Monday, April 05, 2004
U.S. Will Give Cold Fusion Second Look, After 15 Years "Last fall, cold fusion scientists asked the Energy Department to take a second look at the process, and last week, the department agreed.

No public announcement was made. A British magazine, New Scientist, first reported the news this week, and Dr. James F. Decker, deputy director of the science office in the Energy Department, confirmed it in an e-mail interview.

'It was my personal judgment that their request for a review was reasonable,' Dr. Decker said.

For advocates of cold fusion, the new review brings them to the cusp of vindication after years of dismissive ridicule.

'I am absolutely delighted that the D.O.E. is finally going to do the right thing,' Dr. Eugene F. Mallove, editor of Infinite Energy magazine, said. 'There can be no other conclusion than a major new window has opened on physics.'

The research is too preliminary to determine whether cold fusion, even if real, will live up to its initial billing as a cheap, bountiful source of energy, said Dr. Peter Hagelstein, a professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who has been working on a theory to explain how the process works. Experiments have generated small amounts of energy, from a fraction of a watt to a few watts.

Still, Dr. Hagelstein added, 'I definitely think it has potential for commercial energy production.'

Dr. Decker said the scientists, not yet chosen, would probably spend a few days listening to presentations and then offer their thoughts individually. The review panel will not conduct experiments, he said.

'What's on the table is a fairly straightforward question, is there science here or not?' Dr. Hagelstein said. 'Most fundamental to this is to get the taint associated with the field hopefully removed.'"

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