Discovery of fusion - Mark Oliphant - video interview

Reflections on fusion history, current events, and predictions for the 'fusion powered future.
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Richard Hull
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Discovery of fusion - Mark Oliphant - video interview

Post by Richard Hull » Thu Dec 26, 2019 9:49 pm

Fusion was discovered in 1934 by Mark Oliphant who was getting his Doctorate at Cambridge under Rutherford. If these names mean nothing to you, shame on you. I am attaching a video that someone in the IEEE taped prior prior to Oliphant's death in 2000. It is absolutely precious and instructive. No need for the average person to view it all. Oliphant discusses his time at Cambridge and the original discovery of Fusion from about minute number #20 through minute #35. I urge everyone to see this retelling of a tale of discovery by the still living, at the time discoverer. He makes some very humorous comments about his mentor, Rutherford in those precious minutes.

If you are intimate with D-D fusion as I am. You will immediately "tune into" the effort at the time of discovery as they all poner what has happened, why the super energetic proton is found and the slow realization that two mass 3 particles are there. They discover Tritium and 3He.

Of particular interest is they did this with only two drops of the newly created heavy water that was donated to Rutherford!!
They got the deuterium gas by adding a chip of potassium metal to the heavy water! Amazing! Could we do that with two drops? I have always suggested this as a cheap method of getting the gas here at fusor.net

Again, amazingly, as we have noted here at fusor.net, as they bombarded targets of many types of metals they got the high energy proton (did fusion) but it was slow to develop and appear and increased over time. WOW! Target loading! Wow!! However Oliphant ingeniously took the the left over compound Potassium deuteride and slapped it on a target and immediately got instant fusion results! Boy oh Boy, what an experimentalist using two drops of heavy water.

If one goes back below 20 minutes say at 15 minutes Oliphant describes how at the Cavendish lab they used a lot of glass blowing, bits of string, lots of sealing wax and bits of old coffee tins to cobble up nuclear instruments back in the days when there was nothing manufactured to aid them beyond a few volt and amp meters. Cloth covered wire, etc. the crude accelerator they used was powered by a 100,000 volt induction coil!! That must have been a monster no rectification needed as the accelerator was their 100kv PIV rectifier! No electronics of any sort to be found or needed.

All the time you are watching, see how they picked over the fusion debris to figure it all out. Rutherford - (Nobel laureate), is still regarded as one of science's greatest experimentalists who ever lived. A lot of his methodology rubbed off on the likes of some of his students. Oliphant(the discoverer of fusion), Otto Hahn (the discoverer of fission - Nobel laureate), Fredrick Soddy (the inventor of the term Radio Chemistry and the word "isotope" - Nobel laureate) , Hans Geiger (inventor of the Geiger tube detector). Rutherford graduated a galaxy of fabulous and famous students.

Watch and learn and marvel.

https://ieeetv.ieee.org/mobile/video/la ... k-oliphant

I would be curious about anyone's comment after viewing this piece of history as told by the discoverer, himself.

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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Maciek Szymanski
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Re: Discovery of fusion - Mark Oliphant - video interview

Post by Maciek Szymanski » Thu Dec 26, 2019 10:51 pm

Great story. It is always stunning that all those people who we know from the textbooks, names of fundamental laws, constants and phenomenons lived in the same time, known each other and sometimes were working hand to hand in one laboratory.

And the story about putting together all pieces form the experiment results is marvelous. Nuclear physics measurements are not easy even with today’s technology - fast detectors, high band digital storage scopes, all the accumulated data at hand and computing power. Doing this with just electroscopes, hand counted scintillation and mechanical oscilloscope requires unbelievable knowledge and understanding of the processes.
Last edited by Maciek Szymanski on Fri Dec 27, 2019 12:04 pm, edited 1 time in total.
“Begin at the beginning," the King said, very gravely, "and go on till you come to the end: then stop.” ― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

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Richard Hull
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Re: Discovery of fusion - Mark Oliphant - video interview

Post by Richard Hull » Fri Dec 27, 2019 5:06 am

Very wise and astute observations. I was just stunned at what they could do and discover. The neutron was new 1932, to science and they tested for and saw it in cloud chamber tracks, (proton recoil) off wax cards or water vapor. Our own Jon Rosenstiel did a complete post with photos of neutron induced proton recoils in his homemade cloud chamber a long time ago in these forums. (Now, sadly, missing)

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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Nicolas Krause
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Re: Discovery of fusion - Mark Oliphant - video interview

Post by Nicolas Krause » Tue Jan 14, 2020 4:15 pm

Watching this clip I am reminded of a book I read a few years back, Big Science, it describes Ernest Lawrence and his obsession with building larger and larger cyclotrons. Due to his focus on building machines rather than performing science he missed a number of very important discoveries. The Joliot-Curies in France and Cockcroft and Walton at Cambridge were able to make discoveries with little more than a wood bench and some glass tubing. Ernest Lawrence's enormous machines were quickly able to replicate and confirm these discoveries, but there was a lack of fundamental insight that meant they were never able to push the frontiers of the field.

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Re: Discovery of fusion - Mark Oliphant - video interview

Post by Richard Hull » Tue Jan 14, 2020 5:48 pm

Jon Rosenstiel has repaired his cloud chamber images of proton recoil due to neutron collisisons in the following old post from 2005. Check it out.

viewtopic.php?f=13&t=5585&p=34029&hilit ... iel#p34029

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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