Chemists taken in by Cold Fusion . . . AGAIN!

Ack! We were trying to figure out where the cold fusion proponents were at this year’s annual March Meeting of the American Physical Society that took place last week. Unlike most years, there was nary a paper on cold fusion or palladium mediated nuclear transmutation, or whatever they’re calling it these days.

It seems they were gearing up for the American Chemical Society meeting going on now in San Francisco. It’s probably all for the best. The ACS embraces cold fusion with an inexplicable enthusiasm. As a former associate editor for one of their journals, that embarrasses me just a bit. (BTW, the photo above from the ACS press release about their cold fusion session appears to show one of the most pathetic calorimeters I’ve ever seen outside of a science fair.)

Yes, there are usually some cold fusion papers at our physics conferences, but that’s because the APS allows any of its member to contribute talks, without peer review. It’s all in the spirit of the open exchange of ideas in science. That’s why there are also talks about zero point energy generators, perpetual motion machines, and a host of other fringe science topics, to put it gently. (In case you haven’t seen it before, it’s worth looking over the Crackpot Index right about now.) The thing is, the physical society doesn’t endorse any of these topics, while the chemical society sets up press conferences for cold fusion.

I actually enjoy going to the cold fusion sessions, whether they’re at physics or chemical society meetings, and I’m a little bummed that I missed the talks at the ACS session on Sunday. But I only go because I still remember the excitement that took the world by storm in my senior year in college, when Pons and Fleischmann held a press conference to tell us all our energy troubles were over thanks to their discovery. In fact, I still have a copy of their woefully incomplete paper that was faxed around the country at a breakneck pace just before their press conference in 1989. (That was in the dark ages before email took off as a major form of communication.)

In the days after the initial announcement 21 years ago, the excitement among both chemists and physicists was off the charts. The disappointment that followed, after we had a chance to let the news sink in, was just as extreme. As far as I know, the same problems with cold fusion that were identified back then still exist.

Yes, the payoff of an essentially inexhaustible energy source that runs on seawater is huge, but the science just doesn’t make sense. All the wishful thinking in the world isn’t going to change that.

Please, my chemical society friends, let it go. It’s one thing for cold fusion scientists to present talks at meetings and submit papers to peer reviewed journals. But for heaven’s sake, don’t endorse this stuff with press conferences! Wait until one of them makes a working battery or something. Otherwise, you’re raising the public’s hopes for something that is broadly considered junk science at best, and is frequently fodder for con artists stealing money from retirees for worthless cold fusion energy schemes at worst.

You may also read these articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *