An interview with
Professor Martin Fleischmann
conducted by Christopher P. Tinsley
(Originally Published November, 1996 In Infinite Energy Magazine
continued from page 2
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
T: Or not awarded to people like Fred Hoyle,
perhaps, for his work on solar nuclear processes.
T: But should have been.
T: Because he was not playing the party
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
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
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
Now the transmutation. Of course, I can think
of several ways in which something like transmutation could take
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
F: That's true as far as I am concerned,
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."