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

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

Gary Taubes. Random House (NY), $25 (503pp) ISBN 978-0-394-58456-0

Science journalist Taubes's chronicle of the cold-fusion episode is an engrossing cautionary tale. In 1989, University of Utah chemist Stanley Pons and his British collaborator Martin Fleischman made headlines worldwide with their announcement that they had created a sustained nuclear fusion reaction at room temperature in a chemistry lab. Their simple device supposedly promised a clean, virtually inexhaustible source of energy. But Taubes ( Nobel Dreams ), who has reported on cold fusion for the New York Times , faults Pons and Fleischman for amateurish, flawed experimental techniques and for offering ``virtually no data'' to support their claim. Pons is now working for a Japanese company, and Japan's Ministry of Trade and Industry is heavily funding a cold-fusion research program. Taubes considers these latest developments part of an ongoing fiasco--the quasi-scientific pursuit of a nonexistent phenomenon. He steers readers smoothly through the technical details in this scientific detective story. (June)