Read Bad Science: The Short Life and Weird Times of Cold Fusion by Gary Taubes Online


At 1:00 P.M., on March 23, 1989, two obscure scientists at the University of Utah announced that they had discovered salvation in a test tube - cold nuclear fusion. The technology promised sale, cheap, limitless energy, and the press played it as the scientific breakthrough of the century. It would become instead a fiasco of epidemic proportions, an unforgettable moralityAt 1:00 P.M., on March 23, 1989, two obscure scientists at the University of Utah announced that they had discovered salvation in a test tube - cold nuclear fusion. The technology promised sale, cheap, limitless energy, and the press played it as the scientific breakthrough of the century. It would become instead a fiasco of epidemic proportions, an unforgettable morality tale in the scientific method: what happens when reason is perverted by hope and greed. Gary Taubes's Bad Science is the vivid, dramatic, and definitive story of the astonishing quest for cold fusion, from its premature birth in a Utah turf war to its lingering and surreal death in a laboratory in College Station, Texas. It is the story of good scientists and bad, of heroes and charlatans, and of a race in which thousands of researchers spent tens of millions of dollars to prove or disprove the existence of a canard. Drawing from interviews with over 260 scientists, administrators, and journalists, Taubes dissects the cold fusion episode with wit and clarity, tracing the untold inside story of scientific research gone awry and academic politics out of control: from the devout physicist and his Department of Energy funding agent who set the wheels of the fiasco in motion, to the University of Utah president whose sole dream was to turn his institution into an intellectual powerhouse. Taubes unveils the darker side of science, where politics, ambition, and misguided obsession can corrupt its ethics and its purpose. Bad Science is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand how science functions and what can happen when the scientific method is jettisoned in the pursuit of wealth and glory. As a story of morality, philosophy, and pathology, it is destined to become a classic of science journalism....

Title : Bad Science: The Short Life and Weird Times of Cold Fusion
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780394584560
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 503 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Bad Science: The Short Life and Weird Times of Cold Fusion Reviews

  • Eric_W
    2019-04-06 22:01

    Taubes, one of the best science writers out there, describes the scientific confusion (pun intended) and hard feelings between two universities after the announcement that some researchers had successfully harnessed cold fusion. Steve Jones at BYU was also working on what he thought was cold fusion. Antagonism developed between the two universities as to who came up with the idea, first and consequently deserved the credit, not to mention the patents with associated royalties estimated by local optimists to be in the billions. What was certain was that university administrators and the researchers themselves, using a Pascalian logic, took the position that they had little to lose: "You get burned if cold fusion doesn't work, but you sure get burned if you don't do anything about it and it does work. So you've just got to be smart," said the University of Utah president later. He also ignored the advice of an eminent physicist who suggested he let BYU makes fools of themselves. The rush was on. Cold fusion tempted scientists to break the rules. It became another 'Utah Effect' (a phrase derived from' the notorious X-ray laser affair of 1972 and used to describe any public relations disaster originating in Utah). The original Pons and Fleischmann study did not use a control. How, . critics asked, could they draw any conclusions from their scanty data without some sort of control to compare it against. "As E. Bright Wilson phrased it in An Introduction to Scientific Research thirty-seven years before cold fusion: 'If one doubts the necessity for controls, reflect on the statement: "It has been conclusively demonstrated by hundreds of experiments that the beating of tom-toms will restore the sun after an eclipse." , " At several scientific meetings the Asch effect was beginning to show. The Asch effect describes studies done by Solomon Asch, a psychologist, who would seat a genuine experimental subject with six confederates who were primed to give a' false answer to a question regarding which of severa1lines was longer. Before long, the experimental subject, who knew he had the right answer, wquld begin to doubt himself Three out of four subjects would side with the group's incorrect conclusion despite knowing the answer to be wrong. Other experimenters were also learning the effects of mixing speed with the press. Several who thought they had confirmed Pons' data, discovered after their preliminary confinnations were reported at press conferences were widely reported, that their hasty experiments, thrown together in order to be the first to confirm cold fusion, had been tainted or not done correctly. Chuck Martin, at Texas A&M, was one of these unfortunates: "Talking to the press is wrong, very wrong," he said, "It's too easy. And the press can't filter. They can't tell whether the 'thing I've said is bullshit or right." Taubes writes, "What cold fusion had proven, nonetheless, was that the nonexistence of a phenomenon is by no means a fatal impediment to continued research. As long as financial support could be found, the -research would continue. And that support might always be found so 'long as the researchers could continue to obtain positive results. In fact, the few researchers still working in the field would have little incentive to acknowledge negative results as valid, because such recognition would only cut off their funds. It promised to be an endless loop."

