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Commentary on Doing Fusion

Posted: Thu Mar 14, 2019 3:56 am
by Frank Sanns
We seem to be getting younger and younger people on the site wanting to be the youngest to build a fusor. While this is admirable, the question becomes, Is it the goal to have an operating fusor or to learn the steps needed to have a fusor go into operation?

The youngest so far is 12-13 years old and there is indication that a 10 year old may be in the works to be the next youngest. I am sure that once that hits the media outlets, there will be younger and younger achieving the holy grail of fusion.

We have gone through College students down to high schoolers, to jr high schoolers to middle schoolers and grade schoolers. Will kindergartners be next?

My point is two fold:

1. What is the goal? Is it learning a little? Learning a lot? Gaining fame? Dragged along kicking and screaming?

Nobody can learn by just throwing on the switch on a completed fusor. Building a fusor with no prior knowledge is a year long journey or longer with many stops along the way. Even the selection of a valve and feed system for deuterium input is a full day seminar or more for a person that has never worked in an environment like that in a fusor. Grid welding, feedthroughs, power supplies, even figuring out all of the various vacuum connectors pros and cons is not a trivial undertaking. These things take time and every time you think you have mastered one, there is another and another. And when you think you have mastered it, you realize how much you really still do not know.

Even for those of us that have handled some of the equipment used to build a fusor, there is a great deal to learn and experiment with along the way. Once I was at the plasma stage, I remained there for months before I even considered setting up the metrology and feed to run deuterium. Much was learned about the fusor and plasma during that time as well as upgrades to my peripheral equipment from what was revealed during experimentation. Without that learning and experiencing, the journey is empty. Sure you can have a completed off the shelf fusor but what was learned along the way? What can you innovate from throwing a switch. I am being a little shallow with that characterization and no insult intended and no person or persons are being referred to here. It is only to drive home the point of the leaning by doing during a year or longer journey.

So again I ask, what is the goal? To learn or to race to the end as fast and as young as possible?

2. Related to that, it may be time for us to implement an ASSISTED fusor achievement recognition rather than a general one. We have seen many a bright young person in late HS and college do some top notch work mostly on their own. It has taken them time on the order of a year or two or three but they have learned and they have done it.

As the younger and younger people build their fusors, mostly with an increasing amount of help, some of this journey is not made by them alone. While they are learning a great deal from parents or other mentors, they are not the hands on scrounger, inventor, innovator than those that build, stumble, learn and stumble and learn again on their own from the bottom up.

The purpose of this post is to solicit thoughts on encouraging, mentoring, and recognizing those that will pass this way. Be it Assisted or not, we want it to be a good learning experience that will be with them a lifetime.

When it comes to formal recognition though, I personally think that another category needs to be established for full transparency of who and what we turn out as well as proper recognition of those young people as well as those who help get them to an operational fusor. Similarly, we need to have a separate recognition for those that go it alone or in some of the successful college groups that have put the time and effort in individually and collectively for the learning and doing achievement. This extends to all ages including all of the adults that have left their mark on this site and continue to do so.

As usual, Richard is the one that gives the confirmation of neutron production but maybe he or I need to have a shot telephone conversation with the builder to ascertain their level of knowledge before giving a 6 year old the prize for the youngest to do fusion.

I look forward to the input from all of you young and old.

Re: Commentary on Doing Fusion

Posted: Sun Mar 17, 2019 9:59 am
by Richard Hull
I have thought long and hard on this long before now.

I would like to establish a lower age limit for being admitted to the neutron club. I was thinking 17 years of age might be good to allow 15-16 year old high school students assembly and working time to have a shot, once they are 17, to claim fusion before going off to college which often kills the ability of an 18-24 year old to find the time or money to assemble a fusor due to the press of their educational struggles.

This would permanently end the current "Youth Age Rush" forever and return us to a simple achievement for older youth with no win assuming a special cache related to age.

I am serious about this. It is a total solution.

Richard Hull

Re: Commentary on Doing Fusion

Posted: Sun Mar 17, 2019 5:22 pm
by Andrew Seltzman
I feel that 17 may be a bit high for the minimum cutoff, I would propose 9th grade. Historically fusors have routinely competed in, and done well in the Intel science and engineering fair. 9th grade is the minimum entry grade for the ISEF fair. The astute 9th grader (certainly not all, but definitely the bright ones) should be able to develop the skills to assemble a fusor while going through the learning process of construction and design.

Re: Commentary on Doing Fusion

Posted: Sun Mar 17, 2019 5:54 pm
by JoeBallantyne
I think that realistically the best criteria for entering the neutron club, is the one we have already.

Arbitrarily stating that you can't be a member of the neutron club, because of your age, despite the fact that you can prove you have made neutrons, doesn't seem to me like the right thing for us to do. Furthermore, it won't stop folks who actually do produce neutrons at younger and younger ages, from getting press, and credit for doing so.

There have always been prodigies in any field. Mozart was an amazing violinist at a very young age. I think it is only natural that the age of the youngest fusioneer will only creep down over time. So be it. It is like any other record. It will continue to be broken as time goes on. Whoop de doo. Some day, assuming that we don't do the wrong thing, I expect there will be a fusioneer who is less then 10 years old. As long as they did the work, and learned what they needed to learn, and were careful and safe about their efforts, we should celebrate that. Not attempt to stifle it by saying you can't be a fusioneer until you are 20, or 30, or 17, or 14, or whatever arbitrary age.

