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Cold Panacea

Two researchers proclaimed 20 years ago that they’d achieved cold fusion, the ultimate energy solution. The work went nowhere, but the hope remains.

It was like the cavalry had shown up.

Twenty years ago, newspapers and broadcasters burst with news from the campus of the University of Utah in Salt Lake City delivering what seemed a miracle. Its name was cold fusion. Its lure was simple: inexhaustible, clean and affordable energy.

A news conference is not a very professional way to introduce scientists to a major development in a field they’ve never even heard of. But university officials, spooked by fear that a rival researcher at nearby Brigham Young University might have stolen the idea, unloaded it hurriedly for the TV cameras and reporters scribbling in notebooks. The university didn’t pussyfoot around. The confident opening of the March 23 press release was:

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