Cold Fusion in a Jar?

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davidm's picture
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Cold Fusion in a Jar?

One of the most haunting comments in the Crash Course to me was the suggestion that our specialized society might be the result solely of the energy surplus from oil. This rings frighteningly true to me. I had been thinking it was the surplus of food. But now I see that it is not food, but energy. Energy allows us to create all the surplus food, and A WHOLE LOT more.

So, the question is this: if we really took this seriously and applied the full resources of the country, like we did getting to the moon, what are the chances of developing a rich alternative energy source? Is it in the realm of possibilities, or wishful thinking? It doesn't sound like solar or wind or even nuclear will get the job done.

I know this only solves one of the Es, but I like a specialized society. I don't really want to become a farmer and wood chopper. I like all the books and opinions and music and variety of food and entertainment that comes from surplus energy. I love surplus energy. I don't want to go back to the old days. 




mpelchat's picture
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Re: Cold Fusion in a Jar?


I understand what you feel like.  Look into Solar/Wind energy for your home.  If may need to reduce your energy use but you can keep a reasonable amount of it.  Than e-cars, some gardening ((maybe even community farming)).

The main point on this site ((in my feeble opinion)) is to stop being dependent on Industrialized society and become more community based.  That does not mean that we lose everything, but our lives will change.  The longer we wait to make changes the more catastrophic the changes will become for you and your local community.

My advise ((and take it for what it is worth, free)), think of taking different services out off your life and think of the changes that it would make in your life.  Can you live with those changes?    Is it possible to live a life you want to without the service?  Do you need to change your expectations? 

Than you may want to think of; What are the possibilities you would lose the service?  Would you lose the service for only a short period of time, will it just be lost or would it be intermittent?  Maybe your thought is we have a bank holiday and you need to only get through that bump.

After that you may wan to think of; What can you do to overcome those changes and live a life you want to live?  Maybe as simple as adding a few solar panels to afford electricity and continuing to add them to reduce stress on the electric grid around you and you get the savings for it ((and true win-win)).

Most importantly, I advise once you decide the scenario you think is most-likely going to happen, make a plan and follow through.  Nothing worse than having knowledge and not acting on it.  Maybe your plan is too much or too little but if you have the ball rolling you can make changes more easily. 

Best of luck!!

NOTE: In services I mean, either losing or not being able to afford utilities, gasoline, shopping, food, water, etc.

Ready's picture
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Re: Cold Fusion in a Jar?


Welcome to the site, I haven't seen you around.

First, I know where you are coming from. I was there in the bargaining stage with you a couple years ago, as most people on this site have been at one point.

The real difficulty lies in the scale of what would need to be produced, and the time and resources necessary to complete the changeover. Simply put, we don't have enough time or resources to prevent a crash, too little too late.

What I can say is that this is the very type of thing that could minimize the long term effects and potentially lift us from sustenance to society once again. It is worth looking at for sure, and I hope some clever soul out there shows us how to get energy for nothing.

My message, get personally prepared for what is inevitable should desktop fusion never be implemented, and hope that it does!



BSV's picture
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Re: Cold Fusion in a Jar?

Since you mention cold fusion, it's worth noting that -- after a thorough initial debunking -- it now appears to be for real. A number of scientists (reportedly including U.S. Navy scientists) have produced statistically significant results. Now the problem is determining whether it can be scaled up and used in real world applications. As long as we are throwing trillions of dollars at the economy, a bit of public money (a.k.a. "debt") spent on cold fusion applied research might be worthwhile. After all, we taxpayers are funding some pretty far out projects these days.

There was a time when no respectable scientist wanted his/her name associated with cold fusion research. Evidently that has changed.

Ready's picture
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Re: Cold Fusion in a Jar?

At CERN they have created fusion and even anti-matter on the infinitesimal scale using the super-collider. We have seemingly limitless fusion energy from the sun raining down on us all the time. Clearly, there is something to find here given enough time, money, and energy.

As a way to answer the original question, what do you think would happen if the folks at CERN could produce an ongoing fusion reaction yielding as much as 20 nuclear reactors tomorrow.

How would you use the energy? How do you farm or pull tractor trailers with electricity? You don't. Not today. A massive re-tooling of transportation, farming, etc would need to take place which was able to use electricity as it's feed stock rather than crude oil. Do-able, but not quickly. Maybe Hydrogen with electrolysis for the big trucks and tractors and a smart grid to battery operated cars for people. These are just a portion of the uses of oil today.

How long do you think we have left before we are in survival mode and expending energy on anything other than food and the necessities of life would seem silly? It would likely take longer than 10 years to convert systems to rely on this new fusion energy, do you think we have 10 years left with where we stand today? What if it takes 20 to re-tool. What if it takes another 10 years to get fusion, then another 20 to re-tool?

