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Cold Fusion Back From The Dead

michael posted more than 9 years ago | from the warmed-over dept.

Science 635

misterfusion writes "Looks like the IEEE is warming up to cold fusion with the latest story "Cold Fusion Back from the Dead". This has been a good year for this field with several leading science journals (Physics Today, MIT Technology Review, etc) contributing stories. Things are warming up and if science Research & Development funding can be stimulated with a positive DoE report (due soon), it might be an interesting rebirth."

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635 comments

Almost had a heart attack! (5, Funny)

skrysakj (32108) | more than 9 years ago | (#10148882)

I thought the article was referring to Macromedia Coldfusion!
Phew!

Re:Almost had a heart attack! (2, Informative)

Cylix (55374) | more than 9 years ago | (#10148897)

That's what I thought too...

I thought why?

There are some many better things now.

Let it stay dead man... just die a noble death.

Re:Almost had a heart attack! (3, Informative)

bk_veggie (807894) | more than 9 years ago | (#10148933)

bleh. i did CF development for 6 years before moving into IT security. CF is still quite qidely used in the private (bank of america, etc) and is extensively used in public sector shops. the majority of DoS and many DoD sites use it (and they port it to linux, so pbbt.) don't confuse their questionable products like flash and shockwave with a really solid, open standard web application language.

Re:Almost had a heart attack! (1)

grendel_x86 (659437) | more than 9 years ago | (#10149173)

CF has actually gotten even better in the past year, and if you use 'blue dragon' w/ apache, you can run a cf server for free.

Re:Almost had a heart attack! (1)

Raagshinnah (670749) | more than 9 years ago | (#10148973)

Score: +5 scary

reply to your sig (-1, Offtopic)

peragrin (659227) | more than 9 years ago | (#10149189)

>>Except for ending slavery, fascism, nazism and communism, WAR HAS NEVER SOLVED ANYTHING

Actually Fascism, Nazism, Communism still exsit, it's just that they are a shadow of their former selves.

Communism -- China, Cuba,- Russia fell because because they over extended themselves money-wise.

Slavery is still practiced today. It's just not out in the open anymore.

Fascism, and Nazism are just shadows of themselves, but still exsit, just like the KKK.

War doesn't solve anything, all it can do is breakup the probelm, which helps to mitigate, and minimize the probelm. But the probelm doesn't go away. hence the WAR on drugs means you still can buy drugs. The War on Terrorism will be fought the same way as the war on drugs.

You need to change people through knowledge and understanding, not by force. Force only works for a little while.

Re:Almost had a heart attack! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10148979)

I almost did too.. what a waste of my youth that was..

Come on... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10148887)

You guys could've fit at least ONE MORE "warming up" pun in the summary. It's like you weren't even trying!

fp - mercatur slut (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10148889)

mercatur is a republican slut

www.mercatur.net

plz do not let me fail this

What if Slashdot was right... (3, Funny)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 9 years ago | (#10148891)

Given the history of cold fusion, the Nothing for you to see here. Please move along. notice seemed strangely appropriate. :)

Re:What if Slashdot was right... (4, Insightful)

garcia (6573) | more than 9 years ago | (#10148935)

Too bad Elizabeth Shue isn't spearheading the research. At least she's something to see.

I think they're anticipating a Dubya victory... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10148899)

...and there will be quite a power source from the cold stares of liberals and the spinning of forefathers.

Better title... (2, Funny)

TopShelf (92521) | more than 9 years ago | (#10148905)

How's about "Cold Fusion warmed over" instead?

Re:Better title... (1)

richie2000 (159732) | more than 9 years ago | (#10149051)

Cold Fusion Finally Heating Up

Step 1: Discover Cold Fusion
Step 2: Generate heat
Step 3: Get slammed as a junk scientist as few others can reproduce your experiment
Step 4: ???
Step 5: Revenge!

Re:Better title... (2, Insightful)

Lt Cmdr Tuvok (810548) | more than 9 years ago | (#10149076)

Indeed. 'Back from the dead' would seem to imply that the subject in question was once a living entity, while it is plainly apparent that cold fusion is a permanently nonliving phenomenon.

However, I'm afraid that 'Cold fusion warmed over' is also an illogical statement. This has connotations with hot coffee, or some other drink or food item that is customarily hot, that has gone cold and has once more been made warm.

Both statements fail abjectly to address the issue at hand. The optimal statement here would be 'Cold fusion might yet be viable'.

Regarding this particular issue, I can only state that I, along with many of my contemporaries, know various facts about cold fusion that are yet unknown in your time. This includes the fact whether it is viable. However, reporting these facts here would be a direct violation of the Prime Directive.

Re:Better title... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10149168)

Yes, Lt. Cmdr Tuvok is correct, though we don't call it "Cold Fusion", we know it by another name that is so difficult to pronounce, your puny Earthling vocal chords would catch fire at the mere thought of trying to pronounce it.

Easy to see why this has had so much resistance (3, Insightful)

PingKing (758573) | more than 9 years ago | (#10148917)

Apart from the fact that there were problems reproducing the cold fusion effects, it's very easy to see why cold fusion has always been given the cold shoulder. It would effectively end the fission power-based business aswell as fossil fuel generated electricity.

Re:Easy to see why this has had so much resistance (4, Insightful)

meringuoid (568297) | more than 9 years ago | (#10149014)

The fission power business depends on massive subsidy, at least in .uk. As for fossil-fuel energy, that may have the clout to squash new technologies in .uk and .us, but I suspect that in .jp, where they're wholly dependent on imported power, any alternative would be welcomed.

