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Is fusion power closer than we realize?

Post in 'The Green Room' started by begreen, Nov 19, 2006.

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  1. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    This is a presentation by Dr. Robert Bussard to an audience at Google. His talk (1.5 hrs.) discusses a breakthrough in electrostatic containment that can produce several orders of magnitude higher fusion power than previous electrostatic machines. Now all he needs is money.

    Dr. Bussard is one of the founders of the fusion program and doesn't have the kindest things to say about the entrenched forces now running the program.

    But I suspect he'll get funding, perhaps from Google?? This seems to have far greater promise than earlier programs and should scale very well.

    http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=1996321846673788606

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  2. DriftWood

    DriftWood Minister of Fire

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    Good luck, electrostatic containment is a hard nut to crack. I have been watching this process develop for 30 years now. Even if he has found the key: Will the lobbyists in Washington let it happen? I would love to be on the ground floor invested when fusion power takes off.
  3. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    I don't think he is looking at the current administration for funding. Sometimes that's the slowest route and he is not young. But with competing space vehicles being developed by the private sector it may be that he is looking there instead. Did you watch the video? I'd like to get your perspective.
  4. Corey

    Corey Minister of Fire

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    Dr. Bussard has some interesting ideas, especially concerning the proton / boron 11 fusion reaction which is the holy grail of power generation - and admittedly the hardest fusion reaction to light. But as he touches on early in the video, the products of the reaction are pure helium, no neutrons. Although I'm sure some enviro-whacko's will even gripe about releasing helium into the atmosphere. There are several web sites dedicated to some of his work. I guess the basic claim so far is a "p+11b" reactor that is approximately 3 meters in diameter, 14 tons in weight and produces 8 gigawatts of power.

    I guess if his theories are good enough for Star Trek (I have heard them mention the "Bussard collectors" a couple of times in reference to the Dr's theory of an "interstellar ramjet fusion engine") it would at least be neat to watch the entire video. I would also think that $200 million would be pocket change for alternative energy research considering the billions poured into other avenues of research.

    Corey
  5. jjbaer

    jjbaer New Member

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    I think what we need here is for the President to take a page out of the "John Kennedy play book" and issue a challenge similar to Kennedys "race to the moon"..........tell the scientific community we'll pony up unlimited money/people and challenge them to get it done in the next 12 years..........until then we're working with this CF called the "rest of the world"...........
  6. webbie

    webbie Seasoned Moderator Staff Member

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    I got to see the experiments at Princeton some years ago - wow, talk about plumbing!

    Turns out on of my customers at the store was making parts for them - he had a little machine shop in his house (a one man show). It's amazing how even such big projects come down to individuals and their skills.

    I'm pretty stupid in the physics dept, but I do have a lot of faith in those who study this and are trying. Would they be chasing the impossible? Certainly that could be, but enough people are working and thinking about it to make it viable. If it can happen, it will happen.

    Then again, I think scientists were fairly lucky in finding out that regular fission can happen just by putting two pieces next to each other (or a faster reaction by quickly ramming them).

    One of my theories of invention is that complicated things end up being relatively simple. Who would have thought that a photographic process on sand (integrated circuits) would be the holy grail? We usually start at the most complicated way to do things and then, over the generations, find out what is NOT needed.

    If true, that means we'll have fusion central heating units in about 500 years......and Hearth.com will be a thing of the past! Gone to to dust....digital dust.
  7. Corey

    Corey Minister of Fire

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    [quote author="castiron" date="1164135666]
    I think what we need here is for the President to take a page out of the "John Kennedy play book" and issue a challenge similar to Kennedys "race to the moon"..........tell the scientific community we'll pony up unlimited money/people and challenge them to get it done in the next 12 years..........until then we're working with this CF called the "rest of the world"...........[/quote]

    Creepy! I have had that same thought for years now as well. I really think we can accomplish anything we put our collective mind and effort into. I was really hoping the early years of this century might lead to something like "I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of building a viable fusion powerplant and operating it safely" Although no president has seemed willing or able to take a leadership role on something as drastic as fusion power.

    I really hope I live to see the day when fusion power is cheap and viable source of energy and we can give the middle east the middle finger. Although I suspect we will then be sending massive care packages to them as we do with the rest of the world, because when oil becomes essentially worthless, there are going to be many middle eastern countries facing economic collapse.

