Cold Fusion on 60 Minutes

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DrRocket

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tcthomas4":819yp8bs said:
Perhaps it isnt "cold fusion" or even a "nuclear effect". But when you have serveral labs across the world reporting an excess of energy, I think its extremely important to find out the cause. It may be bad equipment, perhaps the system is flawed, perhaps the science is flawed. But even if it is only a 30% "success rate", this still begs the question, "Why?". There is clearly something going on we don't understand because I don't believe that so many scientists would be deliberately falsifying data in a field already considered the death knell to any legitimate career. So, yes, the way the Pons and Fleishman presented their findings was certainly unscientific but I believe that because of this, what should have been a field worthy of serious study, went largely ignored. And yes, I know the experiment was attempted on a mass scale after that news conference in Utah some 20 years ago, but I feel that it was abandoned with great haste when nobody got the result they were looking for. When a process isnt understood at all you would think they would have tried harder to figure out what occured (after all, Fleishman was regarded as a scientist at the top of his field, I don't think he would have assasinated his carrer for a few minutes of fame).
Pons and Fleishman were and are both good electrochemists. The Department of Chemistry at the University of Utah is an excellent, world-class, group of scientists. I know some of them personally.

But the cold fusion experiments of Pons and Fleishman were fatally flawed and basically nothing more or less than bad calorimetry.

The bad calorimetry of Pons and Fleishman was mirrored by bad calorimetry at several other institutions and laboratories during that era. Quite a few in fact. There is a book called Bad Science: The Short Life and Weird Times of Cold Fusion by Gary Taubes, that describes that debacle. I also know the gentleman who was in charge of the Utah Cold Fusion Institute that was created in the era, and he feels that Taubes's book is pretty accurate.

The reason that the work of Pons and Fleishman was announced rather hastily, was a feeling among the lawyers at the University of Utah that they need to make such an announcement in order to establish prioirity for patent purposes, and that another scientist at BYU might establish priority if they did not. So in large part you can actually blame a good deal of the frenzy on the lawyers -- why not since they are always tempting targets.

What should have happened, was that the physicists who knew better and who did state their case at the time, should have been heeded. They knew that the lack of neutron emissions indicated that something was terribly amiss. But there was too much hype in the public press, and too much greed everywhere.
 
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tcthomas4

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DrRocket":167x5b4i said:
What should have happened, was that the physicists who knew better and who did state their case at the time, should have been heeded. They knew that the lack of neutron emissions indicated that something was terribly amiss. But there was too much hype in the public press, and too much greed everywhere.
You mention the lack of neutron emmision, but I have read that there is neutron emmision being detected now using Polymer CR-39 (which is also used to make prescription lenses, apparently). Would you call this a fabrication, or do you think there is something more to it, now that these fast neutrons have been detected? (apparently cosmic radiation would not leave the same sort of pitting in the polymer.) Seems there should be a more direct method to detect these neutrons, but I can see how that would be difficult when the entire apparatus is so well insulated. Still, this neutron emmision should warrant further study... I am not at these labs so I cant see first hand what is going on and bad calorimetry may be the only culprit... am a computer guy so wouldnt have a clue anyway. But I am still very excited about the field and hope that there is some real science to be discovered here.
 
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DrRocket

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tcthomas4":p5f9oa9l said:
DrRocket":p5f9oa9l said:
What should have happened, was that the physicists who knew better and who did state their case at the time, should have been heeded. They knew that the lack of neutron emissions indicated that something was terribly amiss. But there was too much hype in the public press, and too much greed everywhere.
You mention the lack of neutron emmision, but I have read that there is neutron emmision being detected now using Polymer CR-39 (which is also used to make prescription lenses, apparently). Would you call this a fabrication, or do you think there is something more to it, now that these fast neutrons have been detected? (apparently cosmic radiation would not leave the same sort of pitting in the polymer.) Seems there should be a more direct method to detect these neutrons, but I can see how that would be difficult when the entire apparatus is so well insulated. Still, this neutron emmision should warrant further study... I am not at these labs so I cant see first hand what is going on and bad calorimetry may be the only culprit... am a computer guy so wouldnt have a clue anyway. But I am still very excited about the field and hope that there is some real science to be discovered here.
You quoted me out of context. I said there was no neutron emission detected in the Pons and Fleishmann experiments.

There may have been a neutron detected in the more recent work. If it was a neutron it may or may not have been the result of fusion, and it may or may not have anything to do with a sustainable process that could release a significant amoount of energy. The latest reports are recent, there is a lot of work to be done in evaluating and replicating experiments before significant conclusions can be reached. There are advocates and skeptics in the scientific community. It is WAY too early to jump to conclusions.

But the reporting in the popular press is high on sensationalism, and low in serious scientific expertise and inquiry. I have zero confidence in the reporting of 60 Minutes or any other similar organization in matters like this. I personally will take a wait and see attitude, I've seen overenthusiasm before, and I will get my information from sources likely to know what they are talking about, preferably with references or links to legitimate scientific literature. There doesn't seem to be a lot out there just yet, and this is the best that I found in a quick search.

http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn1 ... usion.html
 
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aremisasling

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Sorry to revive a dead thread, but I jsut had to chime in.

It is not only important, but central to the use of a thing to know what's making it work, otherwise we will be unable to reproduce it on a mass scale or even know if it's reasonable to do so. We can't fine tune a thing we don't understand either. If it's just heat emissions and we don't know if it's emitting neutrons, then it could be a host of other factors that could be generating the heat. I can produce more energy than than I put into a system by striking a match, but I wouldn't call it fusion. And why not? Because I KNOW what caused it with the match. Therefore we also need to know what's causing it here to rule out mundane sources.

