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Sunday, May 16, 2004

Brush with Quackery

I don't know why quacks hold such interest to the layman. To me, they seem easy to spot and then discount. Often they possess strong rhetorical skills, much like experienced TV infomercial pitchmen.

I once had a run-in with Prof. Martin Fleischmann (one-half of the infamous Cold Fusion duo). I was giving an invited presentation at a summer conference retreat. As I got into the Q&A session, Fleischmann with his distinctive Czech/British accent openly commented in the stupidest way possible. Even though most of the experiments and data I described in my presentation used present-day technology (circa 1987) he had the nerve to pronounce that most everything I reported on happened to be old news by the late 1920's. As I recall, this hit me hard until I found out more about his work at that time; even though he had expertise in electrochemistry, he wasn't well funded and had an out-of-date lab (according to other people at the conference I hazily recall).

Only a year or two later (circa 1989) did the loudmouth open his yap too wide and suffer ridicule on what some consider the Scientific Fiasco of the Century. Suffice to say, cold fusion will not meet any energy needs in our immediate future.

Robert L. Park also writes about quackery:
"Voodoo Science: The Road from Foolishness to Fraud"
I have to read this book, because I got introduced to Dr. Park when he visited my old grad school lab. I consider that a real brush with greatness.


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