I had the good fortune last Fall to have the opportunity to visit the US Navy's SPAWAR facility, located in the Ft. Rosecrans U.S. Military reservation near Pt. Loma in San Diego (see picture, or look around in 3D for yourself). The setting is stunning and the research being accomplished there is impressive.
Little did I know that right around the corner from where I sat another team was finding yet more evidence of the reality of cold fusion. The abstract is here.
In this report, we present additional evidence, namely, the emission of highly energetic charged particles emitted from the Pd/D electrode when this system is placed in either an external electrostatic or magnetostatic field. The density of tracks registered by a CR-39 detector was found to be of a magnitude that provides undisputable evidence of their nuclear origin. The experiments were reproducible. A model based upon electron capture is proposed to explain the reaction products observed in the Pd/D-D2O system.
To me, this remains a fascinating chapter in the history of epistemology, one we are fortunate enough to watch close-up during our own lifetimes. I laid out my personal version of the story here about a year ago. How do we know what we think we know?—remains to me one of the most fascinating of all questions, one which bears directly on our political beliefs. Were there weapons of mass destruction in Iraq? Is Bush Cheney's puppet? Is he dumb as all getout or is he an evil genius? It is largely in the answers to these questions upon which one's political beliefs turn. Before we can decide what to do, we have to first decide what reality is, and there is vast difference of opinion on the subject.
The cold fusion story shows that we can't even easily come to an agreement on the nature of physical reality, even when no one's ox should be gored, it shouldn't particularly become a political battle. And yet it did, physicists vs. chemists, big-science vs. little-science, East Coast Ivy leagues vs. Western State Universities. The NY Times vs. the rest of the country. And we still don't know what the truth is. Personally, I am strongly of the opinion that there is something real here, that it is an undiscovered and completely surprising nuclear effect which doesn't fit at all into the prevailing wisdom, and that it will be fascinating to watch the social process by which the current dogma ("Cold Fusion was a hoax") turns into the new dogma ("Cold fusion is a hitherto undiscovered part of reality"), should I live so long.