The article (Viewpoint, Deseret News, Aug. 21) by Michael Woods appeared to be a summary of events and non-events following the fantastic claims of Pons and Fleischmann five years ago. It accurately reflected the controversial nature of the cold-fusion fiasco, even to the point of using the same obfuscating language that Pons and Fleischmann used in their announcement and have persisted in using ever since.
It is this particular language, devoid of any scientific meaning, that identifies Pons and Fleischmann as either scientifically illiterate or deliberately trying to mislead the public.Of course, the intense interest in cold fusion is due to the claim that the process produces more energy output than the total energy pumped into the system. However, Woods does not state a single example quoting the amount of energy input and energy output. Even when referencing the report by Fleischmann last December, only the ratio of energy produced to energy consumed is stated.
Then Woods falls into the same semantic black hole that Pons and Fleischmann speak from. No intelligence escapes this black hole. The nonsense statement is, "Now Pons and Fleischmann get more than 150 watts of excess power." I thought we were talking about energy here. A watt is not a unit of energy, as any high school physics student should know. Even the much-vaunted Japanese New Hydrogen Energy Project speaks in terms of power ratios, not energy ratios.
If anyone wants to play the excess power game, I can tell them how to get 1 million watts of excess power. But the real game is excess energy, not power.
Why is cold fusion still a mystery? One reason is the inability of journalists to report science accurately in terms that the public understands. Even Webster's New World Dictionary equates power and energy as synonyms. Initially in 1989, I thought the Deseret News had misquoted Pons and Fleischmann, but tape recordings and numerous repetitions of the statements (even Woods) are accurately quoted but convey no meaning to the reader.
I still think that a scientist who does not know the difference between power and energy ought to go back to high school.
Barton J. Howell
Salt Lake City