Cold fusion was dropped because it could never be replicated, and perhaps because of Pons and Flesichmann's attitude. Science is not done by press conference, and you don't call an anomalous heat effect 'cold fusion' and cause a global hoo-hah without some damn good evidence.

Re:Easy to see why this has had so much resistance (1)

mrscott (548097) | more than 9 years ago | (#10149215)

Argh! Your post was good and bad. Good in that your tagline references perhaps the best hour of television ever, but bad in that people are starting to abbreviate using TLDs!

Re:Easy to see why this has had so much resistance (1, Interesting)

aminorex (141494) | more than 9 years ago | (#10149036)

I take exception: Cold fusion has always and
obviously been a real nuclear effect, in my mind,
as I have publically argued, often on slashdot,
since 1986. But its rejection has nothing to do
with power-generation and fuel interests and
everything to do with

1) mindless, authority-seeking crowd-following
2) facile James Randi/snopes.com style sophomoric skepticism
3) overweening arrogance
4) academic turf-protection
5) funding for hot fusion research

in what I think is an approximation of the
increasing order of importance.

No matter how remarkable and even eventually useful
aneutronic catalyzed fusion proves to be,
it's not going to threaten electrical generation
or fuel industries in our lifetimes, or the
lifetimes of their current investors.

Re:Easy to see why this has had so much resistance (3, Insightful)

hairykrishna (740240) | more than 9 years ago | (#10149162)

It may have been a real nuclear efect in your mind but we're concerned witg the real world, not your delusional fantasy. No fast neutrons = no deuterium fusion You can get fast neuts without a fusion reaction but you sure as hell can't have a fusion reaction with no fast neuts. Give me a link to a peer-reviewed paper describing a reputable, repeatable experiment on cold fusion which showed a clear neutron reading above background and I'll strip naked and shout the praises of cold fusion from the roof tops.

Re:Easy to see why this has had so much resistance (1)

sphealey (2855) | more than 9 years ago | (#10149159)

It would effectively end the fission power-based business aswell as fossil fuel generated electricity.
As I have posted before, the two funding agencies that did NOT give up on cold fusion research for at least 5 years after the first brew-ha-ha were the Electric Power Research Institute (funded by a consortium of electric utilities) and EPRI's counterpart in Japan. Electric utilities would like nothing better than a source of energy to replace coal, and they doubted (as I doubt) that any source involving any nuclear effect would ever be "distributed".

sPh

I love Elisabeth Shue (0, Offtopic)

BoomerSooner (308737) | more than 9 years ago | (#10148920)

But The Saint was such a crappy movie. Note: The Cold Fusion Formula was on cards in her bra.

Re:I love Elisabeth Shue (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10148963)

you must be one hell of a geek, not liking the idea of mixing bra's and science :P

Re:I love Elisabeth Shue (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10149024)

Why was it a crappy movie?
I thought it was really well done and realistic, as far as movies go.
And she kept something else in there too, though she denied it.

Would that rebirth include... (3, Interesting)

Weaselmancer (533834) | more than 9 years ago | (#10148925)

...apologies to the pioneers of cold fusion, like Pons and Fleischman? Seems to me like a positive finding in a DoE report would at least be some verification that they might deserve one.

Re:Would that rebirth include... (5, Informative)

pete-classic (75983) | more than 9 years ago | (#10148996)

I haven't made any great study of what happened, but I'm not sure any apology is in order.

As I understand it, they made an astonishing scientific claim. That claim, while it might be absolutely true, was not substantiated by the experiment they describe.

There is more to good science than turning out to be right.

-Peter

Re:Would that rebirth include... (4, Informative)

Shadowlion (18254) | more than 9 years ago | (#10149160)

As I understand it, they made an astonishing scientific claim. That claim, while it might be absolutely true, was not substantiated by the experiment they describe.

If you read the article (I know, this is Slashdot...), you'd note that some of the problems in reproducing the effect have been discovered. One problem turned out to be the "density" of deuterium atoms in the palladium electrodes. Above a certain threshold, you'd see the excess heat every time. Below that, even by only 10%, you'd only see excess heat in one out of every six trials.

From this, it seems like the problem wasn't that the experiment was made up, but that the problem was the researchers had no precise concept of what steps and requirements were necessary to repeat it accurately.

Re:Would that rebirth include... (4, Interesting)

sphealey (2855) | more than 9 years ago | (#10149197)

As I understand it, they made an astonishing scientific claim. That claim, while it might be absolutely true, was not substantiated by the experiment they describe.
Understood and mostly agreed. But it is instructive to read Enrico Fermi's account of how he and his team missed out on a second Nobel prize because they couldn't reproduced the results of one experiment. Turned out that the original experiment was done on a lab table made of wood and the attempts to reproduce were done on a lab table made of granite. The wood had a much higer index of neutron moderation, but they didn't know that and never thought that such a factor might affect the experiment.

sPh

Re:Would that rebirth include... (2, Insightful)

scottennis (225462) | more than 9 years ago | (#10149032)

Pons and Fleischman were liars who fabricated results to get media attention. If that's pioneering then that wacked out cult that claims to have cloned a human ought to get a Nobel prize for their work in "pioneering" genetics.

