published in Telepolis,
January 22, 2005,
Martin Fleischmann became world-famous when on March 23, 1989 he
reported, along with his colleague Prof. Dr. Stanley Pons, the
discovery of cold nuclear fusion in a simple tabletop
electrolysis experiment at room temperature. The Nobel prize
seemed in reach for them. But since some laboratories failed to
reproduce the results, scientific and public opinion changed
against their favour. Cold fusion has long been a synonym for an
error in science. In this interview, made at the 11th
International Conference on Cold Fusion before the 2004
Department of Energy Review result became public, Fleischmann
speaks about how he deals with criticism, the role of quantum
theory, and the demise of a purely consuming society.
Fleischmann was born on March 29, 1927 in Carlsbad,
Czechoslovakia. Because he was adopted by a Jewish family he and
his family were forced to flee from the German soldiers to
England. At London’s Imperial College and Southampton
University he ascended to become a world-renowned
electrochemist. His last publication (http://lenr-canr.org/acrobat/SzpakSthermalbeh.pdf)
with US Navy scientists was one of the basic papers considered
by the Department of Energy reviewers. Fleischmann lives with
his wife in Wiltshire, England.
long be “kicking it in the Caribbean“ – to use a famous
quote from the Pulp Fiction movie – but you’re here
presenting your thoughts on quantum mechanics. Can’t you let
you work in this field and you have a negative result, you can
walk away from it. It doesn’t hold. But if you get a positive
result, then of course it gets a hold of you. But I’m going to
give up. My wife says, you keep on saying that you’re going to
give up. But I really haven’t done anything new since 1995.
I’ve made certain number of observations which are still
valid, and I would have to reinterpret them. But in fact I have
not reinterpreted them. I’ve just given the same old
interpretation as I’ve always given to those observations.
But if you
plan to give up maybe you should wait until the end of the year
because the U.S. Department of Energy will be putting out
don’t know. I think that they will be putting out another
report. But it is very difficult to see how a subject like this
can attract government funding. This is difficult, because you
have to demonstrate some sort of requirement. You have to say is
there a military requirement? Or is there a civilian
requirement? I think there is… there are requirements. But our
society does not respond in that way anymore.
Ministry of Research wants to wait for the Department of Energy
report before it acts in any way.
That is so stupid! Why is everybody waiting for America when it
comes to research?
said “cold fusion” is a horrible term. Why?
was a term pushed on us by other people. But what we do is not
fusion in the conventional sense – the fusion process as
recognised by hot fusion. And the fact that it was given that
name polarized people’s opinions. They said, "Well, it
has to be like hot fusion. But it isn’t like hot fusion. There
are no nuclear signatures. So it can’t be fusion. So you’re
all wrong." they said. That’s the way it happened.
If it had been called something else it might still have
happened, but it is less likely to have happened.
Here is the
"sixty-four-dollar" question: Why is heat and helium-4
produced in electrolysis experiments involving heavy water and
afraid it is because two deuterons fuse together to form
helium-4 and heat. That is actually true. But that still isn’t
the conventional nuclear signature of hot fusion. In hot fusion
it would have to produce tritium and a proton or helium-3 and a
neutron or helium-4 and a gamma ray. This is if you had two
particles hitting each other at enormous energy.
people that assumed that the result should be as in hot fusion
fail to consider the different environment of your experiment?
it's completely crazy! I think they will come to realize that.
did you initially start your experiments?
whole subject was driven by the need to find demonstration of
the quantum electro dynamic paradigm. We’ve had the classical
paradigm of Newtonian mechanics. We’ve had Planck’s quantum
mechanical paradigm. I think most people who work in physical
science realize the limitations of the quantum mechanical
paradigm and that it has to be replaced by the quantum electro
dynamic paradigm, nevertheless the introduction of that paradigm
is strongly resisted. And if you introduce the quantum electro
dynamic paradigm you see that what is called cold fusion might
could nuclear fusion at room temperature be explained using quantum electrodynamics?
