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on February 17, 2001
This book is excellent. It describes in amazing detail the events leading up to and following the "Cold Fusion" news conference. It's the story of how two scientists fooled themselves into believing that they were onto something so big that they had to claim credit for it -- fast. And it's the story of how the least qualified researchers quickly "confirmed" Cold Fusion, and how the best qualified researchers found nothing. If you're interested in how science is done, both well and poorly, read this book.
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on July 26, 2013
I bought this book having only a cursory understanding of the subject matter (full disclosure: I am a PhD student in electrochemistry) and I thought that the book did a very good job explaining this strange story without getting too bogged down with details.

I personally believe that this should be a must read for all scientists as a lesson on how good people can fall into a hole and become blind to evidence staring them in the face. It also does a great job hammering in the importance of reproducing work and of properly doing controls. I honestly believe I have become a better scientist after reading this story.
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on June 5, 1998
The author does an excellent job in chronicling the saga and travail of cold fusion. The "lessons learned" are applicable to numerous technical fields, particularly where conclusions are drawn far ahead of substantiating evidence and critical peer review.
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on January 14, 2011
I read the book a few years after it came out and have referred back to it many times since. I view it as the story of greed running amuck with hack "scientists" taking many short cuts trying to cash on in a world changing bonanza. Yet, here we are 20+ years later and I have yet to see a public cold fusion demo running so much as a single light bulb.

Tip of the hat to Mr. Taubes for laying out the story. The 18 years since publication are pretty strong evidence that his conclusions were and still are on target.

I also view it as thought provoking for investors when they see some of the energy scams on Wall Street.
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on June 25, 2013
cold fusion is another alchemist dream for turning lead into gold... in this case violating basic physics to fuse elements at room temperature ...alchemy has enticed smart people by enticing them with dreams of wealth and recognition and this is exactly what Taubes shows in this book...its a recitation of how personal ambition served to lead experimental scientists searching for cold fusion to operate "positive outcome experiments" that were set up without basic controls and served to provide desired results, i.e., bad science. its also a good story about how chemists tried to do physics without understanding what they were doing. well the dream will never die there will always be a desire for gold.
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on August 26, 2012
Given what's been going on lately, I am definitely picking up a copy of this book. It seems likely to become a classic, although perhaps not quite in the way the author intended. I recommend you pick up a copy too, stash it away, and then pull it out in 10 years or so. I'm sure it will be very interesting then, very interesting indeed.
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on December 14, 2013
This book is an example of what happens when a Journalist decides to go to battle with scientists in a politicized arena of the press, and yellow press.

With this book and his other efforts Taubes helped destroy the career of Dr. Bockris (RIP), an esteemed Texas electrochemist, who had early, unexpected Tritium results from his LENR replication study. Now many labs including several national labs (Los Alamos, US Navy SPAWARS, China Lake) have replicated tritium production and destruction from energized metal hydrides.

Due in great part to the hysteria Taubes' created, Dr. Stanley Pons and Dr. Martin Fleishmann were denied serious academic review of their work.

See [...] for a compilation of evidence showing Taubes' self serving fabrications.

Now that we know how serious climate change is getting, the loss of 24 years head start getting clean safe nuclear power going really bites. Gary Taubes has a lot to answer for.
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on November 2, 2011
Gary should be ashamed for taking the wrong side on this issue. The bad science was on the side that attacked cold fusion to keep their research contracts alive.
For years I have written a column about renewable energy. Early this year I discovered an amazing technology that conflicted with everything I thought I knew about nuclear power. As I researched it further I found that I had been misled by experts who held top positions in the field. I now realize that clean, safe nuclear power exists and will someday easily solve our economic and environmental problems. Unfortunately, it has been held back by powerful interests who profit from the status quo. The DOE made a fatal mistake in 1998 which almost killed the technology. The result has led to wars and financial ruin. It is time to rethink this grievous error and redirect priorities to development of this world-changing technology.

Please don't dismiss this as a conspiracy theory. I am a Caltech engineer who has written three psychology books. I have always been fascinated by denial and groupthink, which are the major hazards of "big science" projects. The more money and time is invested in a project, the harder it becomes to consider a better solution. New ideas become like the elephant under the rug which group members unconsciously step around without noticing. The housing bubble was a recent example of denial: Nobody noticed it because we were all getting very rich and feeling very smart. Big science produces similar delusions. Well-meaning scientists and administrators unconsciously ignore breakthrough solutions that would make their past efforts look embarrassing or derail ongoing projects. Once a project has momentum, it is almost impossible to replace it with a better idea.

We have a financial and an environmental crisis that could be quickly cured by a new clean, cheap and safe power source. Nuclear power has that potential but the momentum of dangerous, uranium-fueled approaches based on bomb technology has prevented us from recognizing simple, new approaches that could save us. We have also been trying to develop a non-uranium approach called Tokamak fusion for fifty years. This grandiose scheme of trying to contain the reaction of a hydrogen bomb was a disastrous mistake. It has created a powerful research industry that has never produced one watt of power. But the force of its 50-year momentum has blinded us to better, human scale, approaches. This is not an conscious conspiracy but mostly honest people who are victims of the same natural denial and groupthink that gave us the housing bubble and the dotcom bubble. The in-crowd of distinguished physicists simply can't see how these new technologies, which don't fit their theories, could work. Reality must trump theory.

Last saturday, Oct 28th, that elephant under the rug stood up but still wasn't noticed. A 470,000 watt nuclear boiler built in a 16' shipping container was delivered to the first customer. It will run for six months without refueling on $300 worth of hydrogen and powdered nickel. The customer's acceptance test was held at Bologna University and was witnessed by dozens of distinguished physicists. No radiation was produced. The mainstream press has been silent, as they have been for the twenty two years since the embarrassing 1998 "cold fusion" discovery was exposed as a fraud by scientists at MIT and Caltech. Those scientists made a heroic four month effort to replicate the experiments of Fleischman and Pons (though details of the apparatus hadn't yet been published.) When their negative result was reported at a special APS meeting there was a standing ovation. The Tokamak fusion research budgets were saved. The DOE moved quickly to issue a negative report 2 months later and a memo was circulated at the patent office warning about possible fraud. The survival power of longstanding government subsidies is legendary: Farm price supports, coal, oil and corn ethanol subsidies have unstoppable momentum just like bomb-based nuclear power. Something will have to change in our political system to give it back to the people.

I urge you to open your mind to what I am trying to say even though you are probably surrounded by people who believe that cold fusion was a fraud. I beg you to take 12 minutes watch this excellent segment from 60-Minutes that was aired in 2009. It is titled "More Than Junk Science". Please!
This is a paradigm change which has the potential to save us from the economic and environmental disaster we find ourselves in. Clean, safe nuclear is so cheap that coal and oil can't begin to compete. We can ignore the environmental costs and stop the wars because clean nuclear is so cheap. The cost overruns and long delays of uranium-based nuclear go away when you can forget the messy safety and disposal problems and build things on a human scale. We need to turn around this groupthink pattern and embrace clean nuclear. It could revolutionize our economy and create new industries and jobs. Andrea Rossi, the creator of the e-cat system that was shipped last Saturday is a maverick that cuts through red tape and gets things done. The technology can be adapted to hundreds of other forms by others who will license his technology.

Rossi's E-Cat produces heat cleanly and safely but we also have need for efficient electrical power. Since thermal power plants are so inefficient, we need to also develop something like the Boron fusion reactor being developed by Lawrenceville Plasma Physics would be just the thing because it produces electricity directly from a collapsing plasma. It has also been a victim of the "big science" establishment. Just after they showed that they could achieve the billion degree temperatures needed for Boron Fusion, NASA was forced out of the energy research business. NASA funds, which had supported their research, stopped abruptly. They applied to DOE but were rejected. A ten year delay in their progress finally ended when a group of small investors gave them shoestring funding. I recently made a small investment myself. Too bad ARPA-E doesn't do anything like this that can really stop our dependence on coal and oil. These funds are scandalously misdirected.

I think government bureaucracies should never make technology choices. The money can be much better spent on X-Prize type awards that reward needed results without any reference to specific technologies. If the DOE had limited themselves to prizes we would have had cheap, clean energy a decade ago.

Anyway, the Rossi technology is here now but it needs to be developed, refined and adapted quickly. It could quickly solve many of our economic and environmental problems. The fuel and equipment costs are so low that coal and oil is not competitive at all. We can stop fighting wars for oil and political wars about environmentalism. The cheapest energy source is also by far the cleanest and safest.

[...]
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on October 7, 2010
You won't get a memorable account of what happened around the 1989 fake "discovery" of cold fusion from this book. Taubes doesn't even bother to explain what cold fusion really is, why it's significant, and how it differs from regular fusion or fission, for example. Instead, without making clear what's at stake, he launches breathlessly into what he hopes will be an engrossing account of the personalities involved in this folly - for hundreds and hundreds of pages. He might as well be talking about angels dancing on the head of a pin, and adds to the general, erroneous impression that it's easy for "scientists" to fudge their results and pull the wool over an uninformed public's eye. Taubes has done nothing to encourage the lay reader to get more informed about scientific progress. There's almost no science in here that would be in the least comprehensible to even an informed reader. Bad Science Writing would be a better title. I suspect the only people who made it through this book were insiders wanting bitchy details about their colleagues. Very disappointing.
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on September 22, 2012
Gary Taubes should stick to nutrition books (Good Calories Bad Calories is highly recommended). This history of cold fusion started with the assumption that snake oil was being sold. Instead a whole new paradigm was beginning. Luckily some courageous scientists, investors, and government entities ignored the likes of Gary Taubes. They broke with consensus. They continued to explore a whole new branch of physics and chemistry. When cold fusion becomes a household word and small communities power their lights economically with no pollution this book will be a collector's item. And a source of a good laugh.
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