Re:Would that rebirth include... (1)

ahsile (187881) | more than 9 years ago | (#10149124)

IIRC, and I may be thinking of other scientists in this field... but did they not try out this experiment, and find results they could not explain (ie more energy produced than should have been) and chalk it up to cold fusion? The results have been duplicated, although in very rare circumstances with a certain element seeming to be the contributing factor? My memory is killing me trying to remember...

Re:Would that rebirth include... (1)

pete-classic (75983) | more than 9 years ago | (#10149163)

My memory is killing me


Ha! Before this month is out I will look as someone and say, "Ow! My memory!"

-Peter

no such thing. it's CON fusion (0, Flamebait)

swschrad (312009) | more than 9 years ago | (#10149044)

as in CONfidence man. "cold fusion" is an artifact of lousy research with no controls, practiced by people working out of their league, with no understanding of the processes or energies involved, and is much more of a "faith-based initiative" than a laboratory pursuit.

in other words, bullshit in a bottle being promoted as the sole exception to the laws of the universe.

there will always be a few folks out... standing... in their field... in the rain. don't be giving them any credence. it's a funding grab by those with no scruples.

Re:no such thing. it's CON fusion (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10149102)

And yet again, someone does not read the article.

The scientists are getting reproducable results now. How is that a "funding grab by those with no scruples"? It seems as though the scientists are working hard on this and they can show results even though they are still having trouble explaining those results. That is what the funding is for, to find out the explanations and to see if this effect can be of any use.

Article Summary for lazy people (5, Informative)

PatrickThomson (712694) | more than 9 years ago | (#10148929)

Waffle waffle

Cold fusion regarded as a joke for ages

waffle waffle

"THE FIRST HINT that the tide may be changing came in February 2002, when the U.S. Navy revealed that its researchers had been studying cold fusion on the quiet more or less continuously since the debacle began. "

waffle waffle

"At San Diego and other research centers, scientists built up an impressive body of evidence that something strange happened when a current passed through palladium electrodes placed in heavy water. "

waffle waffle

"Other researchers are finally beginning to explain why the Pons-Fleischmann effect has been difficult to reproduce. Mike McKubre from SRI International, in Menlo Park, Calif., a respected researcher who is influential among those pursuing cold fusion, says that the effect can be reliably seen only once the palladium electrodes are packed with deuterium at ratios of 100 percent--one deuterium atom for every palladium atom. His work shows that if the ratio drops by as little as 10 points, to 90 percent, only 2 experimental runs in 12 produce excess heat, while all runs at a ratio of 100 percent produce excess heat. "

Summary: Cold fusion wasn't reproducible because not all factors were accounted for, and millitary scientists think they nailed it.

Re:Article Summary for lazy people (4, Insightful)

TrentL (761772) | more than 9 years ago | (#10148975)

"Other researchers are finally beginning to explain why the Pons-Fleischmann effect has been difficult to reproduce. Mike McKubre from SRI International, in Menlo Park, Calif., a respected researcher who is influential among those pursuing cold fusion, says that the effect can be reliably seen only once the palladium electrodes are packed with deuterium at ratios of 100 percent--one deuterium atom for every palladium atom. His work shows that if the ratio drops by as little as 10 points, to 90 percent, only 2 experimental runs in 12 produce excess heat, while all runs at a ratio of 100 percent produce excess heat. "

Does this mean Pons-Fleschmann used the 100 percent ratio? Why in the world didn't the other scientists use this exact same setup when trying to reproduce the results? If you're trying to repeat a result, don't you make sure all variables are the same?

Re:Article Summary for lazy people (4, Insightful)

Mr_Dyqik (156524) | more than 9 years ago | (#10149053)

Well, maybe you decide you understand what's going on, and therefore that particular variable can't possibly be important, or you overlook it, or the variable isn't reported correctly etc.

Scientific papers and experiments are just as susceptible to bugs as software. Generally peer review and repetition and further work on the subject of the papers catches these eventually, but it can take time. The claims of cold-fusion were so startling (and hyped), there wasn't an awful lot of attempts to sort mistakes and understanding out before it was declared unscientific.

Best analogy I can think of is a software project that launches, claiming it will revolutionise user interface or something, but that only works on the developers own system, as they've hacked up much of their OS and hardware. It could be years before the software would work on a general computer, but if nothing works to start with, then most people won't be interested in developing and improving it.

Look how long it took to get the linux kernel reasonably mainstream supporting common hardware, and compare to Hurd...

Re:Article Summary for lazy people (4, Insightful)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | more than 9 years ago | (#10149064)

I suspect that, if this was the case, it was accidental. That is, P&F didn't set out to saturate their electrodes with D, but it just so happened that they were. So they were unaware that they had achieved a special case condition prerequisite for cold fusion.

Re:Article Summary for lazy people (2, Interesting)

schon (31600) | more than 9 years ago | (#10149114)

Does this mean Pons-Fleschmann used the 100 percent ratio?

Not necessarily. They could just have been extraordinarily lucky.

Re:Article Summary for lazy people (1)

AllUsernamesAreGone (688381) | more than 9 years ago | (#10149146)

Why in the world didn't the other scientists use this exact same setup when trying to reproduce the results? If you're trying to repeat a result, don't you make sure all variables are the same?

IANANP (nuclear physicist) but I'd expect that getting a 100% setup is difficult - you probably have to remove all impurities and make sure the distribution of atoms in the electrodes is correct (or, more likely, pay a significant amount to obtain materials to the required spec).

