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Cold Fusion Returns? Separating Fact from Fiction

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Back in 1989, two University of Utah researchers named Pons and Fleischmann announced to the world that certain experiments they had performed appeared to show the existence of a new type of power source. This new type of energy appeared to emerge as a side effect of certain chemical reactions involving heavy water and palladium, and it was given the name “cold fusion” because it was theorized by these two electrochemists that the excess energy being detected was coming from reactions taking place on the atomic level.

Nuclear fusion is the process that fuels energy-releasing reactions inside stars like our sun. The possibility that this type of energy source could be created at room temperatures naturally created quite a stir, since what was being talked about here was a source of clean (no radioactivity is produced in nuclear fusion) and cheap source of abundant energy that could have potentially revolutionized the world if it could have been harnessed and put into use. However, most mainstream physicists greeted the announcement that cold fusion had been discovered with extreme skepticism that bordered on – and eventually degenerated into – open hostility.

A big part of the problem was that Pons and Fleischmann went public (under pressure from their employers) before subjecting their work to the deep scrutiny of the peer review process. When other researchers were not able to replicate their findings in separate experiments, Pons and Fleischmann were pillaged and destroyed in the halls of academia and in the mainstream media by the guardians of the mainstream scientific establishment. They were alternatively accused of perpetrating a fraud or practicing pseudo-science, which is a catch-all label that mainstream scientists use to tar and feather any researchers who dare to tread in waters that have been ruled off-limits by the gatekeepers of official knowledge.

In 1989, the Department of Energy assembled a committee of physicists to study the theoretical aspects of cold fusion, and this committee delivered a verdict that was decidedly negative. They basically declared Pons and Fleischmann snake oil salesmen who were selling something that was theoretically impossible and therefore couldn’t be true. The two electrochemists admitted that they did not completely understand the results they had found and insisted that their theory about what might be going on at the subatomic level had never been anything more than tentative.  But by this time is was too late for qualifications, and the scientific/media establishment declared the subject of cold fusion – or whatever it was that Pons and Fleischmann had found – officially dead.

Resurrecting the Dead

But like the rumors about Mark Twain, the reports of cold fusion’s demise proved to have been greatly exaggerated. In the two-plus decades after the original cold fusion fiasco, open-minded scientists established a thinly veiled underground network to study the question more in-depth. And, while no one has ever again made the mistake of going public too quickly, the effect that had been found in that laboratory in Utah actually has been recreated in other laboratories around the world. If this is news to you, there are basically three reasons for that: number one, these anomalous experimental results were unreliable and unpredictable, meaning scientists replicating the work of Pons and Fleischmann were not able to do so on a consistent basis; two, even when anomalous energy was detected following testing, the amounts of this energy were so small that it was not really capable of being used for anything; and three, because mainstream science had slapped the label “pseudo-science” on all cold fusion research, the media and most scientists did what was expected of them and ignored the topic completely.

But now, an Italian inventor named Andrea Rossi, with support from a retired physics professor from the University of Bologna named Sergio Focardi, has come up with an actual working device that appears to be able to tap into the energy source first discovered by Pons and Fleischmann in a consistent and reliable way. Furthermore, the amount of energy produced by this device is in the ten- to-fifteen kilowatt range, which is enough energy to boil water and do other interesting and productive things.

Rossi calls his device an E-Catalyzer, or E-Cat. He uses hydrogen and nickel as his chemical reactants, and he has been able to successfully demonstrate the E-Cat’s ability to create bursts of usable energy for scientists and in presentations before the media. If the E-Cat is really able to do what Rossi and Focardi says and what initial tests seem to demonstrate that it can do, then this could actually be the unlimited, low-cost, clean energy source that alternative energy advocates have always dreamt about.

Rossi has turned some people off by his commercial orientation and self-promoting approach. However, a number of scientists have come out in support of his work and are enthusiastically predicting great things in the future for this technology. One of the reasons why scientific authorities such as NASA scientist Dennis Bushnell and Nobel Prize winning physicist Brian Josephson have been willing to take the E-Cat seriously is that a better theoretical explanation has now been offered that explains the release of anomalous energy in these types of chemical reactions.

A New Theory is Offered

In 2005, two theoretical physicists named Allan Widom and Lewis Larsen developed a model to explain results like those of Pons and Fleischmann and the other researchers who have occasionally replicated their work. The new theory rejects the cold fusion concept and instead posits that changes in the nucleus of atoms involving the weak nuclear force are responsible for the anomalous releases of energy sometimes seen. The cold fusion concept has always been problematic because it could only explain the creation of excess energy if the powerful forces that hold atoms together were somehow being overcome at room temperatures, which has seemed unlikely to many because fusion normally occurs only at temperatures and pressures like those found in the interior of the sun. The weak nuclear force of attraction operates differently in the atomic nucleus than this strong force, and the Widom-Lewis theory describes a mechanism of decay connected to the weak attraction that would allow certain quantities of heat to be released as a consequence of chemical reactions such as that being created by Rossi with his E-Cat. The important thing to know about Widom and Lewis’ theory is that it does not in any way contradict the laws of physics as they are presently understood, and this decisively removes the concept of low-energy nuclear reactions, as the idea and the research field it explains are called, from the realm of pseudo-science.

Facing the Enemy

Many mainstream scientists and science journalists have reacted snidely and condescendingly to Rossi’s pronouncements and the support he has received from some quarters of the scientific community. It is interesting to note, however, that the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory and DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Project Agency), the Pentagon’s technology research wing, have been doing their own research into low-energy nuclear reactions for a while now, and the U.S. Navy organization in particular has reported some very positive results. This means that while the government publicly was agreeing with the scientific establishment’s dismissal of cold fusion, or whatever was going on, privately the American military establishment was continuing to research the possibilities.

A cheap, renewable, clean source of energy is something the world desperately needs, now more than ever. Unfortunately, there may be three powerful interests arrayed against the E-Cat and all of those who have been researching similar ideas: the scientific thugs who dismissed the idea out of hand and all but destroyed the careers of Pons and Fleischmann; the oil companies who might ultimately be put out of business if this new source of energy were harnessed and put into development; and a Department of Defense that might like to keep such a revolutionary technology all to themselves.

It is going to be very interesting to see what happens to Andrea Rossi over the coming weeks and months. If we should eventually hear claims in the mainstream media and in scientific circles that he has been discredited or proven to be a hoaxer, or if we simply stop hearing about him at all, we would be wise to greet such a situation with a healthy dose of skepticism and suspicion of our own.

©2011 Off the Grid News

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