The endless quest for safe, easy accessible energy.

Reflections on fusion history, current events, and predictions for the 'fusion powered future.
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Richard Hull
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The endless quest for safe, easy accessible energy.

Post by Richard Hull » Tue Jan 28, 2020 1:20 am

There is no perpetual motion. We all know that. However there has been posited that there is a universal energy source. Tesla was one of the first to propose it. Quantum theory relies on energy as a supposed zero point energy field. Today, many purport to view the zero point energy as a possible source of universal energy. Tesla did not know of this but he did say.......

"Electric power is everywhere present in unlimited quantities and can drive the world's machinery without the need for Coal, oil, gas or any other of the common fuels."

To this I must add and explain our energy dilemma and note the fact that Tesla did understand, should his prophesy not be found to be true, what would forever limit man's energy.

When Tesla made the above statement he had “ideas”. There is no doubt that electrons abound loose and free here on earth, or there would be no static electricity to shock you and no lightning. Electrons are electricity. Nothing else in the real world can produce electricity without the flowing charge bound up in the electron. Free electronic charges do exist in nature. Not everything is strictly electrically neutral at all times. Tesla knew this. All positive charges in the macroscopic sense are due to an imbalance absence or loss of electrons, while all negative charge is due to a collection of excess electrons.

Tesla’s mind raced far ahead of his ability to prove many of his musings. Today, we know many of his thoughts, even when he was in command of his senses, are wrong. Tesla was careful to not allow himself to be linked to the impossible physics of perpetual motion so long held by the loony fringe in science for over a thousand years. The laws of thermodynamics will now allow that and Tesla knew it.

Instead, he envisioned a mechanism that could tap into what he considered a pre-existing font of natural energy found throughout the universe. Thus, the statement he made above. All of this was laid out in his huge article in 1900, “On Increasing Human Energy”, (Century magazine)

Tesla had just returned from the heady days in Colorado and had it in his head that such a universal field of energy existed all around us. He could not prove it, but had huge hopes for the idea. In the above grandiose statement, he followed up within a number of news paper articles a proviso. This proviso, none of his boosters ever notes due to their being besotted with everything Tesla and their abject lack of knowledge related to the physics of the universe. Tesla, when pressed, tended to tell both sides, but to the press, he waxed eloquent with speculations which any good newspaperman would pump to a higher and more fantastical level to sell papers and make Tesla appear as if he stepped down from Mount Olympus.

Now to what Tesla predicated in his bold statement regarding universal energy. After his firm belief in a universal font of electrical energy just waiting to be tapped into, he noted, and I paraphrase as close to his quote as I can.

“I seek, via mechanisms made by man, to connect with the very wheel work of the universe…. To capture unlimited amounts of energy from the boundless font which makes up the very fabric of the universe. If man fails in this effort, he will forever be doomed to be a hunter-gatherer.”

I hold this to be the most prophetic and well spoken statement Tesla ever made so long as he lived. Tearing this statement apart, you can see his true genius and depth of thought. With his seeing the power of his work in Colorado Springs in 1899, he had come to believe in a universal source of energy just waiting to be tapped which lay just beyond his immediate grasp. Realizing that the laws of thermodynamics might limit this dream, should there be no such real source of hidden universal energy, Tesla noted the fact that man has always been a hunter-gatherer and may yet be doomed to continue along this path. So….. 1.Tesla had dreams and hopes firmly in his mind related to endless energy. 2. He, as a trained college science graduate and knowing physics and the laws of thermodynamics had to admit that with no such energy source, man would have to continue along his ancient path of seeking out energy sources containing “pre-cocked”, “energy guns”. 3. In such gatherings, all we had to do is apply a tiny amount of seed energy (pulling the trigger) to reap that stored molecular energy found bound up in what we had gathered up.

In short, man must gather up sticks or mine coal which have stored molecular energy due to photosynthesis from the sun over years (wood) or millennia (coal). Then, to pull the "trigger" by applying a single small flame for but a moment. Finally, to stand back and allow that stored energy to pour out over hours to warm us at the hearth or to boil water to drive steam trains and boats. This, is hunter-gathering in man’s effort to capture and use energy forever for as long as he has existed. We are still nothing but hunter-gatherers to this very day. Nothing has changed nor will it ever in the foreseeable future.

Tesla had no idea about nuclear energy. Yet all of nuclear energy is just hunter-gathering! All nuclear energy derives from stored binding energy… Give it a thought as a scientist…. Uranium and all matter beyond hydrogen is created only in long ago, exploded, giant super novae. In these giant explosions, energy is created solely by the potential energy source of gravity. Gravity has acted upon the collapsing star to force an energetic explosion of such a magnitude that the helium thru carbon which fused during the life time of the exploded star can only now fuse even these “unfusable” stellar products to produce yet more massive higher elements.

