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This article has many factually incorrect statements and misperceptions. Let me list some. I shall try to avoid nitpicking:

"It's an equally accepted maxim that the more potentially revolutionary the result, the greater the burden of proof: extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence in order to be accepted by the scientific community. And cold fusion was a truly extraordinary claim."

This maxim was coined a few decades ago by Carl Sagan. It is not accepted by all scientists by any means, and it violates traditional scientific criteria. Cold fusion researchers feel that extraordinary claims are best supported with ordinary evidence from off-the-shelf instruments and standard techniques, and this is the kind of evidence they have published. They also feel that all claims, and all arguments (including skeptical assertions that attempt to disprove cold fusion) must be held to the same standards of rigor.

"Pons and Fleischmann, for whatever reason, ignored the established protocol and jumped right into the public domain, announcing their results in a March 23 press conference . . ."

A paper by Fleischmann and Pons was in print before the press conference. See:

"First, thou shalt not announce thy results via a press conference. Second, thou shalt not exaggerate the results. Third, thou shalt tell other scientists precisely what thou did. They broke all of those rules."

Researchers in other areas, especially plasma fusion, routinely announce results immediately following experiments, sometimes months before they publish papers. Fleischmann and Pons were not able to tell other scientists precisely what they did because they did not fully understand experiment yet.

"Eventually they published a full-length (over 50 pages!) paper with all of the necessary details, but it was rushed, sloppy, and contained at least one egregious error concerning their analysis of the gamma ray spectra."

The paper (listed above) is 7 pages, not 50. There is an egregious error regarding gamma ray spectra, but dozens of subsequent papers confirmed gamma rays without errors. Fleischmann, Pons and their colleagues later published roughly 50 papers, including many in the peer-reviewed literature.

"It has a handful of supporters among scientists, but the field boasts a far greater number of crackpots who inevitably undermine the rare occasions when a bona fide result is obtained in such experiments."

Where did you get this information? Have you counted the authors and checked their institutions? My database shows over 3,000 authors, most of them from accredited universities, national laboratories and corporations. Many of them are distinguished scientists. They include, for example, Nobel laureate Julian Schwinger; Heinz Gerischer, the Director of the Max Planck Institute for Physical Chemistry in Berlin; Dr. P. K. Iyengar, director of BARC and later chairman of the Indian Atomic Energy Commission; Prof. Melvin Miles, Fellow of China Lake; three editors of major plasma fusion and physics journals; a retired member of the French Atomic Energy Commission, and many top researchers from U.S. national laboratories.

"The problem was, hundreds of researchers all over the world scurried to reproduce the experiments, and invariably failed."

There is no evidence that hundreds of researchers all the world attempted to replicate this experiment. There are rumors to that effect, but most of these rumors trace back to one or two universities in the United States. If hundreds did attempt to replicate, they never documented their work. On the other hand, hundreds of other groups did succeed in replicating and they did document their work. There were meetings in 1989 and 1990 that included roughly 100 research groups mainly from mainstream institutions such as the Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division at China Lake, Amoco, SRI, Texas A&M, Los Alamos, Mitsubishi Res. Center, and BARC Bombay. By September 12, 1990, 92 groups in major laboratories reported replications. See: Will, F.G., Groups Reporting Cold Fusion Evidence. 1990, National Cold Fusion Institute: Salt Lake City, UT.:

"By the end of 1989, a panel of experts had conducted a Department of Energy review of the matter, and concluded there was no basis for the claims. As far as mainstream science was concerned, that was the final nail in cold fusion's coffin."

Cold fusion researchers consider this ERAB report highly prejudiced for many reasons. It was concluded in a rush long before there was time to perform and publish serious replications. The authors dismissed experimental evidence by pointing to theory, which is a violation of the scientific method. And they selectively ignored positive data. For example, ERAB report authors visited Dr. Melvin Miles at the China Lake Naval Weapons Laboratory when he had just begun experiments in cold fusion. He told them he had not observed excess heat or other evidence of fusion. Months later, he did observe significant heat. He contacted the authors. He informed them of his results and invited them to return. They ignored him and reported only his initial, negative results.

