Tuesday, September 15, 2009

On picnic coolers in science and learning from each other

In 2009, the use of a picnic cooler ("beer cooler") was highlighted in the story The $150 Space Camera: MIT Students Beat NASA On Beer-Money Budget:

The two students (from MIT, of course) put together a low-budget rig to fly a camera high enough to photograph the curvature of the Earth. Instead of rockets, boosters and expensive control systems, they filled a weather balloon with helium and hung a styrofoam beer cooler underneath to carry a cheap Canon A470 compact camera.

Flash back twenty years to 1989, and the use by Professor Robert A. Huggins of a picnic cooler in his "anomalous heat" (aka "cold fusion") experiment, which use would be ridiculed in the spring 1989 meeting of the American Physical Society [APS] in Baltimore. Then, of course, flash forward to 2009 again to "60 Minutes" covering cold fusion. The APS was not thrilled by an (accurate) allusion to their helping "60 Minutes" so that the offending part of the story got Sikahema'd right off the internet.

Go figure.

**Of the poem by Walter Myerhof at the APS in 1989:

."Tens of millions of dollars at stake,
Dear sister and brother
Because scientists put a thermometer
At one place and not another."

**For a summary of the 1989 APS talks

**Of the APS meeting in 1989, one blog writes:

"For all practical purposes," Goodstein wrote, "the cold fusion episode ended a mere five weeks after it began on May 1, 1989. All three scientists from Caltech [Steven Koonin, Nate Lewis and Charlie Barnes] executed between them a perfect slam-dunk that cast cold fusion right out of the arena of mainstream science."

**Of Professor Huggins' take on secrecy at the university:

"We got in trouble with our money source," Huggins said. "Our project manager wanted to set up a private company, so he wanted to keep everything real secret. And he got upset at us because we were telling people what we were doing.

"Santucci got very upset because we had visitors, and we were openly telling them what we were doing. You just cannot keep an activity in a university secret. The purpose of a university is for people to learn from each other.


Blogger Jed Rothwell said...

They ridiculed the use of picnic cooler? They must not have been chemists. I have seen coolers in chemistry labs and hospitals all over the world. Anyway, Huggins et al. used plenty of expensive lab equipment as well. See:


Huggins discussed the work at the NSF/EPRI conference. His presentation and a transcript of his comments are here:


Regarding Prof. Garwin's remarks (cited by Park in the link you provide), the Pentagon paid Garwin to go to SRI and evaluate McKubre's work. He filed a report saying that he found no errors. So, either he was lying to the CBS audience or he lied to the Pentagon. The error that he cited -- mismeasuring input power -- makes no sense. Garwin knows as well as I do that in many instances there is no input power, but only output power, at levels as high as 100 W, continuing for hours or days. A link to Garwin's report is here:


- Jed Rothwell
Librarian, LENR-CANR.org

6:20 PM  

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