Homepage Forums Story, Art, Song, Self Expression Sci fi vs. Fusion Legitimacy

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  • #6871
    AvatarRezwan
    Member

    jamesr wrote:
    Being very much in the mainstream of fusion research, and the one who is requesting large sums of public money to fund the programs, I think there is a careful campaign by the CCFE to portray the tokamak approach, and the whole program leading onto ITER & DEMO as a low risk, inevitable and necessary project, that just needs time (&money;) to provide the worlds energy needs in 50-100 years time.

    There is a resistant to anything, that distracts from this message.

    This reminds me of one of the major barriers with fusion research. It’s possible that it’s impossible. Which makes it “illegitimate” and a probable drain on public funds. And in turn, this makes those working on it very cautious and risk averse, at a time when more creativity and diversity would, perhaps (but how can we be sure?) yield breakthroughs.

    #6872
    Avatardennisp
    Member

    “As recent, general traffic on the forum site seems to be covering the AGW debate, and movies, and games, better than real progress toward exceeding unity, I’m finding myself suddenly deeply dissatisfied.”

    I’m not much for those particular topics either but it’s hard for those of us outside the research team to talk much about real progress in focus fusion when the last news about real progress was posted a month ago. Just sayin’.

    #6873
    Avatarjamesr
    Member

    Taking the concept of a Thought Experiment from the scientific to the philosophical. I think there is a place for science fiction to probe areas of scientific research and technological developments to run through the what-if scenarios, and consequences (intended or not) of progress.

    A sci-fi narrative can bring together many aspects of human interactions with technology and the world around them to investigate possibilities that would be difficult to comprehend as individual case studies.

    So, for example, a sci-fi story based in a near-future world where focus fusion devices are a reality, can explore the shift in the power structure of society. So just as Asimov pondered one outcome of the 3-laws of robotics as revolution of the robots seeking to do what was perceived as in the interest of the greater good. The knock-on effects of what could be seen as a utopian goal of cheap clean energy (and so everything else) available to everyone, may ultimately backfire as different groups scrabble to retain power and control over society.

    #6877
    AvatarAeronaut
    Member

    Perhaps we should clarify that FF-1 is science fiction for the moment, as it is testing hypotheses and theory. The movies and novels are almost universally science fantasy. As Jamesr mentioned, science fantasy in the hands of a master thinker and story teller can pave the way to developing the experiments that turn a once crazy idea into something like a cel phone or GPS. Or both. If nothing else, it can provide an escape from armed camp mentalities.

    #6898
    Avatarvansig
    Member

    Aeronaut wrote: Perhaps we should clarify that FF-1 is science fiction for the moment, as it is testing hypotheses and theory.

    Disagree. “fiction” means “not true, or not real”. There is real science being undertaken in these experiments, real hypotheses being tested, and independently-reproducible results being generated. Clearly, this is not fiction.

    #6899
    AvatarAeronaut
    Member

    vansig wrote:

    Perhaps we should clarify that FF-1 is science fiction for the moment, as it is testing hypotheses and theory.

    Disagree. “fiction” means “not true, or not real”. There is real science being undertaken in these experiments, real hypotheses being tested, and independently-reproducible results being generated. Clearly, this is not fiction.

    I used the word fiction in that case to mean that which has not yet been proven. Predicting surface conditions of a gas giant is science fiction.

    #6900
    BreakableBreakable
    Keymaster

    Aeronaut wrote:
    I used the word fiction in that case to mean that which has not yet been proven. Predicting surface conditions of a gas giant is science fiction.

    You could call it speculation, but i think fiction is something different.
    For example while we could speculate that life forms exist inside suns photosphere,
    thinking they could be of the same biology as ours would be completely fictional.

    #6901
    AvatarRezwan
    Member

    “Fiction” does seem inappropriate here.

    fiction |ˈfik sh ən|
    noun
    literature in the form of prose, esp. short stories and novels, that describes imaginary events and people.
    • invention or fabrication as opposed to fact : he dismissed the allegation as absolute fiction.
    • [in sing. ] a belief or statement that is false, but that is often held to be true because it is expedient to do so : the notion of that country being a democracy is a polite fiction.
    DERIVATIVES
    fictionist |-nist| noun
    ORIGIN late Middle English (in the sense [invented statement] ): via Old French from Latin fictio(n-), from fingere ‘form, contrive.’ Compare with feign and figment .

    #6903
    Avatarvansig
    Member

    Aeronaut wrote:
    I used the word fiction in that case to mean that which has not yet been proven. Predicting surface conditions of a gas giant is science fiction.

    nope. different animal.

    it is quite possible to predict some aspects of ‘surface conditions of a gas giant’, relying on what we know of the physical principles at play, without venturing into fiction. we just have to be careful how we discuss it. scientific synthesis builds its castles, not on sand, but on firm bases. if gas giants have a surface, then we can discuss probable pressures and temperatures, compositions, chemistry, heat flows, and such, at this surface, with suitable models in hand for the physical processes. we can duplicate those conditions in a lab, and verify pieces, all without needing to journey there, ourselves. it is speculative, theoretical modelling, yes. and we don’t get the whole picture, this way, but we do stay out of the realm of fiction.

