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Fusion "Breakthrough" At National Ignition Facility? Not So Fast

samzenpus posted about 6 months ago | from the take-another-look dept.

Power 118

sciencehabit writes "One unintended effect of the U.S. federal shutdown is that helpful press officers at government labs are not available to provide a reality check to some of the wilder stories that can catch fire on the Internet. They would have come in handy this week, when a number of outlets jumped on a report on the BBC News website. The National Ignition Facility (NIF) at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, it reported, had passed a 'nuclear fusion milestone.' NIF uses the world's highest energy laser system to crush tiny pellets containing a form of hydrogen fuel to enormous temperature and pressure. The aim is to get the hydrogen nuclei to fuse together into helium atoms, releasing energy. The BBC story reported that during one experiment last month, 'the amount of energy released through the fusion reaction exceeded the amount of energy being absorbed by the fuel — the first time this had been achieved at any fusion facility in the world.' This prompted a rush of even more effusive headlines proclaiming the 'fusion breakthrough.' As no doubt NIF's press officers would have told reporters, the experiment in question certainly shows important progress, but it is not the breakthrough everyone is hoping for."

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118 comments

Wait, The Internet? (4, Funny)

toygeek (473120) | about 6 months ago | (#45097491)

Blowing things out of proportion and bad reporting? Say it isn't so!

Re:Wait, The Internet? (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45097527)

But the 3D printing stories and private space fantasies are still safe, right?

Re:Wait, The Internet? (5, Funny)

lxs (131946) | about 6 months ago | (#45098647)

Space elevator went live last week. Sadly some joker pressed all the buttons. At this rate they'll reach the moon by 2035.

Blowing out of proportion (5, Informative)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | about 6 months ago | (#45097541)

There's a good discussion by Jeff Hecht in the Laser Focus World blog: "Progress at NIF, but no 'breakthrough'"
http://www.laserfocusworld.com/articles/2013/10/progress-at-nif-but-no-breakthrough.html [laserfocusworld.com]

The amount of energy generated by fusion is quoted as having exceeded the amount of energy absorbed by the fusion fuel [my italics].

The misleading part comes from the fact that the target absorbs only a small fraction of the energy in the laser pulse. The August experiments used a laser pulse of 1.7 million joules to generate 8000 joules of fusion energy (measured from neutron yield). So the fusion energy amounts to a few percent of the energy in the laser pulse (and much less if you account for the inefficiency of the laser).

Re:Blowing out of proportion (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45097699)

No one seems to realize the NIF is just to study fusion for weapons research. It has no hope of ever leading to an energy source.

Re:Blowing out of proportion (4, Insightful)

Mitchell314 (1576581) | about 6 months ago | (#45097831)

Like the Manhattan project?

Re:Blowing out of proportion (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45097897)

You mean the project that came AFTER we knew fission would be an energy source?

Re:Blowing out of proportion (1)

noh8rz10 (2716597) | about 6 months ago | (#45098237)

what happens if the laser turns out to be successful and all sorts of crazy fusion starts happening? would shit explode? sucks to live in berkeley (for many reasons)!

Re:Blowing out of proportion (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45098537)

No, by then the Earth will have collapsed long ago into a black hole created by the mass of the US budget deficit.

Re:Blowing out of proportion (2)

lxs (131946) | about 6 months ago | (#45098663)

would shit explode?

I would hope so. That's kind of the point.

Re:Blowing out of proportion (2)

noh8rz10 (2716597) | about 6 months ago | (#45098695)

you know what i mean, an uncontrolled out of control runaway explosion like on my laptop battery.

Re:Blowing out of proportion (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | about 6 months ago | (#45100387)

How would that happen?
Under what scenario would pellets keep being introduced? What would induce them to under go fusion?

Are you really this ignorant of the situation?

