WHAT'S NEW, Friday, 31 March 1989 Washington, DC
1. SO FAR SCIENTISTS HAVE FOUND MORE CONFUSION THAN COLD FUSION.
Researchers at several of the most prestigious university and
industrial laboratories in the nation have so far been unable to
reproduce the Utah results. But the Utah researchers, Pons and
Fleischmann, now say that the experiment must be run for some ten
days before fusion starts. From the few details in TV interviews
and press reports, their claim is that deuterium nuclei can be so
closely confined in a palladium cathode during electrolysis that
fusion occurs by tunneling through the coulomb barrier, producing
a net gain in energy of 400%. The tunneling probability is
finite, of course, but even in the sun the probability is small.
On the other hand, Edward Teller has endorsed the Utah claims.
2. A GROUP AT BRIGHAM YOUNG ALSO REPORTS COLD FUSION OF DEUTERIUM
in metal lattices, but makes no claim of energy gain. The group
is led by S.E. Jones, who demonstrated muon-catalysed fusion
three years ago. They report observing neutron production during
electrolytic infusion of deuterons into palladium and titanium.
3. JAMES C. FLETCHER WILL HEAD THE "COLD FUSION" EFFORT AT UTAH.
The retiring NASA Administrator, who served as President of the
University of Utah in the late sixties, will apparently have $5M
to get things going while he negotiates with the more than 200
private companies that don't want to be left on the platform when
the gravy train pulls out. The University says it will only sign
with companies that agree to base some of their effort in Utah.
4. ADM. R.H. TRULY IS SAID TO BE THE TOP CANDIDATE TO HEAD NASA,
replacing Fletcher who announced that he is stepping down as NASA
Administrator on April 8, whether the Bush Administration has
found a replacement or not. But Admiral Truly faces an obstacle
that could be as hard to penetrate as the fusion barrier. The
National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958 states that the
Administrator "...shall be appointed from civilian life by the
President with the consent of the Senate." Unless Congress enacts
new legislation, this would require Truly to resign from the Navy
and give up his benefits, which he is reportedly reluctant to do.
Even though Truly is highly regarded on the Hill for his role in
rebuilding the shuttle program, members of Congress who oppose
any further militarization of NASA will be reluctant to change
the law. Sununu seems undaunted by the legal obstacle. Others
being considered for the job include General Abrahamson, the
former SDI chief, and General Lew Allen, the Director of JPL.
5. GEORGE B. RATHMAN IS ON THE SHORT LIST FOR SCIENCE ADVISOR.
is the Chairman of Amgen Inc., a California biotechnology company
he founded in 1980. He received his PhD in Physical Chemistry
from Princeton in 1952. He served as Chairman of the Industrial
Biotechnology Association from 1986-88, but he has no Washington
experience and is not widely known in the scientific community.