I just think time is against us for preventing this crash. I think the time to pack a parachute was 10 - 15 years ago. Now we need speed brakes! After all, even if the energy issue is resolved, we still have the other 2 Es that haven't gone away yet. That population thing is a real bugger.



pir8don's picture
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Re: Cold Fusion in a Jar?

Even if we could fix the three E's we would still have nearly 7 billion of us. Only nature knows how to fix that problem.

The machinery that feeds us is grinding to a halt.

We thought money was our slave and now we know we are its. 

Our only future is to feed ourselves and our way to do it is to form human-scale groups with our neighbours. We will argue forever over the big fixes. It is time for us to wean ourselves again. 



"And I'm neither left or right
I'm just staying home tonight,
getting lost in that hopeless little screen.
But I'm stubborn as those garbage bags
that Time cannot decay"

Leonard Cohen - Democracy

gyrogearloose's picture
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Re: Cold Fusion in a Jar?

BSV wrote:

There was a time when no respectable scientist wanted his/her name associated with cold fusion research. Evidently that has changed.

Links ??????

csstudent's picture
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Re: Cold Fusion in a Jar?

I have a couple comments I wanted to make.  First I have a background in physics and trust me - I wouldn't plan any hope of getting around peak oil or future energy problems based on cold fusion.  Fusion reactions happen every day on the earth in laboratories, but the energy put into these experiments is much greater than any energy that is generated.  If you are interested, take a look at the accepted ways that fusion happens - .  All of these require a huge amount of energy.  Don't get too excited by the title of locally cold fusion.  The starting particles needed for this process require a lot of energy to produce. The biggest issue with fusion is the energy needed to overcome the strong electrostatic repulsion of two positively charged nuclei. 

Second, I think Ready above gave a great summary of the problem - "The real difficulty lies in the scale of what would need to be produced, and the time and resources necessary to complete the changeover. Simply put, we don't have enough time or resources to prevent a crash, too little too late."  If you look at the electricty generating capacity in the United States - , you'll see that renewables are a tiny fraction of the total.  So if you want renewables to replace coal/oil/natural gas/nuclear, there is going to be a tremendous amount of investment required. 

The other issue with renewables is the land use needed.  For example, it takes 17 acres of land to generate 1 MW from a wind farm.  I also just read about a large solar plant being planned in Arizona. It will take 1900 acres of land to generate 280 MW of power. Look at the table above and see how much of a dent 280 MW will make on US electrical production from coal.

As others have stated in this thread, Chris has done a great job of summarizing the problem and this is a great resource to encourage people to get prepared.  Of all the things Chris talks about, I think the energy problem is the biggest threat. Without increasing amounts of energy, the perpetual growth that our current economic system assumes will be there won't be possible.

davidm's picture
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Re: Cold Fusion in a Jar?

Just wanted to say thanks for the responses. It's been quite a couple of weeks digesting all this. I'll never look at the world in the same way. 

It seems to me that our best bet on energy is wind, solar, and water. It won't give us nearly what we have now, but maybe it will be enough. It would be great to have healthcare and heat and recorded music, etc. I hope we act soon enough to use the oil that's left to build the infrastructure and components needed to generate the renewable energy we will all surely need.

Thanks again.


cmartenson's picture
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Re: Cold Fusion in a Jar?

Hi Davidm,

I certainly can easily recall what an intense period of time it was for me when I first wrapped my head around the big picture and all that it implied.

I am all for thinking of solutions in response to the coming changes, we'll need them and use them, but only if the solutions lead to personal action.  What I mean by this is that sometimes big solutions become an excuse for inaction.  These often take the form of hoping that some new technology will erupt and transform our entire energy landscape.  As mentioned above by Ready, this is really a form of bargaining.

The intellectual way past this point is to just run a simple, back-of-the-envelope assessment of the Time, Scale, and Cost involved in bringing any new technology to market.

This conversation arose a while ago on this site with someone arguing that breeder reactors have been theoretically demonstrated to provide unlimited energy for the next few thousand years.  Here was my response then:

Breeder reactors?

I am still patiently awaiting word on how those will actually be deployed. And I don't mean in a thought-piece in Scientific American.

I mean the real world where concerns over fissile material are real and where lag times, resources, and capital concerns are factored into build-out scenarios.

To my knowledge there have been two actual breeder reactors built - SuperPhoenix in France and a test plant in Japan. Both are now more or less decommissioned due to numerous accidents and a failure to demonstrate the sort of unlimited power that they were hoped to deliver.

My goal for this site is to have good, solid, fact-driven debates that conform to reality and make liberal use of numbers and knowns.

So in the case of breeder reactors I think we've heard quite enough about how great they are and are ready for the next level of that discussion.

Please take the time to add up a few numbers (like Switters has done for nuclear).

  • How many will be needed?
  • How much do they cost?
  • How will the security issues be handled?
  • Where will the fissile material come from? Who will control it?
  • What's the build-out schedule (how many need to be built per year)?
  • Who will do the building? How many skilled workers do they have?
  • Assuming we are now moving to an electric society, what sorts of changes to our transportation and electric infrastructure will be needed? How much will this cost? How long will it take to get there?

