Archives for May 2007

Congressman joins latest effort to suppress cold fusion research

As reported earlier in this section, sono-fusion researcher Rusi Taleyarkhan has often been attacked by people who oppose cold fusion research. His experiments produce high energy fusion which probably has no bearing on metal lattice cold fusion. However, the people who oppose this kind of research make no distinction between different claims. Nature has made on-again, off-again claims that Taleyarkhan allocated $25,000 of DARPA funding to the research without authorization. Taleyarkhan has also been attacked by jealous rivals, notably Seth Putterman, and Robert Park has often attacked him in his weekly newsletter. (Prof. Brian Josephson described Nature’s attacks here and here.) In 2006, Taleyarkhan was accused of academic misconduct, and investigated by a Purdue University committee headed by Peter Dunn, Purdue’s associate vice president for research. The committee completely exonerated Taleyarkhan. The details of the charges were kept confidential until recently, when they were revealed in an article in the Journal & Courier newspaper, here.

The charge of misconduct had nothing to do with the accusations made by Nature or Putterman, but rather that Taleyarkhan had assisted anther scientist, Yiban Xu, to replicate the experiment. The charges were made by Lefteri Tsoukalas and Martin Lopez de Bertodano, professors in Purdue’s Nuclear Engineering Department. They claimed Taleyarkhan participated in writing Xu’s papers, and they said these papers were “nothing but a contrived and hurried attempt to stage the appearance of ‘independent confirmation’ of sonofusion claims.”

Xu emphatically denied there was any interference, and wrote to the committee: “. . . I did all the experiments myself, collected all the data independently and did so without Dr. Taleyarkhan’s involvement. I also did the analysis work with no input from him.” Xu said that Taleyarkhan did review a manuscript and he wrote some remarks in the margins of a manuscript. Most scientific papers are circulated to colleagues for comments.

A letter from Dunn begins by saying, “Dr. Taleyarkhan has displayed what might be characterized most favorably as severe lack of judgment regarding his involvement with the ‘independent confirmation’ experiment performed . . .” Then it goes on to say just the opposite: “The (inquiry committee) found no evidence that would contradict Dr. Taleyarkhan’s claim that he played absolutely no part in setting up or running experiments, nor obtaining data and conducting analyses thereafter, for experiments . . .”

It is ironic that in the early days of cold fusion, Fleischmann and Pons were accused of not cooperating with other researchers enough, but now a cold fusion researcher is attacked for cooperating too much. Edmund Storms remarked: “Anyone who attempts a replication must learn from the person who made the initial discovery. So what if the replication is not completely independent. Each effort will be different and each will add to the understanding of the variables. It is impossible to prove the reality of an effect by one independent replication.”

After the university exonerated Taleyarkhan, and the case was closed, U.S. Congressman Brad Miller got involved. In this letter, he demanded that Purdue re-open the examination and hand over to the Congress “any or all reports” and documents by anyone in the committee or any “equivalent organization” at the university.

After the New York Times reported on Miller’s investigation, Taleyarkhan wrote to the Times protesting this “gross travesty of justice” and “biased and openly one-sided smear campaign.” The Times printed a small excerpt of the letter. The entire letter was published in the, here. (As reported in this section earlier, the New York Times, the Washington PostTime magazine, Scientific American and other mainstream media often attack cold fusion researchers, but they do not publish letters from the researchers defending themselves or pointing out factual errors in these attacks.)

We have reached a nadir when a U.S. Congressman uses the power of his office to persecute a cold fusion researcher for publishing a positive result and helping others replicate.