As for exploring it further, there is a case to be made for doing so, and as UncertainH mentioned, there are already chemists theorizing as to what the actual source is if it's even anything other than calorimeter error. But science is not a cheap thing and there's a short list of scientists and a long list of projects, so they need to prioritize. And given the huge (and I mean really huge) number of cold fusion theories, perpetual motion machines, anti-gravity drives, etc that have been proposed and even patented, there simply isn't enough time, money, or personnel to investigate all of them. It's one of those situations where every time you disprove one, three more pop up.

I'll point again to the Mythbusters anti-gravity experiments. They even mentioned that the technology was being looked at by the US military (who have a storied history of lame duck projects almost as long as their scientifically sound ones). But you stick it in a vaccuum and it doesn't fly, because it's powered by ionized air. And aside from the fact that it's not gravity, it has already been demonstrated to be relatively unsafe and not particularly scalable by even the one guy who made a successful ionized air craft.

Even some of the legit 'hot fusion' experiments have been shown to be unscalable and uneconomical. We don't even know if the ones that are working so far will prove to work by those terms in the long run. With such huge odds stacked against projects we understand intimately, there's no reason to drop everything and divert funds to a device we aren't even sure is producing actual fusion more or less real net energy from fusion.

I'm not saying it shouldn't be investigated further, all I'm saying this isn't such a slam dunk that we should put it on the top of the priority pile based on what is presented.

Aremis
 
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yevaud

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What I wonder about is that in "two to three weeks" of experimentation (that's a quote from one of the New Scientist articles on the issue), they found precisely three pits from Neutron collision with the CR-39 target. One would expect, I'd think, a more energetic output, were this true fusion.
 
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tanstaafl76

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Additionally, if these various scientists are so convinced that these various "LENR" devices actually work, why haven't they built one the size of a trash can or larger and make their observations on a grander scale? When you can only make something work in tiny beakers it makes it look much more suspicious that you're taking advantage of some individual particle phenomenon that could be caused by a wider variety of things and trying to call it fusion.
 
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vogon13

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Cold fusion actually works if you substitute the water with poly-water, and irradiate the cell with N-rays.


Jeesh.

Do I have to fix everything on this execrable planet ??
 
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kg

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tanstaafl76":3elu2y5e said:
Additionally, if these various scientists are so convinced that these various "LENR" devices actually work, why haven't they built one the size of a trash can or larger and make their observations on a grander scale? When you can only make something work in tiny beakers it makes it look much more suspicious that you're taking advantage of some individual particle phenomenon that could be caused by a wider variety of things and trying to call it fusion.
At this rate they're going to have to build one the size of the sun to get anywhere!
 
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silylene

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tcthomas4":29m5gvii said:
DrRocket":29m5gvii said:
What should have happened, was that the physicists who knew better and who did state their case at the time, should have been heeded. They knew that the lack of neutron emissions indicated that something was terribly amiss. But there was too much hype in the public press, and too much greed everywhere.
You mention the lack of neutron emmision, but I have read that there is neutron emmision being detected now using Polymer CR-39 (which is also used to make prescription lenses, apparently). Would you call this a fabrication, or do you think there is something more to it, now that these fast neutrons have been detected? (apparently cosmic radiation would not leave the same sort of pitting in the polymer.) Seems there should be a more direct method to detect these neutrons, but I can see how that would be difficult when the entire apparatus is so well insulated. ......
CR-39 polymer readily degrades in the presence of a catalytic amount of acid and sufficient heat. If acid were formed (quite possible in an electrochemistry experiment), and the polymer were locally heated (resistively, by contact with an electrode) then I would expect polymer degradation. Exposure time in the experiment was 3-5 weeks ! Following 'development' of the CR-39, I would expect to observe tiny pitting in the portions of the polymer which got heated - - exactly as observed.

Also CR-39 is a commercial cheap commodity bulk polymerized material. I do not know its starting purity and freedom from impurities which may also induce a depolymerization with heating...or even its puritiy with regards to the absolute absence of alpha emitting impurities. Or for that matter, the purity of the Pt electrodes with regards to the complete absence of any alpha emitters.

In the old pre-Pluck SDC (unfortunately now all gone) we had a big debate on this subject, me vs a fusion magazine editor who was a spokesman for the authors, then much more via pms, directly. http://www.space.com/common/forums/viewtopic.php?f=10&t=4539&p=105978

My questions above concerning the CR-39 purity, and the setup, and localized heating, and possibility of generation of acidic species were never answered to my satisfaction. Proper references and analytical work on the CR-39 was never run to exclude these possibilities. Instead the article was rushed to publication without addressing any of these serious issues. This left me with a poor impression of the quality of the science underlying the CR-39 articles (several I see now).
 
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aremisasling

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MeteorWayne":13kumxlr said:
Good post, and welcome to Space.com!
Wayne
Thanks, sorry for my post and run. Somehow even though I set it to do so, Space.com isn't notifying me of replies.

Aremis
 
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michaelmozina

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PatIreland":1rxbo1sj said:
The key test of fusion is not the presence of excess heat. It is the release of nuetrons. There was no mention of nuetron release in any of the 60 minutes coverage. I suggest as a further reading "cold fusion" on Wikipedia.
It seems to me that this is the key issue. The excess heat *could be* related to a lot of different things, and be reproducible as well. Whether or not it is directly related to "fusion" however remains to be seen. They release of neutrons should have been something that "demonstrates" this process is related to "fusion" rather than something else.
 
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