I stumbled over the document that is the subject of tomorrow’s blog post (sorry – an obnoxious tease), poking around the web looking for documents on LENR (low energy nuclear reactions). LENR is now the preferred name for the research that grew out of what is still called “cold fusion.” Cold fusion and LENR are used somewhat interchangeably now, although people realize that “cold fusion” is now a pejorative. This may change back (be changing back now?) if/when LENR reactions are confirmed and scientists begin to own the term, even though it may not completely and accurately describe the phenomenon.
After lots of reading about cold fusion (mostly for fun), including experiments, scientific papers and conference reports, my (completely unqualified – because I don’t have a degree in physics) take on the cold fusion / LENR field is summarized below.
- The effect is real, having been confirmed by qualified, conservative academic researchers hundreds of times.
- The phenomenon is new science and so is not going to be explained by the standard model,
although this is controversial, as no theory now convincingly explains all of the experimental evidence that cold fusion researchers have uncovered.
- Researching the LENR phenomenon is still verboten in academic physics departments, and graduate students are not yet encouraged or allowed to pursue the field, although:
- Things are starting to change as, MIT has run a short course on cold fusion in the winter break, for two years running now. You’ll note from the link that the sponsors are Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, and not the Physics Department. Members of the MIT Physics Department were responsible for spiking claims about cold fusion back when it was originally announced in 1989, and there is still lots of bad blood between the groups of scientists. The Physics Department also has some large grants from the government to study hot fusion, a field that continues to make very slow progress, at the cost of billions of dollars spent.
- Some LENR researchers have claims of commercial scale power generation (e.g. 1 megaWatt),
- Which has attracted venture capital, although;
- Rock solid technical confirmation of the technology is yet to be made public.
- Patents and proprietary efforts are heating up including one by STMicroelectronics, a name that I expect a fair amount of people who are reading this blog will recognize, as they make sensors for Iphones, and motor drivers among lots of other interesting chips.
- On the downside, the field attracts some cranks and wishful thinkers, as one might expect with a technology that has been repressed, but also promises many social benefits such as the generation of a fair amount of energy from common materials without a lot of polluting or toxic downside.
- NASA apparently also believes that there is something to LENR and is putting a bit of money into research, and including it in plans for possible future spacecraft. NASA is all about the future and also all about contingency planning so this may not be saying too much.
Anyway I’ll skip the links and leave you to the “tender mercies of your own Internet Research” as my undergraduate mathematics professor might have said, had the Internet been invented yet. Google LENR and you too can be confused and rewarded. Tomorrow – The Pentagon’s view of 2025.