Trapped between true mysteries and beauty of the universe and the directorate of approved thought.
A start on the book – Preface
In the 60’s two Russian brothers by the name of Strugatsky used the meme of Science Fiction to write about the intersection of humanity, science, and directorates all thrown together in a strange ecology. Their story, Snail On A Slope, reveals the plight of being trapped between what the supreme directorate approves of as truth and truth.
The Strugatsky book suggests to me a metaphor, even a meme, for the story of cold fusion, a reminder on how things are in our world of watchers and doers, the perversity of the physics directorate, and an inspiration to keep going however slow progress seems to be.
In the novel novel there exist two worlds, two different societies, each one living by their own rules. The main characters through whose eyes we see are in an uncertain relationship with their peculiar ecology and authority of the directorate.
Kandid and Pepper are scientists, people of the mind. They are both “sickened by the melancholy for understanding” and until the end they will seek the truth – but each one in different way.
Pepper, who just recently was dreaming about freedom and happiness for everyone, upon experiencing authority, is afraid to resist the directorate but yearns to do so. He yearns to enter a mystic forest but is trapped on a cliff top where he can only glimpse it. He is forbidden from entering it by the state directorate who fears whatever knowledge is to be found in the forest will disrupt their official state fiction. He toes the line and inspite of his yearning does nothing more than watch.
Kandid, who is stronger and happier than Pepper, manages to understand the reality when he ends up in the forest. After encountering mysteries of the forest and the unexpected forces therein. Despite some obvious weakness, Kandid decides not to surrender under any circumstances, he promises himself to be the little stone that breaks “the millstone on progress” and in doing so becomes – the snail on the slope. He is the proactive one either marooned or blessed to be in a forest of untold truths made of magic and wonder. His suffering includes the fact that the forest is ruled by a race of ruthless parthenogenic amazons that tolerate his male presence but offer little else. He can see the beauty within but not partake of it, could a man imagine a more frustrating torture.
Trials and Tribulations Of Cold Fusion
It seems to me that the late Strugatsky brothers crafted a near perfect metaphor for the trials and tribulations of the past quarter century of cold fusion. For the vast majority of the human milieu the ‘wisdom’ of the physics directorate is unchallenged and that directorate has ruled that the forest that holds cold fusion, an ultimate infinite form of clean nearly free energy that most certainly can save the world from the ravages of fossil fuels, would surely disrupt the energy-wealth establishment and thus must be denied by any and all means possible. In spite of the directorates control and influence some few have found themselves in the mysterious forest where reality defies dogma and observations of simple truths beg to be shared with the outside world. But alas there is the problem of there being no way apparent to get safely out of the forest and back into dissident comfort in society at large. Life in the forest would not be so bad save for those very frustrating facts of truth and life therein.
Another few players in this ecology of cold fusion find themselves sitting on the cliff, watchers of the slow motion progress of the snail(s). As observers from inside the box they can see just a little of the mysteries of the forest which to them is enshrouded in fog. They yearn to participate but are held back and frustrated by fear of the supreme directorate. Even as they merely look on they find the directorates approval of their residence in the hostel near the forbidden forest can be revoked leaving them without shelter. In the case of cold fusion that directorate is in part the relentless high priests and old guard of “science.” They are supported by countless loyal followers who are marshalled regularly to shrieks of the ridicule and hatred typical of a religious mob.
Will we ever find a way out of this frustrating dilema. Perhaps but the speed at which new truths makes progress is that of a snail.
Martin Fleischmann first glimpsed the mysterious forest 60 years ago. He remained careful not to reveal his interest for 30 years while he enjoyed the position of grace he held as a scientist within the establishment, a tenured professor of chemistry. As he told me he needed to provide for his family and could simply not expect to remain in his professorial job were he to go off exploring areas of too much mystery. Arthur C. Clarke summed this dilema up in saying that new science is often so unusual as to be indistinguishable from magic. And we of course know that the directorates approved institutions of science eschew all forms of magic.
Only late in life with his career officially changed into emeritus state of grace did Martin dare to walk into the forest. There finding new wonders was like picking fruit from an untouched orchard. The problem as Martin found was there was no means to get back out of the forest to share the fruits of discovery. A few of us have followed Martin’s footsteps.
Stan Pons who was not retired and under the protection of emeritus grace was the first to accompany Martin into the mysterious forest. He paid the dear price Martin had chosen to avoid during his career and Stan reached a point where he could no longer remain, he had a family to preserve and protect. The toll required of him to leave the forest however was that he had to give up on the discoveries therein.
As we explore deeper and deeper into the atom-ecology of the unknown, going ever deeper into that forest we find the footsteps of many who have entered and become lost. Some who have entered and left paying the same exit toll as Pons. Very very few seem to be able to flit in and out of the forest sampling a taste of its fruits and retaining upon exiting the ability to convey that knowledge to the outside world. It helps to have lived a lifetime outside of the directorates boxes. But even so trying to convey that knowledge it is as one is a snail on a slope, it is an agonizingly slow process. Or at least it seems so from the perspective of one lifetime.
Stay tuned for coming chapters on the intersection of fiction and truth and passion in the wonderful cold fusing world of atom ecology. The book is planned to be as much a historical exploration of the personalities and psychology of cold fusion as the science.
Here is an experiment, Would you help crowd fund my book with a commitment to buy one or more copies?
Followers of the directorate needn’t bother.
Note: The wonderful artist rendition of the Strugatsky snail on a slope is by artist Valery Petelin.