"It's tough not to admire the steely resolve of cold fusion advocates, who have faced derision, suffered in their careers, and labored to build their own scientific enterprise from scratch: their own meetings, their own journals, their own community."

Cold fusion does not have its own journal. All papers on the subject have either been published in mainstream peer-reviewed journals or conference proceedings. Cold fusion researchers have suffered in their careers.

"I find Anderson's use of the word "canon" here interesting; it implies that something is established beyond question, which cold fusion most certainly is not."

The signal-to-noise ratio in many of these papers is high and the experiments have been independently replicated hundreds of times. Therefore by the standards of experimental science the claim is proved beyond question.

"More to the point, this is a misleading statement, since very few of those 3000 papers were published in peer-reviewed journals. Certainly some of them were, but this fact should be noted, even just in passing."

Roughly 500 were published in mainstream, long-established peer-reviewed journals. This is based on a quick tally of papers in English in journals that have published many papers on cold fusion such as: Fusion Technol., J. Appl. Electrochem., J. Electrochem. Soc., Proc. Electrochem. Soc., Jap. J. Appl. Physics. Roughly 2500 others appear in conference proceedings and non-peer-reviewed journals. The total is 3,439 but several of these are not Journal papers. You can see the list here:

This list is incomplete. It does not include several hundred papers in Chinese and Japanese.

"And don't just take my word for it. Per WaPo's Weinberger, '[T]he most credible cold fusion advocates concede that the vast majority of those papers are of poor quality." She even cites a supporter who calls the collection of papers 'toxic waste.' That's hardly a resounding endorsement; it certainly wouldn't qualify as a 'canon.'"

Many cold fusion researchers disagree with this characterization. In any case, new areas of research often include many mistakes, and experts often dismiss most papers in an academic field as being substandard.

"Cold fusion's claims of verification are based on a bizarre kind of statistical rationale: sure, most of the results are negative, but they have now amassed such a statistically significant sampling of instances of claimed excess heat that at least some of those results must be valid . . ."

This is completely incorrect. The statement is true of many areas of physics, such as top quark research at Fermilab, but in cold fusion data is based on stand-alone runs with high signal-to-noise ratios for individual runs. McKubre's initial experiments failed to produce heat except on 50 occasions with many no runs, but with many other techniques – including McKubre's more recent experiments – the success rate is much higher.

Many cold fusion research experiments, such as those conducted by Iwamura et al (Mitsubishi and the National Synchrotron Laboratory) work 100% of the time. These experiments have been performed dozens of times over the past 14 years and they have produced a positive result in every run. (Each run of this particular experiment takes a few months so it can only be conducted several times a year.)

"Its biggest problem is the lack of reproducibility, even in the experiments of the most respected members of the cold fusion community."

This is incorrect, as noted above.

"McKubre, for instance, admits to Weinberger that out of 50,000 hours of experiments, only 50 recorded instances have occurred that "unmistakably" produced excess heat. That's just not good enough."

As noted, McKubre's replication rate is much higher now. However, if poor reproducibility is taken as a criterion to reject results, you must reject the top quark, many plasma fusion results, cloning mammals (which works less than 0.1% of the time), and semiconductor production before 1955, which failed roughly 90% of the time for many types of devices. This makes no scientific sense.

"And what of the implied vast scientific conspiracy to squelch further research and kill the field entirely (perhaps to ensure that the major investments in hot fusion research don't become obsolete)? The "evidence" for that is mostly anecdotal hearsay -- i.e., not true evidence at all."

There is no conspiracy. A conspiracy is defined as a surreptitious organized effort. Mainstream opposition to cold fusion is not secret and it is not organized. It is practiced quite openly. The evidence is well documented, and letters from the patent office, letters from universities and the Navy ordering its researchers not to publish results or attend conferences, attacks published in major magazines and newspapers, comments published by the Department of Energy and so on. See, for example:

"The ever-irascible Bob Park, author of Voodoo Science and editor of the weekly electronic newsletter, What's New, has been one of the fiercest of cold fusion's often-vitriolic critics. Yet he has corresponded with many cold fusion scientists over the years, and welcomed the second DOE review."

