Richard Hull's Attic

This section contains files, photos, and commentary by Philo or those who have worked with, known him, or are related to him.
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Richard Hull's Attic

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All things from Richard's interviews.
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Re: Richard Hull's Attic

Post by Paul_Schatzkin »

Richard has already posted several things in different sections from the work he did in the late 90s and early 'aughts, at some point we might want to find those posts and begin to gather them here, too.
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"Fusion is not 20 years in the future; it is 50 years in the past and we missed it."
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Why does Richard think he can report on the original fusor effort? Attic

Post by Richard Hull »

I feel a deep background is needed that will relate to everything I write in the "attic" here, and in the historical portions related to the ITT-Farnsworth effort at ITT. Were I not to offer this key posting, you might not understand where I am coming from. I hope to write a series of historical snippets, more or less in chronological order, interspersed with opinion pieces, all related to the Farnsworth-ITT era. It is to be remembered that as I write this, I have been doing fusion continuously since 1999 with a fusor.

We must examine all of the ITT period in the light that things were more regimented then in the business world. The materials were far more expensive in 1950s-1960s relative dollars. There were no computers. It was a slide rule world. Technology was only slightly advanced from that of WWII. Transistors were only making it to the market in 1958, ten years after being invented. All televisions and most all complex electronics were still vacuum tube systems. Probing the world of fission and fusion physics was a multi-million dollar, government funded, rather secretive venture, even if being done in an academic setting. The average college or business wanting to do fusion work, needed big funding. They also needed AEC licensing, and components that were either just becoming available or that had to be hand assembled by talented technicians and engineers, guided by knowledgeable, physicists trained in the new field of nuclear physics. Fission based nuclear power was still but a dream with the first fission based electrical power reactor at Shippingport, Pennsylvania just being turned on as Gene Meeks and Philo T. Farnsworth were setting up the abortive fusion lab in Farnsworth's home. The effort seemed like putting the cart before the horse. It was all about Farnsworth's dream to supply limitless, clean energy to the world before the world really got any real easy (fission) nuclear energy at all.

I worked as an electronics-engineer all my life. I started with chemistry and electronics at the age of 8. I was deeply involved with radiation at the curiosity level when 9 or 10. I became deeply involved with nuclear physics in High school and all through college, taking 2 courses outside my field at that time. Still, all my work was at the advanced amateur level. Then, belched out into the real world, many new things and interests blossomed. Work, at first, was rather grueling. Still, I was always playing with nuclear physics and constantly read and am, now, still reading.

Once I met Tom Ligon, circa 1995, my interest in nuclear physics was once again piqued. I had about 80% of the demanded skill sets needed in the sciences and mechanical end to vault right into the fusor effort. I am a technical guy, but also love the history of the sciences as well. By 1997 I had my first "demo" fusor built and moving on with grabbing onto the few skill sets that I needed via reading and doing. By 1999, I had done my first fusion at the amateur level and possessed enough skills and knowledge to feel confident about my understanding and grasp of the physics and a good bit of the hands-on involved. In 1998 I became deeply interested in the Farnsworth effort and its players. I searched them out and found all the living team members. I engaged them in regular phone calls gleaning a good bit of information, both historical and technical.

In 1999, I would take the bull by the horns and visit, interview, and tape both in video and in audio tape the living beings who were there and did the work.

As a technical guy, I was looking for only the technical story from those who did the work of making fusion. Via phone conversations, prior to my visit to Fort Wayne and Bloomington, I had already established a general time line so when I arrived I could not only absorb and record in some detail the technical side, but have the people suddenly confront me as a near equal and get far more comfortable with me as a living being, in person. I could talk "shop" with the best of them on both the fusion physics and the mechanical, technical and engineering intricacies related to doing fusion. This fact accounted for a vast flood of information given up freely including moments of history and the normally hidden, candid aspects of personal opinions of the players who were there every day in the lab.

Getting to know them....Getting to feel free and easy

I was in Fort Wayne in the month of May for one week. Three days with Gene Meeks and Fred Haak. One day included a personal guided tour of the Pontiac street plant during which time I was treated to the return to the team's old offices and labs. From this I have assembled aerial map of their first-floor facilities. (where the pit and cave were located, office desks, etc.) This is singularly unique and maybe the only such historical item of its type. One day was spent with Gene and Pem Farnsworth in her State Street home. Another day involved a 4 hour drive down to Bloomington to visit and interview George Bain the head engineer who was the ramrod in the lab and engineering leader of the team.

Later, in 1999, I would pay a full day's visit to Robert Hirsch in his office of the corporation he had just formed to oversee the HAARP program that ARCO handed over to him to manage. He found me totally knowledgeable on the basics of fusion physics and said as much within the first ten minutes. I told him to speak science as needed....I could follow along easily. We had a great time and went out to lunch together and came back to continue our discussions.

Later still, (2001), Paul Schatzkin, (th' perfesser), and I would travel to Fort Wayne and interview Gene Meeks, and Steve Blaising (I think for Paul this 2001 trip was his intro to Both Gene and Steve), much more was learned and photographed, video-taped and audio recorded.

Who were the team at that time that I interviewed?

I have faced, in real life, all living beings of significance in the lab during the entire time of the fusion effort and have had many hours on the phone with each over a period of 7 years.

Here is the list with comments:

1. Gene Meeks - Least educated, High School and great electronics training in the Army. Sanguine at first, hard to get to know, but will open up like a can of beans if he likes you. Free and easy and if you allow for some of what might be called, "short comings", or foibles, you could easily become his best buddy. A real beer drinker. It is rare to see him without a beer, but I never saw him drunk, and have spent many hours in his presence. Gene is probably the most reliable, considered and outgoing source of team history! From 1 year before the ITT approved team even formed, (1958), to the last days when everyone had either left or were reassigned to new jobs at ITT, (1968), Gene was there. Steve Blaising would remain in the lab for a month or two by himself!! Gene had left to be member number one at Farnsworth Associates in Utah. So, the last man standing would be Steve Blaising at ITT. Meeks would also be the last human to operate the cave fusor in 1972 at Brigham Young University under Prof. Andrew Gardner. Meeks can give a steady stream of history from 1958 to 1972 related to all efforts with the fusor. He was my "go to guy"... Gene would pass away in 2008....The go-to source.... gone forever.

2. Fred, (Freddy), Haak - BS in Chemistry, Came to the fusor team in late 1961 as an engineering assistant to George Bain. He came from the tube lab at the Pontiac street plant having worked there since 1953 where he was a photo cathode chemical specialist at the tube lab. I asked Fred how he came to be on the Farnsworth team. He said that one day his supervisor asked everyone in the tube lab, "who would like to be on the Farnsworth project. They need an engineer with vacuum experience"? Fred told me that he was always curious about what they were doing so he volunteered. He said that he was to report the next morning! He retired from ITT in the late 80's. Fred had suffered a debilitating stroke in 1996. In 1999 when he and Gene and I met, He was almost totally recovered, played golf twice a week and smoked like a chimney. Fred was worried and warned me that since his stroke some of his memory might not recall well. To both Gene and my amazement, once Gene would mention something about the team Fred immediately pulled up related material, details and ancillary stories. Freddy was a great source over the 3 days I spent in person with him. I constantly called and phone interviewed Freddie and Gene from 1999 until just before their deaths. Even after visiting in person, they were a phone call away when I had issues or questions about their ITT fusion years. Fred passed away in 2007.

3. George Bain - MSEE... The masters-degree from Syracuse in electronics served him well at ITT. Interestingly, George first worked at RCA with Zworykin! In 1959, he was pulled from his work in the electron tube design division at ITT Pontiac Street and was what I term the second team member, assigned only after ITT decided to fund the Farnsworth fusion effort. George and I had already spent many hours on the phone before my in-person visit to him in Bloomington. He was sober and guarded... In many instances, I could sense he was holding back, not on the technical end, but on the historical end with queries about the people and the work environment. George was a gentleman and noted that many people were still alive and that he would rather not discuss certain things that I already knew about and when asked if they were true he would just say "yes, but that is all I will say about that". A lot of budget info and issues with procurement were his area of expertise, in addition to technical details regarding the Pit fusor. Sadly, George would suffer a stroke in 2001. He lost his ability to speak and would move to Arizona in 2002 and pass away in 2005.

4. Bob Hirsch - PhD Nuclear Physicist. Former head of the AEC thermonuclear fusion department. A well-respected and connected Washington political player/insider and "man to know"... Much nuclear and industrial experience. Bob joined the full-time team effort at ITT, hired right out of College by the Admiral. Bob is a past director of the AEC Thermo-nuclear Fusion Research division, Past V.P. at Raytheon and past director of Corporate Research at ARCO. Worked for Rand Corporation later. He is one of the easiest people to talk to. He has that gift of gab, (meant in the best way), that puts one as ease no matter what the topic. Pleasant, engaging, charming....Hard to be ill-temped around such a guy. The entire time I never saw him with a concerned face...Always a smile that engaged. Bob was a fountain of info on the ITT period, yet, like George Bain, he was careful related to incidents of a negative nature which he seemed to dance around without the average person noticing. I pinned him down on a few issues and would not let him up until I had some semblance of an answer. Many phone conversations.
As of this writing, now 2022, Bob is still alive, I have heard from him this year.

5. Steve Blaising - Electronics Technician, trained and expert on Vacuum. Last man to join the team, 1963. Steve was also pulled from the tube lab at Pontiac street as a technician. He would replace Meeks in the pit fusor work as Gene was given to Bob Hirsch as his technician in the Cave fusor effort. Steve was incredibly likable, ebullient, spry for his age and very engaging, loved to talk about the old times with the team. With he and Gene together, you simply spent the time laughing and learning in a style where no holes were barred. You learned as much history and personal things about the team members as you did about the technical aspects that they were involved with daily. Many hours on the phone with Steve as well. Steve passed away in 2011.

I cannot say anything beyond what was relayed to me over the years of discussion with all of the above workers in the lab related to Phil Farnsworth or Admiral Furth, (Both long dead) Sadly, Admiral Furth passed away just a month before my investigation began. Upon phoning his home, a maid told me that he had passed away only a month before. I just wish I could have talked to him and get his take from the very top of things at the ITT hierarchy. He would have been a very valuable asset, indeed.

Finally, I learned over these many hours of time with the above folks that not one single person, save Hirsch, came onto the team with even the slightest bit of knowledge related to nuclear physics and especially Fusion Physics!!! Not one!! They would come to gain this knowledge via osmosis! Sort of a fusion physics OJT period. This fact would cripple the team from day one. Phil was not part of the team beyond being the head of the project. All would confirm that it was very rare to see Phil in the lab. It turns out Phil was an "idea man" as Gene and Steve would call him. He would sit in his office and dream. More on this later.

Summary

There you have it. I know what I know because I talked with every living being over a number of years. These were the people doing the work, making it happen and who knew stuff only they could know related to the ITT Farnsworth fusion effort. Save for Robert Hirsch, they are all gone now. I am glad I got the real technical details when I did and the surprising and interesting history as a form of lint stuck to the real whole cloth that came out of the dryer over the years in the memories of these folks.

Richard Hull
Attachments
1999 L to R  Richard Hull,  Gene Meeks,  Fred Haak,  Background is the pontiac street plant, Fort Wayne, Indiana....Where the ITT fusion effort took place
1999 L to R Richard Hull, Gene Meeks, Fred Haak, Background is the pontiac street plant, Fort Wayne, Indiana....Where the ITT fusion effort took place
Bob at his desk in 1999, Washington, D.C.
Bob at his desk in 1999, Washington, D.C.
Bob with the desert cart fusor demo'd to the AEC back in 1967
Bob with the desert cart fusor demo'd to the AEC back in 1967
George Bain 1999 On his patio grabbed from a video
George Bain 1999 On his patio grabbed from a video
George Bain 1999  he was the ITT fusor project head engineer and lab team leader
George Bain 1999 he was the ITT fusor project head engineer and lab team leader
Fred Haak 1999 project vacuum and systems engineer for the fusor team
Fred Haak 1999 project vacuum and systems engineer for the fusor team
Fred Haak came to the fusor team near the end of 1961 stayed with it until the end, 1968
Fred Haak came to the fusor team near the end of 1961 stayed with it until the end, 1968
Gene Meeks The ultimate go-to-guy for critical information related to the fusor team first worked with Phil late 1957 part of the fusor team 1957-1968
Gene Meeks The ultimate go-to-guy for critical information related to the fusor team first worked with Phil late 1957 part of the fusor team 1957-1968
Gene Meeks Sketches out the lab layout as Richard looks on and questions 1999
Gene Meeks Sketches out the lab layout as Richard looks on and questions 1999
2001 visit By Paul and Richard to interview Gene Meeks and Steve Blaising
2001 visit By Paul and Richard to interview Gene Meeks and Steve Blaising
Paul Schatzkin and Richard Hull visit Steve Blaising at home.  Gene Meeks is also there.  This was a very significant interview and the last time I saw either of them alive.  However, phone interviews continued regularly until their demise.
Paul Schatzkin and Richard Hull visit Steve Blaising at home. Gene Meeks is also there. This was a very significant interview and the last time I saw either of them alive. However, phone interviews continued regularly until their demise.
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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How Richard intends to report on this effort...The mechanics

Post by Richard Hull »

Outline of my methodology

Before I vault into my read on the fusion effort, we must all remember that be it the purely technical aspects or the purely historical aspects or even the personality aspects of it all, we are picking over the bones of a long dead corpse. There is much we do not know regardless of some claimed knowledge. There does exist verified factual data as well as flimsy hearsay. In addition there is much totally false information out there. There is certainly much we will never know as there is no one left to speak of it and no second party alive to verify or give it the lie.

My reports will tend to the technical, which means factual with material to back it up. However I am prone to comment related to a fact, or even editorialize on some point of physics or data that I find interesting to warrant such comments or editorializing. Rather than dig through for the mass of data for direct quotes I might choose to paraphrase the words spoken to me in video/audio tapes, over the phone or from notes taken during interviews or phone calls where no taping was done. I will develop a coda for these instances to let you know its me and not the factual data gleaned directly for the Team members.

Coda:
" verbiage " - a Direct spoken quote to me by a team member.
' verbiage ' - a paraphrasing of a spoken quote to me.
< comment...verbiage....end comment > - signals an enclosed comment by me on a foregoing or following fact.
< editorial... verbiage.... end editorial > - signals an enclosed editorial by me on some point. Such editorials are base on my experience in doing fusion and fusion physics itself
All non coda enclosed remarks are factual taken from my mass of accumulated data and are simple statements of fact and any other researchers extant secured images or letters, notebooks, etc.

Watch for the above usage in my reporting.

