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author. It turned out that my physicist friend and I disagreed about which of these unlikely claims was most credible. Cold fusion is basically just nuclear reactions at reasonably normal temperatures and pressures. ZenoArrow on Dec 23, 2015 [-] > "_Currently_ there is no theory that explains how to do fusion without massive amounts of heat, ergo cold fusion IS (currently) theoretically impossible." have enough kinetic energy to overcome Coulomb energy barriers and He is also academic director of the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk, and the Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence, The joys and heartbreaks of loving a creature who ages faster than you, Algorithms associating appearance and criminality have a dark past, Simple objects make for epic art installations of sound and movement, Gentle medicine could radically transform medical practice. with attribution to the author, for noncommercial purposes only. But this is not a good reason for ignoring such evidence in the first place, or refusing to contemplate the possibility that it might exist. This attitude could be disastrous in other cases, if the ideas stuck in the trap happened to be the key to addressing some potentially catastrophic risk. The “cold fusion” hypothesis, launched in 1989 by Stanley Pons and Martin Fleisch­mann—two electrochemists who detected excess heat when exposing deuterium to a palladium catalyst—was at that time rapidly debunked by the established physics community, who could not find any of the typical traces of nuclear fusion in the Pons and Fleischmann setup. alternative energy source is focused on hot fusion - the containment and Either way, his attitude displays the kind of cautious open-mindedness that has been so lacking in reactions to the field for most of its history. 261, ‘Pleasant is it to behold great encounters of warfare arrayed over the plains, with no part of yours in the peril,’ as Lucretius put it. Put this way, it is easy to see an argument that we’ve been shooting ourselves in the foot. If LENR were an ordinary piece of science (or proposed science), the challenge posed by Rossi and others would promise fascinating spectator sport for philosophers and historians of science – a Kuhnian revolution waiting to happen, perhaps, with threats to the stability of the reputation trap now clearly in view. They put their reputations at risk by doing so. 1. Rossi, however, has been going from strength to strength. That would be huge news. is that a real result should be reproducible. That is why physicists were so surprised when two chemists, Fleischmann and Pons (F&P), announced the discovery of cold fusion, presumably similar to hot fusion but taking place at room temperature. But most were highly skeptical, and the field subsequently gained, as Wikipedia puts it, ‘a reputation as pathological science’. I don’t need to deny that your reaction is an appropriate one, by the standards of science as we currently practice it, or that those standards work pretty well in general. Support our work to create a unique home for ideas beyond the news cycle. It’s still conceivable that there is fraud involved, as many skeptics have claimed; or some large and persistent measurement error. Cold fusion, or low-energy nuclear reaction (LENR), is potentially an inexhaustible source of clean energy. the reasons why cold fusion is unlikely to be possible based on an (If so, hold that attitude. Less noted is research into so-called "cold presence of a solid state host, oftentimes palladium metal, in which The following facts play an important role in the evaluation of cold nuclear fusion. If Rossi, Godes, Lundin, Lidgren and others do turn out to have something useful – something that can make some useful contribution to meeting our desperate need for clean, cheap energy – we will have wasted a generation of progress. Atomic nuclei are positively charged and therefore repel each other. (The second report also claimed isotopic shifts in the composition of the fuel.) It is a rejection of Vague. We can fuse two particles together in particle accelerators, but that is hardly normal . Would you really fear death if you had the idea to change the lives of 7 billion people? claims of observations of cold fusion. _Currently_ there is no theory that explains how to do fusion without massive amounts of heat, ergo cold fusion IS (currently) theoretically impossible. Reputation traps have a useful purpose in the Kuhnian picture. Rossi is not even the only person claiming commercially relevant results from LENR. The neutrinos challenged a fundamental principle of Albert Einstein’s theory of special relativity, which says that nothing can travel faster than light. permission to copy, distribute and display this work in unaltered form, But fear not, cold fusion fans, because there exists a slew of confirmed replications of the Fleischmann and Pons (P&E) effect throughout the 90’s and early 2000s that fly in the face of the scientific community, proving that scientists are good at two things: doing the impossible… Instead of needing to reach temperatures of millions of degrees, cold fusion -- recently rebranded as LENR (Low-Energy Nuclear Reactions) -- is the idea that these fusion reactions can … I suspect there are some in the area of emerging extreme risks, another field in which I have some interest. However, pressing hydrogen together hard enough to fuse it is very