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Posted on 09/10/2011 8:55:10 AM PDT by Kevmo
MIT and Cold Fusion: A Special Report
Compiled and written by Eugene F. Mallove, Sc.D.
MIT Class of 1969, S.B. Aero/Astro Eng., 1970 S.M. Aero/Astro Eng.
Editor-in-Chief, Infinite Energy Magazine
President, New Energy Foundation, Inc.
When on March 23, 1989 Drs. Martin Fleischmann and Stanley Pons announced that they had measured nuclear-scale excess energy from a palladium-heavy water electrochemical cell, and that they had also detected some preliminary evidence of nuclear signatures from their exotic energy-producing reactions, the world was in awe. Their famous afternoon press conference at the University of Utah, coming less than twelve hours before the Exxon Valdez ran aground off Alaskas pristine coast and spilled millions of gallons of oil, reminded us of the serious problems linked with fossil fuel dependency. The Chernobyl nuclear reactor accident of 1986 also hovered in the background.
It was already clear that conventional fission nuclear power was in deep political trouble in many countries. The close coupling of energy and the environment was growing ever more apparent.
Following the Utah disclosure, the prospect loomed of a quantum leap in energy technologya solution to the dilemma of fossil fuel domination and its threats to the environment and world peace. The Utah claims soon came to be known as cold fusion, because the electrochemists were saying that they had solved the problem that the plasma physicists and engineers in the hot fusion program had been working on for four decades.
The hot fusioneers had been trying to mimic the starsto bring the power of the Sun down to Earth in the form of controlled, thermonuclear fusion. This was the attempt to use the deuterium in ordinary water as an effectively infinite fuel supply.
In only one cubic kilometer of ocean, the nuclear fusion energy that could be extracted from the approximately 1/6,500th fraction of waters hydrogen that is heavy hydrogen exceeds the combustion energy content of all the known oil reserves on Earth.
Tantalizing as the prospect of infinite energy from the oceans was, the hot fusion program had never generated even a single watt of excess power in its huge plasma reactors, which cost hundreds of millions of dollars per year to support. Success break-even or more energy out than inwith magnetically- confined hot plasma fusion always seemed to be twenty years away. This led to the perennial joke that hot fusion is the energy source of the future. . .and always will be. Moreover, even if the hot fusion program were to succeed in building a commercially viable central-station generator of electricity sometime in the year 2050 or beyond, the technology would have serious limitations. The energy from the hot fusion reaction of deuterium and radioactive tritium, which had to be supplied in bootstrap-fashion from the reaction, would emerge in the form of deadly neutron radiation (14 MeV neutrons). That would have to be transformed into more benign thermal energy in a hot jacket of molten lithium in order to heat water for steam-generated electricity. The practical engineering problems would be enormous, the technology would add more nuclear waste to the global inventory (though not as much as conventional fission power, or so claim the tokamak hot fusion advocates), and it was far from certain to be economically viable.
In fact, in October 1983 MIT Professor of Nuclear Engineering, Lawrence M. Lidsky, published an article (The Trouble with Fusion) condemning the hot fusion program. It was a high-profile cover story for MITs Technology Review. The stark black and white cover of the issue read, Even if the fusion program produces a reactor, no one will want it. Other key remarks made by the outspoken Lidsky, who was then an Associate Director of the Plasma Fusion Center: Long touted as an inexhaustible energy source for the next century, fusion as it is now being developed will almost certainly be too expensive and unreliable for commercial use.; The scientific goal of the fusion program turns out to be an engineering nightmare.; A fusion reactor might well produce only onetenth as much power as a fission reactor of the same size.; The drawbacks of the existing fusion program will weaken the prospects for other fusion programs, no matter how wisely redirected. Foreshadowing the benefit of cold fusion that would emerge over five years later, Lidsky also wrote of aneutronic hot fusion: Neutrons induce radioactivity and damage reactors. Neutron-free fusion might provide inexhaustible, benign power. Prof. Lidsky later moved into work at MIT on advanced fission reactors, but kept an open mind about cold fusion after it emerged.
Enter Fleischmann and Pons Onto the scene on March 23, 1989 came two world-class electrochemists, Professors Martin Fleischmann and Stanley Pons, who were boldly claiming on international television that they had already achieved break-even in some form of nuclear fusion, but in a humble jar of heavy waterwithout lethal attendant radiation! This was an instant prescription for controversy.
By analogy, it was as shocking and insulting to the hot fusion people as if they had been told that their television set had not been able to turn on for decades because they had neglected to plug it in! The threat to the hot fusion enterprise was palpable and real. More to the point: even if the hot fusion people did not believe the Utah claims were sound, the threat that some hot fusion funding (perhaps $25 million) would be diverted by the U.S. Congress to study cold fusion was very real. The always financially embattled hot fusion program was running scared in the onslaught of cold fusion news.
MIT Professor Ronald Ballinger, who would play a key role in the scandalous attacks against cold fusion, testified before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science, Technology, and Space (see Exhibit A). His April 26, 1989 testimony had a seemingly appropriate wait and see message, but behind the scenes Ballinger, Parker, and other MIT hot fusioneers had among themselves already dismissed cold fusion. They were sharpening their knives against Fleischmann and Pons. (See recorded interview with Boston Herald, Exhibit B.) The idea that deuterium in heavy water might be undergoing some kind of nuclear fusion reaction within the palladium cathodes of the Pons-Fleischmann cells was, of course, very difficult to accept. Where was the expected lethal radiation, for example, which standard nuclear physics would seem to predict? Why werent Pons and Fleischmann dead if they had truly generated even a minor fraction of a watt of cold fusion-derived energy? This became known as the dead graduate student problem.
Furthermore, how could the palladium cell have overcome the natural, very high electric repulsion force between the positively charged deuterium nucleithe so-called Coulomb barrier that had been thought to put an absolute barrier between high energy nuclear physics and ordinary chemistry? Elements (except those that are radioactive or which spontaneously fission) should retain their identities. This is basic scientific fact doled out in high school science classes. Room-temperature fusion of even light elements such as hydrogen or lithium was considered to be prima facie impossible. (There was an old pre-cold fusion era joke among MIT students about the need for a Department of Alchemy, but MIT was apparently not quite ready for the real thing!) Conventional understanding was that nothing at ordinary conditions could bring the nuclei of deuterium close enough together such that the nuclear forces, at very close approach, would take over and facilitate fusion to heliumor to anything else. That two miracles were implicit in cold fusion was just too much to bear for the mainstream physics community.
