Why *is* fusion research so slow?

Reflections on fusion history, current events, and predictions for the 'fusion powered future.
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Chris Bradley
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Re: Why *is* fusion research so slow?

Post by Chris Bradley » Thu May 10, 2012 6:23 pm

Don Bowen wrote:
> First, I have to take exception with the idea that science does not proceed by speculation.

*An experiment* can proceed by speculation, by all means - *your* speculation, *your* experiment. Tell us what your speculation is, and the experiment you intend to test it by.

I still don't think you get it:
- You can argue a theory based on experimental results, or
- you can argue to do an experiment based on a speculation (to generate more beef for your theorising, if/where the data available is too thin).

***But you can't argue a theory based on a speculation.***

This is as true in peer-review-academia as it is hoped to be here.

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Re: Why *is* fusion research so slow?

Post by Doug Browning » Thu May 10, 2012 6:55 pm

"***But you can't argue a theory based on a speculation.***"

Apparently you don't read much of the current theoretical physics literature like GUT theories, or String theories, or non Lorentzian, non Einsteinian gravity, Dark matter, Dark Energy...... Some of them go 10 layers deep in speculative theories.

Anyone can posit a theory on anything they want. Whether anyone will believe it, depends on experiment and past physics as guidance, and the reviewers selected by the journals.

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Richard Hull
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Re: Why *is* fusion research so slow?

Post by Richard Hull » Thu May 10, 2012 7:44 pm

Before we go too far afield, many might remember my long posting here that showed mathematically that both volumetrically and per unit mass, the amateur fusor and the sun were close to being about the same in energy output. So the sun ain't no great shakes as a burner. Its big deal is that it is a zero net external input burner that is also self-regulating and self-contained. It's just hellasiouly big volumetrically and fuel load wise. It is not a good fusion engine at all compared to what we need, volumetrically, here on earth. Kind of a peanut whistle in relation to our needs, regardless of theoretical or actual methods of fusion involved.

Still, it keeps us warm and provides hunter-gatherer stuff for us to use and burn.

No one on this planet knows where, or to what energy density extent the sun's most energy rich fusion zone is performing. If we did know such energy densities, and could get a fusion vessel of earth-bound, comprehensible size burning at this most powerful solar level, would it interest the power company? Or would it still be too whimpy per unit volume to generate usable, distributable energy. Now that is worth thinking about.

So far we have only broken even in the best multibillion dollar fusion engine for a few seconds maybe before damaging the walls. A megawatt input for 3 seconds producing 1.1 megawatts out for 3 seconds is no deal and a sad joke we are playing on ourselves.

Several tons of inanimate, enriched U just sitting close to itself producing a gigawatt or so for a couple of years is so much easier and less bothersome than the elusive fusion quest.

Richard Hull
Progress may have been a good thing once, but it just went on too long. - Yogi Berra
Fusion is the energy of the future....and it always will be
Retired now...Doing only what I want and not what I should...every day is a saturday.

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Chris Bradley
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Re: Why *is* fusion research so slow?

Post by Chris Bradley » Thu May 10, 2012 7:47 pm

(For the cross-referencing) you might also recall one I posited regarding stability of the Sun versus magnetic confinement...

viewtopic.php?f=16&t=7418#p52505



I did a similar one on how much 'earth space' we'd need if we really could recreate a chunk of 'solar averaged fusion plasma':

viewtopic.php?f=16&t=7433#p52520

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Carl Willis
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Re: Why *is* fusion research so slow?

Post by Carl Willis » Thu May 10, 2012 7:55 pm

>I have to take exception with the idea that science does not proceed by speculation.

I hope those aren't words being put in my mouth.

In fact, I don't discourage speculation or deny its importance. I DO discourage publication of ideas on the forum that haven't had some nominal degree of refinement. Basically, ideas deserving of this audience's time and attention are those on which the poster has invested his own time and attention.

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Chris Bradley
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Re: Why *is* fusion research so slow?

Post by Chris Bradley » Thu May 10, 2012 8:44 pm

Don Bowen wrote:
> Anyone can posit a theory on anything they want. Whether anyone will believe it, depends on experiment and past physics as guidance, and the reviewers selected by the journals.
Sorry, you still don't seem to be getting 'science'. You have confused 'theories' with 'faith' (or at the most charitable interpretation, 'a hypothesis').

Theories are not there to be 'believed' or otherwise, and perhaps this marks out the problems of your thinking.

A 'theory' is a proposed model that is not inconsistent with known reality. A 'theory' cannot be a theory if it purports to describe a reality never seen before (or, in default, describes nothing that is previously known to reality). A theory is disprovable in that it must predict something [testable], and if it wrongly predicts something that is known, or later found, then it can be falsified.



Don Bowen wrote:
> Apparently you don't read much of the current theoretical physics literature like GUT theories, or String theories, or non Lorentzian, non Einsteinian gravity, Dark matter, Dark Energy...... Some of them go 10 layers deep in speculative theories.
A theory can be speculative, as long as it is still not wrongly predicting known reality and that it makes testable predictions (viz. that it is falsifiable).

If what you are describing does not contain these features, then I would infer you are mentioning 'popular science literature', which differs to 'scientific literature'.

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Re: Why *is* fusion research so slow?

Post by Doug Browning » Thu May 10, 2012 9:12 pm

I'm not talking about "popular science literature". In these theory intense journals, a paper will begin with some base postulates that have no connection with "our" reality, and then proceed to derive "results" using gauge theory, Lie symmetries or algebras (Sophus Lie), differential geometry or whatever new math they are using. These are intended to be useful or guiding in some context.

It may be too difficult to solve some real problem in our space, so they invent another easier space to solve it in. They have a huge repertoire of these fanciful spaces, many with names that are commonly used, and many many unique ones. In very theory intense areas like String Theory these "make believe" results may get used in another paper and so on down.

I'm not trying to be critical of their technique, it has its place as long as everyone understands the context. For example, many of the things now "believed" about real black holes, such as information conservation, are based on these artificial results. Stephen Hawking has agreed he has lost a bet with significant financial impact based on these results by the way. Often several different artificial derivations will be used to get some confidence in the results.

To be sure, there are plenty of science people "critical" to say the least of these kind of results and even the whole field. There are even whole books complaining about this. I'm not going to try to judge, but if there is no other way to solve something, then I would see it as theory simulations based on some premises. I don't believe there have been any experiments in this area to confirm anything. String theory is not the only offender either.

I would say that in some areas now we have different levels of "science" hardness. Where experiment is available we have solid science, and where not, we have weak science. One tries to base their actions on the best available science, but when only weak science is available, it is better than no guidance. This is really much closer to human though processes anyway.

I do think we have drifted too far afield of the subject discussion.

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Chris Bradley
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Re: Why *is* fusion research so slow?

Post by Chris Bradley » Thu May 10, 2012 9:30 pm

You've argued that progress is slow on the forum because not enough theory is discussed.

I think the very nature of this thread, itself, shows how time can be so easily squandered on irrelevancies... sorry, gotta get on with some stuff now....

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Re: Why *is* fusion research so slow?

Post by David Geer » Fri May 11, 2012 4:47 am

Unfortunately, for a star to work, it needs both fusion and fission of many different elements to keep going even at the loss of mass ratio our sun has. Still a bleeding/burning-off fuel approach but it gets easier the bigger scale you go. I believe this is why we can't achieve anything like the sun on earth yet, simply because, we don't have the means to build a device large enough to adequately facsimilate the conditions necessary for a sustainable event.
- David Geer

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