>From time to time, people tell me that if only we had a practical device,
cold fusion research would be funded. McKubre and many others have pointed
that a practical device is the end-point of research, not where you start.
People don't seem to realize this. Over at lenr-forum.com someone wrote:
". . . nothing could have a larger world wide market than even a modest
compact space or water or food heater that runs long periods on a small
amount of inexpensive fuel."
That is obvious. But unhelpful. If we had anything remotely like that, we
could instantly get billions of dollars of investment money. If it were
generally known that such a machine existed, every industrial company on
earth would be frantically investigating it, and reverse engineering it at
the earliest opportunity.
The problem is to get from where we are now to the kind of thing you
describe. We have to go from something like the repeatable but low power
shown by Takahashi et al. and replicated by Beiting, to a larger, more
reliable version. If that can be done at all, it will take some amount of
money ranging from several million dollars to a billion dollars. I have no
idea where in that range it will cost. The thing is: *no one has any idea*.
No one knows whether it can be done, how it can be done, or how much it
will cost. If anyone tells you they know these things, that is a good
indication they don't know what they are talking about.
Finding an effective way to do cold fusion might require something like the
Wildcat Discovery Technologies approach, which must cost hundreds of
millions. I have no idea how much, but it sure looks expensive. It is
probably hundreds of times better than old fashioned manual R&D techniques.
Needless to say, there is not a snowball's chance in hell that anyone will
put that kind of money into cold fusion. It might take centuries to do the
same amount of research that this technique could accomplish in a year. So
we might never get there. We are trying to develop this without a theory,
so the pace of progress is likely to be the same as it was with technology
before 1700. The technique was mainly trial and error, so it took centuries
to accomplish what modern science can accomplish in decades.
So far, almost all of the investors and venture capitalists have been
unwilling to lift a finger or risk any money to make that transition. Other
than I.H. and the Mysterious Person funding Texas Tech., venture
capitalists have been useless. They are waiting for the outcome to be a
sure thing before they invest. As Mark Twain said about bankers, they will
only give you money when you don't need it.
Based on my experience, venture capitalists say they are in business of
taking risks, but most of them are lying. They do not actually want to take
risks. They want to invest in a sure thing that looks like a risk to other
people. Those other people know less about the product, so they will not
invest. This lowers the cost and lets the venture capitalist buy a larger
share from the people who developed the product (the inventors,
programmers, or businesspeople). Venture capitalists want to look as if
they are taking a risk, without actually taking one. Cold fusion is an
actual risk, so not one in a thousand venture capitalists will touch it.
The other problem with the present era is that money is sloshing around in
unprecedented amounts looking for a home, yet paradoxically the wealthy
have never been wealthier. There is no need for them to take risks, so they
will not take any. They can make a fortune by rentier capitalism. This was
situation in California after the discovery of gold in the 1850s, which is
why the Transcontinental Railroad could not be funded. San Francisco was
filled with millionaires who could make another million easily and without
much risk, by opening another gold or silver mine. The would literally --
actually -- light cigars with burning $100 bills to flaunt their wealth.
Not one of them would risk investing an railroad, because they could make
money without risk elsewhere. The railroad had to wait until Lincoln passed
a law under which the Federal government subsidized the construction and
lent a lot of money. Uncle Sam took most of the risk. It was a sure thing
after that. Capitalists such as Leland Stanford were then willing to risk
their own money, knowing that Uncle Sam had their back. (They might have
lost money, but it was unlikely. They did have to pay back the loans, but
they had decades to do that.) It was finished in 1869. The government made
a lot of money on the interest for the loans, so it benefited everyone. The
point is, capitalists would never have taken that risk on their own.
>From time to time, exceptionally stupid capitalists have actually said to
me: "This looks interesting. Call me if anyone ever comes up with a
reliable method of doing it." I try to answer politely: "We won't need you
if someone comes up a reliable method." What they are saying is akin to:
"if you go looking for gold, and you happen to find tons of it lying around
on the ground, free for the taking, I will be happy to come and take half
of it away from you in return for nothing." They don't seem to realize that
is what they are offering.