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infinite energy

An interview with
Professor Martin Fleischmann
conducted by Christopher P. Tinsley
(Originally Published November, 1996 In Infinite Energy Magazine Issue #11)

continued from page 2

F:    Well, I didn't meet him as much as I would liked to have done. Julian Schwinger came to talk to various people in the Chemistry Department, including Jack Simons. Julian Schwinger didn't have such a closed mind, and he could see that such a process in condensed matter could not be interpreted in a conventional way.
   I was so preoccupied, I didn't talk to Julian Schwinger as much as I should have done. Subsequently, of course I talked to Giuliano Preparata and that was really a meeting of like-minded people, because he thought of it in much the same way as I did. Of course this may mean that we are both wrong!
T:    I suppose that, in a sense, your sort of early experiences, you say that to be arrested by the Gestapo at that sort of age is something that would wonderfully concentrate the mind. It would put the sort of difficulties you have had since 1989 in perspective, I would imagine.
F:    I'm sure.
T:    When you think of such people as Fred Hoyle, for example, who take this very Yorkshire approach to their difficulties--that's fine, but for yourself I would say perhaps it was based on your past experience? You might have been a Fellow of the Royal Society and everything, but ...
F:    I might have been dead.
T:    Yes, somewhere inside yourself you would be the 11 year old boy with the Gestapo, so you just don't take some of these people very seriously.
F:    Not really. No.
T:    Gene mentions that he's heard that you don't aspire to such things as the Nobel Prize, and I've heard there's a lot of politics in getting the Nobel Prize, but what are your comments on that?
F:    I think that's another thing which has gone wrong, you know. I know of quite a few Nobel Prizes which have been awarded to people for work which is manifestly incorrect.
T:    Like Millikan, for example?
F:    That's an early example, but more recently... It's accepted--socially accepted, but obviously flawed. So has it been a positive influence or not--I don't know. First of all there are a whole lot of Nobel Prizes awarded to people for work which is incorrect, or prizes which are awarded which clearly should have been shared between several such workers, and prizes which have been awarded to people who did not do the original work--that is very common.
T:    Or not awarded to people like Fred Hoyle, perhaps, for his work on solar nuclear processes.
F:    Yes.
T:    But should have been.
F:    Yes.
T:    Because he was not playing the party line.
F:    Well, he's had some cranky ideas which has colored the rest. The question is whether Nobel Prizes are judged for an original contribution or are they judged for the totality of the work. Or can the totality of the work detract from the original contribution. Unfortunately, of course, this has happened in recent years.
T:    There have been two "branch points" in cold fusion: the nickel/light water thermogenesis or whatever you would call it, excess heat, as particularly exemplified by the Clean Energy Technologies' cell and the work of Mills and of Miley. That is one branching point which the science has taken, and the work in very recent years which points to host metal transmutations - hydrogen/metal fusion. These are two diversions away from the classical process, even if the latter would be more of an alternative explanation or interpretation, whether you look at them as great heresies of cold fusion or great branch points.
F:    Well, I have commented on the light water work before. To put it into perspective, Douglas Morrison came to see me when I was in Switzerland and said: "Martin, if I were a man from Mars would you expect me to believe this?" I said, "No, Douglas, no of course not. I realize all the difficulties." So, I realize that there is a credibility problem for d-d processes. I realize that it is much more difficult still to justify H-whatever processes, and then I said I had not done enough work on that myself to express an informed opinion, but that is as far as I will go. I can see there are difficulties with regard to light water, I can see the difficulties.
   Stan and I set down the protocol for the experiment we did so as to exclude as many difficulties as we could: secondary reactions, all sorts of things. Not potassium carbonate, please. We used lithium deuteroxide, the simplest thing, prepared the simplest possible way--the simplest possible system we could set down. No chemical complications.
   I think it would be quite difficult to prove absolutely that there are never any chemical complications in the light water work. Also, of course, we use high current densities and they use low current densities, so there are always problems with possible side-reactions. But I would never pooh-pooh it because I think that I just don't know whether you might not induce peculiar reactions with protons. I don't know. So that's one thing I would say about that.
   Now the transmutation. Of course, I can think of several ways in which something like transmutation could take place.
T:    Any form of nuclear reaction is transmutation anyway. So it's a very, very small step.
F:    But we do now know that there are high energy X-rays. Gozzi has observed them to over 120 keV.
T:    That's a big number.
