Cold Fusion's Return Gets The Cold Shoulder

Has cold fusion come back from the dead? On Apr. 25, just over two years after University of Utah chemists B. Stanley Pons and Martin Fleischmann electrified the world with the promise of unlimited energy from fusion in a jar, physicists Frederick Mayer and John Reitz from Mayer Applied Research Inc. in Ann Arbor, Mich., called a press conference in Boston to say that cold fusion can indeed work. Their idea is that a proton and electron could form a previously unknown particle that would act as a catalyst to speed the normal fusion reactions.

But the only kind of heat the scientists have generated so far is verbal. "Wacky" is one of the more polite comments bestowed on the new theory. Even cold-fusion believers say it's off base. And while some researchers welcome the airing of the idea in a scientific journal, the two physicists are being criticized for trumpeting their work to the press before coming up with proof. "The reaction has not been positive," comments physicist Kelvin G. Lynn of Brookhaven National Laboratory.

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