An article in PLOS blog, by a journalist.
quite negative, but not as far as usually.
UNLIKELY EVENT #2: THE RETURN OF COLD FUSION
Is the solution to the world’s energy problems at hand? Is there a way to achieve abundant cheap power with few environmental consequences? A couple of posts in respectable venues would have you believe that yes, it’s possible. They are suggesting that cold fusion is back and that it appears to work. No, nothing to do with April Fool’s Day. These folks sound serious.
Back in the last century, at the beginning of the era of science by press conference, two hapless investigators at the University of Utah in 1989 announced that they had achieved cold fusion. (Wikipedia defines cold fusion as “a hypothesized type of nuclear reaction that would occur at, or near, room temperature.” This contrasts with “hot” fusion that takes place naturally within stars. “There is currently no accepted theoretical model which would allow cold fusion to occur.”)
At the time, there was a brief flurry of extraordinary excitement because genuine cold fusion would be not just the breakthrough of the year, but of the century. Repeated attempts to replicate the work, however, were unsuccessful.
For the last quarter-century, “cold fusion” has been a synonym for junk science. As with most junk science, there has always been a core group of cold fusion believers who draw snickers from mainstream science. Speaking of labels, and perhaps in reaction to the mockery, advocates now call cold fusion Low Energy Nuclear Reaction (LENR).
And under this new label, LENR has begun to get some positive press.
David Bailey and Jonathan Borwein have been blogging at HuffPo Science, most recently about LENR projects at a private company in California and, most startlingly, projects by entrepreneur Andrea Rossi, who “claims that he has developed a tabletop reactor that produces heatby an as-yet-not-fully-understood LENR process.”
Even more startlingly, Rossi claims to “have actually installed a working system at an (undisclosed) commercial customer’s site.” The claim is that it is producing 1 MWatt of power, as heat, from a few grams of undefined fuel. Bailey and Borwein conclude that, while skepticism is still in order, it is looking less and less likely that Rossi is either incompetent or a charlatan.
Philosopher Huw Price has also been intrigued by LENR in posts at Aeon. In his most recent post, Price proposes that physicists and others aren’t taking LENR seriously because they are afraid of damage to their reputations. He regards that as a weakness. It seems entirely rational to me.
That’s because, despite the claims of efficacy, the folks working on LENR have shrouded their projects in secrecy. Never a good sign.
Also, Ethan Siegel points out in two posts at Starts with a Bang, the so-called independent verifications of the work have been conducted by people with ties to the researchers being inspected, and Rossi himself has been directly involved. In short, not independent at all. In another post, Siegel explains why physics says low-energy cold fusion should not be possible.
The huge potential benefits from cold fusion–unlimited extremely cheap power with no waste products that remain deadly radioactive for thousands of years–doubtless make people want to believe. But until Siegel’s criteria for truly independent evaluations have been met, and somebody finds a loophole in what is known about nuclear physics, feel free to go on making fun of cold fusion.