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Scientists should not quickly dismiss "cold fusion"

As a member of the MIT community, I have become increasingly embarrassed and, on more than one occasion, irritated by how "cold fusion" has been handled by some of our scientists. It is all right that we were not the first ones to report the discovery; it is also all right that we are still unable to duplicate the test, although our experiments are "at least as sophisticated as those at Utah."

But it is not all right to dismiss the Utah researchers' claims because of envy. And to attempt to block a congressional research grant for the project ["MIT prof voices doubts about cold fusion claims," April 28] is, simply put, mean.

I wish this whole "cold fusion" stuff were faulty, so that we could all sit back, relax, and enjoy watching our scientists score a few points for our community: they would be brilliant not because they discovered cold fusion first, but because they refuted it first. But this is not the issue here. Science is a lengthy process to discover the truth, which is not always obvious. Therefore, to remain open-minded and to believe the unbelievable -- at least to give it the benefit of the doubt -- are not necessarily bad pieces of advice to repeat to some of our absent-minded professors. I find it hard to believe that scientists all over the world are wrong about cold fusion, ranging from the ones working in little basement laboratories in the Third World to the ones at Stanford, whose qualifications are at least as good, if not better, than those of the leading carpers here. If information on the validity of the cold fusion experiment is lacking at this time, then shut up! Please remember that the poor guy working in the Utah lab is not required to pay tribute to the MIT empire with his findings.

The pride of our community should not depend on whether we are the first to discover or refute cold fusion. Working constructively with a proper sense of modesty, however, does help when the total scores are counted. If a "small-town" mentality becomes dominant in our scientific community, is the fall of the MIT empire still far away?

Jun Zhang G->