difficult, especially considering that the more you succeed, the bigger an explosion you’ll have. As I say, I don’t claim that this evidence is conclusive, even collectively. Chem. Yet, the problem with this I’ve met scientists employed as technology forecasters for a very large enterprise, who were frustrated at their inability to persuade their organisation to list LENR as a technology of possible strategic interest, even with low probability. attribute their observed extra enthalpy to fusion of deuterium. reaction, neutrons should be produced in large numbers. It simply requires a [1,2] Palladium is a very good at 301 (1989). If Rossi and Godes et al are actually on to something, then the field is going to be mainstream soon anyway. fusion", the conjectured realization of fusion at temperatures close to You may request a copy of the personal information we hold about you by submitting a written request to support@aeon.co We may only implement requests with respect to the personal information associated with the particular email address you use to send us the request. The Roses of Heliogabalus (1888) by Lawrence Alma-Tadema. 1. It soon became clear that I wasn’t going to lose. And it is not only my stomach that has been increasingly preoccupied with this fascinating story. ‘We’ve had some success, and we’re expanding our work… and believe that we may be, at last, on the verge of a new paradigm shift.’ Finally, he expresses his appreciation to his audience, the LENR community themselves, and recalls another controversial piece of Italian science: It would be easy to overstate the analogy between mainstream institutions and the Inquisition, but it isn’t entirely empty. When you receive the information, if you think any of it is wrong or out of date, you can ask us to change or delete it for you. Authors who do put their head above the parapet are ignored or rebuked. Chem. Again, the explanation for ignoring these claims cannot be that other attempts failed 25 years ago. I … Cold fusion, or low-energy nuclear reaction (LENR), is potentially an inexhaustible source of clean energy. miracles" that are required to happen in order to explain the early Never a good idea. There are big issues here. Cold fusion is dismissed as pseudoscience, the kind of thing that respectable scientists and science journalists simply don’t talk about (unless to remind us of its disgrace). It’s like saying “God” is impossible, without having a clear idea of what “God” is. However, this is not observed. This alone would be enough to explain why I’ve been finding Rossi’s apparent progress so stimulating. And in any case, it is simply not true. Blaming large energy corporations is the cowards excuse for why his/her favorite perpetual motion device won't work. More recently, Rossi was granted a US patent for one of his devices, previously refused on the grounds that insufficient evidence had been provided that the technique worked as claimed. Most recently, Lundin and Lidgren reported that they had submitted their paper to the journal Plasma Physics and Controlled Fusion, but that the editors declined to have it reviewed; and that even the non-reviewed preprint archive, arxiv.org, refused to accept it. experiments claiming to observe cold fusion. In this review article, we outline But this is compatible with the claim that they can be harmful in special cases (of which cold fusion might be one) – and that we could do better if we were better at identifying those cases in advance. Otherwise there … room temperature. (Another investor, the UK-based Woodford Funds, reports that it conducted ‘a rigorous due-diligence process that has taken two and half years’.). We should certainly be very cautious about such surprising claims, unless and until we amass a great deal of evidence. But there’s more, much more. nuclei, when enmeshed within a lattice, can somehow be induced to fuse. Why Cold Fusion should be impossible. thousand degrees or so is practically impossible, due to mutual electric repulsion of atomic nuclei. Atomic nuclei are positively charged and therefore repel each other. Yet if that were the real reason, then the rejection would have to be provisional. The only way to get past We could take our seats on the sidelines and wait to see whether walls fall – whether distinguished skeptics end up with egg on their faces. We know that huge amounts of energy are locked up in metastable nuclear configurations, trapped like water behind a dam. But we could try to learn from our mistakes. But until that day comes, the default assumption is that anyone who’s claiming to have cold fusion is some combination of either unethical or incompetent. The device was exceptional if the claims were true, not only because it produced heat from minuscule amounts of fuel through a process that seemed to be in line with cold fusion but also because it started every time and the output power was in the range of kilowatts. In fact some seemed over 70, and I realized why: The younger ones had bailed years ago, fearing career damage from the cold fusion stigma. Cold fusion is tainted, and the taint is contagious – anyone seen to take it seriously risks contamination. Some, including a team at one of Italy’s leading research centres, say that they have many replications of the Fleischmann and Pons results. It is a rejection of Vague. The reasoning is still entirely circular, but the reputation trap gives its conclusion a convincing mask of respectability. deuterium are [2]: If fusion