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Power Science

Italian Scientists Demonstrate Cold Fusion? 815

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the believe-it-when-it-powers-my-toaster dept.
Haffner quotes physorg which says "Italian scientists Andrea Rossi and Sergio Focardi of the University of Bologna announced that they developed a cold fusion device capable of producing 12,400 W of heat power with an input of just 400 W....when the atomic nuclei of nickel and hydrogen are fused in their reactor, the reaction produces copper and a large amount of energy. The reactor uses less than 1 gram of hydrogen and starts with about 1,000 W of electricity, which is reduced to 400 W after a few minutes. Every minute, the reaction can convert 292 grams of 20C water into dry steam at about 101C. Since raising the temperature of water by 80C and converting it to steam requires about 12,400 W of power, the experiment provides a power gain of 12,400/400 = 31."
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Italian Scientists Demonstrate Cold Fusion?

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  • Riiight (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 24, 2011 @11:03AM (#34981758)

    Call me when it's repeatable in more than 2 other labs please.

  • by Quantus347 (1220456) on Monday January 24, 2011 @11:04AM (#34981778)
    ...is that they don't understand why it works, just that their magic box makes more energy than they put in.
  • by Fibe-Piper (1879824) on Monday January 24, 2011 @11:07AM (#34981836) Journal

    This sounds like any number of hoaxes that have been perpetrated; be they related to cold fusion or perpetual motion machines.

    The "inventor"/"discoverer" are the only ones who can repeat the process and always under their own conditions or in their own lab. On further inspection the man behind the curtain is always found instead of any real magic.

  • by JW CS (1593833) on Monday January 24, 2011 @11:09AM (#34981860)
    From the article:

    "Rossi and Focardi’s paper on the nuclear reactor has been rejected by peer-reviewed journals, but the scientists aren’t discouraged. They published their paper in the Journal of Nuclear Physics, an online journal founded and run by themselves, which is obviously cause for a great deal of skepticism."

    Everything about this seems like a scam.

  • by imsabbel (611519) on Monday January 24, 2011 @11:10AM (#34981876)

    Those guys fell from the fraud tree and hit every single branch on the way down:

    - Created their own, "serious sounding" journal for publication
    - Do not disclose the actual device they claim to have been running
    - Do not allow independent observation of the experiment
    - Experiment is an open system (making it SO easy to fake)
    - Making totally implausible claims that would be too much even if it DID work.

    Not only have they yet to prove they did any kind of fusion, they also would not produce energy with the process they claim to do even if they were doing it (trans-iron fusion is not exothermic).

    And the really stupid thing is that there will be tons of "sceptics" that have no fucking clue about science that will eat up their claims just because they are "anti-established science". Wankers.

  • Re:Uh, no (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Kagura (843695) on Monday January 24, 2011 @11:11AM (#34981890)

    More out than in = no

    Use a lighter for a split second on a piece of paper, then turn it off. Bam. More out than you put in.

  • by MoonBuggy (611105) on Monday January 24, 2011 @11:12AM (#34981914) Journal

    That's not an absolute mark against them - if they really were trying to do something different and the thing just started kicking out power inexplicably then their paper may well look like crap. Not to say I believe them - extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof, and all that - I won't be satisfied until (as the article heading says) I see one powering my toaster, but I have more respect for guys saying "Shit, we haven't got a clue, it just happened" than ones spouting demonstrably false pseudoscience like so many before have.

    Of course, the better way to go about this would perhaps have been to send detailed plans and experimental records to colleagues at other universities and ask that they try to replicate it. Maybe steer clear of mentioning 'cold fusion' at all and simply ask if they get unusual excess energy readings.

    It's probably junk, but hey, I'm holding on to the glimmer of hope that this could be a game-changer, just for a little longer!

  • Produces copper? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ebcdic (39948) on Monday January 24, 2011 @11:15AM (#34981964)

    Did they weigh the copper wires to the electrodes before and after?

  • by Zen-Mind (699854) on Monday January 24, 2011 @11:17AM (#34981980)
    Isn't that the case for almost everything? We have many "observed" universal behaviors, but did anyone really break the fundamental working to explain the universe? For instance, I think nobody has been able to explain gravity; I think they tried to explain it using a particle called graviton, but nothing was ever proven.

    Moreover, many things were actually discovered before they could be explained. At one point, unless it can be dangerous (which could apply in this case), the fact that it simply works should be enough for most people.
  • by CODiNE (27417) on Monday January 24, 2011 @11:21AM (#34982072) Homepage

    It's most likely not a success but I just want to touch on the logical fallacy there.

    Simply being unable to explain a phenomenon doesn't mean a scientist hasn't discovered something new.

    Perhaps they simply gave them one of the first few common eliminators they use to reject amateur submissions.

  • by Dunbal (464142) * on Monday January 24, 2011 @11:21AM (#34982076)

    They are already commercializing a small reactor.

          And let me guess - they are looking for "investors" too?

  • Re:Uh, no (Score:4, Insightful)

    by M. Baranczak (726671) on Monday January 24, 2011 @11:32AM (#34982226)

    More out than in = no

    If they're really starting a fusion reaction, then it's totally plausible. For a practical demonstration, go outside right now and look at that bright thing in the sky.

    All the other cold fusion schemes turned out to be bogus, and this one probably will, too, but that doesn't mean it'll never happen.

  • by vlm (69642) on Monday January 24, 2011 @11:34AM (#34982258)

    If it really works they could create a business out of it and retire.

    But if it really is nuclear something, I doubt they want to try to scale it up until they know what's really going on.

    The problem is the nickel metal hydride battery manufacturers have been screwing around with nickel and hydrogen for a long time on a very large scale without vaporizing the planet, so regardless of what is going on, scaling it up will probably be as harmless as a nearby battery plant.

  • Re:Uh, no (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Tim C (15259) on Monday January 24, 2011 @11:36AM (#34982294)

    "More out than in" is actually not a bad definition of an exothermic reaction. Of course, you're ignoring the whole "converting energy from one form to another" aspect.

  • Re:Well now.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SuricouRaven (1897204) on Monday January 24, 2011 @11:40AM (#34982368)
    Correct. Cold fusion isn't a theoretical impossibility, like perpetual motion - it can, in princible, be done. So far though, no scientist or engineer has worked out how to do it. The field is plagued with both deliberate frauds and overeager misinterpretations of results, and so far very little in the way of success.
  • by craftycoder (1851452) on Monday January 24, 2011 @11:41AM (#34982380)

    It hardly matters how it works. It only matters that is does work. Smarter people can then go about figuring out how it works. Let these people make the investment in a factory to build these machines. The DoE can buy one can test it. If it takes nickel and hydrogen and energy and makes copper and 31*energy, then we can all retire or join the United Federation of Planets. Otherwise we are just out a few thousand dollars; money that otherwise would have been spent to kill brown people for Jesus in a foreign land. We are all better off no matter what how it turns out!

  • Re:Riiight (Score:5, Insightful)

    by xero314 (722674) on Monday January 24, 2011 @11:54AM (#34982584)

    Call me when they've built a commercial-scale reactor and are giving out free electricity.

    Why would it be free? It still consumes Nickle and Hydrogen, while producing less mass in Copper. Please they still need to maintain the plant and distribution system. So sure the price of the copper might counter the cost of the Nickle and Hydrogen, until copper prices plummet, but over all there is a net cost in generating the final electricity.

  • by radtea (464814) on Monday January 24, 2011 @11:55AM (#34982596)

    There is a chance that they stumbled upon something useful without having a clue how it works, therefore unable to produce a good paper on it.

    False.

    The history of science is full of unexplained phenomenology. Sargent's Rule is one that comes to mind: the observation that beta decay lifetimes scale as the fifth power of the decay energy. Sargent simply noticed this, and published a paper saying, "Hm... this is odd..." That kind of thing is the foundation of science.

    If these guys were legit they could easily publish a paper that says, "We do this, this and this. The result is that. We don't know why." Inexplicable results are bread and butter in science. Irreproducible results... not so much.

    Although even irreproducible results can find a place: the 17 keV neutrino was ultimately irreprodicible (it not existing and all) but that didn't stop Simpson and Hime from publishing multiple, meticulous papers on it documenting what they had done. Everyone else took them seriously because we couldn't see what they'd done wrong, even though most people found the idea of a neutrino that heavy with that weak a mixing angle implausible.

    Science is the discipline of publicly testing ideas by controlled experiment and systematic observation. There is no impediment to "doing science" on these claims unless the write-up is too poor to know what idea to test. Yet they claim reliability in their own results, and commercial shipping of devices in the next year or so, so they either can reliably reproduce--and therefore accurately describe--working devices that others can build and test, or they are not telling the truth about something.

  • Re:Uh, no (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Magic5Ball (188725) on Monday January 24, 2011 @12:52PM (#34983518)

    ...I just want to point out that the scaled up industrial process must work as well. Getting a full sized reactor running is as important as solving a problem in the lab.

    Please get out of the trap of thinking of power as necessarily a multi-billion-dollar centralized utility. For many of the world's current and potential electricity users, a closet-sized user-serviceable generation plant with 3-4 kWh output (whether by solar, hydrogen, fission, or fusion) would be "full sized" for their needs, and also a step up in sustainability and reliability. To be fair, even the regulators, finance, and insurance people fall into this trap as industrial giants like Babcock & Wilcox and Toshiba keep getting railroaded on their advanced micro fission reactors.

  • by mangu (126918) on Monday January 24, 2011 @01:17PM (#34983908)

    JP Morgan financed Tesla's experiments until his advisors told him about the true implications of Tesla's later work: no need for electric power companies, no need for massive investment in power infrastructure (financed with loans from Morgan's bank), no dividends paid to him by his utility companies. It was simpler to just "fix" Maxwell's Equations to eliminate the unknowns, and just train physicists with the simplified equations.

    Yes, and the same advisors told him about the true implications of Ford's work: no need for horse feed comapnies, no need for horseshoe manufacturing, no need for buggy whip factories.

    Free energy, if it existed, would be the biggest economic miracle in all the history of mankind, make no mistake about that. JP Morgan was certainly smart enough to realize that. He was also smart enough to realize that Tesla was a crackpot who had one good idea, three-phase alternate current.

    The problem with most of Tesla's ideas is that they were just crazy speculations without any basis in reality, it's as simple as that. Otherwise any investor would be happy to finance him. George Westinghouse, for instance, bought Tesla's patents on AC motors, if electricity could be obtained at lower cost it would allow Westinghouse to sell more motors.

  • Re:Uh, no (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Greyfox (87712) on Monday January 24, 2011 @03:07PM (#34985522) Homepage Journal
    They probably beat you to it. I suspect that's how this thing actually makes energy:

    * Buy a bunch of nickle
    * Short a bunch of copper
    * Announce you have a device that makes electricity and copper from Nickle
    * Sell your shares
    * Make energy by burning stacks of $100 bills

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