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38 comments

Throwing Cold Water on Cold Fusion

Posted February 28, 2011 8:10 AM

The technology hasn't made headway or headlines since 1989, but cold fusion is back in the news. Researchers from University of Bologna, Italy, claim to have developed a nickel-hydrogen fusion reactor capable of producing 12,400 W of thermal energy with an input of just 400 W. They can't adequately explain or demonstrate how the system functions and have encountered major roadblocks in trying to secure a patent. Scientific interest has been piqued, accompanied by rampant skepticism. Why doesn't the lack of experimental reproducibility and seeming implausibility of cold fusion deter such efforts?

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#1

Re: Throwing Cold Water on Cold Fusion

02/28/2011 8:21 AM

This has been discussed here before. It's old news.

Obviously, if the researchers can't explain the process it is not science, but something more akin to witchcraft, which is the reason no scholarly papers will print their claim.

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#10
In reply to #1

Re: Throwing Cold Water on Cold Fusion

03/01/2011 8:11 AM

Oh come on now. James Doohan (First Engineer Scott of the USS Enterprise) believed in cold fusion. Are you questioning Scotty?

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#14
In reply to #1

Re: Throwing Cold Water on Cold Fusion

03/01/2011 12:43 PM

I'd rethink your statement.

Quite a few processes in nature were observed before they were ever explained. The process of science isn't to dismiss such observations, out of hand. To be sure, the burden of proof is on the claimants of any discovery. I recently was browsing in the university library where I work and there are quite a few, scholarly, books about the subject -- papers and research being presented and discussed. After scanning a couple of them, it appears, there is a real process, just not so grandiose as first reported.

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#16
In reply to #14

Re: Throwing Cold Water on Cold Fusion

03/01/2011 2:47 PM

This has nothing to do with that. The issue is these guys are selling this as science and even went so far as to try to patent the idea, but they can not explain how it works. That is not how science works.

The fact remains that no one (except their own ad-hoc blog) will publish their findings. The reason is simple; there is no science to their work.

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#23
In reply to #16

Re: Throwing Cold Water on Cold Fusion

03/03/2011 4:22 PM

O.K. I understand what you're saying. So to clarify my point further, you should have really said, "publishable" science. Certainly you would agree that many scientists of the past made valid observations of processes they had no explanation for, and yet the processes turned out to be valid.

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#25
In reply to #23

Re: Throwing Cold Water on Cold Fusion

03/03/2011 9:46 PM

Red herring.

These guys went so far as to try to patent something they have no idea how it works. That is not the same as making an observation and taking notes.

It is pathological science.

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#2

Re: Throwing Cold Water on Cold Fusion

03/01/2011 12:43 AM

People who do bad science don't usually know they are doing bad science. Historically, 100% of people claiming over-unity (the ones that weren't outright criminals that is) are guilty of bad science.

Typically the problems come from not knowing how to take proper measurements and not taking everything into consideration. The quantities are incorrectly assessed, measurements that should be taken aren't and the ones that are taken are taken incorrectly.

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#11
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Re: Throwing Cold Water on Cold Fusion

03/01/2011 8:24 AM

that's the problem with ignorance...

"You don't know what you don't know."

And because of it, one is too dam ignorant to question it.