    Corey
  8. jjbaer

    jjbaer New Member

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    Web,

    I agree...that's why we need more than one group working on the "holy grail".......because, as you say, there may be more than one way to do it and that way may be simpler than how we're going about it now. BIG CF "world consortiums" never solved major problems FAST.....small groups with unlimited money/manpower and little to no bureaucracy do it MUCH BETTER. Now, I hate to bring up a topic that a lot of you will despise (because it congures up visions of war) but the Manhattan Project is such an effort: unlimited $, unlimited people, little-to-no bureaucracy and good old US know how and we cracked that nut!! We can do the same for fusion but NOT anytime soon working with the CF called the "rest of the world"......

    That's why I said we need a "race to the moon" equivalent for fusion!
  9. webbie

    webbie Seasoned Moderator Staff Member

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    Sort of funny to have iron promoting a "great cultural leap forward" - The Chairman (Mao) would have liked that one (ducking and running)....

    But I do agree. Two heads are better than one - as long as one is thinking and the other is financing!

    An interesting comparison is that of complicated software and music. Some of the best programs in the world - and certainly the best music, has been created by either individuals or small teams. In fact, this happens to be the main place where Bill Gates went wrong. He envisioned a "software factory", where brute force would be able to do much better than finesse.....didn't work out that way!

    Examples: Photoshop, virtually every song ever written.

    A Program like we are talking about could be an entire Energy Unbrella, with Fusion, Alternative Energy and the like rolled into one. The "race" would be a certain percentage of fuel NOT from oil or dirty coal. It's nothing new - Denmark has been doing it for more than a decade and has really gotten somewhere. The point being that we can't forget to solve the present problems (security, pollution), while we look at the pie-in-the-sky future.

    We need a leader in this effort - yes, we still respond best to the "tribal" instinct, and folks need a rallying cry. Bush is not the man....he throws stuff out there like "let's go to mars" and sees what sticks (nothing has). We need a true believer - folks can tell when you are serious or not.

    It's tough to finance the future when you are paying too much for the present and the past - but that's another story. We can start small.
  10. jjbaer

    jjbaer New Member

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    Web,

    "Castiron" has always been for self-sufficiency and getting off oil and and to do that, we need to expand the technological envelope to encompass multiple-disciplines (wind, hydro, solar, fusion, etc)...whatever it takes. All I'm saying is that if you want something to get done, you do it yourself!!! You don't form a CF with the rest of the world where we all "hold hands", sing "kumba ya" and "we are the world", etc as nothing gets done....... Instead, you need rapid response teams who know their tasks and are given the $, people and shelter from "bureaucracy" to get the task done.....

    We did it in the Manhatten Project and it worked! We did it for the moon race, and it worked! All I'm saying is let's do it for energy!
  11. babalu87

    babalu87 New Member

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    The Government (not just Bush ETC but ALL OF THEM) being for anything other than BIG Oil

    I dont EVER see ANY of the current parties going for that the way they are currently constituted.
  12. webbie

    webbie Seasoned Moderator Staff Member

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    cast, your are correct that it takes a big effort, but once again I think you fail to see the changes that have occured in the world. If the moon race were held today, a lot of the software code would be written in India and the rockets would most likely come from Russia (better rockets, by almost any measure). The chips would come from korea, japan and taiwan, and the computers also.

    That is the reality of today......fueled by the internet. In other words, Physics - fusion being one big example, was a big reason the internet was invented! CERN is a Swiss (European) physics lab where Tim Bernards-Lee (inventor of the WWW) was working!
    http://public.web.cern.ch/Public/Welcome.html

    The reason is simple and clear and has nothing to do with either God or Country. It is something I realized in about 1995 after much reading - including "being digital" one of the best texts on the subject.

    Here is my take on this "mass intelligence"....using an example:

    Pre-Internet
    A physics lab in Europe makes a discovery about something that works - one tiny piece of a puzzle.
    The knowledge is written into a white paper and submitted to trade journals
    The paper is published (maybe or maybe not) and other scientists get to read it adjust their experiments - in other words, they learn from others mistakes or successes.
    Time Elapsed: Many Months.....

    Post-Internet
    The lab makes a similar discovery
    The physics community has been following the experiment as it happened
    The knowledge is spread instantly to anyone who needs it.