Re:Blowing out of proportion (3, Informative)

TapeCutter (624760) | about 6 months ago | (#45099363)

That was actually a serious concern before we started blowing up Pacific islands for practice. It was thought that the bomb could trigger a chain reaction that fused all of the Nitrogen in the atmosphere in one very brief but spectacular flash of high energy radiation. Contrary to what some have claimed the boffins on the Manhattan project did not just cross their fingers and light the fuse, they rigorously demonstrated that it could not happen long before they had a working bomb. It's actually quite an interesting historical story and well worth a browsing in WP (ie: I can't be bothered looking it up and posting the links for you ;)

Re:Blowing out of proportion (-1, Troll)

noh8rz10 (2716597) | about 6 months ago | (#45101349)

I can't be bothered looking it up and posting the links for you

Eff u 2, ahole!!!

Re:Blowing out of proportion (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45100813)

Actually to continually produce energy, you would have to continually feed it hydrogen. They have no way of replacing the fuel pellet once it is spent, let alone a way of removing the helium that is made.

This is only for weapons research which a one time event. This research benefits one time events.

Re:Blowing out of proportion (1)

crypticedge (1335931) | about 6 months ago | (#45100247)

We've got extremely good evidence fusion is a great energy source too, unless you deny the existence of the sun.

Re:Blowing out of proportion (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45100685)

We've got extremely good evidence fusion is a great energy source too, unless you deny the existence of the sun.

And of hydrogen bombs.

Re:Blowing out of proportion (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45097893)

No one seems to realize the NIF is just to study fusion for weapons research. It has no hope of ever leading to an energy source.

The point of NIF was mostly to keep the scientists who *can* do weapons research interested in the field.

NIF is actually in real trouble. Over budget, and behind schedule. While everyone accepts that this is tough science, the number of milestones missed has made cancelling NIF a very real possibility.

Re:Blowing out of proportion (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45098035)

It's not tough "science". The science is known since decades. It's tough ENGINEERING, which is another story altogether.

Re:Blowing out of proportion (1)

AHuxley (892839) | about 6 months ago | (#45098337)

More like funded work between nuke design and maintenance cycles. A safe gov workshop until the weapons systems need work again.

Re:Blowing out of proportion (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45098045)

So 1.7 million joules of energy is shot at some material that absorbed x joules and released 8000 joules which is more than it was measured to absorb (x8000). What happened to the 1.7 million - x joules that didn't get absorbed? Is there a mirror or other fiber optic medium that captures and redirects/reuses it/absorbs it?

Re:Blowing out of proportion (1)

illestov (945762) | about 6 months ago | (#45098235)

stupid question, but isn't the energy released from a fusion reaction ALWAYS larger than the energy absorbed? I thought that was in the definition somewhere

Re:Blowing out of proportion (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45099085)

That might be the case for an individual target nucleus, but not the case for the macroscopic target (pellet), which is not entirely composed of tightly packed target nuclei.

Re:Blowing out of proportion (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45099749)

No - otherwise you wouldn't be able to get any energy from fission - depends on the elements - eg if you wanted to 'fuse' to make U238 you'd need to put in energy

Re:Blowing out of proportion (1)

Capt.Albatross (1301561) | about 6 months ago | (#45101045)

Isn't the energy released from a fusion reaction ALWAYS larger than the energy absorbed?

In the case of lightweight elements, the energy released by two fusing nuclei is less than the kinetic energy smashing them together, but only a small fraction of the nuclei in a pellet fuse, and most of the energy absorbed by the pellet goes into heating and ionizing the atoms that don't undergo fusion.

Re:Blowing out of proportion (2)

fnj (64210) | about 6 months ago | (#45098893)

a few percent of the energy

Funny, I make it 0.47% (8000/1700000*100). I figured this out from the original submission a few days ago using no more than maybe 10 minutes checking of secondary sources.

Re:Blowing out of proportion (5, Funny)

catmistake (814204) | about 6 months ago | (#45099247)

So the fusion energy amounts to a few percent of the energy in the laser pulse (and much less if you account for the inefficiency of the laser).

The estimates become even more dubious when you account for all the energy expended training, feeding and housing the sharks.

