anomalousely low neutron emission rate. The big issue is, and always has been, whether a large energy quantum can be transferred efficiently from a nuclear reaction to new degrees of freedom associated with the surrounding environment.”

Then he muses about a mechanism involving coherent phonons. Such phonons (quanta of thermal oscillation energy) excite atomic nuclei to energy levels at which reactions become possible. The process of excitation (accumulation of energy) is slow, presumably lasting several minutes or so. Beaudette writes: “The theorists suggested that the prolonged period when the nucleus is in an under-excited state makes the formation of stable reaction products possible.” Personally. I can not take such speculations seriously; they conflict with what I know about nuclear processes. Only experimental findings of qualified scientists can be taken seriously, even when they conflict with accepted theoretical models. That is the essence of our scientific methodology, as emphasized in unit #80.

Later in the chapter Beaudette wrote;” It appears, at the time of writing, that the excess heat reaction is one that joins together two deutron atoms to make a single helium-four atom. In this process an energy of 23.8 MeV is released and transferred to the metal lattice as heat. What sort of ‘joining’ this reaction might be, is not known yet. It cannot be fusion as known by the high energy physicists, because that reaction generates lethal radiation and fast neutron particles that are not present in the excess heat data. It can not be the reaction of muon-induced (catalyzed) fission, because that reaction generates strong radiation not present in excess heat data. Several theorists suggest that the process might be the result of a multibody reaction, one that brings together more than two particles into the reaction process.”

It is important to keep in mind that Beaudette is not a theoretical physicist; he is a retired electrical engineer interested in cold fusion. Earlier in the book he described a cold fusion experiment in which he participated as an observer. That experiment, at Stanford Research Institute, convinced him that generation of excess heat is real. He met with many cold fusion researchers at one of their international conferences. In my opinion his overall description of the cold fusion field is excellent and his book deserves a place in libraries, especially at high schools and universities. The level is appropriate for a person whose background is limited to an introductory physical science course.

In the Chapter 17 Beaudette summarizes the most interesting and puzzling data about nuclear transmutations taking place in cold fusion experiments. Once again he returns to the issue “secular theology.” He quotes what John Huizenga wrote (2) about Fleischmann’s mentioning of “fission of palladium.” Fleischmann was, no doubt, unfamiliar with the fact I had researched nuclear fission for decades and had coauthored a book . . . on the subject. Knowing that the energy threshold for palladium fission was several tens of millions of electron volts, I had to conclude that Fleischmann was either joking . . . or exposing gaping holes in his knowledge of nuclear physics.”

Let me mention that I personally know Huizenga and that the book he coauthored with R. Vandenbosch was a major reference in my own research. Huizenga was also the chairman of ERAB which produced the negative report about cold fusion in 1989. This report, well documented in (2), will remain an important historical event, no matter what the final verdict about cold fusion. Commenting on the above, Beaudette wrote: “That is the kind of comment that is skeptical rather than critical. Huizenga was not sufficiently intrigued to ask to see the data that had led Fleischmann to his supposition.” Would my reaction to Fleischmann’s claim be the same as that of Huizenga? It probably would. But I agree with Beaudette that rejecting a claim (made by an experimentalist) because it did not agree with theory was not appropriate. Experimental findings conflicting with accepted models of reality should be scrutinized more carefully that other findings but conflicts with theories are not sufficient causes for rejections.

I do not know how Huizenga would have reacted to Muzino’s findings if he had known about them. Would he have reacted as scientist, which I know he was, or would he have reacted as a politician? Should I contact him and ask what he thinks about new findings today? I do not think this would be appropriate; the last time we talked was more than twenty years ago. In the field of nuclear chemistry he was my teacher, not a personal friend.

1) Charles G. Beaudette, "Excess Heat: Why Cold Fusion Research
Prevailed," Oak Grow Press, LLC, South Bristol, USA, 2000.
2) John R. Huizenga, “ Cold Fusion: Scientific Fiasco of the Century,”
2nd. edition. New York, Oxford University Press, 1993.

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