Park told McKubre, I, and several others that he is not read any papers on cold fusion but he is certain that all papers are incorrect. His comments on the subject confirm that he knows nothing about it. All of his assertions are factually and scientifically wrong.

"The scientific community as a whole has not unfairly dismissed the claims: it simply remains unconvinced by the erratic evidence that has been presented to it."

The scientific community as a whole has not read the peer-reviewed literature. Most critics of this subject – like Park – have not read any papers on the subject, they have not addressed the technical issues, and they know nothing about the instruments, techniques, the signal-to-noise ratio or any other detail. Therefore their opinions have no merit. A person cannot learn about cold fusion by ESP or by guessing but only by reading the actual scientific papers.

"Should cold fusion advocates one day beat the odds and provide truly reproducible, compelling evidence for low-energy nuclear reactions, the stodgy old scientific establishment might grumble a bit, but ultimately it will accept those findings and alter its theories accordingly. Because that's what the scientific method is all about."

Breakthroughs throughout history have met with irrational hostility that often lasts for years or decades, despite overwhelming evidence that the breakthrough is real. In public health, for example, there was famous opposition to hygiene (Semmelweis); pasteurization; studies showing the sex-specific effects of AIDS in women; and the fact that helicobacter causes stomach ulcers. Pasteurization was discovered in the 1860s, but pasteurization of milk was not made mandatory in New York City until 1917, when the U.S. army demanded that soldiers be given safe milk.

I suggest you review the literature more carefully. Our website,, includes a bibliography of 3,500 papers and the full text from over 500 papers, including papers from all of the authors and institutions listed above.


Jed Rothwell

The author and I both made a mistake in the messages above. The initial Fleischmann paper error was in neutron detection, not the gamma ray spectra. I should have said "neutrons were later confirmed in dozens of other experiments." Gamma emissions have also been confirmed. Tritium, excess heat, helium commensurate with the excess heat, heavy element transmutations, and other nuclear effects have been widely confirmed. Some other claimed nuclear effects have not been widely replicated, and remain tentative.

- Jed Rothwell

And the cold fusion zealouts waste no time weighing in, because anything that attempts to lend a dose of reality to their claims MUST, by definition, be "riddled with errors." Seriously, folks, if you want to supply links to your lengthy counter-arguments, that's fine, but please, this is not the place to try and drown readers by listing all your claimed "accumulated evidence." Write your own damn blog post. I tried to provide a few links to pro and con sites, but it's hardly exhaustive. Anyone interested in the technical specifics, counter-arguments, etc., can certainly follow those links, or check out the links at the end of the lengthy Wikipedia entry. And I'm sure Mr. Rothwell would be delighted to enlighten you further via email. :)

Fusion involves high energies. This energy is greater than 20 kiloelectron volts per particle. Cold fusion proceeds at low energies. Room temperature energy is less than one electron volt per particle. Main stream scientists have rejected cold fusion on the basis that it is energetically impossible.

Low temperature physics is assumed to be complete. It is not. It cannot describe the path of the quantum transition. Cold fusion is a transition quantum technology. It provides information on the path of the quantum transition. This value of this information goes beyond cold fusion. The observables produced by cold fusion experiments may enable man to classically control all of the natural forces.

Shame on you, Jennifer. If you don't want to read contradictory comments like the one by Mr. Rothwell above, then (1) refuse to allow comments on the site, or (2) don't write such irresponsible articles. But because in fact you did both, you actually invited that response. You were out of line to then insult Mr. Rothwell, whose citation and reference resources are so clearly superior to your own.

My own point is along a different line: Why has cold fusion research been so vilified, when it HAS demonstrated some results by reputable researchers in their respective fields, even if the results have not been consistently reproducible? You mention youself that there have been at least 50 "unmistakable" cases of excess heat generation. It would not be proper science to then say that those 50 cases out of 50,000 hours are statistically insignificant... because they are not. Not only would that be improper use of statistics (changing the measure in the middle of the calculation), it would also reflect a lack of understanding of the science involved. For example, if such an improper statistical argument were to be given merit, then the neutrinos detected by our best detectors would have to be called nonexistent, and could only be mere "statistical glitches". I think researchers in the field would disagree, and rightly so.

