Robert Duncan on Cold Fusion and the Scientific Method

Robert Duncan, vice chancellor for research at the University of Missouri, is one of the few American academics that I am aware of who has what I would consider an open mind regarding the subject of cold fusion. He rose to fame in cold fusion circles when he was recruited by the CBS 60 Minutes show as an ‘honest broker’, an independent scientist with no skin in the game to look at some cold fusion claims. Duncan was selected on the recommendation of the American Physical Society because he was a recognized expert on measuring energy. After visiting an Israeli company, Energetics Technologies, and examining their cold fusion experimental results, Duncan came away convinced that anomolous excess heat was quite real.

A week following the airing of the 60 Minutes piece, Rob Duncan gave a presentation at the 2009 Missouri Energy Summit in which he talked about cold fusion and discussed how he felt it should be approached from the point of view of legitimate scientific inquiry. He discusses his involvement in the 60 minutes story, and what he observed when he visited Energetics Technologies in Israel. Duncan also talks about other experiments in which the excess heat effect has been observed.

Duncan remarks that he has faced criticism for his position on cold fusion and talks about one angry Ivy League professor who chastised him for being involved in the 60 Minutes story. Duncan states his position that, “the scientific method  is a wonderful thing, in my opinion it’s time to stop growling at each other from separate sides of this issue and apply the scientific method to figure out what’s going on.”

In concluding his remarks, Duncan outlines the major lessons he has learned from his involvement in cold fusion research

  • There is a huge gap between new science discovery and useful engineered systems.
  • Mass media needs to approach new discoveries in light of the above point (the media should not be overspeculative and create false expectations, but rather engage the public in the scientific process)
  • Research funding needs to become less dependent on the common assumptions within the culture of scientific communities, and much more courageous and objective
  • The scientific method is a wonderful thing. Use it always — no exceptions.
Recently Duncan has been involved in the establishment of  the Sidney Kimmel Institute for Nuclear Renaissance, or SKINR, at the University of Missouri which was established by a $5.5 million gift from billionaire Sidney Kimmel.
Although given three years ago, Duncan’s lecture is well presented, a good introduction to cold fusion (not difficult to follow for non-scientists), and I believe worth watching. You can see it in three parts below.