    The same thing can revolutionize just about any field of research - especially medicine! Trial and error, which is the way we learn, is speeded up by a factor that is almost too high to measure. If you speculate that thousands of decisions and experiments have to be made (maybe millions) to perfect fusion, you can see the vast difference in time that would be involved.

    So. actually, yes - we ARE right now holding hands with smart people around the world and (sort of) singing Kumbaya - and it is vastly better than experimenting within our own caves.
  13. jjbaer

    jjbaer New Member

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    With the current group of incompetents on both sides of the aisle, I agree!
  14. webbie

    webbie Seasoned Moderator Staff Member

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  15. jjbaer

    jjbaer New Member

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    Web,

    Excellent analogy.....you sound like an engineer...a clear, concise, and mostly correct analogy......BUT......sometimes if you "gotta have it NOW", you make those trade-offs to go with the people you have at the moment (in this case, US technology) and then throw wads of $, people and NO bureaucracy at it and you will probably beat the rest of the world because they, JUST LIKE THE UN, are bureaucrats...... a decision that could be made here in a quick reaction think-tank in a millisecond takes months of agonizing by those other weenies as they bicker amongst themselves........ I also think however, that you under-estimate the "grey matter" resident here in the USA by its citizens to attack this problem and solve it faster than a CF of countries. I say this because many of our best and brightest were at one time citizens of other countries but are now US citizens, so, in essence, we already do have in this country alone, "grey matter" from all over the world.

    Other examples of success where we went at it pretty much alone: development of stealth technology (SR-71, etc), Manhattan Project, race to the moon, etc.

    Also, your example of the young student working on fusion makes my point: he had an idea, funding, support with little to no bureaucracy to impede his work and look what he accomplished.......

    Don't forget Web, our history IS one of success that when we attack a problem and pour $, manpower and NO bureaucracy at it, it gets solved............all I'm saying is let's not discard a working model that's brought about past success.........
  16. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Wow, I don't disagree with a word that's been said in this thread. Boy is that heartening. Bussard's concern is that the biggest obstacle right now may be entrenched forces. Castiron, you alluded to this earlier with ITER. Even if they are headed down the wrong path, they are not about to give up funding for a more direct path.
  17. jjbaer

    jjbaer New Member

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    Not so much that they're necessarily headed down the wrong path but that IF they are AND given their "juggernaut status", they may not be willing and/or able to change it. All I'm saying is that if we threw massive $'s against it AND we got the bureaucrats out of the picture AND told the finest minds in the USA to work on this and guaranteed them jobs even after it's cracked, we'd get the job done much more quickly and cheaper. When I was in the military we called these "tiger team concepts" except this would be one very large and expensive undertaking.

    Also, saying that the only way to crack fusion is to do it as a "world-wide team effort" belies the fact that historically, we've been able to solve most other problems right here in the good old US of A yet now we're entwined in this world-wide CF and I don't see the end in sight anywhere in the near future.....! As Walter Brennan used to say in the old western sitcom of years ago that he starred in, "no brag, just fact"!
  18. webbie

    webbie Seasoned Moderator Staff Member

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    Cast, while I agree that 300 million people is enough to solve MOST problems, it is untrue ideas that we have been able to solve most problems here....keep in mind your vaulted manhattan project:

    Albert Einstein — Place of Birth: Ulm, Germany
    Enrico Fermi - Born: 1901 Birthplace: Rome, Italy
    (Given our current anti-immingration policies, we are probably keeping out some potential future helpers!)

    No way we would have anything close to our rocket, jet, misslie and space technology without our Nazi friends:
    "The US captured a large number of German rocket scientists (many of whom were members of the Nazi Party, including von Braun - an SS) and brought them to America".

    This included 119 German rocket scientists - von Braun created the program to go to the moon and made it happen - certainly we financed it, but he did the design and calculations.

    So while we have our share of smart folks, this great big world has people both ahead of us and behind us....depending on what day and age.

    BTW, a similar number of German rocket scientists also went to Russia and helped establish their program. Russia sent them home after 5 years, which probably explains why we made the moon first (von braun and team worked for decades).

    I remember reading about the "core" of sophisticated computer operating systems. At the time, an expert studying them said that there were a finite number of people on the earth who could create these! At the time, the number was something like 60. It was not just a matter of education, but a matter of a powerful mind.