  • Keith
    2019-04-23 23:57

    A well researched blow-by-blow account of what happened as nearly as can be determined. Universities and other institutions spent an enormous expense and effort to replicate an experiment that was done without controls, without understanding what was going on. "Excess heat" was called "cold fusion" even though there was no sign of fusion such as neutrinos, gamma rays, etc. "Excess heat" was claimed even though the experimenters did not account for sources of error. The result was millions of dollars spent trying to confirm a poorly controlled experiment. The book only hinted at the career damage to those who embraced it.On another level, it is a description of greed and pride pushing out careful science and common sense.I kept reading because I wanted to find out: 'When will the (insanity) end?'In addition to the current events, there were pertinent historical quotations sprinkled in. These quotations reminded us that such madness in not just limited to our day. (See: Extraordinary Popular Delusions and The Madness of Crowds first published 1841)

  • Yofish
    2019-04-15 17:13

    Really fascinating look at the cold fusion hubbub that lasted for about a month or two in 1989. (Well, it stumbled along for another year in the minds of the true believers.) Two groups of researchers (Univ Utah and BYU) thought they saw something, and felt they had to announce before they were really sure what. (They had to mostly for patent purposes, but also to make sure they were in line for the Nobel Prize---that's a good one.) Nobody could really reconstruct the results, but those that did see something reported before they could check carefully because, they believed, everyone else was announcing. Then there's the conflict between physicists (who thought that cold fusion doesn't look like this) and chemists who thought they were being dissed by physicists worried about funding disappearing. And the pride from the state of Utah. I liked the negotiations with GE, and someone realizing that it didn't matter whether they gave away 25% or 40%, as the difference is either 15% of nothing or 15% of infinity. Very well-written; it felt that the guy did his homework well.

  • Alexander Feldman
    2019-04-14 18:03

    Before I read "Bad Science: The Short Life and Weird Times of Cold Fusion", I only suspected that with patience and persistence it is relatively easy to scam various organizations with dubious science. After reading this wonderful book, I am convinced that it is extremely easy. What is interesting is that the heroes of our story, the main perpetrators (Pons, Fleischmann, Bockris, Huggins-Stanford and many others), may have never understood what they were doing.Of course, the interesting question is what is the next cold fusion: quantum computing, the BRAIN initiative, FuturICT? Never mind, let's apply for grants and when it comes to delivering results: well, it works for those who believe in it.It was interesting to learn that the Stanford Research Institute spent millions of dollars (not its money) in pursuing cold-fusion. Sadly, an accident there killed one of the researchers involved in this useless pursuit of cheap and abundant energy.

  • Christopher Sutch
    2019-04-01 18:24

    This is a really terrific account of the cold fusion affair of a couple of decades back. I was still holding out some hope that cold fusion might be a possibility, even after this long, but Taubes set me straight. The amount of incompetence, ego(s),cross-disciplinary ignorance, and outright fraud involved was staggering. Taubes, who had reported on the controversy from the beginning, does an excellent job of detailing the events and actions of the major figures and reflecting on what went wrong and when. Very informative.

  • Robert
    2019-04-21 19:16

    I'm giving it 5 stars not because I know Gary, but because the story behind the book was so amazingly compelling at the time, and Gary has done a fantastic job in its retelling. Well-researched and well-written, Gary manages to tell the story, as well as insight into the scientific process (both good and bad) and academia. If anyone is unfamiliar with the story of "cold fusion" in 1989 and is interested, you should start with wikipedia and end with this book.

  • Mkovarik
    2019-03-30 19:27

    Really interesting and informative book. It's intimidatingly long, but it was a pretty fast read. I hadn't known much about the cold fusion debacle before I picked it up and I was surprised how many names I recognized from electrochemistry. The way in which a lot of scientists reacted, often irrationally, was pretty amazing in places. I guess thinking something will get you billions of dollars and a Nobel Prize can really change the way you act if you aren't careful.

  • Ben
    2019-03-31 22:20

    Excruciatingly thorough and without much climax. Very detailed about the interactions and phone calls but doesn't do much to explain the actual science of what was happening. Dozens and dozens of characters to keep track of. Like a mystery novel that ends without telling you who dunnit. Pleasant enough to read but can't see a reason to make time for a second trip through.

  • Amar Pai
    2019-04-22 00:21

    Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds

  • Pete Fergus
    2019-03-26 23:27

    A sad, hilarious, scary, and rivetting account of the cold fusion fiasco. A front row seat to the ultimate slow-motion train wreck.