Besides which, scientists checking something that they are biased against anyway (either because they see no theoretical basis for the whole idea or because, if it was reproduced reliably, it would threaten their theories or jobs) aren't likely to spend any more than the minimum time and money necessary to say "well, that doesn't work, back to my tokamak". There's a LOT of money tied up in things that would become of questionable importance if cold fusion could be obtained reliably and scaled to useful levels.

Re:Article Summary for lazy people (2, Interesting)

Mr_Dyqik (156524) | more than 9 years ago | (#10148980)

I think this is a good summary.

IMNSHO (see profile for why I don't have a humble opinion on this) fusion may or may not be happening, but energy might be released by some mechanism, so it's certainly worth funding proper research into it as a possible energy storage or generation mechanism.

Re:Article Summary for lazy people (2, Funny)

PatrickThomson (712694) | more than 9 years ago | (#10149043)

Ok, this is beyond a joke. My last 3 posts have all been modded overrated in a matter of seconds. SHOW YOURSELF, STALKER!

Unlimited Energy (2, Funny)

Prince Vegeta SSJ4 (718736) | more than 9 years ago | (#10148930)

Now I can power my car for free, and for an indefinite period of time with all of those unused AOL CD's I saved. Not to mention all of the junk mail that has increased exponentially since the DO NOT CALL list came into being.

Things are warming up (1)

n__0 (605442) | more than 9 years ago | (#10148931)

"Things are warming up" ...considering its meant to be cold fusion isn't that cheating?

Hot! (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10148936)

Cool.

Slow Already, Article Text (No Karma Whoring) (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10148944)

Cold Fusion Back From the Dead

U.S. Energy Department gives true believers a new hearing

Later this month, the U.S. Department of Energy will receive a report from a panel of experts on the prospects for cold fusion - the supposed generation of thermonuclear energy using tabletop apparatus. It's an extraordinary reversal of fortune: more than a few heads turned earlier this year when James Decker, the deputy director of the DOE's Office of Science, announced that he was initiating the review of cold fusion science. Back in November 1989, it had been the department's own investigation that determined the evidence behind cold fusion was unconvincing. Clearly, something important has changed to grab the department's attention now.

The cold fusion story began at a now infamous press conference in March 1989. Stanley Pons and Martin Fleischmann, both electrochemists working at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, announced that they had created fusion using a battery connected to palladium electrodes immersed in a bath of water in which the hydrogen was replaced with its isotope deuterium - so-called heavy water. With this claim came the idea that tabletop fusion could produce more or less unlimited, low-cost, clean energy.

In physicists' traditional view of fusion, forcing two deuterium nuclei close enough together to allow them to fuse usually requires temperatures of tens of millions of degrees Celsius. The claim that it could be done at room temperature with a couple of electrodes connected to a battery stretched credulity [see photo, "Too Good to Be True?"].

But while some scientists reported being able to reproduce the result sporadically, many others reported negative results, and cold fusion soon took on the stigma of junk science.

Today the mainstream view is that champions of cold fusion are little better than purveyors of snake oil and good luck charms. Critics say that the extravagant claims behind cold fusion need to be backed with exceptionally strong evidence, and that such evidence simply has not materialized. "To my knowledge, nothing has changed that makes cold fusion worth a second look," says Steven Koonin, a member of the panel that evaluated cold fusion for the DOE back in 1989, who is now chief scientist at BP, the London-based energy company.

Because of such attitudes, science has all but ignored the phenomenon for 15 years. But a small group of dedicated researchers have continued to investigate it. For them, the DOE's change of heart is a crucial step toward being accepted back into the scientific fold. Behind the scenes, scientists in many countries, but particularly in the United States, Japan, and Italy, have been working quietly for more than a decade to understand the science behind cold fusion. (Today they call it low-energy nuclear reactions, or sometimes chemically assisted nuclear reactions.) For them, the department's change of heart is simply a recognition of what they have said all along - whatever cold fusion may be, it needs explaining by the proper process of science.

THE FIRST HINT that the tide may be changing came in February 2002, when the U.S. Navy revealed that its researchers had been studying cold fusion on the quiet more or less continuously since the debacle began. Much of this work was carried out at the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center in San Diego, where the idea of generating energy from sea water - a good source of heavy water - may have seemed more captivating than at other laboratories.

Many researchers at the center had worked with Fleischmann, a well-respected electrochemist, and found it hard to believe that he was completely mistaken. What's more, the Navy encouraged a culture of risk-taking in research and made available small amounts of funding for researchers to pursue their own interests.

At San Diego and other research centers, scientists built up an impressive body of evidence that something strange happened when a current passed through palladium electrodes placed in heavy water.

And by 2002, a number of Navy scientists believed it was time to throw down the gauntlet. A two-volume report, entitled "Thermal and nuclear aspects of the Pd/D2O system," contained a remarkable plea for proper funding from Frank Gordon, the head of navigation and applied science at the Navy center. "It is time that this phenomenon be investigated so that we can reap whatever benefits accrue from scientific understanding. It is time for government funding agencies to invest in this research," he wrote. The report was noted by the DOE but appeared to have little impact.

Then, last August, in a small hotel near the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in Cambridge, some 150 engineers and scientists met for the Tenth International Conference on Cold Fusion. Conference observers were struck by the careful way in which various early criticisms of the research were being addressed. Over the years, a number of groups around the world have reproduced the original Pons-Fleischmann excess heat effect, yielding sometimes as much as 250 percent of the energy put in.

