What should be the status of cold fusion on this site?

There have been a few questions asked about cold fusion on this site, especially in recent days. Invariably they lead to extended arguments, which is not healthy for the site - the whole Stack Exchange system is built around avoiding that sort of content. Plus, as our FAQ says,

We deal with mainstream physics here.

and the conclusion that cold fusion is bogus, whether right or wrong, is firmly established in mainstream physics. So I am proposing that we disallow cold fusion as a topic of posting on this site (unless and until it becomes established mainstream physics). We already have one good reference question about cold fusion, and I think that's enough.

Of course there are some users who have already made their feelings on this issue well known, but I'm interested in hearing arguments either way from the rest of the community.

• What about a question relating to a published paper (in a reputed yada yada journal) that deals with cold fusion? Technically, that's mainstream Nov 12, 2012 at 8:32
• @Dilaton it's not a matter of just being able to ignore content; the fact that it's there at all is negatively affecting the environment of the site. That's why we don't just allow everything under the sun. Nov 12, 2012 at 19:11
• @DavidZaslavsky: It is positively affecting the environment of the site, it is only giving you "bad vibes" because cold fusion is a sensitive topic. The open discussion is the only reason people pay attention to this site at all. You have things said here that are perfectly correct, and have no avenue to be said elsewhere. This is not Wikipedia, it's a place to answer and ask questions about physics which can involve a great degree of original research (for example, "What makes the Einstein Cross?" required original research) Nov 12, 2012 at 19:40
• @DavidZaslavsky: It was original research! I know, because I screwed it up, and it came out the wrong way at first. Also "Why is the Earth so fat", where I screwed up some too. The cold-fusion answer I gave is also a previously unpublished application of existing physics, K-shell holes and deuteron mixing. If you didn't read the experimental papers, please don't comment, read them first. You are wrong, because of the slippery slope. The moment you censor the tiniest thing, you will censor everything worthwhile, and everyone you want to stay here will flee. It is counterintuitive, but true. Nov 12, 2012 at 19:56
• @DavidZaslavsky: The screw up was fixed by another answer, the mistake is that the center of the Earth is 47% less oblate than the surface, and I screwed up a factor of $R^2/r^2$ getting something like 7% more oblateness (to my shame, I checked it twice and missed it twice). I rechecked and agreed with the other answer, and it's now 100% correct, and it gives you a nice picture of the oblateness of the interior of the Earth which (to my surprise) is found nowhere in the literature! Is this a bad thing? This is what brings people to physics.stackexchage. Nov 12, 2012 at 20:17
• @DavidZaslavsky: (The oblateness mistake was spotted and fixed by Art Brown a few weeks after I gave the original too-oblate solution). Don't short-sell the community--- it is now reasonably able to judge original contributions, it's refereeing is on par with most journals. There are things that have gotten past referees that are regularly taken apart here. Lubos Motl is worth a dozen string/hep referees just by himself. Qmechanic and other mathematically minded folks are very quick to spot mathematical physics errors, and the community is growing (unfortunately, so are the stupid questions). Nov 12, 2012 at 22:46
• But @DavidZaslavsky this is what attracts many users to Physics SE. The fact that we can ask and learn about cutting edge physics actual current researchers are thinking, writing, and talking about at conferences, in journals, etc. Did we not some time ago agree to give the theoretical physics community and their questions an asylum here and welcome them to stay here if they want to? Are research-level questions now discouraged or even worse, disallowed here ?! Nov 12, 2012 at 22:49
• ... That would be really a shame. Having questions and answers about current cutting edge physics here is what distinguishes Physics SE from an old dated textbook. Nov 12, 2012 at 22:51
• I agree with Ron that our community can handle research-level stuff and I like this. Nov 12, 2012 at 22:52
• And if it should happen that more and more "real" physicists get aware of our site and want to contribute, we surely do not want to chase them away by saying it is ok for you to come here and answer textbook questions of students asking here, but you are not allowed to ask and look for answers about topics you are personally interested in in the context of your research ... Or do we ? Nov 12, 2012 at 23:09
• Nov 13, 2012 at 0:17
• @DavidZaslavsky: That's what voting and commenting is for, to sort out wrong stuff. There is no need for censorship, or for lables in doing the sorting of right/wrong, since even the most authoritative stuff makes mistakes, and even the worst reputation stuff is right every once in a while. Nov 13, 2012 at 1:42
• @DavidZaslavsky: That is a major flaw in the stackoverflow system that is politically harming the site, although it looks good to the SO folks. This is also why they hate us in physics, this site is not like the others, it is free of censorship. They are trying to make a commercial enterprise for people to get answers to programming questions, while here, it's science, and one should not do the same things. Even so, I don't think it's correct on the programming site either, but honestly, I don't care so much there. But it's killing skeptics--- you can't say anything controversial on skeptics! Nov 13, 2012 at 6:09
• @Dilaton 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 and many which have already been closed, of course. Nov 13, 2012 at 7:47
• @Dilaton: Science is not different from programming, it's different from corporate politics, and this site is run by corporate politicians. The programming site is harmed by it's ridiculous policies, and has bad answers that cannot be removed. Nov 13, 2012 at 16:54