NO, It Was Reported Accurately (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about 6 months ago | (#45098083)

Quote the BBC article:

"This is a step short of the lab's stated goal of "ignition", where nuclear fusion generates as much energy as the lasers supply. This is because known "inefficiencies" in different parts of the system mean not all the energy supplied through the laser is delivered to the fuel."

The article made it CLEAR that the energy output was more than the energy absorbed. But it also made it CLEAR that it was not as much energy as was input to the whole system.

This is a non-article about a non-issue.

HEADLINE: "People Read Article Wrong... Chaos Ensues!"

Re:NO, It Was Reported Accurately (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45099567)

It's the articles that cited the BBC one and exaggerated the claims without including that disclaimer that're at fault. It's hard to see the NIF's press officers making any difference. If they'd ignored that part of the BBC article, they'd ignore that part of the press release and any protestations from NIF too.

Re:NO, It Was Reported Accurately (1)

jafiwam (310805) | about 6 months ago | (#45100379)

It's the articles that cited the BBC one and exaggerated the claims without including that disclaimer that're at fault. It's hard to see the NIF's press officers making any difference. If they'd ignored that part of the BBC article, they'd ignore that part of the press release and any protestations from NIF too.

Not really.

It's people thinking they know science and who can't read or won't bother to that blow things out of proportion.

This, pile of crap of an article, should be bashing the ignorance of 99% of people instead. The people that understood it wrong are in the same class of folks that need to be reminded that "contents may be hot" after microwaving food. If you are THAT stupid, one article isn't going to get you to catch up to what is actually being talked about.

breakthrough I''m hopoing for? (4, Funny)

phantomfive (622387) | about 6 months ago | (#45097493)

not the breakthrough everyone is hoping for.

The breakthrough I'm hoping for is cheap free fusion energy, generated in my backyard, from trash, branded "Mr Fusion."

What is everyone else hoping for?

Re:breakthrough I''m hopoing for? (2)

bob_super (3391281) | about 6 months ago | (#45097523)

I'm hoping you don't need the whole 1.21 Gigawatts and can share with me. My backyard's a bit small.

Re:breakthrough I''m hopoing for? (1)

circletimessquare (444983) | about 6 months ago | (#45099259)

Mr Fusion was based on the 1980s era kitchen appliance brand Mr Coffee

This is 2013 so we would have to call it the Keurig Fusion

Re:breakthrough I''m hopoing for? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45099265)

The breakthrough I'm hoping for is cheap free fusion energy, generated in my backyard, from trash, branded "Mr Fusion."

...as opposed to expensive free fusion energy?

Re:breakthrough I''m hopoing for? (1)

SpeedRacer (41138) | about 6 months ago | (#45101465)

The breakthrough I'm hoping for is cheap free fusion energy, generated in my backyard, from trash, branded "Mr Fusion."

...as opposed to expensive free fusion energy?

Nah, he meant as opposed to cheap *constrained* fusion energy...

Actual gain 0.0077, small difference... (1)

Ecuador (740021) | about 6 months ago | (#45097559)

So it was not more than break-even. The gain was actually 0.0077 - 1.8MJ in, 14kJ out. Just a small (i.e. about "1") mistake by the genius journalists.

Re:Actual gain 0.0077, small difference... (1)

_merlin (160982) | about 6 months ago | (#45097653)

Yeah, the thing seems horribly overhyped, and it still doesn't seem to be showing the kind of results already achieved with tokamaks, e.g. JET producing 5MW to 16MW fusion output power from 24MW input power for 5s. Why is the US so interested in the laser-pumped fusion approach used at NIF? UK gave up on it ages ago. There's got to be some motivation other than power generation technology. Is NIF more suitable for weapons research or something?

Re:Actual gain 0.0077, small difference... (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45097813)

JET producing 5MW to 16MW fusion output power from 24MW input power for 5s

Even better is JT-60 has produced DD plasmas at conditions that would produce fusion power 110% more than what goes in if they had they run with DT plasma instead.

