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Amateur Scientists Seek Fusion Reaction

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the things-that-hopefully-do-not-go-boom dept.

Hardware Hacking 401

ElvaWSJ writes "A small subculture of amateur physicists and science-fiction fans — fewer than 100 worldwide — are building working nuclear-fusion reactors at home. The designs are based on the work of Philo T. Farnsworth, an inventor of television, from the 1960s. Some of these hobbyists hope similar reactors can one day power the planet, but so far they consume more energy than they create."

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Amateur scientists (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24653517)

Can suck my dick.

Good grief... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24653559)

Are these the same yahoos that post videos of "perpetual" motion machines on Youtube? The folks with just enough science knowledge to be "magnets are cool!" but not enough to realize that no, no matter how you arrange the magnets, you will not get free energy...

Re:Good grief... (5, Informative)

taustin (171655) | more than 5 years ago | (#24653641)

No, this really works as advertised. It's a high school science faire level of complexity and cost (if you're willing to deal with stray neutrons). For practical reasons, it can't be made to produce more energy than it consumes, is all. The principles have been known since the 20s. Robert Bussard (of Bussard Ramjet fame) had patents on it.

Re:Good grief... (5, Informative)

lgw (121541) | more than 5 years ago | (#24653719)

But the stray neutrons (or other energetic particles, depending on the reaction) are the real problem with fusion as a power source. To quote TFA:

Fusion advocates say reactors would be relatively clean, generating virtually no air pollution and little long-lived radioactive waste. Today's nuclear power plants, in contrast, are fission-based, meaning they split atoms and create a highly radioactive waste that can take millennia to decompose.

The spent fuel from a fission reactor is just not that hard to deal with - park it in a contianment area as robust as the reactor itself for 5-10 years, and you're left with not-very-much not-very-radioactive waste that could be easily disposed of, if it weren't so valuable that we insist on keeping it instead.

It's the rest of the reactor that's the serious problem. Depending on the reactor design, quite a bit of the reactor structure can become radioactive over time.

Fusion is going to have the same problem. Even if you have a reactor vessel the size of a washing machine, you're going to need significant shielding, an energy transfer mechanism (water leading to a turbine or something), structural elements, etc. Surem the problem with spent fuel goes away, but the problem with speant reactors remains. Not something you'd want in everyone's basement.

Re:Good grief... (3, Funny)

lgw (121541) | more than 5 years ago | (#24653803)

Only the first paragraph was quoted from TFA - preview button, who needs it!

Re:Good grief... (5, Informative)

seven of five (578993) | more than 5 years ago | (#24654375)

Robert Bussard (of Bussard Ramjet fame) had patents on it.

The patents apply to a fancier version called the Polywell. Polywell attempts to cut losses to the point where net power is possible. As far as I know, no hobbyist has attempted that one yet. It's a much more expensive design that, depending on the fuel, would generate truly lethal doses of neutrons, and would need lots of shielding.

Re:Good grief... (5, Informative)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | more than 5 years ago | (#24653907)

Are these the same yahoos that post videos of "perpetual" motion machines on Youtube?

No. Wikipedia is your friend. [wikipedia.org]

Farnsworth - Hirsch - Meeks fusors are quite real and effective. They're easy to build even by hobbyists using readily obtainable parts. Commercial versions serve as controllable neutron sources. Fusion neutron output of up to a trillion per second has been reported and rates in the billions per second are easily obtainable. To date it is estimated that Farnsworth-Hirsch-Meeks fusors have produced far more total fusion neutrons than all other non-bomb fusion devices combined.

Downside is that they involve ions moving in a trajectory past a metal electrode, which they must pass without hitting many thousands of times on the average before they participate in a fusion reaction. Hitting the electrode loses the energy used to create the ion and attempt to confine it, dumping the energy as heat in the electrode. Getting the electrode to be sufficiently "transparent" to achieve breakeven seems to be a lost cause.

Bussard's family of Polywell fusion machine designs apparently started as an attempt to steer the ions around the inner electrode of a Farnsworth-Hirsch-Meeks machine using a magnetic field. But it has since developed into a different (though related) principle: Use the magnetic field from the self-shielding magnet/electrodes to confine electrons (which are much easier to handle), creating a high-density space charge in the center of the machine. Use the electrostatic field of the electrons to attract and confine the ions in this region at high density and temperature, resulting in fusion. The magnetic field still shields the inner structures and the field is convex toward the plasma, limiting the plasma instabilities the plague "conventional" fusion machines. [wikipedia.org]

Real fusion (4, Informative)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | more than 5 years ago | (#24653979)

These are real fusion devices. The last time I judged the national science fair contest, there were not one, but two fusion reactors-- one put together from parts scrounged from junkyards.