In my case when I run these questions through my rough understanding of how the world works I come up with answers like "$$$ trillions" and "decades".

Which means I see an energy dip in our future and then I wonder how an economy based on perpetual growth gets through that period with enough gas in the tank to build out all these super-duper, massively capital intensive projects.

My point here is that even if zero-point energy has been reverse engineered off a recovered alien space craft and is sitting in an Area 51 vault right now (I'm being humorous, not serious here...), it will still take decades to scale up the technology and transform our infrastructure away from liquid fuel and towards electricity.

In the meantime, peak oil may already be upon us raising troubling questions about how an economy geared towards perpetual expansion will navigate a decade or more of declining energy inputs.

Lastly, a bonanza of new energy would be a complete disaster for many environmental ecosystems and support systems (such as fresh water aquifers) without some very serious changes to how humans view population growth and their ultimate reliance upon and integration with the natural world. 

The good news is we live in fascinating times and have the opportunity to reshape the future in bold and innovative ways.


Doug's picture
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Re: Cold Fusion in a Jar?

Here's a response to the 60 minutes piece from Bob Park, a physicist at the U. of Maryland:

Friday, April 24, 2009


Last Sunday's edition of the CBS News program 60 Minutes was titled "Race to Fusion." It was 1989, Fleischmann and Pons are shown with the "cold fusion" test tube that would have killed them had they been right. Because they lived, the race was called off. Michael McKubre of SRI apparently didn't get the memo; he just kept doing it over and over for 20 years. Lucky for him there's still no fusion, but he says he does get heat – except when he doesn't. How does it work? He hasn't a clue, but he showed a video cartoon of deuterium defusing through palladium and said it might be fusion. In fact McKubre called it "the most powerful source of energy known to man." Whew! But wait, Dick Garwin did a fusion experiment 60 years ago; it worked all too well. Garwin thinks McKubre is mistaken. Just about every physicist agrees, so the American Physical Society was asked to name an independent scientist to examine the claims of Energetics Technology, according to 60 Min correspondent Scott Pelley. An APS statement issued Wed. says this is totally false, and the APS does not endorse the cold fusion claims on 60 Min. (Aside: This morning I thought I should watch the video on the 60 Min web site one more time. Drat! CBS took it off. No matter, there's a full transcript. Uh oh! The part where CBS says the APS picked Rob Duncan to look into the ET SuperWave is gone. CBS can change history? My God, time travel! Now that is powerful.)


Rob Duncan, vice chancellor of research at the University of Missouri, went to Israel with 60 Minutes to visit Energetics Technologies, which claims SuperWave Fusion will solve the energy problem. It shouldn't be necessary to remind scientists that neither visiting a laboratory, nor peer reviewing a manuscript, is enough. There must be independent replication of the ET claims. Without replication, the claims are nothing. The genius behind ET is the CVO, Chief Visionary Officer, Irving Dardik, MD. Dardik got into cold fusion after losing his license to practice medicine in New York. It puts us in mind of Randy Mills of BlackLight Power, another MD who says he can solve the energy problem. Is SuperWave Fusion another scam?

I'm surprised that 60 Minutes aired this piece.  They usually are a little more well documented.  I think we have to be very skeptical of anyone claiming they have a solution to the energy problem.  As someone pointed out (Matt Simmons maybe?), even if we come up with a non-fossil fuel vehicle that we could afford, it would take at least a decade to retool factories that could produce them in sufficient quantities.

davidm's picture
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Re: Cold Fusion in a Jar?

Hi Chris,

Thanks for the post. It's nice to hear from you.

I totally agree that a great new energy source would actually be a disaster. It's been an intense couple of weeks shifting my thoughts, and I have come to see this. I was at first saddened at the idea of giving up my career as an artist. But I see that the trade off is more than worthwhile. It's been clear to me since high school (1970s), that this could not last and that people will only change when forced to. If the earth and our place is to be saved, this has to happen. My hope now is for a reasonably smooth transition that includes some sustainable supply of energy slaves.

I look forward to meeting you one of these days. I am nearby in the valley.


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Arthur Robey
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Here comes Rossi's competition.
And here they come, first a trickle and then a stampede

The Company believes its approach enhances the efficiency of thermal energy production because all costs associated with fossil fuels are obviated.  There is an absence of combustion and there are no emissions, or need for chimneys, flues and fuel.  The high temperature and high pressure systems can be adapted to produce hot water or steam in boilers for emissionless space heating applications.  More advanced applications of Brillouin’s technology could power boilers for motive marine power and desalinization applications.  Refinement and development of the technology could ultimately provide methods that significantly reduce costs associated with electric power generation.

Rossi anticipated competition.

Thanks for the work Ruby Carat

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