Thursday, 5 January 2012

The Science of Lies

This story is an old one, over 20 year old, in fact. In the mid to late 80's, while in school, an English teacher of mine assigned the class to turn in a report on a current event or news item. The next morning while I read the paper, an event that has never been part of my normal routine, I stumbled into something larger in it's implications than the article was given space for: Pons and Fleischmann announced the existence of their technology to the world.

 I reported on this breaking story with great enthusiasm. I made sure to incorporate all the reasons Cold Fusion would be the greatest invention, potentially since the wheel or fire, but certainly since the dawn of electricity. Granted, I understood this still had to go through proper scientific review, and even stated that in my report.

I was the only person in my class who covered that story. I was also the only person who dug deeper than the single newspaper article by reading about the differences between present day fission, and fusion. I was the only person who reported on an unratified scientific experiment. I was the only person who's report ended in a question: 'could this be real?'. I was the only person who received an A+ on my report.

The teacher's only comment on the paper was that he would like me to follow up on this story, which I did with much less enthusiasm, but still ending with a question: 'Is this being swept under the rug and moth-balled?'. That paper detailed, quite plainly, how MIT 'hot-fusion' scientists in the 'plasma fusion research center' had been unable to replicate the experiment's results. It also asked the curious questions like: 'is this not simply a case of the oil companies being asked to reproduce this theory of an electric car?' and 'would "hot-fusion" research not cost extraordinary amounts of money when compared to simply reproducing an experiment where fusion takes place in a small tabletop device, who's schematic was given to them?'

I got another A+ on the follow-up report despite having absolutely no conclusive evidence to back my suspicions, and absolutely no answers to the questions I'd ended my previous report with. If anything I'd raised even more questions that ran far deeper than I could possibly investigate without access to the laboratories in question. In fact, I was asking heretical questions against the characters of accredited published scientists, and questioning the scientific review process as a whole. Had this report been published in anything but my own handwriting to any journal or periodical that organization, and myself would have been sued into the stone age.

But here we are, more than 20 years later. Thankfully, I've come to realize that I wasn't the only one raising these questions, and thankfully, other scientists came to the same heretical viewpoint as I did and went against the generally accepted rhetoric and continue to work in relative obscurity and ridicule and actually built something.

But again, I have to end with a question: will these patents be purchased by some greedy oil or nuclear fission conglomerate, or will this device actually see the light of day?


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