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Excess heat without light
August 31, 2012 1:04 AM   Subscribe

Martin Fleischmann, who with Stanley Pons claimed in a press conference to have observed sustained nuclear fusion in a room-temperature experiment, died on August third at age 85.

Fleischmann and Pons were immediately criticized for having announced their breakthrough at a press conference rather than in the peer-reviewed technical literature, criticism which was apparently justified when hundreds of independent efforts over the next year completely failed to produce any convincing evidence for the effect.

Despite the lack of experimental evidence, the immense commercial potential of low-energy nuclear fusion sustains a small community of researchers who interact intermittently with the mainstream physics community. New claims for cold fusion appear occasionally and are treated with extreme prejudice. A 2002 claim of neutron production in collapsing bubbles led, after several years of scientific and ethical investigations, to the principal investigator being barred from receiving federal funding. A machine operated in early 2011 (previously) as a "demonstration" of excess energy production was "slated for mass production" by the end of 2011, but has not, shockingly, materialized.
posted by fantabulous timewaster (19 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
They forgot to add Alka Seltzer!
posted by losethos at 1:32 AM on August 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


posted by fantabulous timewaster

Eponysterical!
posted by Optamystic at 1:40 AM on August 31, 2012 [5 favorites]


I guess this time a second opinion is unnecessary.
posted by DangerIsMyMiddleName at 2:13 AM on August 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's a shame Fleischmann is known mainly for the CF debacle these days. In his time he was a very respected electrochemistry researcher. In fact it was his eminence in that field which contributed to his initial claims being taken so seriously despite such a lack of evidence.
posted by Mokusatsu at 2:40 AM on August 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


It's a shame Fleischmann is known mainly for the CF debacle these days.

But like Geraldo Rivera and Al Capone's vaults when you create public expectations for something that ends up being empty, it is fair to receive some lumps.

i recall the whole CF event as a real circus and the late Dr. Fleishmann and his colleague had no one to blame for this other than themselves.

So yeah, it's a shame, but hardly an undeserved one.
posted by three blind mice at 3:06 AM on August 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


Obit from the Telegraph.
posted by markdj at 4:59 AM on August 31, 2012


> the immense commercial potential of low-energy nuclear fusion

Not really. Gallons of slightly warm water you can get as a waste stream from many industrial processes; thermal power plants can't give the stuff away. Now, if you could make even a little dry steam ...
posted by scruss at 6:22 AM on August 31, 2012


As noted elsewhere on the big bad Internet:
Finally, B knows that I will be publishing a book in the fall called Arts of Truth. One of its examples is EEStor, discussed in more detail than given here. That has to be weighing on him. He has a draft of that portion from the March version.

The book also takes on low energy nuclear reactions (LENR), which I note is another thread here. Contrary to EEStor, LENR actually does exist. It is not cold fusion. It is weak nuclear force interactions described by Widom Larsen theory, anticipated by Julius Schwinger back in 1993. But what no one yet knows is whether it is commercially scalable to useful products. My guess is yes, but has been under researched because of taint by cold fusion, and humbug hype such as E-Cat, Blacklight Power, or EEStor. Makes a nice counterpoint example.
posted by rough ashlar at 6:36 AM on August 31, 2012


Contrary to EEStor, LENR actually does exist. It is not cold fusion.

Except that your own link says it is "also known as Cold Fusion".
posted by Skeptic at 7:07 AM on August 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


Call it cold fusion, LENR, weak nuclear force interaction - there seems to be some form of effect going on that isn't understood and duplicatable via public recipe. I'd not be shocked that it won't ever be a power source but once understood will be useful as a sensor of some type.

Chasing LENR as 'free power' doesn't address the underpriced energy modern humans are used to paying for and the unnatural 24x7 flow rate of that abnormally cheap energy. A energy system with even cheaper costs is a dream it is easy to get people interested in hearing about - and that was a part of the Pons/Fleishman media feeding frenzy.
posted by rough ashlar at 7:25 AM on August 31, 2012


Contrary to EEStor, LENR actually does exist. It is not cold fusion.