Re:Actual gain 0.0077, small difference... (4, Interesting)

gman003 (1693318) | about 6 months ago | (#45097857)

Yes, most of what the NIF does is actually weapons research. The fusion power stuff seems to be mainly a political ploy to get the Democrats to sign off on it - they're never going to get actual fusion power, meaning actually turning this power back into electricity, at NIF, and unless they know something big I don't, I doubt they ever will at any inertial confinement reactor. I only hope that they're able to do some solid fundamental research for fusion power using this.

Re:Actual gain 0.0077, small difference... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45098909)

Technically, I guess it is a welfare program and Democrats love to buy them votes.

Re:Actual gain 0.0077, small difference... (1)

dreamchaser (49529) | about 6 months ago | (#45098033)

Yeah, the thing seems horribly overhyped, and it still doesn't seem to be showing the kind of results already achieved with tokamaks, e.g. JET producing 5MW to 16MW fusion output power from 24MW input power for 5s. Why is the US so interested in the laser-pumped fusion approach used at NIF? UK gave up on it ages ago. There's got to be some motivation other than power generation technology. Is NIF more suitable for weapons research or something?

My guess is you're being very perceptive and this approach is about weaponization, not power production per se.

My worry (-1, Flamebait)

elloz (3382559) | about 6 months ago | (#45097583)

My worry is that these people don't really know what they're doing, and that they're going to ignite a fusion reaction that will be self-feeding and turn our planet into a sun. This is one area of research where a mistake can really ruin the environment.

Re:My worry (5, Funny)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 6 months ago | (#45097609)

My worry is that these people don't really know what they're doing, and that they're going to ignite a fusion reaction that will be self-feeding and turn our planet into a sun.
This is one area of research where a mistake can really ruin the environment.

Don't worry. All you need to do is unwrap the entire roll of aluminum foil and cover your whole body. You'll be safe then.

From quite a lot of things, actually.

Re:My worry (0)

elloz (3382559) | about 6 months ago | (#45097631)

You're a lemming.

Re:My worry (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45097781)

What's wrong with that? Or are you one of those idiots who still haven't realized that lemmings don't all run and jump off a cliff together?

Re: My worry (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45098261)

Yeah, some of them downstairs, climb walls, deploy umbrellas, lemmings can do all sorts of things

Re:My worry (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45098115)

And you're either a troll, willfully ignorant and spreading FUD, or woefully idiotic. Do you have any idea how many lasers that have pointed at a single cell to get the pitiful energy they have managed? We're talking somewhere on the order of a return of one from an input of a thousand; not to mention the chain reaction calculations for our atmosphere have been checked and rechecked since the Manhattan Project. Perhaps you wouldn't be so mistakenly worried if only we'd tested uncontrolled fusion explosions [wikipedia.org] -- like we did back in the 50s...

After all If it was easy to have a sustained fusion chain-reaction, the universe would be filled with fusion infernos making heli-.... wait a second... oh yeah! They seem to have several orders of magnitude of mass, subsequent gravity, pressure, and heat, to fuel such a sustained reaction.

Re:My worry (1)

girlintraining (1395911) | about 6 months ago | (#45097677)

Don't worry. All you need to do is unwrap the entire roll of aluminum foil and cover your whole body. You'll be safe then.

First, nice snark. But, it's worth mentioning that tinfoil only blocks EMR and beta radiation. Nuclear fusion emits more than those; You'd be wrapping yourself up in tin foil only to find it has been used for its intended purpose.

Re:My worry (1)

philip.paradis (2580427) | about 6 months ago | (#45098211)

This is where teamwork really pays off. All the GP has to do is enlist the assistance of a friend to make sure the foil is uniformly wrapped around every square centimeter of his body, triple check that it's tightly crimped to avoid any potential for air leaks, and wait a mere matter of minutes for whatever problems he may have been concerned about to vanish.

Re:My worry (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45097985)

as with all science there are risks. But you are worrying far too much about this technology, especially compared with how FISSION reactors were constructed before we had computers to design them!!

Remember, the reason this technique is so safe is that there is a tiny amont of fuel burnt at one time. The attempt is not to ignite a self-sustaining reaction (I think) but rather to have enough of them in a row that the net energy out is > than in.