The "stellar vomit" resulting from these huge explosions drifts through space and ultimately form a nebula and a new star is born: our sun. Much of the solid elemental rubble is kept away from the new star by the violent solar radiation pressure. Doomed to orbit the star at various distances and to, ultimately, accrete into planets with all the heavy elements.

Man, in the late 1890’s, discovers radioactivity from only the heaviest two metallic elements. They seem to violate the laws of thermodynamics so closely guarded by science. Slowly we learn that molecular energy is not the only store of universal energy! The nuclei of these heavy elements are unstable and as the nucleus decays, a far more vast outpouring of energy called nuclear energy is released. This nuclear energy makes the chemical molecular energy appear as but a baby’s breath in comparison, mass for mass with wood or coal. The process is called fission. (we split atoms with pre-cocked energy guns)… We quickly, and almost overnight, learn to use nuclear energy to first kill and then to grow our society by leaps and bounds. What pulls the nuclear trigger in nuclear energy? First hunt for it, then, gather it, refine it, separate out one isotope of uranium. Then, merely bring two pieces of it close together and unbelievable amounts of energy will pour out, releasing stored nuclear binding energy from that original nova billions of years ago.

Oddly, and by accident, we determine that the very lightest of stable elements can also produce energy just as the sun does via fusion! (forcing the lighter elements together violently and against their electrostatic and nuclear will as dictated by physics). But there is a snag. We can only fuse and obtain such energy from these lightest elements if we first raise the temperature to hundreds of millions of degrees. We must also contain the resultant energy. The only thing that can do this is the energy released in the fission of uranium. We do powerful fusion first in a device designed to only kill, (H-bomb). We surround the light elements with an atomic bomb, (fission) to make it happen. The energy from the H-bomb far exceeds that from the fission bomb used to trigger the fusion reaction.

But now, why not use it to produce useful, controlled fusion energy? To control fusion we must heat the light atoms to temperatures as in the H bomb, but we can’t use fission. Some plasmas are in the right temperature range. We try that and we do indeed get well controlled fusion. However, we do not get enough fusion energy to even begin to approach the energy that we put in to achieve the fusion reaction! With more energy, we create more fusion, but a problem rears its ugly head. The laws of physics are ever mindful and prevent such reactions as fusion to occur. As fusion energy grows, the forces needed to contain the violent reaction needed to boil water begin to destroy the reactor vessel. This, and other factors, tend to kill the fusion process. The ruling force is electrostatic repulsion.

Quantum theory is brought to bear here and all fusion is a mere probability that the ions of the lighter elements will or will not fuse even at fusion temperatures! In an H-bomb, the probabilities allow for a high order of positive probability due to a gross and instantaneous temperature rise due to the fission explosion far beyond and many times the fusion temperature required.

To this day, we have no way to control fusion in a reactor at or even near fusion “ignition” temperatures. Only gravity, a potential energy, is seen to be the controller and creator of fusion throughout the universe in far flung remote units called stars separated by light years.

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: The endless quest for safe, easy accessible energy.

Post by Paul_Schatzkin » Tue Jan 28, 2020 2:20 pm

So that this post does not seem entirely out of the blue, I am going to add a bit of context.

I got into a bit of a dust-up over the weekend with a "Facebook friend" (actually somebody I know and respect greatly here In The Real World) about some of mythology that has formed around the legacy of one Nikola Tesla – he of the Polyphase Electric Motor and Alternating Current, and namesake of both a heavy metal band and an electric vehicle. I trust you are all familiar with the name and its various incarnations...

This is the 'meme' that set me off:


The meme/photo was accompanied by this commentary:
Nikola Tesla beautifully and comprehensively summed up—in one sentence—the what, the where, the why and the how.

Noteworthy: the structure in the photo is an invention of Tesla’s that would allow people to place a device on the roof of their houses which would allow them to generate electricity—for free.

The structure was dismantled and destroyed. Can’t imagine who would want the inventor/engineer who accomplished more than anyone in recent history re: the harnessing and sharing of natural resources and energy.

We keep falling asleep and missing it.

Those of you who know me and my reasons for starting this site 20 years ago know that I basically share the sentiment that "we keep.... missing it."

But.... Tesla.... <*sigh*>

I have talked with Richard over the years about how much mythology has grown around the name of Tesla and how the failure of the Wardenclyffe Tower has been attributed to the full range of conspiracy theories, like JP Morgan shutting it down when he realized that wireless transmission of electricity would put his copper mines out of business - and equal such nonsense.

