Press Responses to the Tenth Anniversary
of Cold Fusion
(Originally Published May-June,
1999 In Infinite Energy Magazine Issue #25)
by Eugene Mallove
NPR Science Friday with Ira Flatow (April
We can only say Bravo! for Ira Flatow's
NPR program on cold fusion that aired on Talk of the Nation "Science
Friday," April 9. In a fifteen-minute segment that followed another
subject (internet security and censorship), Russ George of Saturna
Technologies, Inc. was interviewed about his successful replication
and augmentation of the Les Case experiment, catalytic fusion in
heated heavy hydrogen gas. He described the work of detecting helium
growth in a cell based on Case's process. He pointed out that no
helium growth was present in the ordinary hydrogen control cell.
Russ George is to be congratulated for describing a world-class
cold fusion experiment clearly, and concisely for a national audience.
Michael Schaffer, an IE subscriber, appeared
on the program to comment on the Russ George experiment. He is to
be congratulated for his world-class open mindedness in considering
Russ's data. It was clearly stated that he works at General Atomics
on hot fusion. This made his presence on the program all the more
We were pleased with Ira Flatow's statement that no
critic was willing to come on the program to comment. Good!
At long last a standard has been set whereby discussions of cold
fusion do not require comment from people such as Douglas Morrison
or John Huizenga, who have not given a minute's worth of consideration
to the latest experiments in cold fusion.
"Power to the People: The Return of Cold
by Hal Plotkin, Special to SF Gate
This was an absolutely marvelous internet
website article by a print and broadcast journalist, whose acquaintance
I had never met, San Francisco-based Hal Plotkin of "SF Gate." The
piece was right on target. It told of the forthcoming presentation
by Dr. Michael McKubre at the APS meeting in Atlanta on March 26.
At every turn, Plotkin got the story right on. Witness:
"Nonetheless, then as now almost everyone working in
fusion research gets paid to explore one part or another of the
dominant theory about how fusion works; which is that nuclear fusion
is possible only at very high temperatures. Funding work on this
one theory, and this one theory alone, is a classic recipe for the
creation of scientific group-think. When everyone 'knows' the world
is flat, no one risks sailing toward the horizon."
Mr. Plotkin noted the viciousness of the anti-cold
fusion assaults: "The attacks on Pons and Fleischmann were incredibly
vicious, perhaps because they were seen as heretics operating outside
their field of expertise. I remember, for example, covering one
scientific gathering in Los Angeles as an editor for the public
radio program, 'Marketplace.' It was shortly after Pons and Fleischmann
had made their initial announcement...One prominent physicist at
Caltech derided Pons and Fleischmann with invectives I had never
before witnessed at a scientific gathering. I later likened it,
in my nationally broadcast report, to the kind of trash talk one
hears in the build up to a heavyweight title fight...One by one,
influential scientists, most of them physicists on the federal dole,
denounced cold fusion as being either scientific idiocy or outright
Plotkin reports how difficult it was for him to get
air time on radio due to the growing bigotry against cold fusion:
"Despite the onslaught of negative reports, I wanted to do more
stories about cold fusion. It struck me even then that many of the
researchers I had interviewed seemed quite credible. Within one
year of the first announcement, there were already at least a dozen
well-respected scientists at major academic institutions who said
they too were observing what has since come to be called 'anomalous
heat' in Pons-Fleischmann cells. These scientists wanted to know
where that heat was coming from. So did I."
"Unfortunately, my colleagues on our public-radio
program's editorial staff had other ideas. By then, a consensus
had already emerged: cold fusion was junk science. I was too close
to the story, I was told. Find something else to report on. Don't
make a damn fool of yourself."
Thus did public radio stifle a reporter, Plotkin,
who was in the right, while the ruling majority was dead wrong.
The experience went beyond Public Radio. It affected,
for example, the extent of Jerry Bishop's reporting in the Wall
Street Journal on cold fusion, severely curtailed, he told me,
by higher-ups who were afraid the WSJ might look silly. (The
Wall Street Journal produced no cold fusion story around March
23, 1999, even though I had provided copious reference material
to two of their top staff writers one of whom told me he agreed
with the now retired Bishop!)
Writes Plotkin, "My experience wasn't unique. The
big chill set in at most major media outlets, and stories about
cold fusion were frozen out. Within a few short months, the very
words 'cold fusion' would come to be synonymous with hoax. I kept
my cold-fusion file tucked away all these years, but never reported
on the subject again. As a result of the personal attacks on Pons,
Fleischmann, Bockris, and others, the atmosphere of free and open
inquiry that science requires was almost completely destroyed. Fearing
similar assaults, many scientists were afraid to study the phenomena
or discuss it publicly."
We look forward to more fine stories by Mr. Plotkin.
"A Tempest in a Test Tube, 10 Years Later,"
New York Times
by William J. Broad, "Science Times,"
March 23, 1999
Wonder of wonders! Bill Broad of the New York
Times called me, I did not call him, about a week before March
23, 1999. Bill hadn't written anything on cold fusion since 1991,
though his NYT colleague, Andrew Pollack, then based in Japan,
had written a very good piece November 17, 1992, in which he compared
the Japanese and U.S. attitudes about cold fusion.
