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Festival of science Monday, 11 September, 2000, 11:21 GMT 12:21 UK
Arthur C Clarke demands cold fusion rethink
BBC
By BBC New Online's Jonathan Amos

The author and visionary Sir Arthur C Clarke says society has made a huge mistake in rejecting out of hand the idea that cold fusion may be possible.

And he mocked editors and journalists at the British Association's Festival of Science for not giving the technology serious consideration.

He said the age of fossil fuels was coming to an end and society needed to find new sources of energy. Cold fusion or other "anomalous sources of energy" might just turn out to be the answer, he said.

Cold fusion first hit the headlines in 1989 when researchers Martin Fleishmann and Stanley Pons suggested it was possible to generate heat through the fusion of atoms at normal temperatures.

But when leading scientists failed to reproduce their results and Fleishmann and Pons retracted some of their early claims, cold fusion was dismissed as nonsense.

Crooks and cranks

However, the research has gone on, with little funding and largely underground, and Sir Arthur said the results coming out of some labs demanded attention.

"Over the last decade there have been literally hundreds of reports from all over the world from highly qualified people and distinguished institutions of anomalous sources of energy," he said in a recorded video address to the festival.

"They may or may not be cold fusion and in some cases have nothing to do with nuclear power.

"Although there are lots of crooks, cranks and cowboys in this field, I believe there is now enough published evidence to prove that something strange is going on."

Carbon Age

He urged journalists to do serious investigation so that they could "start to see the future".

Sir Arthur also said he believed we were entering the Carbon Age. He prophesised that the discovery of molecules like C60 - the soccer ball-shaped cage of carbon atoms - would lead to extraordinary new materials.

"We will soon have materials a hundred times stronger than any metal and perhaps weighing no more than ordinary plastics," he said.

"Their impact on every aspect of life will be enormous: buildings that are kilometres high, and land, sea and air vehicles that are only a fraction of their present weight."

See also:

12 Oct 99 | Sheffield 99
22 Feb 00 | Washington 2000
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