AOH :: FUSION96.TXT|
A compendium of press coverage of CNF
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Dave H. Bailey)
Subject: Press Coverage of Fusion
Date: 2 Jun 89 18:28:55 GMT
Reply-To: email@example.com (Dave H. Bailey)
Organization: NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA
No matter how optimistic or skeptical about fusion one may be, I'll
guess that many readers have become increasingly disturbed at the
press coverage of the fusion affair. The recent New York Times report
of the Santa Fe meeting is merely one of a long string of examples of
reporting that is either inaccurate, misleading, or indulges in
editorializing instead of reporting facts. In addition, many persons
in the scientific community continue to make sweeping claims,
authoritative pronouncements or intemperate criticisms, which are then
quoted by eager reporters, frequently without soliciting opposing
I have begun a collection of U.S. press articles on the fusion story,
a copy of which is attached. Excerpts are included from many of
articles (without permission, of course). If nothing else, it makes
for either humorous or outrageous reading, depending on your mood and
point of view.
I would like to solicit the help of those on the net to complete the
collection. To make it manageable, I am restricting it to the
following publications, although I may include particularly outrageous
material from other sources:
1. New York Times
2. Washington Post
3. Los Angeles Times
4. Wall Street Journal
If any of you have copies of this sort of material, I would appreciate
an e-mail note with the reference to firstname.lastname@example.org.
However, PLEASE first check to see if the article is included in the
David H. Bailey
NASA Ames Research Center
Compendium of Press Coverage of Cold Fusion
1. "Trying to Tame H-Bomb Power", Time, April 17, p. 72.
2. "A Sun in a Test Tube?", Newsweek, April 17, p. 58-59.
3. "Tabletop Fusion Test Verified, Stanford Researchers Report",
Washington Post, April 19, p. A3.
4. "Fusion Fever Is on the Rise", Time, April 24, p. 57.
5. "Quest for Fusion Puts Research in Public Eye", Washington Post,
April 24, p. A2.
6. "Two Researchers Defend Results of Fusion Tests", Washington Post,
April 26, p. A3.
7. C. Suplee, "The Fusion Confusion", Washington Post, April 30, p. C1.
8. J. Maddox, "What to Say About Cold Fusion", Nature, April 27, p.
The Utah phenomenon is literally unsupported by the evidence, could be
an artefact and, given its improbability, is most likely to be one.
9. G. Sea, "Fusion Leaves Me Cold", San Jose Mercury News, April 30.
Regardless of all the talk about cold fusion being "safe" and "clean,"
it would be neither. In fact, it would involve both dangerous
possibilities for nuclear weapons proliferation and complex problems
of nuclear pollution.
10. "The Utah Fusion Circus", New York Times, April 30, p. E24.
As for the University of Utah, it 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
11. "Fusion Breakthrough?", Scientific American, May 1989.
The claims face profound skepticism: "I would bet my house that
they're wrong," says William Happer, Jr., of Princeton University.
12. "Perplexing Times for Fusion", Newsweek, May 1, p. 66.
13. "Significant Errors Reported in Utah Fusion Experiments",
Washington Post, May 2, p. A1.
"Frankly, I think the explanation is a bit of inexperience" on the
part of Pons and Fleishmann, said [Ronald] Parker [of MIT].
14. "Physicists Debunk Claim of a New Kind of Fusion", New York Times,
May 3, p. A1.
According to Dr. Nathan Lewis, leader of the Caltech team, every
possible variant of the Pons-Fleishmann experiment was tried without
Dr. Steven E. Koonin of Caltech called the Utah report a result of
"the incompetence and delusion of Pons and Fleishmann." The audience
of scientists sat in stunned silence for a mement [sic] before
bursting into applause.
Referring to a possible error in temperature measurements by the Utah
group, Dr. Walter E. Meyerhof of Stanford University offered this
Tens of millions of dollars at stake,
Dear Brother [sic -- see 27],
Because some scientist put a thermometer
At one place and not another.
15. "Fusion Researchers to Answer Critics", Washington Post, May 3, p.
When Moshe Gai of Yale was asked whether the panel was prepared to
sign a death warrant for room-temperature nuclear fusion, ... Gai
said, "You have it...Our results exclude without any doubt the Pons
and Felishmann results."
"The experiment is wrong," [Steven Koonin of Caltech] said. "We are
suffering from the incompetence and perhaps the delusions of
professors Pons and Fleishmann." The room, filled mostly with
skeptical physicists, broke out in applause.
16. Cold Fusion Dispute Boils; Panelists Ridicule Claims", Los Angeles
Times, May 3, p. I1.
And an indignant Leon Lederman, director of the Fermi National
Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, Ill., said that University of Utah
President Chase Peterson "ought to be fired" for his role in promoting
Pons' and Fleishmann's claims.
Said physicist Moshe Gai of Yale University, who worked with the
Brookhaven group: "Our results exclude without any doubt the Pons and
Temperature measurements made near the electrodes would indicate heat
production, Meyerhof [of Stanford] said, while measurements at the
edge of the cell would indicate heat consumption. The same problem
was present in cells used by Robert Huggins of Stanford, who recently
reported a confirmation of the Utah results.