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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In the beginning there was no Farnsworth

Post by Richard Hull »

Fusion was experimentally demonstrated and performed in 1932 by Mark Oliphant, one of Rutherford's post grad students. However, there were musings related to such a possibility as early as 1922 and discussions on purely theoretical considerations based on much of Rutherford's work around nuclear transformations via nuclear decay. Rutherford had also shown transformations of lower atomic number, non-radioactive elements by using very energetic alpha particles from some of the more active Radium decay products to bombard Nitrogen nuclei. It was hard not to muse over fusion as a source of energy prior to Oliphant's discovery due to the much-studied solar spectra showing hydrogen and helium lines predominating in the solar atmosphere. Once fusion was discovered, the idea of using fusion as an energy source on earth remained an amusement in that nothing was done regarding it after 1934.

The discovery of fission in 1938 was another matter altogether. It was too easy to do using only chemical methods and the tremendous energy seen being released per fission was an obvious possible extension to unbelievable future energy via the fission process. This set wheels were grinding away in the minds of many adroit and capable physicists. We all know during WWII that fission research produced the atom bomb, which ended the war. All during the war, Edward Teller, who was at Los Alamos constantly pestered Oppenheimer about what he called the "super". (hydrogen bomb) Oppie felt Teller was keeping the team off the goal to the atomic weapon. Vexed over Teller's going off message, Oppie placed Teller in a titular head position of the "hydrogen fusion team" and gave him two or three, of his less useful scientists to play with the fusion concept well clear of the fission bomb goal.

After the war, Teller's work would come to be pushed forward towards the super. The fact that this was being investigated would draw a very small and scattered cadre of physicists to actively muse over controlled fusion just as a far bigger rush towards controlled fission power was starting. Some very minor fusion experiments were performed in the late forties in universities. It would be in 1951 that Lyman Spitzer would propose to work in the effort to create a fusion power reactor! Money was allocated in 1952 to proceed. Soon, many universities were getting government grants to build their ideas for nuclear fusion power devices. This would ignite the secretive "Project Sherwood" funded by the AEC. The Super, (H-bomb), was first exploded in 1954. In the late 1950's, Sherwood was de-classified and the first popular articles appeared about fusion being an inexhaustible source of future energy. This dream would grow around fusion just as real nuclear fission based energy was being supplied to homes for the first time.

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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Philo Farnsworth enters the fusion arena - A puzzle

Post by Richard Hull »

This is a segment for which I have no interviewed party and is purely historical in nature. The only two people intimately involved were Phil and Pem Farnsworth. In keeping with going to the people who lived it, I must reference Pem Farnsworth's biography of her husband from her book Distant Vision. I relate solely to that part of the book in which she reports on Phil's interest in fusion and how his ideas would come to be supported by ITT in a effort to make Phil's fusion dream attempt to become reality with a physical embodiment. There are ancillary and direct players in this period that might only be mentioned once in that they were pivotal in some small way to Phil's dream taking on a physical effort.

Due to a number of financial disasters, which were a common occurrence for Phil all through his life, He lost control of his company, Farnsworth Radio and Electronics. Phil sold all of his stock but was retained as a systems consultant. This allowed him to be a source throughout the company to anyone needing scientific or technical advice or assistance. Meanwhile, ITT purchased the company and retained its name as a subsidiary company within ITT. This took place In the 1950’s

Phil slowly became interested in fusion at some unstated date in the 40's and mused internally over a path to make it a reality. It is claimed that he wanted to give the world an endless source of energy which fusion represented. He would even discuss his ideas over the phone with Einstein for over an hour. Einstein urged him to proceed with his idea. According to Pem, Phil continued to formalize his “math” and theory of how to make what he would call his “Fusor”.

In 1955 Phil met with a friend he had made while securing naval contracts in the late 40’s. The friend was Rear Admiral, (retired), Fredrick R. Furth. He was the former director of the U.S. Naval Research Lab in Washington DC. “Fritz”, as his friends and intimates called him, was hired in 1956 by ITT as the Fort Wayne assistant to the president of Farnsworth Electronics. Within a few short months, he was promoted to the Vice President of Research and Development. Furth would soon be promoted, yet again, to ITT vice president in charge of Research and Engineering and moved to the New York corporate office. During his time at Fort Wayne, Furth became intrigued by Phil’s fusion ideas and they bonded over the subject. Furth would become to be known by the future team members simply as “the Admiral”. I shall continue to use this moniker when referring to him, in future reports here. Phil now had a powerful ally in Furth ensconced at ITT corporate. Furth urged Phil to write a paper on his theory outlining it completely and scientifically. Phil succeeded in turning the paper over to corporate later in 1956.

At the time, ITT’s president was General Edward Leavey. Upon consideration by Leavey’s scientific and corporate advisors, Phil’s effort to get ITT to fund the fusion effort was rejected. In 1957 Phil decided that he would take out a second mortgage on the Farnsworth’s home and borrow on his life insurance. This was done so that he might fund the fusion effort personally. He had decided to assemble a fusion lab in his home! The basement was to be a construction lab with gases and machinery as needed while one of the upstairs front bedrooms was to be the fusion tube lab with vacuum gear. By late 1957 Phil began the quest, but he needed a second knowledgeable assistant for the heavy work and technical assembly, etc.

Phil asked around for someone in the labs at Pontiac street who might be interested in a bit of paid, evening side work. Gene Meeks, who was a relatively new hire at ITT and working in the plating lab, applied for the job. Phil and Gene worked in such spare time as available all through 1958 setting up the labs at Phil’s State street home. They would often work until the wee hours. Phil found a good worker in Gene who quickly proved himself very capable and willing to learn critical parts of the operations needed to make the fusion attempt. Pem would often make midnight snacks for Phil and Gene. On those occasions when they worked till dawn, she would fix a hearty breakfast for them. Pem would tell me in the presence of Gene, who was there with me in 1999….”Gene was so kind and helpful and ate so many meals with us that he just became like another family member”….Gene thanked her and just beamed. There is no doubt that Phil and Gene grew very close during that year-long effort.

In 1959 Edward Leavey would retire from ITT and would be replaced as ITT president by Harold Geneen, who had left Raytheon as its vice president. Geneen really took to the fusion concept by Farnsworth as Furth pushed the concept and Phil’s paper in front of him. Against all advice from his advisers, Geneen agreed to fund, to a very limited degree, the Farnsworth effort in Fort Wayne. The effort would now be a big, underfunded deal and run under a veil of high security at Pontiac Street.

Side note (technical)
The State Street lab at Phil’s home never did any fusion! Gene Meeks would tell me “Our vacuum system was a kludged-up bunch of crap”….”The tubes Phil had made up just couldn’t be pumped down”…
Before we move on, the tubes Gene mentioned were rough sketched by Phil, drawn up on the sly by Jim Heine, the Pontiac street draftsman who would come to be formally linked to the fusor team as their draftsman in future. These tubes were to be assembled by a fellow friend of Phil’s from the tube lab, again, somewhat on the sly. The tube maker was Cyrus Day. This is a mini-story by itself and was fleshed out in interviews of Gene Meeks and George Bain.

Gene Meeks: “Them tubes were really something to see, big, ugly and a mess to try to work with”….” I guess Phil knew what he hoped to get out of them”…..”I mean you could look at their guts and tell you weren’t gonna’ pump ‘em down.”….”I just didn’t have the heart to argue or tell Phil that they would never work, cause you just couldn’t get a good vacuum in ‘em.” From this you can see that Gene just hated the first pass at Phil’s fusion tubes.

<Comment – Phil was familiar with tubes of glass from his early television days. His whole concept was to create a true virtual cathode by knotting up electrons as he had done in his multipactors of yesteryear. In this way, Phil fervently believed the fusion gas ions would be accelerated towards the center of his device and create fusion. He would come to lock into this idea to the detriment of the team’s effort for 3 years!! While it is not, nor will it ever be known,what these two early tubes were meant to do in Phil’s mind, they could have been test beds to see if the multipaction could take place in a larger device using what power supplies they had on hand at his limited lab at his home. End comment>

It turned out that Cyrus Day would be diagnosed at this time with cancer of the face. This meant the removal of a significant fraction of the poor man’s face and nose. Here we meet George Bain.....
George Bain: “Richard, I was asked to assist Cyrus when Farnsworth, who I had never met, came to me and asked if I could help Cyrus with the tubes after hours.”….” Cyrus was horrible to look at. He was healing and still partially bandaged. My goodness.”…. “I had to try and help finish those tubes and we did, but they were filled with all sorts of mica plates, emitters, silvered mica components and lots of uranium glass graded seals to allow for pass-through electrodes.”…..”you just knew that these would be a bear to pump down, there was so much mica.”

< comment – Here we see George admit to the terrible concept of what he viewed as a useless effort. He said they delivered the tubes to Farnsworth’s office and Phil thanked George for assisting Cyrus in the effort and that while he could not pay him for his efforts, he would always be grateful. Once again, Phil recognized a good worker who could pick up in the middle of a job and yet come through in the end. Even though these tubes never saw “action” in the 1958 home lab, the stage was set for the coming funding of fusion. End comment>

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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Down in the Dungeon in a single room....but funded

Post by Richard Hull »

< Comment - The book Distant Vision has a number of specific dates given by Pem Farnsworth throughout. I was a little stunned seeing her note that the Pearl Harbor bombing on December 2nd, 1942, had shocked She and Phil. It shocked me too. Still, I will have to defer to her on the early dates of the fusion efforts she gives in her book. Also, Pem, in her book, noted that once the funded effort started, they used deuterium and Tritium and that they had to secure an AEC license for the tritium. I know for a fact that this was not the case! Pem may be forgiven here as she was not on the team and was never in the lab, save for the rare instances when she was in the company of Phil. I assume that through passing conversations with Phil over the years she heard from him that they were using the two gases. They never secured a specific tritium license for the team. More on this in the flow...

My multiple interviews had most team members interviewed struggling for even approximate dates related to the effort. I will note that running into this obstacle, I developed a strategy that proved to be very helpful. I Told each person, prior to the interview, “ I will be asking for a lot of dates or approximate dates when specific things that you are telling me took place” This usually raised an “ugh” from all. “Wait, if you can think about world events, Kennedy assassination, Gary Powers U-2 downing, Berlin wall going up or of a birth or death in the family or a promotion or something that is fixed in your mind and relate it to the event under discussion, give me a year for sure and the time of year. Was it cold or hot outside? A vacation you took near the event, sickness, snow, anything to place it in a time of that year.”

Recently a large number of papers and documents have appeared and certain dates can be pinned down to a time frame. Most of this is Farnsworth internal memorandums collected in the Farnsworth family files. These files are incomplete but do offer up a number of interesting occurrences.

From the above, please note that all dates to the month are tentative and the best the team members could conjure up. Some dates are found in the papers and reports of the period to which I am privy. End of comment>

<Editorial - I am forced, by my looking for understanding in what follows, to give an opinion related to Phil’s abilities in the fusion quest. It is easy to bash someone, but to gain a more realistic idea about them, one must dig below the praise and adulation that a proclaimed genius garners over time. My interviews spawned much insight here. While every man jack of them admired Phil, they also, in some instances, had reservations. Such reservations grew over time, for as I have already noted not one person came to the team with any knowledge of nuclear physics in general or fusion physics, specifically. They became smarter and focused in on the fusion physics eventually and all proved to be fast learners.

I do know that Phil was not a college graduate. He was a genius. Of that there is little doubt. The concept of scanning electronic television once fixed in his brain, (the genius part), would result in a rather easy, but physically demanding engineering path to make it work with yet to be invented electronic tools. Success was guaranteed just due to rapid developments in electronics which Phil and co-workers like the inventive Russell Varian would make use of. Phil, much like Tesla, would stumble through life rich then poor, then rich again, but unlike Tesla at his peak, Phil, remained a "background figure", at the time.

When it comes to nuclear physics and especially fusion physics, I am personally ill at ease with whether Phil possessed the "chops" to do and knowledge to move into the field. From my point of view, he took his multipactor invention's idea and moved it into his thoughts on fusion. Through the facts I have gathered, I was not alone in this feeling. Every person on the team at one time or another questioned Phil's rationale for what he was ordering them to do, and of his ability to recognize fusion when it was really taking place. (Gene Meeks: "Hell, Richard, Phil was the boss, what the hell did I know about fusion in the beginning?...We did what Phil told us and believed him"), (Fred Haak: "Phil was hard to figure out at times and once we started to gain knowledge about fusion through reading, George and I were getting skeptical"), (Robert Hirsch " Richard, when I arrived as just a summer worker/observer in 1963, these guys were still playing around in bell jar systems!") end editorial>

Gentlemen, start your engines

The funding began in 1959. Phil got to pick his team. Naturally, he looked to those he knew and trusted. Throughout the effort, Bob Hirsch would be the only hire from outside the Pontiac street plant. So much useful talent abounded within the walls at Pontiac street, why go outside? Too bad, in retrospect, they did not satisfy what would become a crying need for a trained nuclear physicist. Yet they would belatedly solve this problem.

Phil could not do better than selecting Gene Meeks with whom he already had a one-year physical, working relationship as his team technician. He also remembered George Bain as a capable worker and selected him to become the project engineer. Thus, it was a two-man team in late 1959. This was also a boon to security as the fewer people involved, the less likely for a security leak. Both Meeks and Bain were told to discuss the project with no one there inside Pontiac street or outside, for that matter.

As it would turn out, Phil would not be working in the lab with his team daily. Phil was the overall project director. He would come to direct the effort from his office on the second floor where he worked on budgets, conferred with other scientists and mathematicians as well as working directly and often with the Admiral who would come out to Fort Wayne, monthly, from New York to follow the progress and have day long conclaves with Phil.

I was told by every team member that the Admiral had a multi-year lease on an apartment suite in Fort Wayne to stay when in town. He often came out for a week or more at a time. It is to be remembered that he had stuck his neck out for Phil and the fusion project and wanted to be assured that progress was being made. So much so that he wanted no impediment to stand in the way of the effort. He decreed that every shop and lab in at Pontiac street give top priority to procurement and assembly of whatever Farnsworth needed or asked for. This "carte blanche", it turned out, would breed some acrimony among some departments at Pontiac street as demands by the Farnsworth group would sometimes interrupt these departments day-to-day work.

Here are your accommodations, such as they are

The fusor effort's two-man team were ensconced into a rather cramped and dingy basement room all the way at the end of the Pontiac street building. (For security??) The room had a fume hood in it to exhaust vacuum system oil mists and other possible noxious gases that might need venting. It would take a while to really get started. Both Gene and George told me that there was no money to purchase anything. All the funding went to just salaries for the most part. (George Bain: “We just didn’t have much to spend for a lot of material and instruments that we needed or were going to need. Our salaries ate up a large fraction of that early funding.”) This need was relayed to Phil who relayed it to the Admiral. The Admiral told them to scrounge from all the labs, offices and storage areas at Pontiac street what they needed. According to George, the Admiral noted that he dare not go to the "well" again for money as it was their first year. With results would come more in the 1960. The Admiral advised that if anyone gives you trouble, tell them to give me a call on the matter. Apparently, the Admiral received no calls, such was his power and influence at the remote Fort Wayne ITT enclave. According to George and Gene, the Farnsworth TV assembly hall had been recently shut down as ITT did not want to build the Farnsworth brand TV’s anymore and killed it. I have personally toured this aircraft hangar sized edifice in 1999 with Gene and Fred Haak.

