Return to the clickable list of items
136) What is cold fusion?
Trying to publish a review.
Ludwik Kowalski (4/6/04)
Department of Mathematical Sciences
Montclair State University, Upper Montclair, NJ, 07043
What is cold fusion? This question should be answered before an attempt to validate CF claims is undertaken by the DOE. Some people think that cold fusion is generation
of excess heat in electrochemical cells. This is not a good definition. Many hidden effects, for example, parasitic chemical reactions or some kind of storage (as in an electric battery) can produce "excess heat." For several days I was trying to formulate a satisfactory definition of cold fusion; I now have one. I hope it can be useful to those who will be examining CF claims.
Cold fusion is any process in which a nuclear reaction is produced without relying on traditional means, such as particle accelerators, neutron sources, stellar temperatures, cosmic rays or alpha particles.
P.S. insertion (May 5, 2004):
Referring to the above definition Steven Jones, who invented the term cold fusion, wrote to me in private: I strongly suggest that you re-consider your definition of cold fusion. Consider:
Cold Fusion is: Nuclear fusion which occurs in condensed matter.
This brings in recent experimental observations of strongly enhanced fusion yields with low-energy deuteron beams on d and Li in metal lattices, as well as the observation of the importance of currents in deuterided metals. The "condensed matter" requirement implies "cold" temperatures without having to say "cold fusion." Note also that fusion includes p,d,t +Z fusion, where Z is equal to OR GREATER THAN ONE. (This includes hydrogen istopes, lithium, and heavier elements.) In short, your definition should include the most important new directions in the field! Note that our original Nature paper (April 1989) was entitled "Observation of cold nuclear fusion in condensed matter." "Condensed matter" is the key to the whole matter, for it enhances the p,d-Z fusion rate... We are still exploring how this trick is accomplished. But it is real!
END of the P.S. insertion
Focusing on excess heat is not the best way to investigate CF. My advice would be to focus on presence or absence of easy to demonstrate nuclear signatures, such as highly abnormal isotopic ratios or the accumulation of 4He at the rate of one atom per 24 MeV of excess heat. Such findings have recently been reported by several CF researchers. They say that CF is no longer "a fire without ashes," as it was characterized in 1989. Is this true? Only highly trained chemists, working in ultra-clean labs, will be able to tell.
Will the DOE appointed panel ask cold fusion experts to perform demonstrations in their presence or will it accept testimony of several teams of scientists who observed accumulation of 4He (and other presumably observed ashes)? Will they ask Steven Jones to repeat several experiments in which the probability of success (to observe neutrons and other nuclear particles) was reported to be 70%? It depends on the mandate assigned to the panel, and on financial means given to it. The idea to investigate resent CF claims is very good but the project could easily degenerate into personal clashes and inconclusive investigations due to insufficient means. Mutual personal accusations between R. Park and E. Mallove (see item 2 below) are totally inappropriate at this time. Park thinks that Mallove is a leader of CF researchers while Mallove thinks that Park is the leader of researchers who categorically reject CF.
I think that both assumptions are wrong. No one is the leader of about 200 top CF researchers, world-wide. No one is the leader of tens of thoudands of scientists, also world-wide, who are very sceptical about CF claims. The first group is loosely organized through yearly conferences, the second has a powerful bureaucracy controlling the tax money. In that sense the situation is highly assymetric. But individual scientists in each group are very similar. Most of them are not extremists and that is why, I think, an honest public dialog is possible. Will those who organize the second review of cold fusion be able to keep the debate scientific? Will they be able to correct assymetries and make sure that the entire process is not derailed by extremists? I hope so.
2) Illustrating poisonous words.
