Wed Nov 29th, 2006 at 12:11:12 AM EST
[With his permission, I am re-posting Boston Joe's diary of Mon 27 Nov 2006 at Booman Tribune about Dr. Robert Bussard's research on fusion energy. I think it is worth considering and may be of interest here--Gaianne]
Watching our [US--Gaianne] government in action is very much like observing a sucker at the poker table. The guy or gal who is always chucking away chips while drawing dead, but never wants to take a rational risk at a worthwhile pot.
I came across a diary last week by RimJob at Dailykos that makes this case and point. The diary links to a lecture by Dr. Robert Bussard that explains his efforts towards a revolution in energy production through fusion.
I took the time to watch the hour-and-a-half lecture. Though I'm not a scientist or engineer, it was absolutely fascinating. For those of you who don't have that kind of time to spend watching the video, let me give you the very short version:
Over the past twelve years, Dr. Bussard has developed a prototype of a fusion generator that appears to work.
Dr. Bussard's project has been eliminated by the Department of the Navy thanks to cutbacks to pay for the Iraq War.
The project requires $2-3 million to build a seventh prototype (it took six to get to this breakthrough point). This full size prototype can be completed in the short term (I believe he was talking one year or so, if memory serves).
If this seventh generation works, Dr. Bussard estimates that the project can be operational world wide in five to ten years, at a cost of $200 million.
The upside to this technology is almost unbelievable. Cheap. Clean. Basically limitless energy. Solving the world's energy problems. The world's water problems (the power required for desalinization plants is instantly affordable). The world's global warming problems (to the extent it is not too late). Enabling very fast near space travel.
Watch it for yourself. Pretty amazing. [The video is fascinating. Kick back with a cup of coffee and a note pad--Gaianne]
But wait, you say. This guy must be a kook.
Well, no. He's an award winning physicist. I believe he is at Princeton now. Former number two guy at Los Alamos. Not exactly a crackpot.
Can't be, you say. The government wouldn't let a project like this get away. Think of all the cool weapons and propulsion applications.
This is the government part. Classic.
Bussard is thinking outside the box. Literally. We are spending billions (I think) researching fusion. All that research is conducted under the Department of Energy.
The mainstream thinking on fusion is to build a solid containment system, then get some particles to collide together. And suck up all the good energy released by the fusion of these particles.
But there's a problem. The solid containment systems (like boxes) don't seem to work. The technicalities are beyond me, but something about the electromagnetism of the particles or the fusion itself, is escaping from the solid containment systems.
[not solid containment, actually, but magnetic bottles, that leak badly when plasma particles are contained in a thermal energy distribution--Gaianne]
Bussard's idea is pretty simple, in theory. If the solid containment system isn't working (it will never work in his view), then why not make a non-solid containment system. An electric or electro-magnetic containment system.
[Dr. Bussard describes how to create an electic potential well, that drives ions to a focus where they can fuse, using both electric and magnetic fields--Gaianne]
Problem is, since the U.S. is investing billions in solid-state containment systems [tokamak--Gaianne] under the auspices of the Department of Energy, we have created an entire industry of scientists and engineers whose very livelihoods depend on making this system.
So Bussard couldn't even take his idea to the DOE. He had to make an end run. The project had to be re-routed as a low-budget project through the Department of the Navy, related to propulsion systems. The budget was deliberately left under the level where it would have to be reported as a line item in the Congressional budget, because if it was a line item, it would have been struck by pork-protecting legislators.
It took him twelve years to do it on a shoe-string budget. But the data from his last prototype (which was actually completed and tested by his small staff after their project was de-funded) apparently showed that they had been able to create a non-solid state containment system of relatively spherical shape. Pretty cool stuff.
But why haven't we heard about this before?
Part of the deal under the Department of the Navy grant was no publication. He still hasn't published his results. [except for an overview this last October at the International Astronautics Converence in Valencia--Gaianne] Though I guess they are being presented. Bussard wants this thing built. And he doesn't care who does it. Chinese. Europeans. Chavez. Doesn't matter. Bussard just wants his generator built.
Sounds a bit like cold fusion or something. We can't waste $200 million on some crack-pot scheme.
Iraq War. $6-10 billion a month. For a neo-con fantasy. Or a nightmare, I guess.
D.A.R.E. program. $700 million annually, through public and private funding. Provably ineffective at keeping kids off drugs. At least one study suggests the program itself might serve as a gateway to experimentation by kids.
Essentially free power for the entire planet. Priceless.
American government, and the people that allow it to operate. Fucking clueless.
So there you have it. Just one man's opinion in the land that won't accept the Theory of Evolution.
The American government. Getting ready to piss away another monster pot. Just muck those pocket Jacks, because there is an overcard on the board. Who knows if they can still win. Saving our chips so we can chuck them in on another global disaster. Invade Iran. ANWR drilling maybe. Oil company tax credits. Great bets all.