The legendary scientist Max Planck once quipped, “science progresses one funeral at a time.”
Planck was spot on in this observation and for years I have carried that bit of wisdom as an internal reality check in some tiny nook of my soul.
It has helped to keep me sane in the face of the shrieking of dogmatic self-proclaimed priests and plebes of science who strive to spread hatred and delay of new science by their words and deeds from behind thin veils of pathological ‘skepticism.’
But as time has been passing in my own decades of working in the doggedly slow frontier sciences I have learned the corollary that Planck did not mention. Sadly while the enemies of new ideas commonly have to die before new ideas are accepted as Planck was speaking when he made that quip; the flip side corollary is that not only the enemies of new ideas die, all too frequently that same passage of time takes from us the progenitors of those new ideas.
This week one more of the good men of cold fusion took his place in passing through the special cold fusion pearly gates. He joins men I have been fortunate to count as friends and colleagues and with whom I became such two or more decades ago because of our common fascination, even passion, with the science of cold fusion. The passing of Richard Oriani at the age of 95 was not unexpected though when someone I know and consider a friend does pass on I am always struck with fond memories.
My first friend in this field of cold fusion who passed was Guilliano Preparata who I became friends with at the first cold fusion conference in Salt Lake City. Guilliano and the rest of a couple hundred of us were sitting in a lecture hall listening to the apoleptic delivery of a tirade against cold fusion by one of its pathological critics. Guilliano could finally no longer take the insulting tirade and lept not only to his feet but onto his chair to make himself heard by the speaker. In more than a few words he chastised and derided the man for being an imbecile and Guilliano’s Italian comrades pulled him down from his chair admonishing him about his reaction and in showing some impropriety.
Guilliano left the room as I did neither willing nor able to listen to more of the imbecilic speakers tirade. I was speaking to Guilliano outside the room reassuring him that I for one valued his passionate words above all else. At that moment Martin Fleischmann suddenly wrapped his arms around both Guilliano and I and proclaimed, “You are right Russ, we are all passionate men, that is what is most important in science and life.” There we three became friends. Guilliano was the first of a few of my cold fusion friends to pass, many years later Martin followed.
Now every time a friend in this field passes I feel regret that they have not lived long enough to see this fabulously field of science in which we shared a true passion become popularly acclaimed and put to the fabulous good use it offers as a cheap, clean, infinite source of energy so desperately needed on this small blue planet that is withering under the onslaught of fossil fuel burning. I am also aware that while the list of cold fusion Angels grows so does the list of cynical cold fusion devils surely sent to roast in their well earned scorching fires. I need not name those suffering imbeciles they are well known to their new master. Max Planck was right if not complete in his words of wisdom.
To the gatekeeper of the laboratory where the host of cold fusion angels who were my friends still gather in passionate love of science no matter how ‘outside the box’, Guilliano Preparata, Linus Pauling, Art Schawlow, Martin Fleischmann, John Bockris, Bud Zumwalt, Edward Teller, Michel Boudart, Scott and Talbot Chubb, I submit the name Richard Oriani from whom I learned valued knowledge and wish that he is made welcome to the most interesting of conversations on science by his kindred spirits in the great beyond. I will help keep the candles burning here until one day I might join you all once again.
I sometimes hear the following song in my mind’s ear when thinking of my dear departed cold fusion friends.