Abbott, Alison. "Scientists Lose Cold Fusion Libel Case," Nature 380 (4 April 1996), p. 369.
Munich. Stanley Pons and Martin Fleischmann have lost an 8-billion-lire (US$6.3-million) libel
case that they brought two years ago against an Italian journalist who referred to their work on
‘cold fusion' as fraudulent.
The two scientists, who claimed to have achieved fusion of deuterium atoms at low temperatures
while working at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City in 1989, had objected to some
colourful wording in a review in La Repubblica by Giovanni Pace of a book about scientific
fraud by Axel Kahn, a prominent French geneticist, called False Prophets.
They sued the newspaper, and were joined in their legal action by three Italian scientists from the
University of Milan, Giuliano Preparata, Tullio Bressani and Emilio Del Giudice. These were not
mentioned by name, but believed that, as fellow advocates of cold fusion, they could be
identified from the review (see Nature 363, 107; 1993)
But the judge ruled that Pace's words represented an expression of the right to report and
criticize on the part of the journalist, and as such are not derogatory", and ordered the five
scientists to pay costs of L28.5 million. After hearing scientific evidence from experts
representing both sides, the judge concluded that the claim by Fleischmann and Pons to have
achieved cold fusion remained an unproven hypothesis.
He said that Pace's criticisms were justified on the basis of the existence of important opposition
from the scientific community, not just against the story of the research and the way the
experiments were conducted, but also the way the data were divulged and the conclusions
reached about the future direction of research'.