Nonetheless, the establishment held its skepticism in checkat least publiclyfor several weeks. Some scientists told the news media that the claims were very interesting, but they thought they were unlikely to be true. By implication, they suggested there might be a mistake, which they would likely find after doing their experiments to check up on Fleischmann and Pons.
Immediately, the cold fusion story became very big news all around the world. Thousands of scientists and basement inventors tried to verifyor disprovethe claims from Utah. The May 8, 1989 editions of Time, Newsweek, and Business Week ran prominent cover stories on cold fusiona first for science coverage apart from events in space exploration. The question of the hour wasas Business Week editorialized on its cover: Is cold fusion a miracle or a mistake? Of course that was the possibility that had to be excludeda major mistake in either excess heat measurement or nuclear measurements.
When cold fusion was announced, I had the good fortune to be the chief science writer at the MIT News Office, the main public relations arm of MIT. My tenure was from September 1987 through June 1991. Previously, I had written major scientific articles for MIT Technology Review, the magazine of my alma maters Alumni/ae Association. After leaving my job as an aerospace engineer at MIT Lincoln Laboratory in 1985, I shifted careers and had worked as a science writer and broadcaster for the Voice of America in Washington, DC. I would also eventually teach science journalism both at Boston University and at MIT in the Department of Humanities (both when I was in the MIT News Office, and for a time afterward).
My position at the News Office required me to interact daily with members of the national and international press. Thus, when the Pons and Fleischmann announcement occurred, it was my job to report to the media what certain key scientists at MIT were thinking about the amazing claims out of Utah.
I had already been instrumental, some weeks before March 23, 1989, in exposing the entire science writing staff and senior editors of The Wall Street Journal to the hot fusion program at MIT, where the Alcator line of tokamaks were being developed. I did that proudly. In fact, I remember introducing Plasma Fusion Center (PFC) Director Ronald R. Parker to the Wall Street Journals Jerry Bishop, the senior reporter who would later write an award-winning series of articles on cold fusion. As an engineer turned writerengineer, I had been since age sixteen an advocate for hot fusion.
While a student in engineering at MIT in 1967, I remember being impressed by the Russian hot fusion exhibit at the world Expo in Montreal. I thought that hot fusion offered a real though difficult-to-develop solution to the worlds energy needs.
Because I had been trained as an aerospace engineer with a particular interest in interstellar propulsion methods, I was fond of hot fusion, because it might offer a very high performance propulsion system for limited travel to the local stars. I would write of this in my 1989 book, co-authored with colleague Dr. Gregory Matloff, The Starflight Handbook: A Pioneers Guide to Interstellar Travel (John Wiley & Sons). In 1969 I had written a lengthy term paper for MIT course 16.53 on the Bussard Interstellar Ramjet concept, which used the hydrogen of the interstellar medium as fusion fuel. In the 1970s and 1980s, I collaborated with physicist Robert L. Forward of Hughes Research Laboratories on lengthy bibliographical studies of the related subjects of advanced interstellar propulsion concepts and the search for extra-terrestrial civilizations (SETI).
The cold fusion story quickly drew very heavy media attention, and I was rapidly drawn into the frenzy that resulted at the MIT News Office. There were many requests for interviews withRonald Parker and others at the PFC. Agroup of PFC and Chemistry Department scientists and students had immediately set out to check the Utah claims. There were regular calls to me at the News Office to provide status reports, photo opportunities, and interviews for members of the PFC team. Then in mid-April 1989, Professor Peter L. Hagelstein, a laser and quantum physics expert in the MIT Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, went public with a theory of how cold fusion might be explained in terms of coherent nuclear reactions. Professor Keith H. Johnson of the MIT Dept. of Materials Science, another MIT luminary, with deep knowledge of palladium hydrides and superconductivity in his background, also put forth a theory that allowed nuclear reactions to occur in the Pons-Fleischmann cells. Unlike Hagelstein, who proposed pure nuclear reactions operating in a coherent fashion with a metal lattice, Johnson tried to explain the excess heat as a result of peculiar effects of so-called Jahn-Teller chemical bonding. I thought this was a wonderful honor for MIT, to have two openminded theorists approaching the Utah results with caution, but attempting to pose explanations for it if it could be confirmed.
Others at MIT did not hold this view. The Hagelstein- Johnson work was almost immediately regarded with disdain particularly by the plasma fusion people. So there were early-on two camps at MIT, one largely negative (but at that point generally restrained in its public comments), and another putting forth hope that the Utah discovery was no mistake and could be explained on theoretical groundsmuch as Nobel Laureate Julian Schwinger began to try to do at that time. (See Julian Schwingers talk on cold fusion, which he delivered at MIT in November 1991.) The story was growing more fascinating every day, as reports of positive results in replication efforts came in from around the world, as well as news of negative results from other laboratories. I was able to write a series of articles* about MITs response to cold fusion for MIT Tech Talk, the administration newspaper that circulates on campus and is used as a public relations tool to influence the general mass media. (Tech Talk is not to be confused with the MIT student newspaper, The Tech.) [*April 5, 1989, Vol. 33, No. 27, Recent cold fusion claims baffle experts; April 26, 1989, Vol. 33, No. 29, Cold fusion: theories, controversy abound: May 3, 1989, Vol. 33, No. 30, Group finds flaw in cold fusion experiment; May 31, 1989, Vol. 33, No. 34, Cold fusion is still a hot topic.] There were also a few immediate false-positive results from outside MIT, such as from Georgia Tech, that were reported prematurely to the press. These left several scientists embarrassed when they had to retract or sneak away with red facesas Charles Martin did at Texas A&M University. Unfortunately, these and other political issues came to color the attitude of many observers of the cold fusion sceneespecially because Pons and Fleischmann had been forced to make their announcement via a press conference, rather than through scientific publication.