if you think about quantum electro dynamics you realize that you
get a large assembly, a large collection of atoms and molecules
behaving as a single quantum system. So then you say, if I build
a small amount of energy per atom into this large assembly of
atoms and molecules then I will have a very large energy. And
that large energy of course translates in the end to observable
physics actually drove your research?
had worked since the 1960s on quantum electro dynamics in
conventional chemistry. I had realized that all those systems
had to be modeled in terms of quantum electro dynamics. And
then I said, well, what is the most extreme question we can pose
in quantum electro dynamics? And that is, can we get a nuclear
effect by chemical means? I thought it would happen, but you
might not be able to observe it. What happened is that it is
possible and you can observe it.
what drove your cold fusion research?
was the underlying question. I thought it had to be true, but I
thought that we would not be able to observe it.
the next generation after yours, you could say, that is now
continuing what you had started …
one hopes …
what is for you the most interesting work being advanced by this
generation in the field?
the most interesting work that has been done, in my opinion, is
the work which was done in Frascati, which is not mentioned by
the current people coming from Frascati. That is the work which
was started by the late Prof. Preparata, his colleague Emilio
Del Guidice, Antonella De Ninno, and Antonio Fratolillo on the
effect of electric fields in creating more extreme conditions in
the lattice, leading to the generation of excess heat and the
generation of helium-4. To me that is the most significant
result which has been reported in the last two years.
Stanley Pons actually do?
don’t know what has happened to him. He’s sort of
disappeared. I am not in contact with him although I would be
prepared to be in contact with him. But he obviously doesn’t
want to be in contact with me. As far as I’m concerned he has
disappeared, which is very sad.
fusion related events in your life do you like to remember?
(laughs) No, I don’t really. This has been a terrible
you must have at least met some nice people?
course there are people I appreciate meeting, but on the whole,
when you get into this sort of situation, when you become a
non-person, you become extruded from the society – but
that’s alright, that people ignore me. To hell with
reputation! In science there’s only one thing which matters.
And that is the experiments. People periodically forget that you
can say, "well, something might be possible, it might not
be possible, now let’s put it to the test."
your critics also did experiments.
was terrible! There were three studies which did us a great deal
of harm. One was the study in the California Institute of
Technology. Another one was the one in MIT. And the third one
was in Harwell. MIT simply changed a graph. They changed the
baseline. And actually if you look at Nathan Lewis’ results (CalTech)
rather carefully you will come to the conclusion that he
observed excess heat! The only study which was honestly reported
was the study in Harwell. That was actually honestly reported.
They actually observed the generation of excess heat. They did
not look at their data with sufficient care, but if you look at
their data with sufficient care, you will see they observed the
generation of excess heat – as I pointed out to them. I wrote
to the head of the laboratory and said you observed excess heat
– look at your results!
mistake have you made in your life?
I’ve made plenty of mistakes.
difficult for me because when I make a mistake I acknowledge it.
I say I made a mistake. It’s no big deal. I made a mistake.
You put it right. So, I don’t really remember. In truth, I
don’t make many mistakes.
you are pessimistic about the future.
pessimistic about science.
of science or the future in general?
not necessarily… In the short term I’m not pessimistic about
the future, but I think that we have to acknowledge that our
society has become orientated towards consumption rather than
production. And a society that becomes orientated towards
consumption abandons scientific investigation. There are plenty
of historical precedents of this phenomenon. And in the end,
what has happened in the past is that societies which abandon
the pursuit of science die. Our society will not necessarily
die, but it will become unimportant.
fusion should be developed to an energy source I’d like to
thank you and leave the last words to you.
I hope and pray that Germany will contribute to this science. It
has a long scientific tradition, which could contribute a great
deal to advance this subject. And I hope
that the topic will be reconsidered and that especially the
young people will enter the field and produce useful results.
That’s my hope.