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#3

Re: Throwing Cold Water on Cold Fusion

03/01/2011 2:08 AM

I found a way to create energy from a cold, weak, Nuclear reaction. Anyone can try this and it works every time. This method produces electricity from a solid state reaction. I call it NUCLEOVOLTAIC. Better than cold fusion and easily reproducible. I make standard, Thin Film, Photovoltaic panels, that work on Radiation from the SUN. You all know how a Solar panel works. Sunlight (Radiation) knocks electrons in one direction and this is then electricity. Now the Solar panel does not care where the radiation comes from. To prove this is easy. Just take any Thin Film, Solar panel into your nearest X-ray department and connect a volt meter to it. X-ray it and you will get 20 volts on the meter during the x-ray. Although x-rays are probably too powerful, the back scatter, Compton scatter I think they call it, bounces back at a different wavelength and this is probably causing the output. Now all you have to do is add a permanent radiation source, like Tritium, to the Photovoltaic material, when you make the PV panel. Tritium has a 12 year half life, so for 12 years your Solar panel will produce electricity, which you can use, 24 hours a day. The active layer is only 4 microns thick so you can get thousands of panels in a 1 foot thick Nucleovoltaic panel. Tritium is so weak it can not penetrate the outer layers of your skin so is very safe. Free electricity for 12 years. Cold fusion.. Bah! who needs it.

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#4
In reply to #3

Re: Throwing Cold Water on Cold Fusion

03/01/2011 2:19 AM

Your idea should work. The problem you are likely to incur is one of scale. It is quite likely that the output power will not merit the expense of putting it all together. Before you criticize this comment, please gather some factual data on tests that you haven't yet done or research of relevant applications. The space program uses nuclear powered thermopiles to produce electricity for many years. I am going to venture a guess that they have already looked into this and had it been more energy efficient they would have used it though I agree this would be safer. Where is your research data?

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#5
In reply to #4

Re: Throwing Cold Water on Cold Fusion

03/01/2011 3:50 AM

The idea does work. This is probably why there is no argument. Only when it doesn't work, do we get arguments about why it doesn't work. I just wanted to pass on the information so others may decide to follow up on it. Cost is low and I am working on making solar Panels by electroplating them onto the substrate.I need a good Chemist to get the correct electrolyte solutions for CIS PV deposition. This would bring solar panel price down to less than $0.80c per watt peak. Then add the source material during the manufacture. Don't even think of looking at other peoples data. That will lead you exactly where they went. I hope there has already been a mass invasion of the local hospitals, with people taking x-rays of Solar Panels. They can go their own direction and come to new places. Any way my results are all on the back of a brown envelope. Where else? Paul

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#6
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Re: Throwing Cold Water on Cold Fusion

03/01/2011 4:05 AM

So what tests have you run with tritium? You realize that the half life of tritium is just a little over 12 years, yes? You also realize that beta emissions are not the same as x-rays, yes? I am assuming you have done the experiment you describe with x-rays, yes? Please answer these questions. Thanks.

Additionally, you should be doing research as to the correct chemistry to operate best with beta emissions. But before you do that you should do some calculations to determine exactly how much energy is generated by the beta emissions from tritium. I am guessing that it is on the order of mouse flatulence but you should do the research and perform this basic assessment before you go any further and waste time and money on something that, again I tell you, in all likelihood, fails due to your failure to consider scale. This is a difficult thing for humans.

If you can come back and tell us about the energy calculation for the output of tritium then you will at least have earned some credibility. I think you will also learn something else. Otherwise you are wasting your time both on your project and talking to us.

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#7
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Re: Throwing Cold Water on Cold Fusion

03/01/2011 4:43 AM

Ok, no answer so far. I'm bored and running lengthy sit and wait tests tonight in my lab. So let me ask you one last question that I think will help you decide the value of pursuing your project any further.

Have you checked the going price for tritium on the world market? I'll answer that for you. Looks like you used to be able to get a gram for about $30,000. If you go for a whole kg you could get a pretty sweet deal for about $22,000,000. Ok, repeat after me, I will not forget to consider SCALE. Are we done now?

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#18
In reply to #7

Re: Throwing Cold Water on Cold Fusion

03/03/2011 5:26 AM

I had no idea there was a market for Tritium. I used it because it is a waste product from the manufacture of medical isotopes and they throw it away. Getting rid of it is a big problem. It was FREE.