While George corralled enough vacuum gear and set up a week or two for the glass blowing shop to make up the all glass plumbing for the vacuum system and the tube lab to send a couple of people to assemble it, Gene went on a foraging mission to pick up a lot of electronic parts, instruments and wire to construct their high voltage power supply. Gene would assemble a nice high voltage supply from scratch for the early fusor work and would be commended for his efforts. (Gene Meeks: “Yeah, I was stealing stuff left and right, putting huge loads of stuff on carts and wheeling it down to the basement. We had so much extra material, we stored it in metal cabinets on the other side of the room”…”We were pretty much a bric-a-brak joint down there for several months as we got ourselves organized for the first experiments.”)

Ultimately, they were ready to run the "Mark One" (MK I), device which was a rather well assembled very small bell jar fusor. It was machined, welded and assembled in the model shop run by Wayne Frame. This early model would see many modifications in future. I attach a few photos of this early system based on Farnsworth’s multipacting virtual negative well device. This concept would dominate the effort for almost two and a half years.

According to Pem, within her book, and with great pride and fanfare, she announces…

”On Friday October 7, 1960, in a small basement room, the fusor was assembled with its bell jar and hooked up to the vacuum and power systems. Making a vacuum tight seal between the lower half of the fusor shell and bell jar was quite difficult. The indium metal used as a sealant was forming bubbles that were breaking and keeping the vacuum from being obtained. Eventually,(at about 10 pm), the problem was solved. At sufficiently high vacuum, power was applied and gradually raised until the power supply’s maximum was reached. A bright glow within the fusor increased in intensity as the voltage was increased.”
Pem goes on to claim that a magnet was brought near the fusor at this time and a “gas like flame was drawn out of the center of the structure until about one inch long” She claims this proves beyond a doubt that a plasma had been formed and that no natural gases would do this. She states, “Phil, Fritz, George, and Gene were witnesses to this major event.”

<Comment – Pem got this one wrong. Any sufficient voltage applied to any evacuated gas system, regardless of gas contained, will produce a glow and this will follow a magnet around. This does not indicate a pure plasma, just gas excitation as a current is passed through the system between electrodes. End comment>

The team finally had a working system, but we must note that about 1 year has elapsed from funding in 1959 and first light in the little basement room. One year of paltry funding down….

Richard Hull
Attachments
Phil looks admiringly at his first pass baby fusor.  This photo also accompanied the media released images proclaiming that ITT was planning on solving the difficulty of doing fusion
Phil looks admiringly at his first pass baby fusor. This photo also accompanied the media released images proclaiming that ITT was planning on solving the difficulty of doing fusion
A very Young Gene Meeks looks into the tiny device doomed to never do fusion.
A very Young Gene Meeks looks into the tiny device doomed to never do fusion.
&quot;Fritz&quot; Furth - the Admiral with the tiny first device
"Fritz" Furth - the Admiral with the tiny first device
This was a major publicity photo of the team. L to R. Gene Meeks, George Bain, Fredrick Furth- &quot;the Admiral&quot;, Philo T. Farnsworth.  When released to the media in 1961, ITT stock shot up sharply as investors figured ITT would be doing fusion.  This did allow for increased funding in all subsequent years.  This photo was taken in the drab little room in the beginning of the effort
This was a major publicity photo of the team. L to R. Gene Meeks, George Bain, Fredrick Furth- "the Admiral", Philo T. Farnsworth. When released to the media in 1961, ITT stock shot up sharply as investors figured ITT would be doing fusion. This did allow for increased funding in all subsequent years. This photo was taken in the drab little room in the beginning of the effort
Jim Heine - The draftsman for the fusor team.  He designed those first &quot;impossible&quot; tubes that were never used.  He holds a big, complex tube.  At this time ITT was the number one inventor and supplier of unique tubes for computers, science, industry and especially the military.
Jim Heine - The draftsman for the fusor team. He designed those first "impossible" tubes that were never used. He holds a big, complex tube. At this time ITT was the number one inventor and supplier of unique tubes for computers, science, industry and especially the military.
Typical all glass vacuum system in the small basement room. 1960-1962.  Complex to start and operate.  mercury diffusion pump,  liquid nitrogen to keep mercury out of the system and even 2 visible ion pumps!!  This was their first vacuum system used only in the little basement room. To connect any fusor, they had to have a glass blower show up and join it to the all glass system
Typical all glass vacuum system in the small basement room. 1960-1962. Complex to start and operate. mercury diffusion pump, liquid nitrogen to keep mercury out of the system and even 2 visible ion pumps!! This was their first vacuum system used only in the little basement room. To connect any fusor, they had to have a glass blower show up and join it to the all glass system
One of many variants of that small first fusor of the period 1960-1961 used Farnsworth multipactor concept to form an electron based virtual cathode.
One of many variants of that small first fusor of the period 1960-1961 used Farnsworth multipactor concept to form an electron based virtual cathode.
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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That Spherical Multipactor

Post by Paul_Schatzkin »

These photos are fantastic, Richard.

It's really cool to see the very first iterations of the fusor, those bell jar versions.

But also sorta confounding to hear that they didn't produce any of fusion.

I would like to hear more about the transition from the "electron / multipaction / virtual cathode approach to... what was it, exactly, that came after? Who first came up with the reverse polarity? What were the earliest models that used that approach, and how did that lead ultimately to whatever Hirsch was doing in "the cave" (which I understand to have been the highest yielding runs, with the D-T combo). And why did Phil insist to the end that they were all on the wrong approach. And what was he doing in "the pit" that was different?

What's confusing to me is how all this evolved. For as long as I have known these stories, I have understood the inspiration for the Fusor to be drawn from the observations of a plasma-like phenomenon in the spherical multipactor that I am holding in the photo from Los Angeles last month. How is that, if that tube was the inspiration for the poissor, and the fusor, that it was such a dismal failure, and didn't start to produce results until it was turned inside out (if I understand correctly)?

Here's another look at that spherical multipactor, supposedly the Alpha of the whole fusor project:

11.4_spherical.jpg

...or, the tube that produced the failure that produced the success that is still a failure.

No wonder I'm confused...

--PS
Paul Schatzkin, aka "The Perfesser" – Founder and Host of Fusor.net
Author of The Boy Who Invented Television - http://farnovision.com/book.html
"Fusion is not 20 years in the future; it is 50 years in the past and we missed it."
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Richard Hull
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Murky times of fusion confusion and delusion and training of the team.

Post by Richard Hull »

Comment>
Paul's amazement is no less than my own. This is the next installment in the saga and the title of this posting more or less says it all. Almost nothing is known of this time 1960-1962. The team members could not fill in many details that weren't dragged out of them and the dates were tentative. Phil would be deeply involved with the ITT patent attorney's as ITT wanted everything on paper with all the math and details in place. He worked with Dr. Salinger, and a Dr. Ahmed, (ITT department physicist and mathematician at the time), on the math and theory in these deliberations related to the patents.

I begin with a phone call to Gene related to this period I recorded it on one of those little micro-cassettes and as my little recorder went bad, it damaged the tape a good bit, but I pieced some of it back together. I borrowed another player from a friend and had my wife slowly transcribe the text, removing some expletives that Gene was so fond of.

Phone interview 10 March 2002
Subject: Gene Meeks (260) 747-5448
By: Richard Hull

Reason for call: More info on Farnsworth's direct involvement with the fusor team. Now retyped from tape and written notes.
Q. How involved was Phil day-to-day?

A. Phil was not very involved at all in the daily activities. He was up in his office most of the time or talking with ITT reps or the Admiral. We could hear his monroe-matic chugging away from time to time. He would come down from time to time.

Q. What do you mean from time to time?

A. When he had an idea he would come down and have a talk with George, who would later tell us what was said and what to do. Phil would usually come around to the others, put his hand on our back and ask how we were doing and occasionally ask about our work, individually. However, he never meddled in the work. I guess he figured we knew what we were doing. No, he was a relatively rare sight down in the lab.
Q. Did he ever roll up his sleeves and help.

A. Oh no! The last time I saw Phil working to a goal in hardware issues was when we were doing the work at his house in the late 50's and very early while here at ITT. When we started there in 58, I hadn't been at ITT long. It was just Phil and me, like at the house. The admiral was a fixture here in those early days at ITT. He stuck his neck out to get us going at the plant once ITT funded us. The admiral had himself a permanently reserved apartment near the plant in those days and even put himself to work getting us off the ground in the little room in the basement. The admiral had power and was able to get us the best items from the stores. (storage area of controlled corporate assets) I got to get a lot of electronics stuff for the first power supply that I built from the old TV assembly hall. I was told, take what you need.
The guy who controlled that stuff was an asshole. I went to the stores with the admiral to get an oscilloscope and some meters, a roll around cart and some chairs and a table. We didn't have any list with us or signed checkout authorizations. The guy in stores said once we had the paperwork we could have the stuff he gave the admiral a form to fill out with what we wanted and to return with it filled out signed by the plant manager or other executive. The admiral took out his pen and wrote down a far bigger list than what we needed at that time and signed at the bottom, with his title, Vice president of research, ITT. The guy called the plant manager and we could hear the loud voice coming back at him. he turned a little pale.
He returned from the end of the table after hanging up and said.... yes sir, I'll get it together right now. The admiral said.... we're going to lunch and you will have it down at the lab in one hour or I will be back and know why. The admiral didn't accept foolishness.

We went to the cafeteria and had lunch. During lunch the admiral said that he hated to throw his weight around, but the guy pissed him off. That was the only time I ever ate or had any personal time with the admiral. He explained that he trusted and admired Phil and his dream and he was going to do all he could for him.
When we got back all the stuff was there and even placed rather well on benches. I was expecting to see a pile of stuff on a roll around cart, but it was all nicely placed with the paperwork stamped with the Stores receipt on the table. So, the admiral and I moved stuff to where we liked it. He didn't shun a bit of heavy lifting.
Those early days were the last time I saw Phil in shirt sleeves with the admiral and me doing the work that day. The admiral took George from the tube electronics dept. and proclaimed him project engineer. He let George know that he expected monthly reports on the engineering efforts and that Phil was project head in Fort Wayne. Phil was already a V.P. of special research at the plant.

Q. I guess a vacuum system of some quality was a first order of business.

A. It sure was! In those days all vacuum systems of custom design used glass plumbing. It was easy to keep clean and you could see when it got dirty or fouled. We got the vacuum system which was all custom blown glass from the tube shop. They had two good glass blowers. By late 1961 or early 1962 we added Freddie Haak who we took from the tube lab as he was an expert on vacuum system maintenance and tube assembly. By mid-1960, we were pretty much set up, but Phil was pressing the tube lab to cobble up that first little fusor you see in all those early publicity photos. The admiral pushed hard too so we could show something for the effort. That first fusor never even pumped any deuterium either.

Q. What! No deuterium?!

A. yes, Phil was working to get his virtual cathode working. His idea was to do fusion by creating an "electron knot" in the center. then have the deuterium accelerate towards it after being ionized.

Q. What were those little multiple things around the base?

A. They were really just simple unfocused electron emitters to supply electrons for the virtual cathode. They were not ion guns. Phil spent a lot of time on his idea of the electron cathode and wanted to make sure he could do that before using deuterium.

Q. when was deuterium first used?

A. Oh it was on the second fusor at ITT which was just the same bell jar item with new guts maybe late 1960, I can't remember precisely. Phil was sure it was doing fusion though. The admiral wondered how Phil knew, I told him I didn't know. By that time, I was pretty wise about fusion and the process. So was the admiral and he got us our first neutron counter sent brand new from Eberline. ( note I have seen this in photos, and it was the well-known Eberline PNC-1, which was very popular at that time.)

Q. Whoa....!! You didn't have a neutron counter until then!!

A. Yes. I was a bit worried that we didn't have one but, I was just a technician and was only now getting into the full understanding about nuclear fusion from my reading up on the subject. George and I talked about this. Oh, we had a Geiger counter due to worries about X-rays and we had those little re-chargeable pen dosimeters. We put a lead sheet in front of the counter to kill the x-ray counting. We still got a couple of counts and Phil told us those were neutron counts.

Q. I guess you know they could have still been scattered x-rays off other items.

A. Sure, I do now! But back then..... As the technician, I was tasked with reading the manual on the Eberline and sort of became the keeper and operator of the instrument. George got me some more detailed books on neutron measurement.

Q. Was there any fusion...by that I mean neutrons present?

A. No. None. At first Phil was so damned sure he was doing fusion, but the instrument never moved or clicked. George then took the Eberline manual home and read it. This made me feel like I was not doing my job and set me at odds with George at that point. George ran the bell jar fusor both in the presence of Phil and then again with just he and myself together. Nothing....
I think George got frustrated.... George returned the counter to Eberline. they sent it back saying it was working fine with their neutron source. Meanwhile Phil was filling his lab notebooks with all sort of stories of fusion with his calculations showing it was so. George had worries, I could see, but we never talked about it. I think this created a wider gap between us. I felt marginalized as George never apologized for doubting my ability with the Eberline and made no excuse why he couldn't get it to work. There was a cold silence between us. I always felt he was frustrated over the whole deal. Now that I know what I know, I guess we were looked at to perform. We did not have the guts to go to Phil with our worries as he was far ahead of us, we felt.

Q. I mean....This was it?? Did you have a radiation expert there in the plant? Maybe a neutron source?
A. Oh, hell no! The tube lab had a physicist who monitors x-rays on high voltage tube tests, but ITT was not doing any work there that would warrant having a source. I think...I'm not sure...., but I think George gave the Eberline to the Admiral to take to perhaps his old pals at NRL. George came and took it from me during one of the admiral’s multiple visits during the year. It was 2 months before I saw it again when George gave it back. I asked rather gruffly did you send it back to Eberline...Again! He quickly told me that it was not my place to know where it had been. The rift between George and me widened.
A. So let me get this straight.....By late 60 or early 61 you were using deuterium and Phil was noting successful fusion in his notebooks, having no neutron counter! You had no neutron counter until 1962 and it was not reading at all!
A. Yes, that was just how it was ( I detected a breath of frustration in Genes voice over the phone).

Q. When did you start getting counts on the counter?

A. Well, Richard, you gotta' understand.......Phil had his ideas and George and I had seen three more bell jar fusors between 61 and early 62. All the time no counts. Even Freddie was starting to get concerned. I mean, you can't be around fusion work without picking up a certain amount of insight and knowledge. I think it was George who figured out a work around and had the guts to steer the project around the hole we were in. I think it was on about the 5th or 6th bell jar system. Phil was running the fusor with George and I was there running the supply up in voltage as we proceeded. suddenly the long mute neutron counter made a click. George turned around and looked at my face. Turn it up some more. Phil noted that the fusor didn't visually look right. George kept telling me to turn it up more. Then a few more clicks were heard and then some steady clicking. George yelled we are getting neutrons!