Now compare this whole cold fusion situation to the field of AI research. This field has been given lavish and even constant "mainstream" scientific and media attention, and consistent funding, when it has NEVER produced ANY measurable results of any sort! Yet we seldom see armchair scientists like Jennifer berating the researchers in this field, who have invariably claimed that a breakthrough is just around the corner, while never -- even once -- producing same.

And I mean that. Even the best, most celebrated chess-playing machine to date -- which is very good indeed and could be called the poster child for AI today -- is in principle nothing more than a calculator. A very big, very fast calculator on steroids, I will grant... but just a calculator. There is nothing about its processing or software that could honestly be said to be "AI" in any meaningful way, at all, in any measure.

I am not insulting the hardware or software engineers who are involved with chess-playing computers. Their work has been excellent. But even today, there is nothing about it that could honestly be called AI.

Yet the field of "AI Research" had been around since long before cold fusion claims. Decades longer. With MUCH less to show for itself. There have been no major breakthroughs even though they have always been "next month, maybe next year". Yet... this field and its results, shameful as they are, have not been attacked as cold fusion has been.

Can anyone provide an explanation for this hypocrisy? I certainly do not understand it. It seems to me that fields of endeavor that show some actual promise and even results, no matter how thin, should be given more legitimate attention than those that do not. Especially when they offer much more short-term promise to the human condition.

I almost forgot to add:

Your "appeal to authority", re: your stated reliance on peer-reviewed journals, may be misplaced.

A new study has concluded that as many as 90% of research articles that have appeared in just such peer-reviewed journals in recent years have subsequently been invalidated.

Apologies; I do not have the reference at hand, but I have seen it. If I turn it up, I will be happy to post it here.

Astute readers will note that I have only deleted one comment -- the third time Mr. Rothwell tried to comment, which I felt was excessive. For the record, I will not allow someone to highjack my blog to get on their personal soapbox. It's my blog, and MY soapbox. :) It's a big Internet out there, and Mr. Rothwell (and others like him) is welcome to start his OWN blog if he feels the need to over-react to the slightest bit of skepticism towards the claims of his chosen field. Then he can wail and gnash his teeth and question my competence and integrity all he likes.

The post was a critique of the media coverage of cold fusion, NOT an invitation to discuss the pros and cons of the field's merits. (And less biased readers would also note that my take is reasonably well-balanced, regardless.) There's plenty of other places for that if you're just spoiling for a fight. I have made it clear that this is NOT the place for that. Please respect it.

Well, pardon me for multiple posts, too. But you could have fooled me. The article certainly appeared to me to be a critique of the entire field, and not "balanced" at all. Perhaps that reflects some kind of misreading on my part of your choice of phrasing, but it is apparent that if so, I am not the only person who got that impression.

I am not defending cold fusion or the researchers. I thought it was pretty clear that my own point is that much research that is outside the mainstream seems to be treated differently by the media and the scientific community, even to the point that some of it seems to get re-defined as "mainstream" due to its popularity, even when research in the field has shown no merit whatever. My intent was only to point out this very inequality. I did not intend to engage in an argument of any sort.

However, I am still of the opinion that the very fact that you wrote that article, in the way you wrote it, and allowed public comments, could be construed as "trolling" for exactly the kind of comment that Mr. Rothwell posted.

Wow, Jennifer. You really hit a nerve, it seems. This is a fascinating spectacle for us, the REST of your readers, who appreciate you deeply for your fabulous, upbeat, entertaining, informed, and VERY good-natured blog.