The amount of energy produced is easily calculated and anybody with an Interest would know how to calculate it but we are looking only at electrical energy produced and nothing else. You are right that it is very small but Solar panels are 4% efficient in real life but are useful energy providers in many cases. You just need to add more of them.The Tritium gives the same, a very small, amount of power as Sunlight but has the advantage that it works 24 hours a day. The Sun only works 4 hours a day average. Yes you will need a lot of Tritium and if it is FREE then it doesn't matter. If you can't get if free then maybe some waste from other areas will do the job. They are burying Nuclear waste every day. They might even pay you to take it off their hands. Other isotopes will give more energy and may be found on Toxic waste sites (or in your local river).

Many other Isotopes will work. Any isotope that can eject electrons from the atoms in the intrinsic layer, will do the job. Find your own cheap source. The ejected electron is at 1.7eV so if your mouse farts at this level it is ideal. If you brought in a herd of farting elephants, the ejected electrons would still be at 1.7eV but there would be a lot of heat produced as well, which is wasted and is detrimental to the output. So small mice is nice. We do not want lots of wasted heat from your elephants, never mind the smell.

The idea was to get other people to find their own methods, not for me to tell you how I did it. There are many people smarter than me, who will come up with a much better, cheaper and easier way to do it.

You want me to tell you how I did it because you are too lazy to work out your own method. (Just joking). But you will not look into your own method, if I tell you mine. You will probably go the same direction as me and the point here was to get people to go different ways round this.

There are many ways to do it. I just hope somebody sees this and does it in a way that works.

Sorry for the delay. You seem to be asleep when I am awake. probably the other side of the world from me.

Paul

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#19
In reply to #18

Re: Throwing Cold Water on Cold Fusion

03/03/2011 6:03 AM

I fear your premise that anyone would actually pursue this is in error. Your assertion that you are willing to give us the idea but not the data only confirms that you are pretending to have something you do not have. What is the sense to give something away but you then arrogantly "challenge" us to do our own work. Really, no one cares. We did not come here to be enlightened by your superior wisdom or "challenged" to run off and do some bizarre research with radioactive materials. I don't know who you think you are talking to but we are not a bunch of little children just waiting for some sage to come along and give us a clue to the world's salvation. We are here to share information and learn. Get real. You have provided no substantive response to any valid challenges. You should learn some manners and realize you are not talking to a bunch of students.

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#20
In reply to #19

Re: Throwing Cold Water on Cold Fusion

03/03/2011 6:34 AM

I think you are not thinking it's "irony"

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#26
In reply to #19

Re: Throwing Cold Water on Cold Fusion

03/03/2011 10:14 PM

I assumed that you were all smarter than me. You got it the wrong way round. Creating electricity directly from isotopes is not really a challenge, it is something we should be doing. Look at how we get the electricity now. We create a Nuclear Bomb to get heat. Very Dangerous with lots of toxic waste. We take the heat and make steam. The steam then drives a steam engine. The steam engine then drives an electromechanical device that moves electrons. Very inefficient. Why not just drive the electrons directly without all this hassle?

OK I will give you the details of the first experiment, done in the Radiotherapy department, using Cobalt 60. The Solar cell used was a standard Solarex Amorphous Silicon module. 22 Voc 12 watts rated output. The band gap is NOT correct to react with Gamma rays but despite that it did react. The Gamma rays were derived from the Cobalt source, used for treatment of Cancer patients. The Solar panel was wrapped in light tight, black paper, to ensure the room lights did not trigger any output from the Solar panel. A multimeter was used to measure the output Volts and Amps. The Solar panel was placed on the therapy table which is made of Aluminium sheet. The source was exposed at 1 metre from the Solar panel, directly above the panel. During the exposure a voltage of 15 volts was obtained. Current was 10mA. As the source was moved closer to the panel the current increased.

I assumed that the Gamma rays were scattered backwards by the Aluminium table at a level that triggered movement of the electrons in the 1.7eV band gap of the A-si panel. What is your opinion on how the electrons in the intrinsic layer were moved by the Cobalt source? The energy level of Sunlight is very low and only the Visible light reacts with Solar panels, yet they make usable electric current. We only need the SAME level of energy as Visible light, to move electrons in the Solar panel.

