Tuesday, April 07, 2009

In The Dark

Rick Nebel, the lead guy in Polywell Fusion Research has a few things to say about his current state of knowledge with reference to the Polywell Fusion Reactor. He also discusses some rather technical questions about his research and findings. You can read those by following the link.

To a certain extent we are in the same boat as everyone else as far as the previous experiments go since Dr. Bussard’s health was not good when we started this program and he died before we had a chance to discuss the previous work in any detail. Consequently, we have had to use our own judgement as to what we believe from the earlier experiments and what we think may be questionable.
That may explain why the US Navy has contracted Rick's company, EMC2 Fusion, (formerly run by Dr. Bussard until his death) to do several different measurements on the plasma including density, and magnetic fields.

In various Polywell discussion groups a lot of the talk is focused on how little published information there is about Polywell. The above may be part of the explanation.

I must say that this news is a surprise to me. I was under the impression that the knowledge was out there. Now it appears that however much there was a lot of it died with Dr. Bussard. However, some very big names in plasma physics, like Nicholas Krall, who wrote Principles of Plasma Physics are interested in the progress of the Polywell reactor. In fact Dr. Krall who famously said, "We spent $15 billion dollars studying tokamaks and what we learned about them is that they are no damn good.", wrote a paper with Dr Bussard titled Forming and maintaining a potential well in a quasispherical magnetic trap. So despite our current state of knowledge I'd have to say the effort to find out more is very worthwhile. Especially given the relatively low cost of knowledge. So far the US Navy agrees. Here is what Dr. Nebel recently said about what the experiments show.
"There's nothing in there that suggests this will not work," Nebel said. "That's a very different statement from saying that it will work."
If we upped the burn rate of the project from $2 million a year to $10 million a year we could learn more faster. Which means faster decision making. And that is almost always a good thing. Right now we are in the position of not having enough solid information. More is better.

Bussard's IEC Fusion Technology (Polywell Fusion) Explained

Why hasn't Polywell Fusion been fully funded by the Obama administration?

Cross Posted at Classical Values


J Carlton said...

I think that the big problem is that when the navy ended the contract the first time the project just stopped. With Dr Bussard holding most of it in his head. What should have happened is Dr. Bussard should have had a Univerisity grant to carry on the work and have a bunch of grad students sitting, looking over his shoulder and zealously writing everything he said down. Instead we have this situation where we have to start over almost from scratch.

99% said...

Dr. Bussard's work on IEC has always been fringe science at best. The way he went about it would never procure the type of grant (e.g. NSF, etc) that supports research at Tier R1 Universities. That's because the peer review process for NSF grant proposals is far more rigorous than anything associated with military or DoD funding. That's why the military ends up financing alot of "research" that is pure fantasy -- good examples are isomer triggering of hafnium (aka The Hafnium Bomb), gravity wave detectors on the battlefield, and numerous studies on psychokinetics. The Army even spent a ton of money on a program intended to put an emphasis on "battlefield acupunture" as an effective alternative to morphine for critically wounded soldiers.

Polywell proponents can't see the forest for the trees when it comes to identifying the giant red flags surrounding Bussard's work. No publication of results, no replication (and still no replication by Nebel, et al). All we ever get is anecdotes from the Polywell crowd.

Anecdotes have a Q = 0.

J Carlton said...

Which unfortunately is where the TOKAMAK crowd is stuck. Making the most expensive gold you ever saw. If we are going to have fusion energy we have to have approaches that well, actually work. I have had on the best authority been told that TOKAMAKs will never work, are impossible to make work in fact. Fusors actually work, IE they produce neutrons and not "shots." Even high school kid have made working fusors. For a polywell getting fusion is actually the easy part. It's going to the magnets that are going to cause the problems and thats jsut vacuum engineering. The only reason Bussard could not have gotten a grant is that there wouldn't be enough money in it for big science.
As for Dr. Nebel not making a big scene. Considering what happened Pons and Fleishman keeping the results quiet is probably a good thing. As for repeatability, there is enough information on the internet to build a working polywell fusor, whats stopping you.

red said...

Sounds to me like Nebel did replicate what Bussard did. They got it working better than Bussard. How is not not a replication?