4 scientific theories that we had to come back to later

cold fusion

CRPP-EPFL, Swiss-Euratom Association

My BFA hurts just looking at this.

If you were around in 1989, you might remember the scientific explosion of interest in the idea of ​​“cold fusion”. You might also wonder what happened to it, given that it was touted as a hugely important scientific discovery that would propel us into the future. Well, you might also know that scientists are, for good reason, obsessed with replicating test results successfully. After all, if something is meant to be truth forever now, you should be able to do it more than once. This is where cold fusion failed to make the cut.

I’m not going to try to explain cold fusion in detail, as it would end up with my brain dripping from my ears like pink queso, but here’s a very cursory overview. First of all, “cold” in this case doesn’t mean anything near freezing. It simply means nuclear fusion that can occur at room temperature instead of particularly hot places like, say, the interior of a star. This is what Martin Fleischmann and Stanley Pons thought they had achieved. Maybe they should have tried several times before calling the rest of the world, because it’s could never be reliably reproduced. Their results are now generally considered “experimental errors”, a scientific way of saying “they screwed up”.


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