I vote for keeping and maintaining (not completely freezing) a very small number of canonical answers. I do not think this particular forum will ever be able to provide a convergent answer regarding the various experiments loosely labeled under "cold fusion."

I've had some wonderful opportunities to communicate and talk directly with solid researchers in this topic, at government-only facilities that I trust and respect. These are solid folks with strong publication records in unrelated materials science fields. I am familiar in particular with work done by good folks at both SPAWAR and NRL, who rather ironically do not always see eye to eye even with each other's published results.

I consider Rob Duncan of Mizzou a personal friend and someone whose opinion I respect, although I have not interacted with him much since we co-presented a few years back on the physics of "cold fusion." I have interacted with other players. Some I refuse to have anything to do with because they are quacks, by which I mean simply that they rely on marketing techniques over experimental evidence to promote their particular views. For the record, Ron Maimon's theorizing here in Physics SE is straightforward and honest, even if Ron can be rather adamant and tends to favor conspiracy theories a bit much.

There are two reasons why this issue will never be resolved in this forum: (1) A certain subset of the reported results are quite real. I've talked to too many solid researchers who are getting data that makes no sense according to either chemistry or nuclear science, yet the data they are getting is self-consistent and detailed in ways that indicate that unknown underlying mechanisms more subtle than just "making heat" or "fusing nuclei." (2) This subset of scientifically interesting results cannot be explained using any combination of known physics.

Catch that second part? This is not complicated. You can theorize all you want about how to design a meter-wide wooden box capable of containing a nuclear explosion, but guess what? It won't work. Scale that down to atomic size and there is your problem for any theory that tries to combine chemical heat with nuclear reactions. The more persuasive reported results combine far too much energy release with too few ways to capture it.

When that sort of situation occurs in science -- and it does more often than you might expect -- it tends not to resolve itself very quickly. The emergence of quantum physics was arguably one of the most conspicuous and unexpected examples. Mechanical and electromagnetic theory were very mature around 1900, so they just did not have much obvious room for new ideas. However, a number of annoying experiments kept giving results that made no sense according to that same mature body of theory. It took two or three decades of bumbling around, often very ineptly at first, to finally get a clear handle on what was really going in those exceptions. It's a good thing they bothered, though.

Traditionally, such situations in science always get very personal and sometimes quite nasty. There was a great story in the early history of molecular gases where one prominent figure accused another of "sloppy experiments" when the experimenter did not get results that match theory. This is the norm for such situations, not the exception, and it's not much fun for anyone involved.

So, am I seriously suggesting that that some kind of dramatic revolution in fundamental physics will be needed to explain some of these results?

Well, sure. But I cannot suggest where the opportunity for that resolution may lie. As in the 1900s for the narrower range of mechanics and electromagnetics, our understanding at the moment of the physical universe is very beautifully and quite elegantly buttoned down for just about every aspect and scale of our universe except these annoying excess heat results. Even tougher, any new theory must explain such odd results without discarding or distorting any significant aspect of current physical theory, since that theory is after all extraordinarily effective at describing our universe. Quantum theory in the early 1900s was a very non-intuitive extension of known mechanical and electromagnetic theory, not a replacement for it. The distinction between extension and replacement is critical.

It should be fun to watch.

Bottom line: A forum like Physics SE is about the worst possible forum for trying to resolve such an issue, because the resolution does not yet exist.

So please, don't try to resolve this mess here, because it just won't happen. Attempting to do so will only cause a lot more distress to everyone, again for the simple reason that you cannot entice someone to contribute an answer that does not yet exist.

