[extropy-chat] Elvis Sightings

Damien Broderick thespike at satx.rr.com
Mon Jan 29 23:36:50 UTC 2007

At 05:53 PM 1/29/2007 -0500, Gary Miller wrote:

>It may be possible that impurities in the test materials or water are what
>makes the experiment irreproducible.
>One would expect the more professional the lab the purer the ingredients so
>the tighter tolerances on the materials could be preventing the reaction
>from taking place.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this debacle is that Martin 
Fleischmann was one of the world's leading experts in precisely the 
relevant discipline, electrochemistry, with a renowned lab in the UK. 
He was not a truck driver working on his toy chemistry kit in his 
garage, he was an elected fellow of the Royal Society at the top of 
his profession. This does not mean he is right, obviously; plenty of 
notable specialists have made foolish errors, but been so bullheaded 
they stuck by them in the face of scathing critique. But it does mean 
he's not a homebrew nitwit.

However, neither he nor Pons was a nuclear physicist and, since the 
only apparent source of their anomalous heat output was some unknown 
nuclear reaction, they made blunders in their attempts to track down 
this source, and the term "cold fusion" only made matters worse. Had 
the discovery been made in 1890, and they and everyone else had 
fashionably conjectured that the effect was caused by Pasteurian 
bacteria in the water, it might have been dubbed "cold buggery" and 
all the disease experts would have been mocking them instead. These 
peripheral mistakes help explain why the response of the nuclear 
physics community was so hostile, and absurdly quickly led to their 
pariah status. But the record also clearly shows that in the last 
nearly two decades, solid credentialed scientists have indeed 
replicated the early results (intermittently, and after long learning 
curves). It's not difficult to find their names.

I, too, had assumed for years that this was all nonsense and 
credulous crap, until I read Beaudette's book and started tracking 
the history. I'm now quite sure that it's not MEGA-BULLSHIT, although 
it still might turn out to be mistaken.

Damien Broderick 

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