This site features a library of papers on LENR, Low Energy Nuclear Reactions, also known as Cold Fusion. (CANR, Chemically Assisted Nuclear Reactions is another term for this phenomenon.) The library includes more than 1,000 original scientific papers reprinted with permission from the authors and publishers. The papers are linked to a bibliography of over 3,500 journal papers, news articles and books about LENR.

wat
posted by lazaruslong at 7:29 AM on August 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


Can't be too surprising Fleischmann was an electrochemist, because the sensibility behind the original experiment is so clearly chemical-- anytime a chemist sees a reaction which is energetically favorable but is occurring only at a very low rate because of very high activation energy, his or her instinct is to search for a catalyst, and it looks to me as if Pons and Fleischmann thought they had one in that old standby palladium.

At the time the furor broke, I was also not surprised it came out of the University of Utah, given the pervasive influence there of people who think nothing of latter day miracles of another kind. I was interested to read just now in the Wikipedia article on Fleischmann that the university played a role in the way the results were announced:
The details have not surfaced, but it would seem that the University of Utah wanted to establish priority over the discovery and its patents by making a public announcement before the publication.[13][14] In an interview with 60 Minutes on 19 April 2009, Fleischmann said that the public announcement was the university's idea, and that he regretted doing it.[15] This decision would later cause heavy criticism against Fleischmann and Pons, being perceived as a breach of how science is usually communicated to other scientists.[14]
posted by jamjam at 9:24 AM on August 31, 2012


I was interested to read just now in the Wikipedia article on Fleischmann that the university played a role in the way the results were announced:

That explanation is bunkum. In patents, you don't "establish priority" by a public announcement. In the US (and only until the America Invents Act kicks in), the date of invention can be established by signed and witnessed research notebooks. In the rest of the world the date of invention is irrelevant, what counts is the date of first (patent application) filing. Indeed, in most countries, such a public announcement would boomerang, since it would constitute prior art against a later patent application even by the same person.

Myself, I've always thought that this was a huge pump-and-dump scheme playing the palladium markets.
posted by Skeptic at 9:46 AM on August 31, 2012


scruss writes "Gallons of slightly warm water you can get as a waste stream from many industrial processes; thermal power plants can't give the stuff away. "

It's really a failure of the system that district heating, once just an expected infrastructure in so many urban environments, has fallen by the way side.
posted by Mitheral at 10:18 AM on August 31, 2012


ColdFusion is very real. In fact this site is running on it right now.

I'll get my coat
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 2:30 PM on August 31, 2012


ColdFusion is very real. In fact this site is running on it right now.

There is no rational, duplicatable process for using ColdFusion to power a website, and in fact many of us would claim such a feat is impossible in practice
posted by crayz at 3:12 PM on August 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


On the other hand if those kooks keep doggedly pursuing their grail, who knows??

Any complaints about these statements?
“We don’t judge we measure"
“We just want to follow the scientific method and go where the data leads us”

Once I saw how viciously Robert Park (AIP PR) went after P&F, I smelled the same stink of dogmatic certainty that suppressed Galileo ... maintained the superstitions of Aristotle for two millenia ... destroyed all knowledge of Greek technical achievement (e.g. Antikythera) for a millenium.

Dogmatism doesn't become science. Experiments do. Scientism (as espoused by people certain that current theory is sacrosanct ... or who are motivated by money, politics) is currently one of the greatest forces impeding discovery.

"Every great advance in natural knowledge has involved the absolute rejection of authority." -- Thomas Huxley
posted by Twang at 4:24 PM on August 31, 2012


Galileo seems to be mentioned a lot by the defenders of pathological science. I've been following a lot of coldfusion/lenr stuff and there's always this inconsistent "anomolous heat". I think the basic problem is that everything can generate heat so there's always going to be some extra heat left unaccounted. The e-cat solves the inconsistency problem by boldly plugging the thing into 220 volt mains- yay lots of heat.

Twang: Do you know there are about 50 dedicated e-cat blogs? The whole thing is kept alive by bloggers blogging about other blogs.
posted by bhnyc at 5:50 PM on August 31, 2012


> It's really a failure of the system that district heating ... has fallen by the way side.

I wasn't talking about that. I was once asked to consider the viability of a system that generated appx 5 litres/min of water warmed by 2°C. You can do almost nothing with such a small ΔT.

I really like district heating, but a lot of people don't like the idea of living or working near a power plant. Also, many plant operators don't like that it sometimes requires a small reduction in (electrical) generation efficiency, as it's preferable to have a slightly higher exhaust temperature for more efficient heating. The overall system efficiency is much higher, but if there's no link between the heat producer and the consumer, there's little incentive.
posted by scruss at 6:51 PM on August 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


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