Instead, maintaining a small number of canonical answers describing why the problem refuses to go away is probably about the best that SE Physics can do. That's honest, and it minimizes the danger of this forum from turning into a racquetball court for lobbing new theories at bystanders.

• I very much like your main point in this answer. Nov 24, 2012 at 16:49
• @Terry, I appreciate the spirit of your answer -- it's unlikely that a theory for cold fusion is going to be worked out on this site. But I think an attempt to implement a policy that keeps things restricted to a canonical answer is unworkable -- would you then get rid of a question like this? physics.stackexchange.com/questions/33419/… This is a more specific question, and one that can be addressed. But it's technically in the category of "cold fusion." Nov 26, 2012 at 3:59
• Eric, my suggestion would not be to ban such postings, but encourage everyone to assess such postings in terms of whether are answerable from known physics. A question that is interesting but not readily analyzed in terms of known physics may survive, but will likely never get answered. Nov 28, 2012 at 20:10
• @Terry, that makes sense. I've started following a related principle -- only ask a question if you know enough about the subject to approve an answer to it. One of the implications is that I'm not asking too many questions right now. Dec 2, 2012 at 4:00
• @EricWalker: The only problem with this is that I worked out a theory for cold fusion, which I am pretty confident is the correct one, and put it on this site. The point was to prove that this site, and the internet in general, is superior to the existing literature for radical new science, and even for staid old science (but there it isn't so clear, because the right discourse is already ingrained in the standard literature). I like Terry's answer because it is honest and clear, but I think he isn't right about the potential of internet forums to turn science publishing upside down. Dec 2, 2012 at 21:38
• @RonMaimon: I definitely like the idea of destabilizing the status quo in science, and if this site can help out, I like that too. Presumably your theory is not so far out in new territory that others here (not myself) cannot weigh in on aspects of it -- in other words, it appears to be an elaboration of existing science rather than something altogether new. Terry seems to be talking about stuff that is further out there. Dec 3, 2012 at 0:46
• Notice the disparity in goals. S.E. sites are designed to explore and clarify the limits of what is known and accepted about a given topic. That provides a splendid forum for defining more sharply where the edge of that knowledge lies. But it also means S.E. is lousy for assessing what happens when you step over that edge, because by definition you've already found and used up all available rope. Ron, confidence is fine, but it is an emotion. To convert an emotion into a theory you must quantify it mathematically and make specific testable predictions. That still requires deeply personal work. Dec 3, 2012 at 4:27
• This site steps over the edge on a regular basis. Lubos's criticism of loops here has been more cogent than any other I have read, and the comments on loop questions got me up to speed on 2000-2010 loops (which have turned into quantum Regge triangulated GR), and which have made it clear that this idea is not giving a proper holographic description in its current form. This is major progress, loops have been tantalizing physics for 30 years now. Regarding strings, you don't have any other place that criticizes large extra dimensions, and also we now know the eccentricity of the Earth's core. Dec 3, 2012 at 7:47

David, I have been following from afar the subject ever since it appeared. As I have said at that time most solid state and nuclear physicists were scrambling to understand and some reproduce the results. There was great disappointment in the community that the results could not be consistently reproduced ( which is the norm for accepting something in physics) and the marginalization of the field is a backlash to that initial enthusiasm.

You should give the complete quote of the FAQ on physics.se

We deal with mainstream physics here. Anything that couldn't be published in a reputable journal is probably not appropriate at this site.

Nevertheless there are a number of interesting and solid physical effects in the experiments connected with Low Energy Nuclear Fusion . There is something going on that may not be chemical as we know it, many studies are published in reputable places, peer reviewed etc.

I think censorship should not be imposed apriori, because physics is about thinking outside the box. If one forces everything into the box physics will stagnate, let alone this site. There is always an element of uncertainty in research. True, cold fusion seems a misleading path, but there are experimental effects that need an explanation by physicists. By no means should we close our minds to possibilities outside the box.

I think that if the moderators are aware and delete comments if they become incendiary or even combative that is sufficient to keep a good level of discussion on this site. After all 3 or four questions have come up during the year and a half I have been following this here, that is not a great burden .