Lonnie: I appreciate your viewpoint. Everyone brings their own subjective biases to bear when reading. But the post is pretty straightforward in its intent. It begins by discussing the lack of any kind of skepticism in the Wired article, and proceeds to tell an alternate "story" of cold fusion to demonstrate that the situation isn't as cut and dried as that -- an alternate story that is readily accessible from any number of respectable sources online, duly hyperlinked. I acknowledge that there are a handful of researchers doing solid work in this area, they just haven't yet convinced the majority of their colleagues -- and they have trouble being taken seriously because they ally themselves with some very questionable characters. I don't think cold fusion it a joke. I think it's a riveting tale of how human frailty can adversely affect the pursuit of science, in lots of different ways: self-delusion as to what one is (or isn't) seeing in one's experimental results, being too quick to reject/deride new ideas, etc. Nobody involved in the cold fusion controversy is beyond reproach; that's what makes it so compelling. If cold fusion comes up with truly convincing evidence in the future, I will happily join the mean nasty scientific establishment in altering my views accordingly. Until then, I stand by the post.

I never "troll." Ever. The mere fact of writing a post on a topic I find of passing interest does not equate trolling. I also moderate comments with a very light hand; it's a very rare occasion when I delete a comment that isn't obvious SPAM, and in general, I think I have some of the best regular commenters on the Internet. They're terrific: I love it when they correct tiny errors in my posts, because that's how I learn. Nonetheless, it's my prerogative to delete as I see fit; usually I do so as a means of directing the conversation. In Mr. Rothwell's case, he was showing classic signs of the zealot with no sense of boundaries who runs on and on with lengthy multiple comments, sometimes footnoted, refuting every single imagined slight by claiming "factual inaccuracy" :) -- a practice which quickly becomes tedious to both me and many of my readers. So after two comments, I started deleting him. He is also, BTW, extremely biased, being in charge of one of the main repositories of cold fusion papers. When it comes to critiques of my posts, I always consider the source.

Why talk about cold fusion at all? Because it demonstrates how science works, or doesn't work, and how it can go horribly wrong when egos and rivalries and such impinge on the process. I'm not out to convince anyone to accept or reject the field, merely to lay out the "story" as I see it, having watched it unfold over the last 20 years. nobody has to take my opinion as gospel. If people decide they want to learn more, they can follow the various links to do their own exploration and reach their own conclusions. Who knows, maybe Mr. Rothwell will get some converts out of it all...

I can appreciate what you say. I should point out, however, that I am rather new to the site, and was not aware of any deletion at all until you mentioned it above, after my initial post. So I was not responding to your having delete anything, only to the posts that I saw. So there might have been a misunderstanding, but please understand how it looked to me:

(1) You wrote an article that, despite some mention of differing points of view, is decidedly one-sided. (It is not my intent to argue the merits of one "side" or the other... only to point out that your position was obvious.) This article was written on a *public* blog.

(2) You allow public comments to this public blog.

(3) So then, it appeared to me (being ignorant of multiple or run-on posts), that you were then berating a respondent, merely for taking your bait. And that did not seem quite fair.

Just explaining my comment... it is indeed your blog, and I was not aware of all the circumstances.

Your bias is not at issue. Your assertions are factually wrong:

No author has ever claimed to have "amassed . . . a statistically significant sampling of instances" of excess heat. All claims are based on individual instances of heat production. (On single experimental runs, in other words.)

There are no journals dedicated to cold fusion research; all original research has been published in existing peer-reviewed journals or conference proceedings.

There is not a shred of evidence that "hundreds of laboratories" failed to replicate in 1989.

And so on . . .

As Moynahan put it, you are entitled to your own opinion but not your own facts.

You may have read these claims in newspapers and magazine articles, but the actual scientific literature proves they are incorrect. When you write about scientific research, I think you should base your statements on the literature and other original sources, rather than newspaper reports.

- Jed Rothwell

Seeing as how the point of the post was the media coverage of the issue, the focus on media sources was perfectly appropriate.

Granted, this blog belongs to Blumberg and she has every right to edit follow-up comments as she sees fit.

As for my own two cents:

Ironically, it strikes me as a bias reaction on Blumberg part to assume Mr. Rothwell must be "...extremely biased" simply because he is " charge of one of the main repositories of cold fusion papers." It's my understanding that while Mr. Rothwell's title is that of "librarian" who manages the on-line repository the site is actually managed by two individuals, Mr. Rothwell and Dr. Edmond Storms. Dr. Storms, now retired, had a 34 year career as a radiochemist at Los Alamos National Laboratory which included 18 years in cold fusion science. Dr. Storms has recently published a long overdue book on the fascinating subject of cold fusion, a subject he obviously has accumulated years of personal experience in researching.

