How not to introduce fusion

There’s been a bit of subdued interest in the  fusion claims coming out of Italy, and it’s right now looking like this could very likely be another fiasco– and a black eye for independent fusion research especially of  the non-traditional sort– and a lot of this is due to the way it’s been presented, and the overblown claims of its proponents.

We all want something like this to happen.  It would change the world and for the best– but dramatic claims require dramatic proof– it is not enough to simply state that the mainstream science establishment is “against” this research when in fact in many cases they’re simply wanting to see it proven beyond a reasonable doubt– with rigorous testing and peer review.

Unfortunately their backers are being a bit less than objective.


I am not a scientist– most especially I am not a scientist in this field, so I will not bother to put on that hat, and keep my historians and occassional peer reviewer hat on.

Eng. Andrea A. Rossi and Professor Sergio Focardi of the University of Bologna, have announced to the world that they have a cold fusion device capable of producing more than 10 kilowatts of heat power, while only consuming a fraction of that. On January 14, 2011, they gave the Worlds’ first public demonstration of a nickel-hydrogen fusion reactor capable of producing a few kilowatts of thermal energy. At its peak, it is capable of generating 15,000 watts with just 400 watts input required.

That is to say, if it works it is capable of generating that much power. Maybe.  We don’t know that yet, and however people are already trumpeting this as a new era.

One has some flashbacks to Fleischmann–Pons fusion process and the unfortunate events that followed, leaving research into alternative fusion processes with a rather large black eye.  In this case we have the same thing– we have claims of a demonstration unit that has been running for two years– but outside of the two scientists concerned, no independent verification of that fact.  Why not?  There would be no lack of third parties who would be willing to observe such a unit.  We have no details of the process– in fact it is rather vague in description.

Do these things render their claims automatically invalid?  Of course not. But they do show a certain lack of rigor and a lack of understanding that such claims have been heard before, have been discredited, and when making such claims, absolutely every thing possible should be done to ensure the test is valid– even to the most skeptical observer.

There is an old saying: “You never get a second chance to a make a first impression.”  Scientists, especially those working in fields that have been associated with sloppy science and the occasional outright fraud, would do well to remember that wisdom.



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