Homepage Forums Innovative Confinement Concepts (ICC) and others New Scientist article: Star power: Small fusion start-ups aim for break-even

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  • #1210
    Avatarjamesr
    Member

    This week’s New Scientist has a write-up on some of the other current fusion projects.

    http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21128251.400-star-power-small-fusion-startups-aim-for-breakeven.html

    No mention of DPF devices or Focus Fusion though. Are the other guys PR budgets that much bigger or is it simply a case, that LPP isn’t including magazines like New Scientist, Scientific American, Popular Mechanics, Physics World, IEEE Spectrum etc on the press releases to raise their awareness of the project.

    #10487
    AvatarRezwan
    Member

    jamesr wrote:
    No mention of DPF devices or Focus Fusion though. Are the other guys PR budgets that much bigger or is it simply a case, that LPP isn’t including magazines like New Scientist, Scientific American, Popular Mechanics, Physics World, IEEE Spectrum etc on the press releases to raise their awareness of the project.

    None of the above. Per the author:

    I was aware of your project and would have liked to include it (and others) but space was limited and I had to skim over the surface of the subject.

    #10488
    Avatarjamesr
    Member

    Ho Hum… I guess in the end the results will speak for themselves. If the first pB11 shots show significant yields then it will be Focus Fusion at the top of the bill and the other guys get trimmed out of the editorials.

    #10490
    AvatarRezwan
    Member

    Well, that’s one way to look at it. Another is that telling the fusion story is going to require quite a few more articles, and testing different frames. Obviously, if LPP gets splendid results, then the story is that we are well on the way to pB11 fusion. But this approach gives people (and media) a “wait and see” out, where they can ignore what’s going on in fusion until there is the earthshaking result.

    If results are required, the media at present doesn’t have much to back any fusion story. Right now fusion is still a bunch of underappreciated guys who may or may not succeed. Toiling away for the cliff-edge breakeven event and the validation that might bring. It’s all in exploratory, hypothetical mode. The issue is, how do you make the case that it’s important to do the research when you’re not sure what the results will be? What is the intrinsic value of the pursuit of knowledge? Why is the world only interested in the results and not the process?

    I don’t think we (mankind) deserve the results if we’re dismissive of the process. That makes the world a bunch of fusion free riders when the results finally come.

    #10492
    Avatarjamesr
    Member

    If you relate fusion research to something people are maybe more aware of like cancer research then you can begin to make comparisons.

    Research into a cure for cancer has been going on for hundreds of years compared to sixty or so for fusion.

    Although there is not cure as such, cancer research has lead to intermediate, incremental advances in drugs and surgical techniques that have lowered mortality rates by a few percent a year.
    The incremental advances in fusion on the other hand, have increased fusion yields by 5 orders of magnitude over the last 30 years (or around 35% per year on average).

    The problem from the public perspective is that they can see the benefits of cancer research in their everyday lives even though they have not reached a ‘cure’, but for fusion there is no tangible benefit until someone finds that ‘cure’ for the fusion engineering challenge and reaches breakeven.

    #10493
    AvatarRezwan
    Member

    The cancer comparison is a good one. They still say that a good diet and lifestyle choices are the biggest factor in cancer – just as energy conservation would be a bigger factor in energy problems.

    The cliff edge event would be much more dramatic for fusion, and more possible than the cancer cure, I think.

    But there are quite a few applications from the research before that. You don’t need net energy for ionic propulsion, and there are all those isotopes. The New Scientist article points out:

    Wallace thinks the new machines might take off first not for power generation, but as neutron sources that could be used to “transmute” the highly radioactive waste from today’s fission reactors into low-level isotopes and nuclear fuel. He estimates that 50 Fusion Engines of the size Helion is planning to build could within 20 years eliminate all the waste the US now has stockpiled.

    That would make fission more attractive.

    I think there are a lot of interesting observations that will be made in the pursuit of fusion that will be tangibly beneficial.

    #10494
    Avatarjamesr
    Member

    Rezwan wrote:
    I think there are a lot of interesting observations that will be made in the pursuit of fusion that will be tangibly beneficial.

    True. If fusion based devices, such as ion thrusters, LPP’s X-Scan concept, machines for transmuting waste or manufacturing isotopes for medical use become more mainstream then it will be much easier for the public to believe fusion based energy production is just another step in what is a proven technology.

    The cliff edge event would be much more dramatic for fusion, and more possible than the cancer cure, I think.

    I think if a cure for cancer was found it would be just as dramatic as a fusion breakthrough. We are well on the way to tackling other killers like heart disease or kidney failure. If people don’t die of cancer then what do they die of? People will still get weaker and more frail with age, so we will end up with an increasingly ageing population being supported by a smaller proportion of the population in active productive jobs. The offset of curing younger active people with cancer, I think would be small in comparison to the extra burden of a more distorted demographic.

    #10500
    AvatarRezwan
    Member

    jamesr wrote: I think if a cure for cancer was found it would be just as dramatic as a fusion breakthrough.

    Yes, it certainly would.

    What I meant to convey is that I suspect the solution to fusion is easier to achieve than a cure for cancer. I don’t see one dramatic cure moment for it, but rather more diffuse combination therapies. Fusion seems like a straightforward physics problem with an eventual specific “singularity” moment. But hopefully both will be resolved dramatically soon.

    Now that I think about it, there are a lot of ways to compare health research and energy. The goal here is not to diminish health research, but to get people to realize how important to health energy research is.

    Picking on cancer again – with both cancer and energy, prevention is a big part of the cure. A healthy lifestyle for cancer (food, exercise, rest), an energy conserving lifestyle for the energy problem.

    You mention that

    The problem from the public perspective is that they can see the benefits of cancer research in their everyday lives even though they have not reached a ‘cure’,

    This may be because people haven’t made the link between energy research and quality of life improvements or longevity. What is the ROI of cancer research for those two things? And how much could cleaner energy supply increase quality of life, and lifespan? I was in Chicago during a heatwave once in which about 750 people died. Mostly folks without access to air conditioning. Energy related death.

    But much more dramatically, we wouldn’t have such a high population without energy. The industrial revolution has given us this capacity, and this population, who now has the luxury to worry about dying of cancer. If we want to continue that kind of high population into the future, and increase the mortality rate in poor countries so that those folks, too, can start fearing cancer, we’ll need a lot of energy.

    Energy supply is the biggest looming factor in matters of life and death and people find it too abstract.

    #10508
    AvatarAaronB
    Member

    The moment I was conceived, I started becoming obsolete. It’s the nature of progress. Without the ability to replace my parts, upgrade my memory, rapidly share and receive ideas, and expand my senses, robots and computers are rapidly catching up to my abilities and will soon surpass me. If I was able to live forever, I would be a museum piece within a century. To me, it is important to immortalize our discoveries, intelligence, and wisdom. Spoken and written language provided the basis of this transfer of knowledge that led to our quick advancement. Artificial intelligence combines the benefits of replaceable and upgradeable parts with the abilities to receive and convey knowledge very rapidly. I’m OK with becoming obsolete. The fact that I am a stepping stone to the next stage of evolution is fulfillment enough for me. I don’t want to become a museum piece anyway.

    However, I understand that others think and feel differently, and that’s OK too.

    #10512
    Avatarvansig
    Member

    In physics chat rooms, the thing that seemed to open doors to discussing DPF most effectively, was mentioning that
    “Lerner’s paper was accepted for publication in physical review letters.”

    At that point, it’s no longer a “fringe” topic

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