The reasons for the press conference are too involved to explore here, although Dr. Fleischmann himself sheds some additional light on the topic in an essay in this issue (not reprinted here, see Issue 24 of Infinite Energy). However, it is a matter of record that Fleischmann and Pons really did not want to make their disclosure for another eighteen months until they understood their discovery better. The parallel claims by physicist Steve Jones of nearby Brigham and Young University, patent issues, and other conflicts brought the issue into public view in March 1989. Further complicating the story and enraging other scientists, lawyers at the University of Utah prohibited or retarded the disclosure of experimental details by Fleischmann and Pons. As a historian of this subject, I feel confident in stating that if Fleischmann and Pons had been allowed to hand out at their press conference the pre-print of their paper which was later that spring published in the Journal of Electroanalytical Chemistry, the intensity of opposition to cold fusion would have been reduced by at least 50%.
If one had any interest in the process of science, this was already a first-class captivating story. Naturally, I called my literary agent at the time, Richard Curtis, and alerted him that there might be a new book for me in this saga. Because I had already written two books (at the time I was still completing The Starflight Handbook), it was not difficult to convince John Wiley & Sons to offer me a contract for a book on cold fusion. I didnt know how the story would turn out, but it was certainly going to be a matter of some interest given the already huge media coverage.
My first book was The Quickening Universe: Cosmic Evolution and Human Destiny (St. Martin's Press, 1987), which had been published soon after I arrived at the MIT News Office.
One of the stipulations in the cold fusion book contract was that if Nature or Science magazine (or both) were to reach the general editorial conclusion that cold fusion was not real, the publisher could revoke the contract. As would transpire, that happened; the contract was revoked. In the spring of 1989 and beyond, the complex politics among the hot fusion program, the Department of Energy ERAB Cold Fusion Panel, the cold fusion camp, the media, and the mainstream science community led to widespread rejection of cold fusion as a Big Mistakeincompetence on the part of Pons and Fleischmann and others reporting positive results, or worse.
Possible fraud and scientific schlock is how PFC Director Ronald Parker would characterize Pons and Fleischmanns work to Boston Herald environmental reporter Nick Tate in an interview in late April 1989, which surfaced on May 1. That May day in Baltimore, the absent electrochemists were viciously attacked at the meeting of the American Physical Society. The F-wordfraudhad been unleashed against cold fusion, thanks in no small way to the MIT PFC. Boston Herald Reporter Nick Tate would later write in a retrospective (June 8, 1991): The MIT analysis debunked the Utah claims, and in an interview with the Herald, Parkerwho wrote the report with Dr.
Richard Petrassosaid the chemists misinterpreted their results. He also called it possibly fraudulent scientific schlock. Some say those comments set the tone for the national criticism of the Utah work that followed. But as we all know, the cold fusion story did not die. Positive results, as well as negative results in attempts to replicate the Pons and Fleischmann experiment, continued to be reported through 1989 and beyond. I was fascinated by the trend, not knowing how it would all come out. I was trying to be as objective as possible within the tumult. Certainly, I was encouraged by much of what I heard, but I was also discouraged by what my contacts at the MIT Plasma Fusion Center were saying.
Some of them, such as Dr. Stan Luckhardt, told me that the tritium detection in cold fusion experiments at Los Alamos National Laboratory should be ignored because it had been done by third-rate scientists. I assumed, provisionally, that these MIT experts knew what they were talking about. These were Dr. Edmund Storms and Dr. Carol Talcottin retrospect definitely not third rate. Despite Nature and Science magazines negativity, eventually the sharp editor at John Wiley & Sons, David Sobel, perceived that it would be a good idea to reinstate the book contract, so I continued to follow the story.
Even without the contract, I would have continued to be deeply immersed in the field. How could any serious person with a strong science background not be, so intriguing had become the physical evidenceand, in parallel, its public rejection. And several MIT professors remained very interested in itnot only Peter Hagelstein and Keith Johnson, but Prof. Louis Smullin, Prof. Lawrence Lidsky, Prof. Donald Sadoway (who filed a patent too!), and Prof. Philip Morrison.
In May 1991, Fire from Ice: Searching for the Truth Behind the Cold Fusion Furor came out.
Its general conclusion was that the evidence for cold fusion was overwhelmingly compelling.
In my view, for four or five years now, the basic evidence has been 100% confirmed; it is not merely compelling. Commercial opportunities abound for engineering power-generating reactors, even though the precise microphysical characterization of cold fusion remains contentious. In 1991, Julian Schwinger offered this promotional comment for the jacket of Fire from Ice: Eugene Mallove has produced a sorely needed, accessible overview of the cold fusion muddle. By sweeping away stubbornly held preconceptions, he bares the truth implicit in a provocative variety of experiments. (See page 17 for further positive comments on Fire from Ice by Schwinger and other MIT-affiliated people.) In 1991, I thought that both cold fusion and hot fusion could play a complementary role in the energy economy of the world even though neither technology had been developed to the stage of commercial devices. I offered that opinion in Fire from Ice. But I was on dangerous ground. That was the last thing that the hot fusion people wanted to hear! They thought they had buried cold fusion about two years before. They had been fighting cold fusion in the press and in government from the outset.
Today, it is hot fusion that will be buried. Once the first commercial prototype reactors using cold fusion get widespread public acceptanceand they inevitably willthe white elephant of the tokamak hot fusion program is likely to be abrupt-ly canceled by an outraged Congress. The U.S. DoE-Academia scandal against cold fusion demands a Congressional investigation if ever a matter of pressing scientific, technological, and legal importance did. Congress has already killed U.S. involvement in the $10-billion ITER (International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor). The media, in general, are still largely ignoring scientific and commercial developments in cold fusion, but commercial-scale reactors will be impossible to denyeven for some heretofore obtuse science journalists who should have been continuing their coverage had they not been so strongly influenced by the likes of the negativists at MIT and elsewhere.
It Began at MIT By the spring of 1991, most of the media and certainly the vast bulk of the scientific establishment had written off cold fusion. Fortunately for us all, they wereand areall wrong. How did the scientific community and the media get the idea that cold fusion was bunk, pathological science, and worse, when experiments continued worldwide? Substantial, increasingly refined experimental proofs were publishedeven in peer-reviewed journals, but the goal posts kept being moved by the opposition. Today, these goal posts are so distant, they are off the planet.
In retrospect, I have concluded that much of the blame for the cold fusion warand it certainly has been just thatstems from a vituperative campaign against the field with deep roots at MIT, specifically at the MIT Plasma Fusion Center.
