Science in Neglect
Nobel Laureate Speaks Out For Cold Fusion

By Haiko Lietz, July 8th, 2004

Copyright 2005 New Energy Times

For over 50 years the annual meetings  in Lindau, Germany (http://www.lindau-Nobel.de/), offer students and Nobel laureates the opportunity for interdisciplinary discussion and exchange. This year, Professor Brian Josephson, who had received his Nobel prize in 1973 for the discovery of a superconducting electronic switch, spoke about rejection of real empirical phenomena by the scientific community (http://www.lindau-nobel.de/images/ock/media/downloads/Media_1703187544.htm.) By saying that cold fusion appeared to be real, and the modern equivalent to continental drift, the theoretical physicist stirred a controversial but rather open-minded debate.

In 1912, Alfred Wegener proposed the theory of continental drift which says that all continents once began as a single landmass in primitive times and subsequently drifted apart. Despite the way the south American and African coast lines fit together and the agreement of fossils and rocks on matching places of the two continents, Wegener's theory was dismissed. The argument was, it was simply impossible since rocks couldn't move at that rate. It was not until the 40s that continental drift prevailed. This shows, according to the Nobel laureate, "how easily the scientific community can dismiss an idea despite extremely strong evidence". Josephson sees the argument, "that no mechanism is known," being echoed today against cold fusion.

Back in 1989 chemistry professors Pons and Fleischmann claimed having reached nuclear fusion at room temperature. An advisory board to the United States Department of Energy was mandated to clarify the claims that - if real - could contribute to the solution of the energy problem in a revolutionary way. Professor Josephson now accuses the department of having swept the discovery under the rug. Once again the argument was that cold fusion "would be contrary to all understanding" and "would require the invention of an entirely new nuclear process" (http://www.newenergytimes.com/government/DOE1989/sec5.shtml) The physicist regards this as untenable argumentation: "Sometimes it does happen in science that discoveries are made contrary to previous understanding, like superconductivity." As regards reproducibility, Josephson cited Steven Krivit's survey that the average reproducibility of cold fusion experiments had advanced from 45 to 83 percent in the last five years (http://www.newenergytimes.com/Reports/ColdFusionReproducibility.shtml.) The reason the scientific community today doesn't know about this, was that cold fusion was being blocked from the prominent broad-audience science journals.

In fact there are numerous cases of rejections of cold fusion papers (http://blake.montclair.edu/~kowalskil/cf/88rejections.html.) Three months ago the US Department of Energy pledged  to review the experimental data that has come up since 1989 (http://www.physicstoday.org/vol-57/iss-4/p27.html.) The Nobel laureate thinks that, if they are honest, they could presumably only come to the conclusion, that it's a real phenomenon: "I think it'll be difficult to come to any another conclusion at this point as long as they actually look at the work that's being done." If the DoE will use the argument that "if an experiment claims success then there must be something wrong with it," Josephson would hope "that that argument be rejected."

The German ministry of research estimates that cold fusion - if real - would be an "big step towards a worldwide sustainable energy supply". The review of the American colleagues is therefore being expected with great interest. Should there be any evidence that cold fusion were indeed real Berlin would again deal with this question.

Haiko Lietz
Science Reporter, Germany
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