There was an article by Tom Ligon in Analog back in September 1998-- it's available on the web [fusor.net] if you're interested in more details.

This is pretty cool. I love amateur science.

With that said, note that there is a vast difference between merely demonstrating fusion, and producing usable power by fusion, roughly similar to the gap between the glow of your old radium watch dial, and a nuclear bomb. But if the hobbiests can learn to scale it up... now, that would be cool.

second post (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24653563)

cmdr taco likes to buttfuck little boys.

Can a String Theorist? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24653587)

Can a string theorist explain why this won't work?, in simple terms please.

Re:Can a String Theorist? (5, Funny)

TheSHAD0W (258774) | more than 5 years ago | (#24653619)

Because for every hobbyist who builds one of these hoping to get more power than they put in, there's someone in the background playing a violin...

Re:Can a String Theorist? (0)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 5 years ago | (#24653833)

That really is the bottom line, seriously. There are no means of power generation that involve getting more power out than is put in. None. No string theory or quantum mechanics even required. Just the law of the conservation of energy and matter... energy or matter can neither be created nor destroyed.

Re:Can a String Theorist? (5, Insightful)

Jordan ez (1270898) | more than 5 years ago | (#24653919)

Except this has nothing to do with violating conservation of energy. Tell the sun you can't get a surplus of energy out of fusion.

Re:Can a String Theorist? (4, Funny)

Spatial (1235392) | more than 5 years ago | (#24654023)

I don't think it can hear him from here. We need to send him a bit closer! :)

Re:Can a String Theorist? (4, Insightful)

NotBornYesterday (1093817) | more than 5 years ago | (#24653933)

Yeah, but "more out than put in" is shorthand here for "more power generation from the fusion than power needed to start and maintain the reaction", not "find a loophole in the laws of thermodynamics"

Re:Can a String Theorist? (-1, Offtopic)

linzeal (197905) | more than 5 years ago | (#24654359)

Thank you, anyone on Slashdot who has not taken at least physics, chemistry and biology at AP level or college please go enter yourself in a science class. Some computer scientists really need to take the broader view in college and realize that they will be working for software that has to specialize in something be it point of sale, economic modeling or QCD [wikipedia.org] simulation so take fucking classes in what you want that specialty to be. If you are an OS, game, UI or Web programmer it is not essential; but it is nice. and for the rest of you programmer freaks out there; remember that you might be dealing with engineering folk, business dudes or creative types who might know more about algorithm design than you, they just don't have an extra 40+ hours a week to deal with programming. I don't even put my programming skills on my resume anymore, I would rather spend my time in the mechanical side of things. We don't need another programming language we need an entirely new way of modeling process into algorithm. I have seen some of the visual stuff and nothing is more nifty to me than a good simulink model that I can break apart and play with to understand new concepts. Why can't we make something open source even better? The CAD side of Linux is dying. Vendors are pulling out of the OS faster than new companies are supporting it. I am sad, time for a porter.

Re:Can a String Theorist? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24654209)

So when we drill for oil, it takes more than one barrel to get a barrel out? Are you this retarded all the time?

Re:Can a String Theorist? (4, Insightful)

TheSHAD0W (258774) | more than 5 years ago | (#24654311)

No, no, no. Seriously. It's a limitation of the design, not the idea of a fusion reactor.

Bussard's "whiffleball" reactor design looks promising, and there are a few others which may succeed, but building one of those which will actually generate power is (unfortunately) financially out of the reach of any mere hobbyist.

Re:Can a String Theorist? (2, Informative)

taustin (171655) | more than 5 years ago | (#24653621)

No string theory needed. The reason it takes more power than it produces is that the fuel collides with stuff other than just other fuel, like anodes and cathodes needed to make the fusion happen.

whatcouldpossiblygowrong (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24653589)

Does anyone remember the "radioactive boyscout"?

David Hahn to make his own reactor (breeder, i think). He accumulated quantities of radium and tritium from smoke detectors and lantern mantles in a shed. The DOE had to lock down his parents whole house and yard to clean it up.

David Haun [wikipedia.org]

Re:whatcouldpossiblygowrong (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24653941)

Hahn was arrested [nwsource.com] last year for trying to steal smoke detectors from his apartment complex.