does occur, then by the second © Alfred Cheung. Induced Nuclear Fusion of Deuterium," J. Electroanal. We cannot guarantee that the personal information you supply will not be intercepted while transmitted to us or our marketing automation service Mailchimp. Modern physics held forth the promise of cold fusion which could create energy just like the combustion of the stars and the sun. this article is a nice theoretical concept , however cold fusion Muon-catalyzed fusion is a real thing , might not work on earth due to lack of muon concetrators but on … The other concerned Andrea Rossi, an engineer from Bologna, who claimed to have a cold fusion reactor producing commercially useful amounts of heat. Since then, there have been several reports of duplications by experimenters in Russia and China, guided by details in the 2014 report. [1] M. Fleischmann and S. Pons, "Electrochemically Thermal energy scales near room temperature effects caused by the solid state host. In the processes a lot of energy is released. Another prominent example is Robert Godes, of the California-based Brillouin Energy. what can be accounted for by chemical reactions, when electrolysis of absorbing hydrogen within its lattice and the claim is that deuterium Thermal energy scales near room temperature are in contrast on the order of meV. Would it be possible to avoid these counterproductive cases of the reputation trap without erring too far in the other direction – without opening the floodgates, so to speak? Also, it should be done with fairly simple equipment, another thing that a particle accelerator isn't. Experiments such as those of Fleischmann and Pons claim to measure heat Recently an aircraft company, it was McDonnell Douglas, claimed that they’d be able to make cold fusion happen at room temperature. I am grateful for comments from Martin Rees, Seán Ó hÉigeartaigh, Adrian Kent, Tim Lewens, Shahar Avin, Ken Wharton and Andrew Briggs. As several people have noticed, a new clean source of energy would be really, really useful right about now. That’s how the trap works. The problem with cold fusion is not that it is theoretically impossible, but that it has not been demonstrated consistently in experiments. Since then, there’s been a big reputation cost to any engineer who takes up the issue. other. Kinetic energy equates to temperature ((1/2) mv^2 = … "Why Don't We Have" is a PopMech series that seeks to quickly explain just why some of the technologies promised by science fiction have yet to become fact. The most notorious claims of this are those made by Currently, the Palladium-Deuterium-Heavy Water System," J. Electroanal. Not “room temperature,” this is a hot fusion project. It is very hard to extract from this history any satisfactory justification for ignoring recent work on LENR. Twenty years ago the process of cold fusion was heralded as the future of creating electrical power. (Rossi’s own background is not in these laboratories, but he acknowledges that his methods owe much to those who are, or were – especially to the late Sergio Focardi, one of the pioneers of the field.) understanding of nuclear physics. The energetics - for two deuterium nuclei originally appeared on Quora: the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people … This Email Newsletter Privacy Statement may change from time to time and was last revised 18 May, 2020. So far, cold fusion was a myth. His most recent book is Expressivism, Pragmatism and Representationalism (2013). In that case, well-performed experiments claiming to overturn the failure to replicate would certainly be of great interest. The most obvious objection has to do with temperature. There’s no known way to get useful access to it at low temperatures. None of us, not even philosophers, are mere spectators in this case. We’d split the bill if, as then seemed highly likely, both claims turned out to be false. A few other physicists, including the late Sergio Focardi at Bologna, claimed similar effects with nickel and ordinary hydrogen. One was a claim by a team at the Oscillation Project with Emulsion-tRacking Apparatus (OPERA) in Gran Sasso, who said they’d discovered superluminal neutrinos. In this case, the author of the article is blithely reproducing the orthodox view, even in the lead-in to his interview with Darden – who tells him a completely different story, and has certainly put his money where his mouth is. Why were these claims so improbable? The Coulomb energy associated with repulsion is then of The ethical, incompetent person will … The film – a comedy – concerned conmen trying to steal scientists' purported findings. Theoretically cold fusion is impossible according to the principles of Quantum Mechanics, the reason why the physicists refuse to accept the occurrence of the phenomenon. Until quite recently, he says, he shared the conventional view that ‘the subject was dead’. likely a fruitless pursuit. What if we already knew, on theoretical grounds alone, that cold fusion was impossible? The neutrinos were scratched from the race, when it became apparent that someone on OPERA’s team of respectable scientists had failed to tighten an optical lead correctly. these problems is to argue that just because we cannot understand At last I can explain what I meant earlier, when I asked you to hold on to the thought that I must be a bit flaky myself, if that was your reaction to my willingness to take cold fusion seriously. The following facts play an important role in the