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Bubble Fusion Inquiry Under Wraps 231

Posted by timothy
from the shhh-or-it-might-explode-or-might-not-explode dept.
hubie writes "Purdue University launched an investigation last March into the questionable research behavior and actions by Prof. Rusi Taleyarkhan following his controversial claims of achieving bubble fusion. The investigation has completed but the results are being kept secret. The alleged behavior is remeniscent of another tabletop fusion incident from a number of years back. Coincidentally, Purdue University has just secured Federal money to open up a new energy center. A more cynical person than I might suggest that there is a connection between the two."
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Bubble Fusion Inquiry Under Wraps

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  • by mechsoph (716782) on Monday July 24, 2006 @07:38PM (#15773296)
    He's said the the experiments are incredibly touchy, and there are some days when it just won't work. Given that, it's not surprising others have had trouble duplicating the results.
  • by GuyMannDude (574364) on Monday July 24, 2006 @07:47PM (#15773321) Journal

    I'd recommend getting ahold of the BBC documentary on this topic and this particular researcher: "An Experiment to Save the World" [bbc.co.uk]. The documentary does a reasonable job of explaining the concept. It's also pretty clear from watching this episode that this particular scientist knows deep down inside that he's a fraud but his conscious mind isn't allowing him to accept the reality that his career is over. He keeps saying stuff like "A have to believe the data" even though the show does a good job of explaining that his data is inconclusive and that the technology that would generate conclusive proof exists. The BBC ends up hiring a rival researcher to use the superior lab equipment to try to confirm bubble fusion. No dice. Of course, the original researcher then claims that he they weren't doing the experiment correctly, but refuses to help them redo the experiment with his special modifications.

    Good documentary. It made me want to reach into the TV and strangle that asshole for wasting everyone's time. I hope he gets what's coming to him.

    GMD

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 24, 2006 @07:55PM (#15773336)
    Even if cold fusion did work, do you really think Big Oil would allow it? They'd either discredit it (as conspiracy theorists believe), or they'd grab all the patents on it and jettison it. At least until all the world's proven crude reserves are exhausted and they've maximized their profits.
  • by kfg (145172) * on Monday July 24, 2006 @08:38PM (#15773452)
    It's clear (supposedly) whether it worked or not . . .

    No. While it may be clear to people on the team that it "worked," it is not clear to anyone else that it "worked," ever, using the team's own data.

    In fact, the team's own data is not consistent with the results they claim to have taken place. This is not merely a case of unreproducability.

    Others attempts to duplicate the results with more sensitive equipment suggests that what is happening is "hopeful misinterpretation" of random events measured at the margin of error. Once one starts down this path and feels professionally commited it really isn't all that hard, for anybody, to go from "hopeful missinterpretation" into "panicked delusion," or, for some, dare I even say it, minor boughts of fraud.

    In other words, it seems they've built themselves a very expensive N-ray detector.

    i.e., the results are subjective. Only people who can see them can see them; and even they now express some puzzlement over what they believe they see, because they don't see what they think they're seeing.

    See?

    KFG
  • by m_hemaly (886170) on Monday July 24, 2006 @09:44PM (#15773643)
    I completely agree with parent. To counter the grand-parent's analogy: saying that I have flown an object in the air for an hour, without saying what it is I did, is good show-business but horrible science. The scientific community has every right to ignore me because I provide no useful data (and no the mere possibility of something flying is not useful) - and if someone later actually invents the kite it will be the culmination of good, honest & faithfully reported science that does it.
  • by evilviper (135110) on Monday July 24, 2006 @11:17PM (#15773893) Journal
    If I was even remotely connected to the group that finally provides indesputable proof of cold fusion, I'd hide and keep running.

    Really? I think I'd publish EVERY LAST BIT of info I had, as far and wide as possible, making it utterly useless to harm anyone over it. Patents, for one, and immediately and fully accessible to the public.

    But I guess I flunked my tin-foil hat class.
  • by AJWM (19027) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @12:25AM (#15774076) Homepage
    The problem arises when (if) the phenomenon observed depends on some aspect of the methods and materials which is not documented, possibly because the experimenter himself is unaware of its importance. The purity of germanium in the semiconductor experiments I alluded to in an earlier post, for example.

    This is particularly true when an experimenter with much experience in one field reports observations in another field. The methods/materials section of a paper is going to leave out that which the author assumes that "anyone knowledgeable in the field" will know, to save space. An expert in a different field, however, may well have different experience as to what is and isn't significant, and make incorrect assumptions when trying to replicate the experiment.

    Apparently the preparation of the palladium rod (purity, annealing, etc) in the P&F experiments has a big influence on whether one gets excess heat. If the nanostructure of the Pd/Du matrix played a significant role in the phenomenon (as the nanostructure of semiconductors does in getting them to do anything useful), it could well explain the variable success rate. (I'm not saying it does.I'm aware of the scale differences between electronic phenomena and nuclear phenomena -- but who knows, maybe the right Pd crystal lattice makes a whole bunch of tiny Farnsworth fusors, or provides little areas for Bose-Einstein condensates of deuterons to collect, or whatever. It just has to be the right lattice, with just the right impurities.)

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