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  • LESS THAN COLD FUSION

    Filed at 7:14 am under by dcobranchi

    The NYT’s Op/Ed page today has a good anti-ID piece. Daniel C. Dennett does a very nice job of summarizing in layman’s term why ID isn’t science. My favorite part:

    The Discovery Institute, the conservative organization that has helped to put intelligent design on the map, complains that its members face hostility from the established scientific journals. But establishment hostility is not the real hurdle to intelligent design. If intelligent design were a scientific idea whose time had come, young scientists would be dashing around their labs, vying to win the Nobel Prizes that surely are in store for anybody who can overturn any significant proposition of contemporary evolutionary biology.

    Remember cold fusion? The establishment was incredibly hostile to that hypothesis, but scientists around the world rushed to their labs in the effort to explore the idea, in hopes of sharing in the glory if it turned out to be true.

    He’s absolutely right on this part. (WARNING: PERSONAL ANECDOTE AHEAD) I was there. I started out in Pons’ group at the University of Utah and later moved to Ted Eyring’s. Pons and Eyring shared the basement of the (then) new wing of the Henry Eyring building. So I saw everything from the front row. I even (unsuccessfully) attempted to duplicate some amazing results out of the U of Texas (nickel electrodes for that experiment). It was like that at chemistry departments all across the country. Everyone wanted a piece of the pie; there were no shortages of grad students to throw at it.

    ID is similar. It makes claims that 100 years of science have been wrong. Not only slightly wrong, but completely and utterly wrong in its most basic concepts. The scientists who can prove this would be science stars, household names even. That not one paper has been published in a reputable journal, that no young turks are pursuing this, speaks volumes about how real scientists view ID. There’s just no there, there.

    3 Responses to “LESS THAN COLD FUSION”


    Comment by
    Scott W. Somerville
    August 29th, 2005
    at 3:02 pm

    Daryl, you worked on cold fusion? I had it all figured out: all you needed was a palladium crystal lattice that trapped two deuterium ions within a small space, and then suck the loose electrons out of the metal. I was sure the resulting positive charge of the lattice would squeeze the deuterium ions close enough together to fuse. The way I figured it, all the researchers were using plain old generic palladium instead of a metal with a crystal structure.

    (As you can see, I’m still deeply disappointed it didn’t work out.)


    Comment by
    Daryl
    August 29th, 2005
    at 3:30 pm

    Daryl, you worked on cold fusion?

    It was even closer than that. After I left Pons’ group another grad student (Marvin something-or-other) picked up my project. He was the unnamed 3rd author on the original Pons and Fleischmann paper.

    I don’t recall anyone ever using single-crystal Pd, but I’m going from (almost 20 year old) memory. The prevailing theory at the time was the Pd absorbed some much hydrogen that the internal pressures in the electrode were high enough to overcome the coulombic repulsion. Interestingly, scientists recently may have achieved a form of fusion at room temperature. I can’t recall the details now but it apparently was not a controversial claim.


    Comment by
    Scott W. Somerville
    August 31st, 2005
    at 1:17 pm

    My impression of the whole effort was “research without theory,” which seldom yields much. The crystal lattice theory I was thinking through could be checked out mathematically without having to do any initial experiments. You find out what the most free electrons crystallized palladium can handle before the metal ions start coming apart, and then find out the opposite extreme. The theory here is that a metallic crystal with many extra electrons will draw deuterium ions into the crystal structure. Then you change polarity and suck the electrons out of the crystal. Now the same palladium nuclei form a “cage” of positive charges around the trapped deuterium ions within the lattice. If you have two positively charged deuterium ions inside one positively charged cystral “cage” you can calculate the quantum probability that they will fuse.

    That’s where I broke down. Didn’t have the equipment (or contacts) to try the experiment, and couldn’t do the math to see if I was within three orders of magnitude of a real possibility.

    So it goes. My life is littered with scientific speculations I haven’t been able to pursue. Like, what if the whole universe is a cosmic quantum computer that is “programmed” to spit out an “intelligent observer” the way little quantum computes are going to be programmed to yield prime factors? (But you knew that.)