April 28, 2010

"A nuclear reaction so intense that it will make a star bloom on the surface of the Earth."

Great! I hope.

24 comments:

David said...

Incinerate the planet. Now that's global warming.

Salamandyr said...

Wasn't this the catalyst plot for Spider-Man 2?

Will the operator have to wear a multi-armed cybernetic harness?

Joe said...

Large scale fusion experiments have been going on for for over thirty years and we've learned that it's a whole lot harder to do than first assumed.

It's very much worth continued study, but I wouldn't make any energy plans based on fusion's viability.

(The article claims that this experiment "will be tried for real, and for the first time," which is complete nonsense. I'm guessing the idiot reporter misunderstood that Lawrence Livermore is using a specific technique for the first time.)

David said...

"So, they are responsible for the great War for Oil.'

Yes. It just shows, ST can't be wrong about everything.

Quayle said...

We could use a game changer like this, right about now.

Joe said...

PS. What hasn't happened is a sustained fusion reaction, so if that happens, it would be a first.

SteveR said...

The ability to convert this very small and extremely short in duration reaction into a viable source of energy, will not be easy or cheap to come by. But its worth doing this initial testing, up to a point.

This is not new science, just a new methodolgy, I doubt any of us but the very young will ever see it as a contributor to commercial energy, if that.

Hoosier Daddy said...

What hasn't happened is a sustained fusion reaction

You evidently never saw Mrs. Hoosier when I told her I just dropped $2500 on a new road bike.

Bruce Hayden said...

I do believe in the scientific method, etc. But, if I can figure out when they are testing, I think it may be advisable to be at one of our other offices on the day they test this. Right now, I am 3-4 hours driving time pretty much due east of Livermore. I do have the Sierra Nevadas between us, but still.

I did chuckle at the fact that they were some 25% over budget. Now where is all that money coming from.

That said, keep in mind that science is cumulative, and actually getting a little (presumably well controlled) ignition may be helpful in developing more effective and efficient mechanisms for controlled fusion reactions. Being able to say, yes, we can do it, and this is how, is, I think, important.

Larry J said...

It will take at least another 20 years, with adequate funding, to develop a continuous fusion reaction that could heat water, create steam and turn generators at a commercial fusion power plant, she said.

I'm 53 years old and since childhood, I've been hearing that "commercial fusion is 20 years away." This leads to the cynical conclusion that "fusion is the energy of the future, and it always will be."

Joe said...

Fusion power doesn't necessarily need to heat water into steam to generate electricity....what happened to running the plasma thru a magnetic coil to generate power directly?

Original Mike said...

My understanding is that there is a lot less optimism for laser inertial fusion than when the project started. I'm all for research, but I wouldn't get your hopes up on this one.

rhhardin said...

We had cold fusion running a potato clock once.

El Pollo Real said...

I'm not sure why they don't try zapping LiD with neutrons; the Li transmutes into tritium, making tritium deuteride in situ. Zap that with lasers. Would this lead to a real H-bomb?

Paul Zrimsek said...

Build a better vortex and the world will beat a path to your door.

AJ Lynch said...

Create a star on earth? What could possibly go wrong?

AJ Lynch said...

Is there a chance the oil rig explosion / fire last week was eco-terroists?

LarsPorsena said...

Star light, star bright,
First star I see to.................

edutcher said...

Larry Livermore's a government facility.

Why do I see 'Acme Products Company' written all over this?

WV "mankma" Mother of mank.

Zach said...

Fusion really really really doesn't like to be scaled down.

If you have a star's worth of hydrogen, you don't have to do anything. It'll get dense enough and start fusing on its own.

The smaller you get, the more important things like radiation losses and hot atoms evaporating from the surface become. According to a quick Google scholar search, the ignition energy scales as volume to the minus sixth. That means it scales like the radius to the minus 18th!

So of you want to fuse half as much mass, and decrease the volume accordingly, the ignition energy goes up by a factor of 64!

I've always been pessimistic about the NIF, just because it seems like a process that fundamentally doesn't want to happen that way.

Zach said...

I'm not sure why they don't try zapping LiD with neutrons; the Li transmutes into tritium, making tritium deuteride in situ. Zap that with lasers. Would this lead to a real H-bomb?

This is simlar to the design for the bomb that caused the Lucky Dragon fallout case in the '50s, and I think it was subsequently used as a design for H-bombs that could be kept around without refueling the tritium all the time. As I said in the last post, the problem is scaling it down to something that won't destroy an entire island at a time. With fusion, big is easy, small is hard.

Original Mike said...

@Zach: "Fusion really really really doesn't like to be scaled down."

That's why, if fusion is going to work, it will probably have to look something like this. Or some variant of {cough} cold fusion {cough}.

Zach said...

Cold fusion is a nonstarter. A couple of years ago they had a session on cold fusion at the APS march meeting, and I went to some of the talks. Very unimpressive. Twenty years after the effect was supposedly discovered, nobody could replicate it or provide any convincing evidence that anything was happening at all.

I'm not an expert in fusion, but as far as I can tell, Cold Fusion doesn't suffer from being hard to produce, it suffers from never existing in the first place.

Original Mike said...

@Zach - I'm no expert either, but I was under the impression that a not insignificant number of researchers are coming to the opinion that there was something there (not saying power levels, mind you, but nuclear reactions).

I still remember watching the evening news (1989?) and Ted Koppel leading with Pons and Fleschman (sp?). "In your face, OPEC!" was my spontaneous reaction. What a disappointment that was.