HAFNIUM-178: JUST WHEN YOU THINK LIFE CAN’T GET ANY SILLIER.
The cover of Popular Mechanics for May proclaims the dawn of the age of atomic airplanes powered by miniature nuclear reactors. These are not old-fashioned fission reactors. These are the new “quantum nucleonic reactors,” a.k.a. hafnium-178 isomer reactors. The problem with fission reactors was that they required too much shielding. The problem with the hafnium-178 reactor is that it doesn’t exist. Carl Collins at U. of Texas, Dallas, claimed to be able to trigger decay of the hafnium-178 nuclear isomer with x-rays. That would be a miracle, but several other groups found it just doesn’t happen. That detail was left out of the Popular Mechanics story, which contains nothing beyond the New Scientist story a year ago (WN 15 Aug 03). The hafnium-178 isomer avalanche now seems destined to join hydrinos, zero-point energy, gravity shields, cold fusion and all the other free-energy fantasies that only work for believers. In the paranormal world this is known as “the investigator effect.”