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infinite energy

Issue 83
January/February 2009
Infinite Energy Magazine

Book Review

Cold Fusion: Clean Energy for the Future
by Talbot A. Chubb
ISBN 978-1-892925-05-3$17.95 Paperback, 76 pp.
Cold Fusion Energy Research Co., 2008

Review by Michael Melich


clean energy for the future

I got to know Talbot Chubb about 20 years ago when we worked with the Naval Center for Space Technology team at the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) in designing reusable rockets that would launch spacecraft from the ocean. The tantalizing idea that the largest mobile objects in the world, e.g. whales, can only exist in the ocean environment, had in the early 1960s led to the idea of the “Big Dumb Booster” (BDB) for interplanetary space travel. BDB space launch economics depends upon being able to reuse the booster section without the large costs associated with recovery and refurbishment, something not achieved with the Space Shuttle design. In fact, it was through this project that I also met Scott Chubb, Talbot’s nephew who also worked on Sea Launched Rockets (SEALAR). Talbot by that time had retired from a distinguished research career in Space Science at NRL, publishing over 75 refereed journal papers and awarded over 25 patents some with co-authors and co-inventors. For his work he was recognized as a Fellow of the American Physical Society and the American Geophysical Union.

Arriving at the Naval Research Laboratory in 1951, he became a “rocket scientist” using surplus German V-2 rockets and U.S. Viking and Aerobee rockets as aero-sonde vehicles to directly measure the physical characteristics of the charges and photons in space from above the earth’s atmosphere. Discovering the explanation for short-wave radio fades during solar flares, building the instruments and doing the experiments for X-ray and ultraviolet astronomy which lead to the first observations of extragalactic X-ray sources, as well as developing systems for converting solar energy into chemical energy, are among the many milestones in his highly productive “early” career. It was no surprise then that he and his nephew Scott Chubb, a recently minted Ph.D. in solid state many-body theory, presented a paper in March 1990 at the First International Conference on Cold Fusion in Salt Lake City, Utah. Their intense curiosity about the March 1989 Fleischmann and Pons discovery has persisted to this day. Talbot’s work on the FPE Effect includes a series of experimental campaigns. Notable was his collaboration at NRL to perform the high temperature, liquid salt electrolysis version of the Fleischmann-Pons Effect (FPE) developed by Liaw and colleagues at the University of Hawaii. Given Talbot’s experience with solar chemical systems and the Liaw experiment’s 460°C operating temperature, he saw this as possibly the first example of what might be a highly efficient energy source using the FPE.

Talbot’s lifelong impulse is to follow his curiosity, critically examine his own ideas, and debate the merits—often intensely with nephew Scott and others. He gets papers written and experiments done, promotes ideas, educates, drives for useful systems, and does his part in making our world a better understood and better place. The book being reviewed is a natural expression of Talbot’s nature—talk to and teach the children. Perhaps, if they understand, an occasional adult—even a scientist—may also.

What do you learn if you read Talbot’s book? First, it is a tutorial on the piece parts of physics and chemistry, for example, what is a nucleus, what is an atom, what is a molecule, what are the forces that hold these entities together and how do we catalog these forces? Having the vocabulary in hand the evidence that nature is almost always a lot more interesting than we currently know is presented. This is displayed by reporting his visit to Professor Arata’s laboratory in Japan and an explication of the “solid nuclear fusion” experiments reported by Arata and Zhang (AZ). Prof. Arata is a highly regarded Japanese scientist who lists among his accomplishments his 1930s founding of Japan’s hot fusion program and his invention in the 1950s of laser and electron beam welding that is now in widespread industrial use. Talbot’s writings are the most complete and detailed analyses and explications of the AZ experiments—experiments that buttress Talbot’s case that the excess heat in the FPE experiments is a new, scientifically interesting and almost certainly technologically interesting phenomenon.

Nuclear processes controlled by chemical processes; this is a “big deal,” something that got largely overlooked as a possibility in the development of nuclear physics. How big a deal? Imagine that you could change the way nuclei give up their binding energy? Imagine that you could do it by chemical manipulations that determined the time when a nucleus decays? Imagine that the nuclear binding energy could be converted to heat or other non-ionizing or non-radiative forms of energy?

Talbot came of scientific age as nuclear physics, quantum mechanics, solid state physics, and astrophysics were making their way from laboratory and academic subjects to the technological surprises of World War II. His AB in physics with high honors from Princeton in 1944 qualified him to be recruited to work on isotope separation at the Manhattan Project’s calutron facility at Oak Ridge Tennessee, where the first large scale separation of uranium isotopes was being done. After two years he returned to graduate school where amongst his professors was Nathan Rosen, whose 1935 paper co-authored with Albert Einstein and Boris Podolsky (now famously known simply as EPR, “Can Quantum-Mechanical Description of Physical Reality be Considered Complete?” Phys. Rev., 47, 777), called into question the adequacy of quantum mechanics. Talbot uses the ideas that have evolved from the ongoing debate about EPR. He makes a case that nuclear physics since Rutherford has not had to really deal with the complications of the behavior of nuclei in solids. It has thus missed the class of physical effects observed by Fleischmann and Pons. This, according to Talbot, means that chemists, who have had to deal with quantum phenomena, were the natural specialists to discover the FPE.

Talbot in his final section, “Theory,” by its very layout makes the case that the FPE is something new, that it takes us back (empirically) to an earlier time before the extensive fractionating influences of specialization in science created a Tower of Babel effect, and he offers a catalog of what each of the specialties has to say about the FPE. He makes the case that the FPE challenges us by demanding that we be able to do interdisciplinary science. To help he has written: Listening to  Chemistry, Listening to Metal Physics, Listening to Molecular Quantum Mechanics, Listening to Nuclear Physics, Listening to Roger Penrose, Role of Asymmetry, and Listening to Cold Fusion.

True to his action-oriented nature, Talbot lays out a research and development plan. It is what he thinks needs to be done to develop the science and to get on with the job of providing mankind with a new source of energy. His life has been one of optimism justified. By writing this book he makes one more valuable contribution. What does this realist expect and hope: “In the near future the quantum world will start impacting the world of energy supply. . .The quantum world has already begun to affect the energy field by its development of solar cells and new battery materials. These inventions are useful and can provide relief during the transitional period when fossil fuel energy is still available. But it seems doubtful that they can adequately support the fast paced society to which we have become accustomed. The New Energy technology examined here is different. It taps a resource base that can support the energy needs of 6.6 billion people for at least a billion years. The new technology makes use of a relatively unfamiliar portion of the same quantum world that has given us today's  solar cells. The timing is good. We are going to need a lot of new energy by mid-century, if not before. Those who worry about global warming say that we need it now.” (pp. 12-13).

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