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Further comments from Pons
From: email@example.com (Donn Seeley)
Subject: news from the epicenter
Summary: recent Pons comments; new confirmations; upcoming meetings; patents
Date: 4 May 89 09:11:11 GMT
Organization: University of Utah CS Dept
I've been away for a week -- I was visiting a good friend who was hit
by a drunk on the wrong side of a freeway and survived. Some things
are more important than fusion (hi, Cynthia! :-). When I got back, I
discovered that fusion was still in the papers; here are some more
excerpts from local reporting which the country at large seems to have
A bit over a week ago, just before I left, Pons gave a news conference
in which he presented a few more details about the new work going on at
the U. Here are some of Pons's remarks, as reported by the Salt Lake
Tribune on April 25th:
U of U chemist B Stanley Pons said Monday [4/24] that his
research team is perfecting a new design for his nuclear fusion
experiment that may be much better suited for an eventual use
as a [sic] energy source.
Dr Pons declined to give specifics on his new experimental
design, other than to say it was 'a clearly different
configuration.' He gave dimensions of a cylinder about a foot
long and 6 inches in diameter.
'If we can charge a very large piece of palladium, then the
power will be considerable,' he said. 'But, again, we would
like to build something we can charge up in a shorter time
He also said that the design would lend itself to better
transfer of energy. 'There are much better designs for getting
the heat out of the cell.'
Asked how long before such a new design could be up and
working, he replied, 'I would hope this year.' But he said
making the process work on a commercial scale may still be
decades away. 'The engineers will be the best people to scale
up to that sort of level.'
Dr Pons said he currently has four cells running, including one
that produces no heat. Ten more are within two or three days
of running and he guessed that nine more will be up within a
week or so.
The largest one will be about five times the original [sic],
which used a palladium rod about 4 inches long and less than a
quarter of an inch in diameter.
Platinum and possibly other metals will be substituted for
palladium in some of the new experiments, he said. ...
He said one possible reason that other labs have not confirmed
the results is that the palladium rod must be used as it is
cast. Rods that have been machined or extruded do not seem to
work. 'I think it's clear now that the processing of the
palladium may be a factor.'
Given what he has learned about that, Dr Pons said he can
reproduce the results better than 90 percent of the time. ...
The [Walling-Simons] theory was strengthened by Dr Pons'
statement a week ago [4/18?] that he had measured a trillion
helium atoms per second coming off the device. He acknowledged
Monday that some helium may be present in the palladium before
the reaction begins, but those trace amounts are 'probably a
million times less' than the amounts he has observed. ...
'You could consume the palladium, the platinum, the glass, all
the water, everything' and not generate the observed heat, he
He cited the experiments at Texas A&M University and Stanford
University as the most important confirmations. Those two are
believed to be the only ones to support the controversial
heat-producing aspects. Dr Pons said he knows of no
confirmation of the helium generation.
Another article in the same edition of the Tribune contained some testy
remarks by Pons about control experiments:
Dr Pons and Dr Fleischmann have been criticized for not
maintaining a control experiment with light, or ordinary,
water, but Dr Pons said Monday such an experiment was not a
'We've always run a control experiment,' he said. 'The problem
is that the world is trying to tell us what a control
experiment is. I might not agree that plain water is a control
experiment. I'll argue that.'
The APS meeting was reported on the front pages of the Tribune and the
Deseret News. On Monday Pons seemed to be in hiding; the Tuesday
morning (5/2) Tribune was only able to say:
Dr Pons declined to comment [on the APS meeting] Monday,
referring all inquiries to university officials.
By Tuesday afternoon Pons was back to form, according to the News:
Pons and Fleischmann Tuesday were elated by the physicists'
'We are extremely pleased because they confirm our findings,'
Pons said. 'The absence of neutrons doesn't concern us in the
slightest. We couldn't be happier. We and other scientists
will soon tell them why this is so.'
Pons seemed rather blithe given the attacks cited later in the article:
The Monday conference comes on the heels of the scathing
editorial in the New York Times that stated that the University
of Utah 'may now claim credit for the artificial-heart horror
show and the cold-fusion circus, two milestones at least in the
history of entertainment if not of science.' ...
The physicists at the meeting gave their loudest cheer Monday
night -- mixed with a few boos -- to S E Koonin of the
University of California at Santa Barbara who attacked Pons and
'Based on my knowledge,' he said, 'the experiment is wrong. It
suffers from the incompetence and delusions of Drs Pons and
He joked that maybe Utah and its environment are to blame. 'I
don't know how much (radioactive) radon gas they have in the
lab, but I do know they mine uranium in Utah.'
I suppose Koonin could equally well have mentioned all that wonderful
fallout that the federal government spread over the state back in the
days of open-air atomic testing...