Since you are feeding the fuel in as frozen H (lovely and black if you have ever seen it! ), stop the fuel, stop the reaction. Simple as that.

The reason this is so important is that fission reactions are already many orders of magnitude more powerful than any form of chemical reaction (witness a 40 year battery on a space probe - not fission but using radioactive decay). Fusion is perhaps another couple of orders of magnitude. 1g of U fission is 8x10^16 J (from uc davis website. http://chemwiki.ucdavis.edu/Physical_Chemistry/Nuclear_Chemistry/Fission_and_Fusion ) , Fusion is perhaps a few orders (~10^19 J) more than that.

If you want to read just how weird for fusion has been google "muon catalyzed fusion" for a really esoteric cold-fusion (real not the BS magic metal kind).

 

Re:My worry (1)

NoNonAlphaCharsHere (2201864) | about 6 months ago | (#45097713)

I'm worried that my campfire is going to burn down all the forests and destroy the atmosphere.

Re:My worry (1)

stoploss (2842505) | about 6 months ago | (#45098535)

I'm worried that my campfire is going to burn down all the forests and destroy the atmosphere.

Pshah! What a silly thing to be worried about.

I'm worried that my five gallon plastic bucket will drain the oceans by bailing them out, and in the process drown all the land. And then people will fight over handfuls of the only remaining dirt in the world, and captains of the remaining supertankers will become warlords, and some people will evolve gills within a hundred years or so.

I can barely sleep at night due to this imminent threat. I would bury the bucket at Yucca Mountain, but I'm worried that it isn't geologically stable for the time frames we need.

Re:My worry (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45097763)

that is not how stars form. the earth is far too small to ever self ignite. fission has the same problems =, the china syndrome where a fission reactor goes super critical and melts into the core. well in reality it was Chernobyl and while the hottest man made self heating plasma was formed so hot it's radiation melted the camera they tried to take a picture with, well it hasn't gone into the earth to ignite the earths core, and science has predicted that thorium reaction actually is why there is a molten core on this rock in the sky.

Re:My worry (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45097825)

Fusion doesn't work with chain reactions. You have to replicate and maintain temperatures and pressures thousands of times greater than that at the centre of the sun to get most of your reaction mass to fuse (there are actually far less fusion reactions in the sun as a proportion of its mass than most people seem to think). If you can't maintain these conditions, the fusion stops and the reactor shuts down. For inertial confinement fusion like the NIF one has to keep feeding hydrogen pellets and shooting the laser, and if one can extract enough energy from the fusion to power the laser and whatever else, one can just keep feeding hydrogen pellets to keep producing energy. Same deal with a tokamak design: high magnetic fields heat and compress a plasma of hydrogen so much that it achieves fusion, and presumably the energy produced from the fusion can be used to power the magnetic fields and whatever else. If you shut off the magnetic fields or stop providing a continuous source of usable hydrogen plasma, the fusion stops and the reactor shuts down. We only get nuclear fusion in the sun and other stars because the mass of the sun is so great that gravity produces the conditions necessary for fusion in its core.

Re:My worry (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45100713)

but what if it massively increases the, uh, mass of the earth and does make a sun? what then?

nuclear science = nuclear bombs. stop being so ignorant and realize that this is nothing short of evil and the scientists are probably possessed by satan

Re:My worry (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45097835)

Good thing we did all those nuclear weapons tests to prove that possibility wrong, considering the conditions those weapons produced were much more intense than anything used in controlled reactions. You can go back to worrying about the LHC (but no one worries about RHIC...).

Re:My worry (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45097901)

Are you really that fucking stupid? Get the fuck out of here, cunt. We don't need you you fucking fuck fucking shitball fuck.

Re:My worry (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45098825)

If this is a success, next to do: the self-sustaining black hole; a glitch would be epic, being much better and scarier at fulfilling your worries.

Re:My worry (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45099603)

If that would be possible, it would have happened at the very instant the first hydrogen bomb exploded.