"Radioactive tritium, commonly discharged in large amounts by civil and military nuclear plants around the world, may be more dangerous than previously thought". Really, Tritium waste is buried in concrete coated barrels. If you ask your local Nuclear power plant for some of their Toxic waste I am sure they will be pleased to give it to you for FREE. They will probably PAY you to take it away.

Sorry you think I am rude.

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#27
In reply to #26

Re: Throwing Cold Water on Cold Fusion

03/03/2011 10:34 PM

Did you measure the 12 volts and the 10ma at the same time? What was the load on the cell? Or did you measure 12 volts open circuit and then apply the ammeter and measure 10ma short circuit current?

You see, now we are getting somewhere, we can have a discussion.

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#28
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Re: Throwing Cold Water on Cold Fusion

03/03/2011 11:03 PM

Good guess that I measured Volts open circuit and current short circuit. I should have specified this. And YES it is very low output. The Gamma radiation probably had no direct effect on the output and only the scatter was producing the output. Hence the poor reaction.

I would assume that if we could make a PV panel with a Band gap matching the Gamma radiation, instead of Visible light, we would get the full 12 watts from the PV panel. I am not able to do this. So I was trying to pass it on to someone who is able to do this.

My PV is all at 1.7eV band gap.

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#29
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Re: Throwing Cold Water on Cold Fusion

03/04/2011 1:16 AM

So ~0.6 volts * 0.01 amps = 0.06 watts / 12 watts = 0.5% of rated output.

Looks like you are basically behind the game, these were invented 50 years ago and everything I've told you seems to be bourn out in the article. These guys use luminescence to convert the wavelength to that which is useful with standard photovoltaics: Optoelectric Nuclear Battery Where as these guys seem to be going more the route you suggest: Betavoltaics.

It just keeps getting harder and harder to have an original thought.

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#30
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Re: Throwing Cold Water on Cold Fusion

03/05/2011 12:45 AM

Wow! You got me on this one.

It was already done 50 years ago. The question now is why aren't we using it? They mention that the radiation was considered too dangerous 50 years ago, so it was not allowed. But if you consider the Dangers now, of a Nuclear reactor, then the dangers are insignificant by comparison. If they can allow enriched Uranium to be used now, then the stuff I want to use is virtually harmless.

The other reason given for not using it, was the cost of the isotopes. Now that there are tons of Nuclear waste, that they can't get rid of, I have a lifetimes supply for FREE even if we just dig up the stuff they already buried.

The final hurdle was the cost. Now that solar panels are very cheap to make and the isotopes needed are readily available, it should be viable.

All of the problems from 50 years ago are no longer problems now. I can resurrect the idea.

If I use the waste from a Nuclear reactor, do you know of any cheap, readily available, suitable materials, that have a high bandwidth, suitable for a direct reaction to modern Nuclear waste?

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#31
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Re: Throwing Cold Water on Cold Fusion

03/05/2011 2:16 AM

You should probably do a cost to benefit analysis. That's out of my field of expertise but I'm guessing that when you factor in the costs of handling, insuring the handling, managing end of life issues and the shear scale on which you would have to build these things to get any appreciable amount of energy out of them is prohibitive. Also, don't count on waste being "free" once the owners realize it has value. You have to realize that it cost them money to produce it even if it were only a consequence of the intended activity and if a demand arises for it there is no way it will remain free. Tritium is not a source of energy. There are no tritium mines. There are no nuclear waste mines. It all has to be produced by the expenditure of considerable energy and as soon as it has value it is no longer waste, it is a commodity.

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#32
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Re: Throwing Cold Water on Cold Fusion

03/07/2011 1:17 AM

You are right. Waste is only waste, until somebody wants it.

