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infinite energy

Issue 85
May/June 2009
Infinite Energy Magazine

“60 Minutes” Takes on Cold Fusion

Our regular readers may have been surprised to find cold fusion featured on the April 19 edition of “60 Minutes,” but members of the field knew about CBS’ intentions to air a segment on cold fusion as early as last summer, when a crew attended some sessions of ICCF14 to get possible footage. We have been anxiously awaiting the airing, partly holding our breath to anticipate the typical negative spin shown to the field; the segment was to have aired nearer to the 20th anniversary date of March 23 but breaking news stories pushed its airing. We were pleasantly surprised at the editorial tone of the piece that finally aired on April 19, titled “Cold Fusion Is Hot Again.”

The nearly 13-minute segment was produced by Denise Schrier Cetta, with reporter Scott Pelley. Much of the show featured Michael McKubre of SRI. Pelley also visited the Israeli lab of Energetics Technologies, and visited Martin Fleischmann at his home in the English countryside. The only “debunker” interviewed was Richard Garwin, whose name is well-known to anyone who has followed the cold fusion field; he was one of the first to denounce the discovery of Pons and Fleischmann in 1989, with an editorial in Nature. In what has turned out to be the most controversial aspect of the show, “60 Minutes” also interviewed Rob Duncan, Vice-Chancellor of Research at the University of Missouri.

On April 23, just days after posting the full segment on its website, CBS pulled the video due to a complaint filed by the American Physical Society (APS) the previous day. It was claimed in the show that producers “asked the American Physical Society, the top physics organization in America, to recommend an independent scientist. They gave us Rob Duncan. . .an expert in measuring energy.” Duncan went with “60 Minutes” to Energetics Technologies, where some of the biggest energy claims have been made. After two days examining Energetics’ cold fusion experiments, Duncan told Pelley: “They’ve done something very interesting here. . .I found that the work was carefully done, and that the excess heat, as I see it now, is quite real.” Duncan admitted that he was skeptical of cold fusion claims before visiting the Energetics lab, but after stated: “If you ask me, ‘Is this going to have any impact on our energy policy?’, it’s impossible to say, because we don’t fundamentally understand the process yet. But to say that we don’t fundamentally understand the process and that’s why we’re not going to study it, is like saying, ‘I’m too sick to go to the doctor.’” Pelley asked how Duncan felt about going public endorsing cold fusion when “maybe 90%” of his colleagues think that it’s “crackpot science” and Duncan replied, “I certainly was among those 90% before I looked at the data. And I can see where they’ll be very concerned when they see this piece. All I have to say is: read the published results. Talk to the scientists. Never let anyone else do your thinking for you.”

The APS immediately went on the offensive, posting a press release on April 22 titled, “APS Does Not Endorse Cold Fusion Experimental Findings Featured on the CBS ‘60 Minutes’ TV News Program.” They noted that none of the APS’ authorized spokespersons provided the program with Rob Duncan’s name. They claim (and CBS has not refuted) that “60 Minutes” received “a long list of names—that included Rob Duncan’s—from University of Minnesota Professor Allen Goldman, who states unequivocally that he never claimed to be acting in the name of APS.” CBS has since reposted the show, with the APS comment edited out:


CBS also originally posted two short, unaired clips of Pelley’s interview with Mike McKubre (both of which had been removed at press time). One, titled “A New Edison,” included a dialogue that would have pleased our founder Gene Mallove. He often likened the struggles of cold fusion to those suffered by the Wright brothers. McKubre uses another analogy:

Scott Pelley: You talk about all of the difficulties associated with creating the palladium for this experiment. You would have imagined that after 20 years that’d be figured out by now.

Michael McKubre: I want to take you back to the lightbulb. I don’t think we would have had a lightbulb, at least in the form that it’s familiar to us, if Thomas Edison hadn’t been an extraordinarily stubborn individual. I think he tried a thousand different materials, two of which worked, only one of which was practical. After all of this what we now call Edisonian science, it still took something like 20 years to develop that into a useful technology. So material science is tough. It’s under-studied. It is dirty and complex and messy and therefore the best of the physics community turned its back on material science because it’s “just too messy, we can’t solve the equations, too much work, too much Edisonian activity is needed.”

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