Not exclusively in that lab, however. Then chemistry Professor Mark S. Wrighton was also on the team that was investigating cold fusion.
He later signed the infamous rush-to-judgement report against cold fusion by the U.S. Dept. of Energy (Prof. Mildred Dresselhaus of MIT also signed the negative DoE report but was much less involved, and as of 1999 is apparently neutral about cold fusion.
One wonders about the propriety of her public silence). Wrighton became Provost of MIT in (1990) after Charles Vest (formerly of the University of Michigan) became President of MIT and picked him.
Since 1995, Wrighton has been Chancellor at Washington University in St. Louis.) In the spring of 1991, as I was finishing Fire from Ice, and feeling increasingly uncomfortable with what was happening at MIT with respect to cold fusion, I made a fateful discovery. Questions had already arisen about exactly how the MIT PFC-Chemistry Dept.
team had analyzed their excess heat calorimetry study that com- 11 Infinite Energy ISSUE 24, 1999 MIT Special Report pared a heavy water/palladium cell with an ordinary water/palladium cell. This was the so-called Phase-II Calorimetry study that had been published in the Journal of Fusion Energy. (Edited at the MIT Plasma Fusion Centerhows that for short-circuiting peer review!) From the pile of information that I had been collecting about the on-going work at MIT and elsewhere, I found two draft documents concerning this calorimetry that had been given to me by PFC team members during the rush toward publication. I could see immediately that there was a serious discrepancy between the unpublished, pre-processed raw data (the July 10, 1989 draft) and the final published data on the July 13, 1989 draft. (See page 11 graphs reproduced from these drafts). At first glance, it appeared that the data had been altered between July 10th and 13th to conform to what would be most welcome to the hot fusion peoplea null result for excess heat in the heavy water data. I would later publicly challenge the creation and handling of these graphs by MIT PFC staff (see extensive Exhibits J through Z-11).
The Phase-II Calorimetry curves were later investigated in the outstanding analysis by my cold fusion colleague and fellow MIT graduate Dr. Mitchell R. Swartz. There can be no doubt now that these curves were the end result of a serious lapse in scientific standards in this affair that happened at MIT.
Our alma mater, which had played such a critical role in the development of radar in World War II, in the Apollo flights to the Moon, in deep space missions, in electronics, in biotechnology, in the chemical industry, in defense systems, and too many other fields to mention in one sentence, would acquire the reputation in the media as the bastion of skepticism against cold fusion. Tragically, MIT as an institution was not to fulfill the role it could have played in bringing cold fusion technology to the world. Quite the contrary, thanks to various false information coming from the hot fusion lab at MIT, the high-profile reputation of MIT was used to legitimize the view that cold fusion is bunk. It was said that the PFC calorimetry results disproved cold fusionshowed no excess heat. This is far from correct, as Dr. Swartz admirably showed. His analysis has been published in several venues.
From the vantage point of 1999, the role of the MIT Plasma Fusion Center/Chemistry Department team that investigated the coldfusion claims in 1989 grows clearer. It is a sad tale that cannot be fully addressed in a short space. Suffice it to say that early on, senior members of the PFC/Chemistry group, such as Dr. Richard Petrasso and Prof. Ronald Parker, took the view that the Utah claims were flawed, or worse, fraudulent.
It went downhill from there. InWilliam Broads 1991 front-page news story in the March 17, 1991 Sunday New York Times, senior PFC physicist Richard Petrasso revealed his original views about Pons and Fleischmann: I was convinced for a while it was absolute fraud. Now Ive softened.
They probably believed in what they were doing. But how they represented it was a clear violation of how science should be done. This is final proof, as though more were needed, that the scientific experiments to investigate cold fusion were inappropriately biased from the outset.
Petrassos comments came within Broads article, bannered with Cold- Fusion Claim is Faulted On Ethics as Well as Science. The article amounted to a virtual promotional book review of UK physicist Frank Closes book, Too Hot to Handle, which came out at about the time of Fire from Ice. The New York Times also reviewed Closes book in its Book Review section. Curiously, Fire from Ice was never reviewed by the Times. Frank Close, who worked closely with Petrasso et al. in assaulting Pons and Fleischmann, falsely accused them of having fudged gamma-ray spectroscopy data. The bizarre truth is that even had Pons and Fleischmann faked gamma ray datathey most certainly had nottheir all-important nuclear-scale excess power results, the key signature of cold fusion, has withstood the test of time. Cold fusion is now being developed commercially. To their credit, Fleischmann and Pons were not comfortable with the preliminary nature of their neutron/ gamma-ray data and have long since withdrawn those data. Others subsequently confirmed much lower levels of neutron emission. On the other hand, the use of the strawman of gamma-ray curves by Petrasso et al. at the MIT PFC is all the more reprehensible when the history of real data fudging in cold fusion is examinedthe data processing (i.e.
improper manipulation) of calorimetry curves from electrochemical experiments performed at the MIT PFC in the spring of 1989.
Let us not forget, these were serious experiments, funded by the U.S. Department of Energy under Federal contract. The authorization to investigate came from U.S. President George Bush through Energy Secretary Admiral Watkins. (As a general matter, people who file false reports to Federal agencies are subject to criminal sanctions if this work is brought to the attention of appropriate investigative authorities before the statutes of limitation expire.) This calorimetry issue was not a small matter. In the spring of 1989 it was absolutely critical to determine whether there was anything to the Pons and Fleischmann claims. The energy and environmental future of the world hung in the balance and the MIT PFC people failed us. They preferred to get rid of a scientific claim in which they did not believe, and which threatened their federally-funded program, by playing politics with the media, trivializing their experiments, and ultimately foisting on the world highly flawed datasome would say fraudulently represented datafrom a calorimetry experiment ostensibly performed to determine scientific truth.
To understand how the curves that I and later Dr. Swartz analyzed in his report came about, one should have some background.
In late April 1989, Professor Parker and Professor Ronald Ballinger, both members of the PFC team then investigating the claims of Pons and Fleischmann, held a covert interview with Herald reporter Nick Tate to plant a very negative story against the Utah work. No one at the MIT News Office was told of this interview until late on the night before the story was to appear in banner headlines in the Boston Herald. As Parker told Tate (a tape released by the Herald confirms thissee Exhibit B), Parker and Ballinger et al. were opposed to the cheer-leading for cold fusion by the Boston Globe.
