Sunday, January 23, 2011

Cold Fusion?

I really don't know what to make of this. Is it a load of bullshit or is it true? If it is true it is a major game-changer. It's the kind of thing that could utterly transform the world. Go and read the article over on WUWT and the ensuing comments.

Cold fusion isn’t usual fare for WUWT, at best it’s not a focus here, at worst it’s sorry science, and we talk about that enough already. However, it never has died, and this week there’s news about it going commercial. Well, it won’t be available for a couple years or so, but the excitement comes from a device that takes 400 watts of electrical power in and produces 12,000 watts of heat out.

Most people regard cold fusion as a black eye on science. It’s credited with the advent of science by press release and its extraordinary claims were hard to reproduce. Yet, unlike the polywater fiasco of the 1970s, cold fusion has never been explained away and several experiments have been successfully reproduced. Neutrons, tritium, and other products kept some researchers working long after others had given up. Even muons (from Svensmark’s Chilling Stars) have been suggested as a catalyst. Everyone agrees that theoretical help would provide a lot of guidance, but for something that flies in the face of accepted theory, little help has come from that.


Ryan said...

Hmm i'll believe it when i see it. The paper they are publishing isnt very respectable and that tabletop picture makes me very skeptical. If ITER (costing billions of euros, decades of research and hundreds of engineers and scientists) is still years away from being useful it strikes me as strange that someone working on such a small device that can fit on a bench could achieve useful fusion before them.

It would be nice if it worked but until its been repeated time and again and the principles accuratly described im hold off celebrating.

Jed Rothwell said...

Cold fusion has been observed thousands of times in hundreds of major laboratories, although this particular type, with nickel, has not been as widely reproduced. One of the researchers in this study has published several peer-reviewed papers, starting in 1994. See:

Neal Asher said...

But is does happen: strange beardy guy working in his garden shed puts together two simple ideas to improve the lives of millions, whilst massive research corporations missed it completely (Trevor Baylis).

Trouble is, Jed, recent events in the scientific world have called peer-review into question. Then again, the basis of that question calls into question the dismissal of cold fusion too.

In the end, results are what count. If this is true then even a 'consensus' of scientists won't keep it down.

Ryan said...

I have big problems with the guy in a shed idea. Most modern science is now far to complex to be replicated in a simple tinkering way. Also very large, very costly technologies like ITER are only built on the back of decades upon decades of discovery of scientific principles. The idea that along the way everybody missed this simple trick is far fetched i feel. Not to say its impossible but im very skeptical

Jebel Krong said...

if it works - ITER will be the one to do it, and that is billions of euros and cutting edge physics and materials science.

Neal Asher said...

Skeptical is the best way to be, always, Ryan.

Fingers crossed, Jebel.

Jebel Krong said...

well, assuming it doesn't all go wrong, melt, lose containment and put a new hole in the world, that is. 'course there are worse places it could happen than france... :p

Ryan said...

Thats the nice thing about fusion Jebel, a fusion reactor that breaks will just melt the inside of the reactor and cost billions of euros in damage. No fallout though, no explosion, no death or destruction just plain old loss of capital.

Fusion is the future but its annoying that its been that way for 60 years now, back then it was 50 years away and now its...still 50 years away. Over the years we've just discovered more and more reasons why fusion power is so difficult and expensive to obtain, this is one of the reasons why i am so skeptical of desktop fusion with cheap materials.