The criteria for entering the neutron club, should be what it is now: verifiable proof of neutron production. Period. End of story.

My 2 cents.

Re: Commentary on Doing Fusion

Posted: Sun Mar 17, 2019 8:02 pm
by Richard Hull
I can soften on my 17 stance, but I fear the reverse of the mother-daughter syndrome becoming common place here.

Many mothers, in certain areas, like "little miss" beauty pageants, "Soccer moming", etc., rather forcibly guide their girls towards areas where they won or failed in their youth. I fear that we might just see 12 year old, father-father-father and, oh yes, my son fusor projects. Frank spoke to this in a more subtle way. I am just mean enough and bold enough to fire the shell out of the cannon at this issue.

I feel that in even the most benign of these fusion-father-son efforts, the child might not really be deeply involved at the core of it all. A father in the nuclear or electronic biz might be the inspired one and the son a mere willing tag along with his loving dad supplying 100% of the cash and bolt turning effort. A young boy must come out of his fusion win with the full sense of genuine "hands-on", "knowledge-rich" accomplishment.

I was a bit put off by Jackson's win as he came from no where with a working fusor. (no pre-extant work product, images, or discussion whatsoever. I am much more buoyed by the recent efforts of young Enzo Carter. Sure, his dad is behind him 100% with money and some physical assistance, but the boy is all we see over and over again in sharing and imaged posts over the usual expected path to fusion.

Remember the rules about a pre-existing, traceable path, over time on to fusion being placed before us as being one of the requirements?? While I could officially strip Jackson on this one rule, I will not do that. But rest assured, it will be rigidly and inflexibly enforced in future even if an 11 year old does over unity fusion! A kid must have a decent pre-history of his effort all along his path here. In future, no young tyke descends from Mount Olympus with a working fusor and wins.

I am with Frank, philosophically on this....Let's continue this discussion.

Richard Hull

Re: Commentary on Doing Fusion

Posted: Mon Mar 18, 2019 4:09 am
by Joe Gayo
My suggestion is to raise the minimum n/sec (and require bubble dosimeter or electronic detection with traceable calibration) for neutron club entry.

Re: Commentary on Doing Fusion

Posted: Mon Mar 18, 2019 5:12 am
by Richard Hull
I have always been very careful in accepting any form of electronic, (neutron counter), claims of fusion. The best form, even at low counts, is the classic tube in and then out of the moderators runs. (assumes only a BF3 or 3He tube is used). Russian neutron counter tubes and boron lined tubes demand much more scrutiny due to so many non-electronic types using them. Their attraction is that they are a low priced option and are a drug on the market. They require a practiced and careful hand to really detect only neutrons.

I don't like the idea of some minimum neutron count being required as many have low numbers at first. For me, it is all about how they arrive at their numbers.

Richard Hull

Re: Commentary on Doing Fusion

Posted: Mon Mar 18, 2019 11:50 am
by Dan Knapp
I too have been skeptical when I read about very young kids having built a fusor and achieved doing fusion. I think the age thing should be deemphasized on this forum by omitting any mention of age except to require that the primary applicant for any status be of legal age. This would require that any minor have a sponsor or mentor who accepts legal liability for the work. The underage person would be a member of the “team.” Given the litigious nature of our current society and the known hazards of working with a fusor, it is a bit surprising that someone hasn’t suffered injury with a resulting lawsuit claiming that a person or persons on the forum encouraged a young person to pursue a dangerous activity. It would be unfortunate that things came to this, but it is the nature of our current society. From my own experience, I have on occasion given components to a young person but always require that the transaction be with a parent or legal guardian.

Re: Commentary on Doing Fusion

Posted: Mon Mar 18, 2019 12:01 pm
by Cristiano_Machado

My son is one of these young children trying to do fusion, and I would like to share our experience.

This journey started because he would like to study more about science and the sun, so we found the Make Magazine’s demo fusor and thought it was a good idea to do this experiment. Now, he is building a fusor and he is learning a lot in this journey, but he has a double challenge, the language (he speaks Portuguese and is learning English) and the scientific/technic acumen necessary to build a fusor. I am teaching and guiding him during this journey, and he is doing most of work by himself, but sometimes he just can't do it alone for safety and economic reasons, and I am sure other fathers around here doesn't let their kids do some steps.

I respect Richard position, about have a minimum age to join the Neutron Club, but in my opinion, on the one hand, it will not avoid people just wanting "press attention", to do their fusors, on the other hand, it will put no prize to real good kids doing their best in science.

My suggestions are more in line with JoeBallantyne and Andrew Seltzman.
1 - I believe minimum the 9th grade is a good cutoff and/or projects that have participate in any kind of Science Fair.
2 - Kids below 9th grade can enter, but the project should have a teacher as part of the team (not just the parents) and in some way be sponsored by the kids’ school, this avoid the "little miss beauty contest" syndrome and will prize real scientific project.
3 - I believe it is necessary to state in the list entry when the achievement was made with help of a mentor/team effort (for everyone).



Re: Commentary on Doing Fusion

Posted: Mon Mar 18, 2019 1:18 pm
by Richard Hull
I would OK the 9th grade/high school requirement. I will never yield the long posting history, with images on prior to any claim of success by anyone including a 30 year old. That is a rule set in stone.

Richard Hull