17. "Physicists Cite Errors Behind Fusion Claim", Wall Street Journal,
May 3, p. B4.
18. D. Lindley, "More Than Scepticism", Nature, May 4, 1989.
At the end of the session at Baltimore, physicists were left with the
comfortable feeling that fusion was dead, except for small effects of
the sort claimed by the Brigham Young group.
19. Kaul, Donald (of National Public Radio), "How the Fusion Confusion
Got Out of Hand", San Jose Mercury News, May 7, p. B12.
At last report, the experiment had been partially validated by
laboratories in the Soviet Union, Italy, India, Czechoslovakia,
Hungary, Brazil and by the Remedial Football class at the University
of Miami. It has been refuted by Cal Tech, MIT, the Lawrence Berkeley
Laboratory, the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the Brookhaven National
Laboratory, Yale and the entire world of nuclear physics.
We may not be able to manufacture a decent toaster in this country
anymore, we've given up on TV sets and our cars are inferior, but we
still lead the world in one important sector: producing hare-brained
ideas. And we're so far ahead, there's nobody second.
20. "Fusion Illusion?", Time, May 8, p. 72.
21. "The Race for Fusion", Newsweek, May 8, p. 49.
If cold fusion is scientifically unlikely, cold fusion by chemists
seems, to many, downright impossible. Pons, 46, and Fleishmann, 62,
don't teach at name schools and they had no hefty government grants
for their work. They're not even physicists, the self-anointed high
priests of science, just chemists, mere beaker keepers more suited to
plumbing the mysteries of polyester than the mysteries of the universe.
22. "Fusion Researcher Admits Error, Puts Faith in New Test",
Washington Post, May 10, p. A1.
Fleishmann, facing a now almost overwhelming consensus among
scientists that his and Pons' cold fusion claims were false, made the
remark late Monday when the two took the defense of their
much-advertised experiments to the annual meeting here of their own
scientific society, the Electrochemical Society.
23. "Fusion Brouhaha May Be Settled Soon by Helium Test", Wall Street
Journal, May 10.
24. "Two Defend Fusion Claim Before Peers", New York Times, May 10, p.
25. "Fusion Genie's Still in Bottle, Scientists' Critics Say", Los
Angeles Times, May 10, p. I3.
That was less than seven weeks ago. On Monday night in Los Angeles, a
starkly contrasting scene unfolded as the two mumbled through
presentations before a throng of fellow chemists at the Bonaventure
Hotel, ducked sharp questions and then slipped quickly away after
failing to defend their supposed breakthrough.
The Pons-Fleishmann saga is beginning to raise troubling questions
about the lure of patents and prizes in scientific discovery, about
institutional and government pressures to attract recognition and
money, and about the adverse effects of competition on scientific
Suddenly there is no more talk of a Nobel Prize. The two chemists are
besieged by critics -- castigated for their inability to explain their
experiment, their failure to reveal full details of the research and
their decision to circumvent the normal rules of science by announcing
their results at a press conference before reporting them at a meeting
or publishing them in a scientific journal.
Within three weeks, reports of partial confirmation began to appear in
the United States and around the world, usually from small research
groups lacking access to sophisticated analytical tools. Several of
the groups withdrew their claims, citing experimental errors.
26. "Putting the Heat on Cold Fusion", Time, May 15, p. 63.
27. "Fusion Fever Cools Down", Newsweek, May 15, p. 65.
Said [Meyerhof]: "Tens of millions of dollars are at stake, dear
sister and brother,/ Because scientists put a thermometer at one place
and not another."
28. "Playing with Fire", Scientific American, June 1989.
29. "Cold Fusion Tests Remain Mystery", Washington Post, May 25, p.
Another team from Texas A&M also reported for the first time the
presence of another fusion byproduct -- atoms of tritium, another form
of hydrogen. But confirmation of these results has not been reported
and several researchers suspect contamination. In any event, the
amounts reported were too low to indicate fusion at a high enough rate
to create the excess heat.
30. "At Conference on Cold Fusion, The Verdict Is Negative", New York
Times, May 30, p. B7.
Their verdict on the energy claims was strongly negative.
The verdict at last week's session, announced by the two co-chairmen
at the conclusion on Thursday, was highly unfavorable to the claims
of a new energy source. "I suspect there are few of us here that will
look on his phenomenon as a viable source of power," said Norman
Hackerman, a former president of Rice University and a co-chairman of
The other co-chairman, J. Robert Schrieffer, director of the Institute
for Theoretical Physics at the University of California at Santa
Barbara, said, "I personally do not believe that the Pons-Fleishmann
heat is due to anything but chemical energies."
"There is overwhelming circumstantial evidence that Pons and
Fleishmann are wrong," [Stephen O. Dean] said in an interview. "No
one in the world has produced excess heats like Pons and Fleishmann.
No one has duplicated their experiment.
Teams of scientists speaking here reported finding some excess heat in
cold-fusion tests, but nothing as large as Dr. Pons and Dr. Fleishmann
31. "Reactions Differ at 'Cold Fusion' Meeting", Wall Street Journal,
May 26, p. B3.
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