Philosophical Society of Washington

Whatever Happened to “Cold Fusion”?

David J. Nagel
Naval Research Laboratory

2048th Meeting Abstract
Friday, October 20, 1995 at 8:15 PM


“Cold Fusion” is now ignored, disdained and even mocked by scientists and the public. This is due to a variety of mistakes by scientists and the government, and the unwillingness of journal, magazine and newspaper editors to pay attention to this topic. But, does this mean that nothing is being done, or should be done, in response to the questions raised by work on “cold fusion”?

Several hundred people world-wide are spending part or full time trying to get to the bottom of the mysteries which followed from the 1989 announcement by Pons and Fleischmann. The fifth international conference in Europe earlier this year attracted 200 people, half of them with industrial connections, mainly from Japan, Italy, France and the U.S. There are also active programs in Russia, India and China. A framework for organizing work on “cold fusion” will be presented, along with some of the data which cannot, in the opinion of the speaker, be attributed to fraud or error. If correct, these data would strongly indicate that nuclear reactions are behind some of the observations.

They do not support the view that such reactions are ordinary fusion; hence, “cold fusion” is merely a label and not an assertion of what is happening. It will be argued that government funding of work in this area would not be wasteful, since hydrogen science and technology are accepted fields of inquiry. They form the basis of a large and growing industry in the U.S. and abroad.

About the Author:

David J. Nagel graduated (magna cum laude) from the University of Notre Dame (B.S. in Engineering Science, 1960) and performed graduate work at the University of Maryland (M.S. in Physics, 1969, and Ph.D. in Engineering Materials, 1977). During active duty with the Navy, he was Navigator aboard the USS Arneb on Operation Deepfreeze (1960-62) and then served as a Technical Liaison Officer at the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) (1962-64). Since joining the civilian staff of NRL in 1964, he has held positions as a Research Physicist, Section Head, and Branch Head. Dr. Nagel's research interests center on radiation physics, especially spectroscopy, with applications to materials analysis, plasma diagnostics, environmental studies and "cold fusion". Dr. Nagel is lead author of a patent on x-ray lithography which formed the basis of a 100-person startup company in Rochester NY. Currently, he is concentrating on applications of MicroElectroMechanicalSystems (MEMS). He is a member of the Senior Executive Service and serves as Superintendent of the Condensed Matter and Radiation Sciences Division. He manages the experimental and theoretical research and development efforts of 120 government and contractor personnel. Dr. Nagel has written or co-authored over 125 technical articles, reports, book chapters and encyclopedia articles. He retired as a Captain in the United States Naval Reserve in 1990.

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