FIRE FROM ICE by Eugene F. Mallove

FIRE FROM ICE

Searching for the Truth Behind the Cold Fusion Furor

KIRKUS REVIEW

 In a provocative and trend-bucking pro-cold-fusion account, Mallove (Science Journalism/MIT) traces the evolution of the controversy that, he says, has hampered American researchers since 1989. Given the far-fetched, difficult-to-reproduce nature of their experiment, it was perhaps predictable that the euphoria that greeted the spring 1989 announcement by Utah chemists Martin Fleischmann and B. Stanley Pons that they'd achieved a ``cold'' nuclear fusion reaction in a jar of heavy water would lead quickly to profound disappointment and scathing criticism in the popular and scientific media. The fact that the researchers' first reports were hastily composed in order to beat a competitor to publication didn't help bolster their credibility, which plummeted alarmingly as the country's best labs seemed unable to duplicate their work or at best obtained questionable results over a period of weeks or months. The effect was a nearly unprecedented backlash of opinion in the press (including the prestigious science journal Nature, which comes in for special condemnation from Mallove), which in turn caused research funds to dry up and researchers to back off or continue their work ``underground'' to protect their reputations. It is both curious and troubling that the pursuit of a scientific long shot with such beneficial potential results could be crippled by a collection of skeptical editors and scientists, Mallove suggests. In spite of this, research continues and prospects for success are looking up--particularly in Europe, Japan and India, where media-enhanced prejudice against the concept was never so high. A thorough, welcome clarification of the scientific side of the cold-fusion saga, and a sobering example of majority rule's damaging potential in the realm of experimental science. (For an equally strong but skeptical report, see Frank Close's Too Hot to Handle, p. 370.)

Pub Date: July 15th, 1991
ISBN: 0-471-53139-1
Page count: 228pp
Publisher: Wiley
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 1991