About

I’m Steven Byrnes — steven.byrnes@gmail.com — see my main website.

Cold fusion (also called “LENR” or “LANR”) refers to the experiments by Fleischmann and Pons in 1989, and follow-up research by many groups in the 25 years since then.

The findings are widely disputed. In my experience, I find that almost all scientists will tell you that cold fusion was a big brouhaha in 1989-1990, but was quickly found to be theoretically impossible, irreproducible, and an artifact of bad experimental methodology. The fact that people are still working on it 25 years later is a bit like the fact that people are still working on astrology. On the other hand, people in the cold fusion community have a very different view, in which the widespread dismissal around 1990 was overly hasty (or a conspiracy by Big Oil), and in fact cold fusion is real. In this view, if an additional 25 years of work have not yet brought us a billion-dollar cold fusion industry, well that’s just because there hasn’t been enough resources supporting the research and development.

(For more on this, read this blog’s first post.)

The main subject of this blog is whether the results can be explained theoretically in a plausible way. I believe that most theoretical nuclear physicists think the answer is “no”, for reasons summarized in my second blog post. On the other hand, cold-fusion proponents have put forward a variety of theories that they say answer these criticisms. The main activity of this blog is to evaluate whether any of those proposals actually work. After countless hours over several years—reading books and papers, doing my own calculations, writing dozens of posts on different theories about cold fusion, I finally came down firmly on the side of mainstream physics: Cold fusion is incompatible with our knowledge of nuclear physics. See this post.

Meanwhile, I eventually get around to looking more closely at the reliability of the experimental evidence for cold fusion. I only have one post on that topic, but it’s really long: The case against cold fusion experiments.

My qualifications: I know a whole lot about electromagnetism, condensed-matter physics, (electro)chemistry, optics, and non-relativistic quantum mechanics, from my PhD, postdoc, and job in physics. I know the basics of relativistic quantum mechanics and quantum field theory. (Specifically: I did very well in a two-semester graduate QFT course, but (A) that was 10 years ago and I have forgotten a lot of it since then, (B) you only learn so much in two semesters.) I have no formal training in advanced nuclear physics, but I recently read a nuclear physics textbook, and am continuing to learn as I go. Finally, I started with blog with almost no knowledge of cold fusion theory or experiments. I’ve been learning as I go, and now that I’ve been blogging a few years I consider myself very familiar with cold fusion theories and decently familiar with cold fusion experiments. I don’t have any connection to the cold fusion community, it is not my day job, and I had barely heard of cold fusion before 2014.

So, am I qualified to write this blog? I don’t know! But I’ve done the best I can.

If you have general comments you can email me or post at the open discussion page.

Philosophy about crazy-sounding theories: My goal has always been to avoid outright dismissing these. The reason is: (1) Every theory of cold fusion sounds crazy, so if I dismiss them then I will have nothing to blog about; (2) Maybe the theory sounds crazy at first, but is actually right; (3) Maybe the theory is crazy, but nevertheless has a kernel of truth or insight; (4) It is fun and challenging to try to figure out where the authors are coming from.

1 thought on “About

  1. Paul Bostwick

    I got here via Quora… This is an interesting enterprise. I wholeheartedly agree that outright dismissal is a less informative approach. Betting “against” is statistically a good idea if you just want to “be not wrong” but to truly get this right then even correctly rejecting theories or composing useful critiques of them requires close study rather than an assessment of likelihood. If the frame.
    My favorite analog to this was the flapping wing flight suit hoax awhile back. He’d made a pretty good video and had some details that appealed (short flight, new but not magically dense batteries and motors for example) and a pretty good acting performance. What I enjoyed was the variety of “absolutely X” bits of evidence people found in the videos for and against it being real. Once the hoax was revealed (pretty quickly) the “Absolutely Not” folks were certain it was their particular evidence that held the proof. Even when they were plainly wrong about that element. Fascinating to me that we can be wrong about being “right”…

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