Thursday, January 18, 2007

Real Men Do Real Physics

There is a discussion going on at Matt Yglesias' place about the future of the Republicans if they stay the course of the war. Matt thought the odds for the Rs was not good.

I made the point that we needed to stay the course in the Middle East as long as our civilization depended on Middle Eastern Oil.

I said that with out access to that oil we would Decline and Fall leading to Desolation Row.

Then I suggested that an alternative existed, but we would have to develop it. That alternative is Easy Low Cost No Radiation Fusion.

Well I got the usual wise guy comments. Some fool thought I was talking about cold fusion and dismissed what I had to say with derision.

Then we get this from commenter Ed who actually visited my blog for at least 3 seconds to get ammunition for the following comment

The fusion thing is hillarious. M. Simon's blog has a post about how Muslim's aren't very good at's right next to some Christian Zionist kookery.
Well if the Muslims are good at science why do they depend on oil for almost all their income? As to Christian Zionism, I replied:
BTW the Christian Zionist piece quotes Democrat Tom Lantos extensively.

Christian Zionism

And I would not go around bashing Christianity too much. The Blue Dog Democrats might not like it. There are 40 some in the House. LOL

From the above:
Rep. Lantos then said, “All Christians, please stand.”
Really if you look at the election results the D party has moved to the right. Get with the program.
Well we get one more ignorant guy with an opinion.
M, you're talking physics on a political blog, and 'free power' is something that high school physics says cannot happen, so this is hardly the right place to be advocating it.
Then some real men came on the scene and asked some real questions.
When I spoke to a plasma physicist at Texas A&M about one version of the electromagnetically accellerated boron-proton fusion schemes, he told me that a lot of these results are suggestive but misleading. Sure, you can use simple devices to accelerate particles to speeds that approximate the temperatures needed to fuse borons and protons. But the problem is in equating these particle speeds to temperatures. Particles in a thermal distribution come in lots of different speeds, centered around a peak in the center (which is what we call the temperature). But fusion doesn't happen at the peak--it happens at the tail of the distribution. Non-thermal particles have to reach much higher speeds than what you'd expect to reach the energy needed to ignite fusion.

I've loved the idea of boron-proton fusion every since I read the Monkhorst paper in Science back in the mid-1990s. But it's gonna take more than tearing apart someone's Trinitron to make it happen.
Posted by: jlw on January 18, 2007 02:08 PM
To which my response was:

The really neat thing about the Bussard Reactor is that the particle speeds in the reaction area are not thermally distributed. They are all moving at around the speed determined by the potential gradient. Just as the speeds of particles in a linear accelerator are nearly idenitical.

You do have the vector problem but the particles oscillate into and out of the reaction space. The vectors are all into or out of the reaction space.

Really, go to my link and watch the video. I had to see it several times to get all the points he was making.

In addition I have links to the papers that describe the science, the reaction rates, etc.

After you have watched the video I think I can answer any of your questions.

You have made a really austute observation about thermal equilibrium. Which is why the Bussard reactor is so interesting.
Posted by: M. Simon on January 18, 2007 03:55 PM
Then another real man steps up to the plate:
I looked over some abstracts and citation lists on Web of Science. Bussard's work is published in aparently reputable journals, and frequently cited, though he is not very prolific. These are not self-citations by co-authors, or circle-jerk citations by collaborators.

The fusion is quite real, unlike the cold-fusion fiasco. What seems like the biggest problems are energy break even and durability of the equipment. The conventional fusion reactor has achieved energy break even already, the next step for it is economic break even.

One advantage Bussard has is that he could fail to accomplish his goal much more cheaply than the big fusion project.
Posted by: Njorl on January 18, 2007 03:44 PM
And my reply was:

Some very good points.

Bussard says that his idea could be proved or disproved for $200 million and 5 years of effort.

So far "conventional fusion" has cost multi billions and has gone on for many decades. With no end in sight because of the thermal equilibrium problem.

Look at the video of the talk he gave at Google. A neat physics lecture if nothing else.
Here is the Monkhorst paper mentioned above.

More Monkhorst The University of Florida. Another Monkhorst paper: Science 281.

Cross Posted at Classical Values

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