Using the American Physical Society (APS) server <http://www.aps.org/wn/> Robert Park wrote (on 4/2/04): COLD FUSION: TRUE BELIEVERS SEE DOE REVIEW AS VINDICATION. There hasnt been much to celebrate in the 15 years since the University of Utah held a press conference in Salt Lake City to announce the discovery of cold fusion. Although a brave little band of true believers continued to trumpet cold fusion, the band leader was publishing Infinite Energy Magazine. That made it pretty hard to take this stuff seriously. To which Mallove reacted with an e-mail message. It arrived on the same day; and was probably sent to many others. Mallove wrote:
Dear All: One of the greatest honors that can be bestowed on a scientist is to be attacked by the mental midget, Robert Park, who represents himself as a scientist and a spokesperson for the American Physical Society. . . I am happy for the great privilege of being repeatedly disparaged over the years (since 1991) by this buffoon. And Infinite Energy magazine gets free publicity too. As everyone knows, Park is completely out of touch with the now compendious laboratory evidence for low-energy nuclear reactions (LENR - a.k.a. cold fusion). He has not examined the papers -- peer-reviewed and otherwise, and he damned well knows that. So at some deep level, this regular purveyor of misinformation knows that he is cornered and will die the fool that he is -- for sure on the topic of low-energy nuclear reactions.
I look forward to the day when the vile corpse of Park no longer rattles and confuses the world with weekly doses of misinformation. When will the APS wake up? I hesitated to use the corpse metaphor, but Park seems so fond of using it against cold fusion that in this case it is seems highly appropriate. And besides, there may be another oak tree waiting for him...to put him out of his misery in the face of his inevitable doom on the matter of LENR. APS members should be so lucky. But while Park still breathes and rants, they should not continue to allow him to be the anti-science black mark that he represents for the APS. Finally, I categorically deny - of course - that I am the leader of any cold fusion band! Sincerely, Dr. Eugene F. Mallove President, New Energy Foundation, Inc. (A Nonprofit, 501(c)(3) Corporation) Editor-in-Chief, Infinite Energy Magazine PO Box 2816 Concord, NH 03302-2816 www.infinite-energy.com firstname.lastname@example.org
I hope that the pending DOE review will not trigger a war of insulting words and accusations. How can an objective evaluation of scientific facts and interpretations be conducted when poisonous bullets are flying in all directions? But who can prevent Park and Mallove from jumping at each other? Would they be able to forget what they wrote about each other, publicly, in more than a decade? I do not think so. They probably enjoy verbal wars. That is very unfortunate.
3) On March 23, 2004, in a private e-mail message to X, I wrote:
According to todays article about cold fusion in The New York Times the second evaluation will not going to be as detailed as the first one was. Is this correct? I have a slogan to suggest for your meetings. SEEK NOT THE GOLDEN EGG, SEEK THE GOOSE. In other words, focus on essential scientific questions and not on practical applications which are far away, at best. Promising too much, and too early, was one of the mistakes made fifteen years ago. In my opinion the six most important scientific questions are:
1) Is it true that unexpected neutrons, protons and tritons are
emitted (at a very low rate) in some LENR experiments?
2) Is it true that generation of heat, in some LENR experiments,
is linearly correlated with the accumulation of He-4 and that
the rate of generation of excess heat is close to 24 MeV per
atom of He-4?
3) Is it true that highly unusual isotopic ratios have been observed
among the elements found in some LENR systems?
4) Is it true that radioactive isotopes have been produced in
some LENR systems?
5) Is it true that transmutation of elements has occurred in
some LENR setups?
6) Are the ways of validating scientific findings in the areas of
LENR research consistent with accepted methodologies in
other areas of science?
I think that a positive answer to even one of these six questions should be sufficient to justify an official declaration that "cold fusion, in light of recent data, should be treated as a legitimate area of research." The normal peer review mechanisms will then be used to separate valid claims from wishful thinking. Please excuse this attempt to share with you a personal opinion on a subject with which you must now be deeply preoccupied. Feel free to share the above with anybody you wish, or to modify it in any way that can be useful.
4) My review article
In trying to publish my review article about CF I approached editors of several well known US journals. But no sucess so far. Here is what I wrote in an accompanying letter in one of the submissions.
I am sure that you are aware of the DOE move to review the cold fusion field, as reported in The New York Times (3/25/04). Attached is a review article which, I hope, can be published in ***** . The title is Recent cold fusion claims: are they valid? It is not a paper defending cold fusion claims; it is a paper describing them, no matter what one is inclined to think. Scientifically literate readers are likely to appreciate my short summary of recent claims made by cold fusion researchers.