    #6935
    Avatardigh
    Member

    As I read the debates concerning the seriousness or validity of Science Fiction vs science fact I thought of Leo Szilard.

    He was an admirer of the fiction of HG Wells and was partially inspired in his conception of the nuclear chain reaction after reading “The World set Free”.

    Science Fiction can help inspire science.

    #6944
    AvatarPhil’s Dad
    Member

    digh wrote:
    Science Fiction can help inspire science.

    Hear, hear.

    I’ve mentioned Jules Verne before. He featured submarines in 1873 and space travel in 1865.

    Many stories include electronic paper (even Harry Potter). We now call it an ipad. (Xerox is doing something on a fold-able/pocket-able version too)

    Arthur C. Clarke wrote about satellites and is often given credit for first recognizing the geosynchronous orbit. He also talked about space elevators. They get a mention on this forum now and again. Nanotechnology was mentioned in the stories of Richard Feynman. Nanotubes may be the critical material needed to create the space elevator.

    Star trek mentions nanotechnology too. MEMS are heading that way. Real transparent aluminum, used by Star Trek to make a tank for saving the whales, got a mention on this forum not so long ago (although as far as I can tell it is completely useless). The Star Trek communicator possibly led to cell phones.

    (OT The boss actually said “Beam me up Scotty” in PMQs this week)

    The Universal Translator? How about Google Translate? Well maybe not. But Star Trek had AI and cryogenics ahead of the curve. Geo-engineering anyone…

    What pleases me though is all these stories and shows recognized that it always was, and still is, about humanity not technology.

    #9593
    AvatarRezwan
    Member

    Breakable wrote:

    I used the word fiction in that case to mean that which has not yet been proven. Predicting surface conditions of a gas giant is science fiction.

    You could call it speculation, but i think fiction is something different.
    For example while we could speculate that life forms exist inside suns photosphere,
    thinking they could be of the same biology as ours would be completely fictional.

    How about “simulation”? From Intuitor.com:

    Movies and physics have a lot in common: neither are completely realistic, both are simulations of reality.

    Physics not completely realistic? Shocking! But consider a simple classroom example: measuring the depth of a well by dropping in a pebble and timing how long it takes to hit the water. For the calculation we would typically write a simple equation that says the Earth is flat and has no atmosphere. (in other words, the gravity field is constant and there is no air resistance.) Furthermore, we’d assume that the speed of the sound produced by the pebble hitting water is infinitely high and ignore all sorts of effects like the gravitational attraction force of Jupiter.

    Why would we digress so far from reality? If all possible influences were somehow miraculously accounted for, we’d be unable to measure the difference. Hence, the physics model used for measuring depth, while not absolutely realistic, is operationally realistic. It accounts for the major effect and yields predictions well within our measurement accuracy.

    There’s a big difference between operationally correct movie physics and the ridiculously spectacular marketing-driven special effects designed to boost box-office take.

    #12865

    Rezwan, I’m a sci-fi writer and I liked what you said about tying together fiction and reality. In my game writers often make some wild leap into crazily speculative realms – or even beyond. I did that with my time travel novels where the core piece of scientific fiction is a device for travelling into the past. But for the rest, I like to stay as grounded as possible and that means using current science and technology or just-over-the-horizon stuff like focus fusion. In effect, a gradient is established between real, solid science and the wild ideas at the other end. FF gets a lot of good press in my novels. In fact, it saves the world after peak oil hits 🙂

    #12888
    Avatardelt0r
    Member

    There is a serious issue with the way scientists get along with one another. Its quite obvious with the fusion “debate” when we discuss funding. The venom that some people push forth about the situation is particular destructive to diverse funding efforts, and even if everything they say is true, its the worst possible way to go about it. Learner is doing pretty dam well in that regard (at not begin venomous… but throwaway comments about ITER don’t help at all).

    Bottom line scientists are really bad at politics. Even when their own funding is at stake. We see the same thing in AGW debate and man that is going to bite a lot of people in the arse when the dust settles.

    What we don’t need is a “give our project money, cus *that* project is stupid”, or “they have all the funding because they stole it from us” and worst of all, “Their approach will never work, they know it and lie to steel all our funding so they can be rich scientists”. *EVEN* if these things are true (I don’t believe so), they cannot help the situation in any way. They only increase the reasons to cancel *all* research in this area.

    The main reason i think even quite a lot of scientist don’t take fusion seriously is because the plasma/fusion community fight like teenagers.

    #12897
    Avatarvansig
    Member

    the politics are only vicious when the stakes are very low

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