Judging from his mugshot [blogspot.com] he looks to be suffering the effects of radiation exposure.

Re:whatcouldpossiblygowrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24654141)

note the comments on your blogspot link that say it's a photo of a meth addict stolen from the smoking gun, not the radioactive boyscout.

newsflash, journalist images are even less honest than their writings

Re:whatcouldpossiblygowrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24654345)

Care to provide the link on smoking gun? No? Maybe because the "comments on blogspot" were from people as ill-informed as you? I guess you didn't notice that the original source article also included the same photo, right?

Re:whatcouldpossiblygowrong (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24653973)

That's my favorite book ever... having been a boyscout with a parent who worked at a nuclear power plant.

Due to my book report on "The Nuclear Boyscout," way back when, I am now unemployable. Sucks to be me.

Smoke detectors? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24654013)

I think you're mistaken: smoke detectors contain Americium, unless I misremember.

I think he managed to make a neutron source, though and figured out how to moderate it to some degree (albeit mostly after talking to scientists who knew more than he did). And he got some antique glow-in-the-dark items that were radioactive as well as the old smoke detectors.

But I don't think he managed to accomplish much except to irradiate himself and contaminate his neighborhood.

Re:Smoke detectors? (1)

symbolset (646467) | more than 5 years ago | (#24654305)

But I don't think he managed to accomplish much except to irradiate himself and contaminate his neighborhood.

Actually, yes, he did. He managed to accomplish quite a lot. It's really amazing how much he achieved with his limited understanding. Scary even.

Re:whatcouldpossiblygowrong (1)

thatskinnyguy (1129515) | more than 5 years ago | (#24654313)

Mantles contain thorium. Tritium is for fusion reactions.

Amateur Scientists Seek Perpetual Motion Device (5, Funny)

Kagura (843695) | more than 5 years ago | (#24653593)

"A small subculture of amateur physicists and science-fiction fans -- fewer than 100 worldwide -- are building working perpetual motion devices at home. The designs are based on the work of Albert Michelson, co-proponent of luminiferous aether theory, from the 1890s. Some of these hobbyists hope similar devices can one day power the planet, but so far they consume more energy than they create."

Good article.

Re:Amateur Scientists Seek Perpetual Motion Device (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24653643)

While not quite perpetual motion machine, since it requires fuel (hydrogen and/or deuterium) and produces fusion products including neutrons, it has been proven the current design can never pass break even. Course is the design is drastically altered in some fashion that invalidate the proof, then all bets are off and it just may be all it claims to be...

Re:Amateur Scientists Seek Perpetual Motion Device (1)

Kagura (843695) | more than 5 years ago | (#24653649)

Replying to my own post, I've never actually heard anything suggesting Michelson believed in luminiferous aether, but I figured his name would be well known for the experiment.

Re:Amateur Scientists Seek Perpetual Motion Device (1)

synaptic (4599) | more than 5 years ago | (#24654049)

http://www.glafreniere.com/sa_Michelson.htm

Re:Amateur Scientists Seek Perpetual Motion Device (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24653711)

umm. is there a good reason why parent is modded offtopic? seems he was making a (somewhat) clever joke

Re:Amateur Scientists Seek Perpetual Motion Device (-1, Offtopic)

edalytical (671270) | more than 5 years ago | (#24653981)

The reason is, and I don't care if I'm modded down to -1, some mods would rather bitch slap people than do actual work like thinking and reading post. Some mods use it to suppress differing opinion.

I just don't get it. When I have mod points I look for good stuff to mod up. Sure I mod down "first post", unmistakable trolls, and spammers, but if someone doesn't fall into those groups and seems sincere I either leave it be or mod it up.

I could go on, but you get the idea. Sometimes discussions should be offtopic, and sometimes redundant etc. Most importantly every discussion needs humor. I see no reason to bitch slap when someone is being sincere.

Re:Amateur Scientists Seek Perpetual Motion Device (5, Funny)

jcorno (889560) | more than 5 years ago | (#24654057)

The reason is, and I don't care if I'm modded down to -1, some mods would rather bitch slap people than do actual work like thinking and reading post. Some mods use it to suppress differing opinion.

I just don't get it. When I have mod points I look for good stuff to mod up.

That's funny. I usually waste my mod points modding down posts that start with variations on "Go ahead and mod me down." I guess this is your lucky day.

Re:Amateur Scientists Seek Perpetual Motion Device (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24653727)

Have you mentioned to any scientists that Sol is a perpetual motion device? I'm sure NASA and many physicists would love to hear your intriguing ideas.

