A science journalist brings to life one of the greatest scientific frauds of our times with the story of the two obscure researchers who claimed to have discovered a clean, no-fuss method for harnessing the energy of a hydrogen bomb. 20,000 first printing.
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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.... -- Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.From Library Journal:
Cold fusion never existed. Even though its "discovery" by two University of Utah chemists--Stanley Pons and Martin Fleischman--was proclaimed with fanfare in 1989, the idea has been thoroughly discredited. As Taubes demonstrates in this well-documented account, cold fusion was "bad science" from the outset. The researchers rushed to announce their discovery to ensure primacy and, by circumventing peer review, introduced political and economic pressures into the scientific process. Taubes interviewed many of the key players in the controversy (although Pons and Fleischman refused his requests) and thus gives an insider's view of what happened--and why. Eugene Mallove's Fire from Ice ( LJ 6/1/91) also critically appraises cold fusion, but Taubes's work is more comprehensive and also less strident. This cautionary tale puts cold fusion to rest and, more important, shows how science can be mishandled. Recommended for public and academic libraries.
- Gregg Sapp, Montana State Univ. Libs., Bo z eman
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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