Cold Fusion was first reported in 1989. The original experiment was supposed to have produced extra heat that could not be explained wiht chemistry or electronics, so naturally, fusion was considered. Contrary to popular belief, that original experiment has been replicated successfully. The problem isn’t that the first experiment produced actual extra heat and no one doing the same experiment could match that result. Rather, none of the attempts at using this experimental set up worked, including the first one. So, yes, the experiment was successfully replicated, and in all cases, nothing happened. The bits and pieces that would have been relevant to cold fusion had it existed have been used and reused in a small, but global, cottage industry of cold fusion experimenters, since the original experiment and continuing to today. Very little cold fusion work since the first Fleischmann–Pons experiments has followed those original protocols, and in fact, they are quite different experiments, often looking for very different things. It is a little like this: Someone claims that Bigfoot lives in a certain forest. So, lots of people show up to find Bigfoot. Over a period of a year or so everyone realizes that the Bigfoot claim was bogus. But, there are still people looking in the forest, and some of them come back with blurry pictures of what they claim is Chupacabra. Someone else finds that the lake in the forest has mermaids, but again, the photos are blurry. And so on.

I’m mostly glad they have been doing this research though. The possibility of a “nuclear” kind of thing happening with basic chemistry is too important to totally write off just because, well, there is no evidence for it. As long as a) the total budget for this research stays below 0.00001% of the total physics and chemistry research budget for the world, and b) after a while we just stop looking if nothing is found, then that’s OK.


Unfortunately, while condition A has been met, condition B has not. They should probably stop now.

Anyway here’s an interesting story. I remember when Cold Fusion was a thing, and I remember how stridently the anti-cold fusion masses swarmed Pons and Flieishman and how unequivocally they were driven into the swamp. The whole idea of stuff that can only happen in a nuclear reactor or inside a star being done in a test tube was outrageous! We’ve finally gotten over that; we now know that tiny theoretical black holes are forming all the time in the upper atmosphere because of cosmic rays running into our earthly molecules, for example. (And people probably knew that back then. If it is true.) The point is, if someone came along within a short time after the initial unveiling and rapid beheading of Cold Fusion with anything that looked even a little like nuclear physics happening in a setting where chemists (or any other scientists) operate, stern looks ensued.

So, in 1991, when the open festering wound of cold fusion was just starting to scar over, an interesting observation was made. Previously, it had been noticed by spy planes, astronauts, etc. (people who were really really high) that blue streaks or flashes would sometimes come flying out of the tops of the larger thunder heads. In 1991 someone flying over a storm system with a gamma ray detector picked up gamma rays flying out of the clouds. As I remember this, it was in association with blue flashes. I also remember the observation being treated gingerly. Reactions from “Oh, interesting, someone should look at that maybe” to “Well, obviously you can’t get gamma rays from lightning, that’s impossible, but well, whatever, cold fusion ugh” were to be found at that time.

Since then, slowly but surely, the gamma ray bursts have been observed and confirmed and it is real. It turns out that this happens because a particularly energetic bit of lightning totally wastes some atoms and gamma rays come flying out (upwards, mainly). Indeed, if Pons and Fleishman had produced a small amount of extra heat after ablating some matter with a giant laser, that may have been believable. (but it would not have been cold, so who cares?) These gamma rays, coming out of the clouds, are not cold fusion. They are high energy reactions to high energy actions.

Anyway, there is some new research on the gamma rays that you might be interested in. Here’s the abstract:

We present the very first simultaneous detection from space of a terrestrial gamma ray flash (TGF) and the optical signal from lightning. By fortuitous coincidence, two independent satellites passed less than 300 km from the thunderstorm system that produced a TGF that lasted 70  μs. Together with two independent measurements of radio emissions, we have an unprecedented coverage of the event. We find that the TGF was produced deep in the thundercloud at the initial stage of an intracloud (IC) lightning before the leader reached the cloud top and extended horizontally. A strong radio pulse was produced by the TGF itself. This is the first time the sequence of radio pulses, TGF, and optical emissions in an IC lightning flash has been identified.

The important finding here is that the lightning bolt that makes the gamma ray is ginormous and propagates from a very low altitude compared to what they were previously assuming.

There is also a write-up that I think is not behind a paywall HERE.

First thought to be generated at high altitudes, researchers have recently pinned down the origin of the fleeting lightning-linked bursts—one of the most energetic surges of natural electromagnetic radiation on Earth—to altitudes below 20 kilometers, in the layer of the atmosphere where most weather happens.

If only we could harness this energy!


