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97) My Letter to the Editor of TPT.
Ludwik Kowalski (August 14, 2003)
Department of Mathematical Sciences
Montclair State University, Upper Montclair, NJ, 07043
WHAT FOLLOWS WAS POSTED THIS MORNING ON THE PHYS-L SERVER. I AM ADDRESSING ABOUT 700 SUBSCRIBERS OF THAT DISCUSSION LIST. HOPEFULLY, SOME INTERESTING REPLIES WILL APPEAR ON THE LIST AND IN TPT.
My letter to the editor of The Physics Teacher was published in June of 2003. It is a comment on a student question about cold fusion. The editor, Karl Mamola, wrote to me: This is the second summer that we have published letters on our website during the break in our publishing cycle, so that readers do not have to wait until September to read our Letters to the Editor. I would prefer the letter to be published on paper; it would then be seen by at least ten times more people. But the fact that the editor decided to publish my letter, considering the negative attitude of many, is significant.
Please, help to publicize the letter. The best way to do this is to reply with another letter. I do not think that The Physics Teacher is the right place to argue for or against the validity of various cold fusion claims. This should be done in scientific conferences and in peer reviewed papers. But TPT is a perfect place to let our establishment (AIP, NSF, DOE, Academy of Science, etc.) know that teachers and students would welcome a second formal evaluation of the field by appointed experts. Below is the content of my letter. The Internet reference is:
It is easy to submit a reply to a letter to the editor; e-mail your comments to Dr. Karl Mamola at: email@example.com In doing this please indicate what you think about my appeal. Is a new evaluation of cold fusion claims desirable or should we stick to arguments found in the official 1989 evaluation? Also share examples of what students say or ask about cold fusion. Tell others how you personally deal with the subject.
ANSWERING QUESTIONS ON COLD FUSION
Let me begin by quoting a recent email message from a student.
Dear Mr. Kowalski,
Help! My name is Maggie Johnson and I am a sophomore at Saratoga
High School. In my chemistry class, I am doing a project on Cold
Fusion. I was looking on the Internet for websites on Cold Fusion,
and I came across links to your Cold Fusion items. I was wondering
if you could give me some advice or information?
How should a physics teacher answer questions about cold fusion?
I am no longer comfortable saying that cold fusion is voodoo-science.
Can a nuclear reaction be triggered by a chemical process? The answer,
based on what we know about nuclear phenomena, is negative. On the
other hand many experiments seem to indicate the opposite. Some of
these experiments have been described in refereed journals, others are
available over the Internet. I am referring to papers published long after
the first evaluation of cold fusion made in 1989 by a board of experts
appointed by our Department of Energy. Their authoritative report (1)
was based on data available nine months after the initial announcement
by Fleischmann and Pons. Many objections found in the report are still
valid but some are at odds with new data. Accumulation of helium, for
example, confirmed by several investigators, was not known when the
report was released. How can progressive accumulation of helium be
New findings about cold fusion phenomena are available to students
over the Internet, for example, at www.lenr-canr.org . Many articles
downloadable from that site were published by scientists associated
with prestigious institutions. What should a physics teacher tell students
about phenomena reported by these scientists? I have no clear answer
to this question. That is why I think that a new authoritative evaluation
of the cold fusion field, by a panel of competent investigators, is needed.
Montclair State University,
Upper Montclair, NJ, 07043.
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