F:    That's a big number, which, incidentally, can't arise from the electrons in k-shells.
T:    What is the maximum for that? About 15 keV?
F:    Well, whatever it is, but.....
T:    It's a lot more.
F:    Yes. It cannot arise from anything in the electronic shells.
T:    100 keV? No way.
F:    No way, no way. So this has got to be some peculiar phenomenon. Incidentally, this is a fairly important question because, as Preparata pointed out in Japan, if you have got high energy X-rays coming out - and this goes back to Stan Szpak - lots of people then say, "Well it's soft X-rays," but soft X-rays would never get out of the cells. So they had to be hard X-rays. Those could dump their energy outside the cell, so you can see a lot of the complications with the thermal measurements could be just that people have missed the excess enthalpy with their cell design: the cell is too small, it won't catch the excess energy, and in any case it's only the lower bound that you catch, you must design a cell to trap all the energy in the X-rays. Once you have got the X-rays, you can ask what sort of X-rays, what is going on? Are these coherent X-rays? What would they do? Will they yield some sort of photo-fission processes in the nuclei?
   So I could think of lots of processes which could be going on, and it will take a long time to sort that out.
T:    Would you say that we are talking about systems whose complexity compares with normal nuclear physics in the way that perhaps biochemistry compares with inorganic chemistry? Are we are talking about things that are at a wholly different level of complexity, in a very complex multi-body process?
F:    I think that we will find that when people have got some sort of explanation for condensed matter physics, based on single-particle descriptions, they must find it extremely distressing to now get this body of information which cannot be fitted into this framework. And there's much more to it you know, there is a great bag of physics which simply will not fit into the existing paradigm.
T:    Could this be some kind of "complexity" effect in itself? That we are now beginning to understand that systems built out of units which individually behave very simply can, in conjunction, produce extremely complex effects?
F:    Well, yes. I went through this in the 1947 understanding of the work of Alfred Coehn on electrodiffusion, and understanding at that time that even with the existing understanding of quantum mechanics that I had at that time, I think all that anybody had--you could then conceive of changing the conditions of deuterium in a lattice so that you would change the fusion process. Then I did a lot of work in the 1960's which led to this idea that solutions really have to be understood in terms of quantum electrodynamics. Not in terms of classical mechanics or even quantum mechanics. It had to be in terms of quantum electrodynamics, and then came all the work on palladium which I have worked over several times in my life. There was one very big slug of work in '67/'70 which convinced me that you could not talk about anything to do with hydrogen or deuterium in palladium in terms of single-body processes. These had to be many-body processes. The explanation for the behavior had to be in terms of many-body effects, and that then triggered the cold fusion work. It's that which convinced me that it was worth going on.
   I still didn't have the whole explanation, in the way Preparata has achieved the whole explanation, I only had 50% of the story. If I'd had all Preparata's insight into this I would have dropped everything else and gone for electro-diffusion, even if I'd had to do it in my kitchen.
T:    It's very interesting that you are talking about cold fusion as really being a single aspect of a much larger idea of condensed matter physics.
F:    I think, really, that a correct understanding of condensed matter physics in general, and electrolyte solutions in particular, is a pre-requisite for taking our next steps in chemistry and biology.
T:    Biology as well?
F:    Biology especially. And that's going to be more significant than cold fusion.
T:    Where would you think this would lead us to, for example, in biology?
F:    A totally different understanding of biological processes.
T:    Could you amplify on that at all?
F:    Well, no - not at this stage. I'm just writing a proposal. But I will talk to you about that in due course.
T:    We made up a list of people you might like to comment on--Steve Jones, John Maddox, Huizenga, Frank Close, Mark Wrighton, Gary Taubes, Richard Petrasso and Doug Morrison?
F:    I should explain to you that I have not read Close's book. I have not read Taubes' book. I have, however, read Gene's book.
T:    Which was wonderful, of course!
F:    Yes, and I have not read all Douglas Morrison's messages and newsletters. People have stuffed various things under my nose which irritated me intensely. But what do I think about them? Let me tell you.
   Steve Jones? Well, he's an ambitious person. Let's give him some credit. He has some vision, he's very ambitious but I think his ability is not up to the vision he has. That's my comment on Steve Jones. This is not to say that he is a bad scientist, second-rate in science is very good. The problems he wants to do, he just hasn't got the technical competence to achieve them.