They wanted to give Tate an exclusive story about some nuclear physics evidence that they said they had developed, which they claimed would prove the Fleischmann-Pons experiments to be highly flawed.
This evidence concerned the gamma-ray spectra coming from attempts to measure neutrons impinging on a water bath near the Pons- Fleischmann cells.
Historically, it is evident that this Herald story helped unleash the tidal wave of negativity against Fleischmann and Pons and others who continue to work in the field. Ironically, Parker et al.
accomplished what they really set out to do with that story, but at the time Parker attacked reporter Tate for allegedly mis-reporting what he had said during his interview. Tate came very close to being fired on the spot by his editor; he would have been fired had he not had an audio tape of the interview to confirm what he had been told by Parker. After all, it was an MIT professors word against that of a young reporter.
A frantic Ronald Parker, perhaps fearing that he would be sued by Pons and Fleischmann for the harsh words that were quoted a bit too explicitly for his taste, called me late on the night of April 30, 1989. He had me dispatch a press release to the wire services denying the impending Boston Herald story, the exact nature of which he had learned from a call from CBS television. Of course, I had at that time no reason to doubt what he was tellingme: that the story was a distortion. I would learn the stark truth about this deception only over a year later when Tate allowed me to listen to the actual tape. There can be no denying what Parker told Tate about Fleischmann and Pons. In one key passage in the interview, Parker says this: So, what are you going to do with this, uh, Nick? You know this is. . .what you are hearing is that we think its a scam, right? Tate responded: Why is it today that you think its a scam? Parkers reply: We have been studying the evidence together very slowly and we want to have a paper out on this before we actually blast them. Monday (May 1, 1989) were putting a paper out on it. . . In addition to this, the actual word fraud, was used by Parker no less than five times on the audio tapeas he discussed Pons and Fleischmanns work. This tape is a key smoking gun of the entire cold fusion controversy. The treachery and conniving by Parker and Ballinger are there for all to seedisgraceful! By June of 1989, the hot fusion community and the physics establishment were very satisfied that they had debunked cold fusion. Any of the growing numbers of positive reports could readily be dismissed by reporters and other, less involved scientists.
After all, the plasma physicist authorities at MIT had spoken.
In fact, so convinced were the PFC people that they had killed off cold fusion, they held a celebratory partybilled as a Wake for Cold Fusion on June 26, 1989. The humorous poster for the party notes: Brought to you by the Center for Contrived Fantasies Black Armbands Optional. What is most interesting about this anything-butfunny mockery by the PFC is that at the time the party was held, the data for the Phase-II calorimetry experiments had not yet been analyzed! It was not until mid-July 1989 that the calorimetry data were put in anything like final published form. No formal conclusion had been set into print. How do we know this? Simple. In the course of my investigations into cold fusion, I would of course regularly ask PFC team members for their latest impressions, data, etc. So I was given many, many documents that piled up on my desk, not all being closely examined when received. But as I was completing Fire from Ice in the spring of 1991, questions about the PFC calorimetry had been brought up by my cold fusion colleague, electrochemist Dr. Vesco Noninski. Was the methodology and analysis of the PFC Phase-II calorimetry reported in the paper published by the PFC in the Journal of Fusion Energy sound? Noninski had many doubts and so did I.
We approached a team member for clarification and got no satisfaction just continued brush-off. I then looked through my stacks of papers from the PFC and found to my complete astonishment (and dismay) the two draft reports on the Phase-II calorimetry. One was dated July 10, 1989 and the other July 13, 1989, a clearly more complete versionthe version that was actually published in both a formal PFC report and the Journal of Fusion Energy.
Only a week after this MIT PFC analysis solidified, PFC Director Parker occupied himself dispensing humorous cold fusion mugs that were obtained wholesale in Utah (see Exhibit F)! On June 7, 1991 I resigned from the MIT News Office, to protest the outrageous behavior of the PFC and others at MIT against cold fusion. Among other disgraceful happenings, an article of mine on cold fusion that had been approved for publication by the then editor of MIT Technology Review, was canceled after being trashed by MIT Physics Department Professor Herman Feshbach. Feshbach told me over the phone when I inquired, I have fifty years of experience in nuclear physics and I know what is possible and what is impossible. He also told me that he did not want to see any more evidence for cold fusion, which I offered to show him, because, Its all junk! Hours before my formal resignation, the PFC was having another of its celebrations for the death of cold fusion. Dr.
Frank Close was speaking at a seminar there, billed An Exposé of Cold Fusion, in which he lashed at Pons and Fleischmann for their alleged fudging of gamma ray curves. He had nothing of significance to say about the P&F calorimetry, consistent with this appalling highenergy physicist mind-set that knew everything that could and could not happen among nuclei. After Close was finished, Dr. Petrasso as master of ceremonies, very reluctantly gave me some time to comment. (Just one minute, Gene!) I showed the July 10-July 13 curve shifting with overhead transparencies and suggested sarcastically to Close that he should consider covering this important documentary finding in the next edition of his book (Heaven forfend that there should be another!). It was as though I were talking to a wall. This wasnot deemed important. After all, hadnt he just proved that cold fusion was dead? PFC Director Parker then stated that this was the first time he had seen the data I had flashed on the screenit probably was.
Then Parker made the astounding assertion that you can put those curves anywhere you wish. He publicly stated that the data from the MIT PFC was worthless. (See Exhibit K). Many weeks later, after I had revealed the PFC story to the world, Parker reverted to defending the conclusions of the calorimetry data in an informal press release put out by the MIT News Office (see Exhibit T). It must take many years of training to maintain such mutually contradictory opinions with a straight faceon national television and in written documents.
Let me be clear: There was likely no grand conspiracy to suppress a positive finding for excess heat in the MIT PFCPhase- II calorimetry, its just that the mind-set of the MIT hot fusioneers and Chemistry Department people allowed lower echelon persons to monkey with the data. He or she could not possibly bring anything to his superiorsRonald Parker and then MIT Chemistry Dept. Head Mark Wrightonthat looked remotely positive for excess heat. This would have opened up the cold fusion story again in the summer of 1989, this time with MIT coming in with some encouraging news. So, the data was fudged. I can think of another F-wordbeyond fudging that applies. It is closer to the truth. Ronald Parker likes to bandy it about in interviews with newspaper reporters. This groundless, manipulated and fabricated data has subsequently been cited over and over again by the U.S. Patent Office to reject cold fusion patent applications. It was even used, in part, ultimately to kill the Pons and Fleischmann patent itself, which happened in the Fall of 1997. Other MIT-trained cold fusion inventors have also had their patent applications attacked with this unscientific travesty from MIT.
Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of the MIT PFC experiment was that after I publicly challenged it, the objective of the experiment was redefined by its defenders! Thus, it is quite literally true that the experiment published in the Journal of Fusion Energy and the MIT PFC technical report is by definition fraudulent if only because the ground rules for comparing the heavy water and ordinary water experimental outputs were subsequently changed and are not as stated in the article. These ground rules went from the obvious implication that can be taken from the lack of difference between the published curves to the statement that the MIT PFC team were looking for fast turn on of 79 mW excess heat and didnt find it! See NIH physicist Dr. Charles McCutchens letters to the MIT Administration about this key pointExhibits Z-4, Z-8, and Z-11. Dr. Mitchell Swartz has produced a remarkable, clear analysis of the data produced by the MIT PFCincluding all of the various inconsistent versions of the data and their interpretation).
The work speaks for itself. Interested readers may request the original color-graphic paper which is included in a paperback book from JET Technology, P.O. Box 81135, Wellesley Hills, MA 02481.
Swartz, Dr. Mitchell R., Re-Examination of a Key Cold Fusion Experiment: Phase-II Calorimetry by the MIT Plasma Fusion Center, Fusion Facts, August 1992, pp. 27-40.
Swartz, Dr. Mitchell R., A Method to Improve Algorithms Used to Detect Steady State Excess Enthalpy,Proceedings: Fourth International Conference on Cold Fusion (December 6-9, 1993, Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii), and in Transactions of Fusion Technology, Vol.26, December 1994, pp. 369-372.
Swartz, Dr. Mitchell R., Some Lessons from Optical Examination of the PFC Phase-II Calorimetric Curves, Proceedings: Fourth International Conference on Cold Fusion (December 6-9, 1993, Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii).
The Sham MIT Inquiry I am very glad that Dr. Swartz undertook the task of this essential analysis, because certainly he was more capable than I in this kind of detailed examination of points that appeared and disappeared in various versions put out by the PFC. He did it himself after I turned over to him the materials that I had discovered.
I was so revolted by the handling of this matter by the MIT Administration, that I really could not stand to wallow in the falsehoods coming out of the MIT PFC. My feeling was: Let them stew in their own self-created problems. The world will eventually understand what they did. It will.
After my formal complaint to MIT President Charles Vest in August 1991 (see Exhibit R), in which I asked for an appropriate investigation of scientific misconduct in the data handling and in the planting of a false press story by Parker in 1989, the whole matter was, in effect, swept under the rug by Vest after an utterly insufficient examination of the technical issue by Professor Professor Philip Morrison, who was a friend of MIT PFC report co-author, Dr. Petrasso.
Morrisons down-playing of the issues involved was a great disappointment, but not surprising for someone who to this day does not comprehend the significance of the research results in the cold fusion field. Asymptom of this: To my knowledge, Prof. Morrison at least as of early 1999has never reviewed in his wide ranging columns any cold fusion bookseither positive or negative.
In one of his notes to President Vest (Exhibit V), Morrison stated that cold fusion findings would at most open some way to build a new battery, possibly a fuel cell. This kind of ill-informed remark should be beneath the author of The Ring of Truth! Concerning the ethical issues of Parkers dealings with the press and the MIT News Office, President Vest stated that his legal counsel advised him no action was necessary.
It was a shameful, sham inquiry, not a thorough investigation, as the subsequent portion of this report and the various Exhibits show. I complained vigorously to President Vest that the inquiry was totally inadequate.
In fact, the people who should should have been under investigation were allowed to continuefifto handle the data and write a subsequent Technical Appendix that made further excuses for data mishandling. As Dr. Swartz has shown, the data was, indeed, altered yet again during the investigation! For now, I hope that Dr. Swartzs analysis, and my own assessments and exchanges with President Vest, will be examined carefully by all who still have an open mind about the historical development of the cold fusion controversy.
My conclusions about the inappropriate data manipulation at the MIT PFC are my own and my opinions about the implications of this data mishandling are to be considered distinct from Dr.
Swartzs. My assessments of the MIT calorimetry and data handling appear in my Letter of Resignation (Exhibit L), my formal request for an investigation of scientific misconduct (Exhibit R), and other exchanges with President Vest that form the exhibits to this report. But let me quote Dr. Swartzs summary conclusions from his fourteen-page technical paper: From: Dr. Mitchell R. Swartzs, Re-Examination of a Key Cold Fusion Experiment: Phase-II Calorimetry by the MIT Plasma Fusion Center, Fusion Facts, August 1992, pp. 27-40.
The light water curve was published by the PFC essentially intact after the first baseline shift, whereas the heavy water curve was shifted a second time. The cells were matched,12 and solvent loss would be expected to be greater for H2O.
The Phase-II methodology is flawed because it masks a constant [steady-state] excess heat. Furthermore this paradigm fails to use either the true baseline drift, and may avoid the first 15% of the D2O curve in Types 3, 3B, 4, and 5 curves.
What constitutes data reduction is sometimes but not always open to scientific debate. The application of a low pass filter to an electrical signal or the cutting in half of a hologram properly constitute data reduction, but the asymmetric shifting of one curve of a paired set is probably not. The removal of the entire steady state signal is also not classical data reduction. In the May 1992 Appendix, the PFC retroactively claims its systematic errors now total 100 to 400 milliwatts, implying an insensitivity of >30 kilojoules.
Much current skepticism of the cold fusion phenomenon was created by the PFC papers reporting failure-to-reproduce.12 as opposed to its later claimed to insensitive-to-confirm experiments17].
Because it may be the single most widely quoted work used by critics of cold fusion to dismiss the phenomenon, the paper should have clarified all data points and the methodology used. Apparent curve proliferation, volatile points, asymmetric curve shifts, combined with an impaired methodology have needlessly degraded the sensitivity, and believability of the Phase II calorimetry experiment.
Present MIT students as well as alumni should investigate this most unfortunate episode for themselves, and take actionfor the well-being of MIT. There is no doubt in my mind that the MIT PFC calorimetry was mishandled and fraudulently misrepresented.