For a brief interview on Dr. Storms see:

At what point does being a librarian who manages a collection of scientific research papers make them "bias"? How does that work! If Blumberg suspects Rothwell shows signs of being bias it seems to me that she would also have to apply the same set of personal standards (personal opinions), perhaps even more harshly, towards Dr. Storms activities because of his 18 years of cold fusion research. Which begs the question: What criteria is actually being used here on librarians (and perhaps research scientists as well) with all their accumulated experience on this subject, making their opinions bias, their contributions dismissible?

But then it gets personal. Well, who is perfect, certainly not me! I note that Blumberg goes farther in her analysis of Rothwell, stating he shows "...classic signs of a zealot with no sense of boundaries..." It seems to me that when someone like Mr. Rothwell makes the effort to meticulously correct several misrepresentations and factual inaccuracies made by others like Blumberg, at worst, their efforts may be considered an annoyance by the individual whose recent work is being challenged. In so far as Mr. Rothwell and his librarian duties are concerned, I suspect he takes his librarian work seriously. Who better than a librarian to KNOW when factual inaccuracies are being made in regards to a subject they have spent years accumulating data on. OTOH, Analyzing Rothwell's responses, classifying them as belonging to that of a "zealot" in my view ironically digs the author, Blumberg, only deeper into a bias laden hole dug themselves.

Steven V Johnson

This blog does not "belong to Blumberg," a regular reader who left a two-sentence comment some time back.

This comment was made in the blog - "McKubre, for instance, admits to Weinberger that out of 50,000 hours of experiments, only 50 recorded instances have occurred that "unmistakably" produced excess heat. That's just not good enough". This shows a misunderstanding of reality. Actually, only one UNMISTAKABLE incidence of excess heat in 50,000 to the power of ten trillion hours of experiments is enough to establish the reality of the effect beyond doubt. The blogger confuses the sad state of what passes for some scientific judgement these days, with something worthy of respect. Unfortunately, science by weight of numbers of people's beliefs seems to give more weight to those prejudices and less to OBJECTIVE reality...

I have no dog in this fight. (While I'd love to have Mr Fusion on my desk, I'm not holding my breath.) But I am puzzled by this:

--- snip ---
'McKubre, for instance, admits to Weinberger that out of 50,000 hours of experiments, only 50 recorded instances have occurred that "unmistakably" produced excess heat. That's just not good enough.'
--- snip ---

How many "unmistakable" events are "good enough" to allow further research without ridicule? The history of science is replete with examples of experiments that worked erratically, until the hidden variable was exposed.

It may be likely that those "unmistakable" events were, in fact, mistaken. It's also possible (albeit unlikely) that they are the result of some unrecognized differences between the runs.

Leaving aside the snake oil that unsettled science attracts, where is the shame in trying to determine what underlies the events?



You posted:

'This blog does not "belong to Blumberg," a regular reader who left a two-sentence comment some time back.'

I now see my mistake. My apologies,

The way the formatting of this blog is laid out I mistook the "posted by" name as belonging to the text below – what is written between two horizontal lines. Visually speaking that looks like a block of text, including the "Posted by" name posted above.

As stated before, even I make mistakes! ;-)

Steven V Johnson

So -- can I have a cup of tea yet? :)

A. W. wrote:

"It may be likely that those 'unmistakable' events were, in fact, mistaken."

That is extremely unlikely, because similar events have been replicated in over 180 other laboratories, and because the events can now be replicated far more often; close to 100% of the time by McKubre and others. Furthermore, tritium, helium, neutrons, gamma rays, transmutations and other nuclear effects are also measured. A mistake in calorimetry cannot cause mistakes in tritium detection or mass spectroscopy. (Some instrument types can interfere with one-another, but not these.)

"It's also possible (albeit unlikely) that they are the result of some unrecognized differences between the runs."