BBC reported correctly (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45097613)

actually the BBC's story reports correctly -
"The BBC understands that during an experiment in late September, the amount of energy released through the fusion reaction exceeded the amount of energy being absorbed by the fuel - the first time this had been achieved at any fusion facility in the world.

This is a step short of the lab's stated goal of "ignition", where nuclear fusion generates as much energy as the lasers supply. This is because known "inefficiencies" in different parts of the system mean not all the energy supplied through the laser is delivered to the fuel."

Re:BBC reported correctly (4, Informative)

erice (13380) | about 6 months ago | (#45097845)

actually the BBC's story reports correctly -
"The BBC understands that during an experiment in late September, the amount of energy released through the fusion reaction exceeded the amount of energy being absorbed by the fuel - the first time this had been achieved at any fusion facility in the world.

Actually, no. It still isn't correct.

In 1995, scientists at Princeton’s TFTR achieved scientific break even, whereby their tokamak briefly produced as much energy as it consumed. [ucla.edu]

So, not only is it not the breakthrough we were looking for, at best it replicated a feat achieved with a different technology nearly 20 years ago.

Re:BBC reported correctly (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45098205)

Ah, but like always Harry, you're not using the Force to think 4th dimensionally! Try to imagine if we took this 20 year-old technology and this new one and combined them - we'd have a super hot plasma toroid - and we pointed a frickin' laser beam at it!! Think of the jiggawatts, man!!

Re:BBC reported correctly (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45098517)

Beg pardon? The error is slap bang in the middle of the first sentence you quoted. From the BBC:

The amount of energy released through the fusion reaction exceeded the amount of energy being absorbed by the fuel

From today's sciencemag update:

NIF's laser input of 1.8 MJ is roughly the same as the kinetic energy of a 2-tonne truck traveling at 160 km/h (100 miles/h). The output of the reaction—14 kJ—is equivalent to the kinetic energy of a baseball traveling at half that speed. Numerically speaking, the gain is 0.0077.

So the BBC is basically saying that 14 kilojoules exceeds 1.8 megajoules.

However, did you see sciencemag's car and baseball analogies? Jackknifed right out of the field! Look at this:

Object..Mass(kg)..Velocity(km/h)..Velocity(m/s)..Kinetic Energy(kJ)..What sciencemag said..Error ratio Truck.......2000.............160............576..............330000..................1800..........184 Baseball....0.15..............80............288.................6.2....................14..........0.4

Cheers for now

Re:BBC reported correctly (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45099527)

Afraid not. Although the laser input was 1.8MJ, not all of that was absorbed by the fuel.

Posting AC to preserve mods

Re:BBC reported correctly (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45099563)

Err ... 160 km/h = 160000 m/(3600 s) = 44.4 m/s

Which gives a kinetic energy of 1/2 * 2000 kg * (44.4 m/s)^2 = 1.97 kJ

So on the truck, sciencemag wasn't a factor 184 too large, but roughly three orders of magnitude too small.

Indeed the power output was the kinetic energy of seven of those trucks.

Not there yet! (4, Informative)

FoolishBluntman (880780) | about 6 months ago | (#45097689)

The headline states, "the amount of energy released through the fusion reaction exceeded the amount of energy being absorbed by the fuel".

This is not enough, they must be able to capture that energy and use it to produce the next laser implosion of the fuel.
That will be a milestone.

Also, since this is using a Deuterium-Tritium Fuel it produces very high energy neutrons which will help destroy the reactor much faster than in conventional fission reactions.

Re:Not there yet! (1)

rmstar (114746) | about 6 months ago | (#45099187)

This is not enough, they must be able to capture that energy and use it to produce the next laser implosion of the fuel.
That will be a milestone.

I've heard it looks like a pie,
and floats high up in the sky.

Re:Not there yet! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45102111)

Yes, but it would be great if we could even get the fuel to emit energy in excess of that required to power the lasers.

Currently they are only (briefly) exceeding the energy they absorb from the lasers. We still have the adsorption inefficiency as well as the heat -> electricity inefficiency to deal with.

In other words, we haven't taken the first step, merely figured out how to stand.