Edit in response to David's comment below who said :

Whatever unexplained experimental evidence there is in favor of cold fusion can certainly be discussed and explained in the research community, but I don't believe there is any obligation for us to do so here

If the following is not talking about research, what is it talking about? From the FAQ on

Experimental designs and results

ex: What is needed to claim the discovery of the Higgs boson ?

One could paraphrase :

what is needed to claim the discovery of cold fusion?

It is just expectations and probabilities in our heads that make the first question legitimate and the last one iffy. Fashion. But who determines the probabilities?

In this forum it seems to me the voting system determines naturally the probabilities on how far from the standard physics model/expectations of the community a question is.

• concur. The SPAWAR experimental write-ups Ron referenced were quite interesting; I wasn't aware of them (the theoretical section not so much; go Ron!) Nov 12, 2012 at 10:35
• I tend to agree with this policy (wipe comment threads that get out of control), but please note that this can be seen as just another form of censorship, particularly by folks who prefer such arguments to the more staid Q&A. Nov 12, 2012 at 16:33
• Here's my disagreement with this answer: yes, physics involves thinking outside the box, but that doesn't mean this site has to allow all thinking outside the box. This is a place for Q&A about mainstream physics, not for original research. There are other things that may be legitimately discussed at a research level but would not be appropriate here because they are not widely accepted by the physics community. The second part of the FAQ quote you posted is meant as a clarification, not a restatement, of the first part; I didn't include it because I meant not to. (cont.) Nov 12, 2012 at 19:00
• (cont.) In other words, "We deal with mainstream physics here" does not mean that anything that can be published in a reputable journal is appropriate. Whatever unexplained experimental evidence there is in favor of cold fusion can certainly be discussed and explained in the research community, but I don't believe there is any obligation for us to do so here. And finally, my experience as a moderator suggests that dealing with these incendiary comments is a significant burden - in fact this is part of the reason I plan to resign next month. Nov 12, 2012 at 19:05
• @DavidZaslavsky Oh David, can you not rethink your resignation? Your voice of reason is so much needed here, you are such a good mod and a nice guy. And lot of the fun will go with you, if you leave :-(. Nov 12, 2012 at 19:22
• @Dilaton well I have not actually committed to it yet, but I have already been thinking this over for probably 6 months now, so it's not a snap decision. Nov 12, 2012 at 19:27
• @DavidZaslavsky: Please don't resign! You are a good moderator, and you will leave behind a vacuum that will in all likelihood be filled only with the worst kind of person. I apologize for any criticism I have made in the past--- it was not intended to demoralize you, I was just being blunt. You are a good mod, and there is no guarantee this site can function without you. Nov 12, 2012 at 19:30
• @DavidZaslavsky: I was wondering if you could clarify something: what kind of question do you have in mind (other than cold fusion) that you think you can ask in the research community that you can't ask here? Nov 12, 2012 at 19:36
• @DavidZaslavsky I see, whatever you decide it will certainly be wise and well thought out, as everything you did here on physics SE. It is just that often feel all is well and in order, and disagreements of any size can finally be resolved for good as long you are here to calm things down and bring in some justice. And you have a really funny and cheerful kind of humor I like :-). Nov 12, 2012 at 19:40
• @Ron (3up) well, as I responded to Dilaton, this is something I have already thought over quite a bit. Generally, moderating has been eating into my ability to do work (not just because of the CF questions of course). But again, I have not definitively decided to resign outright just yet. (2 up) For example, somebody's novel approach to quantum gravity, or the anthropic principle, etc. Multiple time dimensions I'm iffy on. Cold fusion is the only one that has such a strong following despite it not being accepted in the mainstream physics community, though, and so it might seem singled out. Nov 12, 2012 at 19:59
• @DavidZaslavsky: Please don't resign, you will be replaced by someone awful, I am sure. Regarding 2-times, F-theory has two times, and it's mainstream (although the two physical time interepretation is not). Cold fusion is just a case where the mainstream arguments don't stand up to careful scrutiny. This means you need to be doubly careful to not censor it. If somebody has a new idea, like the "doubly special relativity", or "exceptionally simple theory of everything", people often ask here, and get high quality criticism. The issue with cold fusion is that the criticism is low quality. Nov 12, 2012 at 20:01
• @Ron Somebody needs to be doubly careful not to censor cold fusion. But that somebody is not us. Nov 12, 2012 at 20:06
• @DavidZaslavsky: Well, in the world we live in, there's nobody else. So it falls on your shoulders. Pick up the burden, you won't be sorry. Nov 12, 2012 at 20:12
• @DavidZaslavsky I can understand that moderating is taking a lot of your time. Of course your work should come first and this should be a hobby. I agree though with Ron and Dilaton that your are a good moderator and you enhance the value of this forum , and ,please, reconsider . Nov 12, 2012 at 20:37
• In a response to the edit, a couple things: (1) "what is needed to claim the discovery of cold fusion?" would be quite fine. I think it's already on the site somewhere, though, and that all the questions one can ask about cold fusion within the context of mainstream physics have already been asked. (2) "Experimental designs and results" is not for original research, it's for asking about existing experiments. Like "How does CMS tag muons?" Nov 13, 2012 at 0:53