The differences between the runs was readily observable, and described by McKubre, Storms and others in detail. In runs that did not produce excess heat, the loading, OCV, current density, flux and other necessary conditions could not be achieved. Whenever they were achieved, excess heat was always produced. In other words, the effect is 100% reproducible when the known control parameters reach certain levels, but it has been very difficult to push the parameters up to these levels. (It is now considerably easier.)

As McKubre explained: "We observe a lack of reproducibility among replicates which we ascribe to metallurgical, chemical, or physical differences presently beyond our control."

In many of the failed experiments, the problem is apparent even to naked eye. The cathodes bend and crack apart under the tremendous pressure of high loading. See: Storms, E., How to produce the Pons-Fleischmann effect. Fusion Technol., 1996. 29: p. 261.

Nashville Bill asked:

"So -- can I have a cup of tea yet?"

No, but if you have $20 million, a team of experts, and one of the world's largest synchrotrons I can show you how to use cold fusion to transmute elements in nearly macroscopic amounts, with 100% reproducibility. That research may, with time, reveal enough of the mechanism to allow a cup of tea.

Cold fusion is much more difficult than people imagine. The newspapers often describe it as "simple" experiment. I have seen many experiments in person, and read about hundreds of others, and I have yet to see one that I would describe as "simple" or "easy." It is roughly as difficult as making your own semiconductor from scratch.

- Jed Rothwell

Hi Jennifer,

I was Mark Anderson's editor on the Wired News article you refer to. I saw the piece as a glimpse into a world where a group of aging researchers refuse to give up on something that the rest of the world has. We never intended to be boosters for cold fusion. We describe the specious 1989 claims, the dearth of reproducible results and the general derision cold fusion researchers receive from other scientists. We also never intended to, and I don't think we have, implied as you suggest some kind of mainstream science conspiracy to discredit cold fusion.

Now that I see the nerve the article struck, I realize we should have inserted more skepticism. At the very least we should have included the voice of someone who strongly refuted cold fusion. So I've written a post on our Wired Science blog ( linking to your post, and linked to the WS post from Anderson's original story.

Best regards,
Kristen Philipkoski

Kristen Philipkoski described the "the dearth of reproducible results."

There is no such dearth. The cold fusion effect has been replicated in hundreds of world-class laboratories, and these replications have been published in leading peer-reviewed journals. When other experimental findings are replicated hundreds of times, no one says there is a "dearth" of evidence. Findings such as high temperature superconducting and cloning mammals were accepted long before 100 replications were reported.

"Now that I see the nerve the article struck, I realize we should have inserted more skepticism."

Skepticism based on what? Rumors? The opinions of people who know nothing about the research? I suggest you ignore the "nerve" that has been struck and stick to the peer-reviewed scientific literature. You will find hundreds of papers proving that cold fusion does exist, and also 5 or 10 papers written by skeptics who have tried to find errors in the experiments to prove cold fusion does not exist. Compare the two sets of papers and decide which is right.

You will find most of the skeptical papers at, because we strive to be fair and to represent all points of view. See the ERAB report and papers by Jones and Morrison. Outside of our library, see the book by Huizenga. In my opinion the skeptical arguments have no merit, but I invite you to read them and judge for yourself.

- Jed Rothwell


Boy, this takes me back to the good old days at Earth Island Journal, fending off the chemtrails and perpetual motion machine folks and the like.

I'm not certain I wanted to go back, but oh well.

And after posting the above, I clicked over to Mr. Rothwell's site and saw that familiar "Infinite Energy" logo. Shudder.

Ah, good old Jed Rothwell, wrong as always. The Pons and Fleischman paper was not "in print" at the time of the press conference. It had just been accepted and the accepted version was reportedly not the one that was finally published (in May, as I recall). Details of that particular history are clearly documented in Frank Close's book, which is a must read by anyone interested in that period of time. Frank Close shows the original gamma ray figure, which has the peak at the wrong energy. [See pp 97, 115, 150, and 166, which shows that the shape is also wrong.] That first figure has always been the most interesting part of the entire story.