But, there are still Uranium Mines. There is not much uranium left to mine, so this commodity will rapidly increase in cost until it soon runs out, very soon. At this point, the waste material, stacked up all over the World and dumped in the local rivers will become the NEW commodity. If we can reuse it to create Electricity directly, then somebody else will see the market for it. This means somebody can make money out of Nuclear waste. So maybe this is future business for me. If make this thing work, then buy Nuclear waste, while it is still unwanted.

I have not done a proper cost analysis but looking at the surface, it would appear to be very much cheaper to build these cells, than to build a Nuclear reactor. Today a 100wp Solar panel, without the cost of Nuclear waste, will cost less than $100 to make. If each 1 square metre panel can produce only 100 watts, at 1mm thickness, then 1 square metre will give 100 Kilowatts at the start of its life. Stacked up, they will take less space than the nuclear power plant uses. A 10 Megawatt power plant will cost only $10,000,000 to build. I don't know how that compares to the cost of building a 10Mw Nuclear power plant.

What is the half life of the Nuclear waste? It has to be longer than the life of a Nuclear power plant to make it work.

Probably it will cost less than cold fusion would.

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#34
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Re: Throwing Cold Water on Cold Fusion

03/09/2011 4:06 AM

In the early days of solar cell research, long before they became widely used, it was realized that silicon (in those days it may have been Germanium) would generate power if exposed to radiation.

Gamma rays worked well, but tended to damage the crystal structure.

Alpha rays were fine with some crystal damage.

Beta rays worked well with little, if any, damage.

Conversion efficiencies were terrible, but if the excess heat could be dissipated (or used) and the radiation source was cheap or free, it showed considerable potential as a nuclear battery.

I haven't followed up on what happened to the idea, but it is at least feasible in theory.

I suspect it wasn't used for spacecraft because the poor efficiency meant it weighed too much for it's output. (This is only a suspicion. I have no solid data).

I'm not sure how you prevent the tritium diffusing out of your battery, but the idea could be useful for some applications.

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#37
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Re: Throwing Cold Water on Cold Fusion

07/11/2011 11:18 PM

I'm pretty sure the Gamma rays went right through not only the tabe but the solar cell as well. Pretty much the only thing they won't go through is lead. Big plus is that every got sterilized.

Gamma rays are kinda really incredibly small very high energy light rays so they would probably excite the solar cell same as sunlight.

They scatter a lot in every direction so whatever coating you would put on the surface of the solar cell would also be scattering them in every direction giving you a low percentage of usable energy directed at the solar cell but since you are only looking for 4% anyway it might work if it was thick enough.

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#36
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Re: Throwing Cold Water on Cold Fusion

07/11/2011 10:58 PM

Tritium will be free only so long as they who have don't know you are using it to make money. When they find that out it will cost too much...simple market controlled valuation.

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#21
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Re: Throwing Cold Water on Cold Fusion

03/03/2011 12:01 PM

Seems to me it would be less expensive to go to the moon and mine He(3).

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#22
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Re: Throwing Cold Water on Cold Fusion

03/03/2011 4:09 PM

Odd, this guy claims he gets it for free. The going price on the world market is $30,000 per gram. Why doesn't he just go into business selling his free tritium. Infinite markup, it doesn't get any better than that.

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#8
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Re: Throwing Cold Water on Cold Fusion

03/01/2011 7:43 AM

Of course another way to look at this is for a $30,000,000 investment in fuel, and ignoring all other expenses, you would have to generate 300 million kilowatt hours of energy to break even with $0.10 per KWH electricity with the grid.

Now it seems that one kilogram of U-235 can produce about 20 million kilowatt hours of energy, oh dear, I think I see a serious problem cropping up with your plan. But hey, maybe your system will be 20 times more efficient.

By the way, any guess as to where tritium comes from? Oh snap! Nuclear reactors.