I love snarkiness as much as the next guy, but your simplification makes you look a bit... simple.

Re:Amateur Scientists Seek Perpetual Motion Device (4, Insightful)

Kagura (843695) | more than 5 years ago | (#24653771)

Solar fusion works by extreme compression due to the gravitational force... and if you were referring to the orbits themselves, it's ridiculously well-established that you can't gain free energy out of a gravitational system.*

*Arapidlyspinningblackholesayswhat?

Re:Amateur Scientists Seek Perpetual Motion Device (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24654171)

and if you were referring to the orbits themselves, it's ridiculously well-established that you can't gain free energy out of a gravitational system.*

... you mean like dropping a whole lot of water through some turbines?

Yeah you're right, that'd never work
http://www.destination360.com/north-america/us/nevada/las-vegas/images/s/las-vegas-hoover-dam.jpg

Re:Amateur Scientists Seek Perpetual Motion Device (2, Insightful)

GaryPatterson (852699) | more than 5 years ago | (#24654341)

That's not free, when you consider the bigger picture. There's energy used getting the water up to the starting point (heat, etc), the difference is that we're not paying for it directly.

In a more-or-less closed system, like a solar system, you don't get free energy from gravity.

Re:Amateur Scientists Seek Perpetual Motion Device (4, Interesting)

Black Sabbath (118110) | more than 5 years ago | (#24654285)

You can't "gain free energy", but you can transfer energy from say, a planet, to say, a spaceship.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gravitational_slingshot [wikipedia.org]

Re:Amateur Scientists Seek Perpetual Motion Device (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24654361)

Free as in beer? I, for one, welcome our neutron blah, blah, blah. These jokes are getting old.

Michelson (5, Informative)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | more than 5 years ago | (#24654047)

" The designs are based on the work of Albert Michelson, co-proponent of luminiferous aether theory, from the 1890s."

It's worth reminding people that, whatever his original views of luminiferous aether, Michelson was one of the great experimentalists of the 19th century and his name is most firmly associated with the experiment that's widely credited with experimentaly destroying the credibility of aether theories [virginia.edu] .

(It's still possible to come up with aether theories even with the Michelson-Morley results (and the results of hundreds of other people who replicated and refined that result), but it's much more difficult, and the resulting theories end up rather hard to credit.) I assume that the original use of the word "proponent" was a typo).

Really? (1, Interesting)

AmonEzhno (1276076) | more than 5 years ago | (#24653601)

So wait... why build a reactor that produces a negative output? I'm all for home tinkering, but this seems a little extreme...

Re:Really? (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24653645)

People do not build the reactors to get energy. One of the reasons they are built is to see a fusion reaction, which is quite impressive. There are some videos on youtube.

Re:Really? (5, Interesting)

kbonin (58917) | more than 5 years ago | (#24653703)

Its for the tinkerer who wishes to learn more about high vacuum pumps (absorption, ion, vane, turbo...), vacuum chamber design (welding, management of outgassing...), low pressure measurement, low pressure gas flow, high voltage (flybacks, diode stacks, corona discharge, flashover...), particle detectors (scintillators, avalanche photodiodes, image intensifiers, calibrated op amps...), instrument design (fast ADCs, multi-channel analyzers...), oh and some cool stuff related to nuclear physics thrown in. Most of us can't buy all the gear, so we make it all from scrounged parts. And learn a tremendous amount of related engineering in the process. Look at it this way - its like the difference between building an RC car and rebuilding a classic car - anyone can toss together a kit, but if you want to learn how to restore an older car you end up learning dozens of skills you didn't realize you need. Its one of the most interesting educational projects in modern science that isn't illegal (yet).

Re:Really? (3, Informative)

domatic (1128127) | more than 5 years ago | (#24653881)

Farnsworth fusors are also used as a laboratory source of neutrons. For that application it only matters that they produce sufficient neutrons of the required energy.

Not a good design for power (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24653609)

Farnsworth style fusors will never break even. They simply don't contain well enough--once you get the mesh fine enough to stop your particles from hitting it, the voltages you drive it at will probably destroy it.

Polywell is just a better idea. Hopefully EMCC will finally build the large scale one and prove it.

Widely used in medicine and research (4, Interesting)

CustomDesigned (250089) | more than 5 years ago | (#24653675)

Farnsworth fusors are widely used in medicine and research as an easily controlled and cheap source of neutrons.