You are asking for censorship, and this is not consistent with science. We do not prohibit "non mainstream" questions--- we answer them! I suppose you are annoyed because here is a "non mainstream" question which is not easily rebutted. That's how you know when mainstream is wrong.

I disagree with censorship in the strongest terms: in case you haven't noticed from my pattern of questions/answers, the non-censored treatment of cold fusion is the only reason I participate on this site. I came here by googling for cold-fusion, I answered a few non cold fusion questions to establish credentials (I was worried my account would be summarily deleted), then I answered the cold fusion question with a completely novel theory, and to my surprise, people didn't delete my answer, or censor it, just up/down votes (lots and lots of each), and questions, and thinking about it.

So if this is adopted, or even seriously considered, I'm outta here.

• For someone arguing against censorship, your attempt to silence those you disagree with reeks of hypocrisy. If this is a valid topic, then treat it like one. Nov 12, 2012 at 16:31
• @Shog9: You are doing rhetoric--- that wasn't an attempt to silence, people are free to say whatever they want, it was an attempt to actually answer the question--- reproducible laboratory versions of Ni-H experiments, not Pd-d. I don't care about Pd-d, I already have enough data on that. I have no interest in an answer of the form "there are no reproductions of Pd/d either", since that adds no value (and it's ridiculously false, but politically true). I want to know careful reproductions of Ni-H, because I think it doesn't happen, that it is likely bunk. Nov 12, 2012 at 19:25
• Wait, you mean it was an attempt to get folks to answer the question you asked? And why would that not be the default expectation for any question on any topic? Nov 12, 2012 at 19:56
• @Shog9: Yes, normally it is enough, but in this case, I suspected it just wasn't going to happen, that I would just get a ton of political bullshit about Pd/d, endless arguments, etc. I don't mind your edit, but I can predict it's going to end with the usual "All cold fusion is bunk!" "Maybe it's not!" useless nonsense. I just wanted a list of the best Ni/H experiments, to see if Ni/H is bunk, because I think Ni/H is bunk, and the "true believers" don't say this anymore (as they used to) because they have their own politics too. Nov 12, 2012 at 20:06
• This sort of useless nonsense seems to be what is frustrating David as well. I think it would be productive if y'all worked out some guidelines to avoid it. Nov 12, 2012 at 20:12
• @Shog9: guidelines on speech always have unintended consequences which are worse than the diseases they cure. Nov 12, 2012 at 20:14
• @Shog9: Physics prides itself on having no taboos and no sacred cows (cold fusion is the ridiculous exception). It is founded on rejecting politics in favor of careful experiment, trustworthy calculations, and open discussions of ideas. This tradition slipped a bit in the 1980s-1990s, and this web site is a course-correction, bringing physics back its openness and honesty. Nov 12, 2012 at 20:21
• @Shog9: I propose that nothing be done about it. And I would ask that you go away, there's nothing to do, no change at all, nada, zip. Everything is hunky dory. The lack of censorship here has already led to progress on some significant research fronts (t'Hooft coming here to discuss and explain his quantum models, Motl criticizing loop quatum gravity cogently, some clarifications on black holes, and most significantly, open discussions on cold fusion) Nov 12, 2012 at 20:32
• If you don't see a problem (the note in your question refutes this, but no matter - I expect I'll see more consistency in the future), then your position is clear. But no, I won't go away. And here's a friendly reminder: if you burn out the folks who volunteer their time to moderate this site by refusing to work with them, then the job falls to folks like me until you're able to elect suitable replacements. You don't want that. Nov 12, 2012 at 20:37
• @Dilaton: you guys have three moderators, all active, with David being the most active among them. If it should happen that more assistance was needed for a time (because they all have lives and jobs apart from this site), we (the SE team) would step in to provide it. Long-term, the solution is to add more moderators (we'll be doing this eventually), and work to reduce the work that requires moderators (this can involve both better tooling, and better policies for handling issues efficiently). Obviously David puts a lot of effort in, but that's not always sustainable as a site grows larger. Nov 12, 2012 at 20:52
• @Shog9 would it not be better, if our moderators need assistance, to give additional "diamonds" to high rep users inside our Physics SE community who know well the subject of this site, are well known, and would be well accepted as additional mods, to unburden the existing mods a little bit? Anna v. or Qmechanic would certainly be good ones. To keep things balanced, it should also be considered that we need mods that can deal with both, experimental and theoretical topics. Up to now dmckee is more experimentally inclined and David knows a lot about theoretical physics. Nov 12, 2012 at 21:02
• @Dilaton: that's what will happen following the election. It'd be great if y'all could work together nicely until then. Nov 12, 2012 at 21:08
• @Dilaton 300 rep Nov 12, 2012 at 21:10
• Thanks Mad Scientist and Shog9. Maybe it was a bit unhappy that Ron tried to first find out what people think about could fusion related topics, instead of just asking his questions away and putting down his ideas. If he had done it that way, nothing bad (appart from at most a few "spicy" comments which people who ask abot some quantum gravity topics get too) whould probably have occured and only few people would have noticed it. Nov 12, 2012 at 21:21
• @Dilaton: You are probably right. I genuinely (and stupidly) thought there was a shift in acceptance when Fleischmann died. It shocked me to see an obit positive on cold fusion in science, and then see Duncan get 5mil for the cold fusion center in Missouri, and then Duncan speaks on cold fusion at a science visualization company. I thought "They're all catching up!" I also figured out the last thing--- why you see the transmutations you see (Ag is alpha+Pd from alpha capture at ~10 MeV, the Pd fission products are due to the ~10 MeV electromagnetic transfer which breaks the nucleus). Nov 12, 2012 at 21:53

