When B. Stanley Pons and Martin Fleischmann announced their cold fusion discovery to the world March 23, they knew they were bucking the system but had no idea they had grabbed a ride on a Brahman bull.
Now they know.For the past six weeks, their life's work - not to mention their reputations and integrity - has been on trial.
The "prosecution" has been standing before the jury, villifying the researchers - Pons from the University of Utah; Fleischmann from Britain's Southampton University - as incompetents at best and hoaxers at worst.
For the most part, the "defendants" have sought solitude in their lab, where 15 experiments are heating up. They've taken the slams in silence.
Now it's their turn.
Before an audience of their peers - at the Electrochemical Society's biannual meeting in Los Angeles on Monday _ Pons and Fleischmann will have their turn in "court." And both men seem confident their evidence will vindicate their astounding claims: solid-state fusion in a test tube at room temperature.
"We are going to present new results that exhibit very large amounts of excess heat," Pons told the Deseret News Saturday.
In short, the chemists will give a thorough, clean analysis of the thermal portion of the experiment that continues to cause a worldwide scientific sensation.
Until the U. breakthrough was announced, scientists assumed that fusion of hydrogen atoms, which power the sun, stars and hydrogen bombs, occurs only at extremely high temperatures and pressure.
Pons and Fleischmann say they've proved differently.
"We can't make people believe it, but we can tell them how we are analyzing the data. We can tell them what our measurements are."
Pons said he and Fleischmann will give electrochemists the recipe for their energy source _ hopefully eliminating the fusion confusion that has plagued scientists burning the midnight oil in hopes of duplicating the experiment.
"We are going to supply all the possible information that we can," he said. "People evidently are misunderstanding a lot about calorimetry (heat measurement). A lot of people are making calorimetric measurements with instruments that may not suitable for these experiments."
Pons has repeatedly cautioned that some labs have been in too big a hurry to get confirmations.
"Some of the experiments we show have been accumulated over very long periods of time," he explained. "I still think that a lot of the calorimetry problems have occurred because people simply haven't taken long enough to do them _ or they have not considered all of the factors involved in a calorimetric experiment of this kind. People who carefully consider all of the various paths of heat transport in their devices do indeed observe excess energy liberation."
The thermaldynamic duo Monday will give scientists more evidence, more theory, more experimental procedures.
Other witnesses will also give their proof of the validity of the Utah research.
Teams from Texas A&M, Stanford University and Case Western University, who have publicly announced confirmation of the Pons/Fleischmann experiment, will testify. Others, too, are expected to announce successful replication.
There will also likely be critics, who have become Pons' and Fleischmann's constant companions.
"We have had abundant criticism, as you might know," said the U. chemist, who can still joke in the face of hypercriticism _ primarily from physicists who've been having a good laugh in recent weeks at the expense of the researchers, the U. and the state of Utah.
"Fantastic, no problem," Pons quipped. "Criticism doesn't bother me. What bothers me is that these people are not doing the science. They are philosophizing, using a physical theory, parts of which may be totally wrong."
Asks Pons: "Pray, where are their data? We are presenting ours. Why don't they publish their experimental procedures so we can see what they are doing to disprove our work. It is very easy to pontificate and to say someone's data is wrong; proving it is another matter."
Pons said he and Fleischmann haven't seen anyone disprove their data.
"If they do, we will certainly admit it; if they don't, they will have to stand corrected," he said. "Science will choose. Votes taken by the American Physical Society (where a panel of physicists last week voted that the U. experiment was not valid) are meaningless. How do votes change science?"
Jones to talk at session
Monday's session of the Electrochemical Society in Los Angeles will include a talk by Brigham Young University physicist Steven E. Jones, who has been doing research in cold nuclear fusion but says he has seen evidence of a much weaker fusion reaction than has been reported by Pons and Fleischmann. In addition to chemists who have confirmed the U. experiment, a strong critic of the fusion claims _ chemist Nathan Lewis of the California Institute of Technology - will address the meeting, which is closed to the press.