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No. 83: Sep-Oct 1992

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Cold-fusion update

SRI explosion due to wayward piece of Teflon? The final report on the fatal explosion of a cold-fusion experiment at SRI International (SF#80) blames a loose piece of Teflon that may have blocked a gas outlet tube. Possible scenario: After many hours, the researchers finally noticed something was awry. When A. Riley lifted the cell from its water bath, it exploded. "The investigators believe that hot palladium ignited the pressurized mixture of oxygen and deuterium. The bottom blew off the cell, turning the rest of it into a rocket which shot upwards at 50 metres per second. It struck Riley in the head."

(Charles, Dan; "Piece of Teflon Led to Fatal Explosion," New Scientist, p. 5, June 27, 1992. Also: Holden, Constance; "Fusion Explosion Mystery Solved," Science, 257:26, 1992.)

Comment. The proposed scenario leading to the explosion is riddled with the words "may" and "believe."

Another cold-fusion book: Huizenga, John R.; Cold Fusion: The Scientific Fiasco of the Century, 259 pp., 1992, The title betrays the book's slant. A single sentence from Nature's review will suffice:

"Commenting on the hundreds of millions of dollars of research time and resources that were taken up in showing that there is no convincing evidence for cold fusion as a source of nuclear power, he [Huizenga] notes that 'much of this would not have been necessary had normal scientific procedures been followed.'"

(Close, Frank; "The Cold War Remembered," Nature, 358:291, 1992.)

But what's this from Los Alamos?

"A Los Alamos National Laboratory researcher says he has duplicated the results of a Japanese experiment in which power was generated by cold fusion.

"Edmund Storms, a high-temperature chemist at Los Alamos, used palladium metal supplied by Japanese fusion researcher Akito Takahashi of Osaka University." (See: SF#82)

(Anonymous; "Los Alamos Scientist Duplicates Japanese Cold Fusion Experiment," Associated Press, July 28, 1992. Cr. E. Hansen)

Where There's Heat There's Yen. Japan's Ministry of Trade and Industry (MITI) plans to launch a five-year program to study cold fusion. Isn't this folly, since most physicists have declared cold fusion to be impossible?

"Not so, says MITI -- it's just Japanese pragmatism. All MITI is interested in is the continuing reports of excess heat generated in the hydrogenpalladium cells studied by Pons and Fleischmann and the possibility of putting any new phenomenon -- even if chemical rather than nuclear in origin -- to industrial use."

(Myers, Frederick S.; "Where There's Heat There's Yen," Science, 257:474, 1992.)

From Science Frontiers #83, SEP-OCT 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