I think the current policy of allowing questions on cold fusion makes your site invaluable. Your adopting a policy that would restrict discussion on the topic to a narrow set of canonical questions would be a mistake in my opinion.

A little about me and why I feel this way: I'm a software engineer whose last physics class was an introductory one in college. It was a rigorous class, and I did well. But my exposure to physics has been so limited in the interim that I struggle not to confuse the Augur process with internal conversion, and the only way I would even suspect that I was looking at a quantum field theory equation would be if I saw an H or bra-ket notation.

When I first saw a video about Rossi on the Internet about a year ago, I thought it was a great laugh; it looked exactly like what the production of a charlatan would look like. But it piqued my interest in the general topic, and when I began to delve into the matter more, I started to have significant doubts that the book had been closed on the subject. The more I looked, the more I started to lose confidence in mainstream physics in this particular area; it started to seem to me like something might have broken down in 1989 and hadn't been fixed yet. Articles like this one did not increase my confidence -- what I saw there was the emphatic promulgation of a set of a priori arguments that cold fusion was impossible, and little attempt to address the experimental evidence. What I was looking for were cogent arguments that tackled specific empirical claims.

Articles like that one eventually brought me to physics.SE. I wanted to see a more serious engagement of specific details. What I appreciate about physics.SE is that there is a good mix of views for and against cold fusion. Both those arguing for it and those arguing against it must defend their positions. For whatever reason, it is very difficult to find this kind of engagement elsewhere on the Internet at this time. Your site is practically the only one I have found where there is any kind of real discussion taking place between competent parties whose views span the full spectrum of positions. In all other instances, the competent people are sequestered away with others of their persuasion. I am an active participant on Vortex-L, for example, and I find the discussion there very interesting, but there is no one there who will take a strong position against cold fusion.

There are some here who appear to become distressed at the thought of countenancing discussion on this and other heretical subjects, perhaps in part for fear of giving the wrong impression to people like me or young physics students that such topics are now becoming mainstream. I think the vigorous responses and the comments leave little doubt as to the tendentious status of these subjects. In other words, giving the wrong impression about the position of mainstream physics on cold fusion is not something to be worried about. Similarly, I see little harm in questions about N-Rays and polywater being addressed here, and I would not imagine that they were for that reason being accepted into mainstream physics.

