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FUSION STILL SPARKS DEBATE, PHYSICIST SAYS

SHARE FUSION STILL SPARKS DEBATE, PHYSICIST SAYS

Cold fusion remains in the forefront of scientific debate, Wilford Hansen, Utah State University physicist told an audience of 100 in the Taggart Student Center Auditorium Tuesday.

"I've spent a lot of time considering cold fusion," Hansen said in his talk sponsored by the USU Great Issues Forum. "The whole thing isn't going away, it's getting bigger, although the hype is going down."Hansen serves on the nine-member Governor's Energy/Fusion Advisory Council.

The council, Hansen said, was advised to see if excess energy was possible. After studying the B. Stanley Pons and Martin Fleischmann cold fusion experiment, the council unanimously voted to allocate $5 million for further cold fusion experiments. Now, the council oversees the use of the funds and reports developments to the Legislature.

As a council member, Hansen said he has received pressure from both sides of the issue. Since Pons' and Fleischmann's announcement, Hansen said lots of people have wanted to get involved. Recently, he was even put on the mailing list of the Flat Earth people.

"Hours have been spent on the phone being told not to vote this money and then being told to vote this money," he said.

"Some people have changed their minds about cold fusion, but in general the world is in a holding pattern," Hansen said. "The world is divided right down the middle. It will be interesting to see how it all shuffles out."

People choose not to believe in Pons' and Fleischmann's cold fusion mainly because "from all known nuclear theory and experiments, it is impossible," he said. Others simply say it is too good to be true. Many scientists do not believe in fusion because all major efforts to duplicate the work and to find fusion products have failed.

"Some do not believe because the wrong people made the discovery," he said. "They (Pons and Fleischmann) are well-known, competent scientists, but not well-known nuclear scientists. They are not even physicists."

Another reason people are against cold fusion is the belief that it is an affront to honored theories about how nuclear reactions proceed, Hansen said.

There are also several reasons others are choosing the pro side. He said the main reason is that the excess heat found in the experiment cannot be explained chemically, so some figure it must be nuclear. And that excess heat has been confirmed by other labs.

"I think what is being observed probably is cold fusion and if so, gradual understanding of the process will bring major new understandings of nuclear physics in condensed matter," he said.

Hansen said that even if the Pons/Fleischmann effect does not have a direct product of significant energy, perhaps further research will discover one.

"It may not be just a phenomenon but a whole realm of phenomena."

Hansen also warned that no experiment should be called false simply because it does not fit current scientific theories. That is "scientific chauvinism," he said.