To be sure, excess energy by itself is not enough to establish that fusion is taking place. In addition to energy, critics are quick to emphasize, the fusion of deuterium nuclei should produce other byproducts, such as helium and the hydrogen isotope tritium. Evidence of these byproducts has been scant, though Antonella de Ninno and colleagues from the Italian National Agency for New Technologies Energy and the Environment, in Rome, have found strong evidence of helium generation when the palladium cells are producing excess heat but not otherwise.

Other researchers are finally beginning to explain why the Pons-Fleischmann effect has been difficult to reproduce. Mike McKubre from SRI International, in Menlo Park, Calif., a respected researcher who is influential among those pursuing cold fusion, says that the effect can be reliably seen only once the palladium electrodes are packed with deuterium at ratios of 100 percent - one deuterium atom for every palladium atom. His work shows that if the ratio drops by as little as 10 points, to 90 percent, only 2 experimental runs in 12 produce excess heat, while all runs at a ratio of 100 percent produce excess heat.

And scientists are beginning to get a better handle on exactly how the effect occurs. Stanislaw Szpak and colleagues from the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command have taken infrared video images of palladium electrodes as they produce excess energy. It turns out that the heat is not produced continuously over the entire electrode but only in hot spots that erupt and then die on the electrode surface. This team also has evidence of curious mini-explosions on the surface.

Fleischmann, who is still involved in cold fusion as an advisor to a number of groups, feels vindicated. He told the conference: "I believe that the work carried out thus far amply illustrates that there is a new and richly varied field of research waiting to be explored." (Pons is no longer involved in the field, having dropped from view after a laboratory he joined in southern France ceased operations.)

For Peter Hagelstein, an electrical engineer at MIT who works on the theory behind cold fusion and who chaired the August 2003 conference, the quality of the papers was hugely significant. "It's obvious that there are effects going on," he says. He and two colleagues believed the results were so strong that they were worth drawing to the attention of the DOE, and late last year they secured a meeting with the department's Decker.

It was a meeting that paid off dramatically. The review will give cold fusion researchers a chance - perhaps their last - to show their mettle. The department has yet to decide just what will be done and by whom. There is no guarantee of funding or of future support. But for a discipline whose name has become a byword for junk science, the DOE's review is a big opportunity.

- JUSTIN MULLINS

Perpetual motion ... (5, Funny)

Dark$ide (732508) | more than 9 years ago | (#10148949)

In the next Slashdot story perpetual motion is shown to be possible.

Re:Perpetual motion ... (1)

nizo (81281) | more than 9 years ago | (#10149070)

Technically isn't the Universe itself a perpetual motion machine? Until (if?) it collapses back into a singularity there is always something moving somewhere relative to something else. I must hurry and go patent this before someone else does.....

Re:Perpetual motion ... (2, Informative)

maxume (22995) | more than 9 years ago | (#10149183)

perpetual: Lasting for eternity.
there is no 'until' in eternity. The Universe is more of a 'motion for a very very long time that is almost perpetual but not quite machine'. Just to split hairs.

Let science work. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10148964)

It is good to finally see a fair balance in the study of this idea. It may not generate anything usable, but then agin, it might. I think that is the key... to get real science studying the situation, not having the ideas tested and approved through the media.

With ITER in a political freeze, there is ample time to study cold fusion concepts further. I don't see how one can create fusion conditions at room temperature. But if we understand how to control the collisions of the atoms better, then we may lower ignition temperatures. If the temperatures required were only several tens of thousands of degrees, then we do away with the complex containment systems and have a very viable energy source without multi billion dollar energy stations.

Bottom line: Let real science work. The worst case scenario is that we have a better understanding of the atomic interactions that will be used in whatever fusion reaction processes that we eventually use.

Re:Let science work. (1)

dpud1234 (771892) | more than 9 years ago | (#10149145)

I agree... often amazing discoveries are found when pursuing an idea / experiment that does not make sense or seems ludicrous. And no, I'm not saying that all science should explore the bizarre but some level of exploration is healthy to the field in general.

Back from the dead? (3, Funny)

surprise_audit (575743) | more than 9 years ago | (#10148965)

Heh... Cold Fusion Back From The Dead is almost as good as Stealing Fire from the Gods

Re:Back from the dead? (4, Funny)

chill (34294) | more than 9 years ago | (#10149028)

Heh... Cold Fusion Back From The Dead is almost as good as Stealing Fire from the Gods

For the last time we did not steal it, we borrowed it. We fully intend to give it back one of these days.

Probably not fusion . . . (2, Interesting)

Haertchen (810148) | more than 9 years ago | (#10148969)

Something there is producing some serious heat. Nobody ever denied that. But if it were fusion that were doing it, the researchers would be dead from radiation poisoning. I think that the phenomenon needs research, but I wouldn't hold my breath as to actually getting fusion out. There could still be a chemical basis for the energy.

Re:Probably not fusion . . . (1)

Bohnanza (523456) | more than 9 years ago | (#10149120)

There could still be a chemical basis for the energy.

If there is, it's one that violates the laws of thermodynamics. You can't get more energy out than you put in.

This is why the original researchers assumed it must be nuclear fusion.

Re:Probably not fusion . . . (1)

NichG (62224) | more than 9 years ago | (#10149179)

I think you strongly overestimate the strength of this effect (if it exists, etc). Since they're measuring the neutron flux from the thing, they can pretty much tell you how likely they'd be to drop dead from radiation poisoning, but considering how finnicky this experiment seems to be I'd be surprised if the surplus of neutrons is more than a couple percent above the background radiation, otherwise we could just throw out all the expensive lab equipment and use a canary to see if something is happening.

