Thursday, September 06, 2012

Science knowledge of politicians.

Mitt Romney believes in cold fusion
This makes me both amused and nostalgic. I was in the middle of the experiment that would provide the data for my dissertation in nuclear physics when the press release from Fleischmann and Pons came out. There was a big hubbub, and all sorts of impromptu conferences to discuss it.

They did bad science, in the sense that they went ahead and did a press release before getting any peers to review their data. They were so eager to patent, that they forgot the basics of academic research.

The months following were further amusing. Nuclear physicists that I knew weren't touching it. But physicists from other areas were trying to replicate the results. I'll never forget the sight of my roommate, a condensed matter student, setting up a neutron detector next to a electrolytic bath.

"Dave, you do know that if this thing works well enough to set off the neutron detector, you really ought to be wearing lead underwear, don't you?"

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