Phil said turn it off or we'll have a runaway! George said what happened? Gene, check out all the connections. I said they are as they always were. He yelled at me.... Gene do what I say!
I went back and found the positive and negative had been swapped from the HV supply. I knew George had done it and I got blamed for mis-connecting the system. Phil said, "Hold it George, maybe this is a good thing." Phil disappeared for a day or two, as he often did to cogitate. He must have been in deep thought. George knew that I knew, but not a word passed between us.

Q. when did all this happen?

A. Oh, now you are asking for another date! Sometime in early 1962 that's the best I can do for you. Gene complained that he was tired and had to go to bed. Call ended 10:20 pm

>Comment
I felt stunned at this revelation. I would hope George could speak to this via the phone, but by this time, he had suffered a very debilitating stroke and could no longer speak. A phone call to his wife Eva confirmed that he was not improved. A call to Fred Haak verified that Phil got excited about a test run with reversed connections and felt that he was getting significant results this way and from about late 1962 they were getting neutron counter to sing with reversed connections, a spherical central cathode and accelerating the deuterium ions using electrostatic ion guns. These were still larger bell jar systems with some early crude ion guns of very low ion current.

I am much vexed by why Phil changed to an accelerated deuteron machine. Did Phil suddenly wise up and find out he could still get a poissor with a solid cathode grid biased to accelerate the ions, or did George leap in and suggest it?

This was a murky period 1960-1962. The upshot is that they had been working with non-functioning bell jar systems with the multipactor concept. No real neutron counter was available until late 1961 or early 1962. They had no counts on neutron counter until polarity reversal. The new, much expanded first floor, street level facilities and offices were moved into in early 1962 and the Pit is being dug. A new high voltage supply of 180 kv capability is bought as 1962 funding was expanded a good bit. Activity picked up significantly by mid-to-late, 1962, once they settled into their new facility. 1962 remained a year of continued bell jar systems, albeit far more refined and successful at D-D fusion. The team had a functional neutron counter now and knew how to use it. They had come up on the basics of fusion physics as well. The vacuum systems that would ultimately be installed and used up stairs in the big lab would all be of stainless steel plumbing with metal, oil diffusion pumps.

Much of what we know from this period is contained in a letter sent to Pem Farnsworth by the Admiral from his retirement home in North Carolina. This 4 page letter to Pem in 1989 contained a number of details from this early Murky period. Apparently, Pem could find little technical material related to the early fusion work for her soon to be released book, Distant Vision, (1990), and had queried the admiral. Furth noted a large number of unsuccessful attempts to do fusion and mentions that 1962 was the first bell jar fusor to do any measured fusion. and it was only 10e5 neutrons/sec. He notes that this was far short of the goal Farnsworth had set of 10e15 n/s. He notes that the pit fusors never did much better than 10e9n/s in 1966. However he notes that one run of the MKIII exp 2 they recorded 7 X10e10 and notes it could not be replicated again. We are getting ahead of ourselves in the time ordered report here. Suffice it to say that the first 3 working years 1960-1962 the results were very limited and then only once they reversed polarity and began accelerating deuterons to a solid negative dynode/cathode in 1962.

A note related to Gene Meeks: The strain between George and Gene was brought to a team and administrative head in an action that resulted in an official ITT departmental letter in October of 1962. In this letter Gene's review for a pay raise and general employee performance review notes that his job is in jeopardy if his poor attitude continues. The matter is referred to Phil and the Admiral among others. It ends with a suggestion to hold all further action until the parties had a chance to talk with Gene and would be picked up for either termination or a pay raise in December based on his performance in the interim. Gene told me that Phil talked with him and that Gene admitted he was probably to blame. (Gene noted to me, "It was a rough time for me at that time. I had issues at home with my wife.") Gene would straighten himself out at work and would get that pay raise and continue to work well throughout his time on the fusor team.

John Cornealius was a tech brought in to assist Gene and George in late 1961. Deathly afraid of radiation, he would leave for this reason in late 1963 as the experiments became more advanced in the pit and Tritium was used requiring urine samples weekly to check on radioactive up-take by personnel of Tritium. This would be the straw that broke the camel’s back for Cornealius. He left ITT.

Lab Team in 1962: George Bain, Fred Haak, Gene Meeks, John Cornealius (1961-late 1963) >end comment.

Some Photos below from the period.
Attachments
BellJar image 2.jpg
BellJar image 3.jpg
Haak image 1.jpg
Meeks image 1.jpg
Multipactor image 2.jpg
Multipactor image 1.jpg
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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1963-64 A good two years. On the right track

Post by Richard Hull »

<Editorial - As 1963 opened, the team was doing limited fusion, (10e5 n/s), in a number of bell jar fusors with metallic cathodes/dynodes. The troubles between Gene and George were smoothed over a bit. The pit was finished, the budgets were opened up to allow for the addition of Fred Haak and John Cornealius to be added to the payroll and much new and valuable gear was purchased like the large 200 kilovolt Universal Voltronics supply. Some bell jar fusors were outfitted with electrostatic ion guns to try and focus the deuteron beams on the way to the dynode. The focus in these was not as sharp nor as high current as a pigatron ion gun type used later by the team. They functioned much like the classic canal ray tubes seen in old classroom physics demos. The team still listened to Phil and built his fusors as he wanted them, but they also had a handle on what worked and what did not. Many small bell jar "test beds" were setup. These did no fusion but did test internal piece ideas for fusion systems. George Bain noted to me in his discussion related to budgets that the 63 budget was on the order of $250,000 or about 5 times 1960 budget. end editorial>


General Data related to Gene Meeks troubled time:

Gene’s marriage became strained in 1962 until divorce took place in late 1963. Gene was stressed out and was giving a good deal of trouble at work with Bain. By this time, Fred Haak had joined the team and often mediated some of the issues between Gene and Bain.

I will paraphrase from my notes of a number of phone calls to George Bain, Fred Haak and Gene Meeks about this time. This was early on in 1998 when I first tracked these people down and just before my 1999 week long trip to Fort Wayne and Bloomington. It also includes much from the later, in person interview videos. I was the "keeper of the list". I supplied all team members from 1998 through 2007 a regularly updated, confidential list of team member's addresses, phone numbers and other data so that they might keep in touch

I now condense below some of the discussions related to Gene's "troubled time"

Bain: We had only Gene, myself and Phil from 1959-1961. That was it! We barely had enough for our salaries. Gene crafted just about every thing we needed in the way of electronics. You have to remember, Gene and I knew nothing about vacuum work and virtually nothing about nuclear fusion physics. We relied totally on Phil for this. Jim Heine turned Phil’s ideas into mechanical drawings which I took to the model and machine shops in house. The vacuum system was built for us by the tube lab. Phil never helped, it was just Gene and myself in that little room. Phil would occasionally drop by and offer advice. It was mostly Phil, the Admiral and Salinger doing the planning and getting us “Carte Blanche” within the facility to force all the entities there to snap to on our requests for drafting, machining, vacuum work assistance, etc. Unfortunately, Gene’s marriage issues, he brought to work and took some of his frustration out on Fred and myself. (Fred came from the tube lab in late 1961 or early 1962 and helped them move to the new larger facility up stairs)

Meeks: yes, for a while there I was kind of obtuse and hard to get along with. My wife was screwin’ around on me with two other guys. Nights were a torment and I guess I took it to work with me. That was on me. I almost got fired. George reported me to management and to Phil. It was touch and go there for a while.

Haak: Gene was a bit difficult when I arrived in late 1961 or early 1962. I was added to the team just as they were moving into the big lab area upstairs. They wanted to know if anyone in the tube lab wanted in on the Farnsworth effort. They needed a man who knew vacuum technique. I was curious, so I volunteered and within two days was down in the basement helping them move what little they had up stairs. Their setup was crap! Everything was kludged, leaking like a sieve and all glass…Terrible. George and Gene were at odds a lot and a couple of times I had to step in as it seemed like they might come to blows! Damn, what had I got myself into?! I only found out that Gene was having trouble at home much later. He straightened out a bit the next year. (1963)

Bain: I hope you won’t ask Gene about this, but during the worst of his divorce, his wife was awarded custody of the child and would ultimately get what little equity they had in their home. I did not know this until later, when I found Gene bathing in the men’s wash room out of the sink! I told him he couldn’t do this at work. He told me that he was living where there were no bathing facilities. I was told that he was living just down the street now and no longer at home. His attendance was spotty and he was out sick a lot. This affected our work as he was a main player. I reported that we might need to fire Gene as he was irascible and had spotty attendance. Phil was for giving him a chance while the Admiral was ready to immediately fire him. (Gene was a close friend of Phil, while the Admiral would not suffer slackers.)

I could not remember any nearby hotels or home just down Pontiac street as this was an industrial area. One morning Gene was not there at 10AM and I drove down Pontiac street and found nothing but an older city park. I found Gene living in a cardboard box in grove of trees in the park. It was September and getting cold at night. I could not leave him there. I took him home and Eva fed him. He took a shower while Eva washed his clothes. He stayed with us for a week or two and we found him a spot at the local YMCA to live until he got enough saved to rent a single room apartment. I had to pick him up and carry him to work for a while, until he got an old beater of a car and could drive himself. He kind of mellowed a bit after that.

This shows that George had a kind heart related to Gene in spite of his duty to report Gene's failures on the team later that month that would toss him into hot water. Gene told me that the kindness George showed him mellowed him to George after that and he readily admitted to Phil in his conversation over the furor that he was the issue. In his talk with the admiral, Gene noted that he was almost shaking before the admiral and came clean across the board. The admiral took pity on him and made him go to George and personally apologize for his attitude issues. By December, Gene was given the thumbs up by the Admiral, Phil and George. The saga here had ended well, it turns out, for everyone and the future of the team.


Moving on....

In June of 63 Bob Hirsch was finishing his doctoral work and was invited to spend the summer with the team. Bob leaped right in full of suggestions and new ideas. Bob would introduce the team to the idea of real ion guns of some power (pigatrons). Gene and Bob became friends fast as Bob encouraged Gene to read up on ion guns. Gene would ultimately be the maker of all the team's future ion guns and would make a number of modifications in his gun that made it able to be patented. Bob would say to me. "Gene had the best pair of hands I have ever had the pleasure to work with." Gene would tell me that his proudest achievement, "was them guns I built for the team."

Another of Bob's suggestions was for the team to get Tritium in the mix of gas in their fusors. (D-T fusion) Bob told them that 100 times the fusion could be done with D-T over D-D. This would be another saga in the team's history. The license was the issue. Tritium is radioactive and thus, was AEC controlled at the time. To buy it you had to have and AEC license. To use it in a lab, you also had to follow AEC use guide lines. This included weekly urine samples for all workers directly involved with the isotope as it is easily inhaled, but rapidly passes through the body and out with the urine. It would be tough and maybe a year long effort to get a license in the 1960's.

Upon hearing this, Fred Haak noted that a Chemist in his old tube lab at Pontiac street had a tritium license. His name was Howard Leightner and he got his license in the 50's when it was much more easy to get one. Leitner would agree to purchase Tritium for the team and would set up the urine testing routine. Strictly speaking, this was not totally legal as Leitner was not on the team and would not be supervising its use, directly. Nonetheless, the team was using D-T in 1964 and in all fusors from 1965 onward.

Bob wanted to just check on Phil's "negative well" idea and fixed up a bench to test this out, but while the electrons did multi-pact, the well wasn't deep enough to rival fusion done with a real cathode/dynode structure with hard ion blasting sets of ion guns. This set the path for the pit fusor MKII and MKIII. Bob left in September to finish and sit to defend his PhD. thesis. The newly minted PhD, Robert Hirsch, would be hired by the Admiral in April of 1964 as the lead scientist of the team. In my interview with Bob, he said he was interviewed by a lot of ITT VIPs for the job, but he can't remember who actually gave him the job as he merely got a letter of acceptance. But he feels that it was Furth as the admiral questioned him on his ability to write papers pertaining to the work with the fusor project.

The upshot is that there were no more bell jars. All tests were run in metal systems that kept Wayne Frame in the model and machine shop busy cranking out many all metal test beds for the rest of the project. Wayne could not spin or form hemispheres at Pontiac street. This work would be farmed out to the Chicago Float company. They would supply many hemispheres from 1963-1968. Wayne Frame would attach all necessary conflat flanges, tubulations, insulators, gas ports, gun ports and dynodes.

Bobs first year was spent in the negative well work and helping get Gene's guns fitted to the pit fusor. Thus, in 1964, there was but one fusor, the pit fusor, Phil's baby, and it would hit 10e9 in its best run of that year. Note: there were many modifications of the pit fusor like (MKII mod4). When a tiny change was made they would add an experiment number on the end in the notebooks. like, (MKII mod6, exp 3) under this they would also denote run numbers as they tweaked that experimental model.

By the end of the year, Bob would want to go his own way, figuring the showy and monstrous pit fusor was too difficult to make major revisions on. He was to have his own system in another part of the lab. it would be called "the Cave" and Gene would be his assistant as an engineering technician.

Below, I supply some images of this later period and people from George Bain's collection of images.

Richard Hull
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Edy Heastan.jpg
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Re: "Revese Polarity"

Post by Paul_Schatzkin »

Richard, I'm going to go back to your post from yesterday, because something fundamental is still unclear to me.
No counts on neutron counter until polarity reversal.
That's one incredibly loaded short sentence that demands further elaboration.

For starters: can you articulate what Farnsworth thought he was doing with the "virtual cathode / electron multipaction" configuration that was incorporated into the first 'bell jar' designs of the fusor?

I get that the idea was a negatively charged electron well at the center of the chamber, is that right? That virtual cathode (electron cloud?) would attract positively charged ions by dint of its own negative charge, right? And somewhere in there.... poissor? Have we discussed at all how that was supposed to form, or what exactly it is? I mean, it's only central to his whole idea, and everybody who's managed to achieve fusion and produce neutrons in an amateur fusor has created one, but do we have a really good idea what exactly a "poissor" or is how it is central to fusion (to say nothing of its polarity...).

My understanding is that the poissor is a "layered onion" of electrical charges: a layer of negative charge inside a layer of positive charge inside a layer of negative etc etc, all within a space smaller than the head of a pin, and that (ideally, anyway), that is the "star" where the fusion occurs (though I am getting now that fusion occurs everywhere within the chamber, and that that is one reason why the fusor is so inefficient).

So if you can, set me straight on those assumptions.

And then, what I'm really driving at is: what exactly does "reversing the polarity" do that produces fusion, when the original configuration could not?

Please understand, I am not challenging anything you're presenting here. I just don't understand it well enough to make the necessary sense of it, and I'm trying to disabuse myself of a lot of misconceptions that I've willingly (ignorantly?) clung to for decades.

This is why it's SO important that you're sharing all this stuff with us, because I think it's fundamental to our understanding of what is happening here and our hopes – however misguided they may ultimately be – for what the potential in whatever it was that Philo T. Farnsworth envisioned like 60 years ago (assuming that vision was not entirely delusional).

So, whenever you get the chance, pray tell.

