News and commentary about the Great Frontiers

ISS007-E-10807 (21 July 2003) --- This view of Earth's horizon as the sunsets over the Pacific Ocean was taken by an Expedition 7 crewmember onboard the International Space Station (ISS). Anvil tops of thunderclouds are also visible. Credit: Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, NASA Johnson Space Center

Image Credit: ISS007-E-10807 (21 July 2003) – Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, NASA Johnson Space Center

Cold Fusion Returns?


Fifteen years ago scientists from the University of Utah claimed to have created a fusion reaction at room temperature. I remember at the time that it was a major news story because it was a revolutionary breakthrough. There were promises of cheap energy on the horizon for every device and in every home and automobile. Unfortunately, no one could replicate the experimental results and the event has gone down in history as a major scientific hoax.

MIT’s Technology Review has revisited the controversy, in light of new experimental data and theories that suggest the original scientists might have been on to something. The established scientific community remains skeptical, but a growing number of scientists, and now the United States Department of Energy, are giving the idea a second chance.

The point of both cold and hot fusion research (hot fusion powers the Sun) is to create an energy source that outputs more energy than is put in, thus ushering in an era of cheap, clean, and nearly infinite power. When hydrogen atoms are fused together, they release energy and helium-4. New experiments show a rise in heat unexplained by chemical processes, as well as the appearance of helium-4. So far the results have not been explained, as there is currently no theory to suggest that cold fusion should work.

Time will tell what is actually going on, but this should be a reminder that any establishment, including the scientific establishment, can and has been completely wrong. Science is not about consensus. It is about the truth. The ideal scientific mind is open and skeptical. Whether cold fusion pans out or not, the entire history has been and will continue to be dramatic and illuminating.

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