   John Maddox? Well, he's a typical establishment figure, isn't he? We have to have people like that. He's out of it now--but I can't understand how his brain functions. Sometimes you are confronted with these people and you say, "What makes you tick? How can you function? I don't understand...."
T:    "What's your problem?"
F:    Yes. "What's your problem?"
   Huizenga? Well, I thought he was just a front man for some organization which the DOE had cobbled together, really. I still think its a piece of disinformation, I think a lot of Frank Close and Huizenga is disinformation. If you could ever get into it, you'd find it is disinformation.
   Up to a point Maddox probably as well. I think Close is a better scientist than Huizenga. A disappointed nuclear chemist who sees his field disappearing; his life's work is disappearing. And could easily be manipulated by people unknown.
   However, I must tell you that at the outset, when Admiral Watkins was in charge of the DOE, I said to Stan Pons, "Stan, what if Admiral Watkins had been me and I had been Admiral Watkins? I would have done to him exactly what he is doing to us." I could not conceive of Admiral Watkins welcoming the notion that the American Universities and goodness knows who else working on nuclear physics in chemistry departments. This is where we came in. "We've got to keep it secret, we've got to have it classified! We don't know what's going to happen!" I think we will be proved right. In '88 we had no idea of the totality of the subject. We proposed to the DOE some things which shall be nameless at this stage, but we had no idea what would happen. We knew what we had got, which I think was sufficient indication it should have been classified.
   And then in 89, of course, we said to the University, "We will go to Oakridge or to Los Alamos for two years and see how far we can get." And they said, "Do you really want to work with the Government? Wouldn't you rather work with General Electric?"
   I wasn't asked that question but my answer would have been, "Yes, I do want to work with the government, thank you very much, I'm off to Los Alamos tomorrow." [prolonged laughter] If they would have had me!
   Frank Close? I don't understand him either, really. He's a theoretician, not top flight. Well, he's OK, but again I think he has been manipulated.
   Mark Wrighton? I shake my head. He's out of science now, isn't he? He's become a provost somewhere.
   In days gone by when I used to be asked to referee a lot of material for promotion in the United States, I used Mark Wrighton as a benchmark for excellence, also Rick van Duyne and Al Bard from the older generation, so I obviously thought highly of him as a scientist.
   Up to a point Nate Lewis too. I used him as a benchmark.
   Gary Taubes? Well, nothing. A second-rate science writer. Primarily, he is a very bad journalist.
   Richard Petrasso I think is a capable fellow, quite frankly. I think he is a capable fellow.
   Douglas Morrison, I think, is another disappointed man. Quite a good analytical mind in some ways, but again I think he is manipulated. I think that if you look at this, you would say Jones can't forgive himself for what he did, so he keeps on trotting out these negative ideas. Jones is in a difficult moral position, and so some of his actions post-1989 had to be, as we said in Czechoslovakia, "holier than the Pope."
   However, regarding Huizenga, Close, Morrison, I feel that if you really could penetrate behind the smokescreen you'd find that other people have been manipulating them.
T:    What sort of people? We're coming close to conspiracy theory. Is this the "Protocols of the Elders of Britain?" What are you really saying here?
F:    Well, that there are always groups of people who decide policy, aren't there? For example the Jasons. Lewis is a member of the Jasons, Garwin is somewhere near the head of the Jasons. They advise the Government. So what role do the Jasons have in this? Maybe none, maybe some. Garwin was interested, so was Teller. So who manipulates whom? Or perhaps they do not manipulate, I don't know. I don't think these things are spontaneous.
T:    I think one difference in opinion--I suppose an inevitable one because of our unique approach--one difference between ourselves and yourself has been that we have argued and pushed and are, as you know, working for clear public "in your face" demonstrations. I don't knowwhether you read Rothwell's comments on the Wright Brothers. He mentions for example that these so-called mechanics actually predicted the performance of the first air screw to within a percent before carving it. They were obviously very competent people, but they were beguiled by an idea that they had to do secret deals with all these Governments. They didn't realize that until there would be some general recognition of the existence of flight, you couldn't sell aircraft.
F:    This is precisely the point I have made here: "When do you anticipate that the course of public opinion will turn in favor of cold fusion?" The answer is that you have got to get to a demonstration device.
T:    Well, that's what we are trying to do, as you know.