It has been argued that this site is not the place to try to sort out such a broad question as cold fusion, and that this is really something that should be dealt with elsewhere. Even if this is true, I see no harm done and much to be gained in allowing questions on specific points to be raised and their assumptions refuted if necessary. Everyone will learn more physics in the process.

• Eric, on meta downvotes simple mean disagreement. And as your rep here is your rep on the main site there isn't even any cost to it. On top of that, anonymous downvotes are part of the design of Stack Exchange; often an annoy part to be sure, but still [status-by-design]. Nov 27, 2012 at 3:03
• @dmckee: thanks for the clarification. I wasn't aware of that about meta. Nov 27, 2012 at 3:32
• Your adopting a policy that would restrict discussion on the topic -- Just to be clear, we already don't allow "discussion" of any topic on the main site (Physics Chat is fine for it, though). Questions and answers, with some discussion to improve/clarify then is OK. A lot of back-and-forth discussion is generally bad. Dec 2, 2012 at 10:28
• @Manishearth: I don't think I meant "discussion" quite that literally -- "addressing a topic" is more what I had in mind. Dec 2, 2012 at 19:51
• @EricWalker: thought so, just wanted to clear it off the table :) Dec 2, 2012 at 19:54

Perhaps I am too junior to have a solid opinion, but I feel like I should say something. Regardless of what organization recognizes the topic at hand, and regardless how I may feel about it, I think it would be heavy handed to stop all conversation on it. I agree with @Sklivvz that we should merely delete unacceptable behavior. While it is extra work for the moderators, it is also ensuring that all things can be discussed in the SE setting. I thought this is what moderators were for, but I do understand it is quite the burdan for a single topic.

I do see that the topic is not in mainstream physics, and for reasons already addressed. I do not see the reason why it can not be discussed. I will say, if it starts to dominate the site (I highly doubt it) or if it becomes incredibly inflammatory and becomes more of a problem for the community, I think the heavy handed censorship can be brought up again for consideration; and adding a note to the FAQ about what 'main stream physics' is, topics we stay away from due to historical problems, etc.

I would say try measures to control off hand discussion and discussion clearly off base about the topic, within Physics SE guidelines. If it does not work, I would say we should reconsider.

• I only don't like this because it is too moderate. One must be extreme in rejection of censorship. I agree with all the comments about "off hand" and "off base", even though I'm usually the culprit. If cold fusion starts to dominate the site (beating out perenial classics like "I have this weight on a pully, how fast does it accelerate?" and "Here's a circuit, what's the charge on this capacitor?") then this means something amazing has happened in society. Nov 15, 2012 at 2:11
• I understand that this view may be too moderate; I was hoping that in such a plurality of opinion mine would count but hardly dominate. I appreciate your addition and calling it for what it is. Nov 15, 2012 at 2:19

If it's good enough for NASA it has to be good enough for us:

The next consideration is "What is real? What is happening?" For NASA Langley, the epiphany moment on LENR was the publication of the Widom-Larsen Weak Interaction LENR Theory. It is currently under study and experimental verification (or not) at Langley. The theory appears to explain nearly all the various and often variegated experimental observations and shifted the LENR theoretical focus from some way of "fooling" Particle Nuclear Physics/The Strong Force to Condensed Matter Nuclear Physics, Collective Effects, The Weak Force and "Heavy Electrons."

http://futureinnovation.larc.nasa.gov/view/articles/futurism/bushnell/low-energy-nuclear-reactions.html

On the other hand - trite polemics, crackpots, &c. should be dealt with as usual, downvotes and deletion if spam/flamebait.

Allow the topic, moderate the (unacceptable) behaviours.