Dr. Swartzs paper, using proper analysis that could have been performed by the MIT PFC, determined that the average power by this method is 62 milliwatts (±34 milliwatts). As Dr. Swartz states, this is qualitatively similar to the value expected for a successful experiment. Furthermore, Dr.
Swartz credits in his references and conclusions my August1991 complaint to President Vest (see Exhibit R) that a 20% discrepancy in heater power, used to heat the same volume of fluid, has been suggested as corroborating evidence that the heavy water cell produced excess heat. At the very least it was scientifically and morally required that the MIT PFC group repeat its experiments, rather than having them cited year after year against cold fusion, when they should have been retracted or corrected, per the suggestion of physicist Dr. Charles McCutchensee Exhibit Z-11. To cover up a sorry episode may have been comfortable for the MIT administration in an era in which cold fusion had not yet achieved general acceptance (thanks in no small way to some on the MIT staff), but that era will pass. An age of enlightenment is coming that will make the tokamak hot fusion program at MIT a footnote to history. The era of safe, clean, and abundant energy from waternon-chemical energy from hydrogenwill drown the deceivers from MIT to Princeton. (If anyone has any doubt about this emerging commercial reality, they should consult one of the energy-from-water corporations that was influenced by the announcement of Fleischmann and Ponssee BlackLight Power Corp. [www.blacklightpower.com]. No doubt many bright MIT graduates will be employed there.) No one can say that we did not warn MIT officials of the consequences if this important matter was allowed to be mishandled at MIT the way it was and continues to be.
Other Issues The preceding is the basic story of what went on at MIT in 1989-1992. Much of this could have been avoided if President Vest had had an open-door policy toward appropriate scientific dissent. On April 12, 1991, I had sent a letter to President Vest (see Exhibit I), at a time when I was feeling optimistic about what could be accomplished. I had hoped that the new MIT President, who had replaced the outgoing Dr. Paul E. Gray, would take action on its important message. I recommended that a study group be formed to re-examine what had been learned about cold fusion since 1989. Should I have been surprised at not receiving a response? Not when President Vest had chosen Chemistry Department head Mark Wrighton, to be Provost. Examine Wrightons brusk and totally inappropriate response to Dr. Noninski (Exhibit H). Wrightons let me make this perfectly clear I have no comment letter is not a response that a scientist with integrity would have written.
After the events of 1991-1992, there followed many hard years of struggle, working with other engineers and scientists in cold fusion research, and trying to correct false impressions about cold fusion investigations that were being made by journalists and government officials. The launching of Infinite Energy magazine in 1995 (and its short-lived precursor, Cold Fusion magazine, 1994) was, in part, a response to the egregious distortions about cold fusion that were initiated by members of the MIT PFC.
Fire from Ice was well received by many reviewers, but its message was largely drowned out by an onslaught of scurrilous anticold fusion books, the first one by Frank Close, Too Hot to Handle (1991). Dr. Richard Petrasso of the MIT PFC had aided Closes work. He was in complete agreement with Closes opinions; witness his comment published on the front page of the Sunday New York Times, March 17, 1991, which was essentially a laudatory review of the book by Close. Recall Dr. Petrassos words: I was convinced for a while it was absolute fraud. Now Ive softened.
They [Pons and Fleischmann] probably believed in what they were doing. But how they represented it was a dear violation of how science should be done. Acase of the pot calling the kettle black, Id say, in light of the technical publication to which Petrasso (and fif-teen others) has signed his name. Nothing much has changed for Dr. Petrasso. In 1997 he was quoted by writer Bennett Daviss: The ongoing reports of excess heat and nuclear by-products catch peoples attention about as much as the occasional UFO report. I have better things to do with my time. (In TWA Ambassador article, September 1997, see reprint in IE No. 17.) He and Professor Parker continue to spend your money on hot fusion.
There were other negative books, one by DoEs John Huizenga (Cold Fusion: The Scientific Fiasco of the Century, 1992), and another by science journalist Gary Taubes (Bad Science: The Short Life and Weird Times of Cold Fusion, 1993). Taubes became a Knight Science Journalism Fellow at MIT for a year, a nominal honor for him, if not a disgrace for MIT. The MIT News Office, to my knowledge, never published one word about the existence of Fire from Ice, nor the fact that Fire from Ice was nominated in 1991 for the Pulitzer Prize by John Wiley & Sons as one of only two of its books so nominated that year. Professors at MIT routinely bombard the News Office with requests that their every major or minor award be acknowledged in Tech Talk. Virtually all such requests are granted.
So goes PR at MITever protective of the MIT Administration and its deficiencieswhether in flaps over an MIT student being killed by an alcohol overdose at an MIT fraternity after warnings were ignored by President Vest (See Boston Globe, October 1, 1997, p.1 Students Warned MIT on DrinkingComplaints Began in 1992), or the very serious matter of data fudging and misrepresentation by MIT hot fusion scientists. The MIT Administration clearly was not happy by the spate of publicity that my resignation from the News Office generated. It acted accordingly.
The MIT PFC continues to receive Federal funding for its lucrative hot fusion projectsover $250 million since 1989. One of the ways that MIT helps to insure the continued flow of such funding is by having President Vest sit on the various Federal panels that make recommendations to the Administration and the the Department of Energy. Now that former Physics Dept. Head Professor Ernest Moniz is a Deputy U.S. Secretary of Energy, MITs ability to bring influence to bear for hot fusion will be even stronger.
In a 1995 issue of the Journal of Fusion Energy we find The U.S. Program of Fusion Energy Research and Development: Report of the Fusion Review Panel of the Presidents Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST), (Vol. 14, No. 2, 1995, pp. 213-250). One of the nine co-authors is none other than Charles M. Vest. The reports summary states, in part: Funding for fusion energy R&D by the Federal government is an important investment in the development of an attractive and possibly essential new energy source for this country and the world in the middle of the next century and beyond. . .The private sector can not and will not bear much of the funding burden for fusion at this time because the development costs are too high and the potential economic returns too distant. But funding fusion is a bargain for society as a whole. Thats their opinion, not ours. This is not even the opinion about hot fusion of many technologists who have nothing to do with cold fusion.