F:    Yes, and I absolutely agree. We have all the science, we had systems of Type A, systems of electrodiffusion, systems of Type B, systems of Type C which made the link to hot fusion, systems of Type D - very interesting, but I am not prepared to talk about systems of Type D at the present time. Nevertheless, we focused absolutely at systems of Type B to try and bring this to some sort of demonstration device, because this is the thing which will change people's opinion.
T:    But I thought we were in disagreement with yourself in this area - that we were the ones who are arguing most strongly for....
F:    Absolutely not.
T:    Well, I'm very glad. This has surprised me.
F:    I have disciplined myself severely and constrained myself in order to try and capture this position, unsuccessfully because I find that people won't take my point. You see, this really takes us along what you should do, you have to say: "I have a sufficient understanding of Johnson-Matthey material Type A. I am going to freeze my design on that. I am going to explore the operating condition of J-M Material Type A. It won't be the best, but it's acceptable to lead to a demonstration." And I find myself in conflict with everybody.
T:    So you would be very happy with our going public with a working excess energy machine.
F:    Good luck to you.
T:    Well, if it doesn't work, I'll be on the phone to you. You can tell me where I'm going wrong.
F:    One of the things which was very clear all the way through was that if you followed a certain line of development, which I'll call the Utah branch--the Utah system, you would get to a demonstration, but then the point is why don't people want to do that? The question is: who wants the Utah line to succeed?
T:    Well quite, but I would have thought for example that the people at Toyota would see the benefit.
F:    They've got their own axes.
T:    Yes, but in 1947 the basic idea of making a point-contract transistor was released to the world, and labs all over the world then spent a fair number of years before the very first transistor radio was able to be made. In other words, the thing was out there and everybody was working on it. I would have thought that, for example, Toyota had stuff to sell in demonstration kits, which I think could have been done if the effort had gone in that direction.
F:    Well that was very clear. I saw ICARUS I as a stepping stone to a low-cost demo device.
T:    Could you define ICARUS?
F:    Isoperibolic Calorimetry Research and Utility System. This is the data acquisition system, the whole lab with thermostat tanks and a data acquisition system...a data interpretation system. This was all behind Icarus 1, the thing which went to NHE Labs. I saw this as one of the logical developments, to make a low-cost version of Icarus I which people could play with. And more of my foolishness, more of my follies, yes. As I said, I should have called it Daedalus but I couldn't think of a good acronym for Daedalus.
T:    The Wright brothers had their arms twisted into giving a public demonstration, and the gasp from the huge crowd who saw them finally fly was the sound of the paradigm shifting. If Toyota had produced and sold demonstration devices--with a great public press conference announced the sale of the Size 1, Size 2 and Size 3 cold fusion demonstrators, things would have changed.
F:    But tell me, what interest would they have in that?
T:    Well, I think their longer term interest might have been served, do you not think?
F:    No, I don't think so.....Look, if people had said to me how do you develop this thing into a demonstration device, I could tell them. In fact, in '89, when we thought the Select Committee of Congress would come out of Salt Lake City, I dropped everything else in order to try and make a demonstration device, but this is a non-trivial exercise. Very difficult to do. Since then, if people had said to me, "How do you set about making a demonstration device?" I would tell them, but nobody asks me that.
T:    But you are happy with our approach, the Ragland cell?
F:    Yes, but I have my own view of how I could do it, but I now don't have a budget, so I'm not going to do it. I'd need a lab and I'd need a budget and I haven't got that so I'm not going to do it.
T:    Well, fair enough, but you feel our prospects are good?
F:    Well, yes.
T:    It doesn't really matter what kind of device it is.
F:    There will be a hundred different devices.
T:    Yes, exactly, we don't really care. We just want to make sure that one of them gets in front of enough people, so that interest will be then taken.
F:    If I'd pursued this as a piece of science, I wouldn't have done the research which I have done.
T:    It seems to me that you and our group are much closer in outlook than I had thought we were.
F:    I think I discussed with you the question of why we did it and, here, I think again if you are doing the transcript I would put this in. This whole thing started off in 1947--at the end of 1947 when I ran across the papers of Alfred Coehn--and I realized that there was a very, very big problem here the incompatibility of the dissolution of hydrogen as protons in the lattice, and at the same time, the high diffusion coefficient, the high mobility.