Only a government official could have caught this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45097749)

Really? There aren't any other people in the world that don't work for government agencies that could have pointed out this silly mistake?

Oh Look (1)

The Cat (19816) | about 6 months ago | (#45097753)

Something good happens in science and all the neckbeards come running to shout it down.

Sometimes I wonder why science is a religion for these people since they obviously have some kind of emotional need to destroy what it produces?

Re:Oh Look (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | about 6 months ago | (#45099285)

Science is wrong by definition, most of the "neckbeards" I've met understand that but are unlikely to express it as eloquently as Asimov [tufts.edu]. Skepticism is a fundamental skill for scientists and engineers alike, sensationalism is a fundamental skill for journalists and professional propagandists...err, I mean,...lobbyists. If you can't tell the difference then you really should hand in that vintage geek card you have on display.

this is SOP for these guys (4, Interesting)

Goldsmith (561202) | about 6 months ago | (#45097805)

I don't know if NIF is snakebit or just really good at putting out bad information, but this kind of distasteful and misleading marketing of science has been associated with them since their beginning. AAAS is being generous in assuming that their press department would have stepped in and clarified things.

The truth of the matter is that NIF is run by Lawrence Livermore National Security Corporation, a private group formed by defense contractors and academics. They're managed this way specifically to separate themselves from the government. There are plenty of people who are not on the government payroll, who are there working right now, who could have stepped in and corrected everyone's misconceptions. They chose not to.

Re:this is SOP for these guys (1)

blackraven14250 (902843) | about 6 months ago | (#45099043)

It is primarily funded by the United States Department of Energy (DOE) and managed and operated by Lawrence Livermore National Security, LLC (LLNS), a partnership of the University of California, Bechtel, Babcock & Wilcox, URS, and Battelle Memorial Institute in affiliation with the Texas A&M University System.

Either Wikipedia is wrong, or you are, and I think you know which way I'm leaning right now. What defense contractors are involved with LLNS?

Re:this is SOP for these guys (1)

khallow (566160) | about 6 months ago | (#45100697)

I see several right there: Bechtel, U of C, Babcock and Wilcox, URS, Texas A&M. And the DOE does a lot of work for the DOD, though I wouldn't consider them a contractor.

Re:this is SOP for these guys (1)

blackraven14250 (902843) | about 6 months ago | (#45102839)

U of C and Texas A&M definitely aren't defense contractors. They're academic institutions.

As far as I can tell: URS is a general contractor with interests in energy production. Bechtel is a company with a focus on energy production, and specialization in nuclear power. B&W is specialized heavily into nuclear power. All are government contractors for very specialized tasks within their respective fields, all of which include nuclear power, and I don't see how that has any bearing on their interest in LLNL.

Fact check: LLNL isn't shut down (yet) (1)

1729 (581437) | about 6 months ago | (#45097885)

Because the staff and management are contractors, not Fed employees, LLNL is not shut down. The Lab will begin shutting down next week (assuming the budget boondoggle continues), but until now has been fully staffed with the exception of a very small number of people directly employed by DOE.

Press free at last? (1)

MobSwatter (2884921) | about 6 months ago | (#45097899)

I suppose one of the biggest advantages is that suppression of scientific advancement and the press would be a bit hard to perform at the moment.

Government Shutdown, Anyone? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45098363)

I thought the government was shut down. If that is so, why is this government lab still operating? Is someone trying to convince the rest of us that sending a press "officer" home but keeping everyone else on the job is a "shutdown"? I suppose if the government can lie about whether or not it is operating, it can lie about achieving scientific breakthroughs.

Re:Government Shutdown, Anyone? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45098463)

Government run and government funded labs are in various states of shut down, in part because some labs have extra money in their budget to prepare for equipment failures and problems. In other cases, many projects may sit on a surplus depending on if they are preparing to buy new equipment, or are temporarily short staffed due to a person leaving. In either case, this gives them a buffer that they can draw from to keep running in a situation like this, as it would be more expensive in the longer run to shutdown than restart. Not to mention they won't be getting extra time to meet any deadlines that are after things start up, so will still be trying to get things done.