Bill told me straight off that he was going to do
a Tenth Anniversary piece, so I delivered massive information overload
to the esteemed NYT headquarters pronto. Bill must
have called me back a dozen times through the week to check facts
His piece made quite clear that cold fusion research
continues worldwide, but that it is not accepted in mainstream circles.
He wrote, "Surprisingly, despite a decade-long cold bath of criticism,
cold fusion is alive today and is apparently doing well in the scientific
underground." There could have been much more focus on how the science
actually had progressed, but the article came out far better than
one could have expected weeks before. There could have been no
story which was was the case with the Wall Street Journal
Broad quoted the unrepentant John Huizenga, the DOE
hatchet man of 1989, "It's as dead as ever. . . It's quite unbelievable
that the thing has gone on for 10 years. But it's the same group
of people and they don't want to take no for an answer." What a
pompous fellow that Huizenga! He presumes that cold fusion scientists
should "take no" from an "authority" such as himself.
Bill Broad was very kind in quoting this editor, and
naming Infinite Energy in a section that ran five paragraphs
long. We hope that he will call again as the science and technology
Time Magazine's "Time-100" Special Issue
of March 29th, "Cranks, Villains, and Unsung Heroes" (pg. 196)
On the other extreme, this article just about
hit the bottom of the barrel in insulting, ignorant reporting on
cold fusion. Its four authors received the following letter from
To: Frederic Golden, Leon Jaroff, Jeffrey Kluger,
Michael D. Lemonick
March 31, 1999
I do not know which of you were primarily responsible
for the vile outrage of designating Drs. Fleischmann and Pons
as "Cranks" in your March 29, 1999 "Time-100." To witness
them portrayed in infamy on the same page (albeit in a different
category) as the Nazi villain Josef Mengele, stretches my
tolerance for your so-called science reporting to the limit.
Since all of you are signed as authors of this
most reckless assertion about Fleischmann and Pons, I am sending
to each of you a possible corrective for your intellectual
confusion: Issue No. 24 of Infinite Energy, which celebrates
the Tenth Anniversary of the cold fusion announcement. In
particular, I draw your attention to our selection of the
top thirty-four referenced technical papers in peer-reviewed
and non-peer reviewed literature that show clear evidence
for the cold fusion class of phenomena. You should also examine
the historical facts presented in this issue, which are at
variance with the cartoon history that intellectually challenged
"science journalists" such as yourself routinely parrot.
I have scant hope that scientific papers and
correct historical facts can influence people who were so
thoughtless in this nearly libelous disparagement of these
two discoverers. Still, I would welcome a sincere effort on
your part to give Time readers the correct story. Had
you placed Fleischmann and Pons in the category of "unsung
heroes" on the next page along with Alfred Wegener
you would have been correct. You chose instead to present
a highly misleading cartoon of what really happened to these
pioneers and what is going on in the cold fusion field today.
This attack on two outstanding scientists and those many hundreds
of scientists who continue their work constitutes journalistic
sloppiness at its worst.
Dr. Eugene F. Mallove
Editor-in-Chief, Infinite Energy
Physics World, "Whatever Happened to
by David Voss, March 1999 (pp.19-20)
Author David Voss received extensive material
and briefing from this editor. Disappointed, but not surprised by
his article, I wrote to him afterward: "Your article was not very
flattering to cold fusion researchers, but we have learned to deal
with 'less than optimal' publicity. Some news even if unflattering
is better than no news, as far as we are concerned."
The title of the article was entirely appropriate.
It was subtitled accurately: ". . .cold fusion has been largely
dismissed by the scientific community. But, as David Voss discovers,
some researchers remain adamant that this supposed new energy source
is real, and are pressing ahead with their own experiments." Unfortunately,
the article went largely downhill from there.
On and on the flaws went. I'll truncate this list
with that last comment. Check them for yourself. So much for a former
physicist's attempt to write an even partially balanced piece on cold
- Voss did not provide a single reference
to any of the many peer reviewed technical papers that have appeared
in the literature. Quite a feat! Is this a fair standard of reporting
for a scientific journal that wishes to let its readers judge
on the basis of peer-reviewed (or non-peer-reviewed) literature?
- Voss wrote, "However, it is clear that world energy
production has not been affected in any way by cold fusion." This
is non-sequitur with a negative connotation. So what! The same
can be said for thermonuclear fusion research too a not
so subtle put-down.
- He wrote, "Most of the big funding sources, which
threw money at quick experiments in the early days of cold fusion,
have pulled out." Of course they have! That was their objective
and transparently so. Do a quick experiment, "disprove" the effect,
and get on with their traditional funded projects. If Voss was
including NCFI and EPRI/SRI among the people who "pulled out"
it is unfair not to have reported through references to the technical
literature that EPRI and NCFI both concluded affirmatively
on the P&F effect. (Voss had a selection of at least what most
of us deem to be among the best experiments.)
- Fair enough to have quoted Douglas Morrison of
CERN, but Voss should have known by what I sent him that Morrison
has no basis for saying there is "less science and fewer scientists.