Thanks,

--PS
Paul Schatzkin, aka "The Perfesser" – Founder and Host of Fusor.net
Author of The Boy Who Invented Television - http://farnovision.com/book.html
"Fusion is not 20 years in the future; it is 50 years in the past and we missed it."
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Re: Richard Hull's Attic

Post by Richard Hull »

First, let us clear things up a bit. If you see a pretty star, this is a bad thing. Less fusion is being done there. Light is emitted when recombination takes place. This means that there is an intense union of electrons and deuterons in a small space. As the binding of electrons to hydrogen nuclei, (protium, deuterium, tritium) is about 13eV. If the electrons or deuterons are moving faster than this energy allows, there is no recombination. The center of the poissor is an area of collision This means a slowing down of a very dense group of electrons and deuterons where recombination occurs. Thus, limited fusion occurs here, What you really want is a larger volume of velocity space collisional area. This is the larger physical volume as seen in the spherical or cylindrical fusors where very little recombination takes place. (a dull glow). The bulk of fusion occurs over the vast inter-grid space. The University of Wisconsin has proven this.

Phil's idea was great at first glance. No real physical body that was negative, (like our grids), instead, he wanted a ball of electrons to create a negative well. This requires a driven alternating radio frequency field as he produced in his multipactor vacuum tubes invented earlier. To do this you need a source of electrons in the device created by a filament or by field emission. The electrons in order to form the knot must have an opposing field alternating gradient in the gas such that they are forced to reverse in a phased manner related to the geometry of the device which the RF generator is tuned to. This bunches the electrons in the center of the device. Look at the original patent for the fusor and you will see the absolutely critical powerful RF generator as part of the submitted drawing.

Once you have the negative well, the DC field that makes the electrons to accelerate also ionizes the deuterium gas. It is hoped that the much slower and far more massive ions will accelerate towards the negative well and fusion will occur as they crash into each other in the center. This is nice in theory, but is very difficult to do in practice. This is due to the RF generator needed to form the negative well in the center.

EDIT November 2020: I fear I did not deal with Paul's question to either my or his satisfaction. Sometimes a re-read helps. This relates to Paul's "onion skin" query.
Space charges are common in vacuum tubes with various electrified elements within them. (fact) They are usually viewed with great disdain by people designing a tube and grids or other elements are usually introduced into the tube to offset or get rid of the negative or undesirable space charge around the working elements within the tube.

Due to the nature of charge, itself, one cannot have a stable ball of charge with onion skin layers of positive and negative charges. Such an entity would immediately do what positive and negative charges do and that is neutralize each other. From this it must be realized there is no layered charge within the multipactor concept. In multipaction, there is an idealized negative electron knot trapped in a zone within and "electron tube". Special resonances are required to do this within the tube itself. Farnsworth hope to use this "virtual cathode" to force positive ions, (deuterons), to be attracted to this non-solid, central, negative electrode and fuse. Great idea, but neutralization would be the net result.

The upshot is that I personally feel that without a neutron counter in his earliest efforts or the required ion guns, introduced later, his original ideas were never fully tested. We are doing what Farnsworth wanted, but with a real physical, central, negatively charge grid! Just like the failure of the Farnsworth virtual negative electron knot, our grids also neutralize a large number of deuterons that heat the real physical grid. This is why we can do fusion but the return is real, yet pitiable.

END of November 2020 edit............


Here is what Wikipedia had to say about multipaction, giving Philo credit for his work....
*****************************
This phenomenon was first observed by the French physicist Camille Gutton, in 1924, at Nancy.

The Multipactor was identified and studied in 1934 by Philo T. Farnsworth, the inventor of electronic television, who attempted to take advantage of it as an amplifier. More commonly nowadays, it has become an obstacle to be avoided for normal operation of particle accelerators, vacuum electronics, radars, satellite communication devices, and so forth........................
*************************
Well, it is to be considered an obstacle and avoided in particle accelerators!!! I guess Philo helped prove this in the early 1960's.....

When polarity reversal occurs in this device, any fusion that takes place would be there, but extremely limited due to the phase relationship between the opposing electron emitters within the DC field. Over time, more fusion might take place due to beam on target within the device, but even then it would be terribly poor as the Farnsworth bell jar would look and react differently. (Phil noticed this visually, if you will remember, in the reversal induced by George.)

The big deal is that with no neutron counter, and just using a GM counter for the first two years, the group was crippled. They were crippled, first, scientifically by having no suitable neutron detector at hand and second by a total lack of understanding by the people doing the work who believed blindly that Phil knew what he was doing and accepted his word on the GM detections. I was aghast at what I learned all along, but demurred in bashing Phil's work. No more, however. You had a man with no formal training in nuclear physics with a great idea that seemed like it would work, but didn't, in the end. His crew got smart via reading and study. The admiral probably was also wondering why they had no neutron counter and got them one rather belatedly once the money became available in 1961. Back then a good neutron counter was almost as much as an inexpensive new car! The neutron counter, once it arrived, would not indicate fusion with Phil's idea. They believed in Phil so the counter must be bad. It wasn't, it was truly reading, no fusion! The team's low neutron counts when they did do fusion in 1962 via reversal and electrostatic guns was due to a fixation on dense beams of deuterons blasted through large dynodes to collide in the center, again, with no solid central grid. For the deuterons to make it to the center and collide you had to reduce the pressure for mean free path considerations. The notes verify 5 microns was a big pressure for them. This meant Less fusion fuel! To do fusion, they needed very high voltages. We at fusor.net are typically using up to 20 microns in the big spheres and 30-40 microns in the crosses! The Farnsworth numbers went up significantly in 1964 with the 100X D-T mix. Once the solid central negative target coupled with ion guns and D-T after 1966, they were able to hit the 10e9 numbers. The cave fusor operated by Hirsch used the right idea and Meeks going off on his own to hit 10e12 in the very end in 1968 was a nice finish, for the time.

The team relied on what they called a dynode, this is much like our central grid. The dynode was the central, highly negative device, just like our inner grid! A dynode, as they used it, absolutely demanded multiple ion guns focused at a central point in space within the dynode. We cannot use the large dynode as we have no ion guns. Thus, we are forced use a much smaller dynode which we call an inner grid.

In Pem's book she also notes what I note. The real improvements all came in and after 1965. One of the most amazing tabulated runs in the book were the amazingly low D-T pressures below 1 micron and at 140,000 volts and above! This is ridiculous! Starved for fuel but a suitably long mean free path allowed the deuteron beams to collide relatively undiminished at the empty center of the fusors dynode. This is not the way to do fusion. Your current is low and your fuel is just not there either. Basically, they are spending boat loads of money to do what the average amateur fusor can do today with D-D fusion at much higher pressures and currents, but at half the applied voltage. Pem did stumble over a number of issues of units and quoted, verbatim, a typographical error in units from the Admiral's letter to her. Still, she did her best with what she had.

Phil would effectively disappear from the entire effort in late 1965. Phil would be placed on active retirement temporarily, due to his "condition" and as the end drew near in 1967 we have a letter of his being fired from ITT, ending even that rather tentative paid status. The short lived, abortive PTFA was the last of Phil's great super expanding dream world and he dragged a lot of folks who believed in him down with his lost dream.

We have 2 people at fusor.net, using the vastly simplified amateur variant of the Hirsch-Meeks dessert cart fusor doing 10e7 and 10e8 n/s in D-D fusion. If you gave these guys D-T to run then 10e10 would be an easy effort for the best among them, albeit a bit radiologically hazardous. No ion guns needed. No accelerating grids needed. We could easily outshine the best pit machine and almost touch the cave and MK II prime machines of the Farnsworth effort. Our fusors need no RF oscillator as it is a simple two electrode, electrostatic, accelerator-collider with a bit of beam on target thrown in and works on many levels to do fusion and on many levels to not do fusion. The positives in our device outweigh the negatives and we do a nice amount of D-D fusion for amateur purposes.

Farnsworth gave us the impetus to do fusion via electrostatic confinement coupled with beam on target fusion. The negative well we create is with a real hollow electrode and not a virtual one.

Richard Hull
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Two good years 1965-1966 lots of ideas

Post by Richard Hull »

The team was in full stride as 1964 ended and Bob Hirsch had proven his value to the admiral and ITT. In 1965 the Cave is constructed to run Bob’s ideas using the superb ion guns designed by Gene Meeks who was now permanently assigned to Bob as his personal assistant and technician.
The pit team working on Phil’s ideas had a technician assigned by the name of Jack Fischer. Little is known of Fischer as he was a short hire. He would leave after only 6 or 8 months. He was not generally liked by Meeks or the fellow who replaced him, Steve Blaising. Blaising was brought in to assist Fischer and the busy pit team of Bain and Haak. Steve noted that for a couple of months he was on loan from the Federal tube engineering division of ITT also at Pontiac street. By mid-1966 Fischer was gone and Blaising would be made a permanent member of the Pit team as their technician.
From 1965 there would be two main teams with two significant fusor projects running co-jointly.
The cave fusor was expected to be every bit as radiologically dangerous as the pit fusor. A second pit was impractical and if dug would totally disrupt the original pit teams work for a few months. The solution was to build a borated cinder block wall all the way up to the ceiling in the big main lab area near the pit. Placing borax, (sodium borate), in cinder block mix would act to absorb much of the neutron radiation. This “block box” would come to be called “the cave”. At first, the cave used an older “pit” supply limited to 100kV. With the big 1966 budget, the cave received a new 150 kV Universal Voltronics supply capable of 100ma. This new supply was just a little lower in top voltage than that used for the pit fusor.

The pit fusor would remain rather fixed in form factor from 1965 until the end of the program in mid-1968, but would see a large number of innovations and changes internally as Phil would be his usual font of new ideas about the inner dynode structure and, ultimately, physical cathode structure design alterations. I will not mention or discuss every alteration as there were many and not every piece of documentation about them is extant. Internal alterations to the Mark II pit reactor would take at least a week to a month to accomplish as the device would have to be cracked open, alterations made, be made vacuum tight and re-evacuated. Bringing a freshly altered pit system back down to 10e-8 torr could take days. In the record, we see that the yield on such a fine system rarely exceeded 10e8 n/s.
Electrostatic ion guns would be replaced by more normal Pegatron ion guns to get the ion current up in the pit fusor which was starved for deuterium with pressures on the order of 2-8 microns. Regardless of what they did in the pit, 10e9 n/s is about the best that they turned out during the MK II’s entire tenure during the program. Some of the bold alterations would reduce the output to no more than 10e6 n/s. To reach large neutron numbers well over 100kV applied was the norm.
The cave turned out to house several totally different form factor fusors from late 1965 until 1967 as Hirsch and Meeks tried many ideas that would not allow one fusor body to house some of their more wide-ranging ideas. The one test they did that surprised everyone was two or three non- ion gunned fusors with just a central grid. This far simpler concept would prove to be the germ of the idea for a future demonstration fusor that would go to Washington D.C.!! Most of the variations and test fusor ideas would cease in the cave by late 1966 and the “final variant” small 6” ion gunned fusor would troop through to the end of the program. This small fusor would ultimately produce 8X10e10 n/s or a flux of 10e7 n/sq. cm/sec! All the numbers for the best pit and cave fusors were using a D-T fusion gas mix.

Philo T. Farnsworth steps out of fusion

In general, the teams worked separately and harmoniously, sharing data and ideas. Phil seemed happy until he was not. In late 1965, it appears that a paper written mostly by Phil was needed by ITT to try and solidify ITT’s ideas about what it would be funding in future. This paper involved math and conceptual ideas related to fusion. Bob Hirsch was to oversee the paper before submission. He and Phil did not agree on some of the math routes taken by Phil and some of his assumptions related to fusion physics. Already in serious disagreements on the paper, a visit by a group of scientists and officials to explain what they were doing as a team had Phil, the admiral and Bob shepherding them around the facility and lab. At some critical junctures, during the tour, it is said, when questions were asked on specific points, Bob immediately jumped in to answer. Some of the team present said that Phil slowly hung his head and sunk back in the crowd. He would later leave that day and said, “I am going home to get drunk.” He did just that and it is noted in Pem’s book Distant Vision. Phil had done this sort of thing before. A case of depression followed by drunkenness and a wasting of his already thin and weak constitution would never see him at serious fusion work ever again. During this period, he was asked by his friend Fritz Furth, the admiral, to please work on the paper at home as drafts would be sent back and forth between, he and Bob Hirsch. Phil just gave up. He said the ideas in the paper were not his ideas and thoughts on fusion.

According to Hirsch in my interview, Phil's math was just not correct and could not be presented in the scientific paper planned to be studied by other knowledgeable scientists. For my sake, he obviously mellowed it out a bit. In my interview with George Bain, he noted that with each re-write sent to the ailing Farnsworth, Bob Hirsch was less circumspect and one day came to Bain and showed him Farnsworth's math, telling Bain, "Farnsworth is crazy!" "This math can't be used at all....His figures are just not right!" It is to be remembered that Farnsworth's assumptions drove his calculations. According to Bob, Phil was working from unfounded and unverified assumptions. Bob had just received his Doctorate in nuclear physics and now had a couple of years worth of hands-on experience with the fusor and fusion at ITT. His work would prevail.

Phil’s prolonged absence forced ITT to put him on a medical leave status with reduced salary. Phil’s condition worsened and became so bad that he would have to be sent to a facility that could help him get out of his state of depression and drinking and try and build him back up physically. Gene Meeks was called upon to help Pem take him to the airport for the trip. Gene told me that he hand-carried Phil in his arms to the car and then to the airplane. Gene told me he started to tear up as he did this. When it became obvious that Phil was not going to return in an active role, ITT effectively fired him in a letter noting that he was medically and permanently retired. This was in early 1966. Phil would take all of 1966 to pull himself together, all the time dreaming of returning to Utah for good to start up a business devoted to the betterment of man, once again taking up fusion, water purification and other humanitarian ideas. This company would be called Philo T. Farnsworth and Associates, (PTFA). The plan was to be delayed until late 1967. This ended all connections and work on fusion at ITT for Phil Farnsworth. He would not be there for the last two full years of the project that he started.

The team troops on….

Bob Hirsch would finish the scientific paper and see it submitted. His paper was well received at ITT and boosted by the admiral. ITT would OK the largest budget ever submitted of $600,000 for their 1966 fusion project. This would be a peak year for the project. Whatever they wanted, they got. George Bain noted to me that they really could not spend it fast enough. Most would go for new and better instrumentation, several neutron counters, oscilloscopes, much heavier power supplies, etc. As 1966 wore on, a profusion of Bob’s ideas turned into hardware in the cave. The pit fusor now also operating under Hirsch's supervision, but George Bain was in charge of day-to-day work on the pit fusor and its attending team. ITT and Bob wanted input from other universities, scientists, and fusion experimenters as to what they thought of the ITT effort. Part of the 1966 and 1967 budget was gobbled up by this effort as all of those queried would be paid a certain sum if they would answer some questions and submit a formal review paper related to their careful study of what was going on at ITT and any recommendations they might have. Bob liked the idea of getting their work out there and reviewed. ITT, however looked at the effort as a final look at what the people in the fusion community thought of the possibilities of the inertial electrostatic fusion effort at its current state. In other words, ITT was beginning to worry that they were funding a program that like many funded by the government might develop into a money pit with no reward at an actual end that was not is plain sight.