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#9
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Re: Throwing Cold Water on Cold Fusion

03/01/2011 8:10 AM

Or, just use a Peltier chip and some nuclear material for a heat source. That is how it is done on deep space probes.

Al Gore stated publicly that just a few miles below the Earth's crust the temperature is millions of degrees. So, all you need to do, according to Al, is dig a small hole a few miles deep, buy a few Peltier chips, and a couple of miles of lamp cord from Home Depot and you can have unlimited electricity for life.

Maybe that is what Obama meant by shovel ready jobs?

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#12

Re: Throwing Cold Water on Cold Fusion

03/01/2011 10:30 AM

I think the 'shovel ready' jobs were following him around cleaning up after.

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#13

Re: Throwing Cold Water on Cold Fusion

03/01/2011 12:39 PM

As for thier invention uhh, what invention. I have seen nothing.

I think that people continuously working on power generation will yield something good........ one day. But until then I will use my solar cooker(s) when possible and solar/battery lighting that shades a wall and window. As I think of other things to do I will add to this. My next expense will be a wind generator to add the the solar system and perhaps use the power upgrade for my laptop or TV. My thinking is less grid activity and a hobby too as I don't think it will pay off very well. Personal sastisfaction has to be worth something........... I think.

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#15

Re: Throwing Cold Water on Cold Fusion

03/01/2011 1:51 PM

Inertial confinement fusion may also occur in forced cavitation. Ultrasonic forcing of deuterated acetone ("sonofusion") is an example. Metallic lattice confinement is another. These are not clearly understood, but that does not mean they are not worthy of serious examination. Theory and experiment are the two legs of scientific inquiry, and to make progress one must advance in front of the other.

The critical issue is how to collect the small-scale fusion effects into useful work. Any ideas?

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#24
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Re: Throwing Cold Water on Cold Fusion

03/03/2011 9:10 PM

If you had 30,000 of these confined in 3H2O and a set of jumper cables....

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Re: Throwing Cold Water on Cold Fusion

03/01/2011 3:16 PM

Interestingly, I was reading just yesterday about how Farnsworth invented the first fusion reactor in the 1940's (right after he invented television). Unfortunately for electrostatic confinement of hot plasma, there is not enough power output to reach break even. It is still a "cool" experiment, though. I also read something about the possibility of using the radiation from a nuclear pile to drive PV, but the output is way lower than the thermal output would be from the same source. I still prefer remote nuclear reactor installed by the Big Bang. Just start growing enough algae, you won't need any of the other things, and you can still use your infernal combustion engines.

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#33

Re: Throwing Cold Water on Cold Fusion

03/09/2011 3:35 AM

Now that real numbers are starting to be presented, a different issue has arisen, namely credibility. Science is the name for the games people play to truly understand our world. The success our world has been having with understanding itself comes from the rules that scientific societies have set up so that discussions can be had with trust in the statements that are made in the discussions. Engineering is not science. If an engineer can convert 50% of the energy in gasoline into mechanical energy (net), and do so reliably and cheaply and safely, people will not care if he only recites Mother Goose, they will want his process. Patents do not require a scientifically accurate description of the theory behind a new process, they require an accurate description of the process. An allegation of fact regarding a new form of energy production is proven by testing the fact, not testing the allegation of fact. In other words, if someone wants to be believed when he says "you can do it", he needs to do it, or prove that someone else has done it, not claim that it could be done. Claims of what could be done need to go though the scientific process of peer-reviewed journals which will dampen the the enthusiasm for untested guesses or assumptions.

Whew! Got that out.

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#35
In reply to #33

Re: Throwing Cold Water on Cold Fusion

03/09/2011 5:11 AM

Well said. Thanks.

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#38

Re: Throwing Cold Water on Cold Fusion

07/11/2011 11:42 PM

Ok, what if you grew bioluminescent algae on the surface of a solar cell array, hooked up and iPod to it and played the 1812 Overture at full volume using the surface glass as a solid drive speaker?

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