The report states, . . .we believe there is a strong case for the funding levels for fusion currently proposed by the U.S. Department of Energy (DoE)increasing from $366 million in FY1996 to about $860 million in FY2002 and averaging $645 million between FY1995 and FY2005. It goes on to acknowledge that Although the program just described is reasonable and desirable, it does not appear to be realistic in the current climate of budgetary constraints. . . So the report asks for less, in the tradition of grabbing for whatever the bureaucracy thinks it can get: . . .to preserve what we believe to be the most indispensable elements of the U.S. fusion effort and associated international collaboration. The panel recommended about $320 million/ year and continues further fantasy thinking about committing Federal $billions in continued support for ITER (International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor). Fortunately, the U.S. Congress withdrew support from ITER in late 1998.
And, wonder of wonders, the 1995 report speaks directly about the need to continue to support MITs Alcator C-Mod tokamak reactor. I suppose that in the general run of how Federal funding of science is promoted by numerous interest groups, this apparent conflict of interestan MIT President recommending that MIT receive further funding for its hot fusion reactoris not unusual. However, such advising by MITs Vest is very unseemly, when seen in the context of the cut-off of all DoE funding for cold fusion, resulting from the 1989 negative report and from the MIT PFC experiment on which that report was based. Furthermore, as this history has made clear, President Vest played no small role in the whitewashing of this 1989 misconduct.
In another report, this one directly to President Clinton on November 4, 1997, Report to the President on Federal Energy Research and Development for the Challenges of the Twenty- First Century, the Energy Research and Development Panel of PCAST, which includes Dr. Vest, we find the general recommendation spelled out in the cover letter to President Clinton: The report recommends an increase, over a five-year period, of $1 billion in the Department of Energys annual budget for applied energy technology R&D. The largest share of such an increase would go to R&D in energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies, but nuclear fusion and fission would also receive increases. The composition of the R&D supported on advanced fossil-fuel technologies would change in favor of long-term opportunities, including fuel cells and carbon sequestration technologies, but the overall spending level for fossil fuel technologies would stay roughly constant in real terms. In table ES.1 we find the fusion wish list after 1998 in millions of as-spent dollars: 1997$232 (actual); 1998$225 (request); 1999$250; 2000$270; 2001$290; 2002$320; 2003$328.
The report states that the request for fusion is the third largest increase of the various energy items. It calls the funding . . .easily justified as the sort of investment government should be making in a high-risk but potentially very-high yield energy option for society, in which the size and time horizon of the program essentially rule out private funding. Well, virtually all of the scientists working in cold fusion in 1999 think that cold fusion is, indeed, a very-high yield energy option for society. Private industry has invested in it in a limited way, and more will come.
If it were not for the Federally paid scientistsin hot fusion and high energy physicswho assaulted cold fusion with lies and deceptionsthere would likely be even more private money now flowing into cold fusion. One thing is certain: no private company in its right mind will spend any significant money on tokamak hot fusion, as practiced at MIT and elsewhere.
What it boils down to is this: By studying the history MIT and cold fusion, one learns that paradigm-paralyzed and unethical scientists have the motive and means to wreck massive damage against an emerging science and technology, especially when an aging and well-financed program is threatened. An MIT President who has access to the highest power levels of the Federal government should not be contributing to the distortion of government spending by feathering MITs nest and ignoring facts. MIT alumni/ae, students, staff, and President Charles M. Vest need to consider thisE. Mallove
The Cold Fusion Ping List
Isn’t this a wee bit outdated, inasmuch as Dr. Mallove has been dead for seven or eight years, and there have been numerous developments in the interim?
Nevertheless, the comments about Dr. Morrison were interesting - from first-hand experience, Morrison was a fascinating guy, but he also had some notable blind spots, in much the same way that many other leftist academic elitists do...
The diagram data on page 12 is particularly damning.
Excess Power Data. July 10, 1989 D2O Unpublished.
Excess Power Data. July 13, 1989 D2O Published.
Isnt this a wee bit outdated, inasmuch as Dr. Mallove has been dead
***Yes. But such data tends to go down the memory hole as a result. Freepers are going to be asking why cold fusion wasn’t given a fair chance over the last 22 years, so now we can point them somewhere.
Would somebody accustomed to reading articles without pictures please tell me Daryl, my other brother Darryl and finally my other brother Waldo; what the hell does this article say? Does it work? Did it ever work? Is it more scientific fraud ?
I have always wondered if the problem with Fusion Hot or otherwise isn’t hot or cold, it is gravity.
Even these magnetic confinement hot fusion schemes work better in space, that is once you haul all that stuff up there.
But (the big BUT) if we could get it hauled up there the power would be immense and it can be beamed back to earth and this would work in short order.
Turns Fusion into more a logistics Problem rather than a pure technological problem.
Thanks for the post.
Thorium fission reactor technology actually exists and would be just as safe and the nuclear waste problems non-existent, but the word "radiation" has been demagogued to the point that a nuclear power plant is practically impossible to get built.
There is another magazine for which Mallove wrote before his untimely death. It is “Atlantis Rising.”
Here is a link to some recent articles on the subject:
” the technical (fusion) content is well over my head”
These cold fusion guys need to show us something that won’t be over our heads. Show us an apparatus that powers something like a light bulb. The apparatus including the light bulb should have no connections to the outside world. Turn it on and let’s see it power that bulb for months on end.
I’m fed up with that whole crowd’s bickering, making claims, abstractions, graphs, pictures of themselves, etc.
Highly parallel situation to the ACGW situation. Technology Review has become a PC shill.
There was this guy on a street corner in New York City who had this black box with a handle on it. He would start to put a dollar bill into the front of that box, turn the handle a couple of times and a $20 bill would come out the other side. I gave him $1,000 for that box. It wouldn’t work for me. I saw him again a week later, and I told him the box didn’t work. He asked for my name and address and said that for another $1,000 he’d mail me the instructions for the box. I’m sure those directions will be in my mailbox one of these days.
Hell, you can’t get a cold beer in Utah!!!
But (the big BUT) if we could get it hauled up there the power would be immense and it can be beamed back to earth and this would work in short order.
That pretty much describes the Sun doesn't it (the confinement being gravitational)?
Fraud doesn't work that way.
...crowds bickering, making claims, abstractions, graphs, pictures of themselves, etc.
Fraud does work that way.
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