In the Huffington Post Blog today, contributors David H. Bailey of the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab (retired) and University of California, and Jonathan M. Borwein, Laureate Professor of Mathematics, University of Newcastle, Australia cover the latest news in the world of nuclear fusion in a post titled “Fusion Energy: Hope or Hype?”
They first talk about the latest IPPC’s warnings about the threats of climate-related disasters if we don’t cut carbon emissions drastically, and mention that current alternative energy technologies, while promising, are not able to provide the power the world needs to function. Then they look at the prospects for fusion energy technology to help us with clean and abundant energy.
They admit that the major fusion research projects that have been carried out over recent decateds do not provide us with any near-term prospects for energy production, saying, “The bottom line is that while significant progress has been made in both approaches [tokamak and ITER], even the leaders of these projects acknowledge that we are decades away from commercial realization.”
They cover the recent announcement by Lockheed Martin about ‘compact fusion’ reactors but say, “Sadly, no technical details are yet available, so the scientific community has no way of assessing the merits of their approach.”
Then they move onto the E-Cat, and go into quite a lot of detail regarding the results of the latest Lugano test including the measurements of excess heat and the changes in the isotopic composition of the fuel during the testing.
In terms of this E-Cat test they state they face “three stark and perplexing choices” which are: 1) Rossi and the testers are involved in fraud; 2) Rossi and the team have made ‘multiple, serious, experimental or data-analysis errors; 3) Rossi and the team have made “a very important discovery that may revolutionize the production of energy worldwide. (But how can we square these results with known nuclear physics?)”
The present bloggers are as concerned as anyone that the Italian-Swedish experiment does not have any solid theoretical foundation, has no detectable radiation, and in fact seemingly contravenes conventional physics. We also caution against anyone taking these results too seriously until they can be replicated by completely independent research teams. We are aware that Rossi has a somewhat checkered past, although so did the mathematician Louis de Brange until he proved the Bieberbach conjecture in 1985.
But, on the other hand, we see no point in rejecting, much less vilifying, a new research result simply because it departs from mainstream thinking, provided that 1) it is performed by well-qualified researchers using reasonably sound methodologies and up-to-date equipment, 2) it is documented in sufficient detail to permit third parties to reproduce the results, and 3) the researchers have at least submitted their work for proper peer review.
So we will continue to monitor both of these developments. At the very least, they are certain to make an interesting chapter in the sociology of science.
I find this to be quite a fair-minded assessment of the E-Cat test — something that I hope will cause people to take it more seriously. Drs. Bailey and Borwein should be commended, I think, for maintaining an open mind and allowing for the possibility at least that ‘cold fusion’ could be the answer to many of our most critical energy problems.