Some of these claims, such as turning Sr into Mo, or Cs into Pr, without stellar temperatures, are even more extraordinary than the claims made by Pons and Fleischmann. The strange thing is that authors of such reports seem to be reputable scientists associated with prestigious universities and laboratories. Is it a matter of fraud? Is it a matter of self-deception, or incompetence? Is it a matter of progressive degeneration due to the isolation of the field from mainstream science? My article does not try to answer these questions; its purpose is to present a summary of what has been recently reported without taking sides. The subject is interesting no matter what the final verdict of the second DOE evaluation will be.
Like many other science teachers, I am in no position to verify validity of hard-to-accept claims in a specialized laboratory. That is why, as suggested in the concluding section, a new evaluation of cold fusion claims, by an appointed panel of experts, is highly desirable. In writing this I was not aware of the pending DOE review. I am a physics teacher at Montclair State University. Studying cold fusion was my 2003/2004 sabbatical project, which resulted in the attached manuscript. So far I was not successful; perhaps I will be more lucky with an European journal, such as Nature. That journal is also known for being negative about accepting papers devoted to cold fusion. Why should they be more receptive to my review than American journals? Instead of sending them my article I will firs ask them if they might be interested. Nature has a mechanism for this, it is called pre-submission.
The most impressive part of pre-submitting my CF review article to Nature was the nearly immediate negative reply. It came about ten hours after I approached them. The process of pre-submission consists of pasting information into two text boxes on their web site. The first box is for the letter about the paper; the second is for the opening paragraph of the paper, and for references used in it. In the first box I pasted what was shown in item 4 above (with some modifications). The content of the second box was:
Cold fusion (CF), presumably discovered 15 years ago, is any process in which a nuclear reaction is produced without relying on traditional means, such as particle accelerators, neutron sources, stellar temperatures, cosmic rays or alpha particles. In 1989, several months after the discovery was announced (through a press release at the University of Utah) a panel of scientists, appointed by the US Department of Energy (DOE), examined the evidence supporting the CF claims. That evidence was declared insufficient. But, as summarized in (1) there remain unresolved issues which may have interesting implications. The Panel is, therefore, sympathetic toward modest support for carefully focused and cooperative experiments within the present funding system.
CF became highly controversial and only several hundred researchers continued working on it, worldwide. Most scientists still think that cold fusion is pseudoscience. On that basis editors of many journals refuse to publish papers devoted to CF research. Only a small fraction of scientists is familiar with recent progress in that area. The purpose of this article is to objectively summarize recent findings (2) and to supply references with which I am familiar. The article was triggered by the reported initiative of DOE to review (3,4) cold fusion research. I will focus on four cold fusion claims which are, in my opinion, the most important. As a nuclear physicist, and a physics teacher, I examined some of CF publications and attended one cold fusion conference (5).
1. Huizenga, J. Cold Fusion: the Scientific Fiasco of the Century. Oxford
University Press, 2nd edition, Oxford, 1993.
2. Cold fusion papers are usually published at specialized scientific
conferences. Many of them are downloadable from the library at
3. Daviss, B. "No Cold Shoulder." New Scientist, March 20, 2004, p 6.
4. Feder, T. DOE Warms to Cold Fusion, Physics Today, April 2004, page 27.
5. The Tenth International Conference on Cold Fusion was held in Cambridge,
Massachusetts 24 - 29 August 2003. Conference proceedings, in the form of
Pdf files, can be downloaded from http://www.lenr-canr.org/iccf10/iccf10.htm
The reply was short and clear; Thank you for your enquiry about submitting your paper entitled Cold fusion 15 years later to Nature. I regret that the paper that you describe seems unlikely to prove suitable for publication in Nature, and we accordingly suggest that you pursue publication elsewhere. I am sorry that we cannot respond more positively on this occasion. Yours sincerely Dr Karen Southwell, Senior Editor. I was aware, from browsing, that the rate of acceptance in Nature is about 1 out of 10. On that basis I should have expected a rejection.
Return to the clickable list of items