   The first paper was published in 1929, and in fact Alfred Coehn showed that the hydrogen in the lattice had a unit charge. I knew about the work of Lange on the Galvani potential in the lattice, and the work of Gurney and Butler before the War on interpreting the quantum mechanics of processes at interfaces; and you could stick all this together and come to a conclusion. And at that time there was also a lot of interest in exploding wires and making metal films, so I realized that you could create very strange conditions by applying a field to the wire. But that would have involved rather heroic instrumentation, and I parked it in my head. Then in the early 60's I came to the realization, as I said to you, that we have a very poor understanding of electrolyte solutions.
   So on we go from there, and then I come to the end of the 60's, the beginning of the 70's and realize that the behavior of the hydrogen in the lattice or, of course, at the interface, can only be understood in terms of many-body effects, so now the whole thing is complete; you know--bang-bang-bang now we can go on--there is enough basis to think that we should go on to explore whether the nuclear cross sections are changed.
   Well, I think that was then the point at which I had decided it was worthwhile starting, but I still didn't start it because I was still in full-time employment and I realized that this research was incompatible with being an academic, it was too outrageous. So, in 1983 Stan and I discussed a number of projects--we had room for one more project in Salt Lake and we had several options. I told you one was the behavior of electrons in metals, one was the strange thing to do with gravitation, and one was cold fusion and there was a spectroscopic one and the spectroscopic one we needed too much money for. In fact, we needed too much money for all the projects except the one on cold fusion. So we decided to do this thing in a rather low level way because we didn't really think it would work, so we had five years of on-off experimentation. But we did actually have four different systems which we defined, which would be interesting, of which the lead one was going to be electro-diffusion; and the reason we did the thing in the particular way in which we did it is a long story.
   So then the results were really totally surprising, and we got into all these other subsequent difficulties. The best result in a way would have been if we had found nothing. You know, historically. I think even we would have been happy, but in the end we had enough information which did not fit non-Poisson distributed neutrons, certainly something in the gamma ray spectrum--goodness knows what - ray at the end of '89.
T:    And does this not bring in the whole question of the moral dimension in science?
F:    Well, the question is, what do you do with a set of results? The publication was premature, there's no question about that. Our original protocol called for three independent methods of measuring the excess heat, of which we had only done one, so we did not want to publish until we had three independent measurements with as much confirmation as we could muster. But we even had some indication of helium, you know, but that was unpublishable, not even we could be persuaded to publish that. We needed huge resources for that. I don't think one could have done it in '89 actually.
T:    Might you consider the helium to be less the result of fusion, more the result of the stimulation of alpha-emission?
F:    Well it could be. You'd always have to budget for that.
T:    When I asked about the moral dimension, I was thinking less of how well one is fitting into the protocols of science, I'm talking more of the moral dimension to society as a whole, of the individual scientist confronted with an interesting result. There is a problem, is there not?
F:    Well it depends on what sort of person you are. I'm sure that most people with the information which we had in '89 would have suppressed it.
T:    For good and sufficient reason.
F:    Because it just didn't fit in, they didn't understand it. Unfortunately, I think I understood enough about it to realize it was possible.
T:    That it wasn't quite as absurd as it looked.
F:    No, because that's how we came in.
T:    Because you came in from a concept which was rather more sophisticated a concept than simply shoveling deuterium into a lattice
F:    But that's crazy.
T:    But people do, as I say, people think of the Wrights as a couple of lucky mechanics.
F:    But they were very good engineers.
T:    And very good scientists as well.
F:    Yes, indeed.
T:    Yes but most people see them as a couple of lucky tinkerers and most people see your idea as very naive.
F:    This is because they cannot conceive that anybody would ever be able to work something out.
T:    Well, I think it's the same reason that Shakespeare can't have written the plays because no glove-maker's son could produce work of such high literary quality.
F:    But they don't understand that because they can't do it, that somebody else might.
T:    I'm beginning to understand now what you are saying, that you had a vision of solid state--shall we say physics, shall we say chemistry--which included this, and your reasoning for cold fusion was simply as an example of something much more complex.
F:    That's true as far as I am concerned, yes.
T:    And so the common idea that you were simply thinking in terms of, "Ho, ho, let's squash some deuterium and make it fuse!" is as much of an over-simplification as saying, "Oh, the Wrights were lucky because they happened to have an engine that would pull an airframe."
F:    Yes, I have been through this thing before, in a much less extreme way. People have said, "You go in the lab, you fiddle about and get this result and then everybody else finds that you were right, you must have just gone in the lab and fiddled about and got this peculiar result."


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