• "If it's good enough for NASA it has to be good enough for us" I don't think so. There are many reasons this site is not equivalent to NASA. Nov 13, 2012 at 0:47
• The problem with NASA, is that they are accepting the Widom-Larsen theory, which is not only ridiculous, it doesn't exlain the phenomenon. I debunked it on a recent answer (but Widom and Larsen are doing far better than those ignoring the experiments on cold fusion altogether). Nov 13, 2012 at 1:32
• But even if there are NASA scientists who are amenable to Widom-Larsen, overall NASA has a well-run research program. If they allow some of their people to delve into that stuff along with all of the other things NASA does, perhaps it is not a harmful policy on a site like this to make room for offbeat stuff. It seems harmless. As someone who is not a physicists, what seems harmful to me is the urge to conformity that is often seen within physics. Nov 26, 2012 at 3:42

Just my two cents. I think it would be a good idea to "disallow cold fusion as a topic of posting on this site (unless and until it becomes established mainstream physics)." If somebody strongly believes cold fusion is good science, why doesn't (s)he raise money and produce electricity commercially, getting fabulously rich in the process? Cold fusion is no hot fusion, so (if true) it probably does not need gigantic installations. I cannot understand why people who hate censorship would visit a moderated forum. For example, I go to moderated forums because I do appreciate that moderators filter out noise for me: noise can actually kill any site.

• It isn't even clear if cold fusion is a viable source of energy, because it consumes Palladium, which is a rare metal, with only a few thousand metric tons of proven reserves. That's about 10^32 atoms or 10^15 J (assuming a Pd fragments every 4 fusions or about 100MeV per atom), just enough to meet world demand for a year. The potential is that in understanding the Pd effect, one can either use it to produce more Pd than is consumed (perhaps one can use alpha capture on Ruthenium, which is more common), or else to find substitute metals which also work and are more common. Dec 1, 2012 at 21:07
• @Ron Maimon: So you don't think it's enough to sell "world demand for a year" of electricity to become "fabulously rich":-) Well, apparently, my lifestyle is less expensive:-) Dec 2, 2012 at 2:05
• What I am saying is that this is not a money-making venture as it stands, it needs a lot more research to even make it laboratory controllable, and the money-making aspects are as detrimental to the science as the ludicrous denial and the unspoken terror behind some of the rejections that someone will use cold fusion to build some sort of homemade nuclear bomb. To put the bomb fears to rest: cold fusion is extremely slow on bomb-detonation scales, even a tiny nuclear explosion will break the cathode before the cold fusion can proceed to consume most of the deuterium. Dec 2, 2012 at 20:51
• So 25 years later, cold fusion is not even laboratory controllable, although it does not require anything like LHC or ITER. I believe this confirms my opinion that cold fusion does not belong here as it is not mainstream. Dec 2, 2012 at 22:05
• producing particular endoretroviruses in cancers in laboratory animals (or in human natural cancers) is not laboratory controllable either, you sometimes get it, and you sometimes don't. People still study it. I don't think mainstream is important, as everything cutting edge is non-mainstream. You must also remember that this research was suppressed and underground for 25 years, people paid for experiments out of pocket, so it is a self-fulfilling prophecy that you don't have control. If you want controllable nuclear effects, use codeposition (but this is not significantly energy producing). Dec 3, 2012 at 7:53
• Again, I don't think cold fusion requires time-consuming and expensive animal and human trials to keep FDA happy. However, for some reason, governments choose to fund cancer research and not to fund cold fusion. A conspiracy against cold fusion all over the world? Maybe, but it is my understanding this forum is for mainstream physics. If you're not happy with that, maybe a moderated forum just does not meet your needs? Dec 4, 2012 at 2:32

I believe this should be on-topic, since a lot of companies, governments and investors now pouring money into it again, despite it was debunked by mainstream science 25 years ago.

See:

As per above article which states:

Earlier this year, the US House of Representatives Committee on Armed Services declared it was “aware of recent positive developments” in developing LENRs and noted their potential to “produce ultra-clean, low-cost renewable energy” and their “strong national security implications”. Highlighting too the interest of Russia, China, Israel and India, it suggested the US could not afford to be left behind, and requested that the Secretary of Defense provide a briefing on the science by 22 September.

If the research is back, then I don't see why this should be off-topic on this site.

The committee is aware of recent positive developments in developing low-energy nuclear reactions (LENR), which produce ultra-clean, low-cost renewable energy that have strong national security implications. For example, according to the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), ifLENR works it will be a "disruptive technology that could revolutionize energy production and storage." The committee is also aware of the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency's (DARPA) findings that other countries including China and India are moving forward with LENR programs of their own and that Japan has actually created its own investment fund to promote such technology. DIA has also assessed that Japan and Italy are leaders in the field and that Russia, China, Israel, and India are now devoting significant resources to LENR development.

For more details, please see this question: