In Recognition of Eugene Mallove, his Promethean Quest and His Magic
Scott Chubb and Thomas Valone
It is both reassuring and important to recognize individuals who present a vision of the future that transcends the usual, lowest common denominator of life’s expectations. These people remind us through their living examples, as well as through their words, that things can be better, provided we do our best to make this happen. One year ago, we lost such a leader to a sudden and tragic death. This truly different and astonishing person was Eugene Franklin Mallove. Eugene was the Editor-in-Chief of Infinite Energy magazine, a provocative and gutsy technical magazine with a vision. Through this magazine, his book (Fire from Ice: Searching for the Truth Behind the Cold Fusion Furor), and his other publications, lectures, and related work, not only did Gene help to shape opinion about a controversial issue (cold fusion), but he was responsible for disseminating information about a more general, important, evolving, area of science (low-energy nuclear reactions) that has helped research in this new field to progress and evolve.
Both in a figurative sense and in more tangible terms, his efforts can be viewed as a Promethean Quest. Figuratively, the quest was Promethean because, as in the process of bringing fire to the earth, his work as a journalist, author, and scientist, was incendiary in nature, and revolutionary in scope. The response to his effort illustrates that the work was incendiary: his quest inspired ostracism, ridicule, and hardship. The efforts were revolutionary because they involved the dissemination of new ideas that are so radically different and potentially important that not only do they have the potential to dramatically alter mainstream thinking in Physics, but because of their volatility, simply through the process of bringing them to the forefront, Eugene Mallove’s efforts have exposed serious flaws in how information about Science is disseminated. In more tangible terms, ironically, his efforts conceivably will be recognized as a Promethean Quest because historically they may very well be found to have inspired the development of sources of energy that in real terms can be compared to the discovery of a new source of “fire,” in which water, effectively, will be burned, through new, harmless forms of room temperature nuclear fusion.
As a journalist and scientist, Eugene Mallove’s optimism and idealism should be recognized by all who cherish the fundamental ideals of integrity and accountability. In reporting and documenting scientific breakthroughs, reporters can learn a great deal from his writings and the manner in which he conducted himself as a scientific journalist. In particular, Gene often wrote editorials regarding the Patent Office’s ten-year moratorium against cold fusion patents and evoked letters of endorsement from Congressmen. But because his example has not been followed by others, considerable damage has occurred both inside and outside conventional science.
Instead of dealing with fads or sensationalism, Eugene Mallove worked as a scientific journalist with sincerity and integrity—to understand potentially revolutionary forms of science that have not been widely recognized. In 1989, his commitment led him to pursue and report experimental facts and experimental errors (and improprieties), while risking a secure career, in order to challenge prominent scientists in their hasty dismissal of cold fusion. Probing deeper into the evidence, he concluded that serious errors had been made by MIT researchers who were unable either to recognize or to admit their mistakes. Being an MIT graduate, he believed that the institution’s commitment to science would eventually yield to a principled position. He pursued the matter because he felt that the individuals who employed him and individuals who had been involved in scientific research must be held accountable and be required to act with a degree of integrity for past actions and when they failed to do this, he felt compelled to act in a way that would ensure that, ultimately, their transgressions would be recognized. Forced to choose between job security and scientific integrity, Eugene Mallove quit a lucrative job and spent the rest of his life investigating and defending the established scientific method. From experiment to hypothesis to theory, in controversial (but potentially revolutionary) areas of science, Gene found that the scientific method taught in high school often is largely overlooked as a matter of political convenience by most government and academic institutions. Recently, the Union of Concerned Scientists reached the same conclusion and has initiated a campaign to restore scientific integrity in the government.
Mallove’s intellectual journey became, in a sense, a spiritual one. As he became convinced that the unexpected and seemingly impossible could be real, he saw the possibility for elevating ourselves. His belief that we could become better than we commonly believe touched those of us who knew him and changed our lives in ways that, now, he will never know. In a memorable quote from a videotaped interview with Gene, he predicted that powerlines will eventually become as useful as clotheslines. As distributed and decentralized energy steadily evolves into a mainstream commodity, for the sake of better reliability, experts predict that in the near future, electric utility power will probably be used only for backup, especially for industry.
Although Eugene Mallove is gone, his vision and greatness will ultimately prevail in the areas he was most concerned with: energy and its efficient use. His vision was not only authentic and important but also still holds revolutionary consequences. In the way he pursued experimental evidence, no matter how unsettling, and the necessary conclusions it supported, his chosen path was timeless, true, and just. By his example, he showed us that where it counts, each of us must have the utmost integrity and, in addition, be fully accountable for our actions. Truthfully, forthrightly, and idealistically, because of his beliefs in accountability and integrity, he took notice of events that revealed unscientific, unethical actions associated with scientific events. With time, not only did he question those actions but also the institutions that allowed these transgressions to take place.
Eugene’s commitment grew from the implications of his insight: Imagine a world in which gasoline stations are obsolete; pollution from gasoline, oil, and all hydrocarbons is a long-lost memory; and one gallon of ordinary sea water can power an automobile to do all of the traveling that is currently done, in most automobiles, on the average, for a decade. Imagine a world in which it costs pennies to provide all of the power that is necessary to heat a home for fifty years or to convert sea water into fresh water and to pump the water into deserts, without pollution or cost, and to turn deserts into gardens. This was at the heart of Eugene Mallove’s vision and was responsible for his determination and diligent investigation of the underlying facts of any emerging energy discovery. As a result of his efforts, Gene often included a lengthy editorial in Infinite Energy with all of the details of his effort to uncover the truth about a particular invention, besides the seminal articles that were chosen for that topic.
Faced with a potentially important discovery, he sought the truth and acted with unquestioned idealism and morality. In spite of repeated criticism from those who have characterized his efforts in relationship to cold fusion as being bogus or related to a form of “Voodoo Science,” he simply assumed that facts concerning scientific events, combined with his dogged persistence, would eventually pay off. He also monitored work in other efforts involving potentially revolutionary discoveries related to energy, where he played an important role in correcting misconceptions and inaccurate (or incomplete) portrayals of the relevant science. In doing this, he helped to maintain a degree of accountability in contentious (but potentially important) areas of science by confronting individuals whose claims and actions have had questionable validity. His consistent, obstinate reliance on integrity and accountability alienated many individuals at MIT but earned him the admiration of many, in his later career as editor and publisher of Infinite Energy.
A recent issue of IE (#51) devoted to the Papp engine and related events has brought to light a potentially important example of Eugene’s forthrightness. In particular, during the evaluation of the particular device, developed by Papp, involving anomalous energy release during plasma discharges of noble gases, Nobel-prize winning physicist Richard Feynman inappropriately removed the source of electricity associated with the discharge process. When Papp attempted to stabilize the non-linear pulsing that subsequently resulted from Feynman’s actions, the device exploded, and one of the witnesses of the event was killed. Eugene’s forthrightness and truthfulness in reporting all of facts associated with this episode typify not only his efforts to understand and disseminate information about potentially robust sources of energy, but further illustrate a moral and ethical standard, based on accountability, in scientific journalism that has been missing in most mainstream reporting of scientific phenomena.
Eugene Mallove’s sincerity was at the heart of what he did. The magic of his words and vision reflect this. He was tested by a seemingly impossible series of events, and despite this fact, he sought the truth, relentlessly. Throughout, he embraced a basic principle of personal and professional integrity: that at all costs, it is necessary to seek and speak the truth and be truthful to oneself in one’s convictions and in what one cherishes. Truly great discoveries require scientists to persevere in this way. Truly great public figures, like Eugene Mallove, admire this and help to make it happen.
His magic was in the way he approached life and science: by constantly questioning, looking for answers, looking for the truth, and admitting his failures. We can capture some of his charisma and magic by following in his footsteps. Eugene Mallove has passed on, but his vision for a better twenty-first century world of “infinite energy” is just beginning. It begins with how we behave, one day at a time, with each person that we meet, and by believing in his vision: that we really can radically change the manner in which science is conducted and how energy is generated and distributed.