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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