No. 63: May-Jun 1989
"I think the physicists have suddenly discovered electrochemistry," said A.J. Bard, from the University of Texas. Ironically, the "cold fusion" experiments making headlines these days are small, simple, and cheap. In contrast, the "hot fusion" physicists have spent some 30 billion dollars since 1951 on huge, complex machines. We don't yet know the specific thoughts and observations that led the Utah electrochemists to cold fusion, but we hope they were anomalous observations of some sort, such as the detection of unexpected neutrons from electrochemical experiments. If such turns out to be the case, the role of anomalies in scientific research will be underscored.
Be that as it may, a genie has been uncorked. Both cold fusion and the re-cent excitement over high-temperature superconductivity demonstrate that a largely unexplored universe exists in the electrochemistry of the solid state. Favorite theories lie in shambles; faces are very red; the most elite of our scientific institutions were caught with blinders on! Beyond these amusements, the practical import for energy production is enormous, and who know what else will eventuate?
But what about science itself? First, cold fusion will doubtless generate a brand new crop of anomalies which we are only able to guess at now. Pertinent to our effort to catalog anomalies, it is possible that cold fusion may be occurring deep in the earth giving rise not only to heat but the upwelling flux of helium-3, now called "primordial" perhaps in error. The icy planets Jupiter and Saturn generate heat, too, and may also be cold fusion reactors! Even the sun, which is undeniably hot (at least on the surface!), may be fusing light elements in ways we have yet to grasp in our stellar models. After all, no one has yet explained that deficit in solar neutrinos! There will be egg on a lot of faces if our notions of stellar energy generation are widly in error. We may be overreacting here; but we predict with confidence that the future will bring a good many scientific papers that begin with those all-toofamiliar words, "We now know that..."
If physicists must now develop a new appreciation of electrochemistry, should not the biologists, too? At the risk of going too far, we recall that L.C. Kervran talks at length about his findings that the human body converts one element into another. See his book Biological Transmutations. Could he possibly have something? The scientific world utterly rejects Kervran - with some justification.
This is being written in mid-April (1989). By the time it is received, the situation may be radically changed. In any event, it is good to see important work accomplished without huge machines, billions in Federal funds, and a phalanx of white-coated technicians.
Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in: