Bad Science: The Short Life and Weird Times of Cold Fusion

Bad Science: The Short Life and Weird Times of Cold Fusion

by Gary Taubes

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Science journalist Taubes's chronicle of the cold-fusion episode is an engrossing cautionary tale. In 1989, University of Utah chemist Stanley Pons and his British collaborator Martin Fleischman made headlines worldwide with their announcement that they had created a sustained nuclear fusion reaction at room temperature in a chemistry lab. Their simple device supposedly promised a clean, virtually inexhaustible source of energy. But Taubes ( Nobel Dreams ), who has reported on cold fusion for the New York Times , faults Pons and Fleischman for amateurish, flawed experimental techniques and for offering ``virtually no data'' to support their claim. Pons is now working for a Japanese company, and Japan's Ministry of Trade and Industry is heavily funding a cold-fusion research program. Taubes considers these latest developments part of an ongoing fiasco--the quasi-scientific pursuit of a nonexistent phenomenon. He steers readers smoothly through the technical details in this scientific detective story. (June)
Library Journal
Cold fusion never existed. Even though its ``discovery'' by two University of Utah chemists--Stanley Pons and Martin Fleischman--was proclaimed with fanfare in 1989, the idea has been thoroughly discredited. As Taubes demonstrates in this well-documented account, cold fusion was ``bad science'' from the outset. The researchers rushed to announce their discovery to ensure primacy and, by circumventing peer review, introduced political and economic pressures into the scientific process. Taubes interviewed many of the key players in the controversy (although Pons and Fleischman refused his requests) and thus gives an insider's view of what happened--and why. Eugene Mallove's Fire from Ice ( LJ 6/1/91) also critically appraises cold fusion, but Taubes's work is more comprehensive and also less strident. This cautionary tale puts cold fusion to rest and, more important, shows how science can be mishandled. Recommended for public and academic libraries.-- Gregg Sapp, Montana State Univ. Libs., Bo z eman
Donna Seaman
In March 1989, two University of Utah scientists, chemist Stanley Pons and electrochemist Martin Fleischmann, called a press conference to announce their success in creating "a sustained nuclear fusion reaction at room temperature." In less than a month, their grandiose claim was discredited. No one could duplicate their experiment and confirm their results; the debate raged on in laboratories around the world and in the pages of newspapers and academic publications. In the wake of the scandal, the scientific community was left reeling from the exposure of sloppy methodology, blatant opportunism, and widespread gullibility. Taubes interviewed more than 260 people in the course of writing this comprehensive, fluid, and quietly witty chronicle of the cold fusion fiasco. As he documents each error of judgment and instance of honest attempts at finding the truth, he limns memorable portraits of the many people involved and candidly describes the crude politics and competitiveness of university-based science. His well-crafted account is an overwhelming litany of rumors, betrayals, inconsistencies, evasions, contradictions, and lies. It is, ultimately, a tale of the triumph of desire over reality, speculation over proof: science's version of the emperor's new clothes.

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Random House Publishing Group
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1st ed

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