Østgaard, N., Gjesteland, T., Carlson, B., Collier, A., Cummer, S., Lu, G., & Christian, H. (2013). Simultaneous observations of optical lightning and terrestrial gamma ray flash from space Geophysical Research Letters DOI: 10.1002/grl.50466

Photo Credit: Striking Photography by Bo Insogna via Compfight cc


  1. #1 AlainCo
    June 8, 2013

    Please be careful to use Cold Fusion as a strawman.7

    The fact is that things are still denied, but works.
    It is even becoming industrial, and most critics simply ignore all data after 1989.

    situation need some reading.
    You may get Ed Storms Cold fusion review 2010 in naturwissenschaften.
    You may get the F&P replication by Longchampt at CEA Grenoble (one of the only exact replication, exact because done by an industrial engineer of CEA , not by a creative scientist)
    You may also get some critics of MIT and caltech paper, even if criticizing a failure is useless, at least observing the bad quality of an experiment give explanation.
    ed storms have made in 1996 a manual to replicate F&P.
    ENEA published for ICCF15 it’s work that show that crystallography state, beside impurities, loading, current density, temperature, is one of the key factor and allow controlling the success.
    By the way the notion of “lack of reproducibility ” is not honest, since even if many electrodes were not producing anomalous heat, there were some who worker all the time.

    As I explain in an article linked to the one I give you, many used arguments are absolutely strange for a scientist…
    Reading Thomas Kuhn make me understand it could not have been different since there is still no LENr theory.

    Science may only see LENR when it appear in Wall Street Journal.
    Already National Instruments have taken the train, and NIWeek2013 will be great.

    best regards, and sorry to give you so much work…

    — AlainCo — the techwatcher of LENR-Forum

  2. #2 dean
    June 8, 2013

    Interesting post. I had never heard of this before.

    Prepare for a crank onslaught over your honest description of the “state” of cold fusion. You already had one such at #1.

  3. #3 AlainCo
    June 9, 2013

    My modest contribution os worthless…
    If I’m a crank, you will have to tell that too about Mr Truchard of national Instruments and Stefano Concezzi his big-science division direct (he was selling expensive control system for tokamak – what a fall), To aldo Proia (ex-energaya).
    Tell that To Carlo Rubbia, Violante, to Nasa GRC, to US Navy Spawar, to CEA Grenoble, to CNAM electrochemistry team, to daniel borel the founder of logitec, to Alexandros Xanthoulis a greek economist, to BARC, to Bockris, to hans gerischer, …

    You can ridicule me safely, but I’m sure that the businessmen have bone their due diligence, and other researchers were mainstream before having seen LENR.

    You have to guess why loose experiments done by inexperienced team at Caltech and MIT , with proven flaws, ware chosen as reference facing both a top electrochemis of 89, confimed by an skeptic in 91, and replicated by a CEA engineer…

    really you should read before taking a risky position.

    I imagine you have nothing to lose if you are wrong, but imagine that there is no safe position, and that both error make you lose money.

  4. #4 Greg Laden
    June 9, 2013

    Dean, there seems to be only one person who supports cold fusion.

    Anyway, I gave cold fusion more credit than most do. I expected (still expect) to get yelled at for not being meaner to it.

    I noticed cold fusion was not proposed as an explanation for mantis shrimp.

  5. #5 Artor
    June 9, 2013

    If we could build a beanstalk, or space elevator, we’d have a conductive cable from the ionosphere to ground. What kind of energy would that allow us to harness? Can we measure units of energy in Mantis Shrimp? I predict a beanstalk could produce a continuous supply of power in the range of 200k stomatopods!

  6. #6 dean
    June 9, 2013

    Rossi just held another “demonstration” of his latest device. Great study in scamming. One of his defenders was so desperate to explain why he should be believed this time that he said
    “What happens inside an NI/H reactor is not of this universe.”
    As well as something about it having to be true because quantum mechanics allows for strange things. (Discussions at Starts With A Bang). How prevalent is the belief in that stuff? It does appear the true believers are quite stubborn in spite of the lack of evidence.
    No idea about the shrimp, but there certainly seems to be the possibility for a SYFY classic movie. “Mega mantis shrimp versus Octoshark”.

  7. #8 Greg Laden
    June 9, 2013

    Artor, if there are aliens watching us they are probably giddy over the folly of burning old gunk instead of …. whatever it is they would do to tap any one of the huge sources of energy that we live right inside of.

  8. #9 IGetRashes
    June 9, 2013

    These guys are doing similar research:

  9. #10 CherryBombSim
    June 10, 2013

    Oh, there is way more than one cold-fusioner out there, Greg. One group has an office about a mile from where I live. My dad called me up to let me know about them, and got very, very upset that I would not go talk physics with them and let him know if it would be a good investment opportunity. He wanted my opinion because he figured I had a good understanding of physics. After I gave him my opinion (gently), the only thing that changed is that he now no longer thinks I understand physics.

  10. #11 Greg Laden
    June 10, 2013

    Is it safe living that close to a cols fusion reactor?

  11. #12 Mike Saucier
    June 10, 2013

    The cosmic rays speculated influence on the weather was supposed to go: LESS cosmic rays hence LESS clouds hence hotter climate.

    But there are no evidence that there are less cosmic rays than 100 years ago, or any measurable change in cloud cover. No evidence that cosmic rays influence cloud formation at the same degree than say, salt crystals.

  12. #14 Tim
    September 6, 2014

    Well, there was *intriguing* work at BYU concerning Muon Catalized Fusion. However, It got shitcanned when the lead researcher diverted his time to the more pressing issue (to him, at least) of proving the existance of (the afore to never heard of outside really, really rude circles of those who ‘breath together’ ) *nano thermate* .

Current ye@r *