Prominent cold fusion researcher Prof. Peter Hagelstein of MIT, who was the Chairman of the Tenth International Conference on Cold Fusion, sent the following letter to the U.S. Secretary of Energy on September 25, 2003:
September 12, 2003
Secretary of Energy
1000 Independence Avenue, SW
United States Department of Energy
Washington, DC 20585
Dear Secretary Abraham,
I noticed with interest a recent column in The Wall Street Journal by Sharon Begley last Friday (September 5, 2003). She wrote this column after attending the 10th International Conference on Cold Fusion, which was held recently in Cambridge at the end of August. Her argument in this column was that perhaps most problematic about the conference was not what was presented and discussed at the conference, but the lack of interest on the part of the scientific community.
I write this brief letter to you wearing three hats. First, as a member of the DOE community, having won the 1984 Lawrence Prize for National Defense. Second, as a faculty member at MIT. And third, as Chair of the conference under discussion.
The conference was technically very strong, and has been considered by many to be the best of the ICCF series to date. The evidence for nuclear emissions from metal deuterides in a variety of experiments presented at this conference, and at previous conferences, is very strong. The experimental evidence in support of an excess heat effect that has accumulated over the years is very compelling, certainly strong enough that it should be of interest to DOE and the scientific community in general.
As you know, DOE assembled a panel to review results in this area in 1989. This group, the ERAB panel, was composed of distinguished scientists from different disciplines who were tasked to provide a recommendation to Admiral Watkins about what should be done in the area. Specifically, the ERAB panel was tasked to: (1) review experiments and theory, (2) identify what research should be undertaken to determine what processes might be involved, (3) provide guidance as to research and development directions might lead to understanding and applications.
The ERAB panel was not convinced that there was anything to the claims, based on the information available in 1989 and 1990. Moreover, the panel noted that the claims would be “contrary to all understanding gained of nuclear reactions in the last half century,” and would “require the invention of an entirely new nuclear process.”
The panel recommended against any special funding for research in this area, and suggested that the funding system present at that time might be used to provide modest support in the area.
Now, more than a decade later, much progress has been made. The relatively weak evidence available in 1989 and 1990 is now superseded by much stronger results, which are sufficient to convince distinguished scientists that are otherwise unbiased. The experimental evidence, in my view, is now beginning to provide some indication as to what new physical mechanisms are at work.
I think that it is now time to review this area once more. A great many of my colleagues who work in this area feel the same way. There is a great interest among the public, as indicated by the nearly 200,000 papers on the subject that have been downloaded during the past eleven months from a website devoted to cold fusion.
I propose that you consider the possibility of convening a new review panel to provide an updated recommendation based on the initial tasking provided by Admiral Watkins. I would recommend that new scientists be appointed, as some of the members of the previous panel might be considered to have already made up their minds based on what they have said in public and have published.
I offer you my personal assistance in this matter, and the assistance of many of my colleagues who have studied the new phenomena over the past fourteen years.
Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
Massachusetts Institute of Technology