Aggie Alchemy

John Bockris was known around Texas A&M as a chemist interested in "weird science." Joe Champion gave him all he could handle.

"If you become stubborn with him, then he begins to feel he cannot get the work done that he wants to get done," Bhardwaj explains. "Sometimes he can really force people hard to give the results he wants. Not that the man will tell lies. But if someone brings the results that [show] it is not working, Dr. Bockris can tune the results in such a way that it seems that it is working.

"My feeling after being with him is that he has contributed some 800 papers, written 20-some books. He's close to retiring. If he does the conventional electrochemistry, he will get ten more papers. For what? He doesn't care about the papers. What he wants is to make his name very big, or possibly get a Nobel Prize. He has told me, 'This is Nobel Prize work, and if you say that it works, you will share the Nobel Prize.' But my experiments did not show any indication that it works."

Did John Bockris believe he could turn mercury into gold? Probably not. Not once, in the mountain of correspondence he generated during the Philadelphia Project's lifetime, did he ever give transmutation a solid endorsement. In August 1992, he described the results as "very preliminary." Ten months later, searching for backers in a desperate attempt to keep the Project alive, he wrote the South African embassy, vaguely describing "experimental circumstances which can lead to the apparent production of" precious metals.

"I make this statement with reluctance," he admitted, "for it is inimical to the present views in physics."

Still, despite pressure from Telander to verify transmutation, news of which was never reported beyond the Development Foundation, and despite Ramesh Bhardwaj's insistence that the experiments were a sham, the Philadelphia Project endured.

It endured, it seems, because John Bockris did not believe in transmutation as much as he believed in Bill Telander and his deep pockets -- and A&M's willingness to dip into them. From the beginning, it appeared that Telander was quite willing to pour much more than $200,000 into the Project. Four months later, it was clear that Telander sought to get that money from other people -- and that Bockris had his own ideas about how it should be spent.

On July 25, 1992, Champion faxed Bockris a letter from the Engelhard Corporation, the world's largest refiner of precious metals. He reported that Engelhard had followed the Philadelphia Project guidelines for an experiment and had discovered 15 ppm of gold where none had existed before.

"Engelhard," Champion wrote, "has summoned Bill, [Project researcher Roberto] Monti, attorneys and myself to return on

the 29th solely for financial negotiations
purposes." According to sources and Philadelphia Project documents, the amount discussed was $10 million. Engelhard spokesman John Lederman says the company met with Telander and Champion but it quickly ruled out a deal. "There was concern that we were dealing with people somewhat less than credible," Lederman says.

In September 1992, while Bockris was in Argentina, Telander, Champion and Bhardwaj had dinner in Bryan with Randy Jackson, brother of singer Michael Jackson. With Jackson were his financial and scientific advisors. Since the beginning of the Philadelphia Project, Telander

had been trying to get $20 million out of the Jackson family, which has a reputation for colorful investments. Now, Jackson was at Texas A&M, where he witnessed some experiments and was being wooed by Telander and Champion.

But it was Bhardwaj who was put on the spot.
"Well, Dr. Bhardwaj," said Jackson's financial advisor, "you have worked on this project, you have seen the results. Would you invest money into it?"

"Probably not," Bhardwaj said. "But we are working on a waste-treatment process you might be interested in."

Funny Bhardwaj should mention that. A couple of weeks before the Jackson dinner, Bockris had begun what one chemistry professor calls "a bait and switch." Bockris had sent Champion two faxes discussing the future of the Philadelphia Project. In them, Bockris briefly outlined areas of study that, along with Champion's two methods for producing gold, now included cold fission and the synthetic production of iron from carbon.

But the lion's share of Bockris' fax message talked about the formation of a private research and development company to commercialize the electrochemical treatment of waste. Bockris pitched the business in great detail, including a learned discussion of commercial real estate prices in Bryan-College Station.

Bockris said the company could tap the resources of three other local research outfits -- Lynntech,

a biochemical company; RBC, or Rechargeable Battery Company; and something called B-CS Technology -- all firms that Bockris had set up with money from Houston financier Hampton Robinson. All three are staffed exclusively by former students of Bockris' and, because they have yet to bring a product to market, survive on government grants. (According to information from the state, Lynntech receives more Small Business Innovation Research funding than any other Texas company.)

Bockris also proposed sharing patent rights for the waste treatment process with two researchers and splitting a $500,000 cash payment for "discovering" the process. He said the cost of setting up the company and hiring six workers would be $1 million, with subsequent annual costs of $300,000. Champion responded the following day with a fax offering $200,000 per year.

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