Thursday, March 12, 2009

Fusion Confusion
Extrapolation saves the nation

Hello, Google Groups uk.railway - thank you for reading this post about fusion, I hope that you enjoyed it. I'd like to pick up on a couple of responses:

A. I became a physicist for the money, the women, and the fast cars[1]. However, I think that there are plenty of us on RA salaries who would be quite surprised by:
"Meanwhile, gullible politicians will fork out more tens of billions of 
pounds for the highly paid scientists who promise much but never deliver 
anything except a greater number of ever-larger invoices. 
The comments section is available for those who wish to name all these "gullible politicians" who dish out largess - I want my share. Mr. Poulson is challenged by Recliner, and subsequently retreats from the claim:

"Perhaps it should be "overpaid" in view of their [lack of] results "
Those work-shy physicists, eh? They should get a job and go to college.  

B. As I stated in the post,  
"I don't hold a brief for fusion, but I think the assumption - that fusion is a fantasy and that the plasma jockeys are spending their grant money on slow horses and fast women - should probably re-examined."
I was merely comparing progress in the semiconductor industry - which no-one attacks - and the progress to date of fusion. The graph does not claim that "a commercial plant would have worked by 2005 ". It shows the rate of increase in the "triple product" - a figure of merit associated with nuclear fusion. Even were this achieved, there would still be issues with removing the products of fusion and the energy produced from the reaction.

C. As Jeremy Double notes, the gap between the discovery of nuclear fission and working civilian reactors was less than 30 years (Rutherford was sceptical about the possibility of nuclear power to his end...). The claim that it will take hundreds of year to commercialize to fusion seems to me to involve a strong assumption.

D. Does anyone have a source for the claim that fusion is 15/30/50 years away? It doesn't sound like something a scientist - however overpaid - would say. Is it just one self-publicist mouthing off? An over-zealous PR department? A campaign for funding? Or is it a media myth like "scientists in the 70s predicted a global ice age" or "nuclear industry baddies claimed they could produce electricity too cheap to meter"

If it is one of the latter, let's kill it off now.

[1] I was disappointed.

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