Re:Probably not fusion . . . (1)

clonan (64380) | more than 9 years ago | (#10149191)

not at all!

read the article. They say that the energy produced is as much as 250 times what goes in. Most of that is heat.

They powered it off a battery......

Also fusion is very low radioactivity compared to fission. Most of it is neutrons. Many of thoes get absorbed in the water (hence the expected tritium)...then there is the inverse square law. You stand back a few feet from a low level radioactive source and you won't get anything.

Plus radioactivity is a cumulitive effect. They MAY be more likley to get cancer 30 years from now.

Re:Probably not fusion . . . (4, Informative)

Montreal Geek (620791) | more than 9 years ago | (#10149212)

If you had, in fact, RTFA you would have seen that there is some evidence of helium generation during the reaction.

While apparently hard (but not impossible) to reproduce, and not well understood, there is now credible evidence that something happens that generates heat and helium out of hydrogen.

If the phenomenon is real, and we manage to reproduce it reliably, it probably is fusion, albeit only a couple of atoms at a time (which has the side effects of (1) no harder-to-control chain reaction over vast amounts of fissible material and (2) trivial to contain generation).

Might not be too easy to use, though. I could see how the heat could be made to give energy to a conventional steam turbine though.

At any rate, your quip about dead from radiation poisoning is a strawman. Even if all is as the researchers hope, we are observing the fission of minuscule amounts of atoms at a time (hence the manageable heat) and what little radiation escapes from the reaction medium unabsorbed and unconverted into heat is most likely unmeasurably small and completely drowned out by the background radiation we live in.

-- MG

This statement always scares me... (1, Insightful)

adzoox (615327) | more than 9 years ago | (#10148970)

"... and if science Research & Development funding can be stimulated with a positive DoE report (due soon), it might be an interesting rebirth"

When someone says that progress depends on funding it scares me. This is one of the most vaporsearch/vapordev discoveries in history. There have fabrication after fabrication and pseudodiscovery after pseudodiscovery.

I'm SURE that the companies/universities that are doing this research are well funded or have such active "life work" people involved that MORE funding really isn't necessary or even requested.

I'm also relatively sure that the people that are making progress in this field are keeping it mum - this will be one of the greatest discoveries of all time and will make someone very rich - and people think this is going to be just broadcast that someone contactable/killable has achieved it?

Re:This statement always scares me... (2, Interesting)

Mr_Dyqik (156524) | more than 9 years ago | (#10149141)

If your that sure, you've obviously never worked in academia. An absolute minimum of half of all proposals for funding of experiments get rejected in entirely noncontentious fields. In fields that suffered all the hype and disappointment of cold-fusion (I can't actually think of an example that faired quite so badly in the press) I can't imagine any government research organisation funding research, and they control most of the academic funding. There's not a lot of opportunity for publishing papers either, which is the key factor in securing research funding.

Only a few companies have a large enough R&D budget to do basic research in areas directly related to their core businesses, and the power companies have much more plausible, if less groundbreaking research to do, as well as hot-fusion research.

How do they know it's fusion? (5, Insightful)

dspacemonkey (776615) | more than 9 years ago | (#10148978)

From the article it seems like Fleischmann saw more energy coming out than he put in (up to 250% apparently) and thought to himself:

"Aha! This must be cold fusion."

Is it just me, or does that seem to be a bit of a leap of faith? After all, if one sets light to petrol one gets more energy out than a match puts in. Surely there are other possibilities.

Occam's razor [princeton.edu] anyone?

I'm not sure about "strong evidence" from a single research laboratory either...

Re:How do they know it's fusion? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10149037)

You are very correct. This is why we publish results, and have peer review. We are in the infancy of this branch of science. Worst cast scenario: it doesn't work period. We have at least investigated another possiblity. We learn and apply to other endevours into fusion power.

Will anything major pop out of this research? Maybe, maybe not. But we are learning. At the very least, this should train another generation of people to not buy into hype one way or another. First it was "COLD FUSION IS HERE!" then it was "COLD FUSION IS A TOTAL SCAM!". Neither is correct. But with the attention span of the media this is all you will get.

Be patient. Let science work.

it was "telcom CEO" math, not cf (1)

swschrad (312009) | more than 9 years ago | (#10149117)

the magic numbers were "projections" from a single observed incident, based on the differential voltage across a "cf cell" going down so they didn't have to pump more current in to generate the "excess heating."

in other words, they pulled the numbers out of their ass, and played that card for almost five years.

there is a very good reason the "two pioneers" fled the country, and no good reason they weren't extradited to face felony fraud charges, IMHO.

BOOOOOO - gusssssss. whores of "science", both of 'em.

Re:How do they know it's fusion? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10149186)

The original experiment also had evidence (That was later questioned to be genuine) of a neutron flux that indicated some unexplained reaction (enter cold-fusion) was occuring that chemical processes couldn't explain.

I'm still waiting for my... (-1, Redundant)

GillBates0 (664202) | more than 9 years ago | (#10148981)

nuclear fission powered car. I'm not a physicist, so I don't know - do power generators based on Nuclear Fusion tend to be smaller/more compact than the current humungous nuclear reactors? It certainly tends to be cleaner (as in less radioactive waste, etc). It would be nice to have a portable, safe and seemingly endless replacement to hydrocarbon based fuels.

