I’m Steven Byrnes — email@example.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.
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.
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.