    Point being that folks like Einstein and Von Braun can be ONE in a billion or more (less than 6 on the earth - maybe NONE in USA) . I'm more than willing to have some Brit or Chinese person come up with the solution to energy problems. Unlike the movies, they are unlikely to make it into a death ray.....and more likely to commercialize and license it.
  19. jjbaer

    jjbaer New Member

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    You missed my comment on pg 1 of this thread where I said the following about people like Braun, and Einstein who came from other countries::

    "I also think however, that you under-estimate the “grey matter” resident here in the USA by its citizens to attack this problem and solve it faster than a CF of countries. I say this because many of our best and brightest were at one time citizens of other countries but are now US citizens, so, in essence, we already do have in this country alone, “grey matter” from all over the world. "

    Comment: so...when you point out that we got to the moon on the backs of Von Braun and others who were not born here, I already mentioned that in my response on pg 1 of this thread. They might have come from other countries but many became and are US citizens. That could be said for a large percentage of people because so many came here from other countries over the last 100 years. BUT, my point was, and still is, that we could do this effort faster and cheaper than this CF of countries is doing, that's all. And, what you refuse to recognize is that although we've done similar things over and over and over again here in the USA, for some reason you don't seem to think we could crack the fusion nut on our own........Webmaster, Webmaster, Webmaster......where has you faith in American know-how gone......LOL......?
  20. Corey

    Corey Minister of Fire

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    While I see your point, I believe anyone from any country can still enter this country by following the lawful procedures for immigration, no? On the converse, I don't know of any great technological achievements that have ever been developed by any illegal immigrants.

    Corey
  21. jjbaer

    jjbaer New Member

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    Good connection that ties it all together.... In fact when you said:

    "I believe anyone from any country can still enter this country by following the lawful procedures for immigration, no?"

    this is my point exactly! They've already done it (come here) and most have already become US citizens and in that sense, we ALREADY have "grey matter" from all over the globe, right here in the good old US of A!! So....why go elsewhere? let's get this done here and NOW!!
  22. DriftWood

    DriftWood Minister of Fire

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    Just remember when flying you will need to follow lawful procedures and a USA Passport to get your grey matter back home, from across the border into this country as of 1/23/07. All other nationals will need a Passport and may need a visa.
  23. webbie

    webbie Seasoned Moderator Staff Member

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    So, you could forced conscription of German SS scientists (who might have hung otherwise) as legal immigration?

    I would say that probably breaks both international and our own laws - naturalizing top SS officers who designed weapons that killed civilians in an indiscriminate fashion (V-1 and V-2).

    The point is, the brains on both these famous people were not a result of the American melting pot, and in the case of Von Braun, had nothing at all to do with America!

    I do have a lot of faith in American "can do", which differs slightly from "know how". I think our best traits are thinking big and the ability to take a chance and go against the grain.

    However, we are just limiting ourselves if we do not stand on the shoulders of the giants who came before us, most of them - of course (since we are a new country_- NOT being from America.
  24. jjbaer

    jjbaer New Member

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    the line you're groping for is attributed to Sir Isaac Newton when he said:

    "If I have seen further it is by standing on ye shoulders of Giants"


    The bastardized version of this that I like goes like this:

    "If others have seen further than me, it's because giants have been standing on my shoulders"....LOL

    One more thing web... Von Braun took a lot from an American, Robert Goddard, father of modern rocketry.....in fact, here's the quote from Wicapedia:

    "Wernher von Braun used Goddard's plans from various journals and incorporated them into building the A-4 series of rockets--better known as the V-2.[3]. In 1963, von Braun reflected on the history of rocketry, and said of Goddard's work: "His rockets ... may have been rather crude by present-day standards, but they blazed the trail and incorporated many features used in our most modern rockets and space vehicles" [4]. Goddard confirmed his work was used by von Braun when, after the war ended, Goddard inspected captured German V-2s, and recognized many components which he invented[citation needed]."

    So, web....we'd have gotten there anyway........
  25. Corey

    Corey Minister of Fire

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    I made no attempt to justify the means, but in the end, I believe Von Braun, Einstein, Fermi and many other top scientists were legalized US citizens. Admittedly, they had some pretty shady history and some pretty questionable circumstances bringing them into the country, but legal none the less.

    Kind of like jaywalking on the way to your wedding...is the marriage null and void because you broke a law on the way there?

    Corey
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