Jed, does your library include the figure of the "gamma ray data" from the original 13 March 1989 preprint? Your library lacks historical value until it contains the original preprint and the revised version sent on 22 March as well as a copy of the published paper and its astounding set of errata. [How many scientists have seen a paper where one of the three authors was left off and had to added in an erratum?]

The paper that was "in print", in that it had actually been printed, was the abstract of Steve Jones' invited talk at the APS meeting in Baltimore. Similarly, the strongest defense of a patent would not be a press conference but the notarized description of a planned experiment that existed in Steve Jones' lab notebook. Pons and Fleischman held the press conference to do an end run around their gentleman's agreement with Steve Jones on joint submission of papers to Nature, which they thought had been violated by his APS abstract, hence their "preliminary note" to JEChem.

Anyone who knows that will also know the statement in the Wired article "Today's understanding of nuclear fusion, which involves the synthesis of two hydrogens to make one helium in an energy-creating reaction, doesn't allow for the type of reaction reported in 1989." is false as well as being "not even wrong". (Synthesis of two hydrogens? Nonsense.) There were several papers, and even a Scientific American article, explaining how it might be done.

Jed, where is the water heater they promised us by Christmas of 1989?

The central problem in Cold Fusion is that the proponents cannot tell you how to build something that will produce a certain amount of excess heat every time, and where you will get 10x the heat if you scale it up by a factor of 10, again in a way that they can describe in detail. They get "results" once in a while, but they seem to end up like the Wizard of Oz and his balloon: "I don't know how it works!" As others noted in the discussion, there are plenty of examples in science where an uncontrolled parameter produced "results" that were not what they appeared to be at first. The two key steps in science are (1) you can make the experiment work exactly the same way every time and (2) you can tell someone else how to do it and make it work the same way every time. Cold Fusion ran into trouble at step 1. Pons and Fleischman could not deliver on the prototype commercial hot water heater they promised us by the end of 1989. As a result, most of those "replication" attempts were actually variations on several different experiments as people tried (and still try) to find and control the unknown variables. Which is what they should do.

Jed also makes conflicting claims about what McKubre has actually done. Amazingly, the success rate of McKubre's experiments grows from "much higher" to "100%", although the reader will note that it is 100% when it works a certain way, but Jed says it does not work that way 100% of the time even when the experiment is done exactly the same way. Since that means it is not fully reproducible, Jed supports what Jennifer said in her article. (I recommend that you read McKubre's papers if you are interested in what McKubre has done. McKubre makes very precise scientific statements in his papers.)

A PS to Frank Znidarsic:
Look up muon catalyzed fusion and the theoretical work on what might happen (at an extremely low rate, not of any practical value) in the solid state. The work before 1989 contains flaws, but refined calculations (see Koonin and others) says there is no reason it should be zero. The sensitivity of nuclear detection methods allow one to see effects with very small signatures.

A PS to Steven Johnson:
Jed has been a true believer in cold fusion since Day 1, and his approach to this topic has always emphasized rhetoric over reality. Look no further than his dismissal of the observation about the number of scientists, both physicists and electrochemists (sometimes teams involving both at the same time), who attempted to replicate the experiment in 1989. There were a dozen at my university alone, and more than a dozen teams reported their negative results at the Baltimore APS meeting. A prime example of zealotry at work is his preposterous assertion that the top quark cannot be observed in a reproducible fashion. Another example of his zealotry is the silly attack on Jennifer about the length of the actual full paper, which Jed confuses with the Preliminary Note. The Preliminary Note, like its name says, promised a later paper that would document its claims in detail. You can see it references in the Note. That later paper is quite long, yet lacks any mention of some important claims in the Note.

Perhaps Jed's highlight is when he claims that hundreds of researchers had done confirming experiments and that 100 groups attended a meeting in 1989, while asserting that the DOE ERAB report could not be correct because there had not been "time to perform and publish serious replications" before the end of 1989. Of course, you don't see him say that all of those 100 groups that attended a 1989 meeting had gotten the same results as Pons and Fleischman, or that all of those "confirmations" were sent to journals in 1989 or 1990.

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    Physics Cocktails

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