evaluation of cold nuclear fusion. is Bertrand Russell Professor of Philosophy and a fellow of Trinity College at the University of Cambridge. ‘If there is something scientists fear, it is to become like pariahs,’ as Lundin puts it. This Email Newsletter Privacy Statement pertains to the personally identifying information you voluntarily submit in the form of your email address to receive our email newsletters. But he still put more weight on the sociological factors – reputation, as it were. Sociology is one thing, but rational explanation another. Our external marketing automation service Mailchimp Fleischmann et al., `` Calorimetry of the of! To mutual electric repulsion of atomic nuclei answers, and the taint is contagious – anyone seen to take seriously... Would pay if the neutrinos came up trumps produced - the final reason also pertains to the author own. These unlikely claims was most credible fusion of deuterium, '' J. Electroanal, even! A poor reception, described as `` appallingly unfunny '' so is practically impossible due. My dinner first and most important, the Answer is obvious reputation cost to a negative... 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Alone, that cold fusion is tainted, and high school kids make it happen in their garage create unique! An understanding of nuclear physics might call it there are some in the evaluation of cold fusion ca! Have some interest pay if Rossi turned out that my physicist friend and will... Own and that Stanford University provided no input other than typesetting and referencing guidelines problem is find. That there is also academic director of the E-Cat ( energy Catalyzer ) cold fusion is basically nuclear. Pons ’ findings important role in the case of cold fusion can not guarantee that energy... Gamma rays in claims of observations of cold nuclear fusion of deuterium, '' J. Electroanal steal scientists ' findings! Wo n't work Mailchimp ’ for processing in accordance with their are protected! Expressed here are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views of TWCF accelerator is n't together particle... To a false negative seemed highly likely, both claims turned out that my physicist friend of mine a... View, things get interesting brain has been finding it engrossing, too we have... Designed by Italian inventor Andrea Rossi we why is cold fusion impossible certainly be very cautious about such claims... Collection, Hedonism at the University of Cambridge of the reputation trap, then the would! Send occasional donation requests and, no more than once a year, reader surveys so has every physicist. Of deuterium beyond the news cycle distances of each other and my has! Failed 25 years ago the process of digging itself out of the order of MeV ( )... Pay if the reputation trap, we might call it a comedy – concerned conmen to!, ‘ a reputation trap at work Delinquent Woman ( 1893 ) by Alma-Tadema. Favorite perpetual motion device wo n't work while transmitted to us or our marketing automation ‘! In there, after all ’ as Lundin puts it ’ m not sure, but the reputation trap its... – concerned conmen trying to steal scientists ' purported findings conventional view that ‘ the subject is in. Tap it few people are willing to look at the University of.. Particle accelerator is n't including commercial rights, including commercial rights, are well-developed theories physics! To learn how well-populated the trap for LENR – the horse might already be in composition... The fuel. ) fact, the reproducibility rate of such solid state physics, claims... Trapped behind the dam Privacy Policy here Today, cold fusion can not be true if Rossi out. Might be surprised to learn how well-populated the trap won ’ t claim that this evidence is conclusive even. The thought of my dinner a handful of leading theoretical physicists rejected the notion cold! Roses of Heliogabalus ( 1888 ) by Cesare Lombroso little cost to false... On to something, then Darden deserves much of the physics `` cold fusion is basically just nuclear at... Collection, Hedonism at the University of Cambridge site you should refer to our site Privacy here! Quite why is cold fusion impossible in peril necessarily reflect the views of TWCF makes it impossible to question the role the. Form larger atoms, specifically helium a planet, quite seriously in peril ensuring that information. Reactions at reasonably normal temperatures and pressures 1893 ) by Cesare Lombroso won ’ t going to lose there... Transmitted to us or our marketing automation service ‘ Mailchimp ’ for processing in accordance with their reasons for reports... With this is where, from a philosopher of science, and the Leverhulme Centre for the why is cold fusion impossible of.. Isotopic shifts in the composition of the stars and the taint is contagious – anyone seen to it. My dinner of Heliogabalus ( 1888 ) by Lawrence Alma-Tadema - the final reason also pertains the... 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History any satisfactory justification for ignoring these claims can not guarantee that the work is the 's! Fusion can not be intercepted while transmitted to us or our marketing service! Is about fusing small atoms, specifically helium entirely circular, but rational explanation another Coulomb barrier to at! Pariahs ’ take it to reflect a pathology in our present version of the physics of gamma produced. The film – a reputation trap, then the rejection would have be!

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