January 31, 2011
Issue #36


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21. Showdown at the APS Physics Corral

By Steven B. Krivit

Several years ago, an exchange took place between two outspoken theoretical physicists: one, a proponent of "cold fusion," the other, a skeptic.

Their stories go back many years.

In 1989, Steven E. Koonin attacked the characters of "cold fusion" discoverers Martin Fleischmann and Stanley Pons at the American Physical Society meeting in Baltimore, Maryland.

‘‘We are suffering from incompetence and perhaps delusion from Fleischmann and Pons,’’ Koonin said.

At the time, Koonin was a professor at California Institute of Technology; he is now the undersecretary for science at the U.S. Department of Energy.

Scott Chubb was a theoretical physicist with the Naval Research Laboratory, and he is now the editor of Infinite Energy magazine and is a staunch believer in cold fusion.

Even after he acknowledged that SRI International's Michael McKubre had not, in fact, experimentally proven the existence of "cold fusion," Chubb maintained that there was still a finite probability that "cold fusion" could be taking place. 

Chubb organized cold fusion sessions at the March American Physical Society meetings from 1999 through 2009, but he was unable to organize the session in 2010. The session is back again this year.

At the 2006 meeting, the following exchange took place March 16 between Chubb and Koonin after Koonin's keynote speech in front of an audience of hundreds. Chubb has asked New Energy Times to make the recording and transcript publicly available.


Scott Chubb: An interesting sort of element in this is you've created a very conventional sort of picture here, but 17 years ago, right here, in the nighttime session, an issue was presented that actually is quite real, and you haven't been paying attention to it. Most people haven't. There's going to be a session on this tomorrow. I'm referring to what is now known as condensed matter nuclear science. You spoke very forthrightly about it about 17 years ago. It was very [confusing then], and it might be nice if you could re-examine that.

Now I know that it's going to take a while for the technology to evolve, and that's another question that I have, which is, if we really do go the nuclear route, there are a lot of hidden pitfalls there: increased demand, need for breeders and so forth. So I appreciate your comments on both. And it would be nice, if you had the time, for you to come to our session, it's at 2:30; it's W41 - Cold Fusion.

Steven Koonin: I did not say the fusion word at all during this talk.

Scott Chubb: I didn't, either. I said condensed matter nuclear science; you called it fusion.

SK: You said cold fusion.

SC: That's the name of our session.

SK: Let me take them in order. ... My timeframe was 25 years out. Fusion's ...

SC: I said condensed matter nuclear science. You haven't been paying attention to it ...

[inaudible, talking over each other]

SK: Magnetic and inertial fusion are at least 25 years out; however, ...

SC: I said condensed matter nuclear science. You haven't been paying attention to it. It would be nice if you would come ... all right ...

SK: So here's what I think of - condensed matter nuclear science, OK? BP pays me to pay attention to [evolving?] technologies ...

SC: Good.

SK: OK? And we have tried to invest ...

SC: Good! Great!

SK: And they pay me to make judgments about that ...


SK: OK? For better or for worse ...

SC: What?

SK: I have decided that that's not something I want to invest in right now ...

SC: You might want to look at the proceedings of ICCF-11 and ICCF-10.

[inaudible, talking over each other]

SK: Can I finish my response, please, OK?


SK: You know, if I make the wrong call, maybe I'll lose my job.

SC: And I hope you do.

SK: Good.

SC: Good.

SK: Let's just say there are a lot of people in the venture capital business who are just hungry for new technologies. [If] one of them picks it up and then pursues ...

[inaudible, talking over each other]

SC: I apologize for saying you should lose your job. I didn't mean that. I know that it was a confused time in 1989.


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