In the end, in late 1966 and early 67, a formal compilation of Bob’s original thorough paper on ITT’s fusion effort that was reviewed by all the participants in the query, plus all of their rather voluminous paper responses, took the form of a thick GBC bound volume. One of the key questions demanded in an outline of what the participants must touch on in their reports to earn the money was, “Where do you think such work as this might best be handled in future”. (Industrial labs, academic research labs, government laboratories, other).

The respondents rather universally dismissed the industrial setting, like ITT or a Bell lab type environment. Most opted for academic research labs, with a few suggesting turning it over to the government.

In addition, most responded that they could not see the methods explained to them in the paper, becoming a path to controlled nuclear fusion from which energy might be extracted. Some few noted the idea might have merit.

It turns out this is exactly what ITT wanted to hear. A way out was being planned.

Strange goings on - unreported observations kept secret – Confirmed and Unconfirmed amazing events.

I include this section as an interesting side bar. All that is related here is taken from the horse’s mouth, as it were. This means real people telling real stories that they either witnessed or heard about from other lesser players who could not be interviewed. These events are numbered, and all took place in the 1964-1966, time frame when the participants were all “on the wise” related to the fusion process, the general ideas involved in fusion physics and as to what they were doing every day.

1. Phil’s nocturnal fusion event.

This was told by Pem Farnsworth in her book Distant Visions and must be consulted by all who want it related verbatim. People that were present: Phil and Pem Farnsworth. Pem almost never appeared in the lab and had little knowledge of the workings there beyond what Phil relayed at the dinner table or in conversations at home. Thus, we must regard her, at that time, as not being a fusion savvy person.

One night, Phil, for whatever reason decided to take Pem to the lab and operate the pit fusor. It is known and told to me that, after the bell jar fusors, Phil was an observer only at all test runs. Apparently, he had watched the procedures for the pit system and felt he could bring the system up to functionality on his own. Phil was no dummy. He had many years of experience in lab situations involving vacuum systems and general electronics from his television experimental days. However, a differentially pumped, gunned fusor is a complex device. Phil did not build it nor was he privy to the many delicacies involved in preparing it for a normal run.

According to Pem, she sat and watched as Phil brought the system to life. Phil advanced the voltage until a large flash occurred. Phil shut off the power, she says, and the meters went to full scale. For a while and then slowly decreased. She asked, “what happened”? To this Phil got up and said, “I have seen all I needed to see”. What this means is left for the reader to interpret. Did Phil do fusion, or did he just think he did fusion, or did he want Pem to think he had done fusion?

I asked about this “event”. Gene Meeks told me that Phil had wrecked the fusor that night and it took Gene and Fred Haak about two weeks to get the system in working order again. He noted that the current meters for the guns and the Universal Voltronics supply current meter had their needles bent requiring them to order replacement meters. Fred Haak was also questioned, and he told me that Phil had burned a hole in the shell of the fusor. This is where the flash would have lit up the pit as an arc in air would have formed for a moment until the power supply over current sense relay would drop out. Bain: “We had issues with Phil working the fusor. He was not familiar with the intricacies involved” Meeks: “George told me to go down to Pep Boys and buy two key ignition switches. I installed them in the power cabinets so only George, Fred and I had keys. Phil never ruined another system after that.”

From my standpoint, I write this story off as a non-event. (beyond a destructive one.) Sadly, Pem Farnsworth cannot be considered a disinterested, uninvolved, observer with a suitable knowledge of fusion to determine if fusion was actually taking place to some significant level.

2. Another event touted as a runaway fusion reaction.

This event was reported to both Steve Blaising and Gene Meeks by Jack Fischer, (another technician of short tenure with the team). I will relay this as it was told to Paul Schatzkin and myself in 2001 by both Gene Meeks and Steve Blaising in-person.

Blaising: “I do have one event that was relayed to me by Jack Fischer. One morning he came to me as white as a sheet. He told me that one evening he and George were running the pit fusor when there was a bright flash in the pit and a loud bang. George shut everything down in proper order then called it a night. George brought the fusor up on its lift for inspection the next morning. Fred had found a small hole in the fusor body near one of the guns. The system was repaired. What Jack was so upset about was the next week after the three radiation badges placed in the pit had been developed, a report came back that all were black, totally exposed! The letter with the developed badges suggested that the employee involved should be immediately evaluated! We all knew that those three badges routinely came back, “no recorded exposure”. That was the norm for all badges, pit, cave and personnel.”
Meeks: “Yeah, I heard about that from Jack. He was a nervous-Nelly anyway. He says that George had sworn him to secrecy on the matter as he was worried ITT would shut the project down. They never duplicated that event. Jack left and that was that for me, so far as this event was concerned.”
Blaising: “Gosh, Jack was really upset about that. He left ITT not long after that. I asked about his and George’s badges, he said they showed no exposure, but Jack was still worried.”
Meeks: “Well good riddance to that guy, he was kinda’ out there anyway. I never liked him. He was always bragging and telling stories”.

I have no personal comments or theories here and will leave this to the reader. Three exposed badges collected after the event, according to Jack Fisher who collected and mailed off the badges for everyone on a regular basis. The only badges fully exposed were in the pit. No personal badges exposed at all. These badges are proof against light flashes, exposure to the sun, etc. Only penetrating radiation can expose them.

3. Invisibility reports - Confirmed by multiple observers - Occurred on two separate occasions. - Three observers - Not repeatable

This one grabs me. It points to a lack of communication that works out to advantage here.

Incident one:

Before I ever went to Fort Wayne for the week-long interviews, this entire amazing saga unfolded before me. (circa Early 1999)
It initially came to light in a phone call with Gene Meeks. I had already made maybe six long phone calls to Gene over six months with lots of notes. I had obtained phone numbers in mid 1998 and had called both Gene, George, Fred, and Bob Hirsch prior to 1999. Gene had come to trust me and was opening up more and more realizing I was a technical and fusion savvy guy.
I will paraphrase the conversation……
Gene: Here is something you might be interested in.
Hull: Sure, go ahead
Gene: Bob called me one Sunday and said he wanted to run the cave fusor at higher pressure with a new grid we put in Friday. The admiral was flying in from New York on Monday and he would like to give him an update on it. So, I went in and we were getting the vacuum set up while I was whipping the guns into shape and getting their supply currents and ion currents balanced. Boy, that was a job. It could take an hour to get them right before we applied high voltage to the fusor. The high voltage extractor supplies were acting up a bit. Once I got them working right, we applied high voltage to the fusor and at about only 40 kilovolts, I noticed the gun currents were wobbling around and I told Bob to hold off on raising the voltage as I had gun issues. He asked if I wanted to remove the high voltage, I told him no that I had them balanced before high voltage and I wanted to balance them at voltage. (note: 40kv was not a full voltage for their normal runs which usually exceeded 100kV) I was worried that I had an extractor connection issue. So, I used the binoculars to look down the corridor into the corner mirror to visually check the wires on the guns. I could not believe my eyes!
I could see four red ion beams through the stainless-steel gun bodies, it was like the guns were transparent!!
Hull: Wow! Were the guns still visible?
Gene: Yes! They were, but the red ion-beams were just sitting there in mid-air with the guns still visible. I got up from the control table and walked down the tunnel and looked around the edge.
I was 6 feet from the fusor and looking right at it. The beams were there! Bob wanted to know what I was doing. I told him, come here, quick. I ran down the tunnel to get out of it as it was narrow and the two of us would not fit. I told bob to go down and look at the fusor. He said to go shut the high voltage off. I told him we didn’t want to touch anything right now. He got halfway down the tunnel and must have seen the fusor in the mirror and the beams. He turned around and looked at me. I said take a quick look around the corner. As he came out of the tunnel, he said, what is that, the ion beams? I told him that is exactly what they are. Bob immediately turned the high voltage down and the beams faded a lot but could still be seen. I turned the extractor voltage down and they were gone.
Hull: Gene this is incredible
Gene: yeah, we thought so too. Bob and I did everything to reproduce it. The guns’ extractor currents came up much more stable this time. No beams. As Bob turned up the voltage, the ion gun currents remained stable, no wobbling and no beams. After a few more tries we gave up and ran the experiment normally in total silence. Bob took his notes of the experiment and we shut the cave system down.
Hull: What did Bob say? Did you guys talk about this? I have talked with Bob, Fred and George and they never mentioned this.
Gene: Fred and George were never told about this and Bob is not going to tell you about it.
Hull: What!!?
Gene: Bob and I did talk about this for a little while that day, but he told me that “We never saw this”. He told me to not tell anyone about this. He said if we can’t reproduce it, we can’t very well report it, and we will not report it! So, that was that.
Hull: Thanks for that amazing insight Gene. Is it OK if I mention it to Bob in my next phone call to him?
Gene: Sure. I don’t care. He’ll probably deny it ever happened. Go ahead. I know what I saw and so does he.

Needless to say, I got on the phone to Bob the next day while at work. I had called Bob only about 3 times thus far. I knew he was a busy man and did not want to wear out my welcome. He sounded cheery and said he had a few minutes and I was not disturbing him. I posed a couple of important, but softball questions to warm him up. Here is the gist of the phone call from this point on. Bob knew I was talking to everyone on the team as I was sending him regular Team member list updates. This was a service I provided to all team members.

Hull: I was talking on the phone last night with Gene…
Bob: yes, he’s a good man.
Hull: He mentioned that you and he had an incident at the cave where you both observed what appeared to be ion beams showing through the gun bodies as if the bodies were transparent to them.
Note: Not only was there a very pregnant and noticeable pause, but I could hear an definite exhale over the phone. He had drawn a breath and blown it out.
Bob: Richard, I can’t speak to anything that is not reproducible. I hope you can understand that.
Hull: Yes and I can respect that you wish to be candid about this, but did you see the beams?
Bob: I saw something I could not understand or reproduce and that is all I want to say here about that.
Hull: I understand and thank you for your answer and I respect your forthrightness and explanation.
Bob: Thanks, I appreciate that.
The conversation continues for a minute or two on other questions. I thanked him and the called ended. For me this was a full confirmation of what Gene told me. This was so amazing to me that I had to mull over how this could possibly happen as there is no physics to readily explain it from my point of view. I was fully aware if you take gold foil that is opaque and thin enough and heat it, it can become transparent to a limited degree. With some thin films, electrical potentials applied can darken a window pane and control its transmission to a degree. This can make a transparent item virtually opaque, but not a dense solid object transparent.

Incident two:

I figured that George Bain, as a fellow electronics engineer, and head of the project, might like to hear about this revelation. I phoned George about a day later. Again, everyone knew by now that I was talking to everyone else due to my Team listing supplied to all of them. I once again softened George up with a few lead-in questions. I also knew of his past issues with Gene at this point as both had discussed their issues in previous calls.

Hull: George I have learned of an amazing event to which I am told you are not aware of.
George: Oh really, what was it?
Hull: Gene told me of an event that occurred that both he and Bob Hirsch observed. I have more or less verified this with Bob who was cagey about it, but effectively confirmed Gene’s story.
Note: I retold the story above to George. Listening carefully for his reaction yielded a long pause on his end. So long in fact, my brain raced ahead wondering… is George upset over not being told by his team? Is George trying to compose a response? What will George say? Again a long exhale before speaking followed by a totally shocking response. He finally vaults into speech…
George: You know, I might have had a similar experience.
Hull: What!!?
George: One night, I was there by myself rather late. We were scheduled to have a big group of people come and see the pit fusor in action, doing fusion. I had raised the fusor up as high as it would go and in view of the operating control panels. As you might know, the guns are very touchy to get aligned and ready for a run. I was determined not to have to fiddle with the guns during the group visit and was going to balance them as best I could. I had learned that by putting a little high voltage on the fusor the guns seemed to be a bit easier to adjust. I had applied about 20kV to the fusor and the guns were balancing well. As I raised the extractor voltage some pulsing was noticed this was a bit unusual, but I thought I would master it. I happened to look up at the fusor and I saw what looked like red beams or streaks of light. I looked around to locate a source of red light in the room that might be reflecting off the fusor platform. I couldn’t find any red light and looked a little harder at the red-light streaks. They appeared to be located at the ion gun location along their axis. I removed my glasses and rubbed my eyes as I was weary and tired. I put my glasses on and thought, are these the ion beams or am I burning the guns up to the point the exteriors are at red heat? I quickly turned all extractor voltage and high voltage off. I got up and went over to the fusor and felt the air rising off the guns. I felt nothing like hot air rising. I gently tapped on one of the gun bodies. I felt no sharp burn. It turned out the guns were merely warm to the touch, which was normal. I got back to it and the guns balanced normally, no beams noted. So, I just let this incident slide. It never happened again the whole time I was there, and I have never thought about it until this phone call. At the time, I thought maybe I was just tired. I noted the gun bodies tended to shimmer about the red beams when it occurred. That was when I panicked and felt these were heat waves coming off red hot guns and shut it all down.
Hull: Wow, George, thanks very much! It appears that for lack of communication an interesting aspect of the fusor effort was overlooked.
George: It may have been. I might not have been just seeing things that night.

After a bit more discussion and the call ended. Both Fred Haak and Steve Blaising were amazed at hearing about this double incident at different times observed by the people.
In effect, this is my big revelation that would probably have never been uncovered had I not had full access to the team members. Interestingly, It would be several more months before my in-person interview with Bob Hirsch. I pressed him to the mat a bit and he added, I will admit that what I saw looked like what you would expect ion beams of hydrogen would look like, but it wasn’t reproducible therefore, it wasn’t amenable to scientific study. Both Gene and Bob were also amazed that George claimed to have seen what they saw as well.

I have now told the story.... Make of this what you will.

There were just too many modifications and systems run in this two year time frame to elaborate on. I will enclose a number of images from this general period of high activity. The first batch will be added to over time.

Richard Hull
Attachments
pit mkI -1.jpg
Hirsch notes (1).jpg
Hirsch notes (2).jpg
Hirsch notes (3).jpg
Hirsch notes (4).jpg
ITT Fusor area layout.jpg
Cave.jpg
Ion extractor.jpg
Cave fusor 66.jpeg
Cave fusor66 1.JPG
Cave fusor 66 2.JPG
Cave fusor 66 3.JPG
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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Note to all who would like to respond or ask questions

Post by Richard Hull »

This site is informational and will not accept replies from the regular users. As Frank noted only admins can post or respond here. However if you have issues, questions or comments, please post in the "Fusion, Past, Present, Future" history forum. I will be happy to respond. We decided this should be an archive of facts and images between those admins who have interacted with or have information to share related to the ITT-Farnsworth effort of the 60's. This includes interactions with the team members or Farnsworth family and any past or current work in that effort.

