Sunday, July 8, 2007

Cold Death - Cold Fusion?

In the Super Saga Cold Death, Doc savage is confronted by a complex threat that includes a Cold Light Ray gun that not only can induce a rapid decrease in temperature but also cut a man in two and cause a few soft gumball like white lumps to create a massive blockbuster sized explosion. It is revealed that the villain has discovered a nuclear process deep in the ocean.

When I first read this story in the 1960s, I was certain that the Cold Light Ray was a laser beam. Lasers were able cut through materials and they were also able to apply counter vibrations to reduce the molecular movement -- and thus the temperture -- of select objects. Also there was talk at that time of using lasers to induce nuclear fusion. But that would require raising the temperature into the millions of degrees in a concentrated location.

It would not be until the 1980s that I learned about cold fusion. This is the theory that it could be possible to induce a hydrogen fusion reaction using Vanderwaal's forces between atoms and the affinity of hydrogen for the atoms of certain rare metals like Palladium. The reactions would occur at close to room temperture and be self-perpetuating.

The Cold Light Ray was a laser that had the capability of slowing molecular motion. Such a ray could cause a sudden collapsing phase change in a selected medium which then could induce a cold fusion reaction. The explosive "gum drops" in the story contained a combination of materials which included a large amount of hydrogen. When the ray struck them, the gumdrops under went a rapid shrinking pulse that induced a small CLEAN thermonuclear explosion.

Realizing the potential of this, Doc Savage has kept cold fusion secret for over 70 years.

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