I'm quite familiar with StackOverflow, a predecessor to this site. StackOverflow is an essential resource for software developers, and I suspect that this physics site will be helpful here.
The replies to the above post make for interesting reading. The original poster asked what went wrong in the experiments that underlay claims of cold fusion. Following are some of the main points that people responded with:
- Any sort of fusion will require that nuclei overcome Coulomb repulsion.
- Calorimetry of the kind Pons and Fleischmann were attempting is difficult to do right, and they were subtracting a large number from a large number.
- The results could not be reproduced by other scientists.
One of the longer replies was from Ron Maimon, a member of the site who is more sympathetic to the validity of the LENR experimental results. He does not have a PhD in physics and is self-taught, and his reply only got one vote. But his reputation is in the top 0.3 percent, and he seems to have some knowledge of the topic (a lot of which mirrors details in Mallove's and Beaudette's books). He referred to the process described in Widom-Larsen as "inverse beta decay." He thought this particular explanation was erroneous for several reasons:
Weak Force Neutron production: The Widom Larson theory claims that it is possible for a proton and an electron to do inverse beta decay on the surface of a metal, where there are large local electric fields. This is preposterous, because of the MeV difference in proton and neutron mass. It requires millions of volts to accelerate an electron to enough energy to be able to do an inverse beta-decay, and such energies are not available on the surface of a metal. Further, this theory will predict transmutations of plus/minus one mass unit predominanatly, which is not observed, and does not explain how a deuteron can absorb an electron.While Maimon's explanation was interesting, his review of the existing theories, including Widom-Larsen, seems a little cavalier. This article about work at Brookhaven National Laboratory talks about the formation of heavy electrons under extreme conditions, which act as though they were hundreds or thousands of times heavier than normal electrons. My question is whether this detail is relevant to the point Maimon was making; what if, for example, the "coherence domains" Widom and Larsen talk about provide the necessary energy to accelerate the electrons to a mass that will trigger inverse beta decay? And what does Maimon mean, exactly, when he says that "such energies are not available on the surface of a metal." I would also like to know more about the objection concerning transmutations. Presumably the objection about deuterons would not apply to an Ni-H system.
The most popular reply (nineteen votes) included a reference to a 1989 article in Nature by Koonin and Nauenberg discussing how much the electron mass would need to increase for cold fusion to occur at rates corresponding to claimed observations. What is the connection to electron mass when we're talking not about inverse beta decay but, instead, normal fusion? Or maybe they were referring to something similar to Muon-catalyzed fusion?