Published in New Scientist, 22 Aug 2012
Martin Fleishmann kick-started cold fusion controversy and faced decades of hostility. His colleague Michael McKubre ponders the future of the field
Science advances one funeral at a time, said Max Planck. Now Martin Fleischmann is gone, what’s in store for cold fusion research?
I like that quote. It implies you’ve got to wait for the stubborn old bastards to die before you can make progress. But that wasn’t Planck’s intention: what he meant was that people refuse to even consider unorthodox arguments while their authors are still alive. Once they die, the argument becomes depersonalised. I do think there is an opportunity here. The hostility might abate because Martin is gone.
Fleischmann faced a backlash in 1989 when he and Stanley Pons said they had achieved fusion – the process that powers stars – in a lab. A bold claim that brought scorn for years.
They didn’t really claim that. They claimed to have observed an anomalous excess of heat in a tabletop experiment – a palladium electrode loaded with heavy hydrogen, or deuterium. That heat was too great to be explained by chemistry. When Martin and Stan first wrote their paper, they had a question mark after the word fusion. That question mark was removed, apparently, in the review and editing process. [...]
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