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I wonder if debunking of these claims falls within the scope of the site:

I know CF == crackpottery, however would a "how to debunk" question be beneficial/on topic on the site?

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I think it might be nice to have a question like "Why is cold fusion considered bogus?" to explain something about the reasons why nobody takes the idea of cold fusion seriously, hopefully in more detail than the Wikipedia article. But we shouldn't rush to debunk the recent claims of Rossi and Focardi, at least not before people have tried and failed to replicate their experiment.

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I'm amazed at the gentle treatment of F&P in this discussion. I agree it wasn't a deliberate scam, but they did very shoddy work and their behavior during and after was very bad. Let's not forget that in spite of all the evidence that accumulated against their result they nonetheless continued their work and managed to extract many millions of dollars from the Toyota corporation before they too wised up and cut off the funding. The book "Bad Science" by Gary Taubes is an excellent and entertaining discussion of the whole cold fusion fiasco.

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    $\begingroup$ Still looking for that tricky line between "open mind" and "wind blowing freely through ones skull". The whole business was certainly a fine example of how not to publicize your results. $\endgroup$ – dmckee --- ex-moderator kitten Jan 25 '11 at 4:15
  • $\begingroup$ Agreed. Unless of course you had invested in palladium futures beforehand. $\endgroup$ – pho Jan 25 '11 at 15:34
  • $\begingroup$ @dmckee: If they had not done what they did, there would be no field today. They would have been silently buried by skepticism before people had a chance to reproduce the results. I am very happy they held a press conference in 1989, at least it gave the field enough publicity to survive in underground form for 20 years while the issues were sorted out. $\endgroup$ – Ron Maimon Nov 14 '12 at 2:22
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There are 4 cases to consider.

1) Applying physics to the claim leads to contradiction.
2) Claims are already self-contradictory.
3) Claim is non-scientific.
4) Claim is true within physics.

If we are certain that 1) or 4) applies, then my opinion is that its discussion is relevant for this site.

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  • $\begingroup$ No discussion is relevant on this site -- it is Q&A, NOT discussion forum (yet chat is an exception). $\endgroup$ – user68 Jan 24 '11 at 19:24
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    $\begingroup$ OFCOURSE it should be formulated as a question $\endgroup$ – TROLLHUNTER Jan 24 '11 at 19:26
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Rather than answer the question as asked I'll suggest a cold fusion related question that I think is on topic:

  • What are the experimental realities that make Fleischmann-&-Pons style cold fusions experiments easy to get wrong?

I think that this is important because F&P appear to have thought they really had something (i.e. it wasn't a knowing scam), and some of the other reputable scientists who tried to reproduce their work had apparent success for some time afterward. So it is reasonable to ask "How could that be?".

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  • $\begingroup$ +1 Very good answer. $\endgroup$ – user68 Jan 24 '11 at 19:27
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    $\begingroup$ This is not a good question, its like asking why so many believe in Jesus, how could that be ? $\endgroup$ – TROLLHUNTER Jan 24 '11 at 19:34
  • $\begingroup$ That would be an interesting question to have. It strikes me as a little unfocused, though. $\endgroup$ – David Z Jan 24 '11 at 19:54
  • $\begingroup$ @David which question are you referring to? $\endgroup$ – Deepak Vaid Jan 25 '11 at 6:54
  • $\begingroup$ @space_cadet I mean the question in the bullet point, about experimental realities. $\endgroup$ – David Z Jan 25 '11 at 6:56
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    $\begingroup$ The reasons PF experiments are easy to get wrong is that 1. They regularly produce helium, 2. They regularly produce tritium 3. They produce neutrons 4. They make the cathode radioactive 5. The produce X-rays 6. They produce charged particles. This not only makes it easy to get it wrong, it makes it easy to see that it is right. $\endgroup$ – Ron Maimon Nov 13 '12 at 1:36

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