The only direct rejoinder from Pons in the article was quite tart:
'We are amazed that Professor Lewis [of Caltech] has learned
how to solve all those problems in only one month when it took
us 5 1/2 years. We further would like to know that if his
results are to be thermodynamically feasible, why is it that he
doesn't observe cold spots along with his hot spots?' Pons
The response of the local papers to the APS flap was to contact groups
that had reported confirmations of the experiment and print their
(positive, naturally) responses. Here is what the Tribune had to say
Scientists who have confirmed the heat-producing aspects of the
University of Utah's solid-state nuclear fusion experiment are
standing firm despite an avalanche of criticism by physicists
meeting in Baltimore.
And one of the scientists, Uziel Landau of Case Western
University, criticized the scientists for 'unfair' statements
about the U of U electrochemists, Stanley Pons and Martin
'I think the statements were just outrageous,' said Dr Landau,
a professor of chemical engineering at the Cleveland, Ohio,
school. He added that he wasn't at the meeting and only knows
what he heard on the radio.
Dr Landau, who announced his confirmation on Saturday, and
scientists at Texas A&M University and Stanford University are
believed to be the only people to publicly confirm the excess
heat of the Fleischmann-Pons experiment. ...
'We do see a net power output from our cell, pretty much along
the same number as Fleischmann and Pons had reported,' [Landau]
Dr Landau took exception with reports that the original
experiment and the confirmations suffer from improper heat
calculations. 'I don't think we have a calculation error,' he
said. 'We are just as expert as anyone else at heat-transfer
He also said he had great respect for Dr Fleischmann, whom he
said he has known for about 10 years. 'He's a very cautious,
very careful guy, highly regarded. I take very seriously any
statement that has come out of him.'
He said he has also seen a slight increase in tritium levels in
the heavy water solution, but is making no conclusions yet.
'We stay way short of saying we have seen fusion.' ...
Joel Scherkin, spokesman for Stanford University, said Robert
Huggins and his team have an electrolytic cell that continues
to produce excess energy. ...
'They are standing by their guns,' he said, adding that they
are bracing for more criticism. 'They are circling the
He said Dr Huggins has submitted a paper to 'a prestigious
journal' that he would not name, and he wouldn't have any
other press announcements until it is published. 'We're going
to do what the University of Utah didn't.'
Texas A&M spokesman Ed Walraven said chemist Charles Martin and
his team are 'a little surprised' by the acrimony coming from
the Baltimore meeting, but 'they're not angry.'
Mr Walraven said the school now has about a dozen electrolytic
cells running in heavy water in various departments on campus,
and 'about half' of them are producing heat.
'The cells still continue to generate excess energy, and the
researchers continue to document those findings,' he said,
adding a note of caution: 'We're far from having all the
The News went so far as to report a confirmation from a second group at
A second team of researchers at Texas A&M University has
announced successful replication of the most controversial part
of the U experiment. Their electrochemical reaction produced
more energy than required to make the reaction work. ...
Wednesday's confirmation by John Appleby, world-renowned
electrochemist at Texas A&M University, could help silence
skeptics who for six weeks have criticized the revolutionary
research of Pons and Fleischmann.
Appleby, director of the Electrochemical Systems and Hydrogen
Research Center, and his colleagues are the second Texas A&M
team to independently confirm the project. ...
'His (Appleby's) confirmation is no state secret, but he has
only mentioned it to colleagues in a conservative way,' said Ed
Walraven, assistant director of public information at the Texas
Walraven indicated that Appleby's formal announcement is
pending publication of his data in a scientific journal.
Like the team headed by [A&M electrochemist] Martin, the
electrochemical reaction carried out by Appleby's group
produced between 20 percent more energy [sic] than required to
make the reaction work, Walraven said.
Like Martin's group, Appleby and colleagues report generating
lower percentages of energy than do Pons and Fleischmann.
Walraven said both Texas A&M teams are now trying to determine
why the initial experiments (of Martin) produced between 60 and
80 [sic] more energy than required to make the reaction work --
and a second experiment continues to produce stable amounts of
excess energy -- although at a somewhat lower level. They have
half a dozen experiments that are producing excess heat.
The News described how the electrochemists were planning to take their
revenge on the physicists:
... U officials, who filed another patent application this
week, predicted Wednesday that many more groups will announce
confirmation next week at the biannual meeting of the
Electrochemical Society in Los Angeles.
Hugo Rossi, dean of the U College of Science and newly
appointed director of the U's solid-state fusion research
effort, said May 8 will be 'F-Day' -- the day that an
additional chemists [sic], meeting with their colleagues, will
report successful reproduction of the experiment that's caused
fusion fever to run rampant worldwide.
Rossi said several people are scheduled to speak at a special
session at 5:45 PM 'at which time five or six papers will be
reporting results consistent' with U chemists B Stanley Pons
and Martin Fleischmann.
Rossi, who is overseeing the expansion and scaling up of the U
experiment, hopes confirmations on Monday will satisfy the
state Fusion/Energy Advisory Council. The council is charged
with allocating $5 million in state money for fusion
Also coming up in three weeks is a cold fusion workshop sponsored by
Los Alamos, according to the 4/25 Tribune, although the APS fiasco may
take some of the steam out of it:
US Secretary of Energy James D Watkins has directed his 10
national laboratories to step up cold nuclear fusion
... Los Alamos National Laboratory will sponsor a scientific
workshop on the subject in Santa Fe, NM, May 23-25. ...
[DOE spokesman] Mr Sherwood said the May cold fusion meeting
will be chaired by Nobel Prize-winning physicist Robert
Schrieffer, director of the Institute of Theoretical Physics at
the University of California, Santa Barbara, and Norman
Hackerman, a chemist and former president of the University of
Texas who is a member of the National Academy of Sciences.
In the meantime Pons apparently will work fairly closely with LANL:
[Pons] gave sketchy details of his planned collaboration
with Los Alamos. Scientists from the New Mexico laboratory
will bring their equipment to Utah to examine the experiment,
and they will likely take one of the working cells back with
Some contributors to alt.fusion have speculated that patent
considerations have led Pons and Fleischmann to restrict detailed
information about their technique. A long article on patents in the
4/28 Tribune shows one U official trying to dispel this impression,
while at the same time a U attorney apparently contradicts him:
The Utah Attorney General's Office has selected law firms in
Salt Lake City and Houston to lead what is already being
characterized as a 'nasty' patent fight on its nuclear fusion
Assistant Attorney General Joseph Tesch Thursday told members
of the Fusion/Energy Advisory Council, the panel formed to
distribute $5 million in state fusion money, that his office
had retained the Salt Lake firm of Giauque, Williams, Wilcox
and Bendinger to oversee the patent fight.
And Richard Giauque, who Mr Tesch described as 'one of the best
trial lawyers in America,' told the panel that he has hired the
Houston firm of Arnold, White and Durkee to assist in securing
national and international patent rights.
Arnold, White and Durkee attorney Paul Janicke, who Mr Giauque
described as 'a very, very tough litigator,' will lead the
patent effort. ...
The university had previously hired California attorney Peter
Dallinger, a nuclear physicist who filed the first patent
applications, and he will continue to assist the legal team, U
Vice President for Research James Brophy said. ...
'Events which probably ought not to be made public have
occurred in the last few days, which indicate that there are
people who are going to take every advantage they can,' Mr
Mr Giauque said his immediate goal is to stop the flow of
information that could undermine the patents. 'We need to get
a tight hold very early on disclosures.'
Drs Pons and Fleischmann have been criticized for providing too
little information to other scientists trying to duplicate the
experiment, but Dr Brophy said they are not withholding
information for patent reasons.
He acknowledged that the only paper the pair has published is
not as thorough as it could have been, but he and both
scientists have tried to help their colleagues over the phone.
He said some scientists have been 'surprisingly naive' and have
committed some careless mistakes in trying to reproduce the
experiment. 'You have to remember that Pons and Fleischmann
spent 5 1/2 hears on this.' ...
The U has filed several patent applications and plans to file
more, and other schools, including university patent leader
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, have said they have
filed applications on their own interpretations of the
The competition became quite apparent when Mr Giauque was
interviewing patent firms. 'As we scouted the major patent
firms, we found that some of them had developed conflict-of-
interest problems already.'
Mr Tesch had council members sign a confidential disclosure
agreement requiring them to not discuss patent-sensitive
issues. 'Any violation of that would be a crime,' he said.
I couldn't resist repeating one little ironic comment about the media
circus that appeared in the 4/26 Tribune:
Drs Pons and Fleischmann were accompanied on their Capitol Hill
visits by U of U President Chase N Peterson and by James J
Brophy, the U's vice president for research. Rep. Howard C
Nielson joined the U contingent with Majority Leader Foley,
whose dog Alice was also in attendance.
(Yes, but was the dog a physicist or a chemist?)
While on the subject of the Capitol Hill testimony, I wanted to mention
that as far as I know, the $25 million figure that has been attributed
to Pons on alt.fusion actually came from U President Chase Peterson.
U officials have lost most of their self-respect when it comes to
scrounging for cash -- the Utah educational system is strapped, having
suffered budget cuts in recent years and having narrowly avoided
disaster with the defeat of massive tax rollback initiatives last
November. The Channel 2 evening news tonight had a report on grade
school education in Utah and found that among the 50 states and the
District of Columbia, Utah ranks:
51st in class sizes (24.1 pupils per teacher);
50th in spending per student; and
43rd in teacher salaries.
Utah does manage to reach the national average on standardized tests,
although this says to me that the state could be far superior if it
wanted to. A schoolteacher friend of mine quit last year and is now
driving limousines for a living...
Let's hope that in a year from now, Stan Pons isn't in that line of
Donn Seeley University of Utah CS Dept firstname.lastname@example.org
40 46' 6"N 111 50' 34"W (801) 581-5668 utah-cs!donn
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