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Efforts by a government panel investigating claims of cold fusion more closely resemble a medieval inquisition than a rational scientific inquiry, and when the panel makes its recommendations this fall, it will hold little credibility with U.S. scientists, B. Stanley Pons said Tuesday.

Pons, the University of Utah chemistry professor who three months ago announced he had discovered cold fusion, lashed out Tuesday at the U.S. Department of Energy's cold fusion panel - members of which have raised critical questions concerning Pons' and other fusion experiments.Following visits to several fusion labs - including the U., Brigham Young University, Texas A&M and Caltech - the consensus of committee members is that no scientist has yet proven that cold fusion works.

Panel co-chairman John Huizenga said that during a panel meeting in Washington, D.C., last week the panel also concluded that no scientist "has seen excess heat and excess particles of the same magnitude in the same cell. . . . There was also a good deal of discussion about the calibration curves of the Utah group," he said. "Certainly lots of critical questions were raised about the calibration of their cells."

U. officials are upset by the statements - insisting they are untrue and premature. The DOE panel isn't scheduled to meet until July 11 to draft its first interim report.

Pons, who has been critical of the committee's makeup from the beginning, adamantly agrees.

"Our views of the modus operandi of the DOE fusion panel are well known," said Pons in a telephone interview from England. "We reiterate that we do not see that the membership should include people who had already made biased statements to the public prior to their appointment."

Last month Pons told Huizenga, a University of Rochester professor of nuclear chemistry, to change the makeup of the committee or stay out of his U. laboratories.

Because some of the panel members had been publicly outspoken against the U. experiment in the press, Pons said he believed the panel's vote has already been cast and counted.

With Pons' cooperation, some panel members did inspect his laboratories June 2.

"I am concerned that some of the panel is still negatively biased. We do not see how the members of that committee can continue to make such (negative) statements before delivering a final report," Pons said.

Pons and Fleischmann say they're convinced that the scientific community "will have no confidence in the panel's judgment - be it positive or negative."

"While we are prepared to show them our work in Utah, we do not seek their views and will not be guided by their report," he said. "We believe that the judgment on the work and phenomenon must be made through the publication of scientific papers and not by processes reminiscent of medieval inquisitions."

Huizenga wants Pons "to be careful in his criticism until the committee actually reports its final findings."

"One has to have an open mind at this time," he said. "The committee has to do its work, and because of the fact that it has to do it in the open, these things are aired."

Huizenga believes fusion researchers should view the panel's statements and recommendations in a positive vein.

"The experiments the researchers ought next to do are full measurements on a single cell to get the nuclear, as well as the heat data. It's time these groups start making full measurements," he said. "That could be a positive statement - could it not?"

Pons' response: "I want Huizenga to be extremely careful in giving me advice or telling me what experiments should be run. I have repeatedly said that this committee was irresponsibly formed, and was obviously mandated to give a negative air to the whole project. Huizenga is already making very dangerous and untrue statements, which we will not stand for."

Fleischmann, in the same interview, said, "They show that they have missed the key point. They continue to try to link radiation with heat in order to satisfying the negative physicists' views. Yet we have pointed out several times that heat and radiation may or may not be linked."

Fleischmann said the panel is encouraging them to do experiments "that we pointed out in our DOE application for funds are invalid. Many of the panel members have the same blocked minds and are pursuing the same blocked paths."


(Additional information)

State board will meet

Members of the state fusion advisory board will get a healthy dose of solid-state fusion information when they meet in executive session Thursday.

John O. Bockris, a distinguished professor of chemistry at Texas A&M University who has duplicated the University of Utah fusion experiments, will join U. scientists in addressing the board.

The panel, which is seeking confirmation of the experiments before it releases $5 million in state funds for further research, is scheduled to tour the laboratories and meet with U. fusion researcher B. Stanley Pons on July 11.