If you'd like to indulge yourself in the full range of what people think and believe about Wardenclyffe, follow this link: ... ave-worked

People believe what they want to believe – myself included (just look at the .sig file that follows my posts here).

Anyway, when I saw this business on Facebook over the weekend I forwarded it to Richard and asked for his perspective on the pseudo science and the mythology. The result is the essay that he has posted here, which he sent me privately yesterday.

I take an object lesson from the arc of Tesla's life, and that narrative provides a useful governor to my understanding of Philo Farnsworth's arc. Simply put, the Nikola Tesla of the 19th century may have been an unbridled and productive genius, but the Nikola Tesla of the 20th century was bat-shit crazy.

I think Philo Farnsworth's arc is infinitely more credible – from the Image Dissector to the Spherical Multipactor to the Fusor.

filmstrip.jpg (61.44 KiB) Viewed 219 times

A lot of doubt can be cast on Farnsworth's actual achievements with fusion, and Richard tells a pretty compelling story of "The Pit -v- The Cave" in his accountings of the work done at the ITT/Farnsworth in Fort Wayne in the late 50s to mid-60s.

But the fact is that people on this site prove every day that, at the very least, the Farnsworth approach does indeed produce nuclear fusion. Not enough fusion to change the world the way Alternating Current did, but actual neutron-producing "stars in a jar" nonetheless.

I do not believe the same can be said of anything related to Tesla's later work or, more specifically, Wardenclyffe.

Hopefully this thread will not wander too far off the reservation...

Paul Schatzkin, aka "The Perfesser" – Founder and Host of
Author of The Boy Who Invented Television -
"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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Re: The endless quest for safe, easy accessible energy.

Post by Richard Hull » Wed Jan 29, 2020 9:47 am

I don't know that we need to drift off into Tesla land here beyond the though he had about infinite energy to be found in the fabric of the universe. I have noted in my missive above about a cadre of people who believe, due to requirements in the Quantum theory related to it's zero point field, that if it is real, we might draw energy from it in some fashion. Like Tesla's dream, it is yet to be tapped. No real "hands-on" work is being done to that end, either.....Just musings. Poke around the internet with the query zero point energy.

While a hell of a lot of money, time, and effort has been poured in controlled fusion energy, which is a physical fact within the universe, (stars do it). Man made fusion might as well be Tesla's fantasy or the zero point energy field for all the probable future energy it might deliver beyond a large number of 20 megaton air bursts during a still possible global nuclear exchange!

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: The endless quest for safe, easy accessible energy.

Post by Dennis P Brown » Wed Jan 29, 2020 2:31 pm

Poor Tesla - a very brilliant thinker that lost it after great success. He crossed (stole) from the very wrong and rather evil man (Morgan) and was black-balled for it. Luckily, Morgan didn't take the extra step.

Today with google and simple facts people still create far greater crazy conspiracy theories on far, far less bases- lol. I still can't fully believe that flat earthers are serious and not just playing people for fun (or are they?) So, Tesla will always be a focal point for these crazy ideas about free power/super weapons. At least, unlike so many crazies today, the Tesla crowd has some bases to build upon (he was very brilliant in applied high voltage and did make AC work; also, Tesla did develop the first true radio that Marconi did steal. To add sauce to the plots, Morgan did have a grudge against him for stealing a million dollars on false pretenses to build the first radio transmission device. That device (see the previous picture) was meant to transmit power to homes without using power lines. (Aside: any high school physics student could easily show why that was a waste of effort. Brilliance will only get one so far.) Still, talk about a good bases for conspiracy theories!)

While I differ that a laboratory fusion device that produces far greater energy than it consumes isn't impossible, I do now feel that it will be far too expensive via the valid stellator approach to ever provide economical power. So by any practical definition of successful fusion power, that is the same net result for not ever happening. So, Richard, your likely correct and most (all?) fusion approaches suffer from a similar defect as Tesla's power transmission system: just not economical even if it worked - sigh.

Maybe direct drive inertia fusion can do it more economically (Apparently, the federal Savanna River laboratory is gonna propose a program to build a prototype laser based direct drive fusion power plant. Hopefully, they get the funding to explore this approach. Might work and who knows, maybe it could be economical.)

This approach might be the last chance to get something to work that can provide gigawatt power for any city that is non-carbon based (i.e. burn a carbon type fuel.) Human induced global warming (AGW) really needs to be addressed and sooner now, rather than later, if catastrophic environmental effects aren't to occur. (Yes, some people doubt this scientific fact. Here, at least, I have to say google and facts aren't so easily assessable to convince doubters of this fact. Life is like that - not all facts are easy to understand via simple models that lay people can quickly grasp. Especially if one's employment or wealth depends on not understanding - lol.)

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