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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A historical intermission 1960-1966

Post by Richard Hull »

Project Sherwood under the AEC became declassified in 1958. As conferences were held in the open, fusion researchers got to see what everyone else was doing, world-wide. A realization swept over all the many systems spread over many efforts that no one was close to the hoped for, expansion of one of the most promising systems directly to a working fusion reactor. All of a sudden, the emphasis shifted within the scientific community from hands-on technological development to doing basic research related to plasmas. No program was even close to doing sufficiently potent fusion, and problems with every effort seemed as if there was just no direct system under study that could be made into a working reactor.

At the very time Farnsworth-ITT was blossoming, congress was rethinking the funding of the entire AEC, CTR program!! From the late 50’s into the 1963 time frame the yearly budget for all CTR work in the U.S. was on the order of 30 million dollars. Congress was promised a working reactor by the mid 1960’s, back in the 50’s. The members of congress were stunned that all the different machines were not yielding any path forward and befuddled that all the scientists were now talking pure fusion and plasma research, only! Congress wondered why they should continue to fund all these machines if the program could not self-limit its work and needs by getting rid of the least likely candidates. One wise senator exclaimed “We could keep building these machines until the cows come home if some control is not forthcoming”

The budgets were cut to the bone and 22 million was all that was offered by congress in 1963 for the 1964 budget. One can’t help but wonder if ITT was not taking all of this in. Within 1 more year, they would be moving to increase funding to either make a quick win or try and shop around for someone to free them from their yoke of fusion desperation. As it turns out, ITT would come to do both. The 1965 budget would be more than all preceding years. The 1966 budget would be the peak of funding with the increase directed, not so much on fusion, but in funding other fusion luminaries at colleges and researchers in fusion to read their paper produced by Hirsch and “comment for cash” on what, in their opinion, might be considered the best place to move the fusion effort out of ITT. 1967 would be the last full year with the last-ditch effort at ITT. There would be little advancement made, at all. The end would come with the total rejection by underfunded CTR section of the AEC, refusing to take over the ITT fusion effort.

In short, fusion would be in the doldrums throughout the 1960’s due to a lack of interest and failure of the fusion community to make steps forward in the effort.

This little piece of big-boy fusion history is taken from Bromberg’s book “Fusion”. (one of the best histories). To that, I have added my take on this critical period related to both “big fusion” and ITT’s role in fusion. I felt a bit of perspective would be in order at this point before continuing with the temporal flow in my historical reports.

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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Pontiac Street - a bit of a tour

Post by Richard Hull »

The Pontiac Street ITT-Farnsworth plant had been the old Capehart plant which Farnsworth bought to Create CapeHart-Farnsworth, (entertainment electronics), they made TVs, Radios, Phonographs, etc. Much like ITT, Farnsworth had three companies working under one roof. Farnsworth Radio, Farnsworth optical, and the Capehart-Farnsworth, retail division. Farnsworth Radio made U.S. military communications gear for the Korean war, The optical tube division made custom vacuum tubes for the military and space and missile applications. The retail division sold what the public wanted in the way of electronics.

ITT bought out Farnsworth, solely for the military contracts and the electron tube optical division. This became the well known and respected ITT Federal tube division. ITT would kill the entertainment division shortly after taking over the plant. The concrete arch way over the main Pontiac street entrance, contained the deeply etched "Farnsworth" name. ITT quickly filled this in with matching pigmented cement. In 1999 you could still make it out if you looked hard.

I was treated to a half day tour of the closed down facility on my first week long visit by Fred Haak and Gene Meeks. They took me all over the facility telling me what areas were what during the 1959-1968 time frame. Fred Haak was reassigned in the 1968 closing of the Fusion program. He went back to the optical tube design labs to pick up his old job in photo sensitive coating engineering, being a chemist. Fred worked there until he retired in the late 80's. He filled Gene and myself in on what ITT did with the old fusion areas.

Everyone except Fred and Steve Blaising, followed Phil out to Utah to take part in his abortive startup of PTFA (Philo T. Farnsworth and Associates). It lasted less that a full year before collapsing due to no funding or significant contracts that could keep the place open. All the talent that uprooted themselves from their homes in Indiana to follow Phil were stuck in Utah in new homes they could not support. PFTA was to be the last epic fail of Phil's life.

I came into the Pontiac street plant through a large warehouse loading dock door that the gate guard opened for us. This opened into an aircraft hanger sized open floor that was bare. I was told by my docents that this was where the Capehart-Farnsworth TVs, Radios, Large consoles, etc, were assembled and tested. Gene noted that hundreds of workers and technician kept the place humming. ITT would use it as a special assembly line area for any number of contract filling processes once they killed the entertainment division.

We wandered over into the administrative part of the huge building where all the labs and offices were located. I got to see the dingy basement room they first struggled to get a toe-hold into the bell-jar era. We then went up stairs to their 1962-68 areas. I have annotated the images below. I got to see Phil's office on the second floor and the rather roomy offices on one side of the first floor hallway. Across the hallway was the very large Pit and Cave lab areas. Their old lab room was large, long and empty with special flooring and according to Fred It was used for a laminar flow area by ITT. ITT had converted the team's large storage area to about 6 tiny offices. I video taped some of this and a took a few photos. Most of the images below are video frame grabs from 1997 Sony video camera era technology. Enjoy.

Richard Hull
Attachments
ITT pontiac ano 1.jpg
ITT pontiac ano 2.jpg
ITT pontiac ano 3.jpg
ITT pontiac ano 4.jpg
ITT pontiac ano 5.jpg
ITT pontiac ano 6.jpg
ITT pontiac ano 7.jpg
ITT pontiac8.JPG
ITT pontiac ano 9.jpg
ITT pontiac ano 10.jpg
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
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Outside ITT 1964-1968 - Other fusion work

Post by Richard Hull »

What this is all about

I write this as an aside to the flow of the ITT Farnsworth history effort. I find it amazing that a number of key dates coincide with the ITT versus the outside fusion efforts by the AEC and some of ITT's competitors.
The outside world and its fusion efforts could have written the play book for the ITT-Farnsworth fusion saga. check it out.

***************************************************************************************************************************************************************************

With Project Sherwood ending, the U.S. fusion work was no longer secret and conferences on nuclear fusion advances were being held all over the world, after 1962. Large companies Like GE and General Atomics had leaped into the fusion research arena in the mid to late 50’s. While their corporate efforts were mostly in the area of research and small-scale studies, they felt that they needed to be ready should the fusion opportunity arise. Both companies were already involved with fission power as it started to come on-line, it would be nice to have a staff on hand who were at least competent in the basics of fusion having already been doing research in the field.

Could ITT looking at fusion being investigated by a competitor, GE, in 57-58, have helped the new president of the firm, Geneen, urged onward by the Admiral, to start up a small fusion effort at ITT? It turns out a lot of “timing” of key dates and periods related to fusion between ITT, GE, General Atomics, the AEC and its CTR division, (Controlled Thermonuclear Research), are closely wed and for all the same reasons. What follows bears thinking about. Once ITT was involved, it is certain they not only kept tabs on what they were doing, but also watched what was going on in the world of fusion research by competitors in the effort and within the now more open AEC and its CTR division.

Key date: GE gets involved with fusion research 1956-57. ITT follows suit in 1958-59.
(Note: If you really want to see this period outside of ITT It will be good to read the chapter in Bromberg’s book, Fusion, entitled “the doldrums” Specifically pp 134-144.)

The CTR division of the AEC coming out of Project Sherwood, had a lot of machines doing 4 different processes in 1962 that were headed nowhere. All of the 50’s work was “lets build this idea and see what happens”. When it didn’t turn out well, they built a bigger modified version. (Sound familiar?) They were just shooting from the hip, but had developed a number of standards related to how fusion might be done and had come into the 60’s with what had worked, somewhat and yet, had some hope behind their process, while other machines were foundering. Funding was a bit tight as congress was not seeing much for its money.

The two or three yearly conferences on fusion in various countries were attended by scientists from all over the world. The U.S. fusion physicists found that what they had hopes for had already been tried by the British and or the Russians and abandoned. The Russians, especially, had experimental facts and mathematics that indicated most of the work of the Americans would go nowhere. By 1964, many fusion programs were in the doldrums. Reduced funding and bad news came from almost every conference. This caused a shift from building to focusing on “plasma studies” to develop fusion mathematics and hopefully create a path forward for fusion.

Another Key date: 1965 - ITT only just begins to do real fusion in a world that is all excited about fusion but in a nation whose scientists are not building, but in deep study over plasma dynamics to try and find a theoretical and scientific way forward. GE, seeing a slowdown in real fusion efforts, and having a couple of big fission plant projects that are real and moving forward, decide to form an investigation into its fusion research efforts called “the Cook Commission” in 1965. The commission advises GE to continue only a limited bit of fusion work and if nothing breaks within the company to, ultimately, phase GE out of fusion research in a year or two.

ITT had to see this as a signal. What’s worse, the AEC was also looking at the CTR division and its lack of progress as early as 1964. It formed the “Allison-Herb Commission”. This was to issue a formal written report within a year to determine if the AEC should even continue the fusion power research under CTR! The commission came back with a report in 1966 that said that CTR should remain intact as the effort was a good one, but admitted they had no way of knowing when or how much funding would be needed before a practical fusion energy source would be in hand. They also noted that if for “international prestige”, alone, the U.S. and the AEC needed an advancing CTR division.

Another key date: 1966 - GE starts to back out of fusion. The AEC Allison-Herb commission finds that fusion will most likely require huge amounts of funding and perhaps years before real progress is made.
ITT must now feel quite alone with the fusion work being done there possibly turning into an albatross hung around their neck due to the gloomy report by the AEC. Oddly, this is the highest funded year at ITT. They start to plot a way out. Farnsworth is now gone, and Hirsch is the team leader. ITT wants to either pass the program off to a willing institution or the AEC. Hirsch is ordered to fully inform several Universities and then the AEC about the fusion work being done at ITT and ask them to report back in papers with their thoughts on the ITT effort and suggestions as to where best it might be done.
Ultimately, a large compiled report will be published by ITT and distributed to all respondents. Using this report, ITT corporate will next seek to send Hirsch with his fusor demo fusor to Washington to present the work to the CTR division.

Key date: 1967 The U.S. and the AEC are selling and boosting the idea of fission-based power as more electricity is being produced by fission with each new fission power station coming on-line. It is great for GE and Westinghouse who are prime contractors and for the power companies who were very reluctant until the government offered insurance protection, huge loan assists, and free training for operational personnel. Fusion was on the back burner for sure. Fission was the power of today, and on-line, now!

Hirsch walked into a stacked deck at the AEC. Amasa Bishop had been a fusion researcher at Princeton, and at the height of the CTR doldrums in 1966, had his arm twisted to become the assistant head of the entire CTR division at a very bad moment. Bishop came into a program that had poorly performing research centers operating machines going nowhere. These scattered fusion research centers were ill-funded, and many were hanging on by a bare thread. Each research center jealously guarded their meager funding. Bishop pushed hard for each center to perform as best as possible for the sake of keeping CTR alive in hope of better days.

The IECF fusor presented by Hirsch didn’t stand a chance. Hirsch noted that those assembled from the various research centers listened politely, asked questions, but in the end, Bishop sent a formal letter to ITT and Hirsch stating that the AEC, CTR division could not, at that time, take on and fund or transfer the ITT effort to another research center.

ITT stepped out of the fusion business that overlapped the GE effort’s birth and death dates at a time when fusion at the AEC and CTR was in the doldrums and fission was the ascending God of energy. Money remained in the reduced 1968 ITT fusion budget as the program ended in the early days of summer in 1968.

This is written as an outside observation related to ITT and outside forces that probably drove their decision-making process, and assumes they were keeping a rather close watch over the outside fusion world and competitors. I will continue with the ITT Farnsworth fusion history for 1967-68 soon.

.
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
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Re: Richard Hull's Attic

Post by Richard Hull »

The End 1967-68

The fold up of the ITT fusion effort was uneventful to say the least. The fusion that was done was not much better than in 1966, certainly for the Pit. Some new ideas were tried it is known but nothing came of them in the form of advances. The effort just slowly fizzled out with a whimper rather than a sharp, axing cut-off of a "going concern".

Farnsworth was gone, having been terminated in medical retirement in mid 1965. Hirsch now oversaw the direction of research. ITT was joining every other private company like GE and General Atomics and toning down or getting out of active fusion research. It was like the entire corporate funded fusion business caught the fusion flu. The CTR program was in a crunch at the AEC. Money there was tight, and Amasa Bishop was being told to select fusion programs to axe or suffer less funding spread among both the good and bad experimental efforts. The word was out; fusion was in the doldrums and the shine was off the apple.

Hirsch had sent out the invitations for paid comments from colleges and institutions as instructed and the responses were slowly drifting in. ITT managed to get a formal hearing and demo before the AEC of their fusion effort to interest the AEC in funding the effort while ITT held all the patents. This Demo could not have come at a worse possible time for the CTR program to approve any new venture on its part. Hirsch would work with first Gene Meeks to assemble his demo cart fusor and once Meeks was allowed to go off on his own to produce his Mark II prime in his own area, Steve Blaising would step in as Hirsch’s main technician. Steve had just replaced the departing Jack Fisher who went to work for International Harvester.

While true that Gene had his own system and served as his own technician, Steve Blaising was the sole full-time technician in mid-1967 and would spend most of his time on the Pit team’s efforts. He would be released by George Bain to Hirsch as needed. Bain was not pleased with the decision to effectively elevate Gene to a separate fusion effort. According to Robert Hirsch, “Gene had ideas and I was so busy, I just let him fly off on his own and he did well, indeed.” The Mark II prime claimed numbers higher than the Cave fusor. The numbers were so high that both George and Bob had to “dial Gene back” as his area was not shielded. Gene told me he would often run it when alone to test out various tweaks he had made, in spite of his superiors' commands.

The Cave was still functioning but more in preparation for data runs for Hirsch’s written report effort. The cave effort was frozen in the form of the fusor seen in the attached photos and in the form now retained by the family member in California handed down upon the death of Kent Farnsworth. Kent, (son of Phil Farnsworth), had dreams of restoring the family held cave fusor to functionality. Frank Sanns reported to me that upon examining it in its current state, that it will most likely never see fusion again. This mimes what Gene Meeks told Kent in the taped interview in 2001. Gene told Kent directly, “Do you guys have any idea what it would take to get this operational again?” No one present at that time had ever operated a fusor and felt that since they had an intact fusor from the cave that it might be rather easy to spin it up again.

What they had was the pinnacle of 8 years-worth of effort and expense by the Farnsworth/ITT effort. Externally, it looked great, but the guns and guts needed a lot of work, insulators that were welded on to the fusor were broken or damaged to the point that they would have to be bored out and replaced. Many of the ion guns had missing or burned out custom made coated filaments, etc. These filaments were ordered by the team from the on-site ITT tube lab. In short, the team had tremendous on-site facilities and capabilities to do their complex, custom work for them. It they could dream it, it would be forthcoming.