Re:I'm still waiting for my... (1)

192939495969798999 (58312) | more than 9 years ago | (#10149084)

Well, a regular fusion reactor requires gigantic magnets and/or lasers, so in short, no. Unless you can cram a multi-megawatt laser into your trunk, or unless cold fusion has some compact form (but we don't have it "working well" yet).

When I said megawatt, i meant terawatt (1)

192939495969798999 (58312) | more than 9 years ago | (#10149135)

For example, the Nova fusion laser produces 16 *T*rillion watts of laser light.
http://www.llnl.gov/str/Remington.html

The new one will be even more: "NIF will generate up to 750 trillion watts of laser light."

Dang! That's definitely not fitting in my trunk.

Re:I'm still waiting for my... (1)

Mr_Dyqik (156524) | more than 9 years ago | (#10149192)

ITER will have a toriodal vacuum vessel 150 m^3 in volume, plus superconducting magnets and the associated cryogens. JET and its support buildings are about the size of a sports stadium, and that's smaller than ITER will be. See the latest(?) issue of Scientific American's (apparently they do exist) article on big science machines for an idea of the scale.

The best bet for powering a car is H/O fuel cells, but you still need to supply power to produce H and O first. For that you use big power plants and a grid, or decentralised power generation systems like solar cells.

Re:I'm still waiting for my... (1)

superstick58 (809423) | more than 9 years ago | (#10149195)

Nuclear reations themselves don't produce electric current. The benefit of fission is that it produces large amounts of heat with small amounts of fuel. This heat is used to turn the turbines that generate electricity similar in all types of power plants. I don't know how it could realistically be used in a vehicle. Besides that, even if nuclear waste was small, it would still pose a problem.

Fusion has a similar benefit in that small amounts of fuel produce large amounts of energy. The current problem is that more energy is needed to create a controlled fusion process than is derived from the reation thus there is no benefit to creating the fusion reaction.

Something as small as a car will not likely be powered by any type of nuclear reaction, fusion or fission. Cold fusion, however, would allow us all to plug our electric vehicles in at night and suck up lots of energy for a small price and with no waste produced by the power plant.

Should be looked at regardless (5, Informative)

nizo (81281) | more than 9 years ago | (#10148982)

Thus spake the article:

Over the years, a number of groups around the world have reproduced the original Pons-Fleischmann excess heat effect, yielding sometimes as much as 250 percent of the energy put in.

(snip)

Other researchers are finally beginning to explain why the Pons-Fleischmann effect has been difficult to reproduce. Mike McKubre from SRI International, in Menlo Park, Calif., a respected researcher who is influential among those pursuing cold fusion, says that the effect can be reliably seen only once the palladium electrodes are packed with deuterium at ratios of 100 percent--one deuterium atom for every palladium atom. His work shows that if the ratio drops by as little as 10 points, to 90 percent, only 2 experimental runs in 12 produce excess heat, while all runs at a ratio of 100 percent produce excess heat.

Something is going on here that we don't understand, and it looks like it can be reproduced. Yeah I would say it would be worth looking into further. The 250% heat output sounds like a good thing (especially if no toxic by-products are produced) so how does that compare to other types of heat generation I wonder?

Re:Should be looked at regardless (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10149033)

Just because it's not understood won't stop the /. crowd from making hundreds of "it'll never happen" comments.

Re:Should be looked at regardless (1, Informative)

Short Circuit (52384) | more than 9 years ago | (#10149185)

Deuterium and palladium are both pretty toxic. I don't know that having toxic reactants is much better than having toxic products.

On the bright side, at least palladium is solid at STP.

Aaargh, not again! (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10148999)

For Feynman's sake, there's a GREAT BIG COULOMB BARRIER [wikipedia.org] that stops nuclei fusing; this is why so much energy is required to get fusion to occur. There isn't some clever get-out clause that allows you to jump it without paying the full fare!

Surely there are better things [interactions.org] to be spending time and money on?

Re:Aaargh, not again! (4, Insightful)

meringuoid (568297) | more than 9 years ago | (#10149091)

There isn't some clever get-out clause that allows you to jump it without paying the full fare!

Yeah. Physically impossible. It would be cool if you could just, oh, 'tunnel' through the barrier or something, but that would be absurd...

Re:Aaargh, not again! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10149216)

there's a GREAT BIG COULOMB BARRIER

Don't be absurd (and overdramatic). No one is claiming that a fusion reaction can be achieved with no energy. They're saying that it may be possible to sustain such a reaction without the flagrant waste of energy associated with thermonuclear reactors.

heh (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10149010)

"things are warming up [for cold fusion]"?

Pseudo science (0)

SimianOverlord (727643) | more than 9 years ago | (#10149031)

Why is Slashdot giving room to this errant nonsense? The original fusion experiments could not be reproduced by any respected laboratory (though there were claims from various amateur laboratories that it was possible), the article linked to makes a whole host of unsupported and unreferenced assertions and contains such precise scientific language as "ratios of 100 percent". Any peer reviewed research anywhere? Thought not. Well done editors, YHBT.

I too have a magic jar which produces electricity. Can I have my own Slashdot story?

Whew! (-1, Offtopic)

the_rev_matt (239420) | more than 9 years ago | (#10149048)

For a minute I was afraid the story was about the "programming language" Cold Fusion, which Macromedia seems to have killed. Complain all you want about Flash/Shockwave, but I will be eternally grateful to MM if they really have done away with CF once and for all.

