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BAD SCIENCE by Gary Taubes

BAD SCIENCE

The Short Life and Very Hard Times of Cold-Fusion

By Gary Taubes

Pub Date: June 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-394-58456-2
Publisher: Random House

 Remember Stan Pons? Martin Fleischmann? Cheap power from a setup that looked like a freshman chemistry class experiment? Taubes, who plumbed the depths of nuclear-particle competition at CERN (Nobel Dreams, 1987), now continues his expeditions in an epic chronicle that reveals just how corroded and slimy the scientific pipes can get. ``Epic'' because Taubes goes on at too great a length, detailing the day-to-week-to-month chronology of events over a period of close to four years. The saga begins on March 16, 1989, when the University of Utah president felt he could no longer hold the lid on Pons and Fleischmann's work and scheduled a press conference, breaking a promise of cooperation with Brigham Young University, whose own resident fusion guru, Steven Jones, was viewed as a rival who might publish first. The rest, as Taubes tells it, is a horrific tale of claims and counterclaims, of true believers vs. skeptics, and of experiments and apparatus that leave much to be desired (including controls). The escalating war of tempers and temperaments eventually involved scientists, university brass, and local, state, federal, and foreign government officials, all of it well-aired by the press. Interestingly, while the consensus now declares cold fusion to be a myth, and the fallout has left at least one investigator dead and many a career in disarray, the principals are alive and well: Pons lives in Nice, presiding over a Japanese-backed institute; Fleischmann is back in England, appearing with Pons at meetings; Jones continues to investigate phenomena (no longer called ``cold fusion'') at Brigham Young. All of which could be interpreted to mean that if you want to believe it's true...or that you can still fool some of the people....