- When Voss referred to cold fusion researchers as
a "circle of enthusiasts" and "believers," he demeaned many good
scientists. This kind of language has become acceptable journalistic
practice against cold fusion. The effect of this kind of language:
it is to plant in the reader's mind a negative view of these scientists.
Suppose we were to say a "circle of enthusiasts for the elusive
top quark" and "believers in the top quark" how would that
- Voss made an obvious technical error, when he wrote,
"a couple of palladium electrodes." No! The P&F cell uses
a Pt anode and a Pd cathode.
- The University of Utah did not "fail to reproduce
the earlier results." Fritz Will et al. of NCFI produced
an excellent peer-reviewed paper on reproducible tritium production.
There emerged several excellent papers Physics Letters
A and J. Elec. Anal. Chem. from P&F themselves
on the excess heat, the direct output of this NCFI work.
- "As time went on, all but the diehards gave up,
and the major reputable labs lost interest and dropped out of
the experimental game." Wow! Voss has "diehards" now just
for literary variation from "enthusiasts" and "believers"? "The
major reputable labs lost interest" is SRI International
not a reputable lab? Is Tom Claytor at Los Alamos not at a "reputable"
lab? Is hot fusion scientist Arata in Japan not at a "reputable
lab"? If Voss is talking about Caltech, MIT, and Harwell, I think
he has to begin to ask himself just how "reputable" these labs
were since there are papers out now calling into question all
of their rush to judgement work.
- I am at a total loss to understand Voss's line,
"Yet the defenders of cold fusion have soldiered on, a number
of them merging with a network of conspiracy theorists, psychic
spoon benders, UFO enthusiasts, and believers in other exotic
phenomena outside the ken of science."
10 years after announcement, cold fusion
has adherents, but for most, it's . . . A Cold Fiction
by Lee Siegel, Salt Lake Tribune,
Sunday, March 21, 1999, (pp. A1-A.7)
Whenever Lee Siegel calls me for one of his perennial sloppy pieces
on cold fusion, I cooperate. He wants sound bites, so I give them,
knowing full well that he is absolutely hopeless as a science
reporter on the cold fusion issue. He writes the kind of thoughtless
throw-away lines that the rest of the journalistic sheep bray. This
from his most recent circle around the pen, "Many scientists could
not reproduce those results and shot down the experiments as sloppy
and/or delusional science."
Siegel will not spend more than thirty seconds no exaggeration
listening to technical arguments or data from experiments, before
he blusters again about his deadline and demands a pungent sound
bite. It might be some sort of attention disorder. More likely,
it's just conventional journalistic stupidity.
The front page article featured a large color photo of Hal Fox in
his lab at Trenergy, Inc., but it made disparaging remarks about
financial difficulties and Hal as one of the "last vestiges of cold
fusion in Utah."
He did print some of my "sound bites": "There is absolutely no doubt
cold fusion is a real energy source," Mallove said. "The crackpots
are all in the mainstream science establishment who attacked cold
fusion without examining the evidence. The scientific establishment
was conned into thinking there was no evidence for cold fusion.
This is one of the greatest frauds in the history of science." That
was meant for the obtuse folks at the University of Utah Physics
Department especially for Michael Salamon, MIT's alter-ego
there, if he is, still inhabits the place. Ditto for Steve Jones
at BYU. Siegel refrained from printing my comment about the ethics
of turncoat, failed scientist Jones. It might have been, "too hot
Siegel quoted physicist Craig Taylor, physics department chairman
from 1989 to 1998: "It's still nonsense after ten years. . . The
difficulty with cold fusion is the same as it was in the beginning.
It just violates too many physical laws to be plausible." He doesn't
know Science 101 department chairman or not.
Siegel quotes Taylor as thinking that the supportive evidence comes
"from nuts to people whose scientific judgment maybe isn't as sound
as it should be." The pot calls the kettle black.
Prof. Peter Stang, head of the University of Utah Chemistry Department
since late 1989 (presently dean of the College of Science), was
quoted by Siegel, "I do not dispute the fact that Pons and Fleischmann
were and are reputable electrochemists." But Stang apparently can't
believe that "any legitimate scientist" still "believes" in cold
fusion. Siegel quotes him, "There may be some yet ill-understood
[chemical] phenomenon going on here, but it probably has little
if anything to do with nuclear phenomena." Stang knows from nothing.
He should have known better than to shoot his mouth off about something
he has apparently not been following. Stang's nonsense is "par for
the course" behavior for what passes today as "science" in academe.
"Few Scientists Still Seeking Cold
by Alexandra Witze, The Dallas Morning
News, March 23, 1999
This bland piece, which follows the standard
science journalist "party line" emblazoned in its title, adds very
little information about anything. It does have a less than charming
ending line provided by John Huizenga: "In terms of scientific fiascos,
I think this [cold fusion] is at the top of the list." That is Mr.
Fiasco himself talking.
If we have the room and stomach for it, in Issue No. 26 we'll provide
more of the journalistic pap that surrounded cold fusion's tenth
anniversary. Remember, it's for history.