Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Better Than Theory Predicts

Dave Price at Dean Esmay has done a post that I should have done. He is discussing Physicist Rick Nebel's report on the latest Polywell Fusion experiments.

Dean goes into the technical nitty gritty of the report (and has a link to where the discussion took place) and if that interests you by all means give Dave a look (In fact do it anyway, Dave is worth your time. Or as I might have put it were I in a humorous mood: The Price is right.).

So let me give you the short version:

1. The machine is working way better than the usual theories predict
2. No one knows why (lots of suspicions floating around)
3. New instruments are being added
4. The current machine is called WB-7. WB 7.1 (no details) is in progress.

All this is very good news. It means what they have learned so far warrants further efforts.

Why hasn't Polywell Fusion been funded by the Obama administration?
Bussard's IEC Fusion Technology (Polywell Fusion) Explained

Cross Posted at Classical Values


Anonymous said...

As per usual from the Polywell Pundits™, claims of progress are purely anecdotal, lacking in any scientific substance, and totally useless.

Keep drinking the Kool-Aid Msimon...

ZenDraken said...

99: What backs up *your* claim?

As far as I know, there is no such thing as a Polywell. I've never seen one, have you? It could be a big hoax. In fact, it must be a hoax, because it could be a hoax.

Don't believe anything you see on the Internet.

Except *my* posts.

Anonymous said...


I guess we'll label you one of those folks who thinks we should throw millions at concepts that continue to provide no objective evidence of working. Your post only serves to demonstrate the state of ignorance amongst the general public in regards to how science is actually done. In fact, I challenge you to name a single significant, game-changing discovery in any field of physics, since, say 1920 that wasn't first published in the scientific literature. That's what Bussard claimed to achieve back in 2006 -- a true, game changing technology. Go ahead and try. I'll be awaiting your answer.

ZenDraken said...

99%: The "Scientific Literature" is irrelevant to this project.

The Polywell is an engineering research project intended to determine the viability of a fusion reactor design concept. It is not intended to discover any fundamental new physics. If it does, great, and at some point I'm sure scientific papers will be generated, reviewed, and published; but that's not the point of the project.

The customer for the work is the U.S. Navy, and they have embargoed the information for whatever reason. The Navy's judgment is that it is work that is worth pursuing, hence the continued funding.

If Polywell works, it stands to benefit all of humanity. But there are no guarantees it will work. If it doesn't work, it will have been a very small investment for a potentially very high payoff.

Logically, we should explore some low risk/high reward options. It's called "Research".

ZenDraken said...

Oh, and for game-changing discoveries since 1920, that were not first predicted in a scientific paper, how about:

High-temperature superconductivity
Spiral Nebula are distant galaxies
Cosmic Expansion
Microwave background radiation

Granted, there was some kind of speculation on background radiation, but the speculation did not in itself lead to the discovery. The discovery was separate and serendipitous.

And: Why the arbitrary cutoff of 1920? Are scientific papers since then the sole source of valid knowledge? Are our analytical and predictive powers fully complete, or is there still room for experimentation, discovery, and serendipity?

And again, none of this proves that the Polywell concept will really work. Neither does it prove it will not work.

Anonymous said...


You've completely missed the point and failed the challenge: I didn't say anything about discoveries predicated by a prediction. Are you aware that scientific publications also report experimental results as well as theory???? I asked you to name a single significant discovery that was NOT first reported in the literature. Every example you cited were experimental results that were reported in the scientific literature. That's completely different from IEC fusion research which continually avoids dissemination of results in any official capacity except for blogs and amateur fusion websites. Of course, it's all classified and under the Navy gag rule, right? Fine. Go ahead and make those claims, keep on speculating. At the end of the day, you still have nothing to show. No results, no independent replication, nothing. Nice try at doing science.

ZenDraken said...

And you missed my earlier point, which is that this is not scientific research, this is engineering research. Scientific knowledge and data is certainly involved, but there is no requirement that peer-reviewed papers must be published before people be allowed to start bending metal.

Now, if the Navy decides to go ahead with a multi-billion dollar program to replace all naval nuclear reactors with Polywell reactors, they had better be able to show that the bloody things work. If it comes to that, I'm sure they will.

Meanwhile, the Navy, through it's own internal peer-review, determined it worthwhile to continue investigating the Polywell concept at a very modest level of funding. I can't prove this is a good decision. Can you prove it's a bad one?

And yes, all of us amateurs are speculating, and we all know it. We tend to believe that the real proof will be a real Polywell reactor producing real net power. Or not. That would be the ultimate peer-review.

ZenDraken said...

You said " a single significant, game-changing discovery in any field of physics, since, say 1920 that wasn't first published in the scientific literature.", which I interpret as the physical act of discovering a phenomenon, followed by publishing a paper about that phenomenon. My mistake, I did not equate the publication with the physical discovery.

Here's some speculation on my part: Assuming the information embargo on the Polywell is lifted some time in the future, I would expect that rnebel, et. al., will publish results. Meanwhile, the their current work is to gather data, at least partly in order to have results to publish.