In a comment to a recent blog of mine, a friend from New Zealand pointed me at some interesting observations. One of them was a URL to an article on a recent conference on 'cold fusion', a field of science that has long suffered from being seriously maligned by those in scientific power and their supporters. And no wonder: how dare chemistry invade the domain of physics and tell them what's what, right? How dare these upstarts, who work in labs with test tubes and comparatively small-scale electronics compete for truth with those who waste untold gigawatts in the LHC—which probably won't give them the answers they so eagerly seek, but may also endanger the very future of our planet.†
One of the fascinating snippets in the article was a throwaway clause in a sentence which read like this:
The presentations [at the conference] describe invention of an inexpensive new measuring device that could enable more labs to begin cold fusion research; indications that cold fusion may occur naturally in certain bacteria; progress toward a battery based on cold fusion; and a range of other topics.
That reminded me of the French scientist, Louis Kervran, who many years ago wrote a book called Biological Transmutation, of which I have had a copy for many years and which is now available, minus the figures, on the internet. In it, he reported on his experiments, painstakingly performed with the passion of a true experimental scientist, which appear to demonstrate that not only 'cold fusion' may occur in living systems, but a lot of other elemental changes. Since these are obviously performed at energies far too low to be compatible with the models of physics, which require energies far in excess of what biochemical systems can muster, these results have been mocked at length. Kervran was thus relegated to the scientific fringe, and nowadays is hailed mostly by alternative-medicine advocates, new agers and the like.
I'm wondering if maybe one day soon, he may end up having the last laugh—and, despite my physics training I'll definitely laugh with him. The metaphor that leaps to mind is that of opening a door. You can smash it in or you can use a key. And just because it seem like nature by and large tends to open subatomic doors by smashing, that doesn't mean that they don't have locks that can be picked with the appropriate keys.
And here's a little snippet that might be of interest: the US Navy is actually taking these things seriously enough to fund cold fusion studies.
† Yes, I am definitely in the 'alarmist' anti-LHC camp. The idea that the thing's running right now at full blast gives me occasional nightmares and causes acute attacks of anxiety and nausea. And they spent 9 billion dollars on this monstrosity...