PERPLEXED ABOUT COLD FUSION? - Here's the Book for YOU!
A Dialogue on Chemically Induced Nuclear Effects: A Guide for the Perplexed About Cold Fusion by Nate Hoffman, 1996, American Nuclear Soc. Pub., 223 pages. Reviewer: Bruce Lewenstein (Cornell University, Cold Fusion Archive).
This book is neither a traditional technical explication (which doesn't exist in textbook form for cold fusion) nor a conventional overview (which has already been done several times). Instead, Hoffman models the book on some classic texts in solid state physics by Hume-Rothery, written in dialogue form, with an "Old Metallurgist" and "Young Scientist" engaging in an extended conversation about cold fusion, the technical questions it raises, the available information to resolve those questions, the uncertainties remaining in the field, and various other related bits of information.
Hoffman does seem concerned, primarily, with some of the artifacts that bedeviled cold fusion, making skepticism look like the normal response. But, as he points out; errors and oversimplifications are rife in both positive and negative experiments in the early days of cold fusion. He also emphasizes the fact that the continued observation of apparently anomalous results will not go away; scientists have an obligation to explore and explain those results. His appendices help provide background for those explorations, covering various cold fusion systems, nuclear reaction products, measurements, and branching ratios for d+d fusion at low energies.
While Hoffman's focus is the technical complexity of cold fusion, he also makes clear some of the psychological and sociological conundrums that complicate the field. Overall, the book contains substantially more detail than any of the news reports or other books on cold fusion; at the same time, its dialogue form allows the book to provide more background explanation than most technical papers. The book concentrates on the early period (although the author has some information through 1995) and predominately looks at the heavy water experiments. Thus, it cannot be considered an absolutely complete explanation of the science of cold fusion. Cold fusion is still an evolving and expanding field.
Toward the end of Nate Hoffman's review of the cold fusion saga, he compares the saga to Edgar Allen Poe's "The Telltale Heart" story: The protagonist is sure he has killed his victim and interred the body, but he still hears the beating heart, and it drives him crazy. Critics of the 1989 announcement by Fleischmann and Pons, that they had found a method for inducing nuclear fusion at room temperature with tabletop electrochemical techniques, must feel the same way.
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Oct. 25, 1996.