Home Page Science Frontiers

No. 80: Mar-Apr 1992

Issue Contents

Other pages

Other Interesting Sites











First cold-fusion bomb?

Possibly we are overreacting to the following event:

"Cold fusion researchers are puzzled and worried by an explosion last week that killed one of their colleagues, a British electrochemist. A cold fusion 'cell' at SRI International in Menlo Park, California, blew up while Andrew Riley was bending over it, killing him instantly."

Now small explosions in cold-fusion cells are not unknown. At the tops of some cells palladium-wire electrodes are exposed to oxygen and deuterium (heavy hydrogen) gases. If the palladium wires are not protected by films of water, the palladium can catalyze the explosive combination of the oxygen and hydrogen. This sometimes happens if a dry spot develops on a wire. Such detonations, though, cause little damage. The SRI explosion was much more powerful. The detonating cell (only 2 inches in diameter and 8 inches long), not only killed Riley but peppered three other researchers in the lab with debris.

(Charles, Dan; "Fatal Explosion Closes Cold Fusion Laboratory," New Scientist, p. 12, January 11, 1992.)

Comment. One cannot refrain from asking if the explosion involved only chemical energy.

From Science Frontiers #80, MAR-APR 1992. 1992-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987