Re:Widely used in medicine and research (1)

AmonEzhno (1276076) | more than 5 years ago | (#24653725)

But the article is about amateur scientist, not commercial use. It's really amazing no doubt, but what kind of costs are associated with a project like this?

Re:Not a good design for power (1)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | more than 5 years ago | (#24654127)

Polywell is just a better idea. Hopefully EMCC will finally build the large scale one and prove it.

We're due a report from them in another couple weeks or so.

Re:Not a good design for power (1)

symbolset (646467) | more than 5 years ago | (#24654333)

Sometimes the desired result of a bonfire is not thermal energy. So it is with fusion. There are byproducts and some are useful.

by working you mean failing (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24653625)

they might be trying but if they consume more energy than produce then they are failing
there is no such thing as "nearly fusion" (as useful a statement as "nearly pregnant")
either it works or it doesn't! and if a hundred individuals are consistently failing then working it aint

i won the lottery, i only need to get the numbers right and i have the cash

Re:by working you mean failing (5, Insightful)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 5 years ago | (#24654001)

No, no, no. It's not "almost" fusion. It is fusion. It is almost a fusion generator. That doesn't mean fusion isn't occurring. It means that the reaction is not self-sustaining. There's a huge difference. Saying that it isn't fusion is like saying that a match placed in a sealed jar and set ablaze using a laser isn't really fire because it consumes all the oxygen and burns out and there's no way to add more oxygen....

Re:by working you mean failing (1)

wealthychef (584778) | more than 5 years ago | (#24654091)

dgatwood, your shell script games are amazing. :-)

What could possibly go wrong? (5, Interesting)

L. J. Beauregard (111334) | more than 5 years ago | (#24653629)

All known hydrogen fusion reactions produce strong neutron fluxes. Strong enough to kill, and death by radiation poisoning is not my idea of a fun time.

Re:What could possibly go wrong? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24653837)

All known hydrogen fusion reactions produce strong neutron fluxes. Strong enough to kill, and death by radiation poisoning is not my idea of a fun time.

What about a hot date with a radioactive supermodel?

Re:What could possibly go wrong? (3, Funny)

the_humeister (922869) | more than 5 years ago | (#24653959)

Strong enough to kill, and death by radiation poisoning is not my idea of a fun time.

Well, different strokes for different folks...

Re:What could possibly go wrong? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24653963)

The intensity of the neutron flux is just a matter of how much fusion you are dealing wiht. A single neutron is not going to kill you any more than all the cosmic rays that hit you throghout the day. While it is correct that a large neutron dose would be bad for you, it is completely a matter of dose, so as long as you know what you are doing and take precautions to not generate excessive neutron fluxes you should be fine.

It is also perfectly possible to shield the device using materials that are good at absorbing neutrons, such as hydrogen and boron.

Yes, radiation can kill you in large quantities. As can paint stripper, inhaling the vapours of superglue and being careless with a chainsaw, but that does not stop people from using those things. You do need to know what you are doing, and you do need to take precautions, but radiation is not some ocult spawn of satan that any amount of it will make your skin turn green and ressurect dead puppies into zombies.

Re:What could possibly go wrong? (3, Insightful)

Cyberax (705495) | more than 5 years ago | (#24654055)

Homemade fusors are not likely to have really dangerous levels of neutron radiation.

The principal danger in fusors is X-Ray radiation. It's produced in generous amounts and can kill you just as good as another types of penetrating radiation.

Re:What could possibly go wrong? (3, Interesting)

fm6 (162816) | more than 5 years ago | (#24654089)

Every hobby has its hazards. Building a fusor is probably safer than, say, mountain climbing. In both cases, you could die a nasty death if you're not careful. Serious practitioners are careful.

Re:What could possibly go wrong? (5, Interesting)

cunniff (264218) | more than 5 years ago | (#24654143)

All known hydrogen -hydrogen fusion reactions produce strong neutron fluxes. Strong enough to kill, and death by radiation poisoning is not my idea of a fun time.

There, fixed that for you.

The holy grail for Polywell fusors is proton-(11)Boron fusion [wikipedia.org] . Aneutronic, and generates alpha particles which are almost trivially easy to convert to electricity.

Radioactive Trajedy (1)

Kratisto (1080113) | more than 5 years ago | (#24653635)

Today, it was found that, in nearly one hundred cases world wide, a small subculture of amateur physicists deluded by the works of Philo T. Farnsworth, inventor of the television, have been admitted to local hospitals for radiation poisoning. It is currently unclear whether or not contacts of these science fiction fans have also been exposed to dangerous amounts of radioactive isotopes, and further investigations are preceding.

