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January 25, 2011
Weirdness: A Cold Fusion Demonstration?
Several people have asked me about this recent press conference, where two Italian researchers (Andrea Rossi and Sergio Focardi) say that they have demonstrated anomalous nuclear reactions with nickel and copper, on a scale sufficient to produce electrical power. (To be technical, it's probably not fusion per se, but is it anything, and if so, what)?
I hope that they're right, naturally. But there are a lot of things to wonder about. They chose to announce this at a press conference, and to "publish" in a journal that actually doesn't exist. Rossi himself seems to have had some criminal problems with the Italian authorities in the past. All this does not inspire confidence (says the blogger in a scrupulously neutral tone of voice). And this whole area is absolutely saturated with cranks, sharp operators, self-deceivers, paranoids, and loose cannons of every description. I continue to think that these phenomena (if there are phenomena there at all) are worthy of study, but man, the signal-to-noise ratio in this field just could not be worse. The legitimate scientists working in it (and there are some) have my sympathy.
For what it's worth, this latest work seems to follow up on some earlier reports from another Italian physicist, Francesco Piantelli. That link, a blog written by a sceptical enthusiast, will probably tell you more than you want to know about the story, and a look through its other posts will tell you plenty about the state of the whole field. I'm going to take the same course of action that I have with all purported new energy breakthroughs in the last twenty years: wish the participants good luck, hope that they've actually found something worthwhile, and sit back to watch. If anyone does make a breakthrough, it's going to be abundantly clear. If, on the other hand, the people involved are still flopping around and issuing press releases year after year, then they're probably still having to pay their own electric bills.
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