In one of the most balanced and thorough discussions I’ve seen, the new issue Wired Magazine has a feature article this month (November, 1998, “6.11”) that reviews the history and current events of cold fusion research. “What If Cold Fusion Is Real?”, by Charles Platt, looks into the continuing work and tantalizing experimental evidence from all around the world.
A decade ago, after a brief wild explosion of world excitement, the scientific establishment was very quick to label it a fraud after numerous big labs were unable to reproduce any effect.
Today, a few hardy souls still continue the work. Many have seen excess heat and other indications of new phenomena. The difficulty is that no-one has quite figured out what makes it work sometimes and not others, a serious impediment for the reproduceability that the scientific method relies on so heavily.
The situation is complicated by the presence of a number of quacks and new agers, and a new fascination with nuclear transformation (“the end of rad waste!!”) that has divided the already small worldwide community. Still, there are respected bonafide scientists who’ve seen results and take them seriously, even if explanations are in short supply. Interestingly, it’s mostly older people who persist–younger scientists would do real damage to their professional careers by mentioning the subject. And, there’s little or no funding.
The article does a nice job of explaining the corner that cold fusion’s been painted into. Since nearly all scientific journals categorically refuse to publish anything on the subject, it’s difficult for good research on the subject to get heard. The hundreds of reported experimental observations make no difference. They are just dismissed with little or no honest scrutiny.
The best hope seems to be in the hands of a few venture-investor backed small companies, who apparently will be taken seriously only when they can put a commercial device on the market. The trouble is, there’s a lot of basic science to do first, and the very limited resources might not be able to go the whole way from lab to commercial device.
One such firm is discussed in the article, CETI, who dramatically demonstrated a device in public at the PowerGen conference in 1995. Since then, they’ve had trouble getting the same performance. They say only that their first batch of material worked, but not later ones, and they don’t know why.
Notably absent from the article is the high profile Blacklight Power (www.blacklightpower.com), which reportedly refuses all interviews, but claims to have an entirely new physics as a basis for its cold fusion process. Also missing is Eneco, the Salt Lake City firm that UFTO relies on for help in tracking developments in the field. Eneco prefers to stay out of the press, and is working quietly on its own approach.
Eneco actually helped Mr. Platt, and arranged for him to attend the ICCF-7 (7th Annual International Conference on Cold Fusion) in Vancouver, April 1998. The proceedings for this conference are now available for $50 a copy. Contact ICCF-7 c/o Eneco, 801-583-2000, fax 801-583-6245, firstname.lastname@example.org.