Re:Radioactive Trajedy (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24653737)

further investigations are preceding.

Sweet. They built a time machine.

there was a high school kid (4, Interesting)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 5 years ago | (#24653639)

who built a tabletop farnsworth reactor a few years ago

its technically challenging to build one of these, but not beyond the skillset and material list of a committed and persevering amateur science buff

however, saying that once you build one you can work towards self-sustaining fusion is like saying after playing with legos you can go build a pyramid. well yea, you have the conceptualization down, but you still need to move heaven and earth and invest trillions

having said that, what these guys are doing is still important in terms of awareness and getting the good word out. we NEED fusion power. to save us from pollution, global warming, petrodollar funded russian neoimperialism and islamic fundamentalism, etc.

and one of these guys just one day may provide the mental spark to get working a real breakthrough in the field, or inspire a kid somewhere to wonder in awe, and he grows up to provide that mental spark of a breakthrough. anyone who doubts that is just way too jaded

so i salute you amateur fusion researchers

keep hope alive

Well... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24653657)

I once saw an infomercial about a Mr. Fusion device, why not buy one of those?

Fusion? Pah! I've done them better! (2, Funny)

MarkRose (820682) | more than 5 years ago | (#24653665)

Meanwhile at my home, I've perfected the generation of natural gas by eating the right combination of Burger King and Taco Bell.

Re:Fusion? Pah! I've done them better! (4, Funny)

EdIII (1114411) | more than 5 years ago | (#24653947)

Burger King and Taco Bell? You could do so much better. Let me help.

Step 1: Broccoli and Cheese soup. Crush some Oyster Crackers into it and DON'T forget the Tabasco sauce.
Step 2: Pork and Beans. 1 Can. Always a classic.
Step 3: ONE foot-long-cheap-ass Don Miguel burrito (the spicy red one). Can be purchased at any fine 7-11 anywhere. Only ONE. Trust me.
Step 4: 5 Hardboiled eggs with salt and pepper.
Step 5: Steamed Cabbage and 2 raw onions with plenty of butter.
Step 6: A single large bag of Funyuns.

Do all of this within 3 1/2 hours. Sit on the couch and wait about another 2-3 hours. Hold everything in till about 6 hours after you started.

You know that saying "killed the dog"? Well if you have pets, I don't recommend this.

DISCLAIMER: If you have any kind of a heart condition, or if anyone else in the house has one DO NOT ATTEMPT THIS.

Not power generators (4, Insightful)

syntaxglitch (889367) | more than 5 years ago | (#24653681)

Despite the fact that this is a link to a non-technical publication's website, the Farnsworth Fusor [wikipedia.org] is a real fusion device and works basically how they describe it. What it is not, however, is anticipated to ever be a viable power source, and there are significant theoretical hurdles to prevent it from being viable relative to other approaches (and when you make any kind of fusion reactor seem plausible in comparison, you're probably not going anywhere). In my experience, most hobbyists are well aware of this and just enjoy the tinkering.

The primary functions of a fusor are 1) Generate neutrons 2) Look really cool 3) Kill you with extremely high voltages if you screw up.

Why didn't they mention the polywell? (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24653709)

Focusing on Farnsworth fusors in an article written in part about fusion as a possible energy source seems as poorly researched as writing about steam engines in an article about internal combustion. The polywell [talk-polywell.org] seems be the heir apparent for serious work in energy out of the fusor lineage.

Re:Why didn't they mention the polywell? (2, Interesting)

Zobeid (314469) | more than 5 years ago | (#24654111)

I was wondering exactly the same thing. In my view the Polywell is the most interesting thing going on in fusion research these days, and it's a direct descendent from the kinds of devices these hobbyists are building.

Has someone tried,.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24653713)

Making a fusion/fisson reactor?
One takes it appart, the other put the 'waste' back together.

or does the process just cancel itself out?

Re:Has someone tried,.. (0)

MarkRose (820682) | more than 5 years ago | (#24653825)

It doesn't work that way. You can get energy out of fusion and fission until you hit iron at the middle, which is at an energy well. The sun will end up a lump of iron once it finishes fusing due to this fact.

Re:Has someone tried,.. (2, Informative)

Waffle Iron (339739) | more than 5 years ago | (#24654197)

It doesn't work that way. You can get energy out of fusion and fission until you hit iron at the middle, which is at an energy well. The sun will end up a lump of iron once it finishes fusing due to this fact.

