A Family Affair with Cold Fusion
For Ben Barrowes, cold fusion was a family affair. He remembers his father, a scientist, coming home and standing in front of the television, enthralled by the news of the cold fusion discovery, so much so that he ignored his family members. His father was convinced it was nuclear, and his excitement showed—and as Barrowes put it, his father wasn’t easily impressed. The enthusiasm was infectious. With AP Physics and AP Calculus under his belt, Barrowes attended the first ICCF as a teenager.
At ICCF1 in 1990, Barrowes was dazzled by the sharp, passionate scientists he met. Though a jovial atmosphere prevailed, some insisted that the discovery’s potential significance demanded a more serious approach. Barrowes recalled that, in response to a joke, Giuliano Preparata stood out of the audience, walked to the microphone, turned it around to face the audience, and said, “Everybody, the world is looking at us to solve this question for them. And we have to be serious and do that.” Barrowes describes this moment as a turning point. “I've always wanted to get back into LENR/cold fusion since that time.”
Many years later, as of 2020, Barrowes is back in the game, following in his father’s footsteps and picking up the pieces of some experiments his father had worked on related to the Pons and Fleischmann findings. The general spirit in the field has buoyed Barrowes, who was excited to see more interest and serious attention paid to a beleaguered area of study. A few years ago, Barrowes noticed that the Army and Navy were starting to think about it again as a potential long-term research project or “game changer.” But the most significant “boon,” he suggests, is the ARPA-E funding. Barrowes plays a role on two teams that have received ARPA-E awards. This ARPA-E funding will, he hopes, pave the way for more research funding at the federal level.
Despite this increased interest, the field remains friendly to newcomers and fosters a congenial atmosphere. As Barrowes told me, “We're kind of co-conspirators almost in this [somewhat fringe] area ... .So we're chummy. There's not too much animosity or competition, which can happen in other fields when you're competing for money.” Barrowes encourages study in the field, telling me that we need “new blood” to enter the collaborative community.