New energy sources always blocked by the industry (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10149074)

As some of you know Tesla already envisioned a realistic nearly perfect method for harnessing energy from Earth's atmosphere [amasci.com]. But that would have destroyed the monopoly of electrical companies and was thus never allowed to come into existence. Cold fusion research was not as promising, but it was nipped in the bud for the very same reason. Progress standing in the way of the profit of a select few.

Free power? Unheard of. Free software? Unheard - wait a minute!

Bob Park (4, Informative)

paugq (443696) | more than 9 years ago | (#10149097)

Oh, shit! This again and again.

Cold fusion is impossible and Physics have long demostrated it.

Robert L. Park [bobpark.com], the President of the American Physical Society [aps.org], wrote a book that deals with this and explains it clearly: Voodoo Science [amazon.com]. He will probably treat this "rebirth" of the hype on his What's new [aps.org] science column.

How long until the USA Government understands they cannot beat the Second Law of Thermodynamics [wikipedia.org]?

Re:Bob Park (2, Interesting)

Vengeance (46019) | more than 9 years ago | (#10149190)

I read a rather interesting report some months back, which attempted to explain the 'cold fusion' phenomenon through use of localized time-reversal zones, which were in fact proven a year or three ago. Essentially, the line of argument was that in a temporary time-reversal zone, the forces which keep nuclei apart would act to bring them together, and that when the time reversal went away, the combined 'supernucleus' (or whatever they called it) would spontaneously fuse. Of course, at the time I was following a variety of links, some quite reputable, some much less so, while reading on another topic. However, I can understand that ill-understood low-level physics could conceivably be doing something here we just don't understand.

I always go by the adage that when a distinguished scientist says something is possible, (s)he is generally right, but that if they say something is not possible, (s)he is generally wrong. To this end I am willing to be skeptical, not only of the looneys, but of the skeptics as well.

Pseudoscience Warning Signs (5, Interesting)

Critter92 (522977) | more than 9 years ago | (#10149099)

1) The research will only go forward with more funding 2) SRI International is involved ("No, really, Uri Geller *is* a psychic!") 3) "Mike McKubre from SRI International, in Menlo Park, Calif., a respected researcher who is influential among those pursuing cold fusion" is not the same as "Mike McKubre, a respected researched who is also working on cold fusion" 4) It's an election year and DOE, hardly a bastion of good science under Bush, is about to announce Cold Fusion is workable at a time of record world oil prices?

Re:Pseudoscience Warning Signs (1)

daves (23318) | more than 9 years ago | (#10149210)

Did I just read that George Bush is to blame for Cold Fusion?

I can't wait till Election Season is over.

Utah Connection (4, Funny)

Mateito (746185) | more than 9 years ago | (#10149103)

Pons and Fleischmann, the original perpertrators of Cold Fusion, were from the University of Utah.

What's the bet that this "re-birth" of Cold Fusion has something to do with SCO?

Judge: Mr McBride, do you have anything to say before the jury adjourn to find you guilty and sentence you to death by stoning?

Darl: Look! Excess neutrons!

Jugde: Where? [Looks away]

Darl: [Exit, stage left]

Good news / Bad news (2, Insightful)

HungSoLow (809760) | more than 9 years ago | (#10149166)

This is great news to hear more research and interest into Cold Fusion. We need to remove dependancy on polluting / expensive resources, and we all know gas and oil is a double culprit.

What worries me is the military interest. It's all a push to build bigger and better ways to kill people, now powered with more efficient means! Don't get me wrong, historically we have many great things coming from military driven technology (space program, wireless comm., nuclear power, etc.) but at what cost?

Slow down (2, Insightful)

Oligonicella (659917) | more than 9 years ago | (#10149174)

Palladium, tritium? Even if they can consistently get more heat out than energy in, that only describes the current event.

It does not describe the entire economic input. That palladium and tritium has to come from somewhere, and it's expensive.

Until this can be done with non-exotic materials, it will probably be a push as its worthiness.

Still hipe for now. ( But would so good!) (1)

zijus (754409) | more than 9 years ago | (#10149175)

Cold Fusion Back From the Dead. U.S. Energy Department gives true believers a new hearing Later this month, the U.S. Department of Energy will receive a report from a panel of experts on the prospects for cold fusion--

Mind yourself. For now this annouce is actually void. I can annouce that I have by the end of the month a vaccin against AIDS. What good does that do ? What value does that bring ?

This cold fusion subject is so senstive that, we shouldn't regard any void annouce.

Don't get me wrong. I don't discuss it is possible or impossible. I just underline the fact that there is a need of 1) reprocductible 2) proved stuff.

Critics say that the extravagant claims behind cold fusion need to be backed with exceptionally strong evidence, and that such evidence simply has not

Wafle. There is no such a thing as a strong evidence or "exceptionnaly". An evidence is or is not. Period. This vocabulary shows we are chatting rather emotionnaly. The idea that "pioneres" were "silenced" is just wrong. Pioneres had and have to repoduce something. Period.(Now for a bit of subbjective point of view: I am thriled at the idea it could come this way.)

Z.

Gas is still cheaper (1)

fk319 (321841) | more than 9 years ago | (#10149201)

at about $2 US, for a ml of heavy water at 99.99% pure, it will be a while for this to power our cars. At least there is an 'interesting effect' to watch for.
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