Actually, the sun isn't massive enough to create iron. It will instead end up as a lump of mostly degenerate carbon and oxygen.

i wonder how many (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24653759)

ARE IN IRAN1111!!!!!!!!1!

You've gotta be kidding me... (2)

Chappster (1169005) | more than 5 years ago | (#24653763)

By absolutely NO means is this anything new. This is being done world wide all over the place. In fact, with 2,000 dollars and a couple hundred collective hours, anybody could make them easily.

Before I switched majors from physics to CIS, I was planning on building one just as an experience buffer. It's extremely, extremely friggin' simple.

http://brian-mcdermott.com/fusion_is_easy.htm [brian-mcdermott.com]

Philo T. Farnsworth (4, Interesting)

QuietLagoon (813062) | more than 5 years ago | (#24653781)

Now nearing the ripe age of fifteen, Philo Farnsworth turned his team of horses around at the edge of the field and surveyed his work. Before him lay his mowed hay field, clearly delineated rows cut in alternating directions. Suddenly the future hit him with a vision so startling he could hardly sit still: a vision of television images formed by an electron beam scanning a picture in horizontal lines....
.

Best book [eht.com] on the early days of television that I have read. The above quote is from page 126.

Futurama (1)

LingNoi (1066278) | more than 5 years ago | (#24653789)

More information about Dr Farnsworth [wikipedia.org] ...

Fusors are Old News (3, Interesting)

istartedi (132515) | more than 5 years ago | (#24653799)

As the summary acknowledges, the fusor has been around for a while. If it were theoreticly possible to get net power gain, don't you think it would have been tried?

I doubt many of the people experimenting with the fusor are seriously trying to get net power gain. It's useful as a neutron source. Thus, you could make isotopes with it. That's rather scary, and something that I'm sure a lot of people would not want advertised; but it's also common knowledge for anybody who has an interest in nuclear science.

Re:Fusors are Old News (2, Insightful)

Anenome (1250374) | more than 5 years ago | (#24654397)

Most of these experiments deal with softball sized reactors, essentially, and then imagine that scaling them up will increase their efficiency when the fact is that scaling them up makes them operate worse because the neutrons generated can only travel so far before they are block by something. What I'd like to see is a Fusor reactor continually shrunken down. If you could get it to the size of a pinhead or so I bet it would produce a net energy gain.

Bring on fusion! (4, Funny)

ArchieBunker (132337) | more than 5 years ago | (#24653829)

I can't fucking wait for the day cold fusion arrives and we get to tell all those assholes in the middle east "Hey heres a fusion reactor that lasts for a century and costs $500. We'll no longer be needing your oil"

Re:Bring on fusion! (1, Informative)

Tuqui (96668) | more than 5 years ago | (#24654059)

I can't fucking wait for the day cold fusion arrives

This type of fusion is not in the Cold category.

Re:Bring on fusion! (2, Insightful)

coopaq (601975) | more than 5 years ago | (#24654125)

I bet they can't fucking wait for you to tell them too.

Re:Bring on fusion! (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24654283)

Right! No plastics, no chemicals, no lubricants !!!
Idiot!

WMD (4, Funny)

clarkkent09 (1104833) | more than 5 years ago | (#24653843)

A small subculture of amateur physicists and science-fiction fans -- fewer than 100 worldwide -- are building working nuclear-fusion reactors at home.

In other news, a small subculture of amateur neoconservatives are building working homemade tanks, fighter jets and cruise missiles in order to seek out and destroy these Weapons Of Mass Destruction before its too late and a mushroom cloud appears in somebody's basement

Re:WMD (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24654121)

Real neocons build torture devices, toxins and biological weapons. The point is not to kill people, but to cause as much pain as possible.

As others have said ... (5, Insightful)

tgd (2822) | more than 5 years ago | (#24653867)

I don't think anyone building these expects to ever have a net power output from them -- that's not the point. The point is to be able to say you built a fusion reactor, or as others have said to generate isotopes for other experimenting, etc.

IMO, a more important area of amateur and admittedly fringe scientific research around fusion and fusion-like reactions is the several hundred teams that still continue to this day to investigate what the heck is going on with low temperature fusion. Tons of progress is being made in the field, and some reasonable theories are starting to form. There's a lot of unknowns, but helium is regularly produced, neutrons are regularly produced and more interesting from a theoretical standpoint, lots of atoms are changing from one element to another...