Re:Government Shutdown, Anyone? (2)

joe_frisch (1366229) | about 6 months ago | (#45098569)

Many (all?) of the labs are contracted by the the government through other organizations. For example SLAC where I work is administered by Stanford University under contract with the Department of Energy. We are not shut down yet, but presumably will be soon if the government shutdown continues. We are under various restrictions to only do critical work, so, for example, the SLAC Today publication that reports on our work is not operating.

Also Incorrect.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45099055)

The correcting article gives the impression we have a verrrry long way to go..

Energy released was 0.0077 that of total put in.. This gives the impression we have over 1000x more progress to make. It causes the reader to mistakenly assume it could take hundreds of more years.

However, fusion ignition, when it occurs will be a VERY dramatic jump in output. In other words, for this project input/output ratio is a measure of success, but a very poor measure of progress.

Re:Also Incorrect.. (1)

gl4ss (559668) | about 6 months ago | (#45099509)

yeah so we're still only 30 years away from it.

just like 30 years ago.

now call the news outlets when they figure a way to make the material absorb more of the lasers output.

Boring, boring, boring (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45099115)

Lies, lies, lies. We won't have actual, real, fusion producing actual, real, power in an actual, real, commercial power plant on the grid in the lifetime of anyone alive now. It is not going to happen. "They" have been making up stories about this for decades. And still the lies go on - mostly from the media and even from some scientists.

Re:Boring, boring, boring (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45099525)

We won't have actual, real, fusion producing actual, real, power in an actual, real, commercial power plant on the grid in the lifetime of anyone alive now.

Don't be so sure. There are scientists working on increasing the human lifetime.

But of course (1)

sunking2 (521698) | about 6 months ago | (#45100047)

We can't blame the network that brings us Dr Who for shoddy reporting, so lets blame the Americans and their shutdown.

The Sun (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45100341)

On the other hand just go out on a sunny day and enjoy more free power than man will ever develop.

Unintended? Not so fast. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45100665)

Further evidence:/p /p
09:18 EST 10/11/13 http://www.nist.gov - "NIST Closed, NIST and Affiliated Web Sites Not Available"/p /p
but,/p /p
                                                            http://www.uscis.gov - "All USCIS offices worldwide are open. Report to interviews and appointments as scheduled. Fee for service activities performed by USCIS are not affected by a lapse in appropriated annual funding."/p /p
Yah, right. Gotta process those EB-5's./p /p
Tinfoil hat, my ass. Tell it to the people the Park Service is arresting.

Even if we had unlimited energy... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45100847)

We'd still pay the same, or more than what we do now. Fat cats gotta get paid!

helium!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45100849)

Awesome!! If our future of energy production is to fuse hydrogen nuclei (protons) into helium atoms, we would have a great source of ever-so-precious helium, which is becoming more and more scarce and expensive. The problem is, it sounds like He2 is produced, which is the lightest isotope of helium, consisting of two protons and no neutrons. If that's the case, it would be VERY unstable helium. In nuclear fusion, when protons are fused, where would the neutrons come from? Is it even possible to get a stable isotope of helium (He4) ?? I guess the helium we DO have is He4 and it's from natural radioactive decay but, that was from fission... bah!

Re:helium!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45101589)

Usually they are fusing deuterium with tritium which gives He4 plus a neutron. Even if doing protium-protium fusion to give essentially He2, one of the protons turns into a neutron, by releasing a positron and neutrino, and the nucleus converts into a deuterium nucleus.

Never believe the PR departments (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45101353)

Never, ever believe what comes out of a PR department. Doesn't matter whether it's the PR dept at a government agency, or a major university. They will either slant it or get the facts wrong, or both. Every dang time. Doesn't matter if it's MIT or Stanford or Los Alamos.

Didn't blow it out of proportion (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45102279)

The BBC article made it pretty clear when they stated that this was NOT ignition, merely a breakeven. I didn't see any "blowing out of proportion."

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