Stephen A. Fuqua (SAF) is a Bahá'í, programmer, and conservation and interfaith advocate in the DFW area of Texas.

September 16, 2004

Cold Fusion and Alternative Energy

Though historically I've not read many blogs, I've been poking around looking for good news sources to add to my news feeds in the new Mozilla Firefox pr1. My slumming has turned an interesting piece on the future of cold fusion over at Popular Science.

First I must give credit where credit is due: I found this article thanks to the a run down of new alternative energy articles (New Energy Currents: 2004-09-15) at windsofchange.net.

The University of Texas at Austin is one of the foremost plasma / fusion research centers in the world. I can well remember my modern physics professor (himself a plasma experimentalist) bashing the concept of cold fusion research, and I'm sure he would have seen it as a complete waste of time and money. While I can't say that I was particularly keen to learn more about cold fusion, the reactions struck me as pure dogma. Thus my curiousity has been piqued for the past year or more as I have heard rumors of renewed interested, and perhaps even credibility, for cold fusion research.

Brief aside: cold fusion is the process of fusing two atoms into one, thereby releasing energy, without the introduction of a large external energy source. Thus if successful on a large scale, cold fusion would generate large amounts of electricity without requiring that much be put in. Conversely, "hot fusion," requiring sun-like temperatures, has thus far been unable to systematically produce more energy than was required to heat up the atoms in the first place, making it un-tenable as an energy source unless and until some major breakthrough comes along.

The sad thing about this article is that it is in Popular Science. As the authors point out, and as I have noticed, it is impossible to get cold fusion research documented in the normal scientific journals. The topic is anethema to most physicists, and they won't have it sharing space with "serious" research. But despite the ridicule, the De Soto's of physics have continued looking for their fountain of youth. And if this simple graph is any indicator, they may have found it. Problem is, they still don't know exactly how to use it or how it works.

After describing the state of cold fusion research and renewed interest from the Department of Energy (possibly for creation of tritium, which is required for hydrogen bomb upkeep), the article goes on to point out a frightening possibility: table top cold fusion could be the worst thing to happen to civilization, if terrorists ever figured out how to use it. You see, the hydrogen bombs they would be able to make are 1,000 times stronger than a simple atom bomb.