Its like the 1700's experimenting with chemistry. Lots of people doing lots of very cool and interesting experiments and getting lots of very interesting results, even if we (humanity, not me personally) still don't quite get it.

IMO, its an aspect of science we miss in the modern world. These days we just assume we understand things pretty well and experimenting is about engineering or proving a theory. Its cool there are still areas of fundamental science experimentation going on where we just don't get what is happening and have no idea what might happen with the next variant.

The story is so old and duped (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24653953)

on Slashdot that I can't even think of anything smart-ass to say.

Wait: Well I could say that perhaps the Slashdot editors are in the testing of the new 21st century mind control warfare effort we heard about, where we can make the enemy forget they are in the military.

In this case, we make people forget about rehashed stories and they are repeated over and over. So just like 20 years until mind control is realized, 20 more years of dupes will materialize.

Fusion? BAH!!! (5, Funny)

adric (91323) | more than 5 years ago | (#24654043)

Now if they could put it in the form of a suppository...

I live next door to a terrorist (1)

duckInferno (1275100) | more than 5 years ago | (#24654053)

I'm surprised the guy doesn't have a giant black SUV constantly parked outside his house. The most the article mentions is that a kid who made a fusor for his science project was visited by the state health department, who then left him alone from there on. His neighbors seem cool with it too (not to mention his wife). What is this, some sort of alternate reality version of the US?

From the sounds of the article though, these people aren't actually looking to make a proper electricity-generating fusion reaction; they're just making fusors for shits and giggles. Misleading title?

Does he buy lots of milk? (1)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 5 years ago | (#24654385)

So long as he's not making milk powder you're probably safe from being bombed.

There's only two possible outcomes. (2, Funny)

jpellino (202698) | more than 5 years ago | (#24654069)

Really embarrassing or REALLY embarrassing.

Confucius say (4, Funny)

Profane MuthaFucka (574406) | more than 5 years ago | (#24654093)

Confucius say "Man who build fusion reactor at home flux his wife instead of his secretary."

next to his bed? (4, Funny)

cashman73 (855518) | more than 5 years ago | (#24654135)

Carl Willis, a 27-year-old doctoral student at Ohio State University, who keeps his fusor just a few feet from his bed.

Apparently, he never wants to get laid ... EVER!

I just built a home fusion reactor! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24654155)

And I'm about to turn it on!

OK here goes .. flicking the switch now guys ..

Wow, seems to be wor^DConnection to slashdot.org closed.

Science takes a leaf from Ankh-Morpork Alchemists (2, Funny)

Anaerin (905998) | more than 5 years ago | (#24654173)

By and large, the only skill the alchemists of Ankh-Morpork had discovered so far was the ability to turn gold into less gold.

- Terry Pratchett, Moving Pictures [lspace.org]

1000 Years in the Future: (1)

Wo1ke (1218100) | more than 5 years ago | (#24654177)

Good news everyone! You're all going to planet horror in the forbiden sector to trade my newest invention, the "tele-vision" for their fusion reactors!

Just.. .nonsense. (1)

mindstrm (20013) | more than 5 years ago | (#24654183)

Okay... news flash.

What is a "reactor"... it is a machine or mechanism that allows a "reaction" to happen.

It's not some magical energy-producing thing.

Fusion is not hard. Fusion is not new.

Fusion with a net surplus of energy in a controlled fashion is the thing we've been unable to achieve.

It's like saying some kid lighting some veggie oil on fire in a can is "working on an internal combustion engine"

brilliant (5, Interesting)

Goldsmith (561202) | more than 5 years ago | (#24654255)

As someone who has worked in fusion, there is significant radiation created by the process. The larger reactors can't run on the ideal deuterium/tritium mixture because it would irradiate entire cities while the reactor burned. I would not want a small one in my garage. The reactor I worked on was in a concrete bunker a fair distance away from any people. It was also the size of a large house.

If you want to live in the future and be on the cutting edge of science, go to grad school and study physics (you're never too old). There are not enough people seriously studying fusion. You'll get paid to work on reactors (big or small) which may have a commercial future. We wear snarky shirts that no one understands too.

farnsworth (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24654363)

Why isn't this tagged with "goodnewseveryone"?

Obligatory Simpsons reference (1)

incognito84 (903401) | more than 5 years ago | (#24654373)

"What are you doing down there?" "I'm making a highly complicated dohickie... do you have elbow macaroni or glue on sparkles?"
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