Hirsch would ultimately take his fusor demo to the AEC review committee in Washington, plug it into a common wall outlet at the front of the meeting room, and with D-T in it, would knock out 10e8 n/sec. Impressed more with Hirsch’s polished presentation than with the fusor, they wrote a nice letter saying that they could not undertake the IEC fusion program at that time. Hirsch came back to work on the major bound and published report on the ITT fusion effort. It would be sent to the AEC and all the paid respondent colleges and institutions who participated via contractual commentary.

Meeks and Blaising would both note to me that from fall of 1967 to late spring 1968 the effort effectively marked time. George Bain kept the Pit team busy as they had a decent 67-68 budget. George worked the Pit effort until early-May in 1968 with over half the budget unspent according to him.

There is some uncertainty about the last fusion done at ITT. George felt that the Pit fusor was the last operational system to do fusion in early-May, however Gene claims he ran the Mark II prime in late-May after George had already left to join PFTA in Utah. Steve Blaising was the last man standing as Gene left at the end of May. Steve said that he helped Bob Hirsch load his car on the last day of the effort in early-June.
Of course, I have already told the story of how Steve was more of less forgotten and when the Admiral came into the building in June, he was stunned to see that Steve was just shining a seat everyday by himself. Steve was present a couple of days later when being re-assigned to his old post in the tube lab when the Admiral was summarily fired from ITT! Steve said his jaw dropped when, in his presence, the Admiral was told by a fellow from the New York office that Furth’s services were no longer required.

Both Steve and Fred Haak noted that the old fusion lab remained untouched until late in 1968 as they would roam down there from time to time. It was Fred who told me he came down one day and they were knocking down the cave with sledge hammers and all the broken borated cinder blocks were being tossed into the Pit to fill it up with rip-rap prior to having concrete poured to restore the floor.

Epilogue

What happened to the fusors? The team members?

The Fusors

While many fusors were made and tested, only the last and most successful fusors, (four in number), were of significance.

The Pit Fusor - It is known that the pit fusor was removed and used for its many vacuum parts (Steve Blaising)

The Cave Fusor - This fusor was given or loaned to BYU and followed the PTFA and the fusion team members, Meeks and Bain, to Utah. Upon the 1972 end of the BYU-Meeks period of use, it was returned to the Farnsworth family. It made the trip back to Fort Wayne where it resided in the basement of their State Street home and an outside building until the early 2000's when Kent Farnsworth created an ad hoc team that included Gene Meeks. They gathered together to consider very far reaching plans to not only get the cave fusor going again but do a sort of "go fund me" project to reopen the Farnsworth fusion research effort. To my knowledge it never went any farther than this one single highly charged and hype pumped gathering. Throughout the meeting, Gene would keep stressing what he would need before he would get involved in a serious way. Following the death of Kent and thereafter, Pem Farnsworth, the Cave fusor would once again cross the nation to California where it resides to this day in a rather private museum. The son of Kent Farnsworth recently, (Jan 2020), gathered a group of fusor.net people and a couple of others for a formal visit and look-see at his home. (Reported elsewhere on fusor.net).

The "Serving Cart", AEC Demo Fusor - This Hirsch-Meeks-Blaising creation was seen in the back of Hirsch's car by Steve Blaising as he helped Hirsch pack to leave Fort Wayne in June 1968. Hirsch, ever proud of his introduction to AEC fusion via this device, proudly had it on display in his office during my 1999 visit. I took many photographs and a video of it and Bob in his Washington D.C. office at that time. It is assumed he still retains it.

The Mark II prime - Oddly, this superlative fusor just disappeared. A source of irritation, mystery and search for Gene Meeks ever since the day he left ITT. Gene looked forward at our first meeting as he met Fred Haak for the first time since 1968. He hoped Fred might know something about his fusor since he remained at ITT. Fred could not recall ever seeing it again. Likewise, when Paul and I pulled Steve Blaising and Gene together in 2001, Gene held out hope, once again, that with Steve's bad luck of being in the area long after the last man, Hirsch, left the scene, he might learn of the fate for his Mark II prime. Alas, Steve noted that other than the model shop coming and taking the Pit fusor, when he finally got reassigned, the entire fusor area including Gene's room with the Mark II prime was still intact. Gene noted that he wrote ITT in Fort Wayne on PTFA letterhead inquiring after the Mark II prime. He said he never received a reply. I have seen several letters on PTFA letter head signed by Gene Meeks, but Have not seen the ITT inquiry letter. Most of Meeks letters were of inquiries related to vendors or revolved around contract requests during his PTFA time. It is assumed that the Mark II prime followed the same fate of the Pit fusor, cannibalized for useful parts.

The People

Philo Farnsworth – Forcibly retired for medical reasons by ITT in 1965. Moved to Utah in 1966 and would start up his PFTA business in late 1968 based on many goals related to clean water, fusion, and engineering services. Three of the Fort Wayne fusion crew would join him there. PFTA Failed before 1970 and Philo T. Farnsworth passed away in 1972. Phil, after 1960, would not be an active participant in the daily work on fusion research down in the lab. Instead his main role was in keeping ITT interested in the project and conferring with patent attorneys, the admiral and other scientists and mathematicians at Pontiac street. Naturally, he was a major contributor along with the admiral to increasing every year's budget for the work on the fusor project.

Gene Meeks – Joined PFTA in Summer of 1968. He would work there as an engineering assistant until PFTA went belly-up. He would be the only one to remain in Utah as Phil saw to it that Gene had a position at BYU operating the cave fusor for Professor Andrew Gardner as a training system in a student lab there. This ended in 1972 and Gene drifted back to Fort Wayne where he worked for 4 years for Vycor Corporation doing industrial electronic coatings. He would then work at two or three TV repair shops through the 80’s and end his working career as the projectionist at a Fort Wayne movie theater.

George Bain – Joined PFTA in May of 1968. He would give it his all to try and make the new business work after selling his Fort Wayne home. He would be hit hard when PFTA went under. He never quite got back into high paid engineering work like he had at RCA or ITT and would ultimately move to Bloomington, Indiana where he opened and ran his own business; a small camera and photo shop with the 1 hour development so popular in the 80’ and 90’s.

Fred Haak – Fred stayed with ITT and was re-assigned to his old job in the chemical lab and would work on the chemistry of cathode coating for star-light scopes in ITT’s military tube application division. He would retire with full benefits in the late 1980’s.

Steve Blaising – Steve, like Fred, stayed with ITT and went back to the tube lab. He noted that he had a solid job at ITT, a new wife and that he was not going to pick up and move to Utah. Steve would work for ITT until he retired with full benefits in the early 90’s.

Bob Hirsch - fared better than all the others, by most standards. He was immediately hired by the AEC CTR division and would become its head by 1971. In 1972 he would be made head of the new controlled fusion division of the AEC, shutting down many failing and ailing experiments, promoting a “demonstration of real useful power producing fusion”, even if it was just a less than unity conversion. This meant that he pushed for the best system at the time, the Russian Tokamak! Bob built the division into a 100-million-dollar budget fusion arm of the AEC. He was slick and forceful. Ultimately, he would leave in 1977 for a Job with Raytheon and then again to the VP of research at ARCO petroleum. All the time he was a “Washington energy policy insider”. He knew people in-power and they liked him. His real coup was the HAARP project (High Altitude Auroral Research Project). It was both a scientific and military endeavor. Green Peace listed him as an enemy for pumping megawatts of RF into the ionosphere to study its effect on weather and other military aspects. Ultimately, as it became a political hot potato, ARCO handed the entire program and its management over to Hirsch who formed a new company around HAARP in Washington, D.C. Never far from energy politics and its science, Hirsch became the go-to guy for future energy efforts in D.C. and the last contact I had with him, he was working for the Rand Corporation writing on future energy policy.

“The Admiral” – Fredrick R. Furth – I have little on his history after ITT beyond the knowledge that he retired to a North Carolina retirement community and passed away in 1999.

Richard Hull
Attachments
FusorITT3.anno.jpg
Final cave anno..jpg
Cave Fusor image 3.jpg
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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Re: Richard Hull's Attic

Post by Richard Hull »

As I continuously pour over the many documents floating around regarding ITT Farnsworth efforts, I found this attached letter.

It points to the fact that even before the Farnsworth team got to the little basement room, (April 1959), Salinger and many others were questioning Farnsworth's basic premise!!

The letter specifically asks about the reversal role of electrons versus ions and seeks a rebuttal to what seems to be a Los Alamos review in the negative related to Farnsworth's proposed methodology for doing fusion using an electron negative well system. I could find no response to this interesting and critical letter related to ITT's physicist questioning Los Alamos regarding Farnsworth's ideas.

It is obvious that ITT and Farnsworth plowed on with his original idea, which we now know came to naught. It was only with the reversal of potentials and the acquisition of the first neutron counter in the 1961-62 time frame that any detectable fusion was done at ITT. Prior to this they only had a GM counter which was grossly misinterpreted as heralding fusion in Farnsworth's lack of knowledge of radiation detection!

Richard Hull
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Wrong path letter electrons.pdf
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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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Re: Richard Hull's Attic

Post by Richard Hull »

As a mere point of interest, I am going to attach a PDF file below. It is the original, yet constantly updated ITT fusor team list that I started in 1998. This list was distributed only to the original living team members over the period 1998-2017. It allowed long forgotten and former team members to stay in touch, perhaps for the first time since 1968. It was much appreciated by all of the ITT team members as a service to them.

Note: all on the list are now dead, save for Robert (Bob) Hirsch who is still alive (no data given to protect his privacy). Thus, all the addresses and phone numbers are no longer valid. I just thought you might like this listing that I used regularly to stay in touch with those involved in the fusor effort during the ITT research period.

Richard Hull
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Progress may have been a good thing once, but it just went on too long. - Yogi Berra
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Re: Richard Hull's Attic

Post by Joe Gayo »

Richard,

In the "Two good years" post, you mention "Pegatron" ion guns. Is this actually "Pigatron" (or penning ion gun)? I've never heard of a Pegatron, what more common ion source shares the same structure? Was it a hot or cold cathode device? Is this what Gene Meeks used?

Thanks, Joe
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Re: Richard Hull's Attic

Post by JoeBallantyne »

In the document on the Fusor team members you mention that you couldn't find any further info on or make contact with Steve Blaising.

I found his obituary: https://www.legacy.com/us/obituaries/th ... d=16627608

Joe.
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Re: Richard Hull's Attic

Post by Richard Hull »

Joe G: I saw that and corrected the text a week ago to "pigatron". Apparently a simple misspell originally. Apparently, in order to correct the punctuation issues coalman reloaded that text with the old one, showing the original misspell. I will correct it again. Thanks.

As to the Meeks gun design: Yes it did contain a hot filament just like the pigatron. Frank and Joe and the "perfesser" dismantled the cave fusor. Frank commented to me that it was a mess. Time and multiple relocations in moves had not treated it well. Frank said the filaments were broken, missing or otherwise compromised. The small high current external insulators were often broken. Any thought of resurrection to its former glory would be a real task in machining, and expense in time and money.

Joe B: Thank you very much for the obit. I talked with Steve in late 2016 or early 2017. I had not heard from him and tried to reach him in 2018 to no avail. As it turns out, Steve was the last team member I have actually talked with. Steve and Gene were the most valuable witnesses to the events of the ITT days. Freddie Haak was also valuable, but his stroke in 1996 left him foggy on some issues, but he still filled in things that brought out more info. from Gene. I last talked with most all of the team in 2006. George was always guarded on sensitive issues. George was a great source from my personal interview in 1999 until his stroke that took most of his speech capabilities in the early 2000s. Bob was downright tight on personal team member matters, but did let out a lot of details that were part of his job at ITT. I have initiated a current attempt to talk with Bob, who is still around.

I often wondered about some of the details that were held back, especially related to Phil and the "family", many of whom at the time, 1999-2005, were still alive. This was certainly out of common courtesy. I was after tech and daily operational details at ITT anyway so it was not of high concern to me. Still, there was much stir around the PTFA misadventure and some nasty things surfaced in more casual moments when some guards were down.

Paul was much more in touch with the "family" end of things than I was, his having formed a much earlier relationship with them. I saw and interviewed Pem Farnsworth in 1999, Gene was there with me. She gave me no new data on the tech work, but could not say enough about how Gene was really part of the family. Between Pem and Gene I got the real story of the struggle at their State Street home with Phil and Gene's effort to work around ITT's refusal to fund the fusor, (1957-1959). The effort then was a real zoo with the family working and living in and around a rather clumsy effort at doing fusion in their home. Gene noted it was a doomed effort from the start. Phil's knowledge of vacuum was dated and Genes was non-existent at that time. Gene said they struggled with "crummy" tubes that could not be pumped down to useful levels of cleanliness or vacuum. It was a real mess and a bust.

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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Re: Richard Hull's Attic

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Note 4/22: Sadly, in review, this "Hull's attic" missive of great length is probably the last and best missive of any authority to ever be written and assembled of the Farnsworth ITT fusion effort. Through my own and Paul Schatskin's in-person interviews with family and team members, taped interviews both in-person and over the phone, over many years from the 1990's into the early 2000's, is all that remains of the ITT fusion period.

All persons present at that the time of the ITT effort are now dead. It might be that this chronicling is just another effort that will, itself, be lost to time for all the hard work, time and expense put into it. I certainly hope not.

Much of this material has been forced, with some effort, from team members whose memories were faded by time and is often tentative and sketchy. However, it is all that remains, like it or not. Based on this information, Paul and I might be the best to hazard any guess as to the motives, directions and possible meanings that result from our work product gathered from the living memories of the participants and Farnsworth family members.

It is to be realized that Paul and I could have received "personal slants" and notions by those we interviewed. These could be based in fact or in some personal grievance carried by those interviewed. In some cases it was obvious as we listened.

Fortunately, in my case, the engineering and science is absolutely factual. This was, originally, my sole mission. I realized that there was a clock ticking on the lives of those that remained alive. As an engineer and a fusion researcher and experimenter, my curiosity and search for facts demanded I do the work. However, intermixed with my effort were also personal opinions which were patently obvious to me and easily separated from meaningful and useful data. Personally, I was amazed at the range of love and affection, comradeships, ire, bile and bias of all interviewed. While the latter was far more present in the less educated of those I interviewed, it was also given far more weight as to the inter-personal relationships in the environment in which the work took place. (highly educated people, I find, tend to hold back personal opinions and demur from "open speak")

What is presented here will become bones to be picked over by readers now and in future. Many theories proffered based on third party readers and would-be re-writers of history.

Nonetheless, here it is, the good...(real data and information).... the bad....(the misfortunes, missteps, failures) and only a small smattering of the ugly. The ugly is always lurking about in any human endeavor. Some of the ugly will remain unspoken here. As Mark Twain noted: "Only one man alone is worth anything; two will start an argument; three or more will start a war."

As all of this is on the internet, its life and value might disappear at any moment. It is hoped that some will be printed off or transferred into a book, which itself might be relegated to a musty